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The Foster Chronicles: Three Steps Back

Bringing this dog out of his shyness is going to happen one day at a time, but I'm in it for the long haul. I have already received a lot of great advice from a friend who is an animal behaviorist, but advice from anyone else who has a tip or two would be welcome.

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Comment by JustAnotherUserName on August 7, 2011 at 7:26pm of my clients is Topanga Pet Resort, a boarding and training facility where the owner has been training for Guide Dogs for the Blind for 30 years.  Steve is very shy.  Everyone who sees him wants to immediately reach out and touch him, causing him to cringe and back off really fast.  


When I took him to work with me at TPR, the owner walked into the room, totally ignored the dog and sat down in a chair and started talking to me, without even a glance at my gorgeous new baby.  Kinda poked the air out of my sails.


Within seconds, however, Steve was over there sniffing him and didn't cringe away when the guy finally reached out to acknowledge him (without making eye contact).  He explained to me that by ignoring Steve, he showed he wasn't a threat and became more of an object of interest.


So my amateur advice?  Ignore him.  Don't try so hard.  Establish your routine and then let him come to you without coaxing or luring him. Dogs process body language differently than humans.


I have to ask, though...what happens when you finally gain his trust then give him away??  How does that not break your heart?!


You're amazing.

Comment by NatureJunkie on August 8, 2011 at 1:06am

Ruth, your "amateur advice" is gold. That is the same advice I got from my behaviorist friend and it's what I've read over and over by people like Patricia McConnell, Ian Dunbar, and Nicholas Dodman. And obviously your client is very dog-savvy. Since August 2, I've been making more of an effort to follow this good advice and I've been having more success.


I will admit, though, that this little dog touches something deep inside me, and it's as difficult for me to ignore him as it is for a chocoholic to ignore a brownie. I also admit that if I decide to let someone else adopt him, it'll be tough, all right. It's one of the emotional risks of fostering, but it's worth it to me.

Comment by Marie on August 8, 2011 at 7:55am

You have not failed him! 10 years of life experience doesn't change in 10 days. *sigh*


I do suggest that you always keep his dish in the kitchen and establish routines with him. Set times for filing his dish, walking, play etc...  The more he knows what to expect, the more he will trust his new environment and you. *chuckles* When he gets hungry enough he'll come out. Once he learns the rhythms of his new life, then you can go all spontaneous on him.

Comment by NatureJunkie on August 9, 2011 at 4:34pm

@ Marie: That is good advice, too, and I shall follow it. Until now, I've been letting him eat in the garage where he likes to hide because he will actually eat out there. He's had very low appetite since coming here, probably due to stress (and it has occurred to me that maybe he's depressed as well). Since failure to eat exacerbates loss of appetite in a positive-feedback loop, I've been doing whatever I can to get him to eat his meals.


However, he just came home from his neuter surgery this morning, and he was hungry! I think today is the right time to reintroduce his food dish to the kitchen.

Comment by Pypermarru1 on August 9, 2011 at 7:56pm

Notice his butt is always away from your immediate reach.  It's the fear of the Blue Diaper Thingy.


In all seriousiness, it will take time for him to get comfortable.  I'm just glad you have the resolve to help him through it.  People adopt or foster and expect the animal to be SOOOO grateful that they adjust immediately or shortly after arriving.  It's crazy expectation that make the adopter return the animal.  Sad and stupid on their part.

You know better and are ready for the work ahead.  YOU ARE AWESOME.  Least I think so :0)

Comment by NatureJunkie on August 9, 2011 at 8:35pm
@ Pyper: Mutual Admiration Society member. <3
Comment by photo2010 on August 11, 2011 at 2:19am
NJ, You said that you were away at work and then he was very shy of you when you came home. Maybe he has abandonment fears. He has been through the 'system' already, and doesn't know what's in store for him next. How much do you know of his background?


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