Eight-year-old Robbie spent the first seven and a half years of his life never outside a utility room and garden, with virtually no human company. Six months ago his previous owner went into a home and Robbie then came to his new owners.
Just imagine how scared he must have been encountering everyday things, people and other dogs. They have come a very long way with him in six months, but have met a plateau, hence my visit.
Since all his life after leaving his litter Robbie has been within the same four walls, just with open door to a garden, it’s not surprising that the only place he is really comfortable is indoors, in the house. He is just OK in the garden if the door is open and he can beat a retreat if something scares him – like next door’s dog barking. He would prefer to be alone indoors than out in the garden with his owners. Out on walks, if panicked, it’s like he doesn’t even know them any more. He just wants to get home.
They have work to do – because he needs to look to them for protection and guidance. They need to win his trust. At present all he really trusts is the safe environment of home.
He really is the most gorgeous, gentle little dog. Sadly, he is very arthritic at a relatively young age and is on a mixture of medication so he has discomfort to contend with also.
Out on walks Robbie is permanently uneasy and looking about and behind. As they approach the main road he is near panic, but like many people they have believed that it is necessary to keep going. If he sees another dog or a vehicle spooks him, he is twisting around on his lead and wanting to bolt. Naturally, the lead will be causing pain to his neck and this negative association with other dogs can’t be good.
I believe it’s now a case of backing off and starting again. First and foremost, he needs to be able to walk around near the house with no traffic or dogs or people in a calm and happy way, sniffing and exploring doggy fashion, before they can go any further. This could take a while. Then things need to be introduced very slowly indeed, all the while not stepping over his threshold of tolerance. How the owners behave is key. Robbie’s instinct is to bolt, and failing that, to freeze. Would a wise parent force his family into trouble if it could be avoided? No! They need to earn Robbie’s trust before they will make any real progress.
They will get there, I’m sure, but it will take time. Although they have already come a long way, you can’t undo eight years in a few weeks.