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Video: Leash Walk with Indigo and Bailey

Indigo: ~4 Year-Old Male Black Lab Mix ~70 lbs, Neutered

Background: Indigo was found as a stray and adopted out from a Sacramento shelter. After a few months, he was surrendered by that family as he was very rough with a puppy they were raising for Guide Dogs.

Indigo was taken in by Dogs for Diabetics to be evaluated/trained as a potential service dog but didn't make the cut.

His previous family lived on 5 unfenced acres and Indigo could not have free-roam. They put him in a large kennel when they walked the property, and he would scale the kennel to be with them. He's wasn't left alone very much and when he was (four hours max), he was in the house.

They reported he was strong on a leash, pulled a lot, and jumped on people when he got excited.

After approximately seven months with Dogs 4 Diabetics, here's their assessment of Indigo:

I do agree that Indigo needs a strong leader and someone home with him to whom he can be a velcro dog. Before he came to us, he was an escape artist so he cannot be left alone in a backyard.

Unfortunately, we decided last week to release him but last night at a training class he bit a puppy (all was well, no broken skin). He has not really been exposed to many puppies, mostly adult dogs.

When Indigo arrived into the D4D program he was a large, immature 3-year-old who lacked self-control and had a propensity for escaping yards. During his time with D4D, Indigo was primarily in 2 foster homes.

The first home he was in for 5 months with a handler who used primarily positive reinforcement.

His second home was an evaluation home to determine if he was ready to start formal training, he was there for 2 months. There he received balanced training with positive and negative reinforcements. It was in this home we saw the greatest improvements, but his behavior remains far below what is needed to be an appropriate service dog.

For this reason, he is being released from the program. Below are the key issues we saw with Indigo.

1) Very vocal, barking at noises and whining constantly when asked to settle. This got better overtime in the house, but continues to this day when out in public.

2) Lunging and barking at dogs. He seems playful under socialization. This behavior was difficult to stop/control with just food and a head collar. Eventually with the use of a prong collar while in his second home. The prong was necessary for the safety of the handler. With a savvy handler, he is managed well with the use of a prong collar and food.

3) He will scale 6-foot fences if left unattended or if there is something he wants outside the fence.

4) House behavior was lacking and this is where he has made the biggest strides. With a structured environment and a home that can exercise him he is doing well.

NOTE - Indigo has a couple of damaged teeth from his previous life of chewing on fencing. We have been watching them. For now, they are not causing him pain.

Just for fun one of his fosters paid to have a DNA test done on Indigo and here are the results.

49% Labrador Retriever

13% Siberian Husky

13% Akita

13% Alaskan Malamute

12% Shetland Sheepdog

What the D4D Foster Says: When asked what works for Indigo: Lots of love, lots of assurances of safety and stability. To combat anxiety, we've focused on keeping him home more, and it seems to be working great - he loves being at home! Chicken sausage is a great motivator to heel outside, but not always when there's another dog around. Tie-downs work well if he's been counter-surfing. Leash corrections don't work as well on Indigo as on other dogs I've worked with - I think it's because of his anxiety outdoors.

His daily routine consists of: Get up, relieve, breakfast, play time (tug, fetch), socialize with a family of 5 throughout the day, relieve again, walk up the block or take a car trip to a coffee shop or to run an errand, sit in sun while I work on computer, relieve again, dinner, play time, some engagement work, relieve again before bed.

Indigo would do great with an adult adopter that will allow him to be a Velcro dog around the house - he very much wants to bond with a human. He would do well in a home where he will feel safe. He's great with teenagers. Given his anxiety issues, I wouldn't place him in a house with young children - I don't know if their unpredictability would throw him. He has some anxiety in public, so he's not a dog for a person who wants a buddy to take hiking or for a stroll downtown, but he's great around the house. He's relaxed, very well house-broken, and does not mouth golf balls lying around the floor.

Indigo needs someone who likes dogs that are very smart, incredibly communicative, and great problem-solvers. He's a great dog to teach tricks - he learns them very fast. I hear he does well with adult female labs - he's had long-term placements with two of them that have gone very well - but I've heard he's not good with puppies. I don't know about other dogs or animals.

What Lab Rescue Says: Indigo will require a dominant, strong leader. He does have a history of escaping and can easily scale 6-foot fences. In speaking with the D4D program manager, she feels Indigo would do best being at home with his family, rather than a dog that can go out and about. It's too overly stimulating for Indigo and creates anxiety in him. He is much more comfortable and relaxed at home. Indigo is not a dog for an inexperienced family, looking for their first dog. In his first home back in Sacramento, he was around other large dogs and reported to do well, but should not be around other puppies or smaller dogs. Any introductions to other dogs should be slow and even better, done with a trainer, to ensure compatability. Indigo is house-trained, as well as crate-trained (for short periods); he may have some separation anxiety as he recently escaped his crate and raided the kitchen, but as the foster says, was very neat about it. We know he’s adorable but he’s not the right dog for every family situation, and we want to ensure his future adopter will set him up for success and be his forever home.

Medical: Indigo is UTD on vaccines and neutered.

Indigo is located in: Pleasant Hill.

If you are interested in fostering/adopting Indigo, please contact Rescue Rep Kris at In your email please tell me how you meet the requirements for Indigo, what a typical day would be like for him in your home (including when things return back to "normal" post-COVID), as well as your experience with large dogs.

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