The story of how Stanley became a dog again
The Pavlish family, six family members
Ginger: Viszla. Age: puppy.
Stanley: Wheaton terrier. Age: 7 years old.
Maggie: Westie. Age: 13 years old.
The situation: The Pavlish family added a new puppy, Ginger, to their home. Stanley, although he got along well with Maggie, did not accept the new addition to the family.
Stanley was a dog with a police record. When he was one year old, he bit another dog. This incident had a tremendous impact on Stanley and his family. Family members no longer trusted Stanley around other dogs and were fearful of taking Stanley for walks. They also were fearful of Stanley’s reaction to the new puppy, Ginger. Although Stanley accepted the family’s 13-year-old Westie, Maggie, he wasn’t as accepting as the new puppy, Ginger.
Stanley was confined to the Pavlish home and their fenced back yard. The family members did not trust Stanley on walks and they kept Stanley and new puppy Ginger separated at home. “It was no way to live,” said the family.
“We were at our wits end,” said the family. “We contemplated putting Stanley down,” they added.
What changed? The family met Amy Sandmann, one of the trainers at Animal Wellness Center who also works with Positively Dog Training and well known trainer and television personality Victoria Stilwell (star of Animal Planet’s television series “It’s Me or the Dog”). The family was attending a puppy socialization class with Ginger at Animal Wellness Center and talked to Amy about their heartbreaking situation. Amy set up a time to visit the Pavlish family to meet Stanley.
“It is so important to observe the dog in their own environment,” said Amy. “There is always a reason for why a dog is doing what the dog is doing,” she explains. “Being a trainer is a lot of detective work to figure out why the dog has the problem behaviors,” she said. “Everything in the dog’s environment contributes to their behavior,” she said.
Stanley was what Amy called “reactive” on the leash. Stanley would bark, lunge at other dogs, pull and the family could not control him. When a person or dog is uncomfortable, there is the natural “fight or flight” response. Stanley, feeling uncomfortable on a leash, can’t “flight” since he is on a leash, so his natural reaction is to “fight.” As dog owners, we also contribute to how our dogs act and react by our own actions. Amy said since the owners were so frightened to have Stanley around other dogs, they sent Stanley clear body language—from the death grip on the leash to being extremely tense—that going for a walk is not fun.
After working with Amy, the family members learned how to relax and so did Stanley. “Amy eased our apprehension and encouraged us to stay relaxed, so Stanley would be more comfortable,” said the family. “Amy helped guide us with techniques that would increase Stanley’s quality of life and help him be more stress-free outside of the confines of our home and yard,” the family added.
“Stanley was a dog that was ‘shut down’ both mentally and physically,” explains Amy. Because of Stanley’s behavior, a veterinarian prescribed an antidepressant medication for Stanley.
“Stanley was void of any personality. Stanley’s face told the story: he was a sad and depressed dog,” said Amy. “Stanley’s case was a larger issue than just training so we had to look at all avenues of helping Stanley,” Amy said. The medications allowed Stanley to “unlock” his brain so he could start learning new behaviors. This along with some changes in the house, making Stanley’s environment less stressful, all worked together for Stanley’s benefit.
Stanley now goes for walks using a non-pull harness. “We do not recommend using shock, choke or prong collars,” said Amy. “The best results are from positive reinforcement where you reinforce the behavior you want repeated,” she said. This builds the bond between the owner and dog and gets the best training results.
“This family went the extra mile and saved Stanley’s life,” said Amy. Amy recalls when she received an email from the Palvich family with an update on Stanley. The owner told Amy that for the first time in eight years, Stanley did a ‘play bow’ trying to initiate play with the other dogs in the family. Stanley became an engaged member of the family again.
“Stanley was finally feeling like a dog again,” recalls Amy. “He became a dog again,” she said.
There is always a reason for what dogs do. It may be lack of socialization at an early age, or it may be a medical issue or that a dog is in severe pain and the owner doesn’t realize it. “Since dogs can’t talk, it is the job of the trainer to figure out why the dog is behaving a certain way and implement a plan to modify the behavior,” said Amy.
“I try to go in with an open heart and open mind so I can detect the reasons why a dog is acting a particular way,” she said. “Stanley’s story ended well because the family gave 100 percent,” said Amy. In addition, sometimes it takes the effort of many people—the owners, trainer, veterinarian—to resolve the issue.
“Amy’s love of dogs and passion to help owners understand their dogs is very apparent,” said the family. “Our family is truly grateful for all her care and support as we navigated new territory,” they added.
Today, Stanley, Maggie and Ginger have happy days playing together,” said the family. “Everyone’s quality of life is better as all of the six family members are educated in how to interpret and redirect all of our dogs’ behaviors to be positive.”
And for Stanley—he smiles now. He became a dog again.