Neo had a very difficult first 8 months of his life. He was rescued by a breeder who was very concerned about Neo’s health and nurtured him back to health, despite being told by the vet that the only option was to have Neo put to sleep.
I took Neo home when he was 13 weeks of age and tried to do all the right things for this sweet little puppy. I took him to puppy school for socialisation and would also take him every weekend for long walks at Brimbank National Park with numerous other dogs that he got along fine with. Then at 5 months, Neo almost drowned in a friend’s swimming pool. I kept a bedside vigil for 5 days at hospital, paid $5000 to keep him alive and spent 2 weeks with him at home. He received a full bill of health after 3 months.

I started showing Neo at various conformation shows at the age of 12 months as I was told by his rescuers that Neo had all the makings of a champion American Staffordshire. I initially attended a couple of shows, getting the hang of how conformation shows worked. Then in October 2006, whilst at a show, Neo got into an altercation with a dog he had been playing with the previous week. The injuries to both dogs were minor, with the other dog suffering a slight gash on the muzzle. I took full responsibility for the episode, since Neo was the bigger of the two, and offered to pay the other dog’s vet bills. The following week, it was as though nothing had happened as Neo and the dog played happily together.

I was extremely worried about what Neo had done and thought I’d better start taking Neo for some training lessons. I joined a dog school thinking this would help Neo become more sociable. After a few weeks, the school’s venue closed down due to renovations and therefore I was unable to take him.

I continued to take Neo to conformation shows but kept him on a very short lead and was extremely careful in leading him in and out of the ring. I was now extremely paranoid of what might happen.

All was going well until Neo’s aggression showed its ugly head yet again at another dog show. This time, Neo bit a small pup who wanted to play with him. I was completely beside myself as I didn’t know what had caused this especially with a young dog.

I was disgusted, ashamed and distraught at this second incident, so I decided to contact the dog training school and had a lengthy discussion with the consultant about the various training options available for Neo. I decided to go for their very expensive 5 week boarding and training program which sounded like it would help correct Neo.

When Neo returned from the intensive training, I felt confident that his behaviour had been sorted and we could get on with showing.

I showed Neo again a few times between late July to September 2007, he seemed fine at first but then his behaviour started changing. In November we went away for 2 weekend shows. It was at the second weekend away that Neo was totally uncontrollable. He reacted erratically whenever a dog was behind him or approached him. The initial “Corrective” training technique only proved to be nothing more than useless.

At training school, I was led to believe by the ‘trainers’ that I wasn’t “hard” enough on him, so I corrected and I yanked on that chain until he yelped! I was getting distressed and so was Neo. I didn’t understand the training and why Neo wasn’t responding. His aggression seemed to be intensifying with each correction. I thought I was the only one in the world with this problem and so I yanked harder, but when I drew blood, that was it for me, I couldn’t do this anymore. This wasn’t working! I felt repulsed and was appalled not only with myself but with the training. I couldn’t stand what I had done to him.

This is when I contacted Trish Harris from Four Paws K9 Training and explained the situation to her. I was desperate for a solution and for someone who knew how to deal with aggressive dogs.

Trish worked with me on a private basis initially, teaching me how to use the marker techniques to work on Neo’s focus and name recognition. She taught me to calm down and guided me on what to do if Neo reacted. The training was totally positive with no yanking or correcting. I started to see a difference in Neo’s response to me and even when out on our walks. I could feel this was working. I then commenced in the group sessions at Four Paws K9 Training to put into practice what I had been taught and to re-socialise Neo around other dogs in a controlled environment.

In only a few months of training with Trish at Four Paws K9 Training, Neo is becoming more relaxed in a social environment. His drive to please and focus is incredible. I am astounded at the results from the techniques. It’s given me HOPE and confidence! This hope and confidence is escalating as Neo continues to improve. I know we can keep going further.

Training is fun and enjoyable for both us, he loves the clicker and I love seeing him so happy. The results have boosted my confidence in effective training and I’m becoming relaxed enough to enjoy our outings. Not complacent, just relaxed. I hope to have a sound proof dog one day, I will never underestimate him, but will continue working with him for as long as it takes.

May 2008 and it’s still early days as we still have a little way to go, but now I’ve got hope.

Thank you Trish– it’s not nearly enough to express my gratitude.

Lucia Natale and Neo