Posts tagged dog psychology
Finnegan's Story

If you've been following us on Facebook or Instagram, you've seen us post about our most recent case, Finnegan, the Golden Retriever. 

We were contacted by Finnegan's owners, who were desperately trying to find a solution to his behaviour. They had searched all over, and received some disheartening news from a trusted source. They were advised that Finnegan did not suffer from behaviour issues, but that he was "hard-wired", born this way, and that he would never be "fixed". They said, "Finnegan is DANGEROUS to everyoe. Most dogs, I can fix or teach people to fix, but the Finnegans are unfixable. As an owner you will have to step up and do the right thing to put him down."

So, in their minds, they felt they had no choice. Thankfully, after a vet visit to discuss euthanization, our good friends at Birchmount Veterinary Clinic, referred them to us. Within a week, Finnigan arrived. 

Reaching Out for Help

To give you a little more information on Finnegan's past, here are some words from his owners:

In about late 2010, we were given Finnegan, a Golden Retriever. He was taken from his first home, where apparently they repeatedly abused him when he was a puppy. They had called a trainer to help correct his aggressive behaviour, and I believe eventually it was discovered that they were actually the cause of the behaviour to begin with and finally agreed to surrender him to the trainers. They had him for about 6 months, I believe, and had made great strides in helping him become more trusting and behaved. They were expecting their first child, and already had two other dogs, so decided that he may be a problem around a young child. This is where we came in.

We love Finnegan very much. He is very intelligent, loves to play and go for walks, and truly has a loving soul. The problem is that he has what seems like "flash backs" and has attacked my wife with small bites on a few occasions. Recently, he attacked her and it was quite serious. My wife was hit by a car when she was 2 years old, so only has full use of her left hand and arm. She was just sitting at the table, and for some reason he bit her left hand very badly, and caused a 7 cm wound on her right arm. The damage to her left hand is extensive.

A few other things come to mind:

On many occasions when I have taken Fin outside to the backyard, I can order him to come in until I am blue in the face and only when Sophie calls him will he come in. I can be VERY firm, but when she calls him, he immediately runs inside.

With my health, and that of my wife, we can not deal with Finnegan any more. We love him dearly, but I don't think we have the skills or temperament to continue to care for him properly. I don't think it is fair to him either.

People who don't have dogs or love animals keep telling us to put him to sleep and just get another dog. They do not understand the love and bond we have with Finnegan, or animals in general. Putting Finnegan to sleep when he is physically healthy seems so wrong, and out of character for us.

I can't begin to tell you how relieved my wife and I were to find you. 

Your generosity and obvious kindness is so very much appreciated. Sophie and I are looking forward to working with you, and we are confident you can help us.

We understand that this process is as much for us as it is for him. People like you and Melissa are such perfect examples of the good in the world, and you've restore our faith in humanity. I am so glad we did not just give up and give in to the pressure people put on us to euthanize him.

Sophie and I so very much hope that the constant level of tension in our house goes away after Finn has been with you. I know you understand that it is so hard on us, and is most certainly not good for Finnegan either.

We have SUCH AN AMAZING feeling and vibe from you!

Finnegan at The P.A.R.C.

Finn has now completed his one month stay with us. I would first like to remind people that there is no quick fix to behaviour related issues, such as those that Finn exhibits. There is a cocktail of past learned behaviour, along with current sources, combined, that have simply left him very misunderstood. Not unlike many of the members here, Finn requires a firm but fair pack leader.

What makes Finn's case unique is that his owners, themselves, live with some physical challenges. Even more reason why he must take a follower role in the relationship. Due to the circumstances of Finn's adoption, and some very questionable direction/advice, things escalated and he started showing  frustrated, pent up, protective and dominant behaviour. On top of this, he was also dealing with being very overweight.

While here, The Pack determined very quickly that Finn is not aggressive, but he'd react when faced with certain situations. Providing him with constant supervision, and a set of clear rules, boundaries and limitations was key in helping Finn regain a more balanced state. Once this was achieved, it was just a matter of keeping him in that state.


After meeting with his owners and clearing up all the confusion, Finns owners understand where much of the behaviour stems from. They take home with them, a clearer sense of some of the habits they have developed which ultimately led to Finn's behaviours-- unlimited treats that satisfied their own feelings of guilt; inconsistency in their roles, and a lack of confidence and leadership. 

Continued success and overall rehabilitation will ultimately depend on their progress in establishing leadership, regaining trust and respect, and staying consistent with rituals and routines. They must apply a whole new way of being with him. 

They have also learned how to use tools, such as a muzzle, in a  positive way--  to empower them and take the necessary steps to rebuild their confidence.

Finnegan clearly showed us that he's capable of living day to day without exhibiting any intense behaviour. Putting  in the work, being patient and understanding that it's a process to keep him balanced, will be key as well. We have extended our help and support to Finn's owners for continued training and follow ups to ensure they stay on the path of leadership.

It is our hope that you all understand that these are the realities of many of the cases we work with here, and why it's important we understand the true meaning of outcomes like this.  Many owners live with these issues behind closed doors, and have their dogs euthanized when they feel there is no hope or help.