Scared rescue Letty has been with the young couple for just one week now. The Greek rescue is one year old and everything is new to her.
Every sight, every sound, every person – all things we take for granted – bombard her with so many new and scary things to compute.
Welcoming a scared rescue dog
Many of the things that we humans do when we want to make friends are so wrong for a scared rescue dog. We assume petting is comforting when it’s the opposite. We assume her lying on her back is inviting a belly-rub when it’s saying the opposite.
From the dog’s point of view, a large human walking directly towards her as we might when welcoming a human, is scary. When someone bends over her to make friends she may even see it as an attack of some sort.
Both walking towards the dog and bending over her are, in an unsocialised dog’s world, intimidating.
From the start, Letty was much more scared of the young man. This isn’t uncommon. I wrote a short article on the subject: Fear of Men – Why are some dogs more wary of men?
With the best of intentions, after a few days of coaxing her to which she did respond if the man wasn’t there, the young lady went over to her, picked her up and carried her outside into the garden.
This is understandable because getting Letty to toilet outside is an early goal.
Sadly, since then Letty has been in hiding in a corner of the room. She may come out for food when it’s just the lady and is showing signs of wanting company, but not when the man is there.
It can help to pretend a scared rescue is a captive wild animal – a young deer for instance. You would then know to leave him alone and to find discreet ways of interacting and encouraging him to come out of hiding.
The list of things Letty must learn to tolerate is long
She has everything inside the house to get used to first, before they encounter traffic, approaching people, other dogs and all the noises of her new outside world.
At present, a week after her arrival, she’s too scared even to walk down three steps that lead to their kitchen. To get to the garden she has to go through the kitchen.
First it’s those three steps into the kitchen. They both work from home, upstairs. I suggest the young lady now works from the kitchen. She can ignore Letty who will be able to see her form her den, and see what happens. She may also casually drop some food about the kitchen floor.
I would be very surprised if Letty doesn’t find her way down the steps into the kitchen before too long, if there are no sudden movements or sounds.
It’s important the young man doesn’t walk in and surprise her of course. Before long I’m sure he could be quietly in there as well and Letty will join them both.
The next step is the garden.
It’s possible that when the scared rescue eventually ventures out into the garden they may have difficulty getting her back in again, so a long line would be sensible.
So the third necessity is a collar – or at worse a slip lead. Though she wore a collar when she arrived, they took it off. She will need first to feel comfortable coming to the young lady when asked or lured, as going over to her with the collar will destroy trust and set things back again.
Instead of leaving a food bowl near her self-chosen hiding place which means approaching her, I suggest they scatter some of her food about and put some into a Kong which she can take back to her den if she wishes.
When she eventually joins the lady in the kitchen, a filled Kong may keep her calm and busy. Scattering over the kitchen floor may help her to like the kitchen. Eventually it can be the same with the garden.
While the young man will no longer try to ‘make friends’ with scared rescue Letty, I suggest that as he walks past he leaks food! She will come out and get it later and she will know it’s come from him.
It’s hard to know just what will happen next but we have made a start. They will work on the most immediate things first and if they go sufficiently slowly her confidence should grow. This will then spill over onto other new things she has to encounter. Things will doubtless need to be tweaked or changed as time goes on, and new things to deal with will surface.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help