What a big change in living style the mix-breed terrier has had.

It seems Poppy came from a fairly manic household with comings and goings, unpredictable young people and lots of noise. Judging by how she may now wince or recoil from hands, it’s very likely she wasn’t handled very kindly.

It’s possible a man treated her harshly, though it is common for nervous dogs to be more afraid of men than of women.

Not sorry to lose her

They asked one of the older children if they were sorry to see her go. The child said, ‘Not really’.

Poppy now has the loving home that she deserves.

This big change in her life happened only about five weeks ago.

It seems also that, along with her previous world being somewhat chaotic, nobody walked her or took out. Where before she may well have been regarded as something of a nuisance, she is now the centre of their world. The young lady’s in particular.

Though the change is so massively for the better, in itself this presents a challenge to Poppy whose former life is all she has known for the first year of her life.

Against this new, quiet background where she is properly loved and valued, things that may have been masked by noise and action now are very noticeable to her. Things like people coming into the house, people walking past, traffic – and other dogs.

Facing a big change

For the first week or two she was quiet. It’s common for a dog when facing such a big change to be quiet and careful, almost shut down, while she works out what her new world is all about.

They need to give Poppy plenty of time to acclimatise to things. She may still produce further challenges as she begins to show her true self.

The plan is to to build up her confidence.

She now seems to see it increasingly as her job to guard herself, the couple and her new territory. She’s increasingly on alert when out on walks. They must now show her that safety and protection is their own responsibility – that it’s their job and not hers. It’s vital now that they do everything they can to help her to feel safe, both on walks and at home.

Desensitising and counter-conditioning

Desensitising her means she gets used to the things she is wary of but at a distance she can cope with. Counter-conditioning means that they will then add something she loves. When they push her over her comfort threshold they make her feel very unsafe. They destroy her trust in them. This then results in her reactivity getting worse. Attack may be the best and only form of defence to her mind.

On walks they have taken to muzzling her, not because she has ever bitten another dog and certainly not a person. Where I say it’s vital to play safe, in this case with Poppy never off lead and with no evidence of her having actually attacked anything, there is no risk. The muzzle will simply make her feel even more vulnerable.

They will now ditch the muzzle and make sure they keep sufficient distance from other dogs for her to feel comfortable. They will make encountering other dogs a positive experience. It’s safe to assume that meeting other dogs is another big change in her life.

They will slowly teach her to feel okay about cars – again by not pushing it and by giving her time to get used to the change.

Barking at callers to the house

Interestingly, she didn’t bark at me at all. She had barked continuously at previous callers.

I planned my arrival carefully so that I was already sitting down before she joined us. We took no notice of her apart from my dropping her little bits of food.  She even took some from my hand. When we moved rooms, I asked them to put her out of the room again. I was settled once more when she joined us again. They gave her a bone to chew.

After such a big change in her life, she is sure to keep developing as she becomes accustomed to her new world.

A couple of weeks later: “She is now playing with dogs!!!!!! And initiating play!!!!!! “
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete report. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good. Click here for help