Posted on 04-05-2017
Well, winter is not leaving us just yet, but spring is sure to be here really soon. I know a lot of you have heard about my family's adoption of Benji, the rescue dog from a kill shelter in TN through Homeward Bound. He is a GREAT dog - but he has quirks. He is scared of the dark, the wind rattles his nerves, and people beyond his circle (which I still can't determine how he makes this judgement - 1/2 the crew at work or "ok", a couple are "accepted" and the others "back away quickly") are met with growls, nips, and sometimes lunges. However, all his "bad" behavior is for his protection. You see, the world is new to him. And boy is it scary. So, rather than let frightening things near him, he'll choose to make you get away. Pretty smart if you ask me. But the point of this blog was to talk about a more important aspect - socialization.
See, I still take him everywhere. There are many that wouldn't or perhaps would have given up before now. But not me. I know that the only way to teach him the world is safe, is to continue showing him. And you know what, his world is growing because of it. Will I be slightly embarrassed by his poor behavior? Yes, yes I will. But I will still love him and he will continue to improve every day I get beyond my comfort zone and expose him to the world. I will have to fend for him: "Yes, he is a cute dog, but he does not want to be touched. Please let him pass.". That was something I had to tell a family with 3 young children this past weekend while on our walk in the woods. Here I was, tromping through with my 4 kids and my pup. The picture looks bright and fuzzy and warm. But he is a bomb ticking. If I put him in an uncomfortable situation that he is not trained and ready for, how else would I expect him to react other than badly? It would be unfair to subject him to this. So I tell him to sit, reward him with treats when he keeps eye contact with me while they pass and everyone is happy. He is relaxed, he is safe, and so are the kids.
My point is this, please take your pets out. Get them exercise. Get them fresh air. It is far better for all of us to be outside and placed outside our comfort zones than to recluse into a cave that is our home and say "not for us, you don't behave well enough".
Gayle Dantzler said:
Such good advice. My Bruno was terribly fearful when I began fostering him. Walking on Riverside Trail, he would lunge and snarl at every dog, walker, kid on a bike, stroller ... everything! ... that passed us. It was embarrassing. I could tell people were thinking,"Why do you take that mean dog to public places?" I took him because it was necessary. Many miles and a lot of experience later, Bruno is confident and calm. I still need to remind him he's a "good boy" when someone passes. And I still don't let people approach, pet him. But the overwhelming fear and constant wariness are gone. He's happy and confident, nose on the ground, doing what beagles do best.