My husband and I had done some puppy sitting for some friends for three weeks during the summer they acquired their Boston Terrier, Toby. We immediately fell in love. Since our friends wouldn’t give us Toby…I knew I had to have a Boston of my own! Although my husband wanted a big dog, he agreed to get a Boston because they weren’t girlie dogs and he wouldn’t feel silly walking one up and down the street. We contacted the breeder that Toby came from and she informed us that a litter of Boston pups would be ready by New Year’s. So, on December 30, 2005, we made the trip to Elkton, Virginia to pick out our precious little puppy.
We were so excited to have a puppy and spoiled Stella rotten. Neither of us had ever had puppies, so we knew nothing about training one. I read several books and did some minor training routines. I taught Stella to fetch and do simple commands in return for a treat. However, without a treat, she refused to do the commands. Stella was so little, you could pick her up and snuggle her all the time. She had us wrapped around her little paw. When something that little jumped on you or pulled on the leash while you were walking, it was cute.
We enrolled Stella in puppy classes at Petsmart when she was 6 months old. She began to show some aggressive and dominant behaviors during our classes, but we thought nothing of it. Our class leader said she was going through a "rebellious" phase. We moved to a new neighborhood and Stella began to become increasingly more aggressive on walks. She would bark, foam at the mouth, and pull so hard to get at other dogs as they walked by. She also began to freak out when someone would come to our door. She was a wild child, jumping all over the furniture and bouncing off the walls. She was still gentle and loving with my husband and I, but she was becoming a terror! During one of our routine vet visits, she bit our vet and had to be muzzled. Our vet recommended we see a trainer.
We contacted the recommended trainer and paid for home visits to work with Stella. She could get Stella to behave when she was working with her, but did nothing to transfer those skills to my husband and I. We also enrolled Stella in some group classes offered by the trainer to help her become socialized. After shelling out hundreds of dollars, we still could not walk Stella and her behavior problems continued to persist. We even contacted the SPCA to get help because we were worried Stella would bite someone or something. We took her to a private class and got some new pointers for how to work with her. However, since we had no idea what we were doing, and had been told 4 different ways to give a command, we could not consistently convey to Stella how she should behave appropriately. We began to accept that we had a naughty, wild dog that couldn’t be around other dogs, people, or children. We walked her less and less because she would pull so hard that she would choke herself and pull the muscles in our backs. It was embarrassing.
Some good friends of ours that lived around the corner were also having a hard time walking their dog. They had heard about Renée and had contacted her for the free demonstration. One evening, while we were over at their house, they filled us in on how great Renée was during the lesson. We went home that night and contacted her because we were at the end of our rope. A day later, Renée came over and sat us down. She spent about an hour getting to know us and getting to know our issues with Stella’s behavior. The lesson and demonstration were eye opening; Renée promised us that Stella could behave even when she was gone. She was going to teach us how to work with our dog, no matter what it took. Even though Renée was trainer number 5, we knew she was the perfect match for us and would be able to deliver! Her knowledge, personality, and experience were just what we needed…we signed on the dotted line and never looked back.
Renée began her sessions with us in August of 2009. As I look back at those first few lessons and field trips, I realize that Renée wasn’t really training Stella, she was training my husband and I. I had a really hard time feeling confident and not being tense with Stella as we were out and about because I knew how she could react, but Renée kept telling us that positive repetition helps Stella to learn the appropriate behaviors. I think that positive repetition was really for me! As we continued to work with Renée, we were taught to read Stella’s body language to anticipate her reactions and channel them in a positive way. We gained confidence and as we continued to practice with Stella, she trusted us to be in charge. Renée found numerous places and situations for us to practice having Stella out and around dogs and people. We also really got to go out and see Richmond! We had no idea there were so many parks. We are even able to take Stella to Stony Point, something we never would have dreamed of doing before working with Renée.
Now, nine months later, we have a truly balanced dog. Renée kept her end of the bargain and worked with us as we worked to train Stella. She even set up four lessons this month to help us prepare Stella for her annual vet visit. In addition, Renée attended the vet with us to ensure that we had the support we needed. Stella passed her vet visit with flying colors and was a perfect angel! That positive practice helped me to be confident and allowed Stella to be comfortable at the vet. The vet even removed the "bad dog mark" from her record!
We continue to attend group classes, but instead of being the naughty dog, Stella is well behaved. A few weeks ago, we were asked to model one of the skills because the other class attendants hadn’t learned them yet. Stella got to show off! We were so proud, because she executed the commands perfectly! Renée has proved to us that she really can help anyone and we look forward to working with her for the rest of our dog owning lives!
Jayme, Drew, and Stella Klammer