Ryan is an 11(ish)-year-old Akita, German shepherd, Sheltie, etc. mix. I first met her in 2010 before my partner adopted her. She was the kind of dog that would steal pizza right out of your hand and pee on the carpet multiple times in one night.
How we all came to live together and Ryan’s history… those are stories for another day.
Here’s the thing: Ryan bites. The level of aggressive behavior is directly related to her level of fear. So when I first met Ryan, it took a lot of patience (and treats) just to get her used to my presence. Walking into a room caused a flurry of barking, and walking quickly out of a room might result in a bruised calf. All of this was much worse if she had a prized toy or bone.
Needless to say, Ryan really tested my patience. And honestly, I just didn’t like her. And that was a problem. For the sake of my relationship with my partner and my own sanity, I had to work with this dog.
I happened to start FetchFind Academy after about a year of living with Ryan. I gained some tools for managing but also modifying her behavior. Really understanding what aggression is and where it comes from makes her response to me feel far less personal.
As my knowledge grew, my love and appreciation for Ryan grew too. Compassion replaced frustration. I committed to putting in the time and hard work to make a positive change. I tossed her a treat every time I walked into the room, worked on my own body language, hand-fed her every meal, and made sure I was the source of all things good in her life. When my partner went out of town, my relationship with Ryan flourished because I truly was “her” person during that time.
It’s been a long road, and we still struggle sometimes, but I am so grateful for this dog. I’m a better dog trainer, educator, and person because of what Ryan has taught me and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
More and more people are dealing with aggression in their dogs to varying degrees. My goal here is to let you know that there is hope. If you are seeing aggressive behavior in your dog, please enlist the help of a good trainer or behaviorist to help you come up with a plan specific to your own situation.
P.S. We can eat our pizza in peace now, in case you’re wondering!