Success Stories »Riley

  • Mt. Airy's Polar Knight
    aka Riley
    sire: Mason-Dixon Simple Man (Artie) | dam: Catoctin’s Shining Star (Shy)
    b. January 9, 2004

Riley is a very intelligent, active, young male Shiloh who has now found his forever home. Since his 10-week birthday, he lived with his original owners, and an older female shepherd mix, Maya. Riley was happy to submit to Maya’s leadership, and his behavior and temperament were well under her control. His owners spent time in training including obedience and agility; he excelled at both.

When Riley was about a year old, they began to see some dominant behaviors. They responded with positive reinforcement. When meeting new people, he was rewarded with treats. When he was excited or anxious, he was soothed and comforted. The behaviors continued and were complicated by the unfortunate passing of Maya. Riley’s agitated behavior escalated: he barked uncontrollably at strangers at the door and lunged at visitors on the property. Interventions the owners tried were positive reinforcement and correcting Riley verbally and physically with an alpha roll. The situation did not improve. On one occasion, he lunged at a female visitor, and on another he bit a workman in the house. At that point, Riley was returned to me.

Since his return, he exhibited none of his troublesome behaviors. He was comfortable with my pack. He was entirely submissive and appropriate with me. He respected the rest of my human and canine family as well. He was completely submissive to all our dogs, including Frances, my 1.5 year old female. He accepted visitors to our home, walks well on lead, shared food, and generally got along very well.

My guess is that his owners misread his signals. In their use of positive reinforcement, they inadvertently reinforced dominant, excited behavior. Once his “alpha”, Maya, was gone, he had no model for behavior, and took on the leadership role himself. I believe he regarded his “mom’s” emotional responses to his outbursts as weakness and responded by protecting her. Though they are heartbroken, his original owners recognize that they are simply not the right family for this particular dog.

But there is Great news! Riley went to his new home on Saturday. Alisa flew in from Seattle to meet him, and took him home with her to his new family: Alisa and Eli and their shepherd mix Shiba and the cat Cookie. Riley is swimming in the Pacific, romping with Shiba, and learning to live with Cookie.

Here is an exerpt from her letter:

"Mt. Airy's Polar Knight is a very happy boy, despite the fact that he is now living in a Shiba-tatorship; she has certainly established herself as the Alpha dog, so Riley now has another doggy leader, although at times she can be a bit… oppressive. We've been to the dog park twice already, and Riley got to swim in the Ocean! He loved it! He has been described by other dog owners at the park as "magnificent", and "amazingly well adjusted", not to mention "sweet" and "beautiful". It's quite the scene when we hit the park with what appear to be one fox and one wolf on leashes.

Riley has been very playful, and his Squid obsession has only grown. He and Shiba like to run in circles around the yard together every morning before they pee simultaneously and then compete for the tennis ball. Riley seems to have been making offerings to Cookie, our cat; he brings in his squid, a teddy bear, a bone, and sets them near the kitty and then backs his way out of the room. They have had a few verbal fights (hisss…bark bark bark bark…hisss), which always end in Riley running away.

Thank you for trusting us with your baby boy. We are working on expending his aggression energies through nightly controlled games of tug of war (Jack Volhard's recommendation) with Eli, and his prey energies through extensive games of fetch. We also put him into a thirty minute sit and down every night to establish who is boss."

I am so relieved to have Riley in a home where he is safe and happy. Please let folks know he has a home and that they found him through the club's page. I can't thank you enough for the work you do. It made the difference for Riley. The web site is a wonderful resource for pet owners, breeders, dogs...everyone. The considerable time you all put in is so important, and i deeply appreciate it.

~Nancy Dietz, Mt Airy Shepherds