Labrador Shepherd mix from GreeceZorba is probably mostly a Labrador-Shepherd mix, three years of age. He was found as a stray in Crete and was brought home by a family who unfortunately couldn’t keep him because he and one of their dogs fought to the extent they had to be kept apart.

Previous to his straying he may well have had a good home. It is hard to see how otherwise he could be so polite and well trained. He will have spent considerable time in quarantine kennels and he has survived all this change very well.

However, what he seemed like initially to me and what his new family of just one month also believed him to be like, hid a different dog. He was very quiet and calm, almost withdrawn, a little aloof perhaps, and there were little signs of anxiety like lip-licking when anyone left the room. They mentioned he would never give them eye contact. The two teenage daughters found they had to work hard to raise any enthusiasm in him for play. For a young dog he seemed to lack joyfulness. It may be he was being reinforced and rewarded for holding back because of all the effort that was being put into him. Each morning they would go to him and pay homage whilst he reclineZorba, unusually, giving eye contactd on the sofa. I suspect he wasn’t used to this sort of treatment.

From the moment I arrived I only gave him attention when I chose to – played hard to get if you like. There was no pressure on him whatsoever to react for me. Soon he was giving me lots of direct eye contact and actively working for me, doing as I ask after just one soft request – doing things they didn’t even know that he understood! I did a mock play bow and he immediately copied me and then rolled over onto his back, playfully. It’s like he came alive. It was wonderful.

Predictably the problems that they are struggling with are the meeting of other dogs on walks. In his previous home Zorba has had to protect himself from the other dog, as a stray he has had to look after himself, and all the noise of other dogs in kennels will not have helped.

With the humans in his life becoming more relevant at home – worth working for and looking to for guidance – and with calm loose lead walking gradually put in place, along with their appropriate reactions when other dogs appear, things should gradually turn around for the delightful Zorba.

He needs PG – my definition of Leadership: Protection and Guidance.

Email received two and a half months later: “We had a lovely holiday, but it really did highlight the areas of our training where we had probably been less focused than we should have. So we all committed to going home and ‘doing it right’. I feel that we had really expected too much too soon and had tried to move on too fast. Since our holiday we have really started again from first principles and I have to say, you’re absolutely right. At last we are seeing consistent improvements. We are still working on a good loose lead walk and it is so much better. We are getting a fabulous amount of eye-contact from him now, something we never had before, and he is almost a different dog. I feel that he is really with me, rather than feeling that I have ceased to exist. He is responsive and gives a lot of eye-contact.At first I found it difficult to see how loose lead walking would help with aggression to other dogs, but although he’s by no means ‘cured’, I’m beginning to get his attention far more when dogs arrive… but as long as they are far enough away, I can now get his attention and he will look at me instead. I suppose over time we will hope to be able to move closer – but I think that’s way off in the future – lots of consolidating to do first.
At home he continues to be a perfect sweetie. But – he’s starting to play – just a little bit, but it’s a start! He has just discovered that a ball can be fun. All this has happening over the last couple of weeks since we’ve been totally concentrated on small steps – coincidence or because he’s relaxing? He really didn’t care less about retrieving  anything a few weeks ago, now he likes it. I don’t think I’m imagining it – he does seem to be a little bit more relaxed around the home. So excellent progress from our point of view and perhaps the main thing is by adjusting our expectations we’ve actually made progress.”
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.