Charlottetown & Summerside, PE

Ari & Ozzy’s Transformation: The Power of Force Free Training

This is Ari and Ozzy. These two brothers are Australian Cattle mix’s with who knows what else in them. We’ve had them for a little over a year, with their second birthdays being this August. When we decided to adopt, we decided to rescue from a shelter in Texas. With only some pictures and short videos with a write up we chose these two handsome boys. 

The adoption process was very smooth and their foster was great, giving us all the information we thought we needed to feel confident in our choice. We knew they were nervous. We knew they would need some ‘extra’ effort, and we knew that getting littermates wasn’t necessary recommended, but that was okay. We felt they deserved a chance at a greater life. Needless to say, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

It’s been a rocky road with the brothers and we’ve had some incidents that were really hard to come back from. There have been times where we thought, this is too much. This is a lot of work. Did we do the right thing? They bark, they jump, they don’t listen, they’re extremely nervous of everyone and everything. But the most difficult one to swallow was one was a bite. That’s right. One of the boys bit a human. It wasn’t a little nibble, it was a very frightening bite that sent someone to the hospital for several stitches. It was devastating for all involved, and only something you can truly understand if you’ve gone through it. In the end we were lucky. She was very understanding and even though she did the right thing by reporting it, she didn’t press charges. After this we kept a very tight leash on them. This is when we began muzzle training. Something I knew nothing about and had such a stigma about that I didn’t know if I could be seen in public with my dog again. 

I was completely heart broken. These dogs were undeniably the sweetest, gentlest, most affectionate creatures with us and our children. How could this happen? We knew at this point we needed outside help. All the online articles and training videos we were watching online weren’t going to be enough. We needed some real help. This is when we met Shannon, with Spot on Dog Training. Shannon came to our home for a consult and very briefly met the boys. At the time we weren’t sure if she was right for us. More than anything I wanted to be able to share our dogs with the people we love. She told us that we might just need to be okay with the fact, that might never happen, and we need to learn to be okay with that. We didn’t really understand the methodology of force-free training at the time. Because how was that possible? How can we expect our dogs to learn not to do something without telling them no? Without giving them some sort of discipline? So we looked elsewhere. Doing more research and getting in touch with different trainers. Training is expensive, and we wanted to make sure we were picking the right trainer for us. There was so much information online about what a good trainer should be, we even looked at trainers who, at the time, we thought might be a better fit. With all the conflicting information, we ultimately decided we wanted the boys to feel as little fear as possible in this journey. So we chose Shannon.

Shortly after, our boys had a fight. A vicious brawl, leaving punctures and blood everywhere. Again, we were devastated. Shannon was the very first person I reached out to after their vet. I was in shambles and she walked me through what to do. Over the next few weeks the boys had very little interaction with each other. We started medication, prescribed by their Veterinarian and put a massive amount of effort into making this right. All of this time we thought we were doing everything that could be done for them. But with the lack of knowledge we didn’t know we had, we were wrong. Shannon helped give us the knowledge and tools we needed to get to where we are today. She also referred us to the AVC to Dr. Karen Overall’s Behaviour Medicine clinic.  

We don’t think we’ll ever be done, as there is always so much to learn, but we are learning so much everyday. We can now take the boys out and you would think they were different dogs. While they’re still nervous, we now have the tools we need to help them work through it. We can take them just about anywhere with the right preparation and they can enjoy life with us. We do need to adapt to their needs, but with training it’s been possible to visit places we never thought would be possible with them. At our last appointment Shannon said something to me that nearly made my heart stop. She said, I do believe that sharing these boys with people is now a realistic goal. I can’t thank Shannon enough for all the time, effort and patience she’s put into the well-being of Ari and Ozzy. If you’re on the fence about “no fear” or force-free training like we were, hop down and give it a try. It’s undeniably a process, but nothing worth while is ever easy. You won’t regret it.

Neisha Starling, Ari & Ozzy

Spot On Dogs clients since May 2023

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