Rescue dogs come to their forever homes with invisible baggage dragging behind them. When I was placing ex-racing greyhounds into pet homes years ago, this was one of the on-going conversations I’d have with first-time dog owners. As an example, some greyhounds would cower if you raised your arm above their heads.
One time, when I was up at the race track, pulling dogs from the adoption holding kennel, I watched the guy in charge of this kennel, grab a long, wooden rod and bang it against the outside corner of one of the dog crates. At the same time, he yelled, “Quiet down!” to the approximately 15-30 crated dogs that were barking and carrying on. The dog in the crate he was banging on dropped into a down really fast.
Take that wooden stick out of the picture and focus on the raised arm moving up and down rapidly. Now, attach that arm to a man who’s just adopted a greyhound. Picture him raising his arm above that dog’s head and what do you think the dog’s reaction might be?
We don’t always have the back story that might explain a dog’s conditioned response to something we do that causes that dog to react in a fearful manner.
What we can almost always guarantee is that the majority of dogs coming out of a shelter or from any rescue/adoption program will have some behaviors that we will need to wrap our brains around before we figure out how to work with that dog to re-shape those behaviors.
As I write this post, I’m thinking about Tessa and how she and I are returning to what we began shortly after she came to live with my family.
I’d stopped putting her anxiety wrap on her before crating her when she was going to be left at home. And, the once-a-day body massages using lavender oil had also s-l-o-w-l-y disappeared. These things make a difference because they calm her nervous energy. We are also back to 10 minute training sessions – once in the morning and again in the late afternoon.
Small steps. Being consistent. Having a down-the-road vision of where she and I are going. [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]