We’re not always so lucky to turn around a puppy mill dog in a week, but boy, is Jack resilient! I may not be an animal expert, but after 28 foster dogs I feel like I’ve come up with a pretty good methodology for rehabilitating these guys (I know, a lot of you out there have me beat, but I still no longer consider myself a rookie). The trick?
a) Give them time to settle in and let them come to you
b) Keep their world small at first (thank you, Lisa from MLAR) and take every precaution that they don’t bolt
c) Slowly give them more and more freedom to make decisions
d) Set them up for success
As a practical example, Jack was very fearful when he came to us last week. I have a very difficult time putting his harness and leash on him, and he wouldn’t go outside if I was standing by the door. We had to do a little bit of “dancing” to herd him around the house, but it was okay – I knew he would come around. One thing Jack did want to do was sit next to me on the couch. He was terrified if I picked him up or went to him, but he would come to me. Great! We just went with that for a while.
To get him more comfortable with being approached, I always went to him with a treat. After a while, I think he saw me as one giant hot dog. Again, great! Now we can put the harness on him easily, and I can even pick him up.
As far as keeping his world small, I crate him when I’m not home, and for the most part he hangs out in two rooms in my house and my very small yard. He was definitely a flight risk when I first got him, so any time we went outside he was on leash, which I was constantly gripping tightly to make sure I didn’t lose him. He did try to bolt several times.
We went to the dogpark at times when it wasn’t very crowded to acclimate him to other dogs and work on recall. He caught on to “come” very quickly, and while he’s not bombproof yet, he is much less of a flight risk now and he does come when called. He’d much more comfortable with other dogs, too.
I’ve been slowly giving Jack more freedom, and it is working out well. Now, when I take him to my trapeze rig (yes, I said that), he gets to run around in the field with the other dogs. He spends his time between where we sit and running back into the car with Bill (it’s just a few feet away, and Bill loves to just sit on the floor of the car). If he starts wandering, we call him and he comes back. He’s doing great!
In terms of setting him up for success, I still crate him when I’m not home to reinforce that we don’t potty in the house. The potty training has been coming along well, but I see any accidents as major setbacks, so I try to avoid them at all costs. He doesn’t love being crated, but I think he likes it much better than getting yelled at. At night, as I mentioned, Bill cuddles in the crate with him (weirdo!).
Jack is an awesome dog who turns heads everywhere he goes with his cuteness. I hope he finds the perfect forever home soon. Anyone would be lucky to have him.