Happy Days and Happy Families


Mia is a 2 year old high energy girl who epitomizes the need to research the breed before getting a dog and even more so the need to take your dog for training.

Mia’s previous owner contacted us to ask whether we would be able to help as she took Mia in from another family where she felt that she was not being treated well due to the young child in the family dragging her around on her leash and Mia fighting with the family dog. With the best intentions in the world they took Mia in to give her a better home but unfortunately found that they could not give her what she needed and felt that Mia was aggressive. She was even told to have Mia put down.

Our first port of call was with Lesley de Klerk to have Mia assessed so that we could see if she was indeed aggressive and to make sure that we find the right home for her. Mia went to Lesley’s dog school on a Saturday morning and was put through her paces with a variety of people and interacting with dogs. She showed no aggression towards any of the dogs, although she was unsure of herself arriving at the school. Within ten minutes of working with Mia, Lesley could see the potential in this girl and understood that she was more frustrated by not being given leadership than her being aggressive. Mia was also worked by a 9 year old girl at the school and was very responsive so we also felt that she had no aggression toward children. Lesley’s opinion was that Mia has tremendous potential to even be an assistance dog.

We started looking for the perfect home for Mia, one where we knew she would be given the training and structure she needed. Mia has a working brain and became “destructive” (chewing hose pipes, digging and stealing food off the counters) because she had nothing else to do.

Candice Steyn stood out on the list as she is a behaviorist and having a border collie x Lab and a German Shepherd puppy who is in training.

It did not take much to convince Candice that Mia needed her. She understood that it would take a bit of time for Mia to settle in a new home and she also knew the whole background of Mia’s situation.

 Update on Mia from Candice:

The first day I met Mia I could see she is reserved when it comes to meeting new people, people she doesn't know. I took her home and new it would take some time for her to settle so I let her be. She was not aggressive at all towards my boys, just weary. She lacked exercise and mental stimulation. That night she was a bit more comfortable with us all but didn't sleep very well. Almost as though with "one eye open".

The next day she was doing better. I attempted to see how much she knew about toys and she didn't show much interest or didn't really know what to do. She also didn't understand my playful body language. An hour later Mia was hooked on the ball. She ran around with it and we played fetch. To my surprise this little girl learnt to bring the ball back to me very quickly, although I suppose that's where the retriever part comes in so she just needed the extra bit of guidance in that sense. After that I moved on to introducing a rope. She loved the chewing she could do on it. I also managed to teach her to play tug of war and to have a good romp with my other boys. By that night she was exhausted and slept like a baby.

She awoke the next morning with a song in her heart and I got woken up to a wet nose and a ball (what a delight coming from this girl). Mia has bundles of energy that, if not used will turn into boredom and destructive behavior, or what most people believe to be naughtiness, which is simply not the case. I decided to start teaching Mia to swim. It's a wonderful form of exercise and also burns excess energy. I put her in on the top step of the pool and let her stand for a while. She absolutely loved it. We progressed to going beyond the step and I helped her to start kicking / swimming. She was so revitalized and a bundle of happiness. She managed a few times to climb into the pool via the first step and have a swim, retrieving water toys. I am still working on the swimming with her. She very much wants to jump in from the side so once she is confident enough to do that she will have no problem cooling off and swimming as and when she wants. She realized after a couple swims and the help of my collie, nudging her in the right direction, where the steps are to get out. This is vital to teach with swimming as they need to know where to get out if they accidentally fall in or obviously start swimming. Also teaching them that there is a time to dry off or stay outside is a must. Mia would attempt to start digging in a corner while she was out the pool but I diverted her attention back to the pool. To date she has not dug a hole in any part of our yard/garden. We have also had no chewing on undesirable items. If she picks up something which is not a toy it simply gets swopped and she is starting to realize the toys are much more fun.

She has most defiantly become more comfortable with her new home and has started sleeping properly at night now. She also tried counter surfing twice for her food bowl and with proper correction and guidance is now sitting in front of the counter patiently waiting for her food to be served. She knows the "look" command so that I can get her attention at any time. She has started learning about how treat dispensers work which is great for mental stimulation as well.

I'm so astounded at how quickly she learns things. All the above was learnt in 4 days! This little girl has a bright future ahead of her. She will be starting training classes in the week to come and I think her star potential will then truly be unleashed. She would make a great agility dog as well as a great therapy dog. She has so much love to give. And I just love the cuddles I get from her.

What can we learn from Mia’s situation? 

The important thing to remember is training, training, training. We all want a well behaved and well-mannered dog but you have to be willing to put in the time, effort and patience that it will take to get them there. It won't just happen. Children need to be taught and it’s much the same with dogs. If you cannot afford to put the time in then consider a breed that would be better suited to your needs. Goldens are very intelligent and full of energy so need leadership and work to do.

Before getting a puppy please do research the breed, speak to people who own Goldens and learn as much as you can about what they need and how they behave/react when they are not given the stimulation, training and structure they need.

Goldens are working and very intelligent dogs. It is essential to take your puppy to socialization and training as soon as you can. This will lay the foundation of your relationship with your puppy and your understanding of your puppy’s behavior. 

If you have very young children supervision whilst they are interacting with the dogs is imperative, do not allow your children to pull ears, tail or mouth.

Do not let your children try to take away a toy or bone from a dog; this could lead to them being bitten.

Do not allow your children to approach a dog while they are eating, your dogs should be taught to sit and wait for their food. They should be fed on a regular schedule every day, do not just put a big dish of food down for your dogs to eat as they will, this could cause them to get food aggressive. 

Make sure there is plenty of fresh water available especially on hot days. Make use of toys and educational toys. They do wonders for mental stimulation and makes the bond between you and your pet so much stronger as it’s an activity you can do together.

If you feel you need help with training or dealing with your dog’s behavior please contact

Candice Steyn

Behaviorist & Trainer 


072 249 7554