In our first and most recent Lio blog post, we introduced you to the big boy, a 7-year-old Catahoula Leopard Dog mix, Lio, who’s been in Pawmetto Lifeline’s care starting in 2014. (Sure, we may be stating the obvious, but that’s more than one half of his life.) Lio has been in one foster-to-adopt for two months, a first foster home for six months, one adoptive home for one month, and back to a second foster home from July scheduled until November. The question you are undoubtedly asking yourself is, “why?” What has been keeping him from staying in an adoptive home permanently? What has taken him so long?
Well, sure, he’s a larger dog (about 85 lbs. of love!), and sure, he has more exercise needs than, say, a 5 lb. chihuahua, but there’s a tad more to it all:
So let’s get right to it. Dogs need and thrive with structure. Lio didn’t have the necessary structure starting off in life; he had been enabled to exhibit behaviors that were ultimately inappropriate (although many were, in actuality, normal) but that could have been reversed or lessened. What his owners’ thought the best solution—or what they thought might be the only solution—to his behaviors (whether he was heavily irritated by other dogs in his face and showed this by growling or growing defensive, or scarfed down a meal in fear that it’d be his last) was that of negative reinforcement training with use of a shock collar.
One of the most pronounced behaviors Lio has shown is that of resource guarding. To the surprise of many, resource guarding is a natural behavior in dogs, and it is characterized by dogs doing just that: guarding what’s important to them or vital for them to stay alive. Resource guarding in dogs equates to protecting food, space, toys, people, other dogs, or even what they perceive to be intensely “high value” treats (from frozen soup bones to peanut butter-filled Kongs, or from a sacred tissue to a juicy piece of chicken that has fallen on the floor amidst a human’s cooking session). Resource guarding doesn’t mean a “dominant” or “pushy personality” in a dog. In fact, it many times stems from insecurity—the “unknown” of where and when their next meal is coming from. The anxiety of a person taking away their food if they misbehave. The uncertainty of how to adapt in a certain social situation.
The shock collar was the solution to Lio guarding food, which in turn made him even more tense. The problems were then cyclical.
When Lio’s original owners decided that they should surrender him, and when he transitioned to getting the love and attention from Pawmetto Lifeline staff that included changes like positive reinforcement training, things got better. In foster care, they continued to get even more positive.
Foster Mom Rebecca first proved it was possible for people to follow very important yet simple “Lio Life Rules” we’d like to outline:
1) Be Lio’s confident, committed leader in life, and he’ll in turn show you his best smile and signature adorable scoopy tail wag. Basically, he’ll love you.
2) Please, give Lio space when he eats (because we humans know at least one person who will try to snag a fry from our plate. Not fun!) Rebecca introduced the slow feeder bowl to Lio, and it has done wonders. Before, Lio ate out of a standard metal bowl and devoured his food in less than 20 seconds. Now—and trust me, I have timed it—it takes 3 or 4 minutes.
3) Provide Lio with a solid routine! He craves structure, much like he craves the treats he gets for ALL the commands he knows. There’s a time Lio wakes up, eats, potties, plays, etc., but there are also boundaries. For example, no couch for this guy—and that is okay. Clarity and consistency is a good thing. Lio on the couch psychologically puts him on the same level as his leader, and him having the same freedom can do damage. With guarding tendencies, couch time is not condoned. It does NOT mean you don’t care about him or want him to have comfort, but rather you do care about him not being the one in charge which could lead to regression, so it’s important that distinction be made.
To explain his returns from what we thought might be his furever homes, The Lio Life Rules were not followed. The adopters or to-be adopters may have been overly confident, didn’t believe us when we stated that he had a true insecurity about food being handled, or just plain weren’t ready for a dog with his needs. The search continues. Lio being in foster has proven to be tremendously eye-opening.
Until Friday when you’ll learn even more,
Lio’s Foster Mom