Ashley was rescued on June 14 , 2005 from the Visalia shelter , into which she had been dumped together with a littermate by her breeder. The breeder could not be bothered with these two unsold and largely unsaleable 8 month old puppies because he had a litter of 6 week olds out of the same mother now being advertised for sale. These older puppies had been living on chains in the backyard. They were fairly well socialized to dogs but had had very deficient human socialization.
At the shelter, Ashley's behavior was very shy, scared of everyone , though she unprotestingly allowed the shelter workers to clip her down. A shelter volunteer spotted these two and took the other littermate , who seemed less shy and more stable, for her own foster care and notified BCNC Rescue about Ashley. One of our faithful rescue workers , Michelle Evans, raced over to bail Ashley out. She reported that Ashley intitially seemed rather "freaky", however she unprotestingly allowed Michelle to bathe her. Next day Michelle drove a couple of hours to bring her to Jill's house, Deb picked her up from Jill's house and drove her to a pre-aranged meeting place where I could meet her and take Ashley. We evaluated Ashley as being very scared of people and very submissive as well, but we agreed that we could see no indications of her being a fear biter. We discussed arranging professional testing at either Marin Humane Society or with a behaviorist at the UC Davis Shelter Medicine program, and settled on the latter.
I drove her home and brought her inside to join my pack. She was submissive to my dogs but got along with them very well. She was afraid of me and would have simply kept on retreating out of reach of me. However if cornered , she cowered and submitted to being petted , stroked , and massaged .
My first goal at this point was to have her expereince enough gentle petting and other hand contact that she would come to realize that there was no harm in such contact, thus would lose her fear of same. Once the fear decreased to a low enough level, it would become possible for her to notice that petting and massage were actually enjoyable, and so eventually come to seek contact.
I began by offering her tasty treats from my hands at frequent intervals. After a few days , whe would cautiously reach out to sniff and barely touch an offered hand, no doubt hoping for a treat. She still did not want me to touch her however. So I put a body harness on her and attached about 10 or 12 feet of "drag line" to the harness. (I use a harness for the attachment point rather than the collar to minimize risk of the dog getting the drag line snagged on something in such a way that the dog is hanging off the line.) A drag line is simply a line that drags on the floor or ground and allows me to simply step on the line to halt the dog's retreat and allow me to calmly and naturally approach and touch the dog. By thus removing retreat as the dog's habitual response to the percieved threat of my approach and instead causing the dog to experience the harmlessness of being caught up to and petted, the dog starts to find out running away is neither effective nor necessary to cope with fear of being approached. Thus during the first two weeks , I simply walked up to her and gave her a treat and/or petted and massaged her in a gentle and pleasant way. I also did a bit of grooming, with care to make this as pleasant or harmless as possible.
During the first two weeks , her progress was measured in tiny crumbs from day to day. By the end of two weeks, there had accumulated a very small amount of progress. Occasionally I could walk up to her without needing to step on the check cord. She would drop her head and tail and stand looking very cowed and scared, but she would stay and let me touch her.
I started taking her on leash for walks along the creek, and I took her for a visit to the Dog Park so I could have a few dog lovers there feed and pet her. A few days later one morning I noticed that after petting her for a minute and stopping, I thought I felt her lean against my let or nudge it slightly. So I petted again for a minute and stopped again, and for a second time she faintly nudged me to continue. Hallejulia, hallejulia ! The very first indication that she was starting to think of petting as something desirable. Her body posture was still very cowed and submissive when being touched, so I thought she still had some fear about it but she also was starting to experience some pleasure.
Now the next few days saw more noticiable rate of improvement, and by the end of the third week I was able to take the harness and drag line off. I could pretty well count on being able to walk up to her most of the time.
Then next I noticed that she was sometimes following me aroung. A few times when jealous bitch Pixel was not present, Ashley even followed me into the bathroom to stand in front of me just close enough that I could reach out and pet her without falling off the "porcelline throne". Occasionally when moving about the house, I would feel her give me a nose-nudge in my butt and even a very gentle open mouthed nudge. So this is the beginning of her actually seeking to initiate contact.
By the end of the third week, I thought she was making enough progress that in another week or so she would be ready to handle the additional exposures of a trip to the Vet School to be spayed. This would involve being handled by a number of people, strange sights and sounds, etc. Her appointment was set up so her visit would fall just after the end of 4 weeks with me. In the meanwhile I got her out to the Dog Park again, where she played with much more confidence and had a lot more confidence abut the people there. Also I got permission from my former Agility teacher to come to her classes and sit around on the sidelines and invite the class participants to pet and treat her when not working their own dogs.
So today is 7/16/05 and she is home again after being spayed yesterday. She did accept fairly well being handled and petted by a variety of people at the Vet School, including men (the minority sex in vet med these days). I think in another month or so, she will be trusting enough of people and finding enough enjoyment in people that she could be ready to be placed in an adoptive home. (I should add that I got her vaccinated and heartworm tested and started on prevention during the first week I had her.)
UPDATE 7/31/05 : Ashley has made in the last two weeks. In addition to accepting petting offered by strangers, she is now willing to solicit petting from strangers, be they men , women, or children. She picks out some strangers to lean up against as a way of soliciting petting , and if that chosen person stops, she will solicit again. She still has a very submissive body language while being petted, but that is not such a bad thing. She remains playful but submissive to other dogs. We have been to the Farmer's Market twice for socialization, as well as trips to Agility class. We will be able to start back to the Dog Park in another day or so, now that her spay incision is well healed and it is safe for her to romp vigourously.
At home she has gone from nudging me with her nose in my backside to gently tugging the back of my pants with her mouth to now sometimes making a very gentle grasp on the rear of my leg or butt. I do want to test her out with joggers, roller-skaters, skateboarders, and bicyclists to see how she reacts to fast moving animate objects, especially those that are moving away from her, ie fleeing. I'd like to be sure she does not shift to a chase mode with a possibly stronger tendency to grab. I think this is unlikely, but not impossible.
Her car manners have much improved. She had been a bit restless and noisy in the car, so after a few rides, I started doing mild verbal corrections : a slightly harsh "hush" or "eh-eh" / "ach ach" sound, then priasing silence with a very soothing sweet voiced "good , gooood". After just one ride that way, the next ride was pretty much quiet, and she has been pretty quiet on subsequent rides. At this point I would consider her car manners to be good, but not yet great.
Now it is important for a prospective adopter to remember that she is stillvery much a puppy, ie now 9 months old, and gets into normal puppy mischief. She will tear up paper objects left in her reach, eg the phone book, so I have to be careful with my books and other items. She will tear up foam rubber. She has torn up a couple of small pillows and strewn the stuffings widely. She has pulled dog hair out of the wastebasket and strewn it widely. However she also uses her chew toys, and especially likes those that can have food inside them. She really likes a stuffed Kong and she likes the new Orka Jack that I just got her two days ago. She also likes the Buster Cube. Her adopter should be prepared to put valued chewables out of reach and to supply her with appropriate toys, especially those just mentioned. And realize that you will make some mistake sooner or later and get something destroyed that you would rather have kept unharmed. She is a puppy, and she is enjoying the later part of her puppyhood.
The best home for Ashley is probably one where the people are gentle and somewhat low-keyed in voice and action, ie speak and move in a calm and smooth manner, people who don't often shout and seldom or never act angry. I believe she will become an affectionate dog with good trust in her own familiar people, though probably somewhat timid with strangers. She is a submissive dog with people and other dogs. She gets along well with other dogs. She is learning to play and to enjoy life. She is housebroken and uses the dog door readily. She is getting the start of a good on leash (long line) recall and of sitting on command. However as she is still very much a puppy/adolecent, she is prone to chew on things , including tearing up paper or phonebooks left in reach (my real books are never left in reach !!! nor are my shoes or anything else I would hate to find damaged !) and pulling dog hair out of the wastebasket and strewing it all over and other very normal puppy mischiefs. If I see her reaching for something, I have only to give a very slightly sharp "eh-eh" to cause her to break off.
For more information about Ashley, contact me Pam Green at (530) 756-2997 California time between hours of 10 am and 6 pm. The rest of the time, you can talk to the answer machine. I would prefer to place her within Northern California, though I am currently considering an especially suitable home a bit further away.
Please notice that my phone is (530) 756-2997 ----- unfortunately I had it posted incorrectly for a couple of weeks : it's not that I do not know my own phone number ; it's that my fingers slipped on the keyboard and I did not proof-read, but fortunately a prospective adopter called my attention to the mistake.
UPDATE 10/19/05 : Ashley has been adopted !!!
Ashley has been adopted by a home ideally suited to her needs and personality. Her adopter is very used to timid natured dogs, as she has had many of a breed where that is the typical temperament. She drove abut 300 miles (600 round trip) twice for Ashley's sake : the first time to meet her and spend time getting to know her, then after getting some fencing upgrades done to better ensure Ashley's safety, the second trip to pick up Ashley and take her home. On that first visit, I noticed that Ashley seemed more ready to trust this adopter than she had other people. On the homecoming trip, on her first night with her adopter, she accepted the invitation to join her in bed and spent the night snuggled up. I just cannot tell you how happy I was to hear that. Ashley was showing her adopter more trust and affection than she was ever able to grant me. So I think she has found her ideal home.
UPDATE 12/11/06 : poor sweet Annie was killed in an accident when she escaped from her owner's vehicle at a freeway rest stop and ran out onto the freeway. Owner is devastated by the tragedy and I am grieving too. For two days before this , Annie had been a guest in my home while her owner attended a conference. We are both telling ourselves that this last year of her life was a happy one, her only happy one, but that is not much comfort right now.
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