Nibbles was one of approximately 23 dogs confiscated from a home breeder by the HSUS. After being placed in a foster home he fled through a window and was on the lam for a week when he trapped by an ACO 30 miles north of his foster home. How he got that far as fast as he did will remain a mystery, but I’ve seen the little guy get the zoomies and he could probably cover some ground. It was another couple of weeks before Nibbles was identified. He had no collar, tags or chip.
Few people, well intentioned as they are, fully comprehend the challenges of a fearful dog, or appreciate how that fear will affect their behavior. I offered to take him on and see if I could help him learn skills for living with people. The following are a collection of videos I’ve shot showing some of the things I’ve been doing with him since he came to my home.
I often ‘wish’ I had shot video of a particular dog and this time around I decided I’d just do it. There were obviously no set designers or wardrobe people involved.
One of my first goals with Nibbles was creating a space where he would be safe, i.e., couldn’t escape, and where he would feel safe. Nibbles has some comfort with people, but never learned how to communicate with us. Teaching a dog to target is one of the simplest ways to get the point across that if I do something, and the dog does something specific in response, they’ll get a reward. This is when I think of the Helen Keller ‘water’ moment, when the penny drops, the light bulb goes on and the dog learns that there is method to what may have just seemed like madness.
Another reason to give a dog a safe space is that they are less inclined to want to flee if they already have a place they can go and relax. I’d rather have Nibbles race back to his crate when startled then race around looking for a door or window.
Desensitization & Counter Conditioning
The process of changing how a dog feels about something can be slow. I am trying to help Nibbles learn to associate having me interact with him, with food.
Often people try to lure dogs near them using food, that can backfire. I am using treats to reward Nibbles for behaviors I like, and also sending him away from me to look for treats. After he finds a tossed treat, he looks to me again. We need to become relevant to dogs and food is the obvious way to do that.
Play and movement are important in the process of helping fearful dogs. When a dog feels safe they can begin to play. I want Nibbles to learn that people are fun to play with.
Coming soon! Nibbles gets to be outside.