A feel good story to start the week

Toby returns to the Ranch, this time on vacation, and says hello to old friend Levi

Toby returns to the Ranch, this time on vacation, and says hello to old friend Levi

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young beagle called Toby, who had the softest brown and white fur you ever could imagine. His eyes were like those of a deer, soft and brown and warm. He was kind and sweet natured and had a funny bark that sounded like a yodel.
But Toby had had a run of bad luck; he had been hit by a car in Jackson County (Georgia) and had a badly injured leg. He was picked up by Animal Control where they fully expected to see his family come in begging to know where their sweet dog was.
They waited and waited….
Toby’s time was up after a week, and the staff would normally have had to put Toby down to make room for other dogs, but the staff at Animal Control felt so sure that someone must be missing this dear, sweet little boy, so they waited some more. Week’s went by, and no one came for him, and each day the staff grew to love this little guy more and more. They sent out emails and made countless calls to ask if anyone would please take this special little dog who had stolen their hearts.
When no one offered to help, they made one last phone call, to a lady whom they knew to be overwhelmed with rescue dogs herself, but who they knew had a heart as big as Texas. She ran a rescue called Gracies Place, named after her own beautiful lab who had sadly died of cancer. This lady’s whole life was about saving dogs. They had tried very hard not to call her, because they knew that this lady, Joni, was very tired and had no room to take in any more dogs. However, they knew that this dog was something special and she was his last hope…..
Joni went up to Animal Control and immediately said she would take him away with her, and so young Toby hopped up in the back of her car like he knew exactly where he was going and rode quietly on the front seat all the way to Joni’s home, where she had a huge pack of happy mutts who lived happily on a couple of acres in the country.
He walked in the door, greeted all of her other dogs like he knew them by name, with a gentle tail wag and a happy expression, and then promptly plopped down on a nearby dog bed, rolled on his back with his legs in the air and sighed contentedly.
Joni giggled and said to her husband James…”I think they were right about this dog, he really is something special!”
Toby settled in very quickly to life at Joni’s house; he clearly enjoyed being part of a huge pack and loved the food she served. He spent many hours roaming her woodlands with his new found pals, meanwhile Joni set about trying to find a permanent home for this wonderful boy.
She called her best friend Penny, who had worked with Joni for a few years at the rescue helping with behavioral cases, and asked Penny if she knew of anyone who could provide a perfect home for this amazingly unflappable and sweet little dog.
It just so happened that one of Penny’s clients was looking for such a dog and so a meeting was set up at Penny’s Ranch, where Toby wowed the visitors, played beautifully with their dog, Indie, and romped happily in the meadow at the Ranch, showing off his good manners.
Toby stayed at ‘Aunty’ Pen’s Ranch for a week while he waited to go to his new home, and Penny found him to be everything Joni had said…adorable, well mannered, house trained, no faults at all! Penny just knew that this dog was going to wow Indie’s parents.
Penny dropped Toby off at his new home, sad to see him leave, but happy that he was going to get a great new home with people who were just going to adore him.
Less than 24 hours later, Indie’s mum called Penny and told her Toby had to be returned because he was an ardent chewer!
Toby came back to the Ranch, and because Joni didnt have room for him to go back to her house (she had saved another death row dog as she felt so sure Toby wouldnt be coming back) Penny offered to foster him at the Ranch and continue looking for his perfect forever home.
As months passed, Toby settled into life at the Ranch like he was born there. He apprenticed under Levi, head of the ‘Fearful Dogs and Puppy Division’, and set to work helping out and learning all he could. Every day there would be a new challenge, some poor dog who was frightened of people, or some poor dog who was frightened of cars…but mostly Toby worked with dogs who were frightened of other dogs.
His easy going ways and calm greeting skills made him an accomplished helper, but none moreso than with Haley Spotts.
Haley is a German Shepherd who had issues with other dogs and was on her second home when Mr And Mrs Spotts came to Penny for help.
After a consultation at their home, they brought Haley to the Ranch to stay for some work on her socialization issues. At first, she was snapping at every single dog, lunging and snarling, ears back, mean as an old man with tooth ache. This was absolutely a job for Levi and his new sidekick, ‘Toby Tinkle’, as he had come to be known.
After just five hours at the Ranch, Haley was play bowing and chasing, joyful and carefree, a completely different dog. At the Ranch, dogs are used to fix dogs….it helps them because they instantly understand the body language of the dog working with them. In this case, the transformation was quick and miraculous…Haley has had no more issues with dogs at all, and has been a frequent visitor to the Ranch where she plays beautifully with all of the other dogs off leash and fancy free……..thanks to Toby Tinkle, the little miracle worker.
As time passed, Toby got more and more enmeshed in Ranch life, but his Aunty Penny couldn’t keep him at the Ranch…there was only room for one foster, and he was such a great dog, he would be easy to place in a home, surely? Then Auty Pen would have room to help another poor dog…it was sad, heartbreaking actually but the right thing to do…
Joni then called to say that a Gracies Place adopter had fallen in love with him on the website and wanted to add to the dog they adopted last year from the rescue. Toby fitted the bill.
So, Toby trotted off to North Carolina with his new family and Penny and Joni shed a tear as they drove off, thinking they would never see him again. Twenty four hours later, he was back to the Ranch again!
He had refused to play with the other dog, sat in the corner the whole time at the new house, chewed a few bits and pieces here and there and was generally, a right little so and so! After three months of exemplary behavior at the Ranch, this little man was really acting up and neither Joni or Aunty Pen could understand it…..what was this young man up to?
A week later, regular client Pam asked about adopting Toby….the perfect union, it would seem, as Toby and her dog Carly were great friends at the Ranch during her frequent stays. Pam fell madly in love with Toby when she met him, and off he went to her house.
A week later, Pam called Penny crying with frustration. She had just returned home from work, and Toby had her curtains wrapped around him like a Roman Toga, looking mightily pleased with himself; Pams shoes were now without heels and all of her prized designer underwear was chewed through til the brassieres looked like pigs ears.
Hmmmmmm…this was really becoming a problem. What on earth was going on?
Pam stuck at it for another week or so, during which time Toby chewed cushions, rugs, clothing, tore down more window dressings and generally desecrated the poor womans house. Add to this he started being a greedy little beggar and eating anything that was left out, and it was easy to see why Pam decided that this trial had gone on long enough, and was REALLY  becoming a trial!
So back he went to Aunty Pens. Yet again, at the Ranch, he was just the perfect house guest, not a moments trouble, always polite and courteous with the other dogs, always respectful of the house, always patient around mealtimes.
Joni and Penny had a pow wow, and just sat there scratching their heads for hours, wondering what on earth was the trouble with Toby, in all of these new homes? More importantly, what could they do about it?
Christmas came, and Aunty Pen was full with boarders at the Ranch, and so Toby went to stay back at Joni’s house, where he hadn’t been for about 6 months or so. The two ladies were very concerned that he would be a real handful again, being that it was different to the Ranch, and how he had been so badly behaved at three other homes, but in he trotted, plopped down on the same dog bed as he had done that very first day, greeted everyone politely and rolled straight on his back, paws in the air as if to say ‘I’m home.’
On New Years Eve Joni called Penny and said that she had decided to keep Toby because he was just the perfect dog and she thought that he had let everyone know every clearly EXACTLY where he wanted to be.
She had seen the New Year in at midnight, chinked glasses with her husband, looked at her happy pack and asked Toby if he would like to be a permanent member of her family?
He got up off his dog bed, licked her face all over and then settled down on her lap, a big contented smile all over his face.
This little dog had decided that he wanted to be in either one of two places, nowhere else was going to do, and so he had acted up time and time again until he got back to where he wanted to be, with the family of his dreams.
The little guy is staying at the Ranch this week; he hasn’t been here in about twelve months or so, but he ran through the gates, kissed everyone hello, especially his old friend and mentor Levi, and since his arrival has been the calm, happy, adorable hound that we met and fell in love with, nothing chewed, not a cushion out of place.
Clever little Toby, the stubborn little dog who knew what he wanted, reached for the stars and wasn’t going to settle for anything less!

 

What difference can a piece of string make ?

Hoss calmer for his piece of string

Hoss calmer for his piece of string

It’s nothing really…just a four foot piece of string tied to a dogs’ collar. What good is that going to do? How’s that going to change the world?
In the above picture, Hoss, our foster dog, has a piece of yellow string tied to his collar, I know its not very grand and certainly not befitting a gorgeous dog like Hoss, but that piece of string does a very important job.
When Hoss is playing too rough, or we need to calm him down, we tie that piece of string on his collar and he calms down within seconds. It is as if we push a magic button.
I have to be honest, it doesn’t work this way with every dog; but it does work with a dog whom you have a great relationship with, one who seriously values his freedom of movement like hunting and working breeds, a dog who is touch sensitive and one who has been leash trained.
Here at the Ranch, we use the short trailing leash to remind the dog that he isn’t completely free to make all of the decisions. We want him to remember that while he may be free to run and play, he is answerable to someone. The trailing line dragging on the floor as he runs is a symbol of his connection to us.
The feeling of the leash connecting with the ground below is hard for a sensitive dog to ignore as it sloughs around on the earth or concrete below his neck, so it acts as a signal to him to watch his behavior.
Kind of the canine equivalent of the WWJD bracelet worn by Christians all over the world to remind them as they use their dominant hand, to use it appropriately………In this case though, I want Hoss to think WWAPD? (What would Aunty Pen do…..?)
If ever Hoss, or any guest, disregards the string and continues to play inappropriately, we then go to level two and pop a leash on him in the field and have him walk beside one of us for about five minutes. It’s a simple form of time out where the dog feels the consequences of his action even moreso than if he were put up and away as he can see the play, hear it, and experience everyone else having a good time, but hes being stopped from joining in.
We sometimes have to put dogs into a real time out, but its very rare once they know the drill here, and even then, only for severe behavior that might lead to injury. In those cases, we instigate a time out inside the house for a few minutes (three max) and then lead the dog to a quieter area with different dogs of a different energy level.
I’m very well aware that these measures are akin to dealing with children and of course, that’s very much the way we deal with dogs here at the Ranch. Its all about boundaries, respect, guidance and love.
We operate on a policy here of ‘Least invasive, minimally aversive’ which basically means ‘As hands off as possible and as little unpleasantness as possible’…
No need to shock the living crap out of some poor dog for inappropriate behavior, that just seriously damages brain function.
No need to put him on his side and do the outmoded Alpha roll…that’s just basically telling the dog you can kill him if you want to, take him any time you please because you’re the big cheese…..a little over the top for your best friend, huh?
No need to smack him on the nose or the rump…..that just tells him you’re an idiot that doesn’t understand dog behavior. Dogs don’t smack each other, and they have no conception of why we do that.
The ‘time out’ in either of these forms is a really great way to check your dogs behavior…it gives him time to settle, then rethink his behavior and reboot. We want the dog to learn from his mistakes, so giving a mini time out in situ, so that he can go ahead and get a do over is a great learning opportunity.
So for Hoss, who was playing a little too physically with Gunnar yesterday, the three times that we checked his behavior by popping the leash on him, presented three opportunities………..1) to catch the behavior, 2) make the point, and 3) drive it home.
…And no animals were hurt during the making of this point!