I came to know Alex, Michelle and Cyber about a year ago. She was, no doubt, one of the most intense cases I've worked with. Because of our location in the city (lack of space and bylaws), the rehabilitation was put off until we moved.
Cyber arrived October 8th, when I knew I was completely prepared to take on this case. She is the real deal. She had pups at a young age-- and depending on how they were taken away from her, coupled with her high prey drive, she has become frustrated and aggressive- to the point where she releases this tension on other dogs. To give you a glimpse in to how Cyber got to this point, we asked her owners, Alex and Michelle, to fill you in.
This is Cyber's story:
Cyber's story is a long one. In early 2009, Cyber was rescued by Bullies in Need (BIN), a Pitbull focused rescue near Ottawa. She was pulled from a local pound where she was scheduled for euthanasia, while she was pregnant, because they thought she was too "pitbull like" (she's more of a mystery mix). She was very young-- BIN thought she got pregnant on her first heat. She needed to have an emergency spay after giving birth because she had a retained placenta that got infected. Cyber was a good mom to her pups, but was never comfortable around other dogs. She had one "friend" in rescue, who was an elderly female pitbull. They weren't so much friends as they tolerated one another enough to leave each other alone.
We adopted her in the fall of 2009. Cyber is our first dog. She was reactive to dogs, and we knew we were going to have to deal with this, so we hired our first trainer. As you know, trainers are hit and miss. This one was more miss than anything. We had next to no knowledge and we got some really bad advice. First we tried distracting her with treats - it didn't work. Then we tried the citronella spray - which worked even less. Then we were advised to try a shock collar. This was where things went really downhill. We weren't properly taught how to use the tool, and we undoubtedly made Cyber's reactivity worse. She began to control her reactions, but not because she wanted to, because she was afraid.
After several months with the shock collar, we noticed that she had reached a plateau. She would let a dog to about 25 meters away before reacting which, in the city, isn't close enough. So we tried another trainer. Out came the prong collar. We tried that for a year or so, with little improvement.
During this time Cyber had her first "incident" where she bit an off-leash dog in the neighbourhood. It cost us $1000 in vet bills for the other dog, and from that time on, she has had a muzzle on whenever we leave the house. It also increased our own anxiety when we took her out.
Finally in 2012 we began seeing a positive trainer. From the first session, it was obvious that Cyber was far worse than when we got her. Without the prong collar, she would react to a dog at about 75 meters. Using BAT (Behaviour Adjustment Training), we saw some noticeable improvements. However her improvement would go away upon returning home from training. Personally, I believe that BAT is a great way to help dogs, but it is impractical in the city, as we were never in a situation where she was below threshold (75 meters).
This past summer, we had her on a steel cable tie-out in the backyard while we were gardening so she could get some sun. She heard something out front and bolted for the street - her strength and speed broke the steel cable - where she pounced on an unsuspecting, terrified, small dog. If it weren't for the muzzle, I don't know what would have happened. This was really the last straw in terms of our trust for her. I know it's as much our fault as hers - if not more, but walking her became extremely difficult. She reacts to dogs, cars, squirrels, cats, pretty much anything not human. Every walk is an ordeal.
Thankfully, I was volunteering at the Etobicoke Humane Society when a client directed me to you. You were fantastic. That very first day when you had two dogs in our house was incredible. Something I never thought I would ever see, certainly not within an hour or so of working with her. I know that we need the training and she needs the rehab, and we are excited to get under way. Cyber is a young dog, and it was breaking my heart to have to keep her inside most of the time.
But now the past is the past, we know she lives in the present and we will have to as well. We have a lot of work to do, but with your help, we are more than willing to do our best to become the best pack leaders we can for her.
Alex and Michelle
Once again, The Pack becomes the most important part of this whole process. My job is to introduce the role of a pack leader, and help Cyber overcome her fears and pent up frustration. She is doing well so far, and I look forward to working with Alex and Michelle in the coming weeks, and updating you on her progress.
We'll be back shortly to let you in on what Cyber and The Pack have been up to.