Tuesday, December 08, 2009

My dear, sweet Enzo.

Described as being out-of-control and crazy, I admit I was nervous meeting you for the first time. The unknown element of a new puppy or dog gets me anxious, even now, but the feeling is intensified when I am "warned" beforehand. A new challenge excites me though and I was looking forward to seeing what you would bring to our home.

Turns out you were nothing but a big, goofy ball of energetic leaping Doodle who was full of self-reinforcing behaviours with no respect for people.

We called you Doodle-dee, doodle-dumb. You were not stubborn, yet you were sensitive. I had to be fair and clear with you, training started from scratch as you learned to work for a reward. Even small corrections caused you to get hyper and stop thinking at first.

We worked hard together for a year and guess what? You did well. You quickly learned boundaries. You learned self control. You learned to focus and think rather than just react. It's amazing how quickly dogs figure out what works and what doesn't work... How quickly they adapt to a new set of rules. You were no different.

When you were recalled for training you continued to do well.

Sooner than expected I heard you were fast-tracked and placed with an Autistic boy. I was very proud, you had come a long way!

After a couple of months you were returned by the family.

Jumping, mouthing and crazy behaviours had returned with a vengeance, behaviours that aren't safe or acceptable around children. Sigh.

"It's amazing how quickly dogs figure out what works and what doesn't work." It's also amazing how quickly 11 months worth of self-reinforcing behaviours come back.


Truthfully, I was upset. Once a dog leaves my house I lose all control. There is absolutely nothing I can do. Being the control freak I am this really bothers me.

I also think we expect a lot out of these working animals. The families they go to may have zero dog experience. Even if they have dog experience are they handling the dog fairly? Are their expectations realistic? Are the children too rough? Ultimately they are still animals, not pieces of equipment.


You were placed back into the training program yet the behaviours continued. They were hoping to find the right match for you but that never happened and you were released. I received the call yesterday about your "Career Change". (Or as I like to phrase it: My big fat failure.)


I can't help but wonder if there was more I could have done with Enzo, but truthfully he was not showing these behaviours with me. I proofed him around children, in different environments, etc, but the fact was I was a constant element in his life. With me brought the boundaries and rules he expected. In class we often trade dogs so they learn to work with others as well, he did well in that situation. Outside of training, in everyday life, these same rules weren't enforced so erosion happened quickly and he took advantage. Dogs ultimately do what is reinforcing to them, for better or for worse.

Then I start to ponder the differences between handling and training. Can you be a better handler than trainer? Can the two be separated or are they one and the same? I don't have an answer to this question yet.


In conclusion... There is a lovely dog looking for a nice pet home.

Anyone interested in a trained two year old Golden/Poodle cross who doesn't shed, has been socialized well and has a great joie de vivre?


Coreena, Eva and Charlie said...

I'm sorry to hear about Enzos cc. Career changes are always difficult, but especially when you worked so hard on certain bahviors that just come back when placed. Sending some doodle-ness, doxie wiggles and golden tail wags your way from Oregon.

Jenn@ You know... that blog? said...

I love that picture of him :)

Poor guy, but don't feel that you failed. Sometimes these things just happen, right?!

He'll make someone a great buddy.

K9-CRAZY said...

No Jenn, I don't feel that I failed, I'm just really pissed off at many things, not all related to Enzo. If I foster another service dog puppy it will not be for a long, long time and probably for LFC again.

Katrin said...

I agree, since many SD handlers have either a. never had a dog before or b. never had a service dog before that required such strict upkeep on manners and training you end up with a very wide range of handlers. Some SD handlers I know (and I use the term loosely) you would love to know "Why on earth are you encouraging that behavior?!" as you know it's going to end in a demise of the dog's training. While other SD handlers are excellent and really learn to work with their dog and keep up the training and all of that. And then there are SD handlers who also take on the role as trainer and the dog and handler have an even different relationship, which can be really nice.

I'm sorry that Enzo had to be CCed. I had to CC my PIT who I was owner training. For him it was both health reasons (seizures) as well as temperament (he decided he wanted to be a pet and not a working dog and wanted to spend his life being a goof ball making people laugh, which is what he does currently and is very happy in his new home). And it was incredibly difficult after all of the time and effort i had put into him. But it was the best decision. I knew that if I had tried to continue training him (had he not had epilepsy) I doubt I ever would have been able to trust his guiding ability fully, just knowing how distractable he could be, and that could have been incredibly dangerous for both of us, and he probably would have become miserable in the job as well. So if it is the handler's safety at stake, it is probably for the best. I hope that Enzo is able to find a loving pet home where he can be happy.

Anonymous said...

that sucks. but it it is not your fault at all. dogs pick up really fast who they can walk all over, and forget about rules really fast once they're not enforced. you'd think that people would keep up the work once they got the dog- but I think that it is easier to let the dog do what he wants than to stick with the program.

he's a cutie, and I am sure will find a great pet home.

i'd be ticked off too.

amanda at manymuddpaws

Michael said...

Found your blog stumbling across the interweb. I absolutely enjoyed your blog...for many reasons. The photos are just perfect...well we ALL have to be a goof ball some times.

Viva said...


I sent you an e-mail, and just found your blog (and I know my e-mail has issues going to junk!). Growing up we had a disqualified guide dog - he was too food fixated. He was an absolutely amazing dog, and we ended up using him as a therapy dog at seniors centers. I like to think he loved that more! He loved attention, being able to be around people!

But I know what you're saying - we never had an issue with him being "food fixated" we think it was just the caregiver didn't know how to handle a dog. I agree with Katrin - the learning curve for new dog owners is often huge, esp. when they have such a specialize job.