“from simple beginnings come great dogs”.
'Humphrey' ("Rescued" July, 2007)
This beautiful one year old Great Dane was not a 'rescue' in the traditional sense. His handler (Debbie M. from Hamilton) insisted that I post Humphrey in our rescued Hall of Fame. "You really rescued him, Jim" Debbie insisted, "he was just a hair away from being put down at the recommendations of two professionals, a vet and a university trained and University of Guelph graduated animal behaviourist". So, I relented. Here is his story .....
One beautiful mid summer evening in July my wife got a phone call from a woman in obvious distress about her Great Dane. Apparently a colleague of mine had referred Debbie M. to Spirit Ridge knowing that I have experience in successfully dealing with K9 Aggression. I happened to be outdoors training and, upon hearing the urgency of the situation, my wife assured Debbie that she would speak to me as soon as I came back.
That evening, I found myself trying to calm Debbie down over the phone and hoping (indeed praying) that these professionals had missed something or grossly mistaken certain actions to the point of recommending euthanasia. I was somewhat encouraged by the description of how this boy was walked - the rare times Debbie braved a walk with him - with a prong collar, a halti and a calming cap plus he was on a healthy dose of Prozac.
All through my drive to Hamilton the very next morning, I found myself praying I could do something!
Within a few minutes of my arrival and after seeing the interaction between Humphrey and his handler (plus observing a second and somewhat quietly dominant female Great Dane) I knew 'we were in business'! There was a great deal of room for improvement and as I was observing the Great Danes, I was becoming increasingly convinced that any 'aggression' on Humphrey's part was really only dominance. Bolstered by the fact that Debbie was convinced these were his last days on earth, Humphrey was literally getting away with murder and truly spoiled. This smart boy was taking advantage of the situation - as most dogs are known to do. At 140 pounds (and growing) however, the situation was more serious than usual given the harm Humphrey could inflict on other dogs as he regularly lunged at them and snapped at humans!
After giving Humphrey a few canine signals letting him know that I would not be dominated or bullied by him, I proceeded to advise Debbie that all collars needed to go and that she would only require the prong collar - for safety and control purposes - since I was intending on restoring the handler/K9 relationship that very same day. No more laying on furniture, no more bolting out the door ahead of her, strict feeding regimes, no more 'freebie' treats and no more babying. I also showed her how to walk him - what to do, what not to do and how and when to give Humphrey affection so that her signals would be very clear to him. She was going to be the dominant leader of her pack and I was determined to help her achieve this.
Still, while hopeful, Debbie was reluctant to believe that it was going to be that uncomplicated! After all, it was just a day ago that she was convinced she was going to have to put him down and was trying to figure out how to break the news to her children who were away at summer camp.
Once we went outside, and I showed Debbie how Humphrey was behaving with me holding his leash and on a single collar, all doubt simply melted away. Her eyes were as big as saucers when I proceeded to simultaneously walk my Malinois 'Zorro' on my right side and Humphrey on my left and this, only an hour after i had first met Humphrey! In fact, I think I achieved 'rock star' status in her eyes when I actually sought out the barking and lunging (behind the fence) neighbours' dogs only to show her how calm Humphrey was sitting in front of that very same fence she had always dreaded to walk by. That was all the encouragement Debbie needed. Gone were the calming caps, haltis and all the paraphernalia that had been recommended by the 'professionals'. In fact, under close supervision, Humphrey was gradually also weaned off the Prozac.
Debbie and the children have been applying my recommendations ever since and now, the very same beautiful and proud boy that was destined to be euthanized, draws the admiring comments of passers-by during his perfectly heeling walks.
Debbie and her children are perfect examples of what handlers can accomplish when faced with the 'ultimate' solution. Their resolve and persistence has saved Humphrey and have, at the same time, restored harmony and peace in their home. I am truly grateful to Debbie and her children for making the leap of faith and believing in me when I said I could save her beautiful, handsome and proud boy .......