Kevin and I have had at least two dogs during our entire thirty-plus years of marriage. We have always been able to socialize and train them for what we needed with little or no problem.
We had just lost a sweet and devoted Yellow Lab, named Daisy, to cancer. We spent hours online researching breeders and pedigrees. We finally decided on a breeder in California and when her litter was 8 weeks old, Kevin flew to California to bring home our new puppy that we named Sadie. She was adorable, cuddly and playful. Everything was perfect for about a week, and one day the “crazy switch” flipped.
For the next 10 months, we were in a constant state of shock. I took her to a puppy class at a local pet store. She would respond if and when she felt like it, which was seldom. They kept trying to sell us new, more expensive and more complicated harnesses, muzzles and collars. I was not comfortable with any of these suggestions, nor did any of them seem to work.
Next, I took her to classes at a well-known dog training school which was recommended by a neighbor. Again, she responded if and when she felt like it. The solution recommended by this trainer was choke collars, dragging her, and yanking, pulling and jerking on her collar. It was definitely NOT a solution I was comfortable with.
A friend offered us his 10-year-old shock collar. It looked so much like a medieval torture instrument, that I didn’t have the heart to even put it on her.
In the meantime, our house looked like a war zone. There were barricades everywhere. Our two Goldens would run out of a room if Sadie went in. We couldn’t leave anything on the floor, a shelf or the kitchen counter. For a puppy, she had an incredible reach. Did I mention that at three months old she would even jump onto the pool table? She was solid muscle. I couldn’t let Sadie out of my sight for a second. She would eat baseboards, furniture; even eat through walls – anything and everything she could get. We spent hundreds of dollars on toys but she would lose interest after a few minutes. When I was home, I kept her on a leash with me at all times, and still if I concentrated on something else for a minute, I would look down to see a chewed-up leash.
Walking her was an adventure. Every leaf that blew was a reason to take off at a full run – often leaving me lying in the road with bloodied knees because I looked away at the wrong second.
We love to go camping. On more than one occasion, Sadie took off, ripping the leash out of my hand and go tearing into the forest after a squirrel. We would chase after her, calling her, trying to coax her back with cookies. We always managed to corral her, but what if we couldn’t? We needed some way to insure that she would come when we called her.
In utter desperation we took the recommendation of one of Kevin’s co-workers and called Toni at Sit-Means-Sit. She came out and explained the program. I was a little suspicious of her complete confidence that Sadie could be tamed in view of our history with other trainers.
Elsa came out to our house for our first session. She brought a collar and a place board and worked with Sadie and with us. We started going to lessons twice a week. Progress was slow, but after a few weeks, the barricades started coming down in the house. At class, other dogs would start and advance out of the beginner class within a few weeks but we were still there. It was frustrating, but Sadie never gave up. Nor did we. After about six months, Sadie promoted to the Advanced class. It was a long haul, but she was worth every bit of it.
During that year, we lost both of our Goldens to health issues. We got Sadie a new Golden Retriever sister. And we started her at Sit-Means-Sit immediately. They are the best of friends.
Recently, we changed from a standard collar to the “industrial strength” version because Sadie is such a strong-minded pup. Overall, we couldn’t be happier. The “crazy switch” still flips sometimes, but that’s just Crazy Sadie having fun – not being destructive. Now she understands the difference.
Thank you, Toni and Elsa, for your patience, your passion, your commitment and your support.
Kevin and Jude B., and Sadie & Aspen
Cave Creek, AZ