Helping a reactive black Labrador retriever mix

Humane Society of Blue Ridge gets help from Best Friends and Cold Nose College with a black Labrador retriever who was reactive towards other dogs.
By Denise LeBeau

Like many of our No More Homeless Pets Network partners, the Humane Society of Blue Ridge (HSBR) in Georgia has a mission that mirrors our own: "To promote respect for all living things. To provide for the welfare of abandoned, injured or mistreated animals, and to find them loving, permanent homes."

But sometimes it's easier said than done. And sometimes the resources to turn an animal's life around are just beyond an organization's reach. That's where Best Friends' No More Homeless Pets Network does some of its most important work - supplying resources, including vital networking connections, to rescues and shelters that need it.

Labrador retriever mix who is reactive to other dogs

Princess Leia's behavioral challenges had to be addressed before she could be safely placed in a forever home. She was rescued by HSBR from animal control. But HSBR was beyond capacity, so Princess Leia went to a boarding facility. The seemingly fun-loving black Labrador retriever mix didn't love being boarded, at all. In fact, she started to portray a very undesirable personality trait that is an Achilles' heel for a rescuer: aggression towards other dogs. Dogs who are reactionary to other dogs can have an extra-hard time being placed; they usually can't be shown successfully at adoption events, and many potential adopters have another dog.

When Robin Politowicz, No More Homeless Pets Network specialist, heard about their predicament, she knew exactly the answer: Cold Nose College. Lisa and Brad Waggoner, the founders of the dog training facility, have helped with many rescue cases and even held a training summit for other Network partners on proper dog handling. They understand canine behavior thoroughly and adhere to positive-reinforcement techniques.

Princess Leia a black Labrador retriever mix who was adopted from the Humane Society of Blue RidgeReading canine body language

Cold Nose College, based out of North Carolina, help a lot of groups in the Southeast. They educate "the public, our clients, rescue groups and shelters about humane, force-free training, dog body language and stress signals," shares Lisa. "We owe it to the dogs to understand what they're telling us with their body."

Lisa explains that modifying an aggressive behavior in a dog isn't a quick fix, but if the group has "the time, energy and funds available to work on the issue and follows the appropriate behavior modification protocol, most dogs can make progress."

To make an accurate assessment, Brad brought their dog Cody to the training center, so that they could observe Princess Leia in the presence of another dog. They were looking for any body language that would tell them if she wasn't comfortable around another dog. Lisa found that she displayed overall soft body language - her body was loose, mouth open and relaxed, tail wagging. "She's a lovely girl," says Lisa.

Dog barrier frustration

"In this particular case, I believe the reactivity they initially saw was a result of Leia's initial stress with being taken into a new environment and put in a kennel," says Lisa. "She displayed some barrier frustration (i.e., barking, lunging at another dog through the fence) when another dog was near. Many times, once the barrier is no longer there, the dog doesn't react. Once Brad and I helped HSBR understand appropriate dog body language, and they were able to see Leia be happy and relaxed around our dog, Cody, they were comfortable taking her to an adoption event."

It all paid off in aces. Princess Leia is now in a loving home.

Find out more about No More Homeless Pets Network partners.

Photos courtesy of Cold Nose College and the Humane Society of Blue Ridge