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Can ongoing progress go on for years? (Rehab.)

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Long post - sorry! But I'd love people's opinions on my dog, his progress, his problems, and the likelihood of continuing toward "normal."


Buddy came home 2.5 years ago. He was about 18 months at that point, which makes him just about 4 now. I don't know a whole lot about his background, except that he had been living on the streets for a while before being taken in by a shelter. Records show that he was picked up in Feb. of 2005, and I got him in June of 2005 - so he was in shelter environments for about 4 months. He had "shelter shut-down" on top of generalized fear and reactivity to humans and dogs. When he came home he was extremely scared and reactive to noises of all kinds, men, other dogs, bikes... pretty much anything. I immediately got a behaviorist on board, and thankfully stumbled on a good one. Buddy went to puppy class with me, and the trainer was great about allowing him to process the nearness of other dogs from beneath my chair. We would leave when Buddy got stressed (which evidenced itself by his suddenly beginning to growl at the puppies across the room). Slow gradual exposure to scary stimuli did a lot of good. Treats treats treats when meeting humans. A few more rounds of classes - obedience again (this time not under the chair), and basic agility.


The picture now: Buddy appears "normal" most of the time, within the typical boundaries of a day. He walks very well on a leash, doesn't bark at people or dogs, and handles most stresses well. He can go into a sit/stay or down/stay even when there's a big, growling dog behind a fence a few feet away. He's learned that there are boundaries to his barking at things from the house, and will stop when told to. He can "meet" people and dogs well, if I set it up in a slow, gentle way - no sudden lunges from either species. (He does best if he walks with the other person/dog for a while, absorbing the smell and getting used to the new acquaintance.) In essence, when I can control Buddy's environment and make him feel secure, he looks normal - and even amazingly well-trained. People comment on how well he listens to me - and I know that the secret is his absolute trust that listening to me protects him, in specific situations. Say, I want to pat a puppy and Buddy doesn't want the puppy near him - he's happy to do a down/stay 10 feet away, because it means he doesn't have to do the interaction that scares him.


Lingering problems: If another unfamiliar dog approaches Buddy quickly, invading his personal space, he'll still frequently get very tense and take an aggressive posture. Sometimes my strong "leave it" will keep him from flaring up, but sometimes it doesn't. He will try to drive the other dog off, with snarling and snapping that can be scary, especially if the other dog is small. He does better off leash than on. Food protectiveness occasionally still flares up - if everyone gets treats with space and good behavior, it's fine. If someone throws treats down around a crowd of dogs, he'll fight for them. Also, since I live alone with him, I simply don't know how to work out the "letting people in the house" thing. All my frequent guests are welcomed, but workmen, postmen, etc., elicit tons of barking, and I have to get Buddy out of the way. While Buddy will let me take food and treats right out of his mouth, I'm not at all sure he'd let non-residents do that, so I make sure he's not in a position to resource guard when anyone's visiting. Again, since we live a quiet life without a lot of commotion, this doesn't create much problem... and when I have had people over who like dogs, they've been able to get Buddy to settle down and let them pat him - it just takes a while.


I'm signed up for an evaluation Monday with a woman who has been trained by Karen Pryor and who has a "Growl" type class at my local MSPCA. I'm hoping I can continue to get Buddy to move forward, so that his life can become even more "normal" than it has become so far. (Mostly, I guess I the behaviorist's take on how my behavior is affecting my dog's behavior - am I holding him back? I certainly do tense up in those situations that elicit bad behavior, and I'm sure Buddy reads my tension!)


People who've had dogs with similar problems: Do you think there's a likelihood of continued progress at this point? Or do you think dogs "plateau" at some point in their rehabilitation, and require lives set up to accommodate their problems? Any suggestions for getting over the last hurdles - especially tension when meeting other dogs and possessiveness of food/toys/territory?


Thanks in advance. I've learned loads from y'all!



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Shoshone came to us abused and neglected. She spent around a year with a foster mom who didn't have the time for intense one on one that would have benefited her, but did feed, shelter, and vet her very well. So what we got was a semi-feral but used to taking food from humans dog.


She's come a long way, but she's still making progress. For example, she's never really gotten along with Samantha. After a couple months of my jumping up and grabbing cookies for them both when she approaches Sam, she's gone from a stiff legged, stiff tailed, looking for trouble attitude to a tail wagging, sniff at Sam look at Mom behavior that I encourage.


We've had her since Oct 31 of 98, and she's still moving forward here and there. I haven't done any sort of structured program with her for a while, but if I did, I'm sure she'd respond.


I think the possibilities are good that Buddy can be a little more relaxed. These dogs are pretty amazing.



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Maggie makes more an more progress every year - at 11mo she was dog-reactive, very undersocialized, and when frightened would try to bolt. At 4yo she received her Delta Society Pet Partners status with a qualification that she not work around other dogs and work in highly predictable environments. At 6yo she recertified as a Pet Partner with no qualifications about visiting with others, qualified at the predictable level. In 2007 at 8yo she recertified again, missing qualifying for the highest level of Pet Partners status because she broke a stay to say hi to someone!!!!


Obviously she's come a long way there - she still has her quirks, but to most outward appearances she's "normal", though she still is sensitive about her space when other dogs are about. The "space issues bubble" has shrunk from 10 feet to about 18 inches in the past 8.5 yrs. :rolleyes:

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Yes. Missy continues to make progress after 5 1/2 years. I got her when she was 3 y/o she had shut down in her previous home, had zero confidence and basically wanted to live in her crate because she was safe there.


She started her time here by running under the car to hide. After 3 days she decided that life was good here and I was her person. It took her 2 weeks to go upstairs because she was so unsure. After 1 1/2 years she finally found out that it was fun to get out of the car at places other than the barn. After 2 years she had her CGC. After 2 years she started becoming a very useful farm dog - and loved every minute of it. After 3 years she loved going places with me and meeting people who would throw her ball. After 4 years she started going along with me to my nanny job and taught two little boys how to throw the ball and be gentle with dogs. She also learned how to play, thanks to Pepper the kitten. After 4 1/2 years she was certified with a local therapy dog organization and we participated in a read to the dog program at a library. This past fall I boarded and trained a 6 m/o Standard Poodle for three weeks. Missy loved playing with her. Up until about a year before she did not like other dogs in her space at all. She just wasn't sure about them so she'd get defensive, and now she was romping and playing and I was grinning ear to ear!


So, yes, they continue to make progress and it is so rewarding to see in the long run!

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I agree with everyone else. They continue to get better as time passes. Often we don't notice their milestones, but discover them after the fact as it occurs to us that "he/she's not doing _____ anymore" or "WOW! I didn't realize that he/she's doing _____ now."


My Speedway kept getting better over the years. Who knows how much improvement he would have made if I hadn't lost him too young at 9 yrs of age.

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Wow, you might have well just been writing about Cedar minus the possessiveness. Keep going, I think they can only get better! It just takes work on a daily basis. A little lesson I learned this week was to not move forward too fast....it set us back a few steps. So hang in there and work at Buddy's pace. Sounds like you've been making progress the whole time and I think there are plateau's which could be taken as a blessing because it gives you a chance to re-evaluate and consider new strategies for moving forward! Never a dull moment :rolleyes:

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