Eureka! Dog Blog

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Case Study: Puppy Mill Dog Part 2

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Mary called us in because she felt that Hannah was unhappy with her, and that she and Hannah would never be able to relate to each other.  Actually, Mary had made a good start in many areas.  She had a crate for Hannah away from the center of the house, where Hannah could go when she was afraid or upset.  She had a regular timetable for the day, so that Hannah could learn the rhythms of the household.  She had a dog bed set up near her usual spot in the living room, so that Hannah could lie down beside her, and get used to relaxing in the presence of a human.

Hannah was still very fearful.  She did not want to be touched or petted, and would run off when people got too close to her.  Mary could not get her to eat in the kitchen, or at all while Mary was watching.  Mary was afraid that she would starve herself (we did not expect that to happen – a dog will not deliberately starve herself).  Hannah would run to her crate when anything out of the ordinary happened, and stay there.  Mary had to call her out to get her into the living room again, and she would not come out if there was someone else there.  When Mary let Hannah out in the fenced back yard, Hannah would keep away from her, and when the door was opened to let her back in the house, she would run in as fast as she could, to get past Mary and go to one of her safe places.  Mary was afraid that if Hannah managed to get out, she would never be able to get her back.  Because Hannah was so reserved, Mary could not see the bond that Hannah was starting to develop.

Hannah’s world was scary and confusing.  We don’t know the details of her previous life, but clearly people were something to be feared and avoided.  She was not accustomed to being touched in a friendly manner.  She had a den to retreat to, and food and water available, so her physical needs were taken care of.  But she was sharing her home with a human, and she did not understand what that human wanted from her.  Mary was talking to her, paying a lot of attention to her, and trying to force her to be in certain places or do certain things.  Hannah was just trying to stay away from danger – keeping a low profile had probably worked well for her in the past, and that was what she was doing now.

We visited with Mary and Hannah, and made some recommendations for change.  First of all, we explained to Mary that Hannah was actually starting to bond with her – she was calmer with Mary than with anyone else, and she had started to adapt to the household schedule.  Any attempt to force her to come out of her shell would just set her back – she would have to proceed at a pace she was comfortable with. 

She would not eat in the kitchen with someone standing over her, watching her – she wanted to be alone.  But with Hannah on a leash in the kitchen, and the human paying no attention to her, she would approach the food bowl and start to eat.  The message was clear – the pressure to do the safe thing while she was being watched intently made her scared.  It is very important with fearful dogs not to stare at them.  Direct eye contact is a very threatening thing for a dog, and usually leads to a fight between dogs.  In Mary’s case, she would need to have something else to do, so that her attention was not focused on Hannah.

We also showed Mary how to walk Hannah on a leash, so that Hannah was not trying to run ahead, but became used to following Mary’s directions.  This was a huge success for both Mary and Hannah.  Dogs are much more comfortable when they are moving, and it was a way for Mary and Hannah to be in touch with each other in a non-threatening environment.  It also allowed Mary to see that she was able to control Hannah and feel that bond developing.

Hannah was still afraid of changes in the house, and still rushing in through the door, and was not ready for formal training.  She needed more time to adjust.

Next week, I’ll write about the next steps.

Written by eurekapaws

February 2, 2009 at 9:18 am

Posted in Case Studies, New Adoptions, Training

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