Joel – Proof That Training Works
They say an old dog can’t learn new tricks. Don’t tell Joel!
Joel, a sweet and gentle senior, came to us in March from Texas. Like many of our dogs that are found as strays, Joel’s background is unknown to us. But we could tell from his condition that he didn’t have a cushy life. He had chronic ear infections, calloused elbows indicative of consistent laying on hard and rough surfaces, and a worn patch around his neck where either a rope or some other tether was attached.
Joel did enjoy hanging out behind the desk at the shelter, keeping the staff company, and lounging on a big, comfy dog bed. Soon after he arrived, he went into foster care with Nancy and did very well in the beginning, but he began to show some signs of distress when left alone. Nancy had reported Joel would pant, whine, and begin to chew at the window sill when left alone. When crated, he would try to escape. These behaviors coincided with Joel being placed on prednisone, so it was hard to tell if he had true separation anxiety, or if he had confinement anxiety or a reaction to the medication. To properly help an animal, it is critical to understand the difference between true separation anxiety, confinement anxiety, and dogs that may be merely bored and become destructive as a result.
In her book “I’ll Be Home Soon!,” author Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., explains some of the classic signs of dogs who suffer from separation anxiety such as soiling in the house, eating window sills, howling, panting, shaking, excessive drooling, and often suffering self-harm trying to escape. Although she goes on to explain that separation anxiety has a high success rate of being resolved, it does take a dedicated pet owner to follow a carefully planned training schedule.
We knew asking an adopter to take on a large, 8-year-old dog with confinement anxiety, possibly separation anxiety, and a touch of dog reactivity was a big ask of someone. We tried everything in our non-profit budget advertising bag of tricks to promote Joel – several posts on our social media channels, sending pleas to local newspapers, featuring him on our community television station, and repeatedly reaching out via our staff and volunteers to share his story. His luck changed when we appealed to our friends at “Today NBC Boston” to see if we could promote Joel on their airwaves. They said “Absolutely!” When Ron and Jess watched Joel’s debut on The Hub – Today NBC Boston, they made arrangements to meet and adopt Joel.
Baypath wanted to support Joel’s adopters and offered to sponsor training sessions with Sophie Oldsman, a certified trainer and behavior consultant who specializes in separation anxiety and uses positive reinforcement and force-free and fear-free training methods at Fresh Start Canine Behavior. Ron and Jess shared with us that a key factor in their decision to adopt Joel was knowing they would have support from a professional trainer.
We have since checked in with Ron and Jess and they are happy to say that Joel is settling in nicely and they give much of the credit to Sophie. They go on to explain that Sophie “provides us clear instructions, attainable goals, and we are thrilled to report that Joel is taking to the training like a champ! He’s becoming more independent and plays with his toys. As he has become more comfortable, and with practice, he is not reactive to our coming and going from the home.”
Joel can now often be found lying poolside in the sun, going on daily walks, working on his dog puzzles, and being his version of a couch potato while his humans catch up on their TV shows. At 8 years of age, Joel is finally getting the life that every dog should be so lucky to have!
Joel’s adopters have graciously thanked us for working so hard for Joel, but it was so many caring people cheering for Joel that made his journey possible. The Texas animal shelter, the transporters, our wonderful and patient foster Nancy, and NBC. We also are grateful for kind adopters like Ron and Jess, who are willing to put in the time and work with Sophie on a training plan. Finally, Joel’s happy ending is a result of all of our loyal supporters throughout the years who ultimately make possible the time, energy, and resources needed to help cats and dogs in our care.
Joel at home