Two gorgeous Toy Poodles! They have had ten-year-old black Bosco since he was a puppy and the confident friendly little dog is a testament to their good ‘dog parenting’.
Denver they rehomed from Many Tears Rescue in Wales a couple of years ago and he was used as a stud dog in a puppy farm. The damage done to these dogs with years of being being pent up and complete lack of early socialisation is awful. He is about five years old. Initially he spent most of his time hiding – especially from the man. They have come a long, long way with him since then but now need that final push, someone with experience who can see things through different eyes.
Denver will still make a wide berth around the gentleman, running to hide under the kitchen table from where he watches in ‘safety’. Where cajolling and trying to win him over has gone some of the way, I feel running around trying to please him is exerting its own pressure upon Denver. The man in particular needs more of a ‘take it or leave it’ approach. Both little dogs have too much freedom with dog flap left open day and night, even when the couple are out. They graze on food permanently left down. Some basic boundaries should also go some way to making Denver feel more secure.
He keeps his distance – quietly watching – on alert. He was wary of me; with my body angled away and my hand slowly out with a piece of cheese, he gently took it from me then quickly backed away to safety.
Little Denver needs to learn to happily engage with the man as he does now with the lady, so I showed him what I would myself do. I first demonstrated with Bosco so Denver could watch him being rewarded with cheese. Looking away from him, I then very quietly and gently asked Denver to sit which he did at a distance of about six feet from me. I gently tossed him cheese. When he was just one inch closer I asked him to sit again – cheese. In this way, over a period of days or maybe even weeks, the man will get Denver close to him – he can even earn some of his daily food quota in this way. The reason I asked Denver to sit was so he might feel the food was for doing something easy – sitting – rather than doing something very hard which was to engage directly with the man.
Once Denver is sitting close, he can hand him the food rather than drop it on the floor. Next step is to touch him just once before feeding – and so on. Later on he can gradually be taught to ‘touch’ people’s hands and to look them in the eye using clicker-type method (operant conditioning). The secret is to break everything down into tiny steps and to be very patient.
While this process is being worked on, the man must make no attempt to touch Denver at any time. If he plays sufficiently hard to get for long enough, the little dog should eventually feel safe enough to actually choose to be touched.
I demonstrated with Bosco who had been taught lots of actions just how effective speaking very softly and saying the word only once can be. The dog focusses. A firm command is not far short of using physical force in order to make a dog do something and therefore exerts pressure of a kind. A gentle ‘request’ means the dog feels he’s choosing to do what we want.
Think ‘request’, not ‘command’!
Patience is something these people have already demonstrated over the past two years that they have in abundance.