Things That People Don’t Like to Talk About- I Have a Dog with Issues

A few months ago, I talked about some of Leroy’s flaws and the difficulty that presented when I went on a vacation.  While he is of course the apple of my eye, he is also the most challenging dog I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.  I am a dog trainer at PetSmart and have had enough fosters and short term guests to know- Leroy is not your average dog.  He excels at being the Worst Dog at Puppy School; but he typically is one of the smartest and often knows the most commands.  About a year ago, we started training class at Opportunity Barks.  We did one day of Real World Manners, but our amazing trainer Michaela was smart enough to know that Leroy had the whole curriculum mastered.  While it was hard for him to be in a new place around strange dogs, he buzzed past the Watch Me’s and Down’s with ease.  She suggested that we move into a Self Control class to work on well, self control.  He was, as I’ve become used to, the Worst Puppy in school.  But we enjoyed the class and learned a lot.  A year later, we are enrolled in Reactive Rover.  I had a brief moment of excitement- “HEY!  These are all of the Worst Puppies in school!  It’s a class just for them!  Maybe my baby Le Le won’t look like a ‘crazy Pit Bull’.  They will understand!”  Well,  my boy is still the Worst Puppy. 😦  He has epic meltdowns that involve whining, crying, barking, and lunging.  He did this all in Reactive Rover on Week 1, when he was shown the stuffed decoy dog.  Yes- stuffed.

And yes- this is the same dog that I call a “pretty gosh darn excellent foster brother”.  So how does it all fit together? How can he be so patient with fosters but so terrible with an innocent stuffed dog?  How can he be so good at his Sit Stays, but so bad at “keeping his shit together”?!  Well.. I’m going to get to the bottom of it all!

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The first thing that I want to explain is a fancy word called “threshold”.  When Leroy is trying to attack a stuffed animal- barking, whining, lunging- he is over his threshold.  I have been reading about this fancy word and I decided to email our expert trainer, Michaela, because I was a bit confused.  Here is her wonderful insight!

“Threshold” is used to differentiate between the state in which your dog can still “think” and respond vs. when arousal level makes it impossible for them to be responsive.  Neurologically, your dog is using a part of the brain and nervous system that goes with the basic “fight-flight-freeze” survival instinct.  If you imagine yourself, say, responding to a robber in your home, your body goes into survival mode (e.g. pumping adrenaline, etc) and relies heavily on action-not thought.  It’s a more primitive bodily reaction that is important to survival but which actually suppresses the decision making part of the brain.
As a dog’s arousal level rises, you see changes like muscle tension, ear and tail position changes, body weight forward, faster breathing, brief “stillness”, staring and targeting, etc…Once a dog goes “over-threshold”, he’s having a full barking-lunging meltdown, acting purely on survival instinct. Little can be learned in this highly adrenalized state because the “higher thinking” part of the brain is suppressed for optimal survival mode.  So learning must be done sub-threshold (that is, when arousal levels are low to moderate, but not over-the-top).
So, yes, Leroy is challenging because he goes over-threshold very quickly, once outside.  However, he’s making great progress at being able to “come down” more quickly in classes.  I hope this helps a bit!
So there you have it!  Threshold is like ‘fight or flight panic’.  It’s all just too much stress and stimulation for my little Pudding Face to handle.  Therefore he has his special meltdowns and looks like an arse.  😉 Another reason that Leroy has so much trouble doing things outside of his comfort zone is because of his past.  Leroy was a lawn ornament.  He was chained.  We can only speculate on how long and how severe his circumstances were, but we do know that he was found with the heavy burden of his past life.

When he was found, the chain was wrapped around his neck and padlocked closed.

Because of his past as a chained dog, Leroy struggles with something called “Leash Reactivity”.  This is actually a pretty common problem among dogs, but especially an issue with dogs that lived with the long term frustration of being at ‘the end of their chain’ every  day.  Imagine for a moment that you are given an 5 foot  radius to live in.  Then picture a sweet smelling flower, or exciting squirrel, or happy human face- standing right past that boundary.  I would not enjoy that.  So when Leroy is on his leash and I’m not letting him go any further, he feels severe frustration and aggression.  If I wanted to use my imagination a bit more, I would say that maybe his childhood puppyhood memories of a cold lonely yard come flooding back.  And he remembers how terrible it was to be stuck in one place without love or freedom or stuffed kongs.  My point is, I would be unhappy about being on a leash too.

Tofu was also a chained dog.

(pre-rescue) Tofu was also a chained dog

I was worried that Leroy’s general stress level and anxiety was one of the main reasons he was not making any progress.  So I talked to Michaela and she agreed that it was time to see a Veterinarian Behaviorist.  Most trainers or behaviorists that I’ve talked to seem to think that medication is very over-prescribed, and often used by people who are lazy not committed to training.  However, Michaela said that she supported my decision and hoped that it would help.  As it sounds, a vet behaviorist is someone who is both a certified behaviorist and trainer, and a fully registered vet.  The best of both worlds!  So we went to Dr. Reisner for a professional opinion.  Here is Leroy’s list of issues, written by a professional.

DIAGNOSIS:

  1. Generalized anxiety
  2. Resource-guarding
  3. Reactivity/impulsivity
  4. Fear-related aggression
  5. Tentative: Predatory behavior

Holy Issues! I knew Leroy was the Worst Puppy, but gosh.  Dr. Reisner said that she was very impressed with me and Leroy.  We are a good team.  He was a bit of a nut case during our consult (as expected, because it was a new place).  But he was a good boy and listened to my commands and hand signals while I talked to the doctor.  At one point I gave him the hand signal for Quiet- putting my finger to my lips (Leroy was whining like a baby about being in a strange office and not getting enough attention from the doctor).  Dr. Reisner said, “Does he know what that means?”  Leroy was trying very hard to listen to me because I had my trusty treat pouch, and he was sitting silently waiting for his reward.  I thought, “How silly, why would I be doing it if he didn’t know what it means!”  But apparently he proved to her that he is a very smart puppy, even though he was also being the Worst Puppy.

So what happens next?  Dr. Reisner decided that Leroy is in fact a good candidate for medication.  He is currently on 20mg a day of Prozac to help manage his generalized anxiety.  Prozac takes 4-6 weeks to become effective, so we haven’t seen any changes yet.  But I’m keeping a close eye on him for side effects or positive changes. Dr. Reisner also seemed to think that our training skills were really great- not that there isn’t always room for improvement.  This made me proud of my boy but also sad, as he was flopping around the exam room like a stressed and anxious fish out of water.  He was unhappy, as he usually is when we do something new.  He did not enjoy this or find it a fun adventure.  He was stressed.

Above all, I want my dog to be happy.  If he doesn’t like new places or new people or new anything, that’s OK with me.  If he can never happily go on a walk without thinking that the world is out to get him, then we won’t go on walks.  He can stay with me in his “happy place”, also known as my bedroom.  But at the end of the day, I want to know that I gave it my all.  I want to say that “Yes, I have a dog with issues.  I did my best to work through them and make him more comfortable in the big scary world we live in.  I accept him and understand his issues.  And I love him anyway.”

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A big *thank you* to Michaela at Opportunity Barks and Dr. Reisner for all the help and support ❤

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54 thoughts on “Things That People Don’t Like to Talk About- I Have a Dog with Issues

  1. I have a little Foster with many of the same issues so I am happy to read this gives me the courage to keep helping him & learning as I go. Thank you!

  2. Wow, what a wonderful story of love and committment to a dog. Good on you. I love these stories. I hope you continue to share Leroy’s successes and little setbacks with us. It’s a very inspiring story. Bless you.

  3. Sounds just like my boy – both his past and his current behaviors. I am so sensitive about him and the way people react to him especially because he is a pit bull type dog just like your beautiful Leroy. We are working to be an ambassador owner and pup for this amazing type of dog and all dogs with “issues.” We wish you peace and Leroy comfort in the world. He’s obviously hit the mom jackpot!

  4. OMG! Thank you for this…we have a rescue Pit named Lucy who at times exhibits what you describe as being “over-threshold”. We’ve worked with 2 trainers neither of them were able to identify the problem for us.

  5. I had a dog who was leash reactive too, and it wasn’t until he was about 10 years old that a vet even put a name to it. Billy actually had a lot of issues similar to what you describe about Leroy but despite the challenges this posed I loved him with all my heart.

    He, too, could typically do very well with other dogs in our home but could never be trusted around them on a walk on his leash. He didn’t even like strange people when we were walking him.

    I actually wish I had known more about some of the options that might have been available to us that would have made his life easier, though. I am glad you are such a great team with Leroy and that you are working so hard to help him out!

    Leroy, I know you are a good smart boy just like my Billy! Your mama loves you.

  6. Beautiful pictures! My monkey Koda is very smart too, but when people see him outside all they see is danger. He grew up with our Rottie/Lab mix and knows she is mama, but does not tolerate other dogs because he was nipped by a boxer when he was a baby.He is VERY prey driven as Cammie is food driven. He is a total cuddle bug to visitors and friends after about 5-10 min of excitement. He’s a nut, but my nut!

  7. So many people have dogs with issues and just give up on them, passing the issues on to someone else or just dropping them off at the shelter. It is so refreshing and wonderful to hear of someone who is willing to try it all for their pooch. Great blog. Keep inspiring!

    • and belle the diabetic rottweiler that was dumped by her owners for being diabetic and needing insulin is proof of people just throwing them out because they have issues if it hadnt been for a wonderful woman she wouldnt have spent her last week on earth being loved and taken care of…the new owner tried to help her but the damage was already done and she suffered so much so letting her go peacefully was the best option…its people like her previous owners that make me sick…thank you for loving your dog through his issues…my rottie has some crazy issues too but it would be devasting to lose him

  8. Your Leroy sounds so much like my Cammy. We decided to keep her after fostering her for a couple of years and not finding a suitable home. It’s so nice to know that there are other dogs out there like her, and that we are not alone. Thank you for posting this, and good luck with Leroy.

  9. This is really great to read. First of all, you are amazing and wonderful for working so hard and refusing to give up! I have a foster dog with similar (though not nearly as severe) issues and learning about the “threshold” is very interesting. I actually think this is probably what she experiences in certain situations too. I really hope to Prozac makes a difference for you guys!

  10. My Bruno has the same leash reactivity and goes over threshold in the blink of an eye. I’d love to hear how the medication works out for you. Will you be posting the results here?

  11. Just to add, my boy is a rescue. We got him at 6-8 months and he already had the issue. I don’t know his history but he wouldn’t appear to have been neglected or mistreated. He actually loves all dogs and his reactivity stems from extreme frustration at not being able to play. I hate hate hate that he’s portraying himself as a fighter when he’s such a big lover. I’ve found that when a dog is walking towards us if I turn around and put him in a drop facing the direction the other dog is walking (before he goes over threshold) with me between him and the other dog, massage his neck and talk to him in a soothing voice while the other dog passes we can avoid a massive outburst. We’ve had him almost two years and it’s only in the last month that I’ve discovered this so it’s still quite new and not fail safe yet.

    Bruno has met so many dogs and puppies and loves them all. It frustrates me that he is so perfect in every way except this one thing that I can’t seem to fix despite working with respected professionals.

  12. This was an amazing post and I think so many of us can relate. My blue-nose has very similar issues, except he doesn’t have the “history” to support said issues. (Meaning, he’s been in my family since he was a puppy and came from a good home before that). He’s the most amazing dog inside the house, but has some issues when he’s out of the house. He too doesn’t love new places – such as visiting someone else’s home and as much as he loves car rides (seriously – he gets more excited for car rides than walks!), he’s always much happier when we pull back up at home lol. The part about “threshold” was really interesting and describes my pitty to a T. I look forward to reading more about your journey with Leroy 🙂

  13. I would think if you spent the majority of your time chained that behavior challenges when freed would be normal. Consider this, you have approx. 10 foot cercumference in which to play sleep and defend and if you need to defend your space retreat would not be possible, so this could result in a state of anxiety especially when you are taken out of that scenario and now you must make ourself feel safe in a huge expanse of all new sights and sounds.
    I would think a dog would then be in a constant state of anxiety with that daunting task only to be relieved when again you are confined to a small space similar to your chained area. I could imagine that having so many new sights and scenarios would tend to amake some dogs anitsocial and neurotic.
    Possibly over time they could manage this anxiety but think it would always be just under the surface.

  14. Thank you so much for the support and encouragement everyone! Leroy was on 10mg of Prozac for one week, and 20mg for this past week. The vet said to watch for side affects, but not to expect any significant changes for 4-6 weeks. So I will certainly be updating on that when I notice a difference! And I was quite hesitant to do the medication route, but after so much time of solid training- it seemed like giving medication a chance was the right decision, and the two professionals I’m working closely with were very supportive of it.

  15. This could pretty much be our story. Dyson, our Great White Freak, not only looks a whole lot like Leroy, but sounds like they have the same issues. We don’t know what breed he is, DNA testing doesn’t come up as any domestic breed or breed cross. We suspect Dogo Argentino? We got him at ~2 months after he was left at my SO’s clinic as a stray. We probably did not socialize him enough outside of the house and yard early on. By 6 months, going even to petsmart was traumatizing.
    We have also tried prozac, but after a month of no change, decided it was not working. Thunder shirts are a wash as well. Leaving the house/yard causes all 90 pounds of lean muscle to quiver and shake. Nervous licking, cowering, tail clamping, snarling and barking at strangers….
    I wonder if we had waited another month if we would have seen any difference with the prozac? Anyway, long story short, its comforting to know that we aren’t the only ones with neurotic white boys!

    • My girl used to get EXTREMELY anxious when we’d leave the house…whether going to the vet or just on a car ride. She quiver & shake, & since she had a white coat, he skin would get pink when she was excited or stressed. Well, when we left in the car, she would turn beet red & even her eyes were EXTREMELY bloodshot (also beet red.) It was like nothing I’ve ever seen! I felt bad for her, but thankfully our other dog was very well-balanced & LOVED car rides. I started just taking him with me, but I would notice that the girl acted like she wanted to go w/ us. So, I took her on a few short car rides with us, even though the anxiety would come each time. Sure enough, it got less & less severe each time we went. Finally, I was able to take her on car rides & she was completely relaxed & loved it! I have a feeling that our other dog was the big help with her problem…we are extremely blessed to have such a well balanced dog…he gets along w/ any dog & is a great teacher! I wouldn’t give up if possible, but at the same time, definitely don’t put your fur-baby in any danger.

    • I might recommend that you give medication another try. The medication doesn’t kick in for 4-6 weeks and it’s not like turning on a switch. With my wonderful dog, Rosie, what it meant was that, over time, she was able to calm herself enough to listen to me when I was trying to bring her back from crazytown. This took some time to notice.

  16. I’m so glad I found this. I’m living with a neophobic rescue pit bull named Daisy, who incidentally owns a large part of my heart. We’re working with training in combination with a Thundershirt right now. The vet recommended a DAP Collar, but she nervously tears at her neck whenever she has a collar on. We have abandoned it at home. I walk her on a martingale leash. Our house is her happy place. I would so much like to get her to the point of being okay, if not happy, going places with me. Baby steps.

  17. We have 2 girls with issues–One, a rescue with anxiety,fear aggression,( mostly to other unfamiliar dogs) and resource guarding. The other is a homegrown goof ball who is reactive/impulsive. The reactive barking of the one triggers the anxiety with the other! We have had good results with prozac, (for the rescue) most observable with the resource guarding. Reactive girl does well in doggy daycamp, (loves every single other dog she ever met–it’s mostly people she reacts to. She alarm barks like crazy, but within 2 seconds of ‘meeting’ them they are her best friends) Rescue girl has NOT done well in daycamp and so we settle for individual playtime when she goes to daycare.

    Do you know where we could find a “Reactive Rover” class in the central/southwestern Ohio area? It sounds like it could work for both girls.

  18. Thank you, thank you. Sound just like my foster turned failure. He is such a sweet boy, but the issues abound, just like Leroy. I accept that he will never be a “normal dog” who takes “normal walks” and can be let out by our “petsitter”. He deserves a chance at a happy life all the same. Good luck with the prozac and please let us know how its going. My pup got extremely emaciated looking on it, and he had to be taken off. So back to the drawing board we go! All the best to you both :o)

  19. Thanks for this honest & heartfelt article…and for inspiring me to work more with my small terrier mix, also rescued from a grim situation (in a puppy mill cage w/20 other pups), so that he can perhaps push his Threshold (w/anxiety-induced or resource guarding aggression, etc) a bit further back…and be a happier little guy…..thank u for loving Leroy so much!

  20. Leroy is very fortunate to have you as his human. It is so hard to see a dog that you love be stressed out when all you want is for him to be happy. I am also a trainer (at PetSmart) and the dogs that really tug at my heart are usually over 7 months old, never socialized for one reason or another (usually adopted), and are so reactive or fearful that they cannot function in a class with other dogs. The 10-week old puppies come in as clean slates ready to greet the world and just have fun. It is the way every dog should start his life. Thank you for sharing Leroy’s story and I look forward to following his progress.

  21. Thank you for sharing your story. My heart belongs to a puerto rican sato with fear aggression towards strangers. We constantly have to insert ourselves into the situation when unsavvy dog lovers try to pet her without asking. Which happens several times per day every day cause she’s so gosh darn cute.

    We adopted her at 6 years old and have had her for almost 2 years – she spent her life on the streets and the last few years in a shelter. At best she was undersocialized. At worst (and more likely) she lived a life of abuse and neglect.

    We have made some progress with her, but we can’t have guests over without her panicking, barking and at worst, fear biting. She’s been on a consistent regimen of positive reinforcement behavior modification but after a year or so, she still goes over her threshold when her “picture” changes. Sometimes I want to throw my hands in the air and ask “why.” But I love her. And I want her to be happy. She is my family.

    It’s so nice to know that I am not alone.

  22. You and Leroy are beautiful. Your story resonates with me as my little pit mix rescue also has some similar issues. I know how loving and amazing she is but people see the tense reactive her and write her off. It hurts my heart. But I will make sure she gets love, health, fun and everything she needs to be my special little girl for her whole life, hopefully a really long one:-)
    One thing I want to put out there, in a forum that might actually not rip my head off, is that I get so frustrated about all of the people that demonize dogs that don’t act like perfectly well-mannered, highly trained, robots, but when children scream and cry and run around like wild animals we are all supposed to think it is cute. I am not anti-kid (like some people might think:) but I would like people to understand that dogs are individuals with personalities and issues, etc. just like people are.

    • I know what you mean. Sometimes I feel like a bad pet parent because I don’t want to train the personality out of my dog – “robot” is exactly the word that comes to my mind. For example, I like that he gets really excited about something as ‘routine’ as a walk – that joy in the simple things is something I want to be reminded of every day. And I want the walk to be as much about what he wants to explore as it is about me. He may never walk perfectly on a leash, but I’m learning that I don’t actually mind that much.

      My rescue pup has a lot of energy, gets aroused very easily, and has some impulse control issues (though he is very well behaved inside the house) – and I appreciate everything that positive reinforcement training lessons have taught us. But I constantly walk that line between wanting my dog to truly be an individual, vs. constantly striving toward a ‘perfect dog’ ideal that I don’t really think I want, at heart. I’m learning to accept that some of his (relatively minor) issues may never be ‘cured’ and some situations may never again be part of our routine, and that’s okay too. (This isn’t strictly related to Leroy – thank you for letting me post something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. 🙂

    • Amen to that! Dogs are dogs. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, they will fight, bark, and growl. They are still dogs! I like dogs better then kids anyway!

  23. What a great and touching story. My pittie might have some of the same issues. knows all of his commands and listens very attentively at home in his “comfort zone” but once we leave the yard or house he has similar responses. I have learned to accept my dogs “issues” and we live happily around them. its being a responsible loving pet owner to know what your dogs abilities are and what they can handle and being okay with that enough to work around them. You are an inspiration to pet owners of what it is like to truly love your dog and giving them what is best for them.

  24. I have a Bullmastiff Mix who has a lot of the same traits. She was given to me cause the people didn’t take care of her. She was the last of the puppies and they kept her in a Metal fenced pen. All dirt and no shade. My friend took her cleaned her up and gave her to me. This dog was timid of everything but when we went for a walk. She hates any thing that has wheels on it. I can’t even walk by people with out her lunging,crying and barking. She watches them even after they have past us. If you have a dog with you she is worst. She sees a dog on TV and she runs to screen barking at it. She has issues with men. She is so serious all the time. She is not much for playing at all. She has a really bad underbit and she doesn’t lick at all. Except herself. She does love the stuffed animals. She likes to shread the crap out of them. Tug-a-war was her game. I love her but I wish she was better in public cause I,m limited to were I can take her. No dog parks cause i can’t take her off leash. She is not my only dog. I have Ridgeback mix and they get along. She don’t play well with other and is a bitch all the time. Both female ones 140 pd and the other is like 70 pd. They would kick each other ass just cause they didn’t want to share me. So my sister decided she wanted a dog. A Chihuhua but we were worried about the big girls. The don’t play or share nicely they are the size of the toys they play with. We got a boy and the girl handled him very well. They love him to death. My bullmastiff mix plays now. When they realized he wasn’t just visiting. They gave in and started to pay attention to him. Sometimes when they played tug-a-war the bullmastiff mix would whip him from side to side. (and he wasn’t letting go so he was flying side to side) That’s when they had to stop. She knows’s what she can and can not do with him. She like to use her size to her advantage. so dogs that have issues from there past can change. She still acts like every one is out to get us on the walks. She likes intimidating by being aggressive.

  25. I’m happy to find this site through pits for patriots. LeRoy looks so similar to my Sugar and she displays similar issues. I can’t wait to read more.
    I attached an article about Sugars sordid past.
    GO LEROY!

  26. hi i too have a pit like yours has anxiety attacks and is on xanex 2mg bars it is the night time that is his stresser but i love him and i have been and will deal with his issues til our parting day comes .he is mostly white with few black spots looks kinda like yours. anyway point is i love him he is my buddy my best friend

  27. Kudos to you for using positive training methods and people who actually know what they’re talking about, rather than someone who would stick a prong or shock collar on Leroy. You’ll have a better relationship with him because of it; in addition to skills and preferred behaviors he’s learning, he’s also learning he can trust you not to hurt him, and that’s just as important as the rest.

    Don’t feel judged and don’t judge yourself because of the meds. It’s helping him stay below threshold so that some learning can be done. Sometimes dogs need this help, just like some people do. He may need to be on something forever, but he may very well be able to wean off of them once the life skills are mastered. It’s an excellent choice for where he is right now though.

    I can’t wait to see future posts about his progress!

  28. Thank you for sharing! I have a rescue with many of these same issues. We are going to a Behavior Specialist Vet in a week. I am hopeful that she can help us. Our Kelsey has had a rough life and I love her so much. I want her to have a happy and fear free life!

  29. It does my heart good to see so many of you willing to love your babies and not dump them in shelters. Our rescue took in a dog over a year ago that this article could have been written about. The five points mentioned in the vet’s diagnosis fits our Buster to a T. We have had him working with the best positive-reinforcement trainer in our area and he has had the full services of a holistic healer. He is smart and loving, but he will never be fully socialized. I only hope that a perfect person such as all of you responding here will some day come along and give Buster the love he needs. Thank you so much for this article.

  30. This brought a tear to my eye and encouragement to my heart. Your bully sounds like mine. She has a hard time with new places and things. She has times were she is biligerant towards other dogs. Inside the house she is great! Friends bring their dogs over and I’ve even brought home some strays. After a few sniffs and quiet growls she gets over herself. She is very intelligent and loves learning tricks. This gives me a new approach to try. We get very frusterated but she is our furry child and we love her unconditionally. She is my first Pitt bull, and despite her issues, from now on I only want Pitt bulls. Her love is unlike any other animal. Good luck and thank you!

  31. Bless you…..You have a heart of gold and Leroy is meant to be with you. I have a french bulldog and he drives me absolutely crazy sometimes but at the end of the day i love him unconditionally. We need more people like you in this world, to help these beautiful creatures….Thank you for sharing your story.

  32. Have you tried a thunder jacket when you go to new places…Our beautiful dog, Sam gets a little hyper when someone comes to the home that he doesn’t know…if we put his thunder jacket on, he calms right down…just a thought

  33. I have a “Leroy” but her name is Petunia Lu! She has the same issues as Leroy and has even bitten a dog. However, I rescued Petunia from the SPCA of Texas when she was about 11 weeks old. Did I mention that she was born deaf? She will be 2 yrs old in June. Her aggression towards other dogs didn’t show up until about 3-4 months ago. We feel it comes from her inability to hear and also her going through her adolescent phase. I really enjoyed reading your blog. After reading similar stories of dogs deaf and hearing as well as after speaking with our awesome veterinarian, she has began taking Prozac. She is only in her first week and as you stated it takes time for it to take effect.
    I know that we can only go to our wonderful dog park in my aptartmemt complex now when it is not occupied. Only with her hearing sister Violet and with my best friend’s two dogs. We also go on long walks on the river but try to walk where other dogs do not have to be in her line of site.
    Thank you for your post! I can can’t wait to read about your progress! I love my Petunia and I know there are some that think I’m crazy for for having her. But she is my baby, my responsibility and I know her true heart and how incredibly smart she is!
    Good luck with your journey!
    Lana, Petunia, and Violet

  34. I was so thrilled to find this article! Leroy’s issues sound so much like my Boo’s. I was living with my brother and he was insistent that I put Boo to sleep or get rid of him but that wasn’t going to happen. I love this dog with my whole heart and he’s as much a part of my family as my kids are. after reading this, I don’t feel so alone.

  35. Thank you SO MUCH for writing this! I have a “Leroy” too, and our great Reactive Dog class trainer has recommended we see a vet behaviorist and consider meds — have been sort of treading water on this for the last eight weeks or so, but reading this has helped me decide to reach out and try it.

  36. I have similar issues with my sweet Milo–he was a bait dog, abused, neglected, starved and chained before I got him… he’s wonderful, he’s sweet and funny, he’s great with dogs and cats and kids but he’s got that threshold issue too… his main triggers seem to be his brothers (2 other pit mixes) if one of them tries to tell him no and they hit him in the right mood or if they start fussing and he’s in the right mood.

    That said, he is the delight of my life and I don’t know what I’d do without it.. thankfully it happens very rarely now (it used to be quite frequent)

  37. Thanks so much for your story with Leroy.I have the same with my Ab/Pit cross,that I rescued.We finally found a vet who diagnosed her problems,and she was put on Prozac,40 mg daily.She has made a great improvement.No more temper tantrums,or outbursts of aggression.

  38. What a breath of fresh air! Thanks so much for sharing your real world experience and challenges with sweet Leroy. It’s nice to accentuate the positive, but there’s a time and a place for acknowledging difficulties. I too have a foster pittie with similar “issues”, but has a heart of gold and her cup runneth over with love. I’m looking forward to learning from your experience so I can better help my girl.

  39. Hi, my rescue (Jack Russell) had bad fear aggression and had bitten MANY people. Prozac didn’t work for him but, Paxil did. I like to think a loving stable home and cool older stepbrother helped!

  40. Great story and very inspiring. Remember that patience is always the key. I know how hard it is…i am a volunteer taking care of 164 rescued Pit Bulls. It was an amazing struggle for both ends (us volunteers and the dogs) having that much rescues. Everybody needed attention, love, care…and they deserve it. They’ve gone through much cruelty leaving in steel drums chained heavily waiting for fights. Our goal is to rehabilitate them all…but it will never be easy (thinking how many they are with how many volunteers we have plus what they have been taught to do). But indeed, patience is important. Take things one step at a time. Give them the space they need. Just a tip: Always look back at where your dear Leroy have been…what he have gone through…his past. This will be your motivation…your foundation.
    Just to share with you what I’m talking about (my blog with photos and some videos of the Pit Bulls that will inspire you):
    http://peekablue.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/laguna-pit-bulls-finding-a-forever-home/
    http://peekablue.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/a-day-spent-with-the-rescued-pit-bulls/
    http://peekablue.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/its-more-fun-to-volunteer-at-the-lpb-center/
    This will surely touch your heart. These videos help me to keep pursuing my goal to rehabilitate them and show them what love is all about:



    And Check some before after photos here:
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.488828717815916.117357.228802047151919&type=3
    Let us be an inspiration to each other. I especially like the last paragraph of your blog and your photo.
    Never give up! 🙂 Everybody deserves a second chance…a chance to live and a chance to be loved.

  41. Oh man, my fiance and I have a dog that sounds SO much like your baby! His name is Bug and was also, we suspect, a chained up dog in his former life. Also a pit bull. He’s wonderful with children, and any human that walks through our doors, and gets along great with his sister pup and the cat even. But we walk outside and the world is OUT TO GET HIM! He freaks out. . . Barks, whines, froths at the mouth, lunges, etc. We’ve tried calming supplements, the Thunder Shirt and training and nothing has worked in the year and a half since we adopted him. I think a Veterinary Behaviorist is our next step! Thanks for the article!

    • I think the majority of Leroy’s improvement has been through training though. A combination, definitely. But just making a dog calmer isn’t necessarily going to help unless they know what you expect of them in each situation. Leroy knows that when he sees something that would make him freak out, he should look back at me and I reward him and walk him away from the trigger. But a vet behaviorist should know what combination of training and meds can work for him. Good luck 🙂

  42. I just re-read this a year later and I still love, love, love this post. As I love your entire page. Thank you for continued well informed and knowledgeable reads!

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