A DOG’S STORY
James and Hugo:
It was in early November 2014 when DogTech received a call from Sydney-sider, James Hudson regarding his new canine buddy, Hugo, who had just been adopted from the RSPCA Animal Rescue Shelter at Yagoona. A passionate animal-rights advocate, James was determined to give Hugo (then called Godfrey) a place he could call home. But once Hugo was brought to his new, ‘forever’ home, James thought he had bitten off more than he could chew.
“It’s not just about providing a loving environment for any new dog but also having a life-long commitment to their well-being,” says master trainer, Richard McDonald who worked with James and Hugo. “Though Hugo was an extreme case, the principles are still the same when you’re introducing a new puppy or shelter dog into your home. And no matter the reason for your call, you’re already doing the right thing by wanting to learn how to establish boundaries and discipline; the key to a happy and well-mannered dog.”
Today, the word, “bond” is something James does not lightly toss around. Here is their story ~
DogTech: Why did you single Hugo out?
James: My girlfriend was the one who went back to Hugo’s spot and sat outside his kennel. She knew instantly that Hugo was the one and said so. I could not disagree as he was an amazing dog. So this was the start of our crazy journey!
DogTech: And how did that crazy journey start?
James: From the moment when we tried to get him into the car he just would not get in. And when we did, he just wanted to get out! (laughs).
DogTech: Did you know much about Hugo’s history when you adopted him?
James: His papers said he was found abandoned in the bush by a park ranger. Thankfully, there were no signs of physical abuse nor did he have any medical conditions that were known. The papers also noted that he did not like cats, but he did pass the basic temperament test.
DogTech: How old was Hugo at that time? And did you know much about his pedigree?
James: His age was unknown at the shelter though the vet estimated some ware between six months to one year, but no more than that. Initially, the shelter said Hugo’s breed was a mastiff-cross. A DNA test was done, and the results confirmed that Hugo has about ten different breeds in him the most dominant breeds are Pitbull, bull terrier, mastiff, bulldog and American Staffy.
DogTech: Did you develop an immediate bond with Hugo?
James: My girlfriend did, yes!
For me, I liked him just the same as I did with any other dog or animal at the shelter, for that matter. But it wasn’t a smooth transition at the beginning, and I encountered a lot of frustration as he was very destructive. For instance, Hugo liked to chew anything, and everything and many of my things was ruined. I looked to Google for answers, but nothing helped. It was not until DogTech came to do the in-home training sessions did I see a noticeable change in him. That’s when it hit me emotionally, and I felt this huge bond between us.
It just grew as the days of training went on.
DogTech: Describe some of the bad behaviours.
James: (Laughs) Hugo had everything wrong with him. If you could imagine any destructive behaviour or trait in a dog, that was him!
Hugo ripped apart everything, and I mean everything he could reach. He would run away from you all the time if you went up to him when he was outside. And he would bark nonstop throughout the night, jump up on everyone, nip at everyone and would throw himself at the doors. Hugo’s specialty was stealing food – especially from the table. Even worse, the chase would be on, and he’d run around the house like a freight train with the tasty morsel hanging out of his mouth.
One time, Hugo stole gourmet cheese from the kitchen table. This time, I caught him in the act, so I ran after him. I was so angry and fed-up, I went to tackle him, but the sheer force of us sent us both flying through the colour bond shed door – straight into the shed! I was worse for wear, but Hugo leaped up and bolted off, ready for round two!
DogTech: You did end up a little worse for wear! (laughs) Were there any other issues?
James: That was just the beginning! (Laughs again). Hugo would jump up onto the coffee tables and couches. And if I went to leave the house he would try to get out by jumping up at the doors, full-force! Even worse, he’d jump up at the windows.
Out on the streets, Hugo would literally fly off the leash and would chase everything that moved or made a noise. He also ripped out the flowers in our neighbours’ front lawns. At the park, he would chase joggers and other dogs, then pull them to the ground. Simply, Hugo would try to dominate and antagonise the other dogs until they snapped and had a fight with him.
If it rained, he would go nuts as if the water droplets were acid, and burning his skin. As for fireworks, the sound alone would set him off to a whole new level of disturbing behaviours. With every bang, Hugo would repeatedly throw himself at the colour bond fence and try and run up the walls and trees try to pull up the garage door.
DogTech: Yes – we remember! And describe some of the issues with Hugo’s personal space.
James: He destroyed all of his bedding, toys, bowls, dog leads and kennels. He also destroyed things in the backyard – the plants, flower pots, doormats, push bikes, BBQ, outdoor furniture setting, garden lighting, plastic piping, plastic garbage bins, gardening tools, hoses, clothes from the clothes line, bags of mulch, martial arts equipment and gear. Hugo was a canine terminator!
Inside the house, he destroyed doors and door frames garbage bins, carpets and rugs, timber furniture, bedding, toilet paper rolls, aerosol cans and a lot more! (Laughs) No one can comprehend how feral and crazy Hugo was, and there was no way we would have ever picked up these traits at the shelter!
DogTech: And you nailed the very thing that catches out many new dog owners. Each dog has a unique personality and history. Bonding with a dog at an animal shelter is different from bonding with it at home and this is where the psychology of dogs becomes an integral component in the program. So how was Hugo with other members of your family?
James: In the beginning, Hugo would jump up at everyone (family and guests) and bite them if he wanted to play. The bite was not enough to cause injury, but it was still very aggressive. And due to his size, his weight alone from his jumping was enough to throw anyone into the wall.
Another aspect of his behaviour was that every time we came near him whether he was inside or outside, or even tried to pat him, he took it as a cue to go crazy and this pattern of jump up, nip, and then run away was the only thing that was a constant until he was stopped – which was usually by me!
DogTech: So how did this affect the family unit?
James: For example, Hugo would push people around with his nose, or he would put his paws on you and growl. All this was becoming a huge problem as we could not go outside without worrying about being “attacked.” In the end, it strained the relationship of our family as his behavioural issues cause stress and anxiety, which somehow he sensed and made him even worse.
DogTech: One of the problems many new owners encounter is the dog’s personal territory, especially at meal times. Some shelter dogs had it very tough before they were handed in and each meal was treated as though it was their last. How was Hugo?
James: No one went near him while he ate just in case he bit us like a friend’s dog did to him once.
DogTech: So what motivated you to call DogTech?
James: Hugo was out of control and by then, we were DESPERATE!
Before we got involved with DogTech, I bought a few dog training books and DVDs, to no avail. I also tried searching Google for dog training tips and talked to people at the dog park who had dogs with problems. I tried a lot of different things but nothing seemed to work – in fact, some just made the situation worse.
Then I searched online for a reputable dog training company and found one that seemed to be good according to their website. I was pushing for my girlfriend to contact them so Hugo could start the training. By chance, we also had to go to the vet to remove Hugo’s stitches following his de-sexing operation. We got into a conversation with the vet about Hugo’s behavioural issues, and that was when the vet stopped us in our tracks and recommended DogTech. As this came from a reputable industry source, we didn’t hesitate for a moment and that call changed our lives around.
DogTech: Were you surprised by the techniques we used?
Yes, I was. As Hugo’s issues were extreme, Richard McDonald, who was personally trained by Australia’s original dog whisperer, John Richardson, came to our house to address my concerns.
Of course, I assumed that the dog trainer would be the one instructing Hugo, just as the celebrity trainers did on television. However, it was just the complete opposite. I remember thinking at the time, ‘how is this going to work?’ especially when I had to do all of the work when Richard wasn’t there!
Richard then told me the story about his then unruly dogs who needed instruction, and how he became involved with DogTech. Despite Richard’s reassurances about the fabulous outcome, I still had serious doubts that the program was going to work out as nothing else had worked before. Then I thought to myself, I’m going to give this 100 %, so when it doesn’t work I have something to back myself up when I see Richard again!
DogTech: The million dollar challenge! And?
James: Richard may not remember this but at the end of the first lesson, my girlfriend was the one who paid him – not me. But that changed by the end of the second lesson. I started to understand the process of the methodology. By the third and forth lessons, Hugo’s challenging behaviours were turning around, and the roller coaster ride of ups and downs had started to plateau by half a dozen sessions. I was and remain so grateful for what Richard has done for Hugo and myself.
DogTech: How many sessions with Richard did you have?
James: We had seven lessons, with each one lasting a few hours. I wanted more advanced dog training because I became hooked on the DogTech training methods but Richard said that I had mastered the general techniques. What was now only required was being consistent. And that’s the trick with the long term success.
DogTech: How quickly did you notice the results?
James: In the beginning, there were no results just Hugo being more defiant and throwing more tantrums. I could see the difference in how Hugo was with Richard, so I persistent and continued with the lessons. That’s when the magic happened, and everything fell into place. Hugo’s attitude changed, and he became more calm and obedient. Now he’s an amazing dog.
DogTech: Yes, it’s like going to the gym. Commitment always pays off. Is Hugo an indoor or outdoor dog?
James: Hugo is normally outside until someone arrives home. We still supervise him while he is inside and if the weather is too unruly for him, he is allowed to sleep the night inside.
DogTech: Describe a typical day in the life of Hugo at home with you.
James: In the beginning, the park and walks were put on hold until the in-home training was complete. So as soon as I finished work, I would come home and start the dog training and do nothing but that until it was dinner and bed time.
Since Hugo was such a high energy dog, it took a lot of training hours to drain him totally! Over time, he could be taken to the park and on walks. And if something ever happened I would note it down and talk to Richard about it, regardless of the situation. It didn’t matter if I was unsure; Richard always provided me with sound advice that always seemed to work.
DogTech: You seemed to be intrigued by the process of our techniques.
James: As time went on, I became more and more fascinated on the subject of dog psychology and the DogTech training program. We have met lots of other dogs and their owners on our outings – some good, some bad. I now understand the process and the commitment it takes to reach and maintain the desired results.
DogTech: Does Hugo like to now venture out?
James: Hugo seems to enjoy himself every time we venture out to the park or for a street walk. Before the training, he would run out of the house like it was on fire! Hugo is pretty famous at the local dog parks and the streets of Beverly Hills (laughs) – but for the right reasons!
DogTech: And does he like to socialise with other dogs?
James: He does now. And he always matches the other dog’s or dogs’ level of playful energy.
For instance, if there is a high energy Rottweiler, they will happily romp and smash each other for hours. If there is a low energy Maltese Terrier, Hugo will gently play tug of war with it. If there is a dog there that is aggressive or dominant, he will avoid him unless the other dog tries to dominate him. As an owner, this is where you need to keep an eye on any aggressive dog that may change the course of the moment.
DogTech: It’s a bit like driving. You know that you’re safe but something may come out of left field! So having these preventative skills is a must when you’re out in the community. Can you describe how DogTech helped give Hugo that much-deserved second chance?
James: I’m not an expert in dog psychology, so I don’t know exactly how it happens. The DogTech program just works well with no negative side effects. Every single behaviour issue Hugo had has totally gone and he a totally different dog. Those who knew him from the beginning do not even recognise him – that’s how much he has changed.
Every lesson that Hugo engaged in saw immediate and positive changes. His behaviour, obedience, and his general personality simply changed for the better.
Without the DogTech program, I do not know what I would have done.
DogTech: We applaud you, James. It took an incredible amount of effort and commitment by you as well. A real team effort. Would you recommend our program to anyone else?
James: In a heartbeat!