I hear them often, sad stories. Dogs that cower, shake, hide, run or attack, because they’re afraid. Owners who are not sure what to do, believe they’ve tried everything, wonder if there’s any hope for their fearful dog. I share what I can about the concepts of triggers, thresholds, counter conditioning and desensitization, and how emotional responses cause behavioral responses, and if handlers address the emotion they’ll see changes in the behavior. An owner’s willingness to be patient may offer a dog the best odds for improvement.
Sometimes I can see the changes in person, often I hear about them. I received this email recently and I’m sharing it not to blow my own horn, but ok, what the heck ‘toot!’, but because it’s a tale of hope, commitment and the chain of love and compassion that dogs help us create, though they will never know it. Olive connected the lives of people living across the globe, giving each of us the opportunity to do something that moves and motivates us- helping dogs have better lives.
I am sharing this with the permission of the author Linda Green who was working with the group AWARE in Sumpango, Guatemala.
“We couldn’t have done it without your kind help and invaluable information on shy dogs. The foster person who received this puppy was planning to euthanize her……it was your help that convinced her to hold off and try a little harder to find a solution. So THANK YOU! We can’t save them all, but I am so happy for every one we do.
I just thought you might like to know that this very shy, fearful dog (Dee) that I wrote you about has finally found a wonderful home. She has been living with a trainer in San Francisco since shortly after your very helpful reply to my desperate plea for help. The trainer apparently took Dee on, pro bono. She is still shy, and probably always will be, but is fine with her family and the family’s dog. They love her and understand her and don’t press her for more than she can give. She is still young, and the family reports that she is slowly becoming more confident, and now enjoys her walks and playing in the yard. Thank you so much for your help, insight, and the resources you have provided in your book. It has helped me greatly in working with our shy dogs from the shelter here in Guatemala.
Here’s a note from Dees’s new owner:
‘Dee’s new name is now Olive. She has made such improvement, I can’t tell you. She will always be shy but she is actually a wonderful pet because she is good with cats and dogs and really only wants to dote on her family. She shows no fear aggression and walks great on leash, greeting people along the way. When people come in the house she is appropriate with them and doesn’t run away.’
Thanks so much again for your help-you kept us from giving up on her. We couldn’t have asked for a happier ending to this story.”
May they all live happily ever after.