Client Cases

Mary the Squirrel Chaser – Channelling a Strong Predatory Instinct

Meet Mary, a mixed-breed beauty transferred to Toronto from a shelter in Texas. Mary recently celebrated her fourth birthday, and I am certain that she and her mom are also celebrating their healed relationship. Indeed, the last year was challenging, with Mary giving my client a run for her money.

Although she is a little skittish at times, Mary has a lovely temperament – happy, outgoing, smart, social — the whole package. Despite a tough start in Texas, the challenge of traveling to Canada, time in a foster home, and then activity restrictions as she recovered from heartworm, Mary was a sweetheart. Having dealt with challenging dogs her whole life, my client saw Mary as comparatively “easy,” and so, without consciously deciding, moved too quickly through the stages of the Way of Life Method. She integrated Mary too quickly at home and gave her more off-leash freedom outside than appropriate. My client was also quite affectionate with her dog and allowed herself to like the dog a little too much, a little too soon, which I recognize can be hard to avoid with such an endearing personality.

However, Mary was still immature and her relationship with my client was still fragile. About a year after adopting her, my client shared with me that Mary was incessantly taking off after squirrels and not always coming back when called. Not only that, my client had been struggling with physical limitations, making it painful for her to hold on to Mary’s leash or run after her when Mary would tear off after a critter.

Although my client was already well versed in the Way of Life Method, she reached out to me for help. Things had gotten so bad, with Mary ripping the leash away to chase a few times a day, that my client began to suffer from mini-whiplash symptoms. She was researching all she could about predation behavior, looking at using a no-pull harness, and even considering rehoming Mary.

Since the situation was dire, we went immediately to work on the four pillars of the Way of Life Method, including handler attitude and mindset, managing space and boundaries, drive development, and socialization. Because she does not want to part with Mary and knows she can find real help in the Way of Life Method, my client has dedicated herself to the program.

Highlights of Mary’s recovery include channeling her prey drive using daily games of tug and ball, gradual socialization with canine playmates to satisfy her appetite for dog-on-dog interactions, and walking in more urban environments offering Mary a different variety of distractions to deal with. Also, my client is working on maintaining the healthy emotional distance and objectivity needed to help Mary seek her approval – approval she’d been given a little too quickly.

Today, my client can take Mary out to places with a reasonable number of squirrels around. Mary perks up and sometimes attempts to stalk them, but she is now responsive, clearheaded, and able to regulate her instincts because her prey drive is being nurtured instead of frustrated and her bond with her mom has been strengthened. This is what happens when we focus less on problem-solving and more on rearing sound, strong, and spirited dogs.

Client Testimonial

I highly recommend Way of Life™ Dog Training for anyone seeking help with their dog’s problem behaviours. Skilled and passionate about the human-canine dynamic, trainer Souha Ezzedeen guides you on a journey of revelation and resolution as you and your dog make lasting changes that will deepen and enrich your relationship. Souha’s Way of Life™ is a transformative experience.

~ Cathy C., Toronto, ON, Canada

Newt the Northern Breed:From High-Strung and Wary to Calm and Confident

When I was seeking help with my native gardens, I called on Sustainable Roots Ecological Restoration Inc. and had the pleasure of meeting the co-owners, Andy and Reid. Andy came for a visit, and our conversation turned to dogs and my training business. He then shared the struggles that he and his wife, Reid, were facing with their northern-breed dog, Newt. He also mentioned their limited success using conventional training methods. It became clear that we were meant to work together and agreed to barter gardening services for training services.

Newt had come to my clients as a puppy from a northern reservation, and she was about a year and a half old when we met. She presented with numerous issues, including resource guarding and barking at guests in the house, strangers on the street, and often at nothing at all. Having people and their dogs over was nearly impossible. Newt could never quite relax and often acted territorial around visiting dogs, especially Penny, a family member’s Boston terrier.

My clients hired a professional trainer and were able to make some progress. However, the approach was primarily focused on obedience training and enforcement using a prong collar, and Newt continued to be a challenge. Their efforts to tire her out by any means necessary – at the dog park, at dog daycare, or with long walks and hikes – did not help. To the contrary, Newt was so high-strung and wary of visitors that the couple wondered if they would ever be able to return to their pre-pandemic socializing and grow their family one day.

When we began working together, we first held an in-depth conversation about behavioural issues and the differences between the mainstream way of doing things and the Way of Life Method. We also introduced critical way-of-life changes, which coincided with their move from the city to a quieter country location. The fact that our work began right as my clients were moving into a new home meant that we had a unique opportunity to get off to the right start in their new residence. The changes we made included challenging the dog with appropriate physical exertion and exercises to channel her drive and energy. Our clients also took charge of her life with greater structure and predictability.

Despite Newt’s bumpy start, now that enough time has passed for their new way of life to take hold we have much progress to celebrate. Newt is significantly calmer, happier, and more authentic in her personality. She often joins Andy and Reid at work. Newt rides in the truck as they travel from site to site and can increasingly hang out with them and their employees as they work. Penny can visit and socialize at a distance from Newt, and the two girls are now taking walks together.

We are so grateful to have met Reid, Andy, and their beautiful girl, Newt. I love how well our barter arrangement of dog training for gardening has worked out. In Reid’s words, “we have found our trainer, and she has found her gardeners. Isn’t the universe kind of funny like that?”

Client Testimonial

Souha has a book out – The Way of Life Method – that I would recommend to anyone with a dog, whether you experience behavioral issues or not. There is so much knowledge to be gleaned from her work, and I think that everyone with a canine companion would agree how important it is to tend to that bond. So now, we have found our trainer, and she has found her gardeners. Isn’t the universe kind of funny like that? Our work with Newt is far from over. But the relief that we feel knowing that we can have a normal life without the heartbreak, guilt, and shame of walking away from our dog – a thought that was in no way taken lightly – is such a gift. Thank you, Souha!

~ Andy & Reid, Whitevale, ON

Nimbus the German Shepherd: Anxiety – Aggression – Leash Pulling

Several years ago, I was introduced to Nimbus’s owner, an ambitious young man who was going to school and working full-time while still dedicating himself to raising his young pup, a German shepherd. We worked together for a while but then lost touch. I was glad to hear back from him but was dismayed that Nimbus wasn’t doing well. 

Turns out Nimbus’s owner had met someone special. They were in love, had moved in together, and now did not see eye to eye on how Nimbus should be dealt with. Finally my client’s partner contacted me, hoping we could pick up where we’d left off all these years ago.

Indeed, Nimbus had become anxious, stressed, and quick to react to people and animals. He was also potentially dangerous around people; one could not walk by too close without him wanting to grab someone’s arm. At home, he paced restlessly, whined, and barked at neighbors. He was hard to handle, impossible to settle, and howled and hollered as if he were being tortured anytime anything would be asked of him. I had never encountered anxiety of this scale. More than once, it was suggested that Nimbus ought to be medicated and I couldn’t help but wonder if that was the only way. 

By the time my clients had contacted me, they were prepared to make changes, as their quality of life was at an all-time low. We worked on bringing their mindsets into alignment and taking charge of the dog’s life, whether inside or outside the home. Therefore, we crated Nimbus, established a schedule for him, and began seriously challenging him in his outings. Even in their small apartment, when he was out of the crate, he was still blocked off from certain spaces.

We revved up a weak food drive and strengthened his prey drive, tugging and playing ball with him. We discovered that Nimbus was one of those dogs that would want to take his ball with him to heaven. It soothed him to have a ball, and we let him carry it around inside as well as on his walks, which helped tremendously with his reactivity.

As a coach, it was a real thrill for me to see not only Nimbus change but his people change as well. While becoming more and more consistent in handling, they each developed their unique style and cultivated their own bond with the dog. Nimbus doesn’t have just one person he looks up to but two.

One of the first signs of improvement was how deeply Nimbus slept, inside or outside the crate, as his anxiety receded. I kept getting videos of Nimbus snoring, sleeping soundly, on his back, sometimes his tongue sticking out in relaxation. He got better all the time at being calm inside and outside the house, ignoring the neighbors, ignoring strangers, dealing better with other dogs. He started to become silly and spirited and, at the same time, more mature and respectful of boundaries. It’s been a thrill getting videos of him walking loosely in a busy neighborhood and being described by his owners as pleasant and chill.

It took two years, but Nimbus was successfully decompressed, and he and his owners have solid relationship foundations. Because Nimbus is sounder and stronger than ever before, he responds well when asked to do things, such as leaving something alone that would previously have made him reactive.

Among other successes, my clients have been able to take Nimbus camping and hiking with my girls. We must trust that all that good work will pan out, and indeed it did with this German shepherd and his family.

Client Testimonial

I used to think that to have a good pet dog means a dog that is obedient and will be there for the owners, and that to fulfill a dog’s needs is to make sure that the basics are done plus exercising the dog by letting him/her run around. Oh boy was I wrong. Souha taught and reminded us how to let a dog be a dog first, before he or she can be a companion. I used to push my own expectations of our dog onto him, unknowingly contributing to his extreme anxiety about environmental changes.

Through Souha’s dedicated mentorship, she has guided me and my partner to repair our bond with our dog, help him build his confidence, find calmness during changes, and he is showing us the wonderful goofy German Shepherd that we knew he was inside all along.

~ Tatianna W., Toronto, ON

Stella the Mastiff Mix Rescue – A Powerhouse of a Dog

Introducing Stella the Mastiff. Stella’s folks, a young couple with their heart in the right place but little experience with dogs, came to WOLDT alarmed at the growing challenges they were experiencing managing their big girl.

At a little under a year old and 110 lbs. and counting, Stella was terribly hard to handle. She’d bite the leash and drag her people out the apartment, through the corridors of their condo building, into busy elevators, and out into the crowded streets of downtown Toronto. 

Some people nearby made things even more challenging for my clients. Drawn to Stella’s size and sweetness, they added fuel to the fire by constantly wanting to “say hi,” often without checking with her humans and causing Stella to pull towards them. My clients were also under the impression that this kind of “socialization” was a good thing, because they’d read so much on the internet about the importance of socializing dogs, particularly rescues like Stella. 

Things took a worrisome turn when Stella started to mouth and grab their arms, and they began to wonder whether this meant they had an aggressive dog on their hands.

So we went to work at the practical level – structuring Stella’s daily life, governing her social interactions, and handling her size kindly, safely, and effectively. As an FYI, this did not involve the use of tools such as choke chains, prong collars, e-collars, or head halters. Rather, it involved coaching my clients on handling with power and poise, in a way that helped the dog settle and care to stick around. Power rather than force.

We also went to work at the conceptual level, working towards a better understanding of the differences between healthy socialization and the unfettered greeting and touching of dogs that people these days call socialization. It meant appreciating that successful socialization requires that our dogs trust us first. 

It wasn’t long before Stella responded positively to the change in handling and attitude. I knew the moment I met her how stable and sweet she was, only she wasn’t sure she could let herself be that way whereas now she can. 

Not long ago, my clients had the opportunity to move out of the city and while out on a walk one day, they received a fantastic compliment from a stranger. The woman said she could see how “good-natured and bonded” Stella was and that it was “nice to see someone who is well suited to having a dog have one.” 

Now that is a compliment!

Client Testimonial

We approached Souha when we were feeling overwhelmed and out of our depth with our very sweet, but ungovernable, mastiff mix rescue. Souha’s advice was immediately helpful and gave us the knowledge and tools to stop fretting and struggling. Our dog became calmer and better integrated into our lives over a short span of time as we worked with Souha. As Souha will tell you, her approach is not predicated on dog tricks, but predicated on building a deeper bond with your animal through practical routine and lifestyle changes. The behaviour aspect falls into place.

Souha was incredibly generous with her time and knowledge, and always reachable. She encouraged regular updates on our progress. There was never a doubt in our minds that Souha cared as much about our dog’s welfare and happiness as we did. I have little doubt that working with Souha and implementing her advice will show exponential improvements in behaviour and relationship with your dog. We plan on returning to Souha to continue to work our way up through the different stages of socialization and integration with our dog. We would highly recommend her services.

~ Alexandra K. & Andrew K., Toronto, ON

Chelsea the German Shepherd Puppy – Going Back to Foundations After a Rocky Start

Is it possible for puppies to exhibit behavioral issues? Sadly, it is. Our client Chelsea the German shepherd was less than three months old when her owners contacted us about her behavior. Yes, they were dealing with typical puppy issues such as grabbing, chewing, getting into things, and difficulties with house-training. 

However, it was Chelsea’s dismal lack of confidence, extreme timidity, sound reactivity, and extreme stranger danger that they were rightfully worried about. Even in their quiet suburban neighborhood, Chelsea could not be outside without fiercely reacting to sounds. She also scarfed down her food so quickly that she often regurgitated it.

We began deconstructing Chelsea’s way of life, going over everything her owners did the moment they walked away with her from the breeder’s property. Theirs is a common story: a young and serious couple are set on a particular breed, do their homework, locate a reputable breeder, and come home with their new friend. Understandably thrilled with their new addition, they were hardly contained their excitement, doted on the pup, and did more with her than what was appropriate at this stage. This, combined with the sensitive genetics of her pedigree, was enough to send Chelsea over the top.

My clients were relieved to know they could go back to basics to fix things and quickly adjusted their mindsets. They were reminded of the nature of puppies who are young, vulnerable, and ignorant. They understood that Chelsea wasn’t to be disciplined, only managed, redirected, and praised. They realized that manners are not the first thing we work on; rather, they are the result of a healthy way of life. The owners fundamentally got the importance of managing the environment as opposed to trying to control the puppy, who has no self-control. 

Working together, we modified the manner of crating, set a schedule, and gave Chelsea time in the yard by herself. My clients quickly noticed that Chelsea became less interested in what was happening in the neighborhood than in what her owners, who were inside, were up to. That’s exactly the idea behind “solo time.”

Chelsea’s schedule also comprised outings for play, exercise, and socialization with the family. My clients learned to remain neutral any time Chelsea would nip at them while praising her for working for food and biting on tugs. They also set up a crate in their SUV and began taking Chelsea on car rides each time they went to run errands. She barked at things profusely at first, was ignored, and eventually came around to ignoring things in the car. With time, they began hanging out and working with Chelsea in their front yard, witnessing all sorts of things from a safe distance. 

By being both challenged and tightly managed, Chelsea began showing improvements. She is now a secure teen showing the very soundness, strength, and spiritedness we want to cultivate in our dogs. Her body has grown beautifully and the ease in her psychology shows in the fluidity of her movements. While she continues to be a sensitive dog, she now has the wits to think before she reacts.

In the last session of our course together, after a barky introduction, Chelsea was able to join my girls Bruna and Nejra on a hike. My girls did a fine job of ignoring her, knowing she had to work past her insecurities. I said to the clients that this wasn’t just Nejra and Bruna making it happen; this was all the work my clients had done understanding and managing Chelsea which made this possible. 

My clients were given the gift of knowing how to design a way of life that makes sense for where they and their dog were at in the process. They got the essence of this approach, which is simply about strengthening dogs by exposing them to things gradually.

Client Testimonial

Chelsea is our first dog ever and not everything started in the way we wanted. So, we desperately went into contact with dog trainers. Among all conversations we had, the one with Souha was the most meaningful and helpful, and we felt that we have already learned a lot from that ten-minute phone call. With her expertise in getting along with Shepherds, we did not hesitate to proceed with the training with her.

Along the journey with Souha, both Chelsea and I have grown so much. Dog training isn’t about the trainer training the dog nor the trainer mandating the owner how to do everything. Souha has shown us that to develop a healthy relationship eventually or to maintain a good status, we need to study the logic of training and reflect on the situation in daily life. What’s more important is consistency in training. We lost count of how many times Souha has used the word “consistency” in chat and in sessions.

We have accomplished so much under the guidance of Souha, and we are so proud of Chelsea and ourselves.

~ Bruce J., Markham, ON