About Me

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My name is Lesli Hyland. In my fifty one years on this earth, my home and my heart have been graced with the company of twenty four dogs. Many came to me as seniors. All of them taught me something and helped determine the course of my life. I became a dog trainer because of them. I met my friends because of them. My husband and I are are forever bonded by our mutual connection to them. Currently, as a Dog Walker I have access to other people's dogs and I am allowed to experience their unique personalities. The dogs make me a better person by forcing me to closely examine my motivation, my actions and my choices. Everything I do affects their behavior, safety and happiness. It is an awesome responsibility. The dogs keep me honest.

Friday, August 31, 2012

From Rags to Riches

BG was born on the streets of Afghanistan.  Mark, a soldier serving there, took a liking to the pup and when she was just shy of 6 mths old, he shipped her to his girlfriend back home in the states. Not long after she arrived, it became apparent that this was no ordinary puppy.  That's when I met Stephanie and BG -short for Baby Girl (men have NO imagination!).

BG was very aggressive toward the resident cat and the senior dog in the house.  Mark's heart was in the right place and Stephanie wanted to do right by this pup, but she was scared for her other pets and pretty stressed out about dealing with this puppy on her own.  I didn't blame her.  This pup was gorgeous - a brindle and white patchwork of colors - but she had an edge to her that sent red flags up in multitudes.   I watched her switch from puppy mouthing to serious biting on a dime.  I watched her stiffen and attempt to bite the old Labrador who was nothing but sweet to her.  I watched her eye the cat like lunch.
"Do you REALLY want to keep this dog?"  I asked Stephanie.
Tentatively, she answered "Yes".  And so began her journey into dog training and the special connection that forms between a challenging dog  and a dedicated owner.

We implemented management strategies at home and began teaching basic skills, including "Leave it" We worked together to decrease BG's reactivity and increase her ability to stay focused on Stephanie.   Because Stephanie really had no consistent way to expose BG to other dogs, we enrolled her in a Basic Manners class.  Having BG in class was difficult.  She would erupt violently at some of the dogs.  We managed the situation pretty well, using distance and visual screening to help BG succeed.  We made progress in inches.  They moved into the Advanced Beginner Class which was  smaller and attended  by dogs and handlers with more experience.  BG was alot better with some dogs, but was still was a loose cannon with others.

Stephanie is a very confident, calm person which helped immensely in bringing BG down when she was hyper aroused, but even Stephanie got frustrated and embarrassed.
"It's only behavior," I told her. "Its not a reflection on you or her".
"Yeah I know, but this is stressful.  This is not fun for me." She replied.
Okay - point taken.

I suggested we try something different and  moved her to a Beginner Freestyle class.  This class was made up primarily of smaller dogs, that BG seemed  to like. Much of the class involved having only one dog on the floor at a time.  This helped alot.  Their progress grew from inches to feet and pretty soon they were working together as a team.

I wish I could say it was all smooth sailing from there on out, but this is not a fairy tale! BG is a work in progress.  She has played successfully with my dog Belle.  She has a couple doggie friends in her neighborhood.  She has learned to co-exist with the cat.  But she still has moments of aggression toward Stephanie's ancient Labrador, Abby.  She still erupts in wild barking and lunging at certain dogs and is unpredictable with certain people.   Stephanie has to be on her toes at all times.

BG has learned how to walk on Stephanie's left and right side, sit, lie down, stand, heel in all directions, march, back up, spin in both directions, jump through a hoop, leap in the air and weave through Stephanie's legs. They have successfully performed a short Freestyle Dance routine at 2 different fund raising events locally.  (Her musical choice of "Under Pressure" by Queen was made tongue in cheek).  Stephanie's ability to laugh at BG has played a big part in their success. She adores her 'problem dog' and accepts her for who she is, while working constantly to broaden her circle of comfort.

Currently Stephanie and BG are working on a dance routine to the song "Thank You for Being a Friend". It is perfect theme song for their a relationship.  They have "traveled down the road and back again" for sure!
Friendship is all about commitment.  Stephanie recently reminded me of my original question to her.
"Do you REALLY want to keep this dog?".
She is so very glad her answer was "Yes".

The following video clip exemplifies perfectly the teamwork and self control that Stephanie and BG have developed.  The smile on both their faces says it all. 
Heel position and back end awareness



  1. Lesli,

    That is such a nice way of capturing BG's story, especially the incremental progress and love I truly feel for this dog. I am so glad I somehow landed on your name and number when looking for help those first few days. The connection has been ideal and BG and I are better for it in so many ways, including the great friends I have met and learned from along the way. :-)


  2. What a wonderful story. Stephanie is one dedicated owner, and so glad BG ended up with her. :-)

    I could not view the video for some reason. It said it was restricted.