One morning I was called to the lobby of The Loved Dog to meet a female Rottweiler named Cherokee. Her owners, a lovely couple, told me she was afraid of everything, and I only had to see that she was missing a toe to understand. She was a victim of an abusive trainer who used electrical currents on her toes and would only stop when she obeyed. By the time she was finally rescued by this wonderful family, her toe required amputation since the nerves had been ruined. She had also spent most of her days confined to a cage in a "training" facility, another form of abuse. My heart went out to Cherokee, and I began to coach her myself. Although Cherokee was not aggressive, her situation was more urgent because she was a Rottweiler, a breed that often is misunderstood in a negative way.
Have you ever felt uncomfortable at a cocktail party until you struck up a conversation with someone fun? I knew that having a friend would help Cherokee get through the process, but she was too frightened to approach another dog and make friends the way most dogs naturally do. I needed to get creative. After I showered Cherokee with love and she trusted me, I moved on to the next step of Operation Cherokee. I smeared honey around her mouth and introduced her to Ginger Bosley, an easygoing dog I thought she would really like.
When the two dogs first met, Ginger crouched on the floor and lay in a submissive posture, which let Cherokee know that she was not a threat. Cherokee gave a little growl and began to check out Ginger. When Ginger smelled the honey, she started licking Cherokee's mouth, and they were instant friends! I felt like a proud "doggy matchmaker." With the support of a good friend and nonviolent coaching, Cherokee began to heal. Her fear dissipated, and the two dogs shared a fantastic friendship for many years.
In the cases of both Layla and Cherokee, I needed to figure out what made each dog tick before I could bond with them and coach them. Each dog's fears and desires are unique to their personalities, but we also need to be aware of the seven basic needs that all dogs share.