Clinton was a large German Shepard that I would describe as “the big, the bad and the ugly.” I found him online at the Worcester Animal Rescue League. His write up claimed that he shouldn’t be in a home that has kids. He was very angry, aggressive, and intimidating, yet I could see that he was insecure and the perfect one for me because I wanted to begin working with more difficult dogs that had a variety of behavior issues.
I brought him home and didn’t know that he had been castrated earlier that day. After only three hours of being home he bit my husband badly on the arm just for offering him a treat. Well, guess I got what I wanted! He became a 24/7 project that challenged me every minute of every day.
I put Clinton through a regimented program of walking every morning and every evening. In between his energy balancing walks his days were spent in a very large crate because none of my dogie day care staff would dare touch him. I worked to instill rules and boundaries every moment we were together. He usually displayed food aggression, was territorial and didn’t trust anyone around him and the feeling was mutual.
Clinton had been trained with a shock collar which deepened his mistrust of animals and people and would act as though he was worthy to occupy the room. I really had to stand my ground and would impose my petite silhouette of 5’-2,” 100 lbs. and after a few weeks, he started to realize that I’m more stubborn and determined than him. So, I tried putting Clinton with my husband again out in the middle of our yard.
Well, Clinton showed how much more I needed to learn and bit my husband really bad in the back of his leg, twice! So, I continued for the next few months working on his behavioral insecurities. On walks, he would take off, dragging me through people's yards to just try and go home. He found everything like trash barrels and moving branches scary and would
jump up and attack any person that got too close. Eventually, I began to “listen” and understand what must be done in each circumstance. I would put him down, on his side when needed, until he relaxed, no matter how long it might take, before we would move on with our walk.
I began to observe Clinton with greater clarity. There were signs that became more obvious to me and I could anticipate his reaction to things around him and that’s when I learned to be with him and a deep connection between us began to form. I could now see my behavior and access it for how he reacted to my emotional state at the time. So I had to accept that our connection contributed to his behavior. When I was in a state of emotional strife, he would take over control of our pack and that put everyone around me at risk.
This realization would not have been as clear had Clinton not been such a challenging case. Here I thought he was the one that had to be healed, but the truth I discovered was that our deep connection, combined with my new listening skills, healed us both. I let him be true to his nature and he showed me how to maintain a balanced state of mind.