Mango is an 11 pound mixed breed dog that was given to me by my four siblings as a going away gift when I was leaving the Island. She fit in the palm of my hand when I got her, and I was so overwhelmed with how I was supposed to take care of something so small and precious.
I was very depressed when I moved as I had no job and no friends and family so I was with Mango day and night for the first 8 months I had her. I spent most of the days using her to make myself feel better and without realizing it, I was showing great weakness, which I found out later was not what a pack leader is made of. Mango wouldn’t listen to me when I called her over, so I tricked her with treats and when she got to me I would scoop her up. Understanding now that I was giving her a negative consequence for coming to me. It took me over a year to house train her. This did not help with my depression, I felt like such a failure. I couldn’t understand what was happening, how could she not listen to me? I was giving her everything she wanted, or should I say what I thought she wanted. Clearly, this was said with very little understanding what my dog actually wanted. All she wanted was to be a dog and I wasn’t giving her that chance.
I lived this way with my dog for 8 years until I saw an episode of The Dog Whisperer that made me realize what I had done to my dog with all my “loving”. I understood immediately that I had shown such weakness right from the start that my dog had no choice but to take over the household. Mango didn’t want to rule, but I left her with no choice cause in the dog world someone has to be pack leader and if the humans are not being it, the dog has no choice but to take this task on.
Now I knew I had screwed up, but this didn’t help me to know how change. Wow what a mess I had made, and yet there stood my little dog looking at me for guidance even after all I had done to her. I realized Mango had never been happy since she had been put into my care. Mango had never been socialized with other dogs, just kids and me, the disobedient follower! Mango would act up every time we took her anywhere, and was the worst around other dogs
At this point we made our way back to the Island to live and since it was a fresh start I decided to clean the slate with myself and Mango too. I was so heart broken when I had realized what I had done to Mango, and so I purchased every book I could find; watched every dog show I could find on TV and took in everything I saw, heard and read. Now I had all this information and was even more overwhelmed. Where do I start? What happens if I mess it up? Will my dog ever be happy? So began our journey to “teaching an old dog new tricks”.
Turns out I am that “old dog” not Mango. I think the human is the “old dog” that can’t learn new tricks. Mango was more than ready, and tried so hard to make me understand what she needed. I knew I had all the information, but didn’t know how to use it differently than I had before.
After a year or so of attempting to change myself into a pack leader, along came Rebecca Preston. Rebecca and I worked at the same place for about a year, during this time we discussed dog training and rehabilitation all the time. Rebecca helped me to understand that patience is the number one key to training or rehabilitating your dog. She also helped me understand and organize all the information in my head so it made sense. She encouraged me and praised me all the time. I then recognized that what Rebecca was doing to build my self-esteem with training my dog was exactly the tools I needed to use with Mango. As I applied my new found confidence into my dog training Mango was behaving differently little by little. I was practicing the opening the door and me going out the door first. It was such a struggle and it got very frustrating. One day I was so tired and was taking Mango outside at about 4am. I didn’t want to do the door thing so I just walked out the door and suddenly I felt tension on the leash behind me. I looked back and there sat Mango behind the door threshold looking up at me, waiting for me to tell her it was okay to come out. I was so excited I was jumping up and down and couldn’t sleep for an hour just praising her over and over again. At that moment I realized that the patience is so important as well as the consistency. The other key moment for me was when we went for a walk around the block, like we have many times before. I started some jogging, running and walking, just to mix it up for Mango. We were running down a hill and as we hit the corner to head back towards the house, there were two very large dogs. One dog never lifted its nose off the ground as the other one got its hackles up and was barking very loudly. I immediately noticed that the barking dog was walking backwards as this was happening, so he was not aggressive, we probably just scared him. I looked down at Mango and noticed she was doing her panic spin. I quickly tugged the leash to get her to stop and she looked up at me. I looked straight ahead and started walking slowly away with my shoulders back and my head held high. My heart was racing so fast, because the old me would have picked Mango up and ran like the wind. I understood this was not a good idea as it would have caused a serious fight. We finished our few steps back to our house, never looking back. We got in the door and I started jumping up and down, again, chanting, “I’m a pack leader, I’m a pack leader”, Mango also was dancing around and had a big smile on her face. I knew that things were changing for the better, and that Rebecca was huge at making that happen. I know if Mango could talk, she would thank Rebecca so much for helping her “mommy” become a pack leader.
Now we train very differently using all the new tools and have signed up for Rebecca’s beginner classes. Even though Mango is over 10 years old now, she can learn new things all the time, and with her inspiring me, I realize I can too. I truly believe, as Cesar Milan says, “you don’t get the dog you want, you get the dog you need”. I thank Mango every day for coming into my life and teaching me such valuable life lessons. Thank you, Mango, for being such a great teacher!
Proud to be Mango’s Mom!!!
I love you dear friend.... you may be gone but your enthusiasm and love of dogs will be reflected in my training forever. Thank for making me a better person. I miss you with all of my heart.
Rest in Peace Mango and Steff
- Rebecca Preston
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