In December, 2003, a greyhound that I was fostering for Colorado Greyhound Adoption exhibited a behavioral problem that I was not equipped to handle. When seeing strange dogs in the park, three year old Chester would lunge after them. When I tugged on the leash to correct him, he would turn around and bite me on the leg. Knowing that Chester was not adoptable because of this behavior, I was put in touch with trainer Ana Melara who had generously consulted with CGA in the past.
Ana visited our home for an on-site evaluation of Chester. She observed him for his level of reactivity, ability to accept leadership and fitness for rehabilitation. She provided us with recommendations for reasserting our authority and started us on a program to deal with his leash aggression and re-directed aggression. Ana also suggested that I purchase and read Feisty Fido, to complement our lessons. We practiced daily in the neighborhood and had weekly sessions with Ana.
We began with the “Watch” command at home and, once mastered, practiced in our neighborhood, well away from other dogs. Gradually we worked on this command closer and closer to other dogs. Months later, as Ana had promised (I was incredulous at the time), Chester sat with his attention focused on me at the training center while Ana’s dogs approached him. After months of Ana’s positive training, Chester was a changed dog! We incorporated “Sit,” “Stay,” “Wait,” “Down,” “Up” and “Speak” into our lessons. It got to the point where Chester would see another dog, look at me and sit for a treat! We eventually met all sorts of dogs and Chester mingled peaceably with scores of greyhounds at CGA events. In September, Chester finally found a home of his own!
Without Ana’s help, Chester’s miraculous transformation would not have been possible. She trained me to communicate, using positive reinforcement, what I wanted Chester to do. We achieved our training goals without the use of any punishing choke collars or yelling. In fact, he was fitted with a special harness that left his neck and muzzle free, so that no pressure was exerted when seeing another dog. I found it revolutionary that instead of hurtful things (choking collars, yelling) when seeing another dog, he experienced only good things (treats, praise).
At our sessions, Ana provided a running (and often funny) commentary on what Chester was thinking. This helped me to read him better. It was truly amazing to observe this rambunctious, dog-aggressive greyhound become a well mannered boy who amused all who met him with his repertoire of tricks! And it was no less miraculous to see him happily and confidently meeting strange dogs in the park…
Ana has become Chester’s and my hero! She is a wonderful trainer – of people and dogs alike! Ana’s training methods have become my gauge of what excellent, effective training should be about.
Judy Greenfield, Colorado Greyhound Adoption