Working with dogs who have experienced low, poor or no socialization with humans is probably my favorite kind of work I do with the SPCA. Mostly, I do this kind of volunteer work in my home as a behavior foster, but I also work with some of these kinds of dogs in the shelter as well.
This week I worked with Martie, a five month old Shepherd mix.
When I met Martie, she wouldn’t move off of her dog bed in her kennel. My job that evening was to introduce her to the leash. Other volunteers and staff had worked with her, so I wasn’t starting from scratch. But I still gave her space to get to know me and get comfortable with me.
A staff member helped me get her into one of the indoor “getting acquainted” rooms. I left a leash on her and let her choose where she wanted to go, which ended up being a corner of the room, right next to a couch. She would take a step for a treat, but then go right back into the corner. I read to her for a little bit, to get her used to my voice.
Then, using the leash, I prodded her gently. When she came near to me, I petted her and found out that she has a spot right in front of her left ear that she particularly likes getting scratched. When I moved a step away, she followed for more petting.
Eventually, she walked on the leash for me. We even went outside. However, she scared very easily, and if I stopped paying attention, she would freak out.
Part of me hopes that she’s there next week so that I can work with her again. It’s harder to build up a reputation with a dog while they are at the shelter. I get to spend more time with the dog when they are in my home. But working with the dogs at the shelter has its benefits too.
There, it’s more of a team effort to work with these dogs. We build off the work of the last volunteer or staff member that worked with them. And I know that even after I leave for the week, the dogs will continue to receive love, support, and trust from many people after me, ultimately from their loving family who adopts them.
Speaking of adoption, Rowdy went home with his forever family this week! I’m so happy for him. I know that the family will receive so much love from that pup. He really is such a good dog. I’m so glad I get to be a part of a program that likes to deal in happy endings. I look forward to seeing Martie find her happy ending soon as well.
Have you ever encountered a shy or poorly socialized dog?