Hi My name is Angie and I have this beautiful Bernese Mt Dog named Cooper. We got him from a breeder in 2009. He was your typical fun loving puppy. At two years of age though, he started displaying aggressive behaviour, growling and lunging, even biting and what was strange to us was that it seemed random. When he’d approach a stranger or even someone he knew for petting, after a few head pets, he’d, what I call, raw raw at them and grab their hand. If he was laying on the floor and you reached down to pet him he’d bite you. Being a 90-100 pound dog this was concerning and extremely scary. We called a trainer to help only she didn’t help, if anything she made it worse, so for the next 5 years we just told people to not approach him, not pet him, just ignore him. It broke my heart as his demeanour is lovely otherwise. He would get excited when people came over and yet they couldn’t pet him. At any rate as long as we left him alone, he was fine, but as you may guess not everyone would listen to us, they thought they were good with dogs and would ignore us only to get bit.
This past summer he went after some gardeners in our yard when I didn’t see that they were there. They were okay but it upset me so much. I decided I needed to do something. I went into the house to scan google for another chance at a trainer. I was so afraid to do this both from our first experience and that someone may just recommend us euthanizing him which for me felt wrong. Cooper was my responsibility and somehow I felt by killing him I’d let him down. I decided though that I had to do something. This is where I heard about Sandra Brown the Canine Interpreter. I sat with it for a bit and googled her more.
In Sept our house caught on fire from lightening and we were forced out into a farmhouse(while our house is being repaired) which is much smaller inside and the outside fenced area is a quarter of the size they are used to. Cooper started becoming even more aggressive, going after our 19 year old daughter, myself and became more agitated and extremely anxious. We all have had a tough time adjusting while our house gets repaired, but it really upped Cooper’s aggression. I felt I had no other option then to contact Sandra, what did I have to lose? Cooper is now 7 and I wasn’t sure we could help such an old guy set in his ways, their life span is 8-10 years, so I knew he was approaching the latter or senior years of his life. My husband and daughter both felt we should just put him down, but again I just couldn’t give up on him although I was feeling extremely guilty for not seeming to put my family before Cooper but something in me felt for him, felt for his struggles and I just couldn’t give up on him.
Sandra came for a consult, we left no stones unturned and were quite frank and honest with her about his ongoing behaviour as shameful as I felt for allowing my dog to hurt people. She showed absolutely no judgement and as a matter of fact agreed with me, that she too would have done as I did. She was extremely supportive and understanding and for the first time I had hope. She explained that he was ‘space guarding’ and that with a few simple exercises we could help him despite his age, despite the five years of behaviour engraved into him and despite the improper training tools that we were given earlier. She did say however that it would take longer than if he were two and we would have to persevere and be patient. She explained that he may still display the behaviour periodically because of his age, the length of time he’d been doing it as well as now maybe some pain do to age, but that with the ‘settle’ technique and really positive reinforcement of his good behaviour, that we should see changes and improvements. We started right away with the techniques she suggested, I started walking him on a regular basis, which I was afraid to do for years, we settled him and followed all of Sandra’s suggestions. In Nov we went away for a week on holiday and left a friend of ours with our dogs, while we were gone Cooper displayed more aggressive behaviour and even chased our daughter scaring her half to death, so I contacted Sandra immediately once we got back to come again. It had been a while since I spoke to her to which she explained I needed to keep in touch more, my bad. She came again and explained that it was still space guarding and we realized we weren’t doing some of the training she had recommended or doing it as often as we should have been, despite all of this she saw a huge change in Coop from her first visit, he was much calmer and less aggressive. On her first visit coop tried to space guard her, on this visit he didn’t. See I just didn’t realize that even if we are cooking and he is in the way we should settle him or if we just feel uncomfortable at a certain moment we should settle him and despite not settling him as much she still saw improvements. This gave us much more hope, if he’d improved with less training what would happen with more?
I am happy to report that since her visit a couple of months ago we have had zero incidents of aggression. We have been praising his good behaviour, walking him each day and settling him in those times that we’d missed before. He is a happier boy, he’s listening to me more and even looking at me for direction. He’s letting me pet him like a regular dog would and I couldn’t be happier. Thank you Sandra for seeing my heart and not judging me for believing in a dog that maybe others felt I shouldn’t and thank you for giving us hope and the tools to better this old guy. I guess the old adage of you can’t teach an old dog new tricks just isn’t true!