Meet Blaze, a Chihuahua mix who was recently adopted after spending a month learning to overcome his fears thanks to the Behavior team at OHS. Blaze is now cruising the open road in style with his new person, a long-haul truck driver who traverses the country in a big rig with plenty of room for two.
Blaze had a road of his own to travel before he could hit the open road with a new family, though. Blaze came to OHS from Madera County Animal Services thanks to the OHS Second Chance program. It was clear that Blaze needed some time to settle down and trust people before he could be offered for adoption.
OHS Training & Behavior staff member Lori Kirby, who was one of Blaze’s main trainers at OHS, recalls that the biggest issue they worked on with Blaze was resource guarding. He guarded food and toys, showing hostility at times to people or other dogs who approached.
To overcome this behavior, Blaze benefited most from a “trade” game. If Blaze was playing with a toy and did not want to give it up, the trainer would try to “trade” that toy for something better—like a tasty treat. The trade game helps break the cycle of guarding.
Every volunteer and staff trainer who came in contact with Blaze followed the structure of the trade game. With lots of repetition, and with everyone doing the same thing, Blaze made major progress.
Trainers also worked with Blaze to help overcome his reactivity to other dogs, using positive reinforcement methods to distract him when agitated and reward him for moving on.
Although we don’t know the cause of Blaze’s fearful/reactive behaviors, these are not uncommon to see in dogs. Positive reinforcement from our Training & Behavior team, continued in the adoptive home, helps dogs overcome these behaviors. If you are interested in learning more, OHS offers a number of training classes and private consultations that can help. Learn more here »
10-4, Good Buddy
On a Sunday in August, a man named James McGill came to see Blaze, and Lori could tell that it was a good match right from the start. “Blaze did a good job of showing us who he liked, and Blazed picked him,” she said.
James is a long-distance trucker who had decided he wanted to share his home and life with a dog. While browsing the OHS website, Blaze caught his eye. “I really wanted a dog and I saw that Blaze had been at OHS for a month. He’s a cutie.”
When the two met for the first time, Blaze came right up to James as if they were longtime friends. “I think he loves me! He keeps giving me kisses. I don’t think he’ll ever get out of my lap,” said James.
As a follow-up to the first meeting, OHS hosted a second pet meeting to introduce Blaze to the cab of the big semi-truck James drives. This was the first-ever OHS pet meet inside the cab of a semi-truck.
Called a “condo,” the truck cabin features two bunk beds and plenty of room for a small dog. Blaze took to it instantly, which did not surprise Lori, as Blaze had good history of riding nicely in cars.
During this second meeting, the truck’s engine was started so Blaze could hear, feel and smell exactly what his new home would be like. Blaze settled down immediately in the lap of James and made himself right at home. James was thrilled.
Blaze will ride with James and sleep in the truck when they are on the road. Many truck stops are dog-friendly, complete with dog bathing stations and sometimes even a resident veterinarian.
Riding the road with James is expected to be a great situation for Blaze. The inside of the truck is a predictable place which will be good for a dog like Blaze. The many dog-friendly rest areas along highways should offer plenty of exercise opportunities.
James wanted a dog just like Blaze, and Blaze showed us that he wanted James. Best wishes to them for a long and happy life on the road together.