Achieving Balance and Harmony


Ed McMahon's Aggressive Wheaten Terrier, a Housebound Beagle, and a Territorial Australian Shepherd

Season 4 | Episode 6 | Gus, Abbey, and Vinnie

Legendary Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon rescued a Wheaten Terrier named Gus. He can be sweet and cuddly around Ed's family, but he has become seriously aggressive toward Ed's assistants and guests. Next, meet the Swanson family, who live outside Minneapolis, Minnesota. They adopted a beagle named Abbey who now won't leave the house. Then, in Torrance, California, meet an Australian shepherd named Vinnie who is so territorial of his owners' house that no one has visited in two years.


Blue Aussi

Aussi Vinnie was never socialized as a puppy, so we essentially had to teach the dog how to be a dog! And the best way I know to accomplish that is to bring that dog into a pack of balanced dogs because they can influence a dog in a way that humans can’t.

The dogs from my pack deal with aggressive, insecure, and fearful dogs on a daily basis and have learned not to attack – which would actually be their instinctual response. Instead, because they trust and respect the judgment of their pack leader – me – they don’t follow those instincts. And that allows them to help other dogs. I look at it as a kind of manipulation of Mother Nature, but in a way that is best for all the dogs involved.

Homebound Hound

Some people disagree with one particular rehabilitation technique that I sometimes use: bringing a dog to literally face its fears in order to overcome that fear. Mind you, this is always done in a controlled and supervised manner. Critics have called this “flooding,” but the more accurate term is “exposure,” and it’s actually the most effective method used by human psychologists to help people overcome phobias.

If exposing a dog to what she fears will cause only minimum stress and help her to get over those fears forever, then that, to me, is a smart and logical method to choose. With Abbey, I determined that this was the right method for her, and it worked perfectly. But before I decided on the method, I spent time with her to gain her trust and respect. That allowed me to challenge her in a way the owner would not be able to do alone.

Since dogs can’t tell you their feelings, I believe, as a professional, I must carefully assess the situation and choose the method that is best for that individual dog. I know that there is no “one size fits all” way to rehabilitate, just as there is no “one size fits all” human therapy. My strategies and techniques are based on both my twenty years of experience working with hundreds of dogs, and my instincts.

Tonight Show Dog

When you have a group of people who are all equally responsible for a dog, it’s important to have rules in place. In a household like the MacMahons', where employees work out of their home, it’s the responsibility of the dog’s owners to teach the employees what their rules, boundaries, and limitations are. It’s important that everyone who is interacting with the dog have the correct energy and way of relating with the animal. I would never hire anyone who doesn’t want to follow the rules that benefit my pack. If everyone works together for the good of the pack, you can guarantee a happy and peaceful work environment.

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