I got my first dog when I was 26 years old after I had just returned from a deployment to Afghanistan and I was renting a whole house all to myself. I went to the local shelter, like many first time dog owners and picked out a dog. At the time I didn't actually realize how lucky I was, because I had actually adopted a pure bred rough collie named "Abraham." I gave him a new name, "Rufio," and taught Rufio a few commands (which he probably already knew, but I liked to think I was a good trainer back then).
After a couple years and buying a home with a huge fenced yard, I thought I should get a second dog! I mean I was such an awesome dog owner who trained my first dog to be such a perfect good boy that I could totally handle a second dog. So like any inexperienced dog owner I found a backyard breeder looking to get rid of German Shepherd for cheap. That is how I ended up with what would become the reason I got into dog train as well as one of greatest challenges of my dog training career (so far).
Breaux, was not actually a German Shepherd, but instead of 3/4 German Shepherd and 1/4 Husky. He came to me relatively underweight and lacked any real muscle, so I researched and learned how to put some healthy weight and muscle definition on him. He was extremely fearful of people and did not have many good encounters with other dogs that didn't result in a fight. Like many people I attributed this to an assumption that he was abused by his breeder, but in all likelihood it was probably just his temperament.
Breaux was still intact and as I did my research and the fact that he was still underweight I wanted to wait until he was done growing before giving him "the snip." Breaux never did quite learn to get along with other dogs, so at the age of 4 years old I decided it was time and he got his surgery. I had hoped that maybe if we removed some of those breeding instincts and hormones that he may be a bit more successful at making new dog friends.
Our dogs can be greatly effected by significant changes in their lives or in our lives. About the same time that Breaux got his operation, my significant other moved in with his dog. I didn't realize it at the time, but in hindsight this period was likely the beginning of some of his most serious behavior problems to come.
A few months later Breaux bit someone for the first time. I was devastated. I always knew he was fearful of people and he didn't like other dogs but I never expected this to happen.
We went to a backyard wedding for a relative who loved dogs and invited my pups specifically to attend. All of the dogs were wonderful for the entire day. By the end of the reception and most people had left. Suddenly as someone walked out of the house into the back yard where we were all sitting, my significant other's dog ran up to the person wanting to be pet and he obliged. But, within an instant Breaux ran full speed across half of the yard barking and snarling, and as the man turned his back in fear Breaux gave him a quick bite on the lower butt and immediately released. It all happened so quickly no one realized what had happened until the man said, "He bit me..." in a rather calm and rather confused voice.
A few weeks later, we hosted a going away barbeque at our house and invited a few friends to join us. Again, while someone was playing with one of the other dogs, suddenly Breaux ran over and gave a nip on the persons' butt. The difference was that this time it was a young girl. This was the moment I knew I had to take serious action because if this ever happened again, to someone I didn't know, or even someone I did know, they could have Breaux put to sleep.
I signed up for a training program recommended by a local group I volunteered with. I didn't know anything about dog training, or how to tell the difference between a good trainer and the others. The important thing was that I was doing something, it was a start to what would become a passion and a career in years to come. I did everything the trainer told me to do, and I worked tirelessly with him in hopes that I can once again trust him.
It wasn't until I decided to become a dog trainer and went to the Starmark Academy for Dog Training that I realized that I had it all backwards. I always wanted to be able to trust Breaux again, but I didn't stop to think whether or not he trusted me. Once I began focusing on fixing my relationship with Breaux and teaching him that I would never allow anything bad to happen to him, or to put him in unfair situations I began making leaps and bounds with his behavior issues. The reason Breaux would act out the way he had was likely due to his fearfulness that he demonstrated from the beginning. Once he realized that I would keep him safe, if he is in a situation where he is fearful or unsure, he now turns to me and looks to me as if to ask me how he should behave.
If you think that your dog is impossible or hopeless, please don't give up. Search for answers, ask for help, and never stop trying to help your dog. Things may get worse before they get better, and that's okay.