Milo was found in May of 2012 wandering the streets of Walpole, MA. As it turns out, the one year old German Shorthair Pointer lived most of his life in a fenced in yard. Milo was not house trained and did not have the appropriate manners for living in a home. His previous owners thought of him as being too energetic, jumpy and destructive and they decided that it would be best to sign him over to our shelter.
Many possible adopters were drawn to Milo’s kennel by his handsome face, but would pass by him once they would see how exuberant his greeting was. Milo would pace and jump up on the kennel door.
Milo’s medical exam and blood test revealed that he had heartworm disease that needed immediate treatment. His condition required certain physical restrictions. His long strolls and playing in the yard were soon replaced with 5 minutes walks on a short lead. He spent most of his day in the kennel and seemed to be getting depressed.
He enjoyed food dispensing toys, but that was not enough mental stimulation for him. With the help of a small group of dedicated volunteers and the staff of the Animal Rescue League of Dedham, Milo started learning some obedience cues. Since Milo could not be active for long periods of time, we kept the training sessions short, in a small space. We used the Canine Life and Social Skills (C.L.A.S.S.) lesson plans that were developed for shelter dogs with a few modifications made by the Center for Shelter Dogs.
At first, Milo had a hard time focusing. He seemed to be stressed and had no interest in learning. We used lure and the right rewards to get Milo to “Look” at the handler’s face. Next Milo learned how to go in the crate. He enjoyed this particular cue. Then came “Sit” and “Down”. We started working on “Stays” and “Walking on a loose leash”.
We updated Milo’s Canine Enrichment Chronicle, logging in the time that Milo spent on specific activities. His C.L.A.S.S. lesson plan was kept on the same clipboard, easy to access, close to Milo’s kennel. It was an efficient way to communicate with each other, quantify our training sessions and prevent Milo from getting exhausted.
Within a few weeks we could see a big change in Milo’s attitude in the kennel. Milo’s behaviors changed from pacing, jumping and barking to settling down on his bed, sitting politely for the leash to be put on. Milo got close to earning a BA in CLASS before his adoption.
Milo’s heartworm disease treatment will take some time. He now lives with a wonderful family and has a new best friend, a Gordon Setter puppy, awaiting Milo’s full recovery.
With the help of the C.L.A.S.S. program combined with some programs by the Center for Shelter Dogs, we were able to see a lot of positive changes in Milo’s behavior, which helped him find his forever home.
Carol Ahearn, CPDT-KA
Behavior Counselor at the Center for Shelter Dogs, C.L.A.S.S. Evaluator