Ten years ago I met my best friend… Teddy, a monstrous sized Rottweiler cross German Shepherd cowering in the back of his kennel in an isolation stray unit. I unlocked the large solid metal door a proceeded to clean out his kennel – spotless as it was. I returned to the kitchen of the Rescue Centre and asked more about the ‘new boy’! A brief background was given by our dog warden who had picked him up; Teddy had been kept in bad conditions by previous owners who had him for the wrong reasons and therefore his trust in anyone was diminished. Upon further instruction I was told not to clean him out without guards to cover my back, which was not much use to me as I had already been in with him!
For a dog with his current temperament there was no way he could be re-homed with children or men; of which he was terrified. It was only a matter of time until he would be put to sleep. This made me more intrigued and eager for him to gain my trust as I knew he could – especially as I made it out of there alive earlier that day! I made it my duty to clean him out each day, feed him and sit with him every lunch hour encouraging his to come closer to me, eventually for me to stroke and to handle him. He needed one person he could trust; so that he could see life can be worth living. Everyday our bond grew, and every day he became more willing to work with me.
I knew I couldn’t let him go; I would do whatever it took to have him in my life. Trying to convince my mum to let me have another dog (so soon after our last dog had passed away, who was so very loyal and loving) was a job to say the least; the only way around this was going to have to be bribery and blackmail as only a sixteen year old girl can! This worked wonders and a few weeks later we were the proud owners of Teddy. We had him a kennel built, fully lined with his very first bed, which he would not move from when we brought him back. He struggled to stay awake and for hours he slipped in and out of sleep, not knowing quite why he was here surrounded by a family and a place to call his own.
Despite settling in fast and being remarkably well behaved he was constantly striving for the role of leader in our household and considered himself above all of us apart from mum. It became an issue with my younger brother Laurie, as he was only eight years old; Teddy began growling and challenging him. Teddy was still terrified of men; we had several builders in the house not so long after his arrival. Any interaction between them and the dog left him cowering behind a flower pot with his tail between his legs. This kind of behaviour made it clear to us that he was badly beaten previously. Along with men he was also shaken by bags, newspapers and guests coming into the house that he was unfamiliar with. One particular incident was with the window cleaner whom he let come into the garden and climb up the ladder; however, he was not allowed back down! He would not leave the bottom of the ladder; not even for pork pies. Teddy kept him there all day until mum arrived back home. We were unable to socialise him with other dogs properly as he would attack most of them. At the age of twelve months he had clearly missed out on this as a puppy.
Soon after we had Teddy castrated to try and calm him down he bit Laurie. We could not continue to keep him as a member of our family if he would not learn to control all signs of aggression. This is when mum decided to contact a canine behaviour practitioner; Ross McCarthy. A meeting was arranged and we all drove up to meet the man that was to help reset Teddy’s clock… as time was running out.
Ross assessed Teddy and us his family; then gave the following diagnosis:
“Teddy suffers from fear based aggression. The complexities of his case are obvious and really this dog is completely unsuited to life with you and your family. Such a number of bites and attacks at such a young age and such a confident dog would not be easy to work with.”…
We decided to take on board Ross’s advice however, we didn’t want to part with Teddy so we followed a strict rehabilitation programme put in place by Ross with intense training which we all needed to follow to see the changes we so desperately seeked. We worked with Teddy solidly for 2 weeks to see how much we could improve him in that time. We attended training sessions with Ross so he could teach us how to get Teddy to walk controllably on a lead and what to do if he displayed any aggression before having group classes with other dogs.
Training at home was thorough; We had to completely change the way we spoke to him and interacted with him.
Teddy learnt very quickly and we were soon able to let him off the lead to interact with other dogs. His recall, heel work and general sit/stay/wait commands were perfect! On week eight of the course Teddy completed his good citizen test bronze award.
We continued with the programme and Teddy went on to pass his good citizen test Silver award, which included Teddy being handled by an unfamiliar examiner – We were thrilled! We went onto attending agility classes with Teddy, having him off the lead completely and we were all totally relaxed. I recall Ross saying ‘he has been a model citizen’.
I am so proud to have known such a loyal dog, and lucky to have had the chance to change his life. Without the right guidance this would not have been possible.
This all happened ten years ago. Teddy was put to sleep last week aged eleven years old. I know that he lived the best life a dog could ask for, and although he struggled greatly with arthritis due to his strong character he never let anyone know truly how much pain he suffered. Saying goodbye to my best friend was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I am so glad to of had the chance to know him.