Behavior change

By David Dickson


Old behaviors can be hard to change. For Romo the dog, one particular behavior took several years and countless hours from caregivers and trainers before he was willing to give it up. His particular habit? Well, let’s just say Romo used to get rather enthusiastic around human legs. … Such behavior may seem embarrassing or even humorous to an outsider, but the bottom line is Romo’s behavior patterns were getting in the way of life.


Romo came to Best Friends several years ago as a stray from another rescue. From the beginning it was clear he loved being around people and loved going on adventures. Because of his persistent habit, however, he limited his own access to both. It was hard for anybody to take him on long walks because of his lack of basic social skills.












Romo with toy



Thank goodness Romo finally started picking up on cues that he was making mistakes! It might have taken him a long time to learn, yet Romo’s caregivers and trainers never stopped trying to teach him better behavior patterns.


Ultimately, he got the message. He is now thrilled with the extra outings he gets to enjoy, from car and golf cart rides to long walks, agility training, and more.


Best Friends dog trainer Jennifer Gfeller describes one of the techniques that helped him finally connect the dots. Seeing how Romo is such a huge fan of long walks, she decided she would take him on some, but with a few tricks up her sleeve.



Whenever Romo displayed unacceptable behavior Jennifer would unclip the leash and clip Romo to a bush instead. She brought a leash with a carabiner clip specifically for that purpose. At that point she would move about ten feet away and ignore him until he lay down. Once he did so she would hook up the leash again and they’d head back down the trail. The lesson finally clicked in his brain. He realized at last that something he loved dearly -- long walks -- was being hampered by his behavior.


Once that realization registered in full he started making significant improvements. These days his old behavior is almost entirely gone. "I can take him on an hour-long walk if I want to," Jennifer says. And Romo behaves perfectly every step of the way.









Romo in hydro



One telling area where he proved himself came when he needed another cruciate (ligament in his knee) surgery not long ago. Romo had had a similar surgery a while back, before he made these behavior changes. Back then, when he was recuperating, he had to go straight in and out of the tank without any other therapy work. He was simply too much of a handful for anything else.





This time, though, his experience over at hydrotherapy has been a complete reversal from before. Now, when he walks into the building everybody comes over to say hi and pet him. He gets to socialize beforehand and receives the full therapy session later, including ice work after tank time, something he had to skip during the first surgery recovery.


No doubt, Romo is living a much fuller life these days. And with all of that, there is one significant benefit above all others that comes out of the mix. "This will increase his chances of getting adopted," points out Jennifer.




Take a look at Romo's adoption page and see if this well-trained fellow is right for you.


If you have a dog who could use some more training, download Best Friends' "The ABCs of Dog Life", a valuable reference for all dogs and their people.


Photos by Gary Kalpakoff