Hello everyone! Today, I thought I’d share my experience taking my adopted shelter dog to a behavioral vet.
For some background information, I adopted a Chihuahua named Fox last year from a shelter. When I adopted Fox, I was told he had some food aggression with high value treats, he wasn’t fully house trained, but overall he was a good dog. However, a few months after adopting him, Fox bit my dad and he was showing more and more behavioral problems.
Now, this was pretty on par with the timeline I’d been given when I adopted him, the 3-3-3 schedule! Basically after 3 months the dog starts to get really comfortable with their new home and behavioral issues start to show up more. There’s more to it but that’s the most relevant piece right now.
I’m a first-time dog mom, so I knew this type of behavior was going to need a professional’s help. I’m sure I’d be able to do it on my own but the fact that he was biting now made immediate progress a priority. My parents, and even a few friends, were convinced that I was wasting money. And honestly I did consider if this was something I was willing to take on or if I should just give up on my dog. But, in the end, I love Fox too much to give him up now and decided to at least give this a try.
Here’s my experience thus far with his therapist!
My Dog Has A Therapist
So the official title my dog’s therapist has is “behavioral vet”. After Fox bit my dad and I decided to get a behavioral vet, I noticed that the vet we already go to had a behavioral vet at the practice. I did look up a few others, but ultimately decided to try this one first. I had to fill out a ten page PDF (non-fillable I might add), and return it for the vet. Then we went to our first session.
In our first session, in early December, the vet had already reviewed the PDF but wanted to hear from me what was going on. I updated her on our life thus far and the issues we were having. Her thought was that Fox was anxious! Honestly, he’s just like his mom LOL. The vet said that Fox was still adjusting to his new home, and because of the fact that he’d had multiple homes in his short life, he was having difficulty with that. She also thought he was bored. It made sense, I knew he was coming from a household with five family members, three of which were children. I’m sure his old home was chaotic while ours is very calm. Plus, he needed more to do!
Our first assignment was to simply train together. I was told to get treats he loved, buy a clicker, given a list of things to work on during the training, and get to training to build up both a relationship and his ability to reliably do the things I asked. We quickly got to work and he has LOVED the clicker training. I also bought him a ton of puzzle toys so he could work for his treats. I also started to pay more attention to the enrichment and training TikToks that came up and started implementing some of those things. I noticed a few more things we needed to work on, as he was still really mean towards other dogs, barking at them non-stop if they were too close to him for example.
By the time our next session came up, in early January, I was so excited because he had been SO GOOD! He was doing much better in his obedience training class, hadn’t had accidents, and was being a great dog overall! At the last minute, the session had to be postponed as the vet had an emergency come up. And that weekend Fox has horrible!
Fox ended up biting my dad again, having accidents in the house twice when he hadn’t had any in over a month, and overall was so naughty!
When the session came around, I updated the vet accordingly. She decided that Fox and my dad needed to do their own training sessions to rebuild their trust too. Then we tried to show the vet the tricks he’d been practicing, but he was so scared at the vet’s office that he really did not want to participate. We were told to keep working on the list, I was tasked with taking videos of the training sessions, and to go back in two weeks.
Two weeks later, I had sent the vet the videos and we were back in the office. Fox was much more friendly and comfortable in general! We finally got a new list of things to work on and we have been busy trying to learn everything! Fox is still not the best at walking on leash, so we are practicing that too. And he has started to show aggression at night when I try to take him outside for pre-bed potty so I need to email his vet about that! (Note to self, do that after finishing up typing this post.)
Fox is trying hard to be a good boy. He sort of reminds me of both Stitch from Lilo and Stitch, as well as Paul Anka the dog from Gilmore Girls. He’s naughty, but he doesn’t want to be. He has quite the anger issues and gets frustrated easily. He also needs everything done a certain way otherwise he is grumpy about it. But he does seem to really love us and love his new home, and wants to be a good boy.
And the training is helping a ton with that! He’s slowly understanding what is and isn’t acceptable at home. He does honestly love the training sessions. We do a few minutes at a time a few times a day, and sometimes he actually asks for the training sessions by going to where he knows the bag of treats and the clicker are waiting, and he gets so excited whenever I do pick up the clicker! As the vet said, for him it’s a game that he enjoys because he gets treats and attention! He still isn’t perfectly behaved, but he is doing so much better! At the last session, his therapist said he seems like a very different dog, and some people who have signed up for the new obedience session that were in the last one too have said the same about him! He is much happier in general and so loving. I’m glad I did decide to give him another chance and that I decided to go with the vet to give him the best chance at being a good boy!
So that’s our experience so far with dog therapy! While I do wish he was better behaved already, since I had such plans to take him to dog parks and find him dog friends, I know I just need to be patient so that he will get there!
Thanks for reading!
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Pamela, you’re a wonderful dog mom. Most people would probably have given up on Fox already and you’re doing so much to make sure he’s happy. He’s very lucky to have you!
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Aw thank you Cheila! He’s not an easy dog all the time but he’s teaching me so much! I do tell him he’s lucky all the time though LOL.
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