Marcy Goldstone

Rescue: Polo od Uhoste

Written by Marcy Goldstone – Vice President of the Czechoslovakian Vlcak Club of America

If you have more questions or are interested in adopting Polo, please email me at ed (at) vlcaks (dot) com.  I will forward your contact to the CSVCA rescue coordinators.

polo1Checking in with an update on Polo od Uhoste, the Czechoslovakian Vlcak who our club rescued from a high kill shelter in Arizona about a month ago. Polo came to us up-to-date on vaccinations, heartworm negative, and on a flea and tick preventative. He was slightly overweight at 73 pounds, and is on a diet. Ideally, he should weigh between 65-70 lbs.

Polo is an 8.5 year old neutered male dog. With previous owners, he is reported to have lived with children, cats and a female German Shepherd Dog and Siberian Husky. He is of medium energy, and appears to be housebroken. He sleeps on a dog bed with blankets at night, and so far has not exhibited any destructive chewing behaviors while at our shelter. He enjoys chewing on kongs stuffed with peanut butter and treats. He does not appear to care too much about balls or toys.

Polo has a temperament typical of Czechoslovakian Vlcaks. He enjoys the company of people tremendously, though can be just a bit aloof with strangers initially. He quickly warms up, however. He is a smart and mischievous dog, always investigating his surroundings and looking for ways in and out of buildings and enclosures. Polo appears to have had some formal obedience training at some point in his life. He knows voice commands for heel, sit, down, come (needs some work on this one), stay, easy (when taking food), wait (if food is dropped in front of him), and over (a jump). He appears to also partially know hand commands for these signals. I have worked with him in a variety of locations with various distractions. He is very food motivated. On leash, Polo is not generally a puller, and very easy to walk. We are currently working on off-leash heeling. I believe Polo is ready to earn his Canine Good Citizen title, and I would be happy to assist his new owner in learning the various test portions with Polo (although I am an AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator, I am not eligible to administer the test to Polo – conflict of interest, since I have been training him) upon his adoption.

Polo was deemed “not adoptable” by the humane society in Arizona where he came from. This particular shelter has an intake of around 120 animals a day, and is not able to accommodate any kind of problem behavior, or rehabilitation thereof, in the animals it adopts out. Luckily, I work at a small shelter, where Polo has been able to receive some rehabilitative behavioral work to become eligible for adoption. Polo came to us with the reported issues of food aggression when around other dogs, and also being reactive towards other dogs in barrier situations (such as behind a fence in a kennel in an animal shelter, while another dog walks by). The latter is a very common behavior for dogs, particularly in a high stress situation such as an animal shelter, or while being restrained on a chain in a yard (terrible idea…).

Several days after Polo’s arrival at our shelter (enough time to settle in), with the assistance and observation of another co-worker in training, I performed a formal behavior evaluation of Polo to try and identify other underlying problems that might be present. This is the same evaluation that we perform on all shelter dogs before adopting them out. It is not a guarantee of how a dog will react under all circumstances, but allows us a glimpse into the dogs reactions to certain pressures and situations in a controlled and safe manner, on a given day. In dogs that remain with us for an extended period, behavior evaluations are performed monthly, to determine if there are changes in the behaviors. These evaluations are useful in extracting and documenting potentially problematic or dangerous behaviors before a dog is released for adoption to the public, and also to determine if shelter life is having a negative effect on the dog (we look for experienced and/or therapeutic foster homes for these dogs). The problem with all, but especially older, shelter dogs is that their past training and socialization experiences – good and bad ones – cannot be accounted for. With Polo, we are somewhat fortunate to know his genetic past, as well as to have had a bit of insight from his first owner of 6 years, as well as the notes from his second owner to the shelter in Arizona.

Polo did very well on his formal evaluation. He did not exhibit any concerning behaviors when his food bowl was prodded with a fake hand, or when I pulled the food dish away from him while he was eating. The same was true when we did the test with a pig ear. He readily allowed us to safely restrain him (vet hug), and examine/handle each of his body parts with no issues. He has been able to safely run and play with several other dogs through a fence (in a play park away from the loud kennel area), as well as next to his outdoor run, and has generally exhibited appropriate initiations and reactions. Polo was tested on-leash around dog-comfortable cats (cats who won’t run from a dog, which can trigger prey drive). He showed little interest in the cat and was easily distracted from them. He has shown some interest in smaller, yappy dogs (toy poodles and chihuahuas), as though he has not been around them much, and was not quite sure what to make of them.

Polo did show some very vocal and visible aggression towards neighboring dogs with his food dish in his first days with us. The biggest contributing factor to this was his desire to free-feed from his food bowl throughout the day, and to guard it throughout the day, from approaching dogs. Our first step in addressing this issue was to get him to consume his food in a short period of time. When Polo left his food dish, we would remove it. He was not offered food again until the next day. We also stirred a little canned food into his primary dry diet (Kirkland Adult) to encourage him to eat. It took only a day of this for Polo to figure out that he needed to consume all of his food at once, rather than throughout the day. Once Polo became focused on eating, rather than other dogs, we fed another dog in the kennel next to him. This advanced to having a dog next to him that was not eating and was simply roaming around, and then to approaching him with another dog on-leash (and through a chain-link fence) and offering both dogs a high-value treat (cheese, hot-dog) when they sat and ignored the bowl of food in very close proximity to one another. We will be giving a prescription plan of behavior modification to Polo’s new owner for his continued training.

polo2Polo also becomes reactive towards dogs in neighboring kennels during “exciting” periods, such as feeding time and when the dogs are being led indoors for the night, when all of the dogs are jumping, running, and barking. He barks and jumps at these dogs through the fence. Polo only exhibits these behaviors while in a kennel himself. On leash, being walked past other barking/jumping/snarling dogs, he is a gentleman. This is a VERY typical behavior that we see in the shelter, which is generally attributed to barrier frustration. While we generally expect this behavior to decline for most dogs once out of the shelter environment, it is worth consideration for potential adopters. We are utilizing some of the behavior modification protocols outlined in the “Meet Your Match: Safer” program developed by the ASPCA, with some modifications made to address Polo’s specific behaviors.

From what we can see, in supervised playgroups with carefully selected other dogs (our shelter volunteers and staff use playgroup socialization techniques taught by respected trainer Aimee Sadler, who used to live in the area), we think that Polo is a “dog selective” dog, when out of the stressful and high energy atmosphere of the shelter. This is something very common to dogs, especially those bred for protection and herding work. He seems to do well with most female dogs (spayed or not) of similar size, who are well-balanced and social in temperament. We have not put him in a situation with a dominant or submissive female yet, though I am inclined to think that he would be fine with a submissive female. He likes the company of some male dogs. He would probably be ok with a submissive, neutered male. In all cases, I would strongly recommend allowing Polo to meet other dogs that he would be living with prior to adoption, coupled with a carefully supervised introduction period, beginning on neutral ground (the same recommendation we make for all of our shelter dogs).

In conclusion the following home situation is what I believe would be ideal for Polo…

I believe Polo would thrive in a stable home environment with one or more adults. Ideally, he will be placed in a family that is familiar with the breed, or minimally, large working breeds. He will benefit from regular human interaction, as well as someone who will set consistent boundaries for him. He would also benefit from someone who will continue with his training, and consult with a trainer to continue modifying his minor problem behaviors once adopted. As with all dogs, only positive training techniques should be used with Polo, with lots of praise and positive reinforcement. Polo could probably be competitive in the sports of obedience, rally obedience and tracking, if the new owner was interested.

Polo, like many Vlcaks, is probably not a good candidate for someone who enjoys visiting dog parks, based on some of his reactive behavior, and also given the breeds dominant behavior. Polo is well-behaved on leash in the presence of other dogs, but the high energy and unpredictable behavior of other dogs in a dog park could potentially present a problem. He would probably do well in a home with no other dogs, or another submissive and/or social dog, preferably a female. Polo is reported to have lived with spayed female dogs before, and also cats. Living with a cat maybe a possibility for Polo (he has not exhibited any negative behaviors around cats), but the potential adopter should think carefully about their abilities to deal with the situation if Polo does not get along with the cat. Polo is also reported to have lived with young children with no problems. That said, our club will not be placing Polo in a home with children, simply in being careful, as we cannot make any guarantees for his suitability in that situation.

Polo would benefit from a fenced in yard, to be able to exercise in. A 6ft privacy fence would suit him best, given his barrier frustration issues, and the breed’s ability to jump and climb. Suitable locks/latches are necessary. Czechoslovakian Vlcaks are very curious and can be escape artists, so supervised outdoor time is recommended. Polo would be an excellent walking/jogging/biking buddy, and being 8.5, probably just an awesome house dog as well. He is in very good shape for being 8.5. Before knowing his actual age, the shelter staff in Arizona estimated him at 2 years! Vlcaks are known to live well into their teens, Polo still has lots to offer. Polo makes me look forward to the day when my own dogs have a “normal” energy level!

There is the expectation of the club that Polo will be licensed, vaccinated and never allowed to become a nuisance or dangerous dog by his new owner. The new owner should do research beforehand to make sure that there will be no legal issues regarding the ownership of Polo in their city/town/county/state, prior to applying for ownership.

Polo is generally a nice example of temperament for the breed, and I believe that he will bring his new owner a lot of joy. Since Polo has already done a lot of moving around in his life, we sincerely hope that his new owner will do everything possible to ensure that their home is Polo’s forever, loving and safe home.