Meet Chef, a striking white Austrian Cattle Dog. His new life with adopted parents Barbara and Nancy, along with their two dogs, turned out to be more challenging than anyone anticipated. “Cheffie’s” pot soon after arrival quickly boiled over with the anxiety of a new family and he very nearly faced the real possibility of having to “pack his knives and go”. However, this is a story of improvement and ultimately redemption and we are happy to report that there is now a pleasant aroma wafting from Chef’s kitchen these days. My Dogs Mind caught up with Barbara to find out their secret recipe.
How did Chef come into your life?
About 4 years ago we were ready to bring another dog into our home after the passing of one of our three dogs. Nancy met Chef while volunteering at the SPCA. We knew he was deaf, had some socialization issues and was not trained but we wanted to give it a try.
Things did not go so smoothly at first. Can you explain the challenges and obstacles that almost ended the relationship?
After the adoption, Chef soon began viciously barking at every car, person and bike that we encountered on our walks at the beach. We immediately started working with Terence at My Dogs Mind on socialization and exposure exercises to help Chef deal with his fear-based reactivity. He was showing improvement, until one day, without warning, Chef attacked one of our other dogs while we were out on a walk. We started to question whether this relationship was going to work and if Chef might do better as an only dog. We decided to foster him and work through the SPCA to find him a more suitable permanent family and home.
What changed your mind about keeping Chef in your family?
We were looking for the best home for him and his special needs and after a while we realized ours was the best for him.
That was four years ago and Chef is doing great. What’s your secret?
We continued to work closely with Terence and the staff at My Dogs Mind. Chef got right back into socialization with other dogs he encountered both in class and out on the beach. Terence showed us how to turn Chef’s attention away from a car or bike by switching direction and positively rewarding him for being calm, quiet and focused on us. Terence asked us to safely but repeatedly “Do something that scares you every day.” On our beach walks, Chef now rises to the challenge by looking up at us, almost as if to say, “I’m being good. Can I have a treat?” instead of reacting in his previous negative behavior. He is now able to safely walk with our other dogs outside the house.
Terence explains that Chef is getting more comfortable with things that are in “his pictures.” He understands the beach, Day School, and walking with other dogs. It is when the “picture” changes, that problems occur. We still need to keep Chef separate from the other dogs at home but we are continually working on adding more positive “pictures” to Chef’s comfort zone.
We go to the My Dogs Mind drop-in class every Sunday and he attends Day School three days-a-week. The staff there knows who he gets along with and in that way, positive socialization experiences allow him to make great progress.
Working with a deaf dog must present some unique challenges. Can you explain how you communicate?
You know it’s really not an issue. We taught him hand signals from the very beginning, all the basics. As he continued training with Terence and learned new things, We’d have to come up with new signals. We have hand signals for pretty much everything including “stand” in his obedience training. On a positive note, he sleeps like a rock, oblivious to outside noises or knocks on the door.
Congratulations on obtaining your Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification!
Thank you. We went to Jess’s Saturday morning CGC class. He loves Jess from Day School, so the class was just perfect for him to feel comfortable. We had our reservations about some of the exercises, such as being out of the room with a stranger for five minutes, but he did it and he was fine. He passed everything. Jess did a great job working with us to prepare.
What is Chef’s favorite thing to do?
He loves the tug toy, going for car rides and walking along the ocean. He is a cattle dog, so he likes having something to do all the time. He loves going to My Dogs Mind because he knows he gets to play with other dogs.
Thanks Barbara for sharing Chef’s story with us. Everyone here loves Chef and commends both you and Nancy and for the hard-work, dedication and progress you continue to show.
Thank you. It’s a remarkable success story and we are nuts about him.