The Most Dog Friendly Community Online
Join and Discover the Best Things to do with your Dog

Welcome to Our Community
Wanting to join the rest of our members? Feel free to sign up today.

Looking for a little guidance with a 1 year old shelter dog.

Discussion in 'Dog Behaviour and Training' started by Jim_T, Feb 20, 2021.

  1. Jim_T

    Jim_T New Member Registered

    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Hi everyone
    All the dogs in my life to this point have been very gregarious and engaged. My wife and I are looking at adopting a 1 year old shelter dog whose background we know nothing about. She's very timid - which is why I'm a little lost.

    Let's call her "M". We first met Friday a week ago. The shelter is open for 2 hours at a time on Fri, Sat and Sun. We went all three days last week. I was there yesterday (wife had to be elsewhere) and we were there again today (and will go tomorrow).

    I feel we've made some big steps. M went from avoiding us last Friday to taking treats from our hands on the Sunday. Yesterday I got to give her chest a rub and scratch her ears, today, she let me rub her belly, scratch her back and her head and ear again.

    All of this was treat based. My wife was able to physically touch her today too.

    There are three other dogs in there with M - all arrived in the same 'batch' from Bulgaria (I'm in Germany). This is their second week there.

    What we were wondering is how we can eventually go from food motivated behaviour to something 'more'. One of the other dogs in that group is much more engaged. She's happy to just be with us, and will happily accept physical touch irrespective of whether she gets any treats or not. She gives it back too. I'm trying to convince my wife that we're building connections and that it might take some time, but she asked me today if I knew for sure that we'd one day have a lovely personable dog who wanted to be with us for our own sake, rather than for any food rewards that may be coming. And I really wasn't able to answer her, other than to say it's still very early days right now.

    Has anyone had any experience with this? I know every dog is unique. I've had a Samoyed cross and a German Shepherd and both of them were very present - but I had them from when they were puppies and was able to socialise them from the get go. 'M' is a lovely looking little girl. She's very soft and gentle, seems curious and I really think she's making big strides in a short time, but my wife noted that she wasn't nearly as present as the other one I mentioned and is (at this point) solely motivated by food.

    I don't think she's experienced much of the world.
     
  2. JudyN

    JudyN Moderator Moderator Registered

    Messages:
    5,841
    Likes Received:
    7,357
    Trophy Points:
    113
    A friend has a rescued street dog who came over from Romania (I think) - she was half-starved and very, very timid. For several days, she wouldn't emerge from her crate, apart from at night - so nowhere near as well adjusted as M is now. My friend pretty much ignored her, not making eye contact, and very, very gradually L came out of her shell. She'll always be a timid dog, doesn't go up to strangers, and doesn't really interact with me (though I've never really tried), but she's happy.

    So I'd say there's every chance that M will become a well-adjusted dog who will adore you as much as you adore her. But there are no guarantees, of course, when you take on a dog with an unknown background.
     
  3. Jim_T

    Jim_T New Member Registered

    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Thank you Judy.

    The most special thing in the world is knowing you've made an animal happy. Honestly, I'd come home with the entire group but this is the very first dog my wife has ever owned so we need to be cognisant of that. 'M' is soft and gentle. I think it's more that she really just doesn't know how to respond to things. It's tough, as the person in our relationship with a lot more experience, to answer the questions my wife is asking me - because I really don't know.

    I've never met a dog who didn't respond to me - and I think little M (and the whole group) are doing really well considering this only the 5th time they've seen us - but I understand what my wife is saying about not wanting to bring home a dog that is solely focussed on food rewards.

    Going back tomorrow - we'll how things are then.
     
  4. Suzette

    Suzette Member Registered

    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    22
    Trophy Points:
    8
    Also keep in mind she is in a very difficult place for any dog, let alone a timid dog - lots of barking and other noises, other dogs all around, people coming and going, feeling confined in a kennel... All these things are not conducive to bringing a timid dog out of their shell. In a home environment where things are quieter, the routine becomes familiar and her world becomes calmer, safer (in her mind) and more predictable, she might well be a more outgoing dog to some degree. Of course, no guarantees but a dog in a kennel/shelter environment is often quite different than they are in a home environment.
    Wishing you all the best with M and I hope it works out well for all of you.
     
  5. JudyN

    JudyN Moderator Moderator Registered

    Messages:
    5,841
    Likes Received:
    7,357
    Trophy Points:
    113
    I wouldn't focus too much on not focusing on food rewards.... if that makes sense. If you give her 'good things' (whether food or something else), she will associate you with good things, and she will come to see you as a 'good thing' in and of yourself. I also wouldn't focus on them being 'rewards', but more 'reinforcements'. A 'reward' suggests that she is doing something she wouldn't otherwise want to do (e.g. being petted if she's not ready for it) but gets rewarded for putting up with it anyway, which isn't what you want.
     
    Hemlock likes this.
  6. Hemlock

    Hemlock Well-Known Member Registered

    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    876
    Trophy Points:
    93
    I don't know if this is the kind of thing that would resonate with your wife, but perhaps she can relate to the idea that she has been abducted by space aliens and is living in their pod with them. She doesn't know the language, she doesn't know where the bathroom is, she doesn't know what they want or if they are dangerous. But she does know they offer food and that so far when they touch her it can be pleasant.

    Think about this dog's "spaceship" journey from where she was taken in to where she is now. Such a lot of noise and worry, being in a crate in different vehicles, being prodded and injected by vets, and as has been said, enduring a noisy environment full of strange dogs creating a lot of tension.

    How she will be is written in her genes and her early experiences. The bold dog has been through the same traumas but possibly has a quite different background and definitely different genes too. That one might end up too bold for first-time owners. What you get in the end can't be predicted - just the same as with children.

    However, this little one sounds ideal - she is coming out of her shell and soon should be really pleased to see you. She may never fit the picture your wife has of how she wants a dog to be, but she will still be a lovely dog.
     
    Finsky and JoanneF like this.
  7. Jim_T

    Jim_T New Member Registered

    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    3
    @Suzette, @JudyN, @Hemlock

    Thank you all - your reassurance is really most appreciated. Yes - I get that it's probably an overwhelming experience for all the pups in the 'back pen' right now (the back pen is where new arrivals stay until they can be brought into the main yard - which is another big step in itself).

    We both think it'd be better out of that environment but that's awhile away yet. The lady in charge is a tough cookie and wants to know we're committed, so I'm thinking it may not be until after Easter that we'll have a chance to bring her home, which is fine with me. I love the spaceship analogy @Hemlock - it's very helpful. Even being brave enough to come to the strange new people can be exhausting.

    Thanks again everyone - I'm very happy to have read your words this morning. We're back again today and will keep going for as long as we need to. I don't want to be 'that person' who is snapping photos on their phone, but perhaps this week or next I'll be able to take a pic or two and share it.
     
    Finsky likes this.
  8. JudyN

    JudyN Moderator Moderator Registered

    Messages:
    5,841
    Likes Received:
    7,357
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Ooh, please be 'that person', we love photos of dogs! And it's good to hear that the lady in charge is taking a cautious approach.
     
    Jim_T likes this.
  9. Rupert Barnes

    Rupert Barnes New Member Registered

    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    I think you have said, there are other dogs there that M knows and are happy to come up to you so how about just being there and not directly interacting with her but with other dogs that are more confident. M will then see, and learn that the other dogs see you both as safe and also how to act around you. You could just sit in the room and not directly interact with anyone and let her come and explore you in her own time. Everything will be new, even the living inside so it may take time.
     
  10. Jim_T

    Jim_T New Member Registered

    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    3
    @Rupert Barnes - thanks for your comment. Yes - she has few other dogs in the back pen with her, although two of them have been released to the main yard now.

    We've had some developments though. Last week we were seriously thinking of looking for a more socialised dog. She was really among the least interested in us in the whole place. We went to a foster home last Thursday, saw a couple of lovely happy well adjusted 1 year olds and went back to our 'regular' shelter on the Friday thinking we'd give her (and the shelter) one more chance.

    Well, she came through for us. She was engaged, was watching us and showing interest far more than she'd ever done. And then one of the volunteers came back in with us and with this lady she was just this normal, excited happy little girl. We saw what kind of dog she could be, and that was enough for us. We went back the following two days, and she's allowed to come home with us on Friday (pending a visit from the shelter who'll send someone over tomorrow to check out our house).

    Very happy, very nervous - I just want her to know she's wanted and loved. i also have huge guilt for leaving her sister behind. She's also very timid - more so than our dog - and they're pretty tight with each other. If I think like this though I'd be bringing the whole shelter home with me.

    We've also worked out she's either full or part tibetan terrier. She looks like a muppet!
     
    Ragsysmum likes this.
  11. JudyN

    JudyN Moderator Moderator Registered

    Messages:
    5,841
    Likes Received:
    7,357
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Awww, that's lovely to hear - and we need photos of your little muppet!
     
  12. Hemlock

    Hemlock Well-Known Member Registered

    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    876
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Don't be upset about leaving the other dog behind - that may be a great relief to the dog you are taking on.
     
  13. Jim_T

    Jim_T New Member Registered

    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    3
  14. JudyN

    JudyN Moderator Moderator Registered

    Messages:
    5,841
    Likes Received:
    7,357
    Trophy Points:
    113
    She's absolutely adorable. I do love a scruff:)
     
  15. Jim_T

    Jim_T New Member Registered

    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    3
    I've had a samoyed cross and a long haired german shepherd, so you can well imagine where my taste in dogs lies, but as soon as we saw her we both broke. She's such a gentle thing, but curious. I can't wait to show her the world - I just hope she's not traumatised by the trip home and the new surroundings. slowly slowly..
     
  16. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

    Messages:
    4,535
    Likes Received:
    4,118
    Trophy Points:
    113
  17. Jim_T

    Jim_T New Member Registered

    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    3
    JoanneF likes this.
  18. Jim_T

    Jim_T New Member Registered

    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    3
    We brought Mochi home yesterday. What a first 24 hours we've had! The dogs I've had in the past have been socialised - this little one, not so much. It's been very hard to stay calm and relaxed, even knowing that's she's going to be very stressed and fearful. She's been 'freezing' with fear a lot and generally avoiding us - especially me. She has been exploring the space we've set aside for her and discovered her sleeping box, the couch, a couple of large cushions we've put out for her and she's eaten a little and happily accepted treats before retreating.My wife and I are trying to give her her space, let her know we're there without being in her face too much.

    Getting her outside to toilet is a challenge. At first we tried to just take her outside at regular intervals but she ran immediately (we've got her on a long training line). She's crawling under bushes and refusing to budge (and the weather is full on sleeting here). She went once, before the skies opened, we're just wondering how we go about establishing a toilet pattern with her when her instinct is to find a corner in the garden and 'dig in'. Slow going. Feels like we're making every mistake under the sun!
     
  19. JacksDad

    JacksDad Active Member Registered

    Messages:
    87
    Likes Received:
    137
    Trophy Points:
    33
    As already suggested, this is not a problem. The reason is, one of the ways dogs learn is by what does something predict, and thus develops an association with that thing. This kind of learning is called Classical Conditioning or Respondent Conditioning. Right now the dog has no information about you. how you will treat it, are you safe, etc. When you toss food to such a dog you start building that dog's association towards you. You are the source of good things. you can build on that by being safe. meaning you do not overwhelm the dog with attempt to touch, pet, cuddle etc. Since this is your dog, and you do need to touch to attach leash, put on collar/harness, remove something stuck to paw etc, the dog does need to learn to be ok with you touching, so I am not saying do not touch, just do not overwhelm, keep the touching brief right now. keep it safe. safe is from the dog's perspective, and for a dog that takes a bit of time to warm up, unsafe could be a normal pet down the back that went on for 5 seconds, but that same pet for 3 seconds was ok. over time all this will change. Trust me, I see it all the time IF you are patient and move at the dogs pace. It also doesn't hurt things if you pare the touches with treats. Collar goes on, treat. petting is followed by a treat. it's not forever, but you are teaching these things that might be somewhat unpleasant experiences, not predict good things. There are more details to this, so we can talk more if you need. but in a nut shell it would not be pet, pet, pet, pet, pet, small treat. it would be pet, treat, treat, pause. pet followed 2 maybe 3 treats given one at time. pets would last 1 or 2 seconds to start and would build from there as the dog relaxes. Again lots of details in this I am not covering because I am trying to keep this from becoming a novel.

    timid/fearful dogs do a really good job humbling us all. Do not take it personal.

    The truth is, there is nothing magical about any of us that makes a dog want to be around us. What we do is learn what dogs like on average and by providing that, dogs respond to us. BUT then you run into that non average dog, the timid/fearful etc and they need a different approach. once you learn what they need, they respond to you.

    with timid/fearful dogs be safe to be around, be predictable, and be the bringer of GREAT things (food being an easy one in this situation). Safe simply means do not push your self onto the dog. be mindful of things like head pats, and how long you touch, how long you are near etc. as the dog grows comfortable with you, things "normalize" between you and the dog.

    To be blunt...there are time I think the whole adoption process gets a little overboard and tips into a power trip. HOWEVER, in this case serious caution in who the dog is adopted to is spot on. Helping a timid/fearful dog can be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do...but it can also be an emotional roller coaster. It is not for everyone. Such dogs often have a limited number of re homes they can handle, so trying to get the right home the first time is critical.

    It is very hard to get a "true" read on a dog in a shelter environment. Glad you got a look at what is possible. Just be patient. Move at her pace, do not force progress, and do not take her caution personal.

    She will learn she is loved by you and your wife being patient with her, moving at her pace, being safe to be around, not taking her caution for engaging with you personally.

    quick story. working with a Jindo that isn't a fan of being touched. I started by just rewarding her for coming in close to me. Then I started making hand movements towards her, followed by treat. Then as she was more comfortable with that, I touched her shoulder, followed it by treats. then I taught her to put her chin in my hand, and followed it with treats. I used food to teach her that being touched by me is a good thing. now, today she greets me with a desire to cuddle and get belly rubs. no treats needed. But it wasn't all about the treats. I also watched for signs that i went too far with the touch, then backed off and worked back up. I was safe, rewarding and today she doesn't need a treat to enjoy some petting and cuddles. I can now remove stickers from her paw, fuss with her ears, touch her tail etc. It's not "bribing", it is teaching when done correctly. it aids in the dogs learning that interacting with me is safe and fun for it's own sake.

    another dog I helped with, you couldn't even look at her without her running away, particularly as a guy. I used a similar approach to the one I just described. In this dogs case it was about being comfortable with paws being handled for nail trims. She learned so well that letting me touch her paws was a good thing (yes, LOTS of food was involved in the beginning) that now it's our "thing" to hold "hands" when we met up. no treats required. that interaction with me is just "our thing" and is done for it's own sake at this point. But again, she learned I was safe by taking it slow and being patient. AND that I can be very rewarding to work with.

    used properly, food is not a weakness, it is not a bribe, it is a powerful tool. Do not hesitate to ask if you are unsure how to proceed with it's use.
     
    Hemlock likes this.
  20. JacksDad

    JacksDad Active Member Registered

    Messages:
    87
    Likes Received:
    137
    Trophy Points:
    33
    The first key thing to understand is at 1 year old, the "socialization" window that we talk about in relation to puppies and helping them learn what is normal in their world, is gone. it's closed. you will not, nor would I advise trying, to "socialize" Mochi as you would a puppy.

    NOW, having said that, focus on this part. YOU CAN make things better Mochi though learning principles. Primarily Classical Conditioning which is a excellent tool for creating associations.

    This is the hard part for people just starting out with a fearful dog, we want to "do something". We absolutely must "do something", but that "something is often counter intuitive. Lots of space, patience, and ignoring is the something to do right now. That is the passive "do something". let her settle, this Hemlock's "spaceship" analogy in action.

    How I would approach this is...when you approach her to take her out, what does this predict? do you just approach, clip on the leash, and go? Or do you include some treats thus influencing her association?

    I would approach slow and calm, tossing treats as I go. when I reach for her to clip the leash on, I would have lots of treats involved. when we take steps towards the door to go out, it would involve treats. when we step outside, I would pare that with treats etc. i would be very generous with VERY GOOD treats. thoughout that experience. Good treats is typically real food such as plain cooked chick breast, or cheese.

    it might also be worth while attaching a thin, very light rope that can act as a leash so you are not having to clip on and off a leash, but something that wouldn't be too much of a hassle to wear. again, temporary.

    Another option, is your yard secure? can you just leave a door open to let her go in and out?

    A plan B is to think about a way she could temporarily toilet indoors if your approach is so scary that she doesn't even eat the treats. emphasis on temporary. And there is definitely some details to be discussed with this option. BUT it would NOT eliminate the goal of going outside, and it would be better than her in fear sneaking off and choosing where she goes in the house when she can no longer hold it.
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.