I am excited to share with you the story of Matilda, a Catahoula mix who has been a dog training client of mine since the end of 2014.
Matilda first came to me when her former owners, seeking a dog trainer in Charlottesville, brought her to me to treat her dog aggression. They had adopted Matilda almost six years prior and in that six years she had bitten several other dogs. In fact, her owners had to pay the vet bills of several other dog owners after Matilda had lashed out.
Despite her history, and despite not having sought the proper training for her aggression, the owners decided to try adopting a puppy. Within two weeks, Matilda bit the puppy on the ear. Severe enough to require stitches. That was when they sought my help.
Within a week of being with me, I heard from the rescue organization from which Matilda had originally been adopted informing me that her owners did not want her back. It was not an easy decision for them and I understand their frustration.
But I felt Matilda had a lot of potential. Just in the week she had been with me, she was responding positively to the boundaries I had set for her. She was happily living among my own dogs without lashing out at them. She really enjoyed our long daily hikes and could be trusted off leash.
I knew of a local family looking for an older dog to adopt for their three active boys. They met with me and Matilda and seemed to be the right fit. So, a month after coming to live with me and being surrendered by her former owners, Matilda was adopted.
The very first weekend after joining her new home, her new owner called me in tears. The mother had experience with owning dogs, so she felt ready to implement the training guidance I'd given her. But that weekend the family took Matilda for an evening walk in a local park. The first dog she saw, Matilda went crazy. Lunging, and barking, and pulling her new owner.
That brought about the first follow up visit I had with the family.
Over the course of several months, the family consistently worked with Matilda to improve her behavior. They tried several different training techniques, transitioning her as her behavior improved. They continued to bring her to their local park, being careful to not get close to other dogs, But allowing Matilda to be walked among other dogs. They brought her on walks occasionally with my dogs in order to keep her socialized with dogs that she felt comfortable with.
Now, Matilda is a happy, well-adjusted dog thanks to the commitment of her owners to listening to training advice and consistently applying the boundaries Matilda needs in order to be friendly and calm around other dogs. She is able to enjoy the park with her family without lashing out at every dog that walks by.
Most important, Matilda is able to live a long, healthy life with a family, instead of in a shelter, or worse, due to a history of dog aggression!
You can click HERE to watch a short video of Matilda playing happily with Annie, the German Shepherd pictured above, just minutes after meeting her for the first time. Amazing progress for an amazing dog!