It is a rainy Sunday and I’m in a reflective mood. I’ve just come back from a walk with Bea where I’ve once again asked more of her at which she excelled. For the first time in about two years I asked her to walk alongside a busy main road. Seems a simple thing but until recently I was fairly sure this task would have been too much for her. Today she was calm and stead. She occasionally looked at the cars speeding past but never pulled, shied or span around me. She had one minor moment of hesitation walking past a garage with flapping banners outside which involved her just moving across me to give her self more space but with the aid of a few treats she stood near them and took the food I offered. It is so easy to assume if a dog doesn’t like something the first time they encounter it that they will never be comfortable. People simple don’t try again or flood the dog with the scary situation thinking this will help. I like to set goals and work towards them. I’ve been building up Bea’s confidence around traffic for a year now and today that work paid off.
In the last few months I have been able to challenge her comfort zone and my expectations a fair amount. I recently organised a seminar for the Labrador Lifeline Trust, the charity which she came to me from. We allowed people to bring their dogs if they wished and I brought Bea in for most of the day with a few short breaks in the car. In the middle of the day with one ear on the speaker I started to catalogue all the small things in the day which used to freak Bea out. They may seem small but none the less common every day occurrences that would have sent her into orbit before. This is the list (slightly extended to include every day life)
Being in a room calmly sleeping with 40 people around her
Dropping things by her
Dogs barking near her
Going through doorways calmly
Walking on wooden flooring
Sitting under a table which she entered from a narrow gap
People moving around her
Being petted while eating or me moving around her whilst eating
Having her feet cleaned and her nails clipped
Asking for cuddles
Jumping up on the bed and sofa (took two years)
Jumping in the car (took nine months)
Jumping over logs
Being contained in small areas and willingly walking into them, like the porch
Me hugging and kissing her
Walking past dogs on a narrow path
Knowing what chews are and what to do with them
Running off in the park to sniff and explore
Walking nicely on a short lead
Being happy to be left with a friend if I’m away for the day
The list could go on and on but you get the picture. She may not be the most obedient dog in the world. It might take her a long time to learn some thing new but hey I don’t need her to be a competition winner. I just need her to be safe.
My shrinking violet has blossomed. She will never be the most confident or easy dog in the world, I can definitely say the journey at times has been frustrating, heartbreaking and hard but boy has it been worth it. For those of you out there struggling with a rescue dog, keep at it the rewards are amazing. My tips - don’t push them to soon, at first limit the time you expose them to a new stimuli, seek the appropriate professional help and above all set them up for success. The old saying goes, you reap what you sow. I sowed slow growing seeds and the bloom was well worth the wait.