Case Study - Project Monte
Monte is a Golden Retriever, but unlike most Goldens, he is overly fearful. So fearful that he had become socially exclusive. Like many families today, the block contains a Granny flat within which Monte and his parents live whilst the main house is home to Montes mums parents. The fear was also quite irrational. If Montes owners came in through the side gate, Monte would be terrified, even when his own parents came home through it! You can imagine the terror Monte endured when family friends, tradies or other visitors came around.
This fear was caused not by an applied trauma in his puppyhood, neither was it a case of physical abuse by a stranger who came in through a side gate. It was much worse than that! The lack of exposure that Monte was constrained to as a young puppy limited his learning and compelled him to perceive anything unknown as a threat.
You see, young Monte, as a puppy had a heart murmur. Not all too unusual and often self healing over time. The breeder decided to keep Monte at home – on acreage – and not sell him until he was better. Paired with COVID Lockdown this meant that Monte could not even hear the neighbours let alone meet strangers. Puppies must be exposed to as much stimulation as we can muster in the first 16weeks of their life. What they are beneficially and strategically exposed to during the first 4months of life will set them up for the rest of their life. What they are not exposed to will be met with a threat response for the rest of their life.
You can find more on puppies in these articles.
I was called with the purpose of being able to safely control him and hopefully allow Monte to enjoy a socially inclusive life.
We started with the Grey Program in late August and before we had finished it, Montes mum was already putting the skills to work!
“my dad had a friend over...as usual Monte was terrified. So I got some treats...got Monte to sit with me...every time Monte looked over to him...I said Yes and basically shoved treats at him. I’ve never seen him warm up to someone so quickly.”
This took only 17minutes in real time. Now leading up to that your looking at around 80minutes of training which includes a 60minute session to start. End result, Monte was taught something powerful enough to overcome a debilitating fear within 37minutes. That is literally life-saving. 10,000s of dogs are euthanised for fear based behaviours every year!
A week later I was sent this:
“I had to physically block Montes path to get him out so the men could work otherwise I think he would’ve been there all day sniffing them!”
Just through using a simple word like Yes and some tasty food, Monte was now no longer perceiving strangers – even these two tradies – as threats. We had reprogrammed his world view to look at triggers as a source of benefit.
Montes owners decided that the supporting results where impressive enough that they wanted me to continue training them through the Sociability program.
We built upon the strong foundations built during the Grey program and used the tools to be able to teach:
Leave that and come over here
Ignore that and walk with me
Stay there and wait till I come back
Enjoy your time out and about
Not even being rushed at by another dog, twice in one week, with the usual “He just wants to say hi!” screams in the background, Monte bounced right back and we soon got out and headed off over bridges, pontoons, jumped on blocks, rocks and stones. He managed to avoid conflict with terribly scary things, enjoyed being in public and has expanded his lifestyle exponentially.
His owners are over the moon with the results that their efforts and our support has garnered them. He now enjoys day care and even the staff have noted that he is happily responsive to his verbal signals. Apparently he got into some feed at daycare and it only took a single word for him to stop what he was doing!
You can find plenty of information on our social channels when you use the hashtag: #projectmonte.