Pickle – in less of a pickle now!


Releasing the past! session notes and owner’s story:~SESSION NOTES~ Pickle was holding on to past rejection and fear of future rejection as well as emotions surrounding the death of his siblings, the entire litter died of parvo except Pickle. He still felt a connection to the pups. Voicing his concern helped him move forward & his behavior has improved dramatically – In his last conversation he relayed to his owner, “Mom is good, thank you,help me, heart grow – feel big now, (his heart has love now), has some happy inside, feel more patient inside & calm”. OWNER’S STORY: Pickle was born in Knoxville TN in the spring of 2008. Our son,a recent college graduate, was lucky enough to have someone bring Pickle to his apartment and ask him if he wanted a puppy. Our son’s roommate said yes they would take him. He was around 13 weeks at the time. The girl who brought him said he came from a litter that all died from canine parvovirus and he was the only survivor. My husband and I lived in Montana at the time and when I found out about Pickle I sent our son some vaccinations to be sure Pickle had his puppy shots. I did not get a chance to meet Pickle until the Spring of 2010. We took a trip to Nebraska and spent the weekend with our son and Pickle. Our dog, MJ, was with us and her first encounter with Pickle was rather scary. She decided she would keep her distance from him so he would not snap at her. My husband was bitten, and I also found that if anyone got close to his kennel he would growl. He was 2 years old at the time. We moved to Tennessee in the summer of 2011. We bought a farm in northern TN and Pickle was able to come to visit and stay with us now and then, when our son would travel. It seemed to us that Pickle was getting more aggressive, but at the same time becoming more protective of us.There were a couple of times that he snapped at me, which broke my heart. So when we found out we would care for him for a couple months in the summer 2012, we gave our son a birthday gift: we would take Pickle to a trainer in Nashville. He agreed Pickle could use it, but mostly it was because we didn’t have the physical strength to control this 95-100 lb. Tasmanian Devil.

When the trainer first met Pickle he agreed there was an aggression problem; in fact, commenting Pickle was the closest thing to a pure predator he recalled working with. Still, his impression was that Pickle acted from insecurity. Pickle didn’t exhibit traits of the alpha male, but had been thrust into that role. Perhaps that insecurity caused his aggression—a coping mechanism? The most immediate need was to get Pickle to break the focus of his aggression when we asked him to calm down. Whenever Pickle aggressed, he would not respond to any stimulus to break his focus. He was a 4 year-old at this point and his manners, mostly unacceptable, were deeply ingrained. Our very first time at the trainer, hehad us sit on a couch with Pickle at our feet while he paced the room, out of Pickle’s range. The trainer tried to explain dog psychology, pointing out things we were unknowingly doing to feed his aggression. As the trainer paced, Pickle watching his every move, the trainer would do something unexpected, such as stamp his foot. When Pickle would spring to the attack, he had us bang Pickle on his head with a stainless feeding bowl. It didn’t really hurt, and made a loud, unfamiliar noise. A dozen or so blows taught Pickle that we were in charge of when and if he could aggress. We would have preferred not to get physical, and would not have thought to do that on our own, as it’s just not our nature. Nonetheless, the trainer was breaking through. We went to about a half dozen sessions and things were getting mildly better. We learned some training ideas that we were able to put to use, but we needed more. Our son picked up Pickle in the middle of August 2012 to move him to Florida. Not quite a month later he took Pickle to the beach to have some professional pictures made. Pickle was digging in the sand to make himself a cool bed when a friend put her foot in the hole to help him dig and he bit her foot. Then, during the commotion,another dog sitting next to him,trying to get away, accidentally bumped him,and he bit the other dog also. This was not a strange dog; he had been roommates with her for 2 years. Pickle was identified by Animal Control as a “vicious dog” and put on a watch list. I felt Pickle was just scared because he was in an unfamiliar environment. Our son became very concerned and was not sure what to do. He was thinking he would have to have him put down, a very painful and difficult decision. I asked if Pickle could stay with us because he seemed to do OK here on the farm. We drove to Georgia, the halfway point, to meet our son and get Pickle. It was heartbreaking for our son as he loves Pickle so much, but he knew Pickle would be in caring hands and would get more attention than the average struggling young adult can give. I was told by a very good friend about Cesar Milan, “The Dog Whisperer.” I ordered some of his videos and started using some of his techniques, which really gave good results.We learned techniques that demonstrated to Pickle, in terms he could identify with, that we were the alpha female and male. This seemed to relieve him and he willingly began to leave big decisions to us. Pickle seemed to become more balanced and even MJ was getting to trust him a little more.Still, it seemed like there was something missing and I wanted to understand Pickle better. I had another friend that knew Karen and mentioned her name while we were out horseback riding. So, I contacted Karen about doing some sessions with him. We have had 3 sessions so far and I believe that Pickle has been able to get past some issues that he’s carried since he was a puppy. He communicated to Karen that he and his litter mates were tied together and he felt like he needed to protect them.He felt shame, that he wasn’t good enough, the source of his insecurity.Karen communicated to him that he needed to release those feelings and move on. He still communicates shame to Karen, although now it’s because he realizes he wasn’t a good dog before, although he tries hard now. MJ seems to be more trusting of him every day.Her original response to him was avoidance; now she plays and exercises beside him safely. The consistent and persistent training and socialization has allowed Pickle to blossom and he grows in confidence and ability all the time. He is really starting to listen when we give him instructions—we don’t bark commands, just give guidance, and he complies. To some dogs this comes easily, but this represents huge progress for Pickle and we’re rightly proud for him. M. Richardson.

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