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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Meet Robin

Robin - 
Let The Adventure Begin!

Meet Robin!
We're currently in the process of helping friends of ours with their newly adopted girl!
You wouldn't know if from this picture but she is a very shy girl lacking in self confidence. Sound familiar? It should. We went through a lot of confidence building with Ziva.

Friends of ours recently adopted this 2 year old beautiful bully babe after the passing of their beloved senior dog named Moxon. Robin is what is called an "American Bully" she's short with a dense bone structure and lots of muscle, the American Bullies have more Bulldog than Terrier in their line. Just to give you perspective - Dante is quite a bit taller than her and he weighs 75 pounds, Robin although shorter weighs closer to 85/90 pounds.

Isn't she beautiful! She has very striking lightly colored eyes.

Unfortunately the past has not been kind to Robin, she was abused, bred, and dumped along with her litter of four puppies - two of which died from heatstroke thanks to her awful previous owners. Thankfully she was found by a rescue and didn't end up in an animal shelter, but on the downside the so called "rescue" didn't do her any good. In fact from what we can tell they didn't do anything with her at all except keep her outside and segregated from the other dogs. She has unknown health issues, allergies, however she is quite the lover when it comes to her new family and furry brother.

She's a real diamond in the ruff! 
Robin does not have any food aggression/resource guarding issues, she is not protective of her toys, she has a very gently mouth and takes treats from the kids, she also allows you to take treats away from her. 
Other awesome things about her; she loves kids and immediately bonded with her new mommy, the children, and their other senior dog named Tweeter. She's a bit suspicious of her new daddy but she's warming up to him. Using lots of positive reinforcement training, treats, patience, baby steps, and love she is slowly coming out of her shell!

Meeting Robin
Two weeks ago was our first real experience working with Robin.
It was raining extremely hard so unfortunately walking/training in the rain was not an option because she was be too cold and it was too wet to make any forward progress. We ended up having to take it indoors.

The first step we are working on is building up her trust, she trusts her new mommy the most but needs to learn to accept and trust her new dad. We also want to give her a safe place to retreat to should she become overwhelmed by 4 kids who get kind of crazy at times. She also apparently has a taste for children's shoes....

First thing we did was teach her new parents how to introduce a clicker. *click, treat. *click, treat.
We want her to associate the click with a reward, and the reward with her dad. Being associated with treats means that he gets to be the lucky one on the other end of her massive amounts of drool.

At first she only wanted to sit on her bed. She put her body as far away from her dad as she could get and gave him the cold shoulder. Through a bunch of coaxing we were able to get her to take a treat from him.

**An important thing to remember is that your treats have got to match the situation, if you have a confident dog like Dante and you ask for an easy thing like a sit then a kibble will do just fine. If however you are training in a very stimulating/distracting environment or are asking for a more difficult behavior then you need a higher value treat.**

For Robin we were using cooked chicken hearts and cheese - her dream, and you could tell she really, really, really wanted those treats because she had lovely drool bubbles forming and her mouth was starting to water like the doggy version of Niagara falls!
Ever so slowly Robin's body language began to relax and she started getting closer and closer to her daddy, taking treats very gently and allowing him to pet her without retreating back to her corner. 
She also responded very positively to the clicker.
Every time she moved closer, even if it was only an inch: *click, treat.
And if she retreated we just waited her out until her desire to have the treat overpowered her discomfort. And then again, for every gain in her coming closer, *click, treat.

Never force a dog. In order to build trust we have to move at her pace, you can't force love upon a dog - she will come around if you give her time and respect her when she asks for space.
If you try to force a dog you can easily cause a bite and it would be your fault. Dogs just like humans and any other animal, give signals. Withdrawing, turning away, shrinking (trying to be small or blend in with the wall), "whale eyes", and hunching are all signs that the dog is not comfortable with the situation and you need to give them space.

Not wanting to overwhelm her we asked how the crate introduction was going - How To Crate Train a Dog. And it's going pretty good! If she get's overwhelmed she runs inside which is just what we wanted - a place for her to retreat to where she feels safe. Again: no forcing was involved. Coaxing, treats, and praise helped her learn to enjoy the crate.

Last Week
Last week we had a minor incident involving the kids letting Robin out of the house on accident while I was walking Dante and Ziva.
No one was hurt but it was a good learning experience. A number of things went wrong in our situation, Robin loves her family and the kids were outside, we were in front of the house - a person she's only met a couple times with two strange dogs. She rushed over to check us out and Ziva responded because she doesn't like being ran up on, Dante then responded to Ziva's angst and I was caught in the middle with an off-leash dog and two leashed dogs.  Robin wasn't snarling or growling, she came fast but her body language wasn't aggressive, no hackles, just fast.
I relaxed the leashes to send calming vibes to Dante and Ziva but it was too late. Thankfully Robin's mom was right there and although some noise was involved (I think my dogs) no one was bitten, just a lot of doggy warning signals were going around.

Due to this we decided that our next session would be a doggy introduction with Dante since he's more easy going with other dogs than Ziva.

Step 1: EXERCISE!  A tired dog is easier to work with.

Last weekend after exercising both Dante and Robin it was time for them to meet.

We started out with Robin and her dad walking down one side of the street while Dante and the hubby passed by on the opposite side.
Using treats we were asking Robin to ignore Dante, rewarding her for positive eye contact on her dad and not pulling, while continuing to walk/ignoring her when she had a couple minor outburst's in Dante's general direction. I think the outbursts were just part of her memory of their last encounter.
After maybe two outbursts she settled into an uneasy walk.

Over the course of maybe 45 min the hubby and Dante continued working their way closer to Robin and her dad as they continued walking up and down the street. Pretty soon both guys were walking on the inside with Robin and Dante on the outside. Robin continued to relax and pretty soon the hubby moved Dante alongside Robin, not yet allowing for introductions. We didn't want to overwhelm her because Dante can be enthusiastic at times when meeting new friends.

She did great! Now they could meet.

Robin & Dante!  She didn't quite know what to do with a tug toy, Dante with have to teach her!
Keeping leashes nice and loose they allowed the dogs to sniff, you don't want to apply tension to the leash or you could set off a nervous dog. You also have to trust the dogs, if you are nervous they wonder why and in turn look for the cause of your nervousness. You want to watch the body language, any tension and you gently back off until the tension is gone. Hackles are a sign of being unsure of a situation, it doesn't necessarily mean that a dog will bite but you do need to be careful, as hackles go up you need to back off and give space then work your way closer again.

We asked Dante to stay away from her face - she clearly didn't like it. As we moved Dante away Robin became curious and started to sniff him, this is a great sign!
After sniffing was done they did some more walking, by this point Dante was getting bored...I mean seriously how many times do we have to go up/down the same street!?  As many times as it takes.
Robin was comfortable in the surroundings and so we stayed.

Another important thing is to switch handlers. Different handlers can impart different feelings to the dog. Robin's mom means excitement to Robin, she loves her new mommy and turned into a wiggle butt as soon as her mom entered the picture. Her mom then got to walk her with Dante to see if she made Robin nervous or tense and to practice what she'd been watching her husband do with Robin.

Walking together imparts a feeling of oneness, dogs in a pack travel together so that is what we did. And walking makes meeting another dog extremely easy.
After about an hour of walking and switching handlers/sides we stopped to visit and let the dogs just be in each others company. They did great! We had plenty of treats which is a necessity, and just kept rewarding calm relaxed behavior from each dog.

Good sniffs = reward, sitting nicely = reward, relaxed body language = get the picture.

In fact Robin even began to initiate play with Dante, by bouncing around and being silly.

Next step - play date!
In order to continue helping Robin socialize with other dogs our next meeting we're thinking should be a play date!

Please don't give up on your dogs, any dog can be rehabilitated and rescues can make for wonderful family members. We hope that through following Robin's journey to confidence you will be able to see how it is possible in your dog's life as well.

Dog training is a divided profession. This information is provided for informational and educational purposes only. Information on this site is not to be used as a substitute for a consultation with professionals such as veterinarians, professional dog trainers or animal behaviorists. DZ Dogs cannot be held responsible for any problems that may arise from the use of any information that can be found on this site.


  1. Robin is so cute! I'm glad she found your friends! I'm sure with some time she will gain some confidence back!

    1. It's looking super positive so far! She's a good match for the family even though she's a bit of a challenge at the moment. :-)

  2. Looks like you have a good plan to help Robin. :) It sounds that with time she will adjust just fine. I remember when I had Storm at obedience class, she would get so overwhelmed by all that was going on she would totally not pay attention to me. Not even a treat like cheese would do it. The instructor suggested that I get some super smelly treats like pupperoini so I could wave it in front of her. I know I looked stupid waving that stinky stick like a flag, but it really did work. Thanks for joining the hop.

    1. OH yes we love smelly treats! I do think that we'll need to switch up treats with her depending on the situation. The challenge is getting her allergies figured out. :-) Hopefully it's as simple as switching dog foods.

  3. Robin's beautiful - and I love how her leash matches the pink on her ears, nose, and doggy lips!
    Can't wait to hear about her progress going forward. So far, sounds like things are moving at a good pace for her and she's learning so much. What a great family she has!

    1. So far so good! We have a play date scheduled this weekend if she does great with Dante - and we're sure she will. Then we might try introducing Ziva, we'll see though. :-) One step at a time, but her family is just perfect. They're very patient and want to train her the right way so no force or fear.

  4. Robin is adorable! 1 of our Goldens has severe allergies to many things. What we do for him is, we have him on Acana Pacifica grain free food, to the food we add a tablespoon of local raw honey (must be local & raw), we also give him a heaping teaspoon of organic coconut oil, and missing link to his food. We wash his bedding in 7th generation and rinse it with white vinegar, and he has gone from itching himself raw, and taking meds 3x a day to minimal itching and no meds. We also have another 1 of our cats on medicinal marijuana from Canna-Companion, and she is doing awesome. I hope some of these tips will help Robin

    1. Thank you soo much! They're trying food first, she's already on grain free so now they are switching proteins to see if its a chicken allergy - Dante is allergic to chicken.
      Then they're going to look at other things. I'll pass your tips on! We're lucky Dante and Ziva's allergies aren't this severe. *wags!

  5. I absolutely love Robin.

    It's so great to see her progress along nicely. She seems like such a sweet girl, and she has such lovely eyes. Looking forward to her next update =)

    1. She definitely is sweet! :-) I can't wait to see her personality come out more.

  6. Nice, informative post. When I was training my fearful German Shepherd years ago, who became a maniac whenever another dog came into view, the most difficult part for me was the leash tension. If I wasn't holding her back, she'd lunge at the other dog. (She almost pulled me in front of a semi truck once to get to the dog on the other side of the street!) Phew! So it was quite an experience for me to learn when and when not to put tension on the leash. Thanks for your articles. They're quite interesting to me.

    1. You're welcome!
      Yikes on your semi truck experience!! That would scare me to death!
      I'm always trying to get people to pay attention to how their dog is feeling, tension makes Ziva more reactive - something we learned during her fear aggressive phase. It's been nice seeing Ziva progress and become less reactive towards other dogs.


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