I started writing down some of my favorite training experiences, and thought some folks here would get a kick out of them. This is the first. First up is Otto, a black standard poodle from 2004 in LaPorte (northwest of Ft. Collins). Otto's mom called me out of concern for his hyper-vigilance; she said he was constantly stressed, agitated, constantly on alert, and becoming destructive. Carol and George lived in a palace; they'd built a beautiful house instead of retiring, and Otto was EATING it. The supports for the house were huge, exposed tree trunks that were basically irreplaceable, and Otto had taken to chewing them. I always show up at a new job prepared for the worst. When I'm told a dog is reactive or highly alert, I'm ready for the possibility of getting chewed on a bit. I bring my band-aids and a spare long-sleeved shirt, in case I bleed. But on meeting Otto, I found him to be strikingly normal. -Exceptionally- normal, if there can be such a thing. He was a shelter dog, well-groomed but without the horrible poodle haircut, which told me his parents loved him for his doggy self, rather than as a mobile decoration. He was friendly and polite, just your regular old calm, self-possessed, sweetheart poodle. He'd had some traumatic health problems as a puppy; he'd almost lost an eye to a wire fence, caught giardia which led him to anorexia, and then a bout of bloat as his appetite returned. It was clear that he owed his life to his well-off parents, who provided him with top-notch nutrition and health care. At five years old, he still had a weak tummy, which is normal for a dog lucky enough to survive a bloat incident. But after an hour of chatting with Carol, I saw zero evidence for this "hyper-vigilance" that I was there to address. He greeted me, brought me a toy, we played, and then he went to lay down. Regular poodle. So having gotten his background info, I asked about Carol's main concerns. Otto had dug through a good-sized area of the floor, and destroyed a fair chunk of the load-bearing trunk that met the floor in that spot. It wasn't the loss of the wall or floor that was worrying Carol, it was Otto's well-being. She loved him desperately, and she teared up as she described his stress. She said it was as though someone flipped a "crazy switch" in his head, and he went from calm and normal to obsessively destructive in a blink. As Carol spoke, Otto hopped down from the couch and began to pace in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows. When she began to tear up with concern for her pooch, Otto began to bark. Big, loud barks, that reverberated painfully in the cavernous room. "See?" Carol asked. "There he goes again!" Moments later, we were bodily pulling Otto away from the demolished floor, luckily having caught him before his digging bloodied his paws. We spent about ten minutes calming him down again. Then I began to tell Carol what I'd witnessed. This was a dog who'd had three life-threatening emergency events before he was two years old, and would have a tender tummy for the rest of his life. From one thing to another, Carol had nursed this sweet puppy back to health over and over. In her eyes, he was basically made of glass at this point. She worried about him constantly; if she was away from the house, she wondered if she would come home to a dead dog. And it was hard to blame her. She had pulled him, covered in blood and screaming in pain, off the wire fence. And she'd driven him to the emergency vet again when his stomach twisted and inflated like a balloon, by her own account begging him not to die the whole way. And now something in his mind was driving him to destroy the house she'd worked for her whole life, tearing his paws and mouth to shreds as he did it. She was an absolute wreck over this dog. I told her first that what I saw was hunting behavior. She lived in a rural area in a house made of nesting material. Her palace had mice, definitely under the floor and probably in the walls. I waited while she called an exterminator. (As we learned later, the mice were doing a lot of damage themselves!) That, by itself, took care of Otto's problem. But there was a much bigger problem, and this was all in Carol's head. I told her what I'd seen when I came in: an extremely normal, happy dog. Then I told her what happened when she began to worry about him. He paced, barked, and went for the mice. He clearly adored his mom, and watched her every move. Even when he'd been napping on the couch, his ears moved toward her when she shifted position or laughed. He was keyed into her every activity, every mood, and every emotion. It was simple: she worried, so he worried. When she saw him worrying, she worried more. It was a perpetual cycle of neuroses. Carol began to understand how her feelings were manifesting in Otto's behavior, and developed control over her worrying. Once she became aware of her part in his difficulties, she made a complete turnaround. Over the course of two four-hour appointments, I held her hands a dozen times and had her repeat after me, "There's nothing wrong with Otto. Otto is just fine." We did some breathing exercises to reign in her stress, and I sent her to yoga class. A month later, the mice were under control, Carol's attitude had relaxed, and Otto's crazy switch had disappeared. A year later, Carol was still going to yoga three times a week.