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Rescuing a dog - a years progress

Updated: Jan 19

One year on from the sudden and unexpected landing of the insane drug lord, Pablo Escobar the Black Shepherd of Stress and Doom, I thought I’d share a little update on him, on his successes and his remaining challenges.

It’ll give you an idea of time frame as to how long things can take to change and help you manage your expectations of your own dogs. I find I have lower expectations for my dogs than some of my clients, and I do far far more to micro-manage, set my dogs up for success and train them reliably. So whatever your expectations are for your dogs, lower them. Or do a whole lot more than you are doing.

Before I start, I'd like to point out the things that Pablo has always been insanely good at:

  • Being off lead around people

  • Travelling in a car

  • Physical handling, touch and vet care

  • Being a loving, friendly boy

Now, on to the progress:

ONE YEAR AGO... Pablo spent his waking minutes mouthing or stress-biting my hands and arms. If you tried to stop him by redirecting him to a toy, it wouldn't work. Pushing him off wouldn't work, he's get worse. It was constant and it was stressful.

NOW... he barely does it. Only mildly when he's overly excited or attempting to attention seek when bored. At most once or twice a week briefly. It fails and I'm confident it'll be a thing of the past soon.

ONE YEAR AGO... Pablo's recall was fairly decent generally but was 0% with dogs around. Once, he smelt a dog in the next field (I couldn't see them) and ran full speed at them, catching me off guard. The shame...

NOW... it's 80%, he's still on a long line but he can be in classes with others and on a walk he can see dogs and offer me voluntary head turns up to a distance of about 10m. We're still working on this last little bit.

ONE YEAR AGO... Pablo would run out the front door (or try) if it opened. I didn't trust him or feel I knew him well enough to want to come back to me.

NOW... he will look out, wait and sit if I ask him too. He'll stay near.

ONE YEAR AGO... Pablo would scream bloody murder if I even dared to walk away from him. He would jump up and claw at doors desperately. He'd scream through a baby gate. If I had to leave for work he would bark incessantly the entire time.

NOW... He lies down and waits calmly behind doors. He sleeps when I'm gone.

ONE YEAR AGO... Pablo would chew everything he found. We lost xbox games controllers, 3 pairs of flip flops, every corner of the skirting boards, one door frame, the steam deck cover, beds, blankets, knife handles, washing up sponges, etc. Anything he could access was gone.

NOW... Maybe once in a blue moon due to a surge of hormones we'll get a little nibble on a doorframe.

ONE YEAR AGO... Pablo wouldn't settle. He would constantly antagonise Rosie to the point of pissing her off. He would get up in Bowser's face and get bitten. Several times. Rosie unfortunately lost access to our bedroom because we had to have Pablo in to keep an eye on him and he wouldn't stop trying to play with her throughout the night.

NOW... he plays. He settles. He goes on to his bed and lies down when I feel he's getting too exuberant. Rosie is back in the bedroom. Him and Bowser get on.

ONE YEAR AGO... Pablo would growl and suddenly lunge if one of my other dogs walked in the room whilst he had a toy or chew.

NOW... he couldn't care less.

ONE YEAR AGO... He would freak out if he saw, smelt or heard a cat. He would be inconsolable and frantic, desperate to lunge at them.

NOW... He sniffs them, licks them, lets them walk past him. He still chases them if they're in the garden but in the house he's now a mildly annoying sibling at best.

ONE YEAR AGO... If I picked up one of the chickens (I have hens) he would dangerously lunge and try and bite them.

NOW... he walks calmly beside me or sits and waits if I ask him. He walks amongst them in the garden.

ONE YEAR AGO... If there was lots of distraction, for example if I was talking to a client between classes, he would jump up me and mouth my arms, or even theirs. Lucky clients!

NOW... he couldn't care less.

ONE YEAR AGO... He would pull incessantly on the lead.

NOW... he understands the word 'slow'. He offers heel work in exchange for toy reward. He understands release cues.

We do still have lots to do:

  • That last little bit of heelwork/recall/calmness/socialisation around close up dogs within 5m.

  • Rushing through doors (he'll wait if asked but it's literally the most exciting thing in the world for him and he likes to scream and sing about it... so annoying).

  • General lead walking. He's pretty good but I want it to be a little better.

  • Dropping his ball.

I love the little ****, honestly. Read my blog posts from last year. There was a week or so where I hated him. I wanted rid, massively regretted getting him. Bowser hated him. Rosie tolerated him. He completely changed the house dynamic. The only reason I didn't drop him off at a shelter was because I felt I had to lead by example to my clients. Dogs aren't disposable. It's not Pablo's fault he was the way he was. He'd had a **** previous owner, I'll say it bluntly. He'd been set up for failure.

But rescuing isn't easy. This is why they have vodka. It's worth it in the end if you put the work in. They're the most rewarding grateful little ****s. But you'll struggle at first. It's normal. Just don't give up on them. Now... I LOVE HIM.

So... can you relate? Tell me your rescue stories.

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