by Judy Hamontre
Ark-Valley Humane Society
In any shelter you can find that timid dog cowering in the back of his kennel. Talk to him, and he might growl at you. Please do not discount him, for he might be your perfect pet.
Many dogs who come to shelters are fearful. There can be many reasons. Most people assume the dogs suffered abuse or neglect, and they may have. It is more likely that a lack of social experiences when they were puppies played a larger role.
Knowing the exact fear(s) is not as important to help them as is knowing how to manage and recondition them to be trusting, loyal companions.
The staff at Ark-Valley are pros at reconditioning these frightened guys to make them feel more secure. They patiently and lovingly work with them and then introduce them to volunteers so they become used to other people.
They coach us volunteers to share space with the dog, not making eye contact nor approaching. We let the dog come to us. We might encourage that by dropping treats around. We calmly and positively talk to them so they trust the sound of the human voice.
Once dogs are feeling more at ease with humans, staff present new experiences, such as walking on leash, learning to sit or playing with a toy. They do this reconditioning in a controlled and quiet environment, such as one of the dog yards, showing the pups there is nothing to fear. As the dogs show positive signs of socialization, they are rewarded with praise and treats.
Many of the shy pets are fostered in homes where they are gradually exposed to new surroundings and experiences. Foster parents patiently continue the dogs’ training in a calm, positive and consistent manner.
The fearful dog is slowly learning to trust. When you first meet him, he still may tremble, bark or shy away. The staff will help the two of you meet and provide the environment for the dog to see you are a human to be trusted. And they will inform you how to proceed when you take the dog home.
Basically you just see that the new addition to your family is not overstimulated. You allow him to explore, limiting the number of new places and experiences. As he settles into his new home, you can begin to introduce him to new people and experiences around your house and finally in your community.
You are patient, calm and positive. Ultimately your heart bursts with joy as you realize you helped transform a frightened dog into a loving pet and friend.
Harley and Alaska are at AVHS right now waiting for that special person to be patient with them and their shyness and welcome them to a forever home.
Judy Hamontre is an Ark-Valley Humane Society volunteer.