The vast majority of our clients are pet dog owners who need help with their pet dogs, but every once in a while we get in some serious dog people who compete in conformation, obedience, rally, etc. and want a little extra help fine tuning some details. Even less frequent are when we get in serious dog people with serious problems. This is why this case has stuck out in my mind so much.
Bandit was a 3 year old male Rottweiler. He had been campaigned by his owner/handler who worked incredible hard to finish his championship. Bandit’s owner had high hopes for him in the future, until one day Bandit just lost it. He spooked in the ring, snapped at the dog behind him, then cowered down. After that Bandit was not the same dog. He was nervous at home and just a total wreck out in public. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t certain I could help this dog return to his former self, but his owner was willing to try whatever he could. At the recommendation of a friend of his, he brought Bandit to us for a behavior modification program.
We spend a few days just letting Bandit relax, allowing him to almost treat his time here like a vacation from his busy life. I had a few ideas on what I wanted to try with Bandit, but I knew it was going to take a little time. We started with a total change in his feeding routine, and trained him in tracking. Tracking and nose work has shown to have amazing effects on dogs that are lacking confidence by giving them a clear goal and helping to free their mind of stress.
After that we started working him on different confidence building exercises and fitness programs. In the same way that exercise can help humans relieve stress, dogs also can have great improvement in their mood when put on a serious exercise program. We were seeing his confidence go up each and every day.
He was only allowed to spend time with level-headed dogs that would not cause any unnecessary stress. At the end of his time here, Bandit seemed like a whole new dog. He had confidence, joy, and a zest for life again. We sent him home with some pretty strict guidelines for his owner, and I’m happy to say that 6 months later they have him back in the show ring!