aggressive dogs, biting
Hi, my name is Snap.  My mom wanted me to tell you my story so here I am.  If you are
reading this, chances are you have a little dog that might be snappy or slightly
ill-tempered.  I was when my mom first got me and that's why I'm telling you my story.

My mom got me in December, 1999.  I was found running on a freeway in Houston with
my friend, Ginger.  We were both a terrible mess - matted to the skin, full of fleas and
with nasty open sores all over our bodies.  And, we both had heart worm disease.  

While my friend Ginger was a very sweet little girl, I was not.  In fact, my name, Snap,
was given to me by the staff at the veterinary clinic because I "snapped" at everyone
that tried to get me out of my cage.  I was NOT a nice little girl.  Everyone thought I
must have come from one of those irresponsible breeders that leave the dogs in the
back yard 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The traits I exhibited at that time
indicated that I may have been physically abused, most likely by a man, and that I had
always been forced to fight over food.  Anytime I became nervous or upset, I got very
snarly.  I certainly had not been kept as a beloved pet.                  

This picture was taken the day I went home with my mom and dad from the vet clinic.   
I had been vaccinated and spayed.  As you can see, I must have had  puppies within the
past few months - I still had a bit of milk.  

The first week I was home, I bit my "dad" several times when he tried to pick me up or
even just pet me.  That really wasn't a good way to start off a relationship.

Luckily, I had wormed my way into the hearts of both my mom and dad and they were
determined to help me become a stable, confident little dog.

My mom started reading lots of books on dog behavior and learned a lot.  One
important thing she learned was to let me get comfortable in my environment before
trying to discipline me or correct the behavior.  She used the "no free lunch" or
"nothing in life is free" approach to getting me comfortable.  She also learned to
NEVER become aggressive towards me if I got snarly.   

After a little while, my mom realized that she didn't have the skills or knowledge to
really help me.  When she sent me to the groomer, I had to be on a leash all the time
because otherwise, they couldn't get me out of the crate.  Although I was pretty good
when I was alone with my mom, I was still was terrified of everyone and everything

So, my mom enrolled me in a private obedience class with Loralei Zwitt, of Teacher's
Pet in Houston.  Mom learned quickly from Loralei that there were two basic problems:
 First she didn't know how to communicate with me, secondly, she didn't know how to
give me comfort that she was in charge.  You see, when a little dog like me with a
checkered past is a fear biter, it's usually because they don't understand that the
humans in their family will protect them and keep them from harm.  So that's what
Loralei made mom work on.

It took a lot of time and effort.  Mom worked with me every day for six weeks.  
Teaching me to want to obey and to get rid of the feeling that I had to be afraid of
everything or to protect everyone from everything.  Gradually, I became more and
more confident.  She took me to two other obedience classes - intermediate obedience
where I learned to get along with other people and to ignore other dogs and finally she
took me through a Canine Good Citizen prep class.  

My mom is very proud to tell you that on September 21, 2002, I was awarded the
Canine Good Citizen Award.  Started in 1989, CGC is a certification program that is
designed to reward dogs who have good manners at home and in the community. The
Canine Good Citizen® Program is a program that stresses responsible pet ownership
for owners and basic good manners for dogs. The dogs are required to go through a
ten-step test and all dogs who pass the CGC test receive a certificate from the
American Kennel Club.

So, if you have a little dog that doesn't have the manners you would like, please work
with him or her.  There couldn't be many dogs worse than I was - but my mom and dad
loved me and thought I was worth the time and effort.  Today, I'm a happy, healthy,
very loved member of the household.  

This is me with mom and Loralei when I got the certificate.  I PASSED!!  

If you have any questions about dealing with snappy dogs or just training in general,
Snap here.  

You, too, can become a wonderful little pet.  If you are in Houston, check out classes at
Teacher's Pet Behavioral Counseling or
My Dog and Me Activity Center.  

A note about snappy dogs and behavioral training, in general. (From Snap's mom)

A trainer CANNOT train your dog to stop being snappy.  Only YOU can train your
dog.  Good trainers can give you lots of hints and suggestions about how to deal with
them, but they CANNOT train the dog.  YOU have to do your homework and YOU have
to be dedicated.  It oftentimes takes months and months of work to get past abuse
worked out of a rescue dog's system.  If you aren't up to devoting the time and effort
(LOTS of it) then don't try.  It will only make the dog worse.  Snap was lucky.  Our
family fell in love with that pitiful little face the moment we set eyes on it and were
DETERMINED to make up to her for her abusive past.  We really didn't even
consider the alternative - we set out to succeed and, I'm happy to say, we did.

Update:  October 16, 2002
Snap had surgery for a tiny tumor on her rear end today.  Interestingly enough, it
turned out to be a BB - yes, that's right, my little Snap has been shot sometime in her
past life.  Wish I knew where she lived before.  You just never know how these dogs
have been treated.  
There are many dogs like me who
are still in need of help.
Check them out.
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