Emma’s story starts in rural Idaho. She was dumped by her previous owners and was left to her own devices for an undetermined time frame (2-8 weeks). During this time, Emma became progressively more fearful of strangers, dogs and anything unknown. She likely scavenged for food, caught small animals, and did the best she could. Fortunately, she was caught and began to receive care. Ultimately she was fortunate enough to land herself a home with Danielle and Greg in Boise, Idaho. Unfortunately however, her time as a stray left her unprepared to cope with urban life.
When Danielle and Greg first contacted Training Spot, they were legitimately worried about her escalating, fear based aggression toward people. Emma had nipped (put her teeth on, did not break the skin and did not hold) a few friends. She would lunge, bark, and was very intimidating. Emma is not a small lady, she weighs in around 85 lbs and when she wants you to leave or move away she can be quite persuasive.
Jill and I met Emma, Danielle, and Greg Weber, the Fall of 2016. We had talked on the phone prior to our consultation so I knew some of what to expect. I instructed Danielle to keep Emma in her kennel until we were ready to work with her. After a visit, we had Danielle and Greg bring Emma out with her leash on. Emma loudly barked her displeasure, was willing to accept food, but did not approve of Jill joining her on the follow (or us moving in general). We started our Spot’s Life program working primarily on obedience exercises and gradually worked up to more and more exposure. Initially, we worked simple exercises like eye contact, hand targeting, and tolerating Jill and I moving around her. We strived to be sensitive to triggers and sought to keep stress to lower levels.
This all culminated with Danielle, Greg, Jill and I enjoying a beer together on a public patio. Emma was relaxed, listening, and responding. She still politely declined being touched by strangers and everyone respected her decision. I’m so proud of how far Emma has come. We trained with compassion, and understanding. We were able to forgo tools like e-collars, prong or pinch collars in favor of a harness, which was absolutely the right choice for Emma and her family.
Each dog is unique and there isn’t a cookie cutter approach. Dedicated owners combined with attentive training plans achieve results. Whatever skills Jill and I have as professional trainers, we never would have achieved even half our success without Danielle and Greg’s dedication. My hat and heart goes out to you both! If only every dog could have owners as wonderful as you two.
Emma, owned by Greg and Danielle of Boise, Idaho