Mickey and the Maybe Home

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Lola and Mickey taking a rest

It’s been two weeks of gradual progress with Mickey. What used to be a panicked backwards retreat when we’d move a chair or laugh loudly has turned into a tentative step back. He no longer climbs all over Lola and Frieda in their dog beds, having been corrected by them quickly and effectively. Initial dog spats lessened as the dogs re-adjusted and after Mickey got snipped and became apparently more acceptable. He’s begun resting alongside Lola, the more submissive of our two furries. I don’t doubt that he misses the bond with his sister, Mindy, who is also in a foster home.

Will sit for food.

Will sit for food. (L to R: Mickey, Lola, Frieda)

On his first walk alongside our toddler’s stroller, he was terrified of the wheels. After several more walks, he now follows carefully behind it, no longer pulling away from it. Mickey’s also learned our routine at feeding time. He knows that meals are not given until he completes a true “sit,” butt fully on the floor. The same goes for being let out to pee and then for regaining entry.

I really appreciate the great tips that fellow bloggers contributed for working with Mickey. We have incorporated using treats as we approach, and we don’t require a sit, especially if he is fearful. On walks, we started putting ourselves physically between him and what frightens him to demonstrate that we are alpha and will handle the potential danger. I loved the idea of bringing him somewhere we could watch joggers go by, as they are still one of his believed monsters, but weather and schedule has not yet allowed this excursion. We make do with our usual three mile walks around the area.

Playtime

Playtime

This past weekend, we took Mickey to a meet and greet. The potential adopters live in the country and have kids and experience with dogs, though no current dogs. They watched Mickey hesitantly, clearly uncertain about his timidness, and I found myself observing with two different perspectives. I respected that as responsible dog owners, the family wanted to find a suitable match for their home life. Every potential dog owner should take an adoption very seriously. However, the foster mom part of me felt defensive, thinking, if you can’t see Mickey’s utter potential and his submissive sweetness without a hint of aggression, if you don’t feel a desire to help him achieve his potential, you are probably not the right family for him. With a dedicated family who is willing to constantly expose him to different environments, he will grow into a confident protector and companion.

The family took a few days to deliberate and decided they’d like to adopt both Mickey and his sister Mindy. They plan to have a fence finished on their property this week before bringing both dogs home. Mickey will be absolutely ecstatic to see his sister again. She was his alpha and comfort zone. My biggest wish for Mickey is that his family actively works with him to continue his progress. He doesn’t need acres to explore. He needs to gain his doggy confidence first, and that will not come without help from his people.

 

Fostering Mickey: Rehabilitating a fearful pup

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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!