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Chance’s Story

Chance’s Story

Chancellor (Chance) is our beautiful Belgian Tervuren male from an MNM and Blackfyre pairing. He is my first Tervuren, but not my first dog. I had hoped he would be our first show potential, but I soon noticed a challenging, reactive temperament and health concerns.

As a positive trainer, even though I saw the challenge signs when picking Chancellor up from the breeder, I felt since he was a puppy, I could work with him.

Chancellor was a missing link from years of working with reactive dogs. He was not a rescue, he was never hurt or abused and he didn’t have a history. He was genetically challenged. Tervurens are bred to be wary and aloof and to be protective of their owners, but they are also bred to know acceptable behavior toward humans. Chancellor was finding humans challenging. He is a great case study, because he shows that herding dogs are often simply misunderstood, and genetics has a lot of bearing on how a dog sees the world around him.

Specific behavior descriptions: aloof and wary of strangers (which is a common breed standard) however Chance was to the point of challenge/reactivity; reactive sequence of growl, bark, lunge, air snap; hypersensitive to sights, sounds, emotions; claustrophobic; dog person reactive; apparent shy/fearful stages; air snapper; loud bark on quick approaches; overly sensitive to people’s reactions (quick, loud voice, crying voice, emotions, smells); back end issues. All behaviors more noticeable and occurring on lead and in enclosed places (indoors, small offices, small maneuvering spaces or on lead with no escape).

A description others would have of Chancellor would be shy, fearful. I call him a "drama king". His behaviors may have led others to use traditional training methods on him, or send him back to the breeder, or worse to the humane society. I made the decision to work with him and to use only positive methods in my work with him. Today he is quite confident and in control of his environment. He checks things out before reacting to them and eagerly approaches people. He loves to do tricks for people and he welcomes a friendly petting.

My goals for him were to be able to meet and greet people properly and to allow mild petting in controlled situations. Today he is still very uncomfortable with people staring at him, but can eagerly meet and greet and can accept petting. He loves to be groomed. Although I had hoped a stranger (show judge) would be able to touch him at that level of interaction, his stress with complete strangers and confrontational touching increase dramatically preventing him from showing. He is close to getting his CGC however, and at 3 years old has his first AKC RallyO leg toward his RN, a great accomplishment. RallyO is a non-confrontational sport where the participants can talk to and encourage their dogs. He has come a long way learning how to live in many differing environments comfortably. He is a therapy dog for other reactive/aggressive dogs and a teacher and demo dog in classes. Chancellor also has OCD (Osteochondritis Discans), a bone malady and so would not qualify for OFA certifications. He is proof, however, that with patience and reward-based training great changes can occur in the behavior of a dog.

Reward-based techniques having had a dramatic effect on improved temperament are - Tellington Touch Method of Training, Clicker Training, Play Training, and controlled human context work (desensitization, counter conditioning and classical conditioning), as well as advanced skill training. Today Chance, renamed a nobler Chancellor (registered name Wyld Waves of Chance) is 98% reliable and the other 2% we keep working on, and keep him successful in continued training. Interesting note, Chancellor has never been reactive to other dogs and loves to work with puppies and small dogs. He is a natural talent for herding sheep, ducks and "talks" to horses :). He is in-training for tracking and is showing great potential. Because of his reactivity to people, however, he was challenged and uncomfortable doing search and rescue work, but this laid a great foundation for his love of tracking, and we hope for some AKC titles in this area along the journey.

While he may never enter the conformation ring, he will be good at other tasks and can live with his genetic temperament wonderfully. Time and maturity will also impact Chancellor’s growth and since he has been trained with positive reinforcement and encountered success, he is further ahead in handling many situations. He shows a type of dog that is simply more sensitive to the world around him because of genetics and one that does not have to be abused or even have anything go wrong to be sensitive. In helping him to adjust through positive methods, he has taught me a lot in my work and understanding of reactive dogs.

I don’t know where I’d be without you, Diane – who knows. Clicker training has changed my life and my approach to both domestic animals and humans.

- N.L.
Sedro Woolley, Washington


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