From dog pound in Cyprus to new life in a house

Published by Theo Stewart on

Five weeks ago, after a long journey from Cyprus, Bella arrived.

After a couple of days in her new life of being careful and quiet, Bella erupted into highly-charged activity.

The one-year-old has lived with her siblings from a very young age in a free-for-all dog compound. Everything she has learnt has been from other dogs. The organisation does a wonderful job, but there will inevitably have been constant stimulation.

Bella has no ‘stop button’.

New world for BellaBella relentlessly leaps on placid Labrador, Monty. She jumps all over everything, up at the surfaces and onto people.

She chews. She doesn’t know the difference between a trainer, a table leg and a bone. Never before has she been in a house. Everything is new.

She falls asleep on her feet.

As the gentleman said, it’s like she’s a puppy. At about one year of age she’s now discovering and learning all the things she should have learnt as a puppy – but as an adolescent. It’s a blessing she has such a wonderful temperament.

I suspect from a very young age and very little regulation, with constant action with lots of other dogs she simply hasn’t learnt how to relax. When as a puppy she relaxed to sleep, another may have jumped on her – just as she would on them.

A dog should have about 17 hours sleep a day, so being sleep-deprived will be adding to her already overflowing stress/arousal levels.

Too much too soon?

New life for Cyprus rescue dog
After three hours Bella lay down

They may have introduced her to too much, too soon. When everything is so new, it’s best to introduce things slowly.

Already she’s showing anxiety when the lady goes out of sight. The company of Monty isn’t enough.

My main advice is for them now to slow down. Let Bella assimilate all the new things they have already thrown her way before giving her any more.

Walks should be slower and the on-lead part more of a wander. They shouldn’t allow racing about off lead to go on for too long. They will teach her when to stop. Too much play and exercise will leave her more aroused, not less.

They will help her to learn

To do or not to do…that is the question!

As I showed them while I was there, they will show her the behaviour they do want as a priority over trying to stop her doing something they don’t want.

Minimising further rehearsal  with management is the way to go. She calmed down when they put a lead on her – restricting her wildness and saving her from herself.

When they eat she jumps at the table. When they prepare food she jumps at the sides. So they will make use of her crate. They can keep her busy with a frozen Kong. Again, this will save her from herself – no more “Off” and pushing her down which is probably reinforcing in terms of attention.

While I was there I began to reinforce feet on the floor. She so quickly learnt with ‘Yes’ or a click. We began to teach her to sit. Now, only a day later, I’ve had an email telling me about the new behaviour she offers – she sits beautifully now instead of jumping up at them!

The important thing is to let her work things out for herself, and then reinforce the right choices. What works and what doesn’t work in terms of attention and reinforcement. Bella is very food orientated.

Testing new boundaries

Bella has never lived in a house with humans. Everything is new to her. At the moment she’s sometimes allowed on their bed and sometimes not. Sometimes she’s fussed with her feet off the floor and at others told to get down.

They will decide on the rules and then be consistent.

In a world where everything has changed, Bella needs to rely on certain things being constant. She will then become more secure and independent where the lady leaving her is concerned. 

For example, they don’t want her in their bed, then not in their bed it is. Bella is testing her new world all the time.

If they just weaken once, she merely learns that everything is negotiable if she persists! 

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out here. Finding instructions on the internet or TV can do more harm than good sometimes. Every dog is different and every situation is different. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

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