A few weeks ago we invited Petfinder rescue group members to nominate their behaviorally-challenged dogs for a chance at a complimentary phone consultation with It’s Me or the Dog star and renowned dog trainer Victoria Stilwell.
Victoria called Liza Bean’s foster mom, Elizabeth Lujambio, and although she’d only committed to a 20-minute consultation, she spoke with Elizabeth for 45 minutes. “It was amazing!” Elizabeth tells us.
Victoria told Elizabeth that Liza Bean needed to do some independence training. Elizabeth realized she needed to “take a step back and stop thinking of her as my little dog — and start giving Liza Bean some tools to build her confidence.”
After the jump, Elizabeth’s description of her consultation with Victoria and Liza Bean’s progress.
suggestions from Victoria, we were able to move Liza’s confidence ahead.”
Elizabeth Lujambio, Marley’s Pit Stop founder and Liza Bean’s foster mom, tells Petfinder about her consultation with Victoria Stilwell:
After answering Victoria’s
specific questions regarding Liza Bean’s background, I was given a two-prong approach to help Liza B. First, I was informed that the animal
medical community is now accepting the possibility that animals, like
people, can be subject to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
As Liza was
kept in a crate and used only as a breeder dog, knowing human
interaction only when in heat and for basic care, it is highly suspect
that Liza suffered not only lack of socialization, but is also
recovering from PTSD.
Victoria recommended we purchase and use a DAP
(Dog Appeasing Pheromone) collar. Veterinarian-developed DAP mimics
the pheromone that the mother dog produces to calm and reassure her
puppies. Dogs recognize these pheromones throughout life, as they
appear to have a relaxing effect on both the young and adults. We have
ordered one for Liza (as well as a couple of other pooches in our
rescue) and as we have never used them will keep you posted as to their efficacy.
Secondly, and probably MOST importantly, Victoria addressed
the human bond Liza has currently with me, Foster Mom. Liza is very
bonded with me, feels safe and acts like a relatively normal, happy-go-lucky pooch at my home or when on walks with me. But the moment Liza is put
in a new environment without me being nearby, she regresses and tries
to hide in a small, dark place or behind my legs when being introduced
to new people. Ironically, if the new person has a dog with them, Liza
is much calmer!
Per Victoria’s instruction, Liza and I are embarking
on “independence training.” This type of training involves my
building Liza’s confidence by engaging the learning part of her brain
vs. the emotional part of her brain – I am very protective of Liza and
yes, emotional, when I see that she is uncomfortable. Liza, being no
fool, of course, senses this and reacts accordingly.
I had set myself
up to be one of Liza Bean’s only “safe” places, so when we placed
her with an adopter and I left, away went her safety and confidence! Inadvertently, I
was causing Liza more anxiety. I will be taking a step back and instead
of affirming that Liza is safe with me, will introduce the world as a
safe place, too.
Sounds difficult or too cerebral? Not at all! It’s pretty
simple, actually: Liza and I will begin adding some more basic training
to her repertoire. Liza has always been a very well-behaved pooch, so
no real basic training was provided. I am now walking with her, treats
in pouch, and engaging her brain.
On Friday, Liza learned “down.” She met
a woman and her Aussie female and was given a treat by a stranger just
for doing a “sit” — BRILLIANT! That was the first treat Liza had ever
taken from a stranger! Liza accompanied us this weekend to adoptions
and using the same method was able to go for a walk with a new
volunteer without being dragged out of her crate and yes, her tail even
It will be slow, baby steps for Liza, but with just a few
suggestions from Victoria, we were able to move ahead a bit with our
Liza’s confidence. Throughout the week, I will do two small training
sessions (for her and me!) per day. Depending on how she does, I may
even have one of our volunteers come over and take her out without me
I tend to be a bit overprotective of my dogs and what was
really amazing to me was how Victoria was kindly able to educate me
that perhaps this has been a hindrance for our special-needs, shy
pooches. As I go in to a mini-depression every time a dog leaves
my home for their new, fantastic home (duh, the reason I DO rescue), I
think I will suffer less from the empty-nest syndrome and actually be
happy when I see my babies blossom and get their forever homes.
excited at the real possibility of participating in Liza’s confidence-building training and finally seeing her go to the home she deserves,
but I think Kleenex may be upset with their drop in sales, since tears of joy
are often shed in less volume than tears of sadness. More later …