What role does he/she play in your life? While conversing with others, I usually manage to steer the conversation around to my favorite subject… dogs!
People are aghast to learn, not only that I am a multiple-dogs parent, but that they live inside with me. Seriously?! To me they are family members. Would you ask your Uncle Henry to sleep in the barn or fenced in back yard? I think not.
My dogs are my life and throughout the decades, I have owned at least one. I don’t even like to use the word ‘own’ even though the courts view them as property. My passion for animals, dogs in particular, opened a new world for me.
Eight years ago, I became a member of Happy Tails Pet Therapy organization in Atlanta and last year opened Best Buddies Dog Training. For years Snoopy, my Corgidor, and I have spent weekends visiting facilities sharing (her) unconditional love with those in need. This rewarding activity puts you with people who share your common interests and combines two things I love–spending time with my dog (aka furkid) and helping others.
My family of lovable rescue dogs has grown over the years. Some came with baggage, which required more understanding, guidance and patience than others did, but in 2007 I met my match in the form of a 4 months old Schnoodle we named Sophie. I easily trained my previous dogs and I had no reason to think my newest addition would be different. Sophie, now nearing 10, will always be a work in progress. She introduced me to her world; a world I didn’t realize existed. A world of heartbreaking shyness and paralyzing fear. Sophie was so neurotic that our vet recommended drugs (yeah, NO). She would only eat after we put her food dish on the floor and slowly backed out of the room careful not to make eye contact. She would watch the bowl for (what seemed like) an eternity before daring to get near it. Leash training required leashing our Golden Retriever and leading her around our yard while Sophie followed. Because of Sophie’s needs, I had to invent a completely new way of getting through.
I am grateful for the progress made with this little girl. My ability to break through convinced me that I could help others with bond-building, positive training techniques. Unless you have had and worked with a dog like Sophie, you can’t truly understand their world. Nine years ago after adopting her, we realized we needed training help. We paid an expert $225 for 3 sessions and her best advice was ‘use better treats’. Frustrated, I researched and tried different techniques, slowly making progress. Even today, Sophie and I take life one day at a time making lots of progress some days, and not so many other days.
My best advice to someone with a shy, fearful dog is to celebrate even the smallest victory and don’t be upset if they are few and far between.
Maintain an abundance of patience because you will need it. As much as you love a dog like her, you hurt for them too. I question her quality of life until I see her swimming in the pool squealing with delight without a care in the world or playing nurse to my 16-year-old Golden. I know Sophie is living life to the fullest… on her terms.
Shy, fearful dogs need space and love to help build confidence.
They need to move at a slower pace and be treated with kindness and patience. These days Sophie will seek affection and let me tell you, this is light years away from where we started 9-1/2 years ago.
Intelligence has nothing to do with training in this case. Have you ever met a poodle with a low IQ? I figured not. Although Sophie understands, and deep inside wants to follow our cues, sirens sound and flashing lights go off while her need for flight overtakes everything else.
If you have a shy, fearful dog, please do not be embarrassed by their behavior and please do not give up. Your dog needs you.
A native of Massachusetts and a resident of Georgia where I have lived since 2008 with six rescue dogs, commonly referred to as my merry band of misfits, and one husband. I am proud owner of Best Buddies Dog Training in Hoschton, GA. When not in the training studio, you’ll find me in a nursing home, hospital or special needs class with my certified pet therapy dog or recruiting for my pet therapy organization, Happy Tails. I also spend a great deal of time researching the latest information on dog food, health and training techniques and volunteering with local rescues.
I have written stories to contribute to Titan’s Tales and Other Dog Adoption Love Stories and In Dogs We Trust.