Fostering Mickey: Rehabilitating a fearful pup


Mickey is slowly adjusting to our home and routine. He is the most scared and skittish dog we’ve fostered, and I would appreciate any advice from you dog-savvy fosters and owners regarding how you rehabilitated a fearful animal.

This dog is a submissive lover boy who adores getting pet, especially around his neck and face. He’s loosened up to the point that he’s very excited when someone comes home, and he jumps around in glee, landing in the play position each time. The change happens when people continue to move towards him. He retreats warily with his tail between his legs as though we have bad intent. It’s an even quicker retreat when we are holding something, be it a larger grocery bag or a wallet.

He walks well when surroundings are relatively calm. However, he is most scared when people approach him from behind. We had several runners pass us, and he gets terrified watching them get closer, trying to stretch as far away on leash as possible. My guess is that he’s had people chase him to beat him. His fear is nothing normal, nothing simply puppyish.

My stepsons experimented with running up to our forever furry, Frieda. She stood there with slightly raised doggy brows, looking at them like they were missing some marbles. A dog who has not been abused may show curiosity at someone’s approach, but there shouldn’t be any fear or fearful retreat. Makes me so angry to think that someone abused Mickey. He is as sweet as they come.

We will continue walking him, but I need more ideas for how we can help him at home. I feel like we need to put him in sit and have someone approach him from different sides, earning a treat each time he doesn’t retreat. I don’t know. This is new territory for us. He sits easily for food as opposed to without it, so we might lean heavily on training with treats for awhile.

I worry about him finding the right forever home, because if his new owners decide to coddle him, he will not grow out of his fears on his own. He will simply keep them and be a very insecure dog, and there is no quality of life in that. Worse, if his owners lose patience with him and decide to be more forceful with an already fearful dog, they will exacerbate his issues.

Mickey and the Christmas tree

Mickey and the Christmas tree

The ideal family for Mickey? One who already has years of experience with dogs–his issues need to be addressed by a confident dog owner, not by beginners. He is wonderful around kids and would be happy with other dogs. He needs someone who will actively bring him into different environments, as staying at home or in a yard all the time is not enough to address his fears. He needs continued socialization (don’t they all?).

If you have any advice on how we can continue working with Mickey while we have him, please speak up! And thank you in advance!

Meet Foster #5, Mickey

zIgMH1Z-OzPFmTowRCe78v_XKN-2xFkAX64zMdjaF5E WXlL1hO2FIyUhQUF_ByUIIAFB8F3HX6GDpBtDjH3S0UMickey arrived on transport from Southern California yesterday. He’s a 10-month-old Rottweiler Doberman mix, submissive, and currently very scared of his changing environment.

We know that he had a sister who stayed back with a foster in SoCal after both were rescued from a high kill shelter. From watching his interaction with my two older dogs, I would guess that he has not had much dog socialization. He will climb on their dog beds while they’re resting and walk over and around them, which will usually earn him a warning growl to mind his space.

Despite the personal boundary issue, he is an inquisitive, quiet boy. Great on leash, but very skittish with passing runners and loud vehicle noises. Otherwise, he walks right alongside and rarely pulls. Have not yet seen his reaction to cats.

He isn’t trained yet with any commands, but it is clear just working on him with “sit” that he is a fast learner and eager to please. He prefers being near people, and would happily make a great (big) lap dog. Last night he was also intrigued with the latest episode of The Walking Dead. None of our fosters have paid the tv the slightest bit of attention until this one.

Mickey is just about the handsomest puppy I have seen to date, and if we didn’t already have two, I’d definitely want to adopt him. He will need lots of walks to help him gain confidence in various environments and he needs, as they all do, a consistent, firm owner who will not so much coddle his fears as help him to grow out of them. I have no doubt that he will make someone an excellent forever furry one day. And on that day, I will have a hard time saying goodbye. 🙂

To non-believers of leashes

Laws-Strictly-Enforced-Pet-Sign-K-1199Dear non-believers of leashes on dogs:

I know you love your dog, and I am sure your furry friend loves to accompany you in public on walks to the store, through the park, on hiking trails, and around the neighborhood. You’ve got the exercise thing down, and your dog is healthier for it. Problem is, sometimes these public places are populated with other people and your dog has no leash.

Have you used one of these excuses?
1) My dog listens to me. He’s extremely obedient, so I don’t need a leash.
2) My dog is friendly! He loves everyone.
3) We’re not bothering anyone.

Obedient dogs are wonderful dogs, and often the result of conscientious dog owners. I have marveled at the few dogs I’ve seen off leash who follow their owners as though nothing else existed. These dogs are few and far in between. Chances are, your dog still finds things that make him pause, lift his ears, and potentially fixate on certain types of movement. Add an unexpected variable: a running child, an inattentive driver, a psychotic squirrel, a darting cat, a sudden loud noise. How far will your dog be from your reach if one of these surprises it? Are you willing to risk your dog’s well-being along that busy street, or on that hiking trail with steep drops?

Oh, your dog is friendly. I love friendly dogs, but my dogs are not always as accommodating. You find it cute that your dog wants to rush up to mine? My dogs may not find your dog cute; in fact, one of my girls has prey drive for smaller animals which makes the wee furries as appealing as marsupials. One of my dogs might also be a foster dog who may be anxious, stressed, and fearful of its changing environment. This dog will always be on leash closest to me for quickest reining, but I’d still advise you to keep your dogs safely leashed to prevent conflict. As for your walking companion invading my space, how about this: I will send my spindly, hungry teenager all up in your bubble in the middle of your walk. He’s friendly, too. We love him and think he’s the best. You should love him, too.

Ah. Your dog doesn’t bother anyone. I hate to break this news to you: not everyone likes dogs. Some people have had bad experiences with dogs in the past and developed a fear of them. Others are allergic. Still others do not trust loose dogs around their children, and they are responsible parents to be cautious. Often times big dogs outsize little children, and no matter what, in public, a child’s safety far outweighs your dog’s off-leash whims. You might perceive your dog to be your child, but it is still an animal with animal instincts. Also, depending on where you live, you could be breaking the law in your city. Perhaps a citation and a fine are not of concern to you, but the safety of your dog should be. Leash up in public.

Lola and Frieda’s person

Leilani Lulu: ADOPTED!

Leilani and AnitaLeilani Lulu left for her forever home today where she will be an only dog of a retired Army veteran, Anita. This was another great match that I’m happy to have seen a few days ago. Anita was a drill sergeant for years and recently lost her longtime four-legged companion. I think Leilani will thrive as an only dog with a firm, stable leader. Happy trails, Lei!

Leilani and the Whatzit

Along with their dog food, we’ve always given our forever furries carrots for snacks. They love them and chomp away at ’em, but our fosters have not known what to do with them. Leilani is no exception, but instead of leaving it be, she just walks around with the carrot in her mouth. The other dogs try to take it from her and she’ll duck her head and walk the other way. She’ll put it down and lay next to it and as soon as another dog gets too close, she picks it back up and is on her way. Got some pics of it yesterday. She sure is a cutie.