Meet Gizmo, a 15-month-old pit-bull/pug cross. Gizmo is a rescue with a variety of problems that range from a lack of basic manners, to food obsession and food aggression. He also has a severe-bite history: If you look closely at the picture, you see his right eye is turned in towards his nose. He attacked and severely bit the human who did that to him.
I met Gizmo and his owner this past Monday. During the consultation, I watched both him and his owner very closely. I saw no signs of aggressive or reactive behavior in Gizmo, but his body language clearly showed that he was nervous, tense, insecure, and very anxious. When I asked his owner about their state of being, they admitted they were feeling those very same things. So, I took the leash and started working to help them switch their focus onto something more relaxing and pleasant.
I spent about two hours with Gizmo, working to earn his trust and respect. Then, when I saw that his owner was calm, I turned over the leash and had them do the same exercises with him that I had just finished. Because the owner’s anxiety had been quite high up to that point, the results were much better than I expected: Gizmo did a great job of checking in every few steps, and his owner was walking much more confidently, using less tension on the leash, and relaxing more. By the time the consultation was finished, both Gizmo and his owner were both happy and tired.
Last night was the first official training session. The weather was cold and wet, so we had no choice but to work indoors. Space was severely limited, so the session focused on the very basic tasks of focus, sit, and come. Gizmo’s ability to give eye contact is hampered by his damaged right eye, so he adjusted for that by sitting a bit sideways and looking at us from that position so we could see he was doing what was being asked of him. He and his owner did an awesome job with the lessons – which was actually quite amazing, as there are other animals in the home and their excitement levels were off the charts during the entire session.
Gizmo definitely has some serious issues that have to be addressed. But once the weather clears and we are able to work outside, helping him face and overcome those issues will be much easier. It’s hard to address big problems in a confined space that is shared with other animals, especially when those other animals are overly excited. But, I’m looking forward to the challenge; Gizmo is an incredibly smart dog who loves to learn, and I appreciate the opportunity to help him help himself and his owner, too.