My husband and I have a three year old Akita named Haru. When we got her we took all the steps we could to desensitize her and socialize her and did obedience training -- all the by the book things you should do when you get a puppy.
After a few years when we were visiting family and had her with us, a male family member was petting her. She got scared and responded by snapping at him. Not long after the trip, I tried to change her diet. She wasn't used to it, and wasn't eating it. I thought I could try to handle the food to get her to eat it. It was a mistake on my part, and I ended up getting bitten.
My husband freaked out and we brainstormed on how to manage Haru. We even discussed the possibility of re-homing Haru. We found Mary, and hoped for the best.
Our first consultation with Mary was an eye-opener. She pointed out all these behaviors Haru was displaying that were fear-based - being suspicious of strangers, being tense, hyper-sensitive to sight and sound, stressed out, etc. Haru was always watching Mary's every move, and would get uneasy whenever Mary got up and walked around. We had just accepted them as “Akita traits". Through our consultation with Mary, we realized though we had good intentions and dedication to training Haru, we were unknowingly reinforcing bad behavior. Mary not only helped us manage triggers, but also to help us alleviate the underlying issue - Haru lacked trust with us, therefore in stressful situations, Haru was trying to manage everything on her own and would get fearful, which led to aggression.
Mary devised a comprehensive write up, and devised a plan for us. She also showed us with her own two dogs (one being a puppy) how to create trust between owner and dog. This was helpful to visualize our goals. We were diligent in following Mary's plan, as well as taking her Professional Handling for Everyday Obedience class. Every chance we got, we worked with Haru. If any small bump came up during our training with Haru, Mary was quick to respond. Once my husband was petting her at night (Haru is normally cranky at night) and Haru snarled at him. Mary quickly advised us to set limitations on petting Haru. It's weird, because now she always wants to be pet before we go to bed, which she never did.
After only three months of implementing Mary's plan, we noticed huge changes. She is MUCH less fearful around strangers and other dogs, and looks to us in situations where she's uncomfortable. She almost never barks when we have guests over, and is more calm around strangers. She is now MORE affectionate than before, always wagging her tail and following us from room to room. Every morning when we wake up, she's waiting for pets, and following us around. At night, she always wants pets before we go to bed.
Mary has helped us see our relationship with Haru in a new and healthier way. We're both so excited to keep working with Mary to see Haru grow and for us to grow as dog owners.
Olivia K. from Arlington, VA
Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist
Elite Fear Free Certified Professional
Montgomery County, MD
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