Tag Archives: history

Revising history

This blog was started before we switched to positive training methods. Since I’m afraid of propagating misinformation, I felt that it was only responsible to go back and update articles that contained misinformation and accounts of our misguided efforts to “fix” Spencer with “correction-based” training (which at the end of the day only made the situation much, much worse).

For people who are just becoming familiar with positive training through this blog, I recommend going back and perusing the articles before “Switching Horses in Midstream.” Look for text in italics with “Update February 2015”, which is where I explain what is wrong with the previous text. However, I’ve left the original text intact so people have the wrong information in context.

If I can prevent even one person from committing the tragic errors we made, then it will be more than worthwhile eating a bit of humble pie.



(Update February 2015: The sad truth is that we were the ghosts mentioned in this article. We have since learned that correction-based training has a high rate of triggering fear aggression. Spencer’s aggression got worse and worse as we worked with this trainer. Luring crows and then punishing him for trying to chase them was cruel. “Correcting” him with a choke chain when strangers came near taught him to associate other people with pain and fear. Although he has made massive progress since this post was written through positive methods entailing no corporal punishment, we are still paying the price for these early mistakes. We were the ones who extinguished that light in his eyes. We have managed to win back his trust and relight his inner fire, but it breaks my heart to read how misguided our actions were back them.) 

One of the hardest things about adopting a dog from the shelter is having no information about his history. What we KNOW about Spencer begins on 27 March 2012, when he was picked up by the dog pound. We can only surmise what the first 18 or so months of his life were like. Sometimes there are little hints, like ghosts appearing with a message from the past.

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Spencer’s Story So Far…

I don’t have time for another blog. But I have a psychological need for one. On 21 April, we adopted an (estimated) 18-month-old Cane Corso from the shelter. We knew that he needed surgery for his Harder’s glands. We knew that he was big. But we had no idea how much our lives would be turned upside down by the arrival of Spencer.

In the past three months, Spencer has had 4 surgeries, a punctured eye and an infection in one of his eyelids. He’s gained back 7 kg. He’s learned how to play. He’s also tried to chase friends off our property and annex the alley to our house as part of our territory. (Update February 2015: based on our increased knowledge of what research is teaching us about dogs, we now believe that his behavior in the alley is not because of territoriality but because he feels threatened by strangers in such a confined space.)

We don’t know his full history, but in the month before his adoption, he spent one week at the dog pound, and three weeks at the shelter. His former owners had dumped him — half blind because of the severity of his Harder’s gland problem — in the street to fend for himself. We have no idea how long he was there before being picked up.

Nor do we know what inspired us to adopt a dog out of the blue after 12 years of conjugal bliss.

We thought we did our due diligence before Spencer’s arrival. We researched the breed, the surgery, the cost of doggie health insurance, etc. I had dogs as a kid. But we were totally unprepared for the upheaval that Spencer would create in our lives. Our naiveté was probably a good thing for him, because we probably wouldn’t have adopted him otherwise.

This blog will be a log of our journey together, with some history to fill in the gaps since we brought him home. I am writing it to help us look back and realize the progress we make since it’s so easy to getted bogged down in everything there still is to do. I am writing it because I think my Facebook friends are getting tired of me going on and on about the dog, but I need an outlet. This is a difficult psychological journey. I am writing it because there might be other people like me going through this who want to know they are not alone. I am writing it because, despite everything, we can’t imagine our lives without Spencer.

This is what our puppy looked like the day we brought him home.


And here he is three months later.