We adopted our 3 year old mini poodle mix, Dino, a year ago as our foster failure. All we knew about his past was that he was transferred from an overcrowded shelter in Arizona. We love him dearly—we treat him like our first child—so it was hard for us to know so little about his past. He has a big personality, which is one of the reasons we love him so much. His personality is so immediately apparent that many people comment that he must be a human trapped in a dog’s body when they first meet him.
Dino has a chronic cough, and because we assumed it was kennel cough when we first fostered him, we made an effort to keep him away from other dogs. So although we fostered him for 2 months before adopting him, it still came as a surprise when we first watched him bark frantically at other dogs. This became a huge stressor for us, living in an apartment building where we regularly run into giant dogs in tight, enclosed spaces like the stairwell and elevator. During our first group training class, I remember being sure that he would be kicked out for disrupting the class with his barking—but he wasn’t and we started our journey with dog training.
So far, we’ve done 3 group classes and 8 private training sessions with Dino. We try to take him to the park a couple times a week to practice staying calm with other dogs in the vicinity. Dino is lucky—he’s probably had more string cheese in the past year than most dogs get in their whole lives.
A huge turning point for us was when Laurie helped us decipher the nature of Dino’s different barks. When we first started, we assumed that every time he barked at another dog, he was being “aggressive”. Since then we’ve realized that most of the time, Dino is simply talking, and we’ve come to love him more for being so outspoken. After accepting that we have a barky but generally happy dog, we’re able to better understand whether he’s playful, bored, frustrated, or scared, and we can react accordingly. We still frequently find ourselves telling strangers that “he‘s kind of rude, let us know if you think your dog is uncomfortable”, “he’s not very good with big dogs—we’re working on it”, or “he’s easily overwhelmed by new people”. But we’re also better at letting him be himself while keeping him safe.
It’s easy to wish that Dino could have magically been the perfect dog from day one, but our experience with training has led us to form such a strong connection with him. Now, we understand each other so well that we swear he can read our minds!