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Rescuing Tia the Norwegian Elkhound from a SPCA

My neighbor was still looking to adopt a homeless dog. We decided to head on out to the neighboring county's SPCA to have a look. When we first walked into the SPCA I was already impressed. There were friendly cats wandering around the office that appeared to live there. We were greeted with smiles, and asked if we were there to look at the animals and then were pointed in the right direction.

As I walked around looking at each dog, Tia caught my eye. Reading her tag I noticed they had her listed as a Norwegian Elkhound mix. (A DNA test later proved Tia was a purebred Norwegian Elkhound.) Tia was a female, four years old, 26 pounds, and I estimated she stood about 16 inches from the ground at the highest point on her shoulders. I pointed her out to my neighbor and she decided to ask to look at her.

In order to look at her she needed to come back out into the waiting room and fill out some paperwork. A worker then went back and retrieved Tia, and we were all led back to a small room where Tia could be let off of her leash. There were toys on the floor and a chair where the worker sat and went over Tia's papers with us.

Tia was surrendered to the SPCA because her prior owners claimed the kids were not taking care of her. We were told Tia had been locked in a garage for the past two years of her life. The worker went over the issues the prior owners had stated she had. She was all over the place on a leash. She bolted out the door. She needed work on her housebreaking. She was afraid of loud noises such as the vacuum and thunder. As the worker went over the list one by one, I was making a mental note of how all of her issues were fixable.

While in the room I noticed another issue that was not mentioned. Tia was a total spaz! She was running from person to person, toy to toy, in between chasing and biting at her tail in an obsessive kind of way. She was attacking herself out of frustration. Another mental note... This dog needed a walk! She was spazzing out because she had energy she needed to burn up. Her ears were very erect, she held herself high and proud. Tia was not a born dominant type, however she was still the boss over humans. Yep, we could fix these things too.... Tia was going to be transformed using Cesar's Way (dog psychologist Cesar Millan - The Dog Whisperer).

I mentioned to my neighbor that I liked her, and she knew that meant we could get this hyper dog to be mentally stable. Trusting my judgment on the issues we were told about, and the ones we noticed on our own, my neighbor told the SPCA worker she would like to adopt her.

The worker stated all family members needed to meet the dog before it could be adopted out to a family. There were four out of six members already there. Her husband and oldest son needed to come and meet Tia. However they were not able to leave their house at that time because there were painters inside their home.

We asked if they could hold Tia for us, and they stated they would hold her until 5:00 p.m. We returned home so father and son could drive to the SPCA, meet Tia, and if they liked her, finish her paperwork.

About an hour and a half later the neighbors were walking down my driveway with their new family member in hand. They knew they could not just go home and set her free inside the house. Tia needed to walk, and she needed to understand where her place was in her new pack.

Bruno the Boxer meets Tia for the first time.

Tia didn't know how to walk on a leash. No one ever explained it to her in doggie language. She was pulling with all of her might, trying to run in all directions. She's a pretty small dog. She was not strong enough to knock us down. We knew we could keep a hold of her leash. However, we also knew allowing her to pull in front and go in any direction she pleased, when she pleased, would establish HER as OUR pack leader. It would also not release the excess mental energy she had packed away inside of her which was making her spaz out.

It took a lot of short, fast tugs, and a lot of touches to the side with a foot over and over again, in order to communicate with her what it was we wanted. This was new to her. Tia had gone from being locked in a garage for two years straight to the cell of a pound. This dog wanted to GO, and GO at her own free will.

This was most likely Tia's first pack walk where she was not the leader of the bunch. She had begun to understand what it was we wanted, and where her place was going to be. She was pulling less and less as the walk through the woods went on.

As we approached the gate, Tia suddenly wanted to bolt in front.

Amie made her sit down and firmly told her to stay, using her body and some short tugs to block her from getting through the gate.

This was an issue the prior owners stated they had with her. At any opportunity she got, she bolted. Tia accepted this new rule: she was not allowed to dart out of the gate, not allowed to enter before the humans. She needed to wait for a command before she was allowed to move on.

Bruno assists Tia as she waits for the command to come through the gate.

Next we worked on Tia's issue of bolting out of doors. When the door was first opened, Tia wanted to RUN out quickly! After a few short fast tugs on the lead and some body blocks (stepping in front of the dog), along with some touches of the foot (not kicks, but touches), Tia accepted she was not allowed to bolt out the door.

Video of Tia the Norwegian Elkhound learning not to bolt out of the door. Notice how Amie body blocks her with her leg. She was not speaking human words to her; she was communicating with body language what she wanted Tia to do. Tia responded very well. Learning not to bolt out of the front door not only teaches her to respect humans, it just may save her from getting hit by a car.

We came across another issue with Tia. She was obsessed with wanting to chase the chickens. If she was going to spend any time at the Maguire Farm playing with Bruno she needed to learn this was not acceptable. The kids fetched a chicken and Amie held it near Tia. When Tia looked at the chicken like she wanted to eat it, Amie had Tia lie down. Amie placed the chicken over Tia, something we do not recommend to an inexperienced person, as the chicken could get hurt if you do not know what you are doing. Amie, however, was very confident and displayed just the right amount of firmness with Tia. Tia went into avoidance mode and stopped obsessing over the chicken. We will still need to watch her around the chickens, but it did stop her from being in a total obsessive mode toward them.

We left the farm, and drove to a nearby town to continue teaching Tia her new place in life. Notice the transformation in Tia. The humans are entering the pet store. Tia is no longer trying to bolt in front. She is looking up at her new pack leader waiting for Amie to decide what the next move will be. Look at Tia's ears. They are no longer super erect, they are pinned back slightly; a sign of submission. What a relief it must have been for Tia to no longer have to lead a pack of humans. She could now relax and follow.

Inside the pet store Allison does a wonderful job correcting Tia with the "Leave It" command and a short, quick tug every time Tia tries to steal a toy or bone from the shelf.

Lindsey and Thomas loving Tia up in the car. Tia learned she jumps in the car after the humans have gotten in. She is then invited up on the seat to sit with the kids.

Amie instructs Lindsey on how to pack walk Tia.

It's been a long day. Tia has walked long enough to snap her out of her obsessive tail chasing and attacking toys. She no longer sees herself as pack leader to humans. In her new pack she is last in the order, and she happily accepts it. It is now time to take Tia to her new home.

Tia is introduced to each room, one at a time. If we had simply set Tia free in the house she would have instinctually run from room to room claiming it as her own. By showing her each room one by one, and having her sit down in the room for a few minutes in between, we are communicating to Tia, "This is the humans’ house and the humans are allowing you to come in." This is how Tia will learn to respect the humans and through that respect she will happily obey their commands.

Tia meets the cat.

She also meets the bearded dragon. (Again, we do not recommend you put your lizard on top of your dog; we just happened to know Tia was fine with the lizard. By putting the lizard on her, it ensured she did not see herself above it in the pecking order.)

Upon getting Tia's crate ready we discover she is afraid of the noise the garden hose makes. Amie stands with Tia as she sprays the hose to help Tia get over this irrational fear. We were told by the SPCA Tia is fearful of a lot of things. That is no way for a dog to live, in fear of odd things. The only way to get a dog over its fear is to have the dog face the fear, showing it nothing is going to hurt it. We were not able to talk to or pet Tia at this time. Giving words or actions of sympathy would have only intensified her fears. Dogs do not see sympathy like humans do. They read it as a weakness. When a dog is afraid, nervous, upset, etc. and they read the human as weak it really freaks them out. They need a human who is stronger than themselves to get over whatever it is that is making them unstable.

Tia is taught not to bolt out the door.

Good girl Tia.

She is hugged, loved, groomed a bit and fed her dinner.

Her crate is set up and Tia goes right in. She has obviously been crate trained. Tia is content and happy. She is acting like a totally different dog than what we saw at the pound. Her mental and physical energy has been drained. She knows her place in her new pack and no longer has to worry about keeping an entire pack of humans in line. She can simply be a dog and follow. Good night Tia, and welcome to your new life.

Tia with her new family




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