Rogue Turns Poodle's Interactions from Negative to Positive
"The short version of our experience: Steve is a miracle worker. Our rescue seemed incapable of having positive interactions with other dogs, and Steve gave us the tools to turn him around. Now, nearly all interactions are positive and we feel in control and our dog's anxiety is 100% manageable (and he's a much happier dog for it!). We can't possibly thank Steve enough.
The much longer version of our experience: We rescued a 4-year old Standard Poodle six months ago and needed help with behavioral issues. While our dog was great with humans, he had major issues interacting with other dogs. Anxiety, growling, unfriendly posturing, overall a very stressful experience as an owner since our condo and neighborhood has a ton of dogs. Steve provided a free consultation to meet our dog in our home and discuss the best approach, private lessons or group lessons.
After our consultation, Steve gave us some immediate pointers and asked us to join his group classes the following month, mentioning that if it didn't go well we would switch to private lessons. Using those pointers, we started preparing our dog for classes. I was a bit nervous to be around other dogs but Steve couldn't have been more right. We learned SO MUCH about our dog in those group lessons. How he acts when stressed out, what sets him off, and more importantly, how our dog communicates to us that he's uncomfortable. All of this was in a safe and controlled environment under Steve's supervision. Group classes also showed us that every dog is unique and has different battles they need to work through and the fact that our dog needed some behavior corrections didn't mean we were bad dog owners. I can't understate how much we learned about our own dog's personality, and that was worth its weight in gold.
Steve got to know our dog really well through those classes (and our dog absolutely loves him) and was able to very narrowly diagnose what was causing our dog's issues: anxiety, lack of positive socialization, yet deep desire to interact with other dogs. In other words, he wants to say "hello" but doesn't know how and gets anxious because he doesn't understand how other dogs say "hello." It made perfect sense based on our six months of experience since adopting him.
After our group classes finished, we asked Steve for an additional private lesson to escalate the "Leave It" command (a very difficult command in general). We expressed our concerns about not wanting to use pain as a punishment, and he was 100% supportive. He worked to re-teach us the command and introduced a noise correction to pair with the "Leave It" command. We practiced this with Steve and then he visited us again a week later to see how things were going.
I can't begin to explain the difference this has made for us. Through learning in group classes our dog's cues for anxious behavior, and then being empowered with the command to distract him from his own anxiety, we feel like we have a new dog! While sometimes he still gets a little weird, we say the command and he's instantly re-focused and well-behaved. Since then, he's only had positive interactions with other dogs, even making a few dog friends that he gets excited to say hello to. The biggest test was having a friend stay overnight with her two dogs. We're pleased to say he behaved exceptionally well!
We can't thank Steve enough. The guy just understands dogs and knows what their humans need, and is a total miracle worker. There's no way we can thank Steve enough for what he's done for our family and our dog!" - Niki J