Many people comment and message us saying how much they love the videos we make of the rehab work we do here at K9 Pro, and you may be one of them. If you haven’t watched them yet, most are on our YouTube Channel (here).
But I feel that most of us, do not truly understand the level of immense stress, anxiety, suffering and sometimes pain the people who own these dogs are under.
I like to think that I am across this as I deal with so many but every now and again I get a reality check of just how much these people, who love their dogs, more than themselves, need help.
When people collect their dogs I get the genuine heartfelt handshakes, the very tight long hugs, the tears of joy and relief as souls are bared, and that’s not just me!
These people know that I have invested myself into their much loved dogs, often at my own risk, but they know I care, and having a person on their team is big to them, VERY BIG.
A couple of months ago, we had a lovely little Staffordshire Bull Terrier stay with us called Zaylea. At the start of her stay here I guess many would wonder what a person would see in her, given her aggressive behaviours, history etc.
But Zaylea opened up her soul to us and let us see what an amazing girl she is, and we helped her become confident, leave her anxiety and damaged past behind her and get busy with living her life.
Phase one was complete and it was time for Zay to head home for Phase 2 to begin. Phase 2 of course is owner training and sometimes rehab too!
Often owners have become anxious, frightened, traumatised and feeling hopeless, so we do our best to help them through this too.
Zays owners are 100% dedicated, as dedicated as I have ever seen and they have made the transition from our rehab centre back to their home smooth and trouble free.
I would love to tell you about all the emails and pictures I have received but I don’t think I could do this story as much justice as Mel, Zaylea’s owner has in this letter she wrote outlining her journey.
Ruby & Zaylea.
Remember how in love you were when you bought your pup home or when you found that one special dog that bonded to your heart ? The one you would do anything for?
Well that’s where my story begins.
We have 2 beautiful female staffies, 8 months apart in age and seemingly completely inseparable until around 18 months ago.
They ate together, slept together, played together, lived together they did everything together. They even shared their bed and food with a cat.
We lived in harmony.
Ruby, the oldest of the two is so very placid laid back and would remind you of a teenager, happy to be in bed till noon, eat whenever and just be a lap dog, she barely barks and is a shadow to her humans.
She is confident and smart.
Zaylea is the opposite, she can be very anxious very loud and chatty for those of you who have staffies I am sure you have been driven crazy by the staffy squeal at least once!
She is clumsy and seems to have had her share of bad luck. She has had her health issues as a pup, so missed her critical learning stages of growing up, but attached herself to her sister and life just got better for her.
Until one day, I took them for a walk.
The usual route I took, at this stage I had no idea how good it was to walk my dogs on a loose leash, at this stage my arm was continually being yanked by two 20kg + staffies, but I knew no different.
This day, a dog came out of nowhere and began circling us, I could hear my heart beat and I looked for ways to get away, I was in my neighbourhood, but no one helped me.
I thought having two dogs would be a deterrent for any other dog, this was not the case.
It attacked, my smallest staffy Zay and I was unable to get them apart, my biggest girl stood back until the stray dog had hold of my arm and somehow my leg and abdomen were bleeding too.
Then Ruby stepped in, she attacked the other stray dog and kept going until it ran off, never the less it was a vicious attack.
At this stage, my dogs would not listen when I called them, it was apparent they were just dogs, they were fighting back and they were being dogs – They were not Ruby and Zaylea as I know them.
I carried Zay home both of us bleeding and Ruby following closely behind. I drove Zay to vet where the Vet and nurses attended to us both.
This was the beginning of a long journey with Ruby and Zaylea.
In the weeks that followed, our scars healed but mentally, I could not cope.
I had seen my dogs in fight mode, and until you see it, you have no idea how scary it can be. The noise the smell of blood and the powerless feeling you have for not being able to control it.
My most terrifying day came when I was getting ready for work and I was feeding the girls as usual before leaving.
Zay did the same circle that the stray dog had done, she circled Ruby, there was no noise – it was silent. Looking back there was body language and there was eye contact.
Zay started a fight with Ruby – it was my worst nightmare!
It wasn’t just a scuffle it was horrific, I could not get them apart, I raced to grab the hose and sprayed them in the face, this did not work I threw a towel over them from the line to try and distract one to pull them apart, this did not work, so stupidly I put my hand in and tried to pull their faces apart.
My whole arm was bitten and had chunks of flesh and skin torn off.
I feel I need to say, that I am certain they were not deliberately biting me.
I managed to free myself and ran inside to call for help.
The fight seemed to last for an hour, though I am certain it was minutes.
Again another huge Vet bill, stitches, pain relief, antibiotics and hospital stay for Zay, the costs were mounting up.
Again, I healed and life went on as normal, there was a few scuffles but nothing as extreme, we asked the vet and a few trainers locally and they all said to continue with the same routine as they had grown up with.
And so I did, the following weeks another fight broke out, it was seconds I read the body language, milliseconds before it started and I tried to move a dog out of the way, it was too late I was between them and nothing I did was going to stop them, I was knocked through a glass sliding door and hit my head on the BBQ and landed in the glass from the broken door out on the patio.
I lay on the ground and the dogs where fighting around me, over my face, I could feel bites but there was no pain. I crawled inside to call my husband and my neighbour.
I could hear the dogs still fighting, I felt this time one would kill the other one.
So I covered my ears closed my eyes and waited for help on the ground.
I cannot explain, why this happened though I am looking back over the incident in my mind with the stray and guessing that could have something to do with it.
As humans we get counselling for attacks or domestic violence but as dogs we think their life just goes on as normal, but perhaps that one incident, that one time someone left the side gate open to their house and their dog got out to roam around, that one incident changed my dog forever.
We forget perhaps they need rehab too.
So after help arrives, I am in hospital crying over my dogs because I knew my husband would want to rehome one or both dogs.
I could hear him in the corridor of the hospital calling Dog behaviourists and Vets any one that could offer us advice.
The advice came like this,
*You have two females, once they start to fight they will until the death.
*Once a Stafford tastes the blood of an animal they are ruined they will need to be put to sleep.
*Those dogs are dangerous and will always fight – they are fighting dogs
*We do positive training here, feed them treats so they associate each other as positive.
*They should be euthanised today.
* It is better to rehome the aggressive one than to try and bring them back together after consecutive fights.
There was no happy ending here……..
Or so I thought…
I suffered panic attacks and nightmares for months.
I found a local trainer who came to our house to meet the girls and assess them.
She worked with me a lot, she tried to get me to go near the girls again and rebuild a bond with them. It was hard, I couldn’t look at them without fear, yet I still loved them.
My trainer here locally she helped me heal, she took one dog for a few weeks at a time till I could use my arm again and in that time I spent quality time with the dog that was left.
When it was time for them both to be home, and for me to look after them alone as my husband works away, I couldn’t do it.
So I had my husband section off the backyard until I could work something out.
Our trainer had mentioned contacting K9 Pro but I refused as I thought I would be met with the same news, as explained above.
Keeping them either chained up or not allowed out was no life for them.
I had to take control.
I had run out rooms to put baby gates to keep them apart even though Zay would have a go at Ruby through the gates, everything took me twice as long to do with them, feeding times, bath times, and exercise in the day ? Well forget it, it was late at night only or on the treadmill.
Even Vet visits had to be done in through the back door away from other dogs.
I was growing tired and stressed. Enough was enough!
One call to Steve Courtney, I was given advice on how to manage them, I was booked in for an appointment and we made the trip to Sydney.
After one appointment with Steve, I was given advice and programs to work with.
Steve didn’t push me into any activity with them, instead he gave me various types of training techniques.
I felt instantly at ease with Steve and he was kind hearted and understanding. He never once even remotely suggested I rehome or euthanise either dog.
His love and passion was apparent and his aim is to rehabilitate dogs not to discriminate against breed or situation or judge me.
I was to take control back of my life he was the key to helping me do this.
I left Steve, with a lot in my head and on the way home as promised he had emailed me a bunch of things I needed to do and work towards, there was programs to help me manage their day to day lives, programs to train and interact with them.
These programs were to teach me!
Their appointment was still 6 months away for board and train for 5 weeks – I had gone this long 6 months was nothing – so I set about setting their lives up as Steve suggested for my safety and theirs while at home.
During that 6 months, Ruby got cancer, yet another kick in the guts.
So I embarked on finding her the best possible treatment which meant I couldn’t send Ruby to Steve, so it was to be just Zay for now at Board and Rehabilitation.
During Ruby’s treatment they were to be kept separate anyway which was a good thing.
Two weeks before Zay was to go to K9 Pro headquarters Ruby was clear of tumours and would recover.
I was slowly seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
I was emotionally drained & financially drained after Ruby’s treatment and still anxious and would have panic attacks if the girls even looked sideways at each other.
The day come for Zay to go to K9 Pro.
We arrived and were greeted by Janay, she was so kind and made me feel at ease. The way you enter K9 Pro is very safe and there is no way anything can happen to your dog.
You wait on the outside of the gates and you are escorted in by one of the team when it is safe for you and your dog to do so.
Your dog is taken from you on a lead and Zay trotted off happily & from my experience I thought there would be tears from me.
But you know what, I felt relief, like a weight was off my shoulders. It was finally our turn to turn this around.
I have been living so restricted. In fear and out of control.
So, the weeks Zay was at K9 Pro headquarters, I watched her via video clips and Bec was so thoughtful in keeping me up to date with her.
I think I ended up only checking in once or twice a week, I was very at ease with her wellbeing and knew she was fine.
I watched her develop, I saw her become a confident happy little dog. I saw her with Bec, this was a huge help for me to get past my mental block, that a female can handle her around other dogs.
Bec is amazing and I am in awe of her, she is confident in her training and being guided by Steve makes her amazing. I saw Zay bond with Bec, Zay never gets that close to anyone but she loves Bec.
I would never hesitate to leave my dogs in their care.
The training room is modern and has advanced equipment used when training your dog. They are always supervised and always recorded.
It is air conditioned and the floors are soft and spongy. The mirrors allow the trainers to watch all around the room as well.
The kennels even have a water mist to keep dogs cool in the summer and are insulated for all year weather protection.
I have been described as enthusiastic and emotional when it comes to my dogs, perhaps it is because I have no children and they are my family, whatever the reason they never go without.
The day has come to pick Zaylea up, of cause I couldn’t sleep. I was super excited.
After an in-depth chat with Steve about how I will carry on at home I asked so many questions and I am sure we went over time, but Steve never made me feel like I was a bother.
I will always remember words Steve said to me and I replay them regularly in my head.
He will always help someone who is trying.
The thing you need to know if you go ahead and follow K9 Pro methods is that, it’s not just for a while or a couple of weeks, it becomes a way of life. You would do your dog and yourself a disservice if you had a closed mind or were only open to one method of training.
Personally, I know I went to Steve and I specified no positive only stuff, I was well beyond that level. I had a high drive anxious staffy positive only wasn’t going to work in reality.
Don’t restrict Steve in doing his job just as he wouldn’t do in your career, trust that he knows what’s best and let it happen – the results will amaze you.
I can now have my two dogs inside together, they have rules, boundaries and restrictions, but they get a whole lot more freedom than what they would have, they get a whole lot more family time inside together.
I follow Steve’s rules and I manage the scenario. My dogs still have every opportunity to fight, they are beside each other on their place beds they sleep next to each other in crates. They walk past each other without muzzles or any fear coming over either one of them or more importantly me.
They choose not to fight.
They know their job.
They know I am in control of the situation and have a better handle on their body language – so if one is off I can manage the mood for the other.
I am their owner, I am responsible for their wellbeing they rely on me for food safety shelter love and guidance.
With K9 Pro, Steve gave me confidence and believed I could do this, I am a better owner because of Steve & K9 Pro family.
Take hope from this story or where ever else you need and know, no matter how bad it gets, it CAN get better.
Dogs that fight in the home can be a very hard situation to correct, the trainers who advised rehoming were not wrong in suggesting this, the chances of a safe outcome are slim, but at K9Pro, we aim at the slim chances daily.
Here are some pictures of Zaylea and Ruby now.