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Dogs behaving badly: A true story

Elwood Clark, as told to April E. Clark
Post Independent Staff
Post Independent Photo/Kelley Cox
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My problems started with a traumatic early childhood.

I was dumped along an Indiana country road with my brother, who, like me at the time, was nameless. We found shelter in a ditch until a nice guy named Joe scooped us up and took us to his house in the bed of his green pickup truck.

That’s where I met my foster mom. At first she was going to separate me from my brother, but she decided we would keep each other company while she went to work. And she didn’t have the heart to break us up.

I remember crying myself to sleep every night back then and constantly seeking attention from people.

The whimpering soon turned to barking. More and more. I admit it … I was out of control. I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to stop. I really did. But I couldn’t.

And then, at last, I got help. I got therapy.

Let me tell you about it.

My name is Elwood, a shepherd mix with issues. My psychoanalyst is Ann Goodyear, a behavioral therapist for Bark Busters Home Dog Training. She opened a Bark Busters franchise in Glenwood Springs last month. Goodyear said that before training dogs, she trained people as a project management consultant in Denver.

“I’ve always been a dog lover,” said Goodyear, who adopted her own pooch, Gwendolyn, three weeks ago from Colorado Animal Rescue. “I asked myself, ‘Do I want to be with people and dogs all day or do I want to sit in front of a computer?'”

During my holistic therapy session, Goodyear helped me confront issues with barking, separation anxiety and sibling rivalry. I learned the canine psycho-baggage I carried from Indiana to Colorado was not just about my abandonment issues that date back eight years. Like countless others who have taken to the couch, I also found out my problems can be traced to one cause ” my mother (and not the bitch that gave birth to me).

“Often pet owners have tolerated bad behavior for years,” Goodyear explained to my inadequate mom, April. “Most of the time I find that dogs are in complete control of the house because they’re confused about their role. Dogs instinctively follow a pack mentality.”

She’s right. Every pack needs an alpha dog and in my house, the alpha role is shared three ways, between me, my brother, Jake, and my mom. In nature, that’s not the case. In a true dog pack, Goodyear said, there is only one alpha ” usually a female ” who commands total leadership. My mom needs to take control.

“When you leave the house, you are breaking up the pack and they’re not sure if you are safe when you leave or if you are coming back,” Goodyear advised my mom. “In nature, in a true pack, an alpha dog can come and go while the subordinates can’t. By training owners to use voice control and body language to establish authority, we teach them how to gain control so their dogs can become obedient, enjoyable family members.”

Because we’re on the same level, I bark when my mom leaves the house. Who knows if she’ll ever come home? If she’s walking me and I don’t want to move, I stop and we play tug-of-war with my leash. When I see a cat or, just the other day, a skunk, I run straight for it and ignore her pleas to stop. Why should I? She’s not the boss of me. Until today.

Goodyear said therapy will require at least 10 to 15 minutes of conditioning a day for five weeks. From now on, my mom will take charge. When I bark, she will shut me up with an authoritative command. And I’ll be walking to heel, every day. No more annoying behavior that could get me sent off to the “farm” ” the doggie death sentence.

“In a single visit, we can demonstrate to owners how they can control the situation immediately, saving some dogs from being unnecessarily euthanized,” Goodyear said.

The thought scared the bark out of me.

Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. 518

aclark@postindependent.com


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