This book collects my daily journal entries chronicling my training sessions with Shadow, a human aggressive Border Collie. My book starts with Shadow’s less than wonderful homecoming and ends with Shadow being confident, trusting and calm enough to attain his Canine Good Citizen title.
How It All Started
Bringing Light to Shadow: A Dog Trainer’s Diary
There is no doubt in my mind that I am crazy. Who else but a crazy person would look at a Border Collie rescue site on the internet, email the contact person back and forth for weeks, ask all sorts of questions about one of the dogs, while telling herself the whole time she wasn’t really interested in the dog? Who else but a crazy dog person would make a firm decision not to take the dog, then drive four hours each way just to “go look at him,” all the while wondering, “Just what am I doing? I don’t want another dog!” So, here I am now, a crazy person with an equally crazy dog. I am Pam Dennison, a dog trainer, and Shadow is my sixth rescue dog. I assumed, with a history of five dogs to my credit—all successfully rescued and rehabilitated—that I could quickly and easily turn this dog into the competitive obedience, agility and sheepherding dog that I wanted him to be.
Unbeknownst to me, I had a human-aggressive dog on my hands. I did not truly realize or comprehend the magnitude of the work, total dedication and commitment required to help him. I had been humbled by a forty-pound Border Collie.
This journal chronicles our struggles together, from recognition of the aggressive behavior to the painstaking efforts to turn Shadow into my dream dog: confident, calm, focused, and friendly. It is the story of taking him from a human-aggressive dog to passing his Canine Good Citizen test. I have included my actual journal entries as well as training concepts and comments on what I learned in hindsight as I went through this experience. You will see that I made quite a few mistakes, especially in the beginning of the retraining process. I could have, quite easily, edited out all of them to make myself look better, but that is not what this book is all about. The purpose of this book was not only to show the mistakes, but also to highlight them so that you might learn from my errors. Part of my intent is to demonstrate to you what does not work as well as what does when retraining an aggressive dog. I understand firsthand the denial, frustration and anguish that comes with living with an aggressive dog. I want you to know that I feel your pain, but there can be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Working with Shadow quite literally changed my entire life for the better. I started out my dog training career focusing on pet classes and competition obedience. The addition of Shadow has enriched my life, and my attention now includes working with aggressive dogs. There are days when I get so many calls for help with aggressive behaviors that it scares me and yet I am grateful that I am now able to help these people. It has made me a better trainer and a better person and I now hold aggressive dog classes and seminars based on my work with Shadow.
Every night, I thank him for coming into my life.
If just one person learns from my successes, I will be pleased. If just one person learns from my mistakes, I will be overjoyed. And thus began the greatest adventure of my life. This is Shadow’s story…