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Peeling the Onion: Find the deeper causes of your pup’s behavior issues

I know, I know. It’s been too long since our last update on Hanani’s progress. We have been busy! Too, every time I gathered my thoughts to sit and write to you something significant changed. Now we are at a point where I can take a breath and explain, with illustrations, how peeling the onion to find the deeper causes of your pup’s behavior issues is essential to well-balanced training–with any dog, yes. But especially in these hard cases (more like hard head cases) like my little beauty, Hanani.

Where We Were

Just to recap briefly, since it’s been so long, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on where we were. As is always the case, there were a few things in our way from achieving our main goal (HRD certification). As of January of this year we had:

  • Ignorance of HRD versus SAR standards got us off track to focus on a CGC (Canine Good Citizen) certification.
  • A 90 pound, high-drive pup that, because of my difficulties (migraines), was way under-socialized. Thus, became fear-reactive and dangerous.
  • Hanani bit someone who merely approached me.
  • No funds to hire a trainer, experienced with these specific issues, to assist.

So, in short, we were out of focus, out of control and broke!

Even though I had a bit more than a basic understanding of Hanani’s issues, what I didn’t realize at the time was how layered that “onion” became. It was not only that she was fear-reactive, but, as her confidence grew and we peeled a couple layers away, it was clear how deep-rooted her early imprinting was.

Recall, I purchased Hanani from Vanguard K9 in Jacksonville, FL when she was 4.5 months young. Ulysee Muff Jr. fames himself as “the world’s greatest puppy imprinter.” No joke, folks. I must say that Muff, indeed, must be what he says he is because throughout our reform school training, even Branden agreed, we were not dealing with just fear-reaction or plain aggression.

Here’s a short video of another young pup’s imprinting session. Watch and listen closely at the pup’s behavior and how it is reinforced.


Hanani, way back then called Armoni, was separated from her litter mates for more intensive training (imprinting) in protection work–much like the pup you see above. Quite obviously, this sticks with a dog! From the time we first brought her home from the airport it was clear she needed lots of socializing. That’s where I dropped the ball, for a few months later I’m flat on my back for several days, at least twice a month with migraines…for almost two years. She’s going to turn 3 at the end of November.

Where We Are Now

In light of all this, I must say that she is doing quite well. With Branden’s expert help, we have been able to weed out each behavior and begin to, essentially, reprogram Hanani’s responses. Especially since our last couple meets with Branden from Offleash K9, I could see a stark difference. My pup stopped merely reacting and began to actually think–even in high stress or triggering situations. Even as she calmed and her confidence grew, I still noticed a huge difference between how she behaves as opposed to just a fear-reactive or aggressive dog. It was literally such a natural response for her to go after, for instance, anyone approaching. She was not simply trying to scare away something (or someone) that made her uncomfortable or fearful. It appeared that, in her mind, she was doing her job.

It was literally such a natural response for Hanani to go after someone approaching; not like a usual fear-reactive or aggressive dog.

Dina_buddy 10.2019

A couple months ago this became crystal clear when, along with Dina’s help, Hanani stopped reacting to various stimuli–such as Dina walking into the house, the mailman walking by, even someone outside the car. I also was able to chat with neighbors over the fence while Hanani would simply lay calmly at my feet. As you can see in the photo, Dina became her buddy!

Now, I cannot say we are fully “there” yet, as she still has her moments I must remind her. However, no matter the progress we were making between sessions with Branden, she still went after him when he walked into our yard. Jamie filmed part of our last session in October. Watching this video  (below) verifies to me what I am trying to detail to you great folks. Bottom line is that I think she thinks that when Branden shows up, it’s game time! Let’s not forget that she is a well-bred, very intelligent, high-drive dog that was fully imprinted as a very young pup.

Peeling the Onion

So, even though we started with a fear-reactor, as we worked to reassure the fear away some aggression became evident. As we pressed forward and we could see something was quite different even in her aggression, video clips I previously watched (like the clip from Vanguard K9 above) came to mind. Peeling away the layers revealed her heavily imprinted, instinctive drive. At her very core, underlying the initial fear and aggression, was a deeply-imprinted reaction to approaching strangers, which was never followed through with the normal course of proper protection training. Essentially, she had a deep-wired “button” with no “off switch.”

Now, think of other scenarios where a pup may be imprinted for protection work. Such as, a man who is a walking trigger comes into the yard after a pup is set in a certain place. And this is repeated over and over. Familiar? Yeah…it was all too familiar for Hanani! No matter how well she was doing in all other areas, this specific scenario was too familiar for her to resist.

This (below) was our last session with Branden in October, who prides himself in being a walking trigger 😉 But keep in mind that Hanani at this point was doing fabulous on walks, in the car and home, with friends and strangers. We were achieving our goal (to get her under control). But in our yard I set her in place, he walks into the yard and…. Well, have a look for yourself.


It’s apparent that she is so compelled to do what she was trained to do from early on within a specific setting. I truly think she was having fun there 🙂

Essentially, she had a deep-wired “button” with no “off switch.”

Notice at the end, once he gets a hold of her leash and puts her in her place, she walks wonderfully with him. Getting down to the core of the onion helped me see that we need to simply program an “off switch” in this precious pup. She never got to that stage of training, after imprinting in protection work so young.

So that, my friends, is what we’ve been working on mostly since. Another funny, but not-so-fun, point in this is the fact that when Jamie walked her near Branden, Hanani didn’t go after him like this. But, even while Jamie held her about twelve feet away, she tried to go after Branden again when he approached me!

All In All

Our primary goal, since regrouping and dumping the CGC idea, has been to get Hanani under control. I can say with confidence, in spite of what you see in the above video, we have achieved that. We are working on some more videos to show how well she is doing, and to help others do the same with their misbehavin’ mutts 😉

We still have a bit to go, but we could not have come even this far if it were not for great folks’ donating and Branden’s super-keen senses and experience! God-willing, a few months more and we can go for our HRD certification! Again, we could *not* have gotten here without our fabulous supporters!

I cannot thank you all enough for helping us get here!