After training almost every breed there is successfully, It’s a Dog’s World (IADW) trainer Karen Widaman had finally met her match.
Charcoal, a 3-year old, 135-pound Great Dane exhibited a severe dominance and territorial aggression over his male owner.
It was after Charcoal’s owner developed a very serious illness and came home after a lengthy stay at the hospital, which he became aggressive.
Charcoal’s owner spent most of his time in a wheelchair, post hospital visit, which is where the aggressive behavior began. It was nearly impossibly for anyone to reach out and approach him.
The situation took a turn for the worse when Charcoal bit his owner’s daughter while she approached her dad sitting in his chair.
Charcoal’s aggression continued when a family friend visited and was bit and clawed while trying to approach. That was when the family consulted with their vet and considered having Charcoal euthanized.
Widaman, IADW manager and Certified Professional Dog Trainer, explained the seriousness of the aggression, but got to the point.
“Our goal was to save the dog’s life,” she said. “The owners love their dog.”
According to Widaman, Charcoal had developed a combination of territorial protectiveness and resource guarding of the owner.
Because Charcoal had received no guidance as he was maturing; and in addition his owners were away during the illness and hospital stay; he lacked any respect for the owners’ authority, and the owners had also unknowingly been reinforcing some of Charcoal’s bad habits.
Widaman worked with Charcoal five days a week for three consecutive weeks at IADW’s training field in the Day Board program.
“I gained (his) trust from the get go,” said Widaman. “I was the only one who developed a bond with him. I gained his trust through respect and could ask him to do things.”
At IADW, Charcoal was socialized and desensitized to people. The Great Dane began looking forward to training and receiving praise.
Widaman created a lot of situations and scenarios to test Charcoal’s behavior. Everyday his owners had homework to continue the training at home.
“The owners were on board 100 percent, and made it work,” she said.
Charcoal completed the program and is living with his original owners without any aggressive behavior. He is socialized and can approach people in a ‘sit and stay’ or ‘down and stay’ command.
IADW ends its Day Board program with an in-home session to see the dog and its owners in their own environment, and to provide training exercises to continue the corrected behavior.
While Charcoal will continually stay a work in progress, the owners now say they can walk him in the neighborhood, where they couldn’t before. He will sit when people and dogs pass by. Prior to training, he would jump on the owners during feeding times, and post training he shows more respect to both owners at home and no longer jumps during feedings. Overall, they feel more comfortable with him and they have learned how to manage his aggression. Mr. Tunstall, his owner, says, “He is a different dog.”
Widaman remembers when she first approached the dog at his home and Charcoal’s owner said, ‘Go to your spot,’ and he gladly went and waited for the release command to approach Widaman.
“I was so proud of him,” she said.