Ben, Week One: Report

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Ben has been with us for a week now. He is making progress in some areas, but in others, he is still highly reactive and outright aggressive. Food is a serious trigger: When food is present and Violet or Glimmer gets too close, Ben goes from being calm straight into red-zone and he attacks. He doesn’t even warn first. He just attacks.

The walks are getting a little easier, but Ben is still chewing on the leads. I have two long-lines and a 4-foot lead; he’s chewed through one long-line, and last night, he tried to break the second one. He has also tried to chew through my 4-foot lead, which is wider and heavier. He does not like being restricted or controlled in any way.

Where basic obedience is concerned, Ben is doing very well with “sit”, “wait”, “gentle”, and “here”. On the walk, he’s learning “walk nice”. This is the equivalent of the “heel” command, and it serves as a mild but effective correction when he starts pulling. The “down”/”lay down” command is a real challenge: Ben refuses to do it, even when he’s offered a food reward. What this tells me is that he still doesn’t trust; he will not agree to anything that asks him to take a submissive position. However, if I ask him to lay down on the couch or love-seat, he complies very quickly. This tells me that he has negative associations with being in the down position on the ground itself.

Where kenneling is concerned, Ben has shown intense anxiety to a degree where he’s almost hurt his front paws in his desperation to get out. Standard kennel-training techniques did not help him – they only made things worse. The last technique I had in my skill-box, however, has made a big difference. I’ve been giving him a bison hock to chew on when he has to be kenneled. The bone allows him to vent out the anxiety and stress of being confined, it’s good for his teeth, it relaxes him, and best of all, he’s learning to associate the kennel with calmness and relaxation. When it’s time to release him, Ben must be calm and quiet, and he must wait until he’s invited out. I’m happy to say that he’s been doing an excellent job with that exercise.

Ben is still highly unpredictable where Violet, our cat, is concerned. Sometimes, he can be around her and he’s fine; other times, she just comes into view and he targets and tries to attack her. Because of this ongoing issue, Ben is not allowed off the leash unless he is in a room with me and the door is closed.

Outdoors, Ben is targeting the fence to see if he can jump it. As a result, when we are outside, he is on lead and kept a safe distance away from the fence.

When he is feeling frustrated, Ben tends to get quite mouthy. He doesn’t actually bite, but he does apply pressure when he mouths. His tendency is hands, but he will sometimes mouth knees, as well, if the person is sitting down.

Ben also has an issue with being disrespectful by not giving space. He continues to try to get behind our backs when he’s sitting with us on the couch or love-seat, and when he is denied, he becomes more pushy and will try to force his way into the space. This results in a correction and his removal from the couch or love-seat. He also practices this behavior when he wants affection. He forces his body right onto the person he wants the affection from, which creates tension for the human, which in turn creates excitement and further efforts from Ben to get his way.

Ben is a very loving dog, but he has little to no respect for rules, boundaries, and limitations. With him, it’s his way or the highway (so to speak). Building trust with him is made all the more challenging because he can’t trust and he doesn’t respect humans. His life has conditioned him to be this way, and helping him learn how to live with humans in peace, respect, and trust is going to take a very long time.

Work on all of these issues is continuing. Ben is making good progress in some areas, but he still needs a lot of work in others. With time, patience, calmness, and consistency, he will eventually become happy and more balanced…

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