Training, socialization, enrichment help Little Red the Vicktory dog

Dog training, socialization and enrichment have helped Little Red, a pit bull terrier rescued from Michael Vick's fighting ring.
By Ted Brewer

Seeing Little Red bounce around other dogs, lick their faces and go tearing off, you wouldn’t know this dog from the same one who arrived at Best Friends three years ago.

Little Red, scared and shut down

When Little Red arrived at Best Friends she was, like a lot of the Vicktory dogs, shut down. Of course, learning to trust humans after the abuse she’d endured as a Michael Vick dog would take some time. In fact, it wasn’t until last year that Little Red started to come out of her shell, according to Dogtown team leader Megan Larsen.

"She took baby steps before," Larsen says, "but in the past year she has really started to blossom."

Shy dog training, socialization and enrichment for Vicktory dog

Larsen attributes Little Red’s progress to a combination of factors, one being the "wallflower class" she regularly attends with Jamie Healy, manager of Best Friends’ Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls who has taken Little Red under her wing. The class aims to bring dogs out of their shells, to help them become more sociable and relaxed around people and other dogs.

The other factor Larsen cites in Little Red’s progress is the time she spends during the day with Healy. Healy picks up Little Red three days a week so she can hang out in her office. She’s been office-fostering Little Red for over a year now.

"At first she was extremely skittish," Healy says. "She just wanted to find some place to hide."

Little Red's pit bull terrier friend

To help with Little Red’s nerves, Healy began bringing Beefcake to the office as well. Also rescued from a fighting situation, Beefcake was, as Healy calls him, Little Red’s boyfriend, and having him around gave Little Red a boost of confidence. Beefcake, however, got adopted soon after the office visits began. Still, Little Red has gotten to the stage where she’s approaching people for treats, something that was nearly unthinkable when she first arrived.

And though she might still exhibit some fear, she loves being picked up, Healy says.

"You can pick her up like a baby, and she rests her head on your shoulder and closes her eyes."

Larsen says that Little Red is getting close to passing her Canine Good Citizen test. In the meantime, she’s enjoying what life now has to offer her, which is an endless stream of positive experiences with people and other dogs.

"She can make any dog play," Larsen says. "She just plays and plays and plays until the other dog plays too."

Vick dog book by Jim Gorant

You may also recognize Little Red on a recent publication! Her visage graces the cover of the Blackstone Audio version of "The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption" by Jim Gorant, read by Paul Michael Garcia. The Lost Dogs (hardcover) was a New York Times bestseller and was named by Library Journal magazine in their "More of the Best" list of the Best Books of 2010, and the audio book is in the Blackstone Audio top ten titles released in the last quarter of 2010!

"What a thrill it was to be able to use Little Red's photo on the cover of Blackstone Audio's version of 'The Lost Dogs,'" said Lysa Williams, who is in the acquisitions department at Blackstone. "Often the cover of the audio will vary from the print version, but it was some keen thinking that led one of our artists to track down this beauty at Best Friends. We were so happy when this book hit the New York Times bestsellers list. It's wonderful when you acquire the audio rights to a book late in the season and it moves on to become one of your bestsellers, especially when it's a story like this one."

Vicktory dog video

Watch the Vicktory dogs 2011 video and catch up with these rescued dogs at the Sanctuary and in their forever homes.