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Case Study 3 – One Tough Dog

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Tuffy was a dog who had learned to live without help from people.  He was trapped with a group of dogs in a gravel pit where they could not get out, and it appeared that they may have been abused by people in the area.  He was rescued by a caring person who worked at Operation Kindness animal shelter (www.operationkindness.org), on her third attempt to get any of the dogs out.  Tuffy and a greyhound were the only ones “smart or hungry enough” to be lured out to the edge of the quarry and saved from death by malnutrition.  Operation Kindness gave him several months of treatment for a severe case of Demodex Mange, and for malnutrition, and put him up for adoption.  In the shelter, he only bonded with female employees and was extremely shy of people in general, although he was friendly with the other dogs in his enclosure.

The Gilbert family saw Tuffy on a website, and their hearts melted.  They went to the shelter, and Millie and Joseph Gilbert and their 8 and 10 year old daughters met Tuffy and were able to pet him after some coaxing and offering treats.  He showed no signs of hostility, and they thought his shyness was to be expected, so they adopted him.  This was Tuffy’s second adoption, having been returned the first time for being “too difficult to housetrain”.

Within a week, the Gilberts were concerned that they had made a mistake.  Tuffy was comfortable around Millie, but he barked at Joe and avoided him.  Tuffy would hide at the end of the yard to avoid being trapped, and any changes in the routine, visitors, sudden noises and movements, would cause him to bark and either back away or sometimes walk slowly towards the person.  Joe traveled frequently on business, so while Tuffy was starting to settle into his new home Joe was often not there.  Whenever Joe came into a room, Tuffy would try to leave to go to a safer place.  (It seemed likely that Tuffy had suffered at the hands of a man, as his response to Joe was much stronger than to us or to any of the female members of the household.)

The Gilberts called us in because they were afraid that Tuffy might not be safe around their daughters, and because it seemed that his behavior problems might be more than they could handle.  We arrived at their house early, and saw a dog being walked back to the house.  Rather than meet the dog then and there, we went and parked for a few minutes to give them time to get the dog home.  When we returned, the dog and the dog walker were still in the same place!  Seeing a problem, we split up.  Jan went to the dog and helped Millie to walk him back to the house, while I met with Joe to find out what was happening.  The whole family had taken Tuffy on his walk that day, instead of just Millie.  Tuffy had sat down on his walk, and did not want to move any further.  Nervous about stressing him, Millie had stopped with him, and now could not make him walk the last few yards home.

We spent quite a while sitting in the living room with the entire Gilbert family and Tuffy, until he started to venture out and even take treats from Jan.  It became clear that he was afraid of all the new things he found, and that he had bonded to Millie as his savior, and regarded everyone else as a potential threat.  He tried always to be near where Millie was, or if she was away, to retreat to his crate.  If he was outside and Joe was in the living room, Tuffy would be afraid to venture into the house.  Because everyone was worried about Tuffy, they were trying to get him to respond to them with love and affection, and they were staring at him, which scared him.  Making direct eye contact is a threatening behavior from one dog to another, so Tuffy thought he was being challenged.  However, Tuffy was also a realist – once he had a leash on, he would be calmer.  Once he was sitting next to Millie with the leash on, she was able to pass the leash to Joe.

The Gilbert family had already made a great start on giving Tuffy his new home.  They had already started to have a daily routine for Tuffy, and routine helps a dog become confident in his surroundings.  They agreed to try to change their behavior so that they did not stare at Tuffy, they avoided sudden movements, and they learned to wait for Tuffy to come to them when he was ready to be petted or to want to be near them.  Tuffy was to stay on leash in the house while there were people there to supervise him, so that he stopped running to safe places whenever people moved around.  Joe needed to hold the leash on walks when possible, so that Tuffy could get used to him as a friendly pack leader.  They would walk Tuffy together as a family when they could, so that eventually the girls could take the leash as well.

When Tuffy tried to stop the walk, the person with the leash needed to act like a pack leader – walk on confidently, expecting Tuffy to follow.  That was how Jan had persuaded him to come back to the house.

Within a few days, Tuffy started to show definite signs of improvement.  He continued to be alarmed by Joe, especially when Joe arrived home.  However, he started to differentiate between “Good Joe” who had his leash, and “Bad Joe” who did not.  With “Good Joe”, he was more comfortable, and he would even come to him to get his walking leash put on.  With “Bad Joe”, he would still bark and back away.

Written by eurekapaws

June 7, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Posted in Case Studies, New Adoptions

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