A BIG Thank You goes out to Candy French for fostering Trevor for over 3 months to help him on his way to finding his forever home. Here is what she had to say about her time with him.
Trevor is a 4 year old Great Dane with a nuclear level of energy and five seconds after meeting him, I knew I had my “work” cut out for me. He took no regard for the fact that I was at the other end of the leash. He didn’t know whether to heel, run around in circles, or proceed to burst through the exit door of the boarding kennel ahead of me (which he did).
I got him home, and the fun began. He ran from room to room, panting, pacing, and completely ignored any command to stop the out of control behavior. When I let him out to meet my 4 year old Dane, he almost ran her down and then went about his own agenda-to mark every square inch of the property. Audrey (my dog) cast a baleful glance in my direction. “Mom, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO US?!”
Trevor had no “cut off” when it came to excitement. When he got excited, it was 0 to 60 in two seconds. and then went to 120 by the next breath.
Does this sound familiar? Have you found yourself wondering, “Is this a dog or a wild horse that I have taken home?”
So, taking a deep breath, “mama” started laying down some ground rules. No more bolting through doors. Fortunately for me, he did know basic commands,so “sit!” became the action required shortly followed by “Stay” and I walked through the door first. We did this for the first few days every time he went in and out, even from one room to the next. I was going to be respected, period.
But there still had to be some way to control the outburst. We tried bicycling, but when the weather is cold or rainy, that’s not really practical. That’s when my treadmill became Trevor’s salvation.
I first had him walk onto the treadmill and and I stood beside him on the side of the belt. He did that easily. Then I very slowly turned it on, as slow as it would go. I held on to Trevor’s collar and would not let him exit the treadmill. After a few minutes of scrambling in place leaning on me, he started to walk evenly. We did that for 2-3 minutes and then I stepped off the rail, leaving him to balance himself and he picked it up! Our first day we did maybe 5 to 7 minutes total. I achieved success–he was tired!! Not only was he physically tired but the treadmill made him mentally have to focus and concentrate on keeping his footing.
I wondered what his “response” to the treadmill would be the next day and I didn’t have long to wait. When I went upstairs to my office where the treadmill was, he leaped on the belt and looked at the controls like, “Well, you gonna turn this thing on?” I turned it on and he stayed on it for ten minutes, happy as I had ever seen him. We actually got him to the place that he was jogging at 4.5 miles per hour for 20 minutes.
Here are some “do’s” and “don’t” that I used to start Trevor on the road to being a well-loved member of a family.
1. DON’T spend a lot of time trying to figure out your rescue’s past life. Psychoanalysis is for humans, it doesn’t help dogs much. (Even though they might enjoy time on the couch.) The old life was then, and this is now. Move forward because that’s the only thing you have control over.
2. Bad behavior MUST be bad behavior from day one. Giving the dog a pass and making excuses for it, like: “He’s just getting used to being here” or “he’ll calm down in a few days” is not going to solve the problems.
3. Excess energy must have an outlet. This can be in the form of teaching the dog to run beside your bicycle (it’s not as hard as you might think) playing at least 30-40 minutes A DAY, or as in Trevor’s case, using your treadmill for something other than a place to hang clothes. (C’mon, you KNOW you do!)
4. Establish a schedule. Dogs are pack animals and as a well-known TV show states, “You are the pack leader”. If you organize your day and theirs and they can expect meals at a certain time, for you to come home at a certain time, etc., it will only add to their stability.
5 Use your praise as a reward. Treats do have their place, but you can cause “burn out” to the point where they are meaningless if over-used. Your praise will be something as time goes by that your dog will never tire of, and it helps to reinforce your bond. (And you won’t end up having to put your dog on low-calorie diet dog treats.)
6 If there are multiple people in the home, don’t have more than one person control the dog at a time. If the dog is in the middle of a bad behavior, it does no good to have 3 or 4 people yelling different commands at the same time. Think about it: if you had your boss, the CEO, a policeman and an IRS agent in your car,all trying to teach you to drive, how confused would YOU be?!
7 All family members HAVE to discipline the same way. When we were having issues with Trevor’s excitement level when people approached him, my husband and I came up with the strategy that when his excitement started to escalate, he would be told to “Sit” and he would not be touched until he did. Eventually, this actually set up a trigger for him to calm down to get the affection he craved. But we both had to be consistent and do it. If you have children in the house-EVERYONE has be on the same page.
What a difference! He was focused and content. The rules, consistency, and EXERCISE set Trevor on the road to becoming a happy, well-mannered Dane. In the last week of his stay with me in foster care he would start to correct himself when his excitement level started out of control. I would say “Hey!” and he would immediately sit or lay down and look at me as if to say, “Oops, sorry mom, forgot myself for a minute.”
There are those who think these dogs are a “lost cause” and that either through ignorance or neglect that they cannot be changed. I am here to tell you that Trevor is living proof that moving forward is possible regardless of what you’ve been through or no matter how old you are!