Meet Tiny!

In March of this year, a man was found shot to death in his home in West Philadelphia. When the police entered the house, they found what appeared to be a pitbull breeding operation. A female pitbull, protecting her puppies, lunged at one of the officers. He shot and killed her. Her litter of puppies, along with 2 male dogs and 4 female dogs were taken to the PSPCA. The 2 males were evaluated and it was determined that the big one (my boy) was most likely used for breeding because of his size. It was possible that he had been used in fights as well. Both males were treated for bite wounds and after further evaluation from a behaviorist, they were deemed adoptable. This is when I got my first look at Tiny. When I saw his picture on the PSPCA’s website, it was love at first sight! He has this massive head with a big Pie Face. He looks a little goofy though because he has no ears. We set up a meet and greet with our girls, Ginger (our 5 year old Bullmastiff) and Reese (our 1 year old Plott Hound). Everything went smoothly so we adopted him. All of the dogs were getting along great, but one day, Tiny attacked Ginger out of the blue. My husband, Dave, said Tiny had to go. I was crushed. How could he mess up his chance for a loving home? Luckily, Dave said we could foster him until a good home was found…we would just have to keep the dogs separated. Meanwhile, Tiny wiggled his way back into my heart. He’s just such a gentle giant around people. He and Reese, who is a ball of energy but very submissive, get along great. About 6 weeks later, I got an email from a lady who was interested in adopting Tiny. I was so sad and hoped that her adoption application wouldn’t go through, but it turned out that she was the perfect candidate. She owned her home, was there all day and had experience with pitbulls. My only concern was that she had a 6 month old baby. When she and her husband came to meet him, they instantly fell in love with him. The deal was sealed when Tiny gave their infant son a sniff and then laid down on the floor at his feet. So they took him home and I cried the rest of the weekend. But 3 days later, we got the call to come get him. He was too powerful on the leash, he barked non-stop and he was a little too interested in the baby. I knew when I realized he was coming home, I would never be able to say goodbye to him again so I had to find a training program that was the right fit. Everything that I researched brought me to Leerburg Kennels. Their method is based on the fact that dogs are pack animals and they depend on a strong pack leader (owner/trainer) to give them guidance and direction. The more I read, I KNEW this is how I wanted to train Tiny. Not only to be the great dog I know he already is, but to be the perfect PET…a loyal companion for our family. This blog is meant to hold me accountable for his training by making it public.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bump in the Road

A few days ago we re-introduced the word “no” to Tiny.  This time being more firm and almost growling the word when he acted inappropriately .  Let’s face it…I was pretty much a push-over before.  I was able to use this new technique right off the bat when I went to put his harness on him to take him for a walk.  Tiny was in a playful mood and started jumping on me.  I gave a firm “NO” and he settled down enough to sit and let me get his harness on him.  As we started up the basement steps, he jumped on me again so I repeated the growling “NO”.  We repeated this 2 or 3 times until he realized that we were not going up those steps until he behaved.  Once it sunk in, he walked calmly behind me.  After we were outside, Tiny showed me that he retained his door/gate manners.  Because he started to show little signs of submission here and there, I decided to move forward with a reward system and alternate between food rewards and praise.  When he responds correctly to a command, I use the marker word “yes”.  My mantra was “Nothing for free”, so he had to earn every single reward…and he did!  The morning was a success! 
Then the rain moved in.  Tiny was in his crate a little longer than usual and when I let him out for his evening walk, he darted out like a rocket!!  OMG!  He was jumping and bouncing and I was so surprised that I had ZERO control over him.  He dragged me up the steps and through the house and out the back door.  I deserved it though.  I should have planned ahead for the rain and figured out something to do with him.  All I kept thinking was "What the hell?  I just ruined him!"  In that instant, I felt defeated and thought that maybe this approach just wasn't working.   Since it was still raining, he was only outside long enough to go to the bathroom.  I put a baby gate up in the kitchen doorway and let him hang out with me in the kitchen for a bit.  Thank goodness he hasn't figured out that he could most likely jump over the gate with no problem. 
The next day I chopped up some pork butt and took it with us on our walk.  It must have been just the right motivation, because when we reached a door or a gate, he sat without being asked.  Tiny was definitely a different dog from the day before.  I decided to take the "sit" command to a different level and add the element of distraction.  Up until this point, we had only worked on commands in the back yard.  My goal was for him to listen to me even if a dog was barking through the fence or if kids were playing on the corner.  Armed with the smelly ham, we started out of the back alley.  As soon as we turned the corner, a dog barked.  I instructed Tiny to sit and without hesitation, he SAT!  I couldn't believe it!  Any other time, he would have barked and pulled me in the direction of the dog.  He still seemed interested in the distraction, but it was as if he was waiting to see what I was going to do first.  After he sat, I waited a moment, then continued on our way.  Tiny remained relaxed and the rest of the walk went pretty much the same way.  I alternated between the pieces of ham and a scratch behind his ear as a reward.  Maybe it's working after all :D

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