Kaia is our “West-American Melting Pot”—a term I’ve affectionately adopted to describe her status as a mixed breed dog and SoCal native.
In June 2017, I stumbled across a social media post for Kaia. Her owners at the time were moving out-of-country and for whatever reason(s) couldn’t bring Kaia along. They had no plan for her, except that returning her to a shelter was “not an option,” and they were moving that weekend. So in the most impulsive decision of our combined lives, Brian and I agreed to take her home.
Starting From Scratch
Little is known about Kaia before that day. Either her previous owners were reluctant to share details for whatever reason, or they were genuinely clueless, we’ll never know. And frankly, it shouldn’t matter. From day one, Kaia had a fresh start with us. And we had to learn everything about her from scratch.
Our first lesson came her very first night with us. We were out walking after dark when Kaia tried to jump after a stranger passing us on the sidewalk. We had no idea why she did it, and were caught completely off-guard. Over the next week we slowly discovered that her reactive behaviors were triggered by more than strangers. We realized we had a lot of daunting work ahead of us.
We focused our attention that first week on looking for a local vet. Without a proper medical history for Kaia, we wanted to get a thorough check-up to eliminate any major health concerns. The vet we chose gave Kaia a clean bill of health (a story unto itself), along with a selection of trainers to look up.
Management became our routine while we researched our trainer options. We tried out a few different tools and techniques in the meantime, all of which felt ridiculous and did nothing to help us wrangle her behavior. The days grew weary and stress levels boiled. We felt way in over our heads.
After a consultation and subsequent 5-session package with our initial trainer, we made progress… to a point. Kaia’s heel and indoor obedience improved, but we quickly plateaued back into management everywhere else.
We continued weekly group classes with that initial trainer, but kept looking elsewhere for solutions, feeling that our own knowledge and skills had outgrown where they could help us. And so began our trial-and-error journey toward building a healthy, balanced relationship.