Training Success Story | All-American Pittie
Amy McGraw called me, concerned about her rescue dog Sparty, who she only had for 5 days. Sparty was rescued from the streets of Miami and rehomed by a police officer. Amy told me that Sparty had growled, snapped and tried desperately to escape when he was grabbed by the collar at the veterinarian’s office. He was very fearful whenever she or her husband tried to put a collar or leash on him, which made it difficult to get him out for a walk. Fortunately, she called me right away, “not wanting to do the wrong thing.” When I arrived, Sparty was fearful and shy, but still sweet and interested in interactions. I advised them to leave the collar with his ID tags on, but not to attach a leash to it. Instead, we fitted him for a Sensation harness, which we very slowly and gently put on him, using a lot of treats and being careful not to loom over him while doing it. I also advised her to use a verbal cue to let him know she was about to put the harness over his head, such as “Put it On.” This way the approach wasn’t sudden and scary.
Sparty was soon very eager to put on his Sensation Harness, as it had begun to have a positive association- going for walk. We also counter-conditioned him to having his harness and collar grabbed and hands around his head. I advised Amy never to grab his collar unless it was an emergency situation. Then we worked on basic foundation commands such as come, leave it, let’s go, wait and stay to make grabbing the collar unnecessary.
Amy says, “The thing I love about Playtrain Positive Training is that it has helped me be more aware of his signals so I don’t get frustrated when I think he’s not listening. He’s begun to vocalize when he’s confused– like he’s talking. When he does that I reset myself and show him what I’m asking for (with a reinforcing treat). ” Between private lessons and group classes, Sparty and Amy were able to pass the Canine Good Citizen test within a few months. “I have been BLOWN away at how much Sparty LOVES to learn. He has inspired me to be a better partner in his training experience. As we continue to learn together, there is a stronger bond between us- one of mutual respect.”
Sparty is named after the Michigan State University mascot. “Sparty” represents a strong, faithful, athletic warrior. Amy soon learned owning an athletic pittie “warrior” comes with extra responsibility.
“When I take Sparty for walks, people will cross the street to avoid him. One day a dog got away from his owner and charged toward Sparty. I put Sparty in a sit position with “watch me” and kept his attention away from that other dog. When the owner caught up and grabbed his dog, he asked if Sparty was a Pit Bull and when I said yes, he said he was really surprised that Sparty didn’t attack.– meanwhile HIS dog was the one charging mine. In fact I asked that the dogs greet each other and Sparty was perfect while his dog growled.” Like many pittie owners, Amy feels the need to make Sparty the very best dog he can be, and plans on continuing his training and participating in the sport of dock diving.
“After experiencing discrimination first hand, it’s important to me to present Sparty to the public as a positive role model and ambassador for his breed.”