Polly is just three years old and an ex-breeding bitch from Romania who was then abandoned.
The Carpathian Shepherd Labrador mix is settling in to very different new life.
A huge change
From a lonesome cage probably surrounded by other similar bitches in cages, to a rescue compound. Then a horrendous journey ending in a rescue kennel.
For the past four weeks Polly’s lived in a nice, comfortable detached house with a family with two children.
It’s hard to imagine just what an adjustment this is for her. One might suppose she would be relieved, grateful even. However, nearly every small thing in her new world is outside her realm of experience.
Settling in requires major adjustments
It’s all new, from the moment the day starts until everyone goes to bed when she’s alone in a comfortable bed in the kitchen.
She’s gradually awakening to the new environment and potential threats: the sound of traffic passing the house and the barking of distant dogs.
The couple quickly realised soon after she arrived that settling in Polly would need to be done more slowly. They need a bit of help on how to introduce her properly to her new life so that she isn’t overwhelmed.
It’s obvious she’s not used to being loved and fussed. She won’t have met children either.
Slowly is one important word. Gradually is another. Keeping her within her comfort threshold in every way possible is key.
We looked at all aspects of Polly’s new life, most particularly how to give her maximum enrichment to compensate for lack of outside stimulation.
Herding the scared little boy
She reverts to her breed instincts when aroused, by herding the little boy who is scared – they have great safety management in place with gates in doorways.
He’s just seven and Polly looms over him. He waves an arm in the air and stares at her when he wants to walk past – giving out frightened signals. Polly then reacts by pawing him and trying to herd him, which scares him more.
We looked at ways the child can have some control over Polly – so she does things for him. To turn the tables.
Turning the tables.
Firstly it would be good if the little boy could stop staring into Polly’s eyes every time he moves, as this can be challenging to a dog. Instead, I suggest they ask him what his favourite bit of Polly is – her nose, an ear or her tail maybe? Try staring at that instead.
Now he can ask her to sit (which she’s very good at). Then drop some food, rolling it away from himself. Now she will be doing what he wants and he gets to reward her. Win win.
She also makes it hard for the boy to walk out or back in to the room
Again, he can call her (treats available by the door). He asks her to sit and then he rolls food away. She should soon learn that if she moves away from the child she gets food. Moving away is a good thing to do. Involving movement, it somewhat redirects her drive to herd.
Out beyond the house and garden
To be able to take her out requires starting at the very beginning. She’s already wearing a harness. They will start by walking her around the house and garden, beside them, off lead. With encouragement this isn’t difficult.
Next they will slip the lead on. Soon she will be walking around the garden on a loose lead, back and forth, figures of eight and so on.
To counter-condition Polly to traffic they will start where she notices it but feels safe – from inside their garden gate. Traffic then will trigger food (she’s very food motivated).
With nice comfortable walking in place, they can very slowly over days, maybe weeks, venture out into their quiet close and beyond.
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