Cookie, an 11.5-year-old pit bull cross, had a rough start to life. She is a force of nature, but also an anxious and reactive female dog who would probably have been abandoned more than once if she hadn’t had the chance to be adopted by a dog training pro.
What is the reason that led you to have this dog?
I was starting my career as a dog trainer and wanted to adopt a young dog in need and try to do something good with it. It must be said that she came from a traumatic environment which severely mortgaged her.
Why did you choose this name?
Since he was a puppy with a pit bull type face, I wanted to give him a friendly and nice name.
How to describe in a few sentences the personality of your animal?
She is a dog that oscillates between curiosity, where she has the desire to interact with people, and times, where she needs solitude and wants peace. She is curious, cheerful and social when she is well. Always ready to play, she likes to participate in our activities. For example, I’ve trained her to take the grocery order food out of the bag, but she’s not very delicate. She is a very sensitive female dog with impressive strength and vigor. A real football player! And it can also be intense…
Tell us about his anxiety problem.
She is very reactive, in a state of constant vigilance and neophobic: she is afraid of everything that is new. Around the age of sexual maturity, she began to bark after all that she did not know. Her genetic profile as a guard dog coupled with the abuse she suffered made her a rehabilitation nightmare. It is very disabling in society. We are talking here about a dog that could be described as a psychiatric patient. She is lucky to be with me, because many people would have abandoned her. You have to go all out on behavioral modification to live with such a dog.
Tell us about one of his bad shots.
When she was young, one evening when I was away for a short time, she welcomed me happy like a dog that has found a treasure, with a slice of a book in its mouth. She had chewed on all the books in my library. There were bits of it everywhere, with dog drool on it! I secured my library afterwards.
What is his favorite activity?
She loves to swim. The first time I brought her, I lost her in the water for three hours! Afterwards, I worked with her to get her to release water on command.
What is his favorite place?
When she is tired or has had enough and wants to be alone, she withdraws herself and goes to a comfortable room where there is no one. I trained her for this. It’s heavy for her, to always be on her guard.
How can Cookie be a source of inspiration for you?
It was she who led me to develop my expertise with reactive dogs. I learned with her. Before having her interact with something new (so that she is comfortable with it), we do a lot of training and preparatory work. When I give her the tools and work with proper protocols, she responds well and is capable of many things.
Like master, like animal
We both have a neuro-atypical profile: she is anxious and I am autistic. We also both need time alone, to recharge.
What do you wish you had known before you got this animal?
Having had the experience and skills that I have today with fearful dogs. Everything I know now would probably have helped her open up even more.
About Sebastien Larabée
Dog trainer and author of fantasy novels for young adults, he recently published the book Welcoming a puppy and making him feel good about himself published by Quebec America.