In October of 2015, we adopted our dog, Rhody. That is when my relationship with dogs changed forever. Rhody was a bubbly five-month-old puppy at the shelter, but when we brought him home his true colors and insecurities revealed themselves. He struggled with fear aggression towards strangers and intense leash reactivity. We couldn’t understand how the sweet, loving boy we saw at home could demonstrate such a shift in personality. We felt hopeless. We wanted to give up. We couldn’t fix our dog’s issues with the kind of love we thought he needed. We didn’t know where to turn for help.
We just knew we couldn’t give up on the boy who would never give up on us. It wasn’t until we met our current trainers that we saw our dog responding positively. Implementing structure, leadership and positive reinforcement into Rhody’s training allowed us to manage and challenge his insecurities. This was the kind of love we needed to show him in addition to affection. For the first time we felt our hopelessness subside. Casey and I simply weren’t equipped with the appropriate tools and tactics at the time to help and advocate for Rhody.
His issues led me to meet such wonderful and talented people in the dog training world. Colleen Busche of Canines by Colleen was the first trainer we met who believed in Rhody and the potential he had. Her guidance and support encouraged us to advocate for our dog and lead him through our journey. I have also had the privilege to train with nationally renowned dog trainer Jeremy Majors of Majors Academy Dog Training and Rehabilitation. Majors Academy has shown us the importance of giving Rhody structured guidance to deal with some of his most significant challenges like fear aggression. It has been paramount for us to understand that we cannot love Rhody’s issues away - we need to set him up for success by being his “pack leaders”. In October 2017, I had the honor to train side by side with world-renowned dog trainer Jeff Gellman of Solid K9 Training. It was truly an exceptional experience as a dog owner and new dog trainer.
My firsthand experience with Rhody’s challenges solidified my passion and calling of advocating for the underdogs, both canines and humans. Our work with Rhody will never be over, but it’s through training, advocacy and mutual trust that we can help each other live our best lives.