December’s Student of the Month: Pippin!

Each month, we are featuring one of our member dogs. Thanks to our amazing interns for putting together this project! Interview by Tiffany Wu; photos by Ingrid Komisar.

What made you decide to adopt rather than go to a store or a breeder?

All my dogs growing up were from animal shelters, and I always felt adopting from a shelter was the right thing to do.

Were there any obstacles in getting a rescue?

Some rescues have very over-the-top and difficult adoption procedures, and because I was still a student at the time, many shelters weren’t interested in having me adopt.

What was Pippin like when you first got him?

Pippin was only 4 months old when I got him, so he had a lot of puppy energy, ripping apart everything, attacking my hands and humping everything. He also had a difficult time potty training and refused to go outside for the first week.

Pippin can sometimes be what we call “reactive” with other dogs. Do you feel that people make assumptions about him because of this?

People often mistake his fear-based behavior for outright aggressive behavior. Pippin is a very sweet and loving boy but unfortunately, he has a lot of anxiety. We are treating pharmaceutically and through training. I wish people would understand the struggle he is going through instead of treating him like he is a mean dog.

Do you think your thoughts on the meaning of “dog training” has changed since you brought Pippin into your life?

Yes. When I think about training now, I think about it as a constant thing. It’s something that needs to be kept up all the time. With Pippin, since he can be reactive, he needs constant brush ups and I have to be on top of always reinforcing good behaviors. I also see dog training as having to do with me helping to manage his anxiety.  I’ve learned how to identify Pippin’s specific body language to guess what his next impulse might be and to get a scope on his comfort in any given situation. I also have learned how to tell when Pippin is tired out mentally, which means it’s time for us to call it a day.

What is your favorite thing about School for the Dogs?

I love that everyone there knows me, and they truly care about Pippin and his well being. Pippin loves it there and it is great that he has friends to play with in a safe environment, with knowledgeable people there to supervise. The trainers have also helped me think about treating the causes of his problems, like not being able to relax and settle, instead of just the symptoms. That has become enormously helpful.