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Maxie's Story                

We sold Maxie in the Summer of 2005 to a lady in Montanna. One of her daughters, Marie, is autistic and the dog's job is to protect Marie and help her relate better to the others in her world. Marie's mom has experience training dogs and likes to journal, so her's her story about Maxie and Marie.

Fifth Email

There is bad news and good news about Maxie. Maxie is 15 months old now and life has been full of twists and turns for our boy! Before last winter he had learned all his good manners and had made it through an itchy summer! During the winter He grew a lovely coat and grew taller and taller. Maxie has grown to 32 inches at the withers and is well over 100 pounds, but is lean and athletic looking. At one year old, Maxie was a kind and gentle dog with a great disposition and he seemed ready to begin his training again. At this point, Max was so intelligent and well behaved, we weren't sure if we wanted to neuter him right away. Well, things changed for Maxie.... dramatically, and this is what happened.

The Bad News:

Maxie has had a 10x10 pen since we brought him home, later being expanded to 12'x20' complete with a large dog house ( which I finally painted). This was Maxie's happy place.... In this place Maxie was King! This Spring the local children began teasing Maxie (according to the neighbors), throwing stones at him and getting him angry. This continued to the beginning of this month, when some children, whom I caught in the act, threw firecrackers at him while he was kenneled.

Maxie turned into a beast. He became aggressive toward people on bicycles, and neighborhood animals. He barked ferociously at trucks because they sometimes transport other dogs.... he wasn't taking chances! Not only did Maxie abruptly drop ALL training, he began to push his new dominance and attempt to drag me each time I walked him in the yard for "potty".

One day he saw a child about 6 yrs old on a bike across the street and decided he would go there and deal with this kid. He began to drag me, And no matter how well my feet were planted he got closer to the ground and tried harder, I had to pick up the newspaper in my yard (thank God it was there!) and whack him on the head to make him close his eyes, and deal with me instead. This is NOT a training technique, this was desperation! The child went on his way without ever knowing he was in danger, but this incident really frightened me. I began keeping Max in the house. He has a room with a window he can stand up and look out of (the mud room). He became so mean, I was afraid he would break the window, so I gated off a section of the kitchen by the backdoor. He barked at every sound he could hear.... Poor Maxie had changed.

Max had been harassed into a monster dog. I began putting him into his kennel for short periods so he could have fresh air, but I put a pad lock on the kennel latch, and laid paving stones around the bottom edge (inside)of his cage to ensure he couldn't dig out... even in front of the door of his enclosure, just to be sure the neighborhood would be safe! Within two days of the bicycle incident, someone shoved IN the dog's kennel door, which twisted the latch backward, and released our Maxie. The door was extremely hard to push in because of the paving stone in the way, and the force it took to shove the door open was so hard, there was no way Max (lacking thumbs) could have pulled the door and broken the latch. Well, our kids found Maxie within the hour, thankfully it was so hot that day the other children were at the pool and Max was happy to come home again! This was the bad news.

The Good News:

Maxie got fixed within a few days of his escape! The day he returned from the vet (a new "man") he had a package in the mail... a brand-new electronic training collar! I decided that I wouldn't give up on my boy! He is WAY too smart and previously too nice to be given up on. I purchased new training equipment for him as well. I gave Maxie two days of recovery, but decided he was ready for training when he got ferocious toward a neighborhood cat.... he still had fresh stitches!

We began his re-training according to proper instructions late Sunday night. It was nice and cool, and dark, so he couldn't see very far, which helped him focus on me. We have been keeping lots of training hours late at night and early in the morning, but training enforcement happens every time he is walked. We went through his basic manners all over again, and with a little nudge here and there from the collar, he got the idea pretty quickly. The idea is to teach the dog what you want him to do, and when you are sure he understands, the collar motivates him to obey the command every time he is asked. Today makes training day 4, and Maxie's aggression has been curbed by re-teaching him his basic manners.

When a bicycle goes by, I put him in sit, and he is not to move until released. He does this. He is not to bark at or to react to any neighborhood cats while on my lead. He does this perfectly! He is never to pull, in fact his head is 6-12 inches from my left thigh at all times, regardless of whether I change direction or stop. He does this. Every time I stop walking he must sit immediately without being told to. He does this. Every time we walk to a curb, he must sit without being told. He does this. When told to stay after a sit command, I can walk around him aimlessly or speaking, whistling, whatever... and he cannot move. He does this, even when people walk by our house. He will hold a stay for more than 2 minutes so far. I can sit on the ground and command him to lay down (this has never been possible because Max was a dominant dog). Maxie will lay down on command without fail. He will have re-mastered his training; that is, he will be able to do all these and a few other commands without a word from me, in the next two weeks.

I mentioned Maxie WAS a dominant dog, he has submitted himself fully now and tries really hard to be a good dog. When he is confused about what to do, he indicates his confusion by getting up circling around and sitting BEHIND me (he taught me this!), waiting for instruction. If you saw Maxie today,you would swear he'd been training all year long! Don't feel sorry for Maxie, his life is saved, and he gets WAY more attention than he has gotten before, and because of his success, he has learned that he can have the type of attention that he loves!

I will continue to train Maxie with the collar, and will have him wear the collar long after he no longer needs stimulation, so that he won't regress when I finally remove it. By the way, Maxie in all his "toughness" responds dramatically on the lowest level of stimulation. I have personally zapped myself with his collar (on my hand) on the next highest level to see if it would hurt Max before I began his training. The zap is the same zap you would feel if you wore wool and rubbed your feet on the carpet a while then touched someone! That is level 3 out of 4 levels of stimulation! Maxie doesn't like level 1!

I shaved him for the summer... don't try this; Max shed his undercoat and ended up pink and polka dot until he grew a new coat! Yes, he needed sun block!

He now looks nice with a short shiny coat and although he looked funny at first, he seems to be cooler than he was before, and he sleeps peacefully on the kitchen floor.

I hope this helps someone who shouldn't give up!

Maxie's kennel has been fixed, and he only spends time out there after training to stretch his legs.... I always supervise his kennel time now. I chain the door and lock it too! He doesn't fetch anymore, but his reward activity is rolling in the grass with tummy rubs for a job well done (which also re-enforces my dominance)! Because of Maxie's success, I have ordered a regulation service dog vest, which he will begin training in next month. He still has the right stuff, we just had to find it again, but it only took 4 days!

Thanks Bob and Sarah for this marvelous creature!

Fourth Email

Hello! I know it's been a while, but I just thought I'd let you know that Maxie is doing beautifully! He has mellowed somewhat, and is HUGE! Maxie is 29.5 inches at the shoulder, and I haven't been able to weigh him, but he's larger than the Akita I once had, and she was 122 lbs.! He is healthy, and finally grew into his first full coat. I bought him a blow dryer, and discovered how Pyrs turn into those enormous puffballs! He's made it though some rough winter spots, and I am totally impressed! I'd built Maxie a dog house (more like a shed) and he actually uses it! He endured temps down to -15 F once when a cold front blew in during the night! He did fine, but the next day he decided to lick the metal on his kennel. He doesn't do that anymore.

I haven't been training with Maxie during the cold weather... for my own sake! I take him walking and running for exercise a couple days each week. We practice his street crossing and his manners. He has become quite good at crossing! Maxie has an impressive memory. Even though we aren't training in new things, I can give him a "cold " command, and he perks right up and does it from memory! He seems to be getting quicker at learning things and his "reasoning" is getting sharper too. He pays attention much better as he mellows. In the spring we will begin again! I can't help but marvel at how beautiful these dogs get! Maxie turns heads everywhere he goes and his behavior is noted too. When he is in the Kennel, he lets no one approach. On the leash, he is very friendly and polite... but when Marie is with us, he comes to attention and stares down potential "near-comers", which discourages people from petting him when he's working! His head is very large and he has that baleful look when he stares at people. I look forward to watching him continue his growth!


Third Email

Dear Bob and Sarah,

Maxie is now 6 months old and I wanted to give you the proud update. I took photos, but since I don’t have a digital camera I have to wait for the pictures to return. Out here, the pictures must be sent away for development (sigh).

Maxie is doing great! His basic training is mastered and he has moved on to new exciting commands. These are added to the basics:

These sound advanced, but they will be quite simple to teach and easy for Maxie to learn. Now that he has mastered basic commands, he uses that information to build from. I take him through previous lessons to warm him up and get him motivated. Then, what ever I need for him to do that is new I walk him through the motions, actually moving his legs or head or whole body to do the command. I do this a couple times and he gets the “feel” of it.

Hiding the children is a fun family exercise. I chop liver into treats, stuff them into baggies and put them into pockets. Maxie gets a sniff before the child is whisked away while he is distracted then we “find”. The first time the child is very close, just behind a tree within a foot of us, as he gets excited about “finding” we extend the game. The kids have fun, and so does Maxie (he likes being a hero!).

I could give instructions or ideas for each command, if anyone would like information on some of the commands, or if there is a task you would like to teach your Pyr, I think I can help with ideas.

Maxie, eye-to-eye with Marie.Maxie has become quite the hero for Marie. He treats her with the same care and gentleness he treats the baby with. He very happy when ever she comes home from school, but is careful not to jump up or even move too fast. If he “looses” it and bounces in her direction he will stop immediately when she tenses up for impact. She continues to attempt escape from home frequently, and Maxie is fulfilling his position splendidly!

Maxie has “rounded” up Marie twice. While taking him to “go potty” (yes he is trained to go on command), Marie decided to sneak out the backdoor in her underwear. Maxie and I both noticed, but Maxie acted first. He pulled me to her on the leash and circled her so the leash had her trapped between us and he began to walk to the front door in this formation. Coincidence? Nope, it goes completely against his grain to walk on my right, but for this purpose he actually made an exception, and he did it again without hesitation on yet another day the same thing happened.

Marie will usually put on her shoes and clothes to prepare to go out on her own. I’ve learned to watch her carefully when she begins to dress up without a reason. Maxie has too. Recently she came into my bedroom with clothes and shoes on. Maxie who was asleep woke and saw her standing at the TV with her shoes on and immediately got up, went to her wagging his tail and gently pulled the shoes off her feet and threw them away from her. He stood between her and the door leaning against her and watching her face. Marie began petting him and forgot about her trip.

Maxie plays with the children.Maxie continues to surprise us with his natural abilities and his uncanny intelligence. He is definitely a problem solver, and enjoys the children. The children are very happy and proud of their huge puppy. Maxie has cleared 26” at the shoulder, and I can’t lift him anymore to weigh him, and the last weight was 65lb a month and 3 inches ago.

Although I believe that Maxie has a natural “alpha dog” attitude toward the kids, we have solved the problem of Maxie’s wish to be “top dog”. I used to have the kids “roll him when he was a puppy, but that only seemed to get his dander up! We tried many things, but the sure-fire way to “de-alpha” is to roll and rub! Yes we went through every trick in the book to settle Maxie down, because he was becoming a bit of a handful for the older children, always challenging, sometimes with very deep, rumbling growls and big woofs while making eye contact with a child. I would always rush in and stop his behavior, but the children had to establish their own position, and they couldn’t seem to nail it down!

My son, 11 years old stumbled onto Maxie’s weakness: tummy rubs. Maxie was just laying there on his back while Phillip rubbed his tummy and talked to him. Maxie, his head upside down, ears flapped out, goofy grin with tongue hanging out was defenseless! So I instructed the kids to roll him often and rub his tummy. Now Maxie is a happy Omega pup!

I believe I mentioned previously that Maxie will fetch. Now that he can fetch, he doesn’t need us to play with him. When the kids are “busy” and Maxie gets bored, he plays fetch with himself! That’s right, he has taught himself to direct his “throwing” in a particular direction, then chases his toy, and brings it back to the “throwing spot”.

Maxie is happy and healthy and soon I’ll have some pictures to add to this page.

Second Email

Bob and Sarah,

I hope you all are doing well!

I am very thankful for the puppy and the advice you gave us! I am so excited about the choice of pup you made for Marie, I thought I would let you know what a wonder he is! That was quite a trip, he managed well! Here's an update on Maximillion... it's only been a month, but he has come very far in such a short time!

I just wanted to share with you what a great surprise Maxie is! He has so much potential his list of training conquests is already growing! Maxie has mastered many commands indoors (they will have to be remastered outdoors), as it is very hot now. We take morning walks and he is very good at walking on the leash properly. I have leash trained him because there are other dogs roaming freely that like to challenge other people and dogs.

He is protective and has begun to protect each member of the family who walks him from dogs, birds and vehicles. Maxie has found his "big dog" bark and it's quite impressive for such a "little guy" (ha ha!) You can almost watch Maxie grow! He is now above my knee at the shoulder, his head is mid-thigh. He is now taking the stairs as he is getting heavier! I can see his proportions already he is absolutely magnificent! His shoulders are high and his chest is already deep, his legs are well set, and of course are still very thick. His scruff is very loose and promises lots of room for neck and head growth. Maxie has a good gait and he loves to bounce and pounce his toys.

I am very impressed with this breed of dog, although Maxie can be stubborn, he will do anything he thinks is his own idea! I have learned that dog psychology doesn't work as well as child psychology does when it comes to this dog! He watches and observes and has learned to behave according to the examples set by the children (sigh)! He began his new life challenging... (was he the alpha pup?) he has been trying to establish himself as my alpha pup from the beginning! He chewed the ankles and nipped the knees, and I have been teaching the children ways to avoid encouraging this behavior... it is difficult, however to explain these ideas while the children are running and squealing! Maxie likes to bark, but I like the way his bark sounds (weird?). He "talks" to me using different sounds that accompany facial expressions that are comical. As long as he talks to me laying on the floor, or sitting calmly, he is fine, but he is not allowed to speak to me (or anyone) standing (semi dominant/aggressive stance). I pointed out to the children that their feet were much longer than his, and that perhaps when Maxie comes to bite them they should step on his toes (wrestling him to the floor only got his dander up!). Maxie has learned that when it comes to feet, his just don't measure up, and he doesn't try to bite anymore (although he does think about it while looking at their feet!).

He is learning Basic Behavior (manners) and he is doing very well! he is also learning to be quiet when asked to "Shhhh". I began by waiting until he was barking then saying "Shhh" quietly so that he has to stop and listen to the sound. He would cock his head to listen. I wasted no time! I would give him praise and puppy love each time he stopped for a moment. I began to increase the time he waited to get his praise. The surprise is, Maxie added a part to this training! Now when he is barking (too much fun happening), I say "Shhh" and he lays down immediately with head between paws and doesn't make a sound or move until I release him - how's that for self training?! I promise you, I did NOTHING to get this response from him! It was his idea, of course!

This morning I thought I would test him on another aspect of his future training. Fetching. Yeah, I know... I read that Great Pyrenees just don't do it! Since we have returned to Montana, my daughter has unlocked the doors and wandered off three times. I wish I could take my time with Maxie, but since he is setting a very vigorous pace with his training, I will begin to teach him search and rescue soon.

I woke up early this morning and decided to test his ability to "bring" something to me, so I took his knotty rope and tossed it saying "go get it" - off he ran to pounce it, and shake it, and make it know who the boss is! I got close and said "bring", backing up slowly. He didn't get it. I tried again, this time I tugged it a bit before backing up (of course he wanted me to play). The third time I took it from him and threw it and stayed back and said "bring it, boy!" and he looked at me with his mouth full and a light came on in there! He bounced over to me shaking his toy the whole way, even tossing it a few times! Within about 15 minutes of repeating this action, he responded on cue every time! The last throw, I threw it out of sight behind the kitchen table (little did I know there were other toys piled up back there), and said "go get it" he ran this way and that and then stood kind of confused because I could tell he was about to forget what he was looking for! Before he could loose interest I crouched down near him while walking him around the table saying "get it, find it, Maxie" when he got to the other side of the table I was certain I had goofed by tossing the rope into a pile of his favorite toys, but he went to the pile and picked up the rope and brought it and dropped it at my feet! I let the training end there on a high note!

I later demonstrated to the kids what Maxie had learned and he not only repeatedly performed the task, he no longer waits for the command to "bring it". He "get's" and brings right away! I reward him with a moment or two of tug-o-war, and lots of praise and "puppy love". So much for limitations! Maxie tested, trained and Mastered a behavior that isn't paramount in his breed, not bad for a 3 month old!

Fetching is just the beginning of search and rescue training, just mastering this behavior means he will be able to "find his girl" someday. I am Blessed to have so many children! I can hide them for Maxie to find! I am teaching Maxie to bark on command so that when he finds someone he will sit or lay down and call me. When I begin his rescue training, I will put liver snaps (I make them from real liver) in a plastic baggie in a child's pocket, have Maxie sniff the pocket and wait while the child hides. I will then make him find those liver snaps! Since the scent is strong, it should be a simple matter. Eventually the liversnaps will disappear form the pockets when he understand this is a finding game .... I notice that Maxie loves to smell things, always "snuffling" items and places. He also has to mouth things when he can't get enough of the smell... he sometimes finds his toys by scent, a specific one each time. I think he will be quite good at this occupation of helping Marie.

I am teaching him to "go home". Many things he is learning he doesn't realize he is being trained on. When we walk, for instance, we follow the trail back the way we came, and I tell him "let's go home" (which started from his potty training) . In some cases, I have told Maxie to "take me home". When training with a harness Maxie can pull very well. I had been teaching Maxie to pull Marie along when she "goes into her world". Marie follows meekly (attached to Maxie's harness by a chain on a special belt), but is obviously somewhere else! A few days ago we were training "brace walking". That is practicing Maxie and Marie linked and walking together. Maxie has learned (on his own) how to avoid getting tangled when Marie changes places or walks ahead. On this day Marie decided she wanted to go someplace we weren't going (ironically to the hospital). She threw a temper tantrum when she couldn't go, and Maxie was directed to lay down immediately. This is supposed to help her calm down and prevent her from hurting Maxie from the yanking on the chain. In her Dramatic display she scuffed her knee and got a rock embedded in it, and it began to bleed which really sent her off! Maxie behaved heroically, sitting still while I got Marie on for a piggy back home. Because my hands were full with Marie and the leash I told Maxie to take us home. He did. He pulled me all the way home, never looking to the right or the left! These are just a few things he must learn he will train constantly for the next 2 years to learn all the things he must do... unless at this rate he runs out of things to learn!

Other things Maxie does on his own is bring his water dish to me when I am washing dishes and he is thirsty. He will "stomp" his paws inside it if I don't notice him right away! Maxie will wake me in the night by putting his muzzle on my arm (or skin) to let me know he must go outside, If I don't get up right away he will whine and trot to the back door and back again. Maxie snores loudly like an old man, sometimes before he has fallen asleep! He sleeps in my bathroom or in the kitchen where the floor is cool, and he does not go into the living room (thick carpet), or children's rooms (lots of choking toys), although he is allowed to lounge on my bedroom floor. He is never allowed on furniture (not with those big feet!), although he can almost look at the plates on the kitchen table!

He does not treat Marie like he treats the other children. He will play with the others, but is very careful with Marie because he seems to know she is different. He likes her a lot, always stealing here clothing and laying on it sometimes playing a quiet game of point and nip.They will sit quietly together sometimes and she will point near his nose and he will nip the air (which sends her into smiling thrills!) this can go on for quite a while, and Maxie stops when Marie is through playing. Marie isn't afraid of Maxie, but respects his teeth! She also likes anything that is thrilling!

And yes, We are purchasing and administering shots... far less expensive! He is getting another round today or tomorrow! I will take him for his rabies next month.

I will update you again at 6 months.

First Email

What an amazing pup! This has to be the smartest pup I have ever worked with! On the trip home I didn't even intend to train him, but he learned many commands just from my "testing" him. I was trying to get a feel for how he learns.. I have discovered, like many men... the activity must be "his "idea! If I tried to show him something the traditional way and he balked, I would change the way I "asked".

Maxie, the Great Pyrenees pup.He learned his name within the first hour of our arrival at the motel. I began by having him go potty before entering the motel...this took about a half hour! Lynn was very helpful by keeping the children busy while I waited for Maxie to do his business. Eventually he did! I gave him lots of encouragement and his behavior was excellent! He went potty outdoors without fail and did very well the entire trip. We decided to bring him home in the main cabin of the van with the children (leashed to the floor). We no longer needed to play country and western music (laughing) but when he became nervous, we would open the window and the noise would quiet him after a couple of minutes and we could close the window again. He was walked at every bathroom stop and watered each stop. He went potty each time, both kinds! He was pottied consistently throughout the trip, and Maxie is now potty trained! Even in the Motel room he would whimper and look uncomfortable when he needed to go, and he went when he asked!

He learned the command for sit during a test. I was trying to figure out how he would best understand sit... so I showed him the normal way, and he got it the first time! Lynn was watching and we were both standing with our mouths open. He was very calm over all. The fact that we only had one room for the night made Maxie get used to us really fast! at first he preferred to be all alone so we respected that, in the morning, Phillip was sleeping on the floor when Maxie made the first move towards friendship with the kids... he laid down with his back pressed against Phillip's back and went to sleep after an early morning potty outdoors.

One funny thing was when we got gas in Alexandria, a dog ran up to us as I gave Maxie some water by the van. The dog was a large hound mix (neutered and seemed only curious) Maxie got between me and the dog and was sniffing at the dog with an aggressive posture. I was thinking, oh no.. my little Maxie is gonna get himself into a fight! I reached out to shoo the dog away, and Maxie began to bark/yelp with all his might! I was astonished! So was the owner who called his dog away... he was laughing at the this big furball! Well, as the dog left Maxie found his "big bark" and began telling the other dog not to come back! Ever since, the pup has been very protective of each of us! I can see this guy becoming quite the hero (which should have been his name)!

Well, that's our going home story... by the way through all the confusion, Maxie seems to have a special attachment to Marie. He treats her like a sibling, but he is now being taught what is ok to chew vs. what is not. We have rounded up lots of good old balls and sturdy stuffed toys that are replacement objects for what he can't chew. When he wants to chew we shake his own toy in his face, and he can't resist chewing the right toy! I am teaching the kids how to teach him not to chew their ankles, which has become his second favorite pastime! I have instructed them not to wear shorts so much until he gets the idea! He is a great addition to our family, and I look forward to training this little genius

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