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Pets

Problematic pooches shape up

Posted October 9, 2008
Updated October 12, 2011

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— We love our pets, but their bad behaviors can be frustrating at times – even dangerous. In July, WRAL News chose three dogs to work with a trainer. This week, we revisited the "Bad Dogs" to see if the training did away with their bad behaviors.

When WRAL last saw 5-year-old Mugsy, he was pulling Marj Santoro's arm almost out of the socket. The 95-pound Boxer got so excited when he met other dogs, it was hard to walk him down the street.

However, three months later, he is a different dog. At times, when he is close to other dogs; he can't help himself and goes back to his old ways.

Santoro laughed as she said, "Then it's like me going through a chocolate shop. You lose control and you just have to refocus when you get to the other end."

You often hear Santoro tell Mugsy to focus while they are walking. She gets his attention on her, instead of the distractions. She will even walk back the other way if he is not listening.

“There's been such huge difference. It's not as much of a chore any more,” Santoro said.

The Puggle, Albie, used to bark – constantly.  But now, a knock at the door and he doesn't make a peep. That is not to say he doesn't bark at all.

“There was a bunny in the yard the other day and he started barking at the bunny. Once he's used to it, I think he's OK,” said Cara Zuehlke, Albie's owner.

Albie, who is a year old, also didn't to like his crate. But now, he walks right in without hesitation.

Zuehlke says she believes consistency has been the key to correcting his bad behaviors.

“I work with him on everything every day,” Zuehlke said. “It's been a slow process with him because he is a puppy. So we've had to do things a lot with repetition."

“He's very sweet and lovable and loves to cuddle, and I wouldn't trade that for anything, even for all the issues that we did have with him,” Zuehlke said.

Riley used to be over-protective and scary. He would lunge at anyone who tried to get close to his owner, Jordan Pittman.

These days, however, the 3-year-old Lhasapoo seems just fine with letting others get next to her. Riley's bad behavior even caused a riff between Pittman and boyfriends, but now, he is much friendlier.

“He is! He'll go bring a toy to them and he'll want to play after that. So it's improved quite a bit,” Pittman said.

The barking at people coming to the door is still a work in progress, however.

“It's just (that) he listens one minute, and then the next day he's doing something completely different,” Pittman said.

For Pittman, it has been a lot of trial and error to see which training techniques work.

The water-bottle approach, where water is squirted on the dog when he misbehaves, didn't faze Riley after a while. Now, Pittman is trying to be more stern with her voice.

“It's hard to do that with a cute little dog,” she said.

Jenny Marconyak, a trainer with Bark Busters, donated her time and services for the Bad Dog Challenge. She is pleased with how the owners took to training their dogs.

They are “learning how to communicate with them better (and) I couldn't be more proud of them for making that commitment,” she said.

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