The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is committed to the humane treatment of animals and to the promotion of animal welfare.
We always tell our adopters that no one is perfect and that includes our pets. At the League we see a variety of wonderful animals that have been through so much and consequently have behavior or medical challenges. We try to identify these issues prior to adoption so that we can find the right home for that pet.
Patty is an example of a great dog that we worked with and accomplished a successful outcome. Patty is a 68-pound Cane Corso who came to us as a stray. She had mange and ear infections. After we had her medical issues under control, we found that she was not a fan of other canines: she would bark and lunge at other dogs. Many times this leash behavior is a result of frustration as opposed to true dog aggression. Patty is a gentle giant with people, and we all fell in love with her; but we knew that no one would want a big dog that would be hard to control around other dogs. Our urban environment means lots of dogs walking in close proximity. For a dog that is reactive to other dogs, this can pose a challenging and stressful obstacle course for both the owner and the dog.
Patty had no training prior to coming to us. She did not know sit or even to take treats from your hand. We had to start from scratch and teach her that her behavior could make good things happen – positive reinforcement! Thanks to Lisa Colon Tudor, trainer and owner of Kissable Canine dog training company, she taught our adoptions staff a technique to reward the dog for alternate behaviors other than barking and lunging at other dogs. We worked with Patty to gradually approach another dog while rewarding her for calm behavior. We did not use corrections in working with Patty. Instead of suppressing the behavior, our goal was to work with the root issue in a positive way in order to change her responses. She was tremendously successful with these exercises and went from barking and lunging at other dogs to looking at another dog and then quickly looking to her person or looking away or simply walking by.
Another challenge for a dog like Patty was finding the right home to set her up for success. A high rise apartment building where the elevator has to be shared with other dogs is much more challenging for a dog- reactive dog than a single family home in a suburban neighborhood. This generally allows for more space in which to navigate a dog like Patty. We are happy to report that Patty was adopted into a wonderful home in April of 2011, about four months after she arrived at the shelter. We have spoken to her adopter and found that she is doing well and had not had any issues with other dogs. She has proven to be a “chewer” though. Oh well, no one is perfect.