Balto is what I call my “rescue” in so many more ways than one. Having grown up with German Shepherds I knew that when it was time to get a companion of my own it would have to be a German Shepherd (no matter how I tried to rebel against my parents’ choice!).
I was actually looking for Breeders on the internet that had puppies available when I saw Balto’s picture advertised in the Trading Post, it was his eyes that got me and I knew immediately then and there that he had to be with me.
Going to see him only cemented this in my mind. He was confined to a small section of the back yard. He had only attended puppy training for 6 weeks in that whole 3 years, he had never been let off the lead to run freely in open spaces. His diet had consisted on home brand commercial foods (and in fairness leftovers of course) and he had not been permitted inside. The previous owners, having two young children, one having been born premature, just didn’t have the time or resources to care for him any longer. My mind was made up!
In the first few weeks to say that Balto was spoilt is an understatement. I so wanted to give him a better life. Upon bringing him home he was very hand shy, it was evident that he had been handled physically, and his hind legs kept on collapsing underneath him due to lack of exercise and poor nutrition, (I had x-rays undertaken to ensure it wasn’t hip displaysia – it wasn’t).
So I set my mind and heart in correcting all of this starting with diet, exercise and gaining his trust. It was when we went on our walks that real problems began, not so much with Balto himself (other than the constant pulling on the lead), but with other dogs trying to attack us (yes often off lead with their owners just standing and watching rather than trying or more to the point unable to control their dog). Balto had been bitten once and we’d had at least another 8 attempts. Having not been socialised with other dogs other than puppy class growing up, this led to him becoming highly defensive and aggressive towards other dogs and wanting to “get in first”. I knew I needed to get him in a more controlled environment with other dogs and that’s how I met Judi upon researching who not only trains obedience, but knows how to deal with behavioural issues.
As I started to ask a little more of him by way of obeying me and implementing some rules, Balto began to openly challenge me. I was obviously sending mixed messages regarding who was leader and Balto was going to challenge me and make me earn that title. Notwithstanding, this was a 3 year old dog that had never been controlled other than by being locked away in the corner of the yard. It wasn’t his physical strength that was the issue, it was his mental toughness that I was up against and I had no idea how to deal with that (he is the first dog I have owned myself). He was relentless in his challenging of me. So when the physical pushing and shoving emerged (from his end) and 15 minute stand-offs over the hose he had become fixated on, as well as his increasing aggression towards other dogs and mouthing of my arm when I would try and move him away from trying to go after my cat, I knew I had to get some serious help, and quickly, so I called Judi.
All I can say without exaggeration is that Judi has truly been instrumental in the turning of our lives around. She came to our home and spent a solid two hours with us – ensuring I had the correct equipment, teaching me how to correct Balto effectively and have him walk on a loose lead with his attention on me rather than everything else (including other dogs), as well as how to deal with those “situations” that can arise when other dogs pop up from nowhere. Foremost, she taught me numerous ways in which I could become a better leader in a non-confronting manner and yet get the message across, by “talking dog”, and ultimately, relinquish all that responsibility from Balto. She then left us with homework and then would check in with us periodically to see how we were travelling.
The change in Balto and our relationship within one week was nothing short of miraculous to say the least. He no longer even attempted to pull on the lead, he is now constantly aware of what I am doing and going and even matches his gait to mine (I still cannot believe this!), and he no longer tries to pull me under tables and diner’s chairs to get to the dogs that may be there. If we do see a dog, his attention is immediately on me (most of the time) to see where I am going. Furthermore, he waits until I go through doorways/gates first, he will not touch his food until I have moved away from his bowl, he now listens to me when I give him a command (whereas before he would literally smile at me and completely ignore me), and he “waits” for me when I tell him to (for example if we’re about to go to the car and I need to dash inside quickly for something I’ve forgotten). He will be sitting patiently “waiting” for me to return, every time.
At training he will even sit quietly next to me amongst 20-30 dogs waiting for our next move whereas the first time we literally had to hide behind the buildings he was so aggressive and causing such a commotion. Most of all – he is so, so much happier and relaxed, and this has all developed in 3 weeks, yes, three weeks.
We have had countless people approach asking if it is the same dog (yes we had gained quite a reputation in our small community – from the aggressive German Shepherd he is now “Inspector Rex”), and my father, who owned German Shepherds for close to 40 years, cannot believe the transformation in such a short period of time.
Judi, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all your ongoing support, genuine care, and wisdom. It has literally changed our lives and made them so much more enriched, as well as the bond between us which has only deepened as a result. I know in my heart of hearts there was no way I could have done this on my own and giving up on Balto was just not an option. I think you knew that. I’m sorry that this is so long, but I wanted to give a clear illustration of exactly where Balto came from to where he is now for others considering your services, and to show that this type of transformation is indeed possible, with any dog, as long as the commitment is there and we don’t give up. You’ll be pleased to know that we are making doggie friends, but have not touched noses yet - but we are well on our way!
I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am knowing that Balto can now live and enjoy a full life, rather than one in isolation. Thank you for making me a better leader and someone that Balto can not only trust, but respect. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you………..
- Rhonda and Balto -