My choice? Lacey, a beautiful tri-colored 2-year-old Border Collie, who is listed on Petfinder from one of my favorite adoption places, Western Border Collie Rescue.
OK, you all know that I adopted a fearful Border Collie that I found on Petfinder in 2002–a fearful dog is always challenging, yet rewarding. That’s why I picked Lacey as my Adopt the Internet dog–in the right home, she’ll blossom!
Lacey’s story isn’t that different from many pets up for adoption, but it’s still important. Her amazing foster mom gave us this account.
In November 2009, an Eagle Colorado animal shelter worker contacted Western Border Collie Rescue about two very scared Border Collies: Cotton, Lacey’s mom, and Lacey, the last pup left in her litter. Cotton’s owner was moving (how many times do we hear that?) and he didn’t want the burden. Lacey was only 3 months old. Both Lacey and her mom spent 3 months at the shelter before Western Border Collie Rescue sprang them and placed the two fearful dogs in a foster home.
Then, a sad turn. Cotton became very sick. Vet testing revealed that she was suffering from Immune Mediated Polyarthritis, a serious joint disease. The rescue decided that Cotton and Lacey be separated so that Cotton could work on getting better and Lacey could learn how to become more confident in a new environment.
Luckily for Cotton, her new foster mom decided to adopt Cotton. But Lacey was not so lucky. For the first 3 months in her foster home, Lacey shut down and hid as far away as possible when people would come near. Her daily routine was staying away from open spaces, sticking close to walls, hiding under tables or huddling in corners. Scared, unable to cope.
Lacey And Other Dogs
But, Lacey’s foster mom soon realized that Lacey felt safe when she was around other dogs–she was comfortable with them. No matter
what size, breed, color or age, if there was another dog around, Lacey seemed happy romping, wrestling, running at the speed of light, chasing–you name it, if there’s a dog around, she’s up for anything!
Lacey’s Progress with Humans
Lacey asks for human attention in her own special way. Her foster mom says that, maybe two or three times a night during TV-watching time, Lacey “sneaks up, get real close,” and then put her head down on the nearest lap. Once Lacey gets about 5 seconds of petting, she sneaks away.
The good news is, Lacey is starting to show signs of trust in her foster mom’s friends and some family members–HUGE steps from the scared little dog in the corner. Her foster mom recounts another milestone: 1 year, 1 month and 12 days after arrival, Lacey mastered the cue “sit!” To
her foster mom, that was a sign “that Lacey could do what any other dog can do.”
Lacey came to her foster home on December 4, 2009–it’s the only real home she has ever known. She will probably never be a bomb-proof, totally confident, happy go-lucky dog. She might always be afraid of new situations and may never want more than 5 seconds of attention at a time. She needs a family who wants her for who she is. The family will need patience, training, and the ability to understand that small steps are really huge steps in this little girl’s life.
For example, her foster mom is thrilled that Lacey chooses to sleep with her every now and then. The most important things that Lacey needs in her life, according to her foster mom, “are humans that will accept her for who she is, love her even when it seems she doesn’t want it, give her a home with at least one other dog, provide a warm bed in a quiet corner to rest her head, and maybe a few romps in the snow in the winter and a few splashes in a river or lake in the summer. Is that too much to ask?”
No, it’s not! To find out more about Lacey, see her Petfinder profile. And if you’re interested in adopting her, I’ll pay half of her adoption fee!
The barking begins every morning at around 6 a.m. in my cozy Louisville, Colorado neighborhood, alerting that dog owners are leaving for work. However, one voice is not heard: Duke, Dan Antaya’s Pit Bull mix. Because of a Louisville city ordinance passed in 2006, Duke was banished from Antaya’s home and is living with friends in a city where Pit Bulls are legal.
“The struggle to find housing where Duke, my other dog Tyler, and I could live together started about a year ago when I relocated to Colorado. I was finally able to find something about 6 months ago, but even though the property owners had no issue,” the house was in Louisville, says Antaya, who owns K9 Consulting Services, a Longmont, Colorado dog training company. He also runs the Pit Bull Advocacy and Education program (more about that later).
“Now that the lease is up, I am unable to find housing again, partially due to both dogs weighing more than 50 lbs. but very much related to the type of dog Duke is, and the amount of cities in Colorado enforcing breed bans, we may have to leave the state.”
Does Banning Pit Bulls Make Sense?
Breed Specific Legislation, or BSL, is well-known and controversial, as described in this For Pit’s Sake blog post. We’ve all heard the pro and con arguments to allowing certain breeds into a city. And there are setbacks even in cities that allow the breed.
How Do Breed Bans Affect Individuals And Cities?
For Antaya, “BSL affects me in the sense that I must live apart from my dog due to the city ordinance, and also prevents me from taking him to other cities that ban the breed. I fear of having him seized just for passing through to get to another location.” Besides that, many great pit bull owners don’t have the opportunity to show what good citizens their dogs are in cities in which they are banned. Thus, people tend to shun those breeds.
Why? One reason, according to the National Canine Research Council:
“While serious attacks by dogs are very rare, the intense media coverage that may accompany such an incident can mislead the public and/or lawmakers into imagining that dogs pose a significant threat to the community. Sensationalized publicity, combined with a lack of understanding of the infrequency of dog attacks, and of their causes, has resulted in reactive and uniformed policies directed against certain types of dogs. In no other American city has this dynamic played itself out more tragically than in Denver” and other Colorado breed ban areas.
The problems often arise as with any other breed (which, by the way, have dog bite histories, according to the Canine Research Council) when an owner is irresponsible and lets their dogs run outside without supervision, and when they don’t train their dogs to be good citizens.
Antaya says that Duke’s story with him began when “one of the rescue organizations I was with in Arizona took Duke out of the county kill shelter.”
Duke could only go to a few shelters in Colorado because of the numerous Colorado breed bans. Duke landed in the Longmont Humane Society, where Antaya works as an adoption counselor. “Duke was considered a problem dog at 3 months. Because I was overwhelmed with my current fosters, he had to wait for 2 months before I could work with him.”
After Antaya’s training, “not only did he become a model dog, he became a perfect ambassador for Bully Breeds.” Antaya adopted Duke after fostering him for only 4 days. “While I have formed a bond with the many fosters I had prior to him, he met all the criteria I had for a possible addition to the family. I realized his potential very early on.”
The Longmont Humane Society takes a majority of Pit Bull mixes in Colorado. “Due to the breed bans in Denver, Aurora and Louisville, we see a majority of the Pit Bulls or Pit Bull mixes in the area that are being surrendered or caught by Animal Control. They, unfortunately, are the slowest to get adopted. When I watch visitors walk past the kennels, they seem to migrate to the other breeds and barely glance in the run with a Pit Bull in it. Longmont Humane offers a training class just for Pit Bulls called P.I.T.S.T.O.P. There is a lot of interest in that program from current Bully Breed owners.”
Because of dogs such as Duke, Antaya started his Pit Bull Advocacy and Education program after walking a Pit Bull “and seeing someone cross the street when they saw us coming.” Antaya also saw so many pit bulls in shelters, and realized “people have so many misconceptions about the breed. If they were educated, perhaps the adoption rate of pit bulls would go up.”
Something needed to be done, he says. “My approach is much more from an educational standpoint. I don’t preach to anyone from a soapbox. I have found that most critics of this breed have never even had a personal experience with one. Once I introduce some people to Duke and other Pit Bulls, they start to realize that these dogs are not what they perceived them to be. In addition to participating in various dog-specific events, I consider everywhere I go to be an opportunity to educate people about the breed. Sometimes it is an indirect approach, such as teaching children general dog safety and care while using a pit bull in the demonstration. I am currently working on an anti dog-fighting campaign geared towards children in high risk areas as well as a few other educational programs.”
What’s The Future For Pit Bulls?
Tough one. Antaya thinks “we are a far cry from Pit Bulls being an accepted breed as long as the media and cities who enforce breed bans continue to drive negative and incorrect information into the minds of the general public. For the states/cities who are enacting Dangerous Dog Ordinances instead of Breed Bans and the large groups of responsible owners, I have high praise for them. Hopefully this will be a growing trend and the Pit Bull will again become America’s dog.” You can find out more of Antaya’s thoughts on the Pit Bull Advocacy and Education Facebook page.
Learning to live with a fearful dog ain’t easy. Not only because of the dog, but often because of other people’s ideas of how to “deal” with them. As you may know from reading previous posts, my 9-year-old dog Luna is considered fearful. She doesn’t like trying new things. She is uncomfortable being touched, unless she solicits it, and then only in specific parts of her body. She’s never licked me on the face, and rarely allows herself to lie next to me. If I change my position, she’s gone. She bows her head when people reach for her. She has phobias that vary from day to day, or they’ll last for months. If she’s not around my other dog Frisbee in a strange place, she barks barks barks barks whines–or hides.
She’s Abused, Isn’t She?
Luna has had labels bestowed upon her. The one I hear most is: “Oh, she’s been abused, poor thing,” when they come near her, because she lowers her head in a nervous way, then looks away, licking her lips.
Well no, she wasn’t abused. She was born from a Border Collie mom who was left when she was a month or two pregnant at the doorstep of the Nebraska Border Collie Rescue founder Nickie Vaneck. Luna was the runt of the 5-pup litter, born with a broken tail, wouldn’t eat, even though her mother tried to feed her. Nickie nursed her to health, brought her everywhere with her, even took her to her son’s grade school classes. Luna played with her littermates. Then I adopted her. That’s when this tale began…
Flooding with Scary Things
But right away, I did all the wrong things–a trainer told me to “socialize” her and take her to a pet store the first full day she was home. I cluelessly followed the trainer’s instructions, put Luna in a shopping cart. Store customers crowded around the cart, reaching out to pet her. Puppies are cute, right? Luna bit a hand (luckily, just a puppy bite). I then put her on the floor. She scrambled under a set of shelving units, peeing all the way. Hey, how come she shivered and cowered whenever I tried to put her in the car again? My fault. Did she get more scared around me? You bet. I set her up. How could she trust me if I put her in scary situations? Snapping helps keep people away, so that’s what she did for awhile, until *I* changed.
Why Can’t She Just Get Along?
Luna was definitely shy upon meeting me during her adoption, but I just thought… well, it doesn’t matter what I thought–but I wanted my new pup to be just like “regular” dogs, with confidence, flair, and fun. A dog that would “fit into” every situation. After all, I had, Frisbee, Mr. Dog-Aggressive (and I found out, fearful in some ways), and I didn’t want another challenging situation… I wanted to mold Luna into the dog *I* wanted her to be. But I didn’t keep her safe the first day home, or many subsequent days, partly because of my ignorance and poor judgment in listening to trainers then told me “don’t coddle her if she’s afraid; it will make her think the frightened behavior will be rewarded.” Hmmm. Wow, she really wanted reassurance. Why wasn’t I supposed to give it to her? I put a lot of pressure on her to fit in.
And the phobias! Sometimes it’s the kitchen floor. Sometimes it’s coming in the dog door. You name it, she’s probably had it, and continues to find new things to worry about. She won’t be coaxed into doing something when she’s nervous. Would you?
Recognizing How To Free Fear
Over the years, I’ve learned much more positive and successful ways to help Luna–from recognizing triggers to helping her solve problems. She’s come a long way despite her tentative beginnings with me. I’m her biggest advocate now! I’ve actually become adept at training folks who have fearful animals, from my own experience working with rescue dogs and by learning from the best trainers around (not those I first approached!) in certification seminars and through soaking up all the books available.
Help Is Here!
However, my all-time favorite book on the topic is new from Debbie Jacobs, who wrote A Guide to Living With & Training A Fearful Dog. I was so thrilled to get it that I sat down and read it in one fell swoop! And guess what! Luna plopped down next to me and put her head in my lap as I was dog-earing pages! Was that a sign, or what?
Debbie’s book dispels all the old myths (reassuring your dog is okay!), and outlines creative ways for owners to help their fearful dogs cope and begin to love life in an easy-to-read-and-understand style. She is careful to say that there is no cookie-cutter approach to rehabbing a fearful dogs; each one is different–requiring keen observation before determining a modification program. She covers the triggers and thresholds of fearful dogs, how to recognize them, and what to do about them. “You can’t force a dog not to be afraid of something.” That’s so true…
Listen to The Bark Out Loud Podcast!
Want more? Join us on Bark Out Loud Monday, March 7! Here’s the podcast of Debbie’s frank and honest discussion about fearful dog behavior, then she’ll be available for a chat in our Dog Den at 9pm EST! I’ll be there, hoping to gain more nuggets in helping Luna on her continued journey to a calmer life. Won’t you join me?
Who can resist puppies? Oh so cute! Cuddly! As a dog-savvy person, you’ve probably been successful at raising a pup. But, as they say, it takes a village.
When my friend Beth in Utah asked me if I had reading and other material that would help her choose and raise a young dog, I was all over it. Wow, do I have resources! I love my favorite, dog-eared pet behavior and training books–numbering over 200! Then there are the my favorite DVDs, blogs, articles, handbooks, and and and… But what to choose for this situation, without overwhelming a neophyte?
I have my ideas, but I’d love to hear yours, so I can give her the best information possible.
Here’s the deal: Beth and her husband have never had dogs before; only cats. They aren’t sure what kind of pup they should get for their lifestyle; they just knows they’d like a young, two-to-four month old that would grow to “medium-sized, one who loves being a laid-back companion, one who likes hiking, but doesn’t need too much fast-paced exercise stuff.” Beth’s husband works 12-hour shifts, often at night, while she herself works at home. And, she wants a rescue, especially since she lives right by Best Friends Animal Society. They’re open to positive, reward-based training.
If someone asked you to recommend your favorite resources for those parameters, what would they be? I’d love to hear what I need to add to my library, too!
You think your dog is doing something adorable, so you encourage her to continue that behavior. But later you discover that it’s not so cute after all. Then what? I see this a lot with clients, but I’ve also made these kinds of mistakes with my dogs. Whoops!
I was discussing this on Twitter with Sonia Singh, a fellow pet blogger and marketing director for PawPosse.com in Phoenix, AZ. As an advocate for the large dog lifestyle, she said she’s inadvertently trained her pup Nala to “follow her bliss”– until Sonia discovered that Nala’s bliss was not what she intended! I asked Sonia to share her experiences to help assure dog owners that there are ways to turn things around! Her bio appears at the end of her post.
Training a dog is complex. There are times we train our dog exactly what we want, then there are times we accidentally teach them something we weren’t exactly hoping for. I accidentally trained my dog Nala two things that at the time seemed cute, but ended up with not-so-cute results.
The first mistake
I trained Nala to chew her leash.
Here’s how it happened. One day, I clipped her leash on her collar to go for a walk. She picked up the handle and started walking towards the door with it. It was as if she was taking herself for a walk – very cute. I thought it would be funny to teach her to walk herself. Each time she picked up the leash in her mouth, I praised her. Then she took it a step further, and that’s where it went wrong.
I clipped the leash to her collar one evening, opened the door and, realizing it was chillier than I expected, shut the door and grabbed a jacket. By the time I got back to the door and reached for the leash, I couldn’t find it. Then I saw it – barely four inches of it dangling from her collar. The rest was missing. She had chewed it right off in under 30 seconds. Between being encouraged to pick it up and needing to release excited energy, Nala picked up her leash like I taught her – then chewed it. We went through at least three more leashes before I was able to break her of the habit. She still picks up her leash on occasion, but I haven’t been forced to buy a new leash in over a year.
The second mistake
We trained Nala to growl inappropriately. This had much worse consequences, and we’re still trying to fix it.
When Nala was a puppy, she didn’t make a sound. No growling, barking, whining, nothing. Her dad thought it would be fun to see our little puppy growl, so he started growling at her during play, hoping she would growl back. I warned him that was a bad idea, but when it started working I had to admit – it was adorable to see such a tiny ball of love act so ferocious.
As she grew, her growl became less adorable and sounded more menacing. Her underbite grew too, making her look like she’s constantly baring her teeth. Suddenly, nobody at the dog park saw her as friendly: she would run up to a dog to play, but to the dog and its owner it looked like a dog running towards them, growling and baring its teeth. They would respond accordingly, and Nala was confused about why dogs snarled at her when all she wanted to do was play. Yes, that’s right: she growled to play but didn’t take growling as play when other dogs did it to her. She took it as an aggressive gesture from them, and that’s how they meant it.
Unlike the accidental leash chewing I taught her, the growling has had more serious effects and had a chain of consequences. Other dogs responded to Nala as if she’s acting aggressively and in turn, she developed a fear of some other dogs. That means she became reactive on a leash during walks and was unable to play at the dog park without a scuffle.
We stopped going to the dog park, and at home, we stop play immediately when she growls, so she now growls during play only when she’s overly excited. We’ve been working on “leave it” as we walk so she learns not to respond to every dog that walks by. It’s working: she now growls during play only when she’s really excited and is much calmer on a leash now, and for the most part walks casually by other dogs. She sometimes turns her head, but that’s it. It’s taken some work, but Nala has made huge strides.
Everybody makes training mistakes from time to time. Sometimes it’s not a serious mistake, like our leash mishap; sometimes, the consequences are more dire. The good news is, our efforts are paying off. The earlier you catch the inappropriate behavior, the easier it will be to fix.
Sonia Singh is the Marketing Director and a blogger for PawPosse.com. PawPosse.com specializes in large dog supplies, such as these raised dog bowls for large dogs. They also provide the education and tools that more fully involve big dogs in owners’ everyday lives. As a large dog owner, Sonia understand the questions and issues that come up with big dogs. You can read more of Sonia’s writing on PawPosse.com’s Big Dog Blog, which features practical tips and personal stories on life with big dogs. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.