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Old 06-30-2013, 03:41 PM   #1
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Charlie update

Hi all, particularly old-timers,

It's been a while since I contributed. Life has been busy. I appreciated the help I got here when we first adopted Charlie, a 4-year old toy poodle from the local SPCA in March 2010. As first-time dog owners, we had our hands full with a number of issues.

To make a long story (yes I could write pages) short, Charlie is doing well these days. His adopted weight was 7.5 lbs, but with regular walks and food he rose to 9 lbs within 3 months. He still weighs that today, and our vet says he's quite healthy.

The big surprise this week was finding his adoption contract and prior vet reports. It turns out his first checkup was 5/17/2005! So much for truth in advertising; we adopted a 5-year old. Charlie (aka Milky and Diu Diu, both names on vet docs from the Chinese owners) was 1 lb. on that date.

Charlie was in rough shape when we got him, and there were many behavioral issues to address. On the flip side, he was puppy pad trained and knew some tricks. We believe he was left alone 10-14 hours per day. In the evening, he became very hostile towards me, and even a simple touch on his back could result in a bite. My wife needed stitches once and butterfly bandages twice to treat wounds. He would regularly submit, and roll on his back, but he would be growling while doing so.

About 18 months ago, I mentioned to a minister on the street that Charlie was still biting on occasion. In a kind ministerial tone, he suggested that end of life issues were really tough, but maybe Charlie would be better off if we put him down. I said nothing, but gave this some thought. My conclusion was that as the human, and I was in charge. I redoubled my efforts to win Charlie over. Rather than tensing when Charlie got upset, I would simply stop and put my finger in front of his mouth. He weighs 9 lbs, and a bloody finger is the worst he can do, but it gave Charlie pause. Charlie sounds funny when he is licking my finger while growling. A few months ago, after seeing the improvement in Charlie, the minister and I joked about his advice.

It seemed the hot topics 3-5 years ago was dominance. We had limited success with this. What really worked was realizing his behavior was all fear based. I've spent a lot of time on reassurance and this has worked so much better. While he improved in the first 2 years, lately we see improvement each month.

The problems in the evening turned out to be fear. I can only speculate what caused this, and none of it is good. I now try every evening to spend time on the floor with him with treats, and it is slowly working.

One of the last big hurdles is to get him to relax in his crate as he guards it strongly. I am putting treats at the door, but any further advice is welcome.

For now, Charlie delights us several times per day.

Last edited by mhubel; 06-30-2013 at 06:08 PM. Reason: fixed my typos!
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Old 06-30-2013, 04:57 PM   #2
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I commend you for taking the time to work with your dog to fix his issues.

As far as his crate goes, put a t-shirt in there with your scent on it. Treats at the door is also very good. I would say keep doing what you are doing. Put the treats in the crate and let the dog go at his own pace. Also, when he is in the crate, lay down next to the crate. Bring a book to read. Just lay there and read. Bring a couple treats and when the dog is calm, give him another treat, and praise him.

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Old 06-30-2013, 10:10 PM   #3
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Thanks so much fr the update. It is great to hear you are having success with the positive reward based training. Good for you to give Charlie a second chance and for being patient!!

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Old 07-02-2013, 01:01 PM   #4
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Thanks for that. I tried the t-shirt before, but I'll give it another try.

I should add that Charlie delights us, because each improvement is due to our efforts. I hear and read about a dog's unconditional love and devotion; with Charlie, we have had to build trust starting pretty much from zero. Every time he gets excited about going for a walk is because I've built trust with him. I've trained him to jump into the extra chair in my office - he gets a treat. He will sometimes jump into the chair on his own now. Treat sizes are small, but often. It's nice to see Charlie take the initiative.

Our grown children have dogs, and the extended family pack has helped a lot. Charlie had to learn to be a dog. The corrections from the alpha female occasionally seemed harsh, but they worked. The 4 dogs get along well now at family gatherings.

Charlie also growls after he joins us in bed (he a stealth pup, he comes in quietly during the night) if we nudge him. By comparison, other family dogs when we look after them overnight will lick our hands if we touch them accidentally or otherwise when they are on the bed.

My current thinking is the first owners took 5 years to cause Charlie's fear. It has taken time to identify the problems and to correct them.

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Old 07-11-2013, 05:17 PM   #5
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I should add that Charlie delights us, because each improvement is due to our efforts. I hear and read about a dog's unconditional love and devotion; with Charlie, we have had to build trust starting pretty much from zero.
I know that feeling; I got Boone when he was 5.5 months old, and I'm sure it took him a year to really start to trust us. But there's a very special joy in knowing that you are one of the two people that this dog really trusts, completely. It offsets the frustration when he so obviously distrusts everyone else, and lets them know it.

Good on you for realizing that Charlie needed love and reassurance, not dominance and correction.
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Old 04-09-2014, 05:05 PM   #6
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OK, here we are a year later, and Charlie is just past his ninth birthday. There's not much news that's different. He still weighs 3.8 kg, or about 8.5 lbs. He is a solid little guy; two walks per day will do that. The spring visit to the vet is next week. We've had not emergencies health-wise this year. I can't remember the last time he tried to bite anyone.

Charlie is still fearful around new men when they come to the house. Given a few visits, he'll greet them happily and find new laps to explore. Compared to the other dogs in our family, he is pretty normal. There are things you love about him, and other things, well, not so much. I wish he wouldn't occasionally lick utility boxes in the area - I do know where they have been! We just finished dog-sitting our daughter's 2 dogs for 10 days, and there were no incidents.

Any other issues are with the humans in his life, namely my wife and me. He still guards his crate like his life depends on it, but that won't change until we agree on how to deal with it.

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Old 03-27-2015, 04:42 PM   #7
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Charlie just passed his 10th birthday (we estimate March 17) and our 5th year of his adoption (March 19 - we were there). I thought I'd list some of the things we've learned from Charlie.

1. Patience. Good things will come.
2. Unconditional love: nope. Charlie is still cautious. Unconditional love comes from trust, and we have earned every bit of the good things we receive. The best treats in the world need careful inspection before eating.
3. I can now stop to talk to neighbors on a walk, and Charlie waits without being upset or barking. Don't try to pet him though.
4. I think of Charlie in terms of soldiers with PTSD. There are issues nobody can talk about. Time helps.
5. Some of the cute things are going away. He sometimes howls with sirens, sometimes not.
6. Dominance doesn't work with an intelligent dog scared out of his wits.

Thanks to many on this forum with ideas. He's a cutie, and a good little guy.

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Old 08-03-2015, 10:49 AM   #8
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I read your story with great interest, and allow me to say, "Bravo and God bless you!" Many years ago, we adopted Bugsy, a blind lhasa apso, from a rescue group called Last Hope. I was the one who found his picture in the local paper and made the first overtures to the phone number. My husband was very wary about adopting a blind dog, but I told him that the woman I spoke with at Last Hope assured me he got around very well and was a sweet, mellow dog between five and eight years old.

A couple of days after we adopted him, he began biting us. He was especially vicious with my husband and son, going for their feet and making them bleed at every available opportunity. Since we were a family of diabetics, foot wounds were especially problematic for us. Still, I believed there was something good in Bugsy; he allowed me to hold and stroke him sometimes without hurting me, and I sensed his attacks were born of fear and that he had been living in horrific, abusive circumstances not his fault.

I called Last Hope and told the woman who facilitated the adoption what was going on. She offered to send a trainer to our home to work with Bugsy and all three of us, for as long as it took to allay his fears and stop the biting. They would gladly pay if we would consider keeping him.

Bugsy was stubborn, and it took 12 in-home lessons, but he was vastly improved when the excellent trainer finished with us. She determined that Bugsy had been abused by men in his former household(s), and I made up my mind that, as long as he lived with us, he was going to have a happy, loving home. He had a couple of biting episodes even after his intensive training, unfortunately involving my best friend and my brother, both of whom refused to set foot in my house as long as Bugsy was alive. I remained staunchly on Bugsy's side and told friends and family who advised euthanasia for him that it was NOT an option. Why should he be put to sleep because he was abused?

As I said, Bugsy got vastly better after his training, but if he felt threatened, he still lashed out by biting. We tried to make him feel as safe as possible. He never bit a vet or a groomer. Go figure that one out.

Bugsy lived with us for eight years. We fed him the best food and he slept on our bed with us every night. When he was 13-16 years old, he suddenly lost a lot of weight and was unable to hold in his urine. We brought him to our vet, who suspected rampant cancer and advised that we euthanize him. Bugsy was first given a shot that made him sleep. My husband and I, sobbing, took turns petting and talking to him. You never knew if he would allow you to pet him; sometimes he would lash out and bite if he wasn't in the mood, but we pet him without fear of reprisal, assuring him we loved him and that we would see him on Rainbow Bridge one day. I felt so sad.

We buried Bugsy in our backyard, beside our other dog, Snapple, who had passed away a few months previously. We were left with one dog, Sammi, a sweet Yorkie-poo with a wonderful, loving disposition, who did NOT get along with Bugsy.

I will never regret adopting and keeping Bugsy. A lot of people seemed to think we should have had him put down and adopted a "nice, good" dog. Those dogs have plenty of homes available to them. Dogs like Bugsy end up being put to sleep. I believe God placed him in our lives for a reason. I loved him very much, despite his issues. He's the kind of dog you never forget.

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Old 08-03-2015, 12:37 PM   #9
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Thanks, and back at you! What a great, moving story.

Charlie is only afraid of hands, and this is where he tries to bite when stressed. When he felt threatened in the past, he would jump to bite my fingers. If I really have to try to move him when he's upset, I can safely nudge him with a bare foot or socked foot.

Charlie is grumpy sometimes at the groomer, but it's not really an issue. The groomer knows; she had to take time off after being bitten by a bigger dog. So Bugsy and Charlie are the same in that regard with vets too.

Good for Last Hope to stand up and help with the training. In our case, the Ontario SPCA didn't really do anything after we got Charlie home, although one month after they had a massive ringworm outbreak that shut the facility for a year. Charlie might not have survived that.

Charlie is family - it's as simple as that.

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Old 08-26-2016, 01:59 AM   #10
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Here we are, a year and a half after my last update. Charlie is now 11 1/2. He is still going strong. We are having a few small issues with aging that our vet has handled, such as warts and the removal of a couple of teeth. He still weighs about 8 1/2 pounds, which is where he reached about 3 months after we adopted him.

Last month, I took Charlie with me to pick up our grandsons. Charlie loves car rides. To everyone's surprise, particularly our 13-year old grandson's, Charlie chose to sit on his lap the whole 25-minute drive home. Who knew?

Charlie is like an ogre, if you believe Shrek. He has many layers, and we are still seeing through them. What is new is Charlie will now disappear for some quiet alone time, and he will reappear some time later.

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