Simon's story begins with an email from Larry Tillack, whom I knew from a SAR (Search and Rescue) dogs list. Larry works a SAR dog in Ohio, he also trains dogs for service work for the disabled, and volunteers at Circle Tail, a shelter.
"I have a question about a dog that I'd like to try to save. He's about 18 months old and is very afraid of people. He came into the shelter when he was about 10 months old and was put into a foster program. The program was later closed down and we then found out that some of the people in this program were fighting the dogs and attempting to make them "protection" savvy. The problem is that they thought "growling/snapping = protective" and this dog is constantly in defense. Tried to bite me tonight while doing the evaluation, I can tell he doesn't really want to bite because he pulled back before there was contact and he certainly had opportunity. He also urinated all over at the first sight of me and then later released his anal glands (this was after making up to me - I was just trying to clip a leash to him). After having him leashed, he snapped at me again when I moved."
"Normally, I'd recommend a treatment of socialization and good ol' fashion love and training for this dog, but he doesn't have that kind of time. Unless I can show some kind of major improvement in his behavior, he's gonna be euthanized on Friday."
"I remember you and I having an e-mail discussion once about using the e-collar to solve problems of aggression and I thought that I'd give it a shot, worst case scenario is I can't make a difference and he's still put down.
He's really got nothing to lose, it's either work with me or sit in his kennel for the next four days waiting for death."
"I've "fixed" these kinds of problems without the collar, but the course of treatment was always long and with dogs that had families that were dedicated to the solution. Like I said, this poor boy doesn't have the time and he certainly doesn't have a friend in the world."
I sent Larry my phone number, and he called me Monday night. During our conversation, I told him how I taught the recall. I told him to call me when he had gotten to the stage of "Velcro dog," and that I'd then tell him how to teach the sit and sit-at-a-distance.
"Tonight was a HUGE success! When I got there, the director had already left (she told me that she could only be there until 4:30, which was tight on my schedule)... so Simon had to be fitted with the e-collar and muzzle, by me."
"When I went to his kennel, he was growling, snarling, showing his teeth, barking and bouncing. Everything he could do to let me know that I was not welcome. I opened the kennel door and stepped inside (I know, some would say crazy, but I've dealt with these kind before... so I just tell the kids, don't try this at home :O) He ran into his "dogloo" and wouldn't step out. I spent about fifteen minutes in there just waiting for him, but he wasn't coming out. I knew that he was good with dogs, so I decided to take a chance and brought down my SAR dog who just loves dogs."
"That did the trick, Simon relaxed enough while checking out Scooby that I was able to muzzle him and fit the e-collar without incident. So, we headed up to the training center. Long story short, he couldn't quit focusing on the muzzle. I gave him 20 minutes, but he just never could take his focus off of the muzzle... so that had to go (I was alone, so I wasn't worried about him biting anyone). As soon as the muzzle came off he relaxed enough to start the session. We did the circle thing... it took him about three stims to learn that I wasn't such a bad guy after all (FYI, I was slightly below the first "LOW" mark on my dogtra 1200). (Note: This is the level at which most dogs seem to first feel the stim. Coincidentally, it's also about where most humans feel it.) Timed him... 12 minutes in a stand next to me, so it was on to phase two."
"It only took him about 3 or 4 times of me "walking away" for him to realize that not only was I the god that you spoke of but he decided on his own that focusing on me completely, was the right thing to do. We moved outside of the building and I continued to work him in the same manner with 6 or 7 other dogs barking and carrying on a mere 30' away. Lou, not only was he looking at me, he was making eye contact with me. When we started he had a hard time even looking at me for long, and now just an hour later, he's making eye contact. About this time, a cat ran by (there's a dozen or so of them at this place), Simon looked quickly and then refocused on me without so much as a flinch from me."
"Anyways, he was glued to me by the end of the session, but not "pushy". He just went where and when I went and stopped when I stopped. I have to go back tomorrow to do some work with some other dogs, but I'm definitely going to check in on him and see if he remembers tonight's lesson. Then I'll work with him some more on Thursday. I think he showed enough improvement tonight that I should be able to get him a stay of execution for at least another week."
"Well, the list has been quiet for the last few days, so I thought I'd post some information on a success that I had this past week. We got a dog returned to our assistance dog training center that was demonstrating serious aggression issues. He was attempting to bite men and women, was even successful on one woman. Thankfully the woman was one of our supporters and the bite didn't break the skin, but only because she was wearing a heavy patrol coat (she's a police officer). She did have bruises however."
"After a thorough evaluation, we are guessing that this dog had been subjected to physical abuse in a home attempt to "protection" train him (you know the type, abuse/tease/poke the dog until he's mean and will bite anything out of defense). He's a black lab!! We started an investigation and have found that we're on the right track with our thinking. Needless to say that person is no longer able to foster dogs for us."
"Anyway, we got him back last Monday and after the evaluation, decided the only viable option was to euthanize him because we just don't have the time that it takes to rehabilitate a dog with aggression this severe. I've done rehab work in the past with dogs (not this bad) and it was always a long process (average of a year). The appointment was set for the dog (Simon) to be put down on Friday April 12th."
"Since I had four days, I decided that there may be something I could do (wouldn't hurt if I tried). I contacted Lou Castle, because I've read articles by him and had e-mail conversations with him about using the e-collar to quickly and effectively rehab aggressive dogs. Didn't know if it would work on a dog that was this bad... but the director of the facility agreed to let me give it a shot."
"The big problem I had was that I couldn't get close enough to him to safely put the e-collar on him. Since Simon was good with other dogs, I got creative and used another dog to trick Simon into a position that I could safely muzzle him so I could get the e-collar on him the first time."
"Long story short, Simon showed enough improvement after two training sessions (Tuesday and Wednesday) that he was given a one month extension to work with me. YAAAAY! Simon!!!I don't think any of this would've been possible without the e-collar."
"Fifth session was today and Simon did GREAT. His demeanor as I approached the kennel was better (still grumbling a little bit, but no longer sounds threatening). Today, when I entered he ran into the doghouse again, when I called he came out with a sorta half-raised lip, but he was wagging his tail and happily approached me. For less than a week of training... I'll take it!"
"For those that are interested. I spent the last two "sessions" basically just playing with Simon. Letting him just be a dog. He's started meeting me at his kennel door with a "smile" (he kind of scrunches his whole face up) and a wagging tail. So, I moved him on to a little more "social" work."
"Tonight, Simon was exposed to two strangers (at his kennel). He did incredibly well. The helpers were instructed to approach the kennel and then kneel down near the door and not make any eye contact with Simon and to totally ignore him (no talking to him or patting for him to come over), they were also told that if Simon displayed "nice" behaviors to calmly rise and walk away. With the first person (female), Simon barked a little, ran into his dog house, then came out and sniffed thru the gate and started wagging his tail. With the second (male), he only barked and then came over to sniff - wagged his tail again."
"I later had him out for a little work and he was introduced to both of these individuals and he even pushed in a little for extra pets. The woman had a bag of treats and Simon was very polite and didn't try to "steal" any."
"One of the women that had an "experience" with Simon before the training started was blown away that this was the same dog. I sent Simon to "PLACE" from about ten feet away and then command him down/sit/down. Left him in a long down stay (6 minutes) while we chatted about his training. Needless to say, she was asking the director if we hadn't "exchanged" dogs!"
"Simon is doing fabulous. He's been up for adoption for a couple of weeks (so far, no one has asked about him). I brought him to my house last Thursday evening and he's been there ever since, having fun with my dogs and just loving all of the neighbors that come to the fence to pet all the dogs."
"He interacts great with my dogs, playing with all of them extremely well. Since I've taken him home, I started playing with "Retrieval Work" using the method that Lou demonstrated at his MI Seminar. It's such a shame that he's not an option for service work anymore (because of his history and putting his teeth on a person) - HE'S SO SMART. He learned the "Take It" command and was holding my hand without fighting after about 3 tries. I switched him to a soft object and again it only took about three tries for him to hold it. Within 4 or 5 sessions he was picking up just about anything I'd ask him too... he didn't like the keys, but he did pick them up and give them to me :O)"
A few days later, Larry sent a post to the group saying that Simon had been adopted.
Larry's success with Simon resulted in the shelter looking to purchase several more Ecollars to work with dogs that have problems similar to Simon's. As Larry pointed out, he's had success with these types of dogs previously, but it took many months of work.
Remember, Larry first contacted me on a Monday, and Simon was scheduled to be put down four days later, on Friday. Because of the progress that Larry made in just TWO DAYS, Simon got a stay of execution and was eventually adopted.
Larry's comment in his first post sent chills down my back when I first read it, and it still does. "He's really got nothing to lose, it's either work with me or sit in his kennel for the next four days waiting for death."
"April 25th, 2004
...Well... it's two years later - Simon has not had an e-collar on him since May 2002. The couple that adopted him have split up, but the woman fought for 'custody' of Simon because he's become her best friend. She now lives alone with Simon and one other dog. She takes him out in public on a daily basis and has been told that he's the 'typical, happy, bouncy, friendly' black lab and nobody ever believes that he's ever had any type of behaviour problems.
She also noted that he is still responsive to all commands that I trained him for (which included sit, down, stand, place, come, and 'black bear' where he would sit up and beg).
To me, this is the ultimate usage of the e-collar, so I thought I'd keep everyone updated.
Oh and FYI -- I had never used an e-collar before attempting this training with Simon. While I had extensive experience with rehabilitating 'nasty"'dogs, the process always took more time than most people were willing to invest. All of the training I completed was after having two conversations with Lou Castle on the phone -- a method that many people told me was impossible (i.e. the trainer had to be present with someone learning to use the collar). Since then, I've attended a Lou seminar (which I recommend to anyone) and have used my e-collar on my own personal dogs as well as many shelter dogs."
Larry wrote a "case study" about his experience with Simon. You can read it here. Rehab Training. Close that article and then use your back button to return here.