I am writing to express my heartfelt gratitude to Trish, Stuart, Sean and the whole Four Paws K9 Training team for their sustained personal interest and professional advice on helping to rehabilitate my highly reactive, dog-aggressive and extremely beloved Ridgeback x Bull Mastiff, Dash. There was no quick fix; we have been training now for 2 years. But after all this time, socialisation and guidance she is becoming a calm and trusting dog again.

The respectful and supportive culture within the Four Paws K9 community has been such a blessing. Dash wears a yellow bandanna to school which signals a need for space from other dogs. The school community understands the special needs of bandanna dogs. Last week Dash showed our group her speaking trick. I have never heard her voice so soft! Like the noisy kid who gets shy giving a talk to class. The group watched my bandanna dog do her trick and gave her a big clap. I was so proud… Then we walked away and took lots of deep breaths! It keeps getting better, it’s mostly 2, 3 or 4 steps forward before a plateau or backward step now.

Four Paws K9 Training cannot come more highly recommended. Their empathy, patience, expertise and willing on-hand help has been invaluable. From helping me select an appropriate, affordable muzzle, to being a phone call, email or text away, to pepping me up when the stress of it may have shown, and celebrating mini milestones. Today as Dash and I wandered amongst around 20 dogs, I realised just how far we have come. I can read, predict and look after her better and she is trusting me and even the dogs around her so much more.

It has taken serious time and commitment to bring her around. Trish says she is one of the most severe cases she has seen. There is still a way to go, but I am proud to say we have stuck with it; Dash and I have the insights, skills and support of Four Paws K9 Training to help ensure she continues to improve, relax and enjoy her world.

Thank you so much to Four Paws K9 Training.

Dash’s mum & Dash x

To give you an idea of the length of time taken, here is Dash’s training timeline:
At home, always sensitive, affectionate, obedient, loved playing tug, fetch, chasing bubbles, and meeting people in the street.

8 months old:
• Attacked at home by a visiting 6 month old boxer cross.
• Subsequently unable to relax in the company of other animals

12 months:
• Aggressive towards all animals (and shadows) on sight – even across an entire park.
• Trialled some dog trainers

• Assessed by Trish from Four Paws K9 Training
• Accepted into Four Paws K9 Training – ensuring muzzle & critical distance

0 – 3 months of training:
• Stressful, exhausting and challenging.
• Most days after 10 minutes Dash and I would be against a fence, far away just calming down and enjoying some treats.

3 – 6 months of training:
• Dash became familiar with the routines and the trainers (always interested and full of advice)
• I became better at judging what she could and couldn’t handle
• Outbursts decreased to around 2 or 3 per training session
• First successful ‘back-away’ from a dog

6 – 18 months at training:
• Our focus: ‘staying cool’ and ‘back-aways’ as we walked around the learning groups
• In passing, I heard some brilliant lessons on tricks as our critical distance shortened
• Learnt these amazing tricks at home while at school, continued back-aways.

A year and a half into training:
• First day with no dramas!!
• ‘Lost zone’ almost behind us now.
• Still giving an occasional ‘woof’ at other dogs

Two years down:
• Joining in on learning groups, sitting with other dogs for 5-15 minutes, before we walk away and shake it off
• Able to perform tricks for group
• Can walk amongst 20 dogs for small amounts of time, walking away with no dramas
• Meeting and interacting with selected dogs. Going very very well!
• Transferring animal back-aways and focus to the streets
• The park remains a challenge, though she is meeting more dogs that approach us now and enjoying a sniff, even accepting when they run away without any last minute name-callings – on most occasions