What to Do with Exuberant Dogs

Summer School with Edgar

OHS’ Behavior Rescue Center and the Behavior Modification team are helping shy and fearful pets, like Edgar, overcome their anxiety and fear using positive reinforcement training techniques in a unique program that’s giving hope to pets and their people.

At OHS’ Behavior and Rescue Center,  small team of Certified Behavior Modification Trainers and volunteers are working with the most fearful and shy dogs  (and cats) that come to Oregon Humane Society, helping them learn the skills and confidence needed to find their special new homes.

This includes dogs like Edgar, a young, exuberant lab who was hit by a car at an adolescent age that left him with a charmingly tilted snoot, blindness in his left eye, and complex behavior issues that made him difficult to manage. Edgar has so much spirit for exploring the world and the people around him that though his behaviors made finding his new family a challenge, staff could tell his heart was in the right place.

For eager Edgar, finding a lasting new home and the right family, was dependent on improving his skills.

The team worked with Edgar in three key areas:

  1. Settling before diving into fun activities, like going for walks or playing in the chip yard.
  2. Practice using his good (right) eye to take cues from people and other dogs.
  3. Creating new habits: not jumping or mouthing to ask for what he wanted or greet people.

How Edgar got his Groove Back!

The most fundamental piece of training was getting Edgar to settle and wait before dashing off into the world. As a young, exuberant lab, Edgar had some serious strength and Edgar dashing off, head-first into the world could put  strain on the walker—which could lead to serious injury if not managed. The BMOD team started by teaching Edgar the “Wait” command, so he would be able to hold positions in between the next cue from staff.

Next, he needed to learn to use his right eye. This was one of the more challenging hurdles the team was tasked with. When Edgar greeted other dogs, he often missed their cues for space because of his blindness, and this could lead to tense interactions that left both dogs and humans rattled. To do this the team worked on positioning. Using their own body language, trainers would guide Edgar into positions where he could see cues from trainers and other dogs. By working slowly and consistently, Edgar came to understand how to use his right eye as a guide for interacting with the world.

Finally, eager Edgar had to learn how to show his love for the world and its fabulous people by greeting them without bowling them over. What can we say, Edgar is a classic big dog who doesn’t know how big and powerful he is! He would love to sit in your lap, jump up, and give you a hug, but at his size, this is a behavior that quickly becomes taxing. Using positive reinforcement, trainers rewarded Edgar when he kept all four paws on the floor during greetings and used redirection via toys and treats when he got mouthy. Consistency was key to get Edgar to routinely implement good boy behaviors!

Edgars hard work with the Behavior Modification team paid off and he found a loving, supportive home with his new owners Charlie and Breland—who work hard to maintain Edgars training at home and take him on weekly runs to get all his eager Edgar wiggles out. Thanks to donor support, Edgar got the time and resources he needed to grow and develop into the polite and friendly gentleman he is today and find a loving new home.