We walked into the doors of a different shelter this week. They were exited to have us and we were excited to be there. The director was a nice gentleman and the staff was fantastic. The shelter was clean and the animals well cared for. The staff was extremely friendly, knew the animals well, and seem to find joy in their work. They showed us thru the dog runs and the kitty rooms and introduced us to the amazing German Shepherd in the back. A gorgeous, but fearful young man who had been running free on the streets of our little town. His hair had fallen out along his back, he had a couple of small tumors, and his goopy green eyes glared at us. I could see fear in Sam’s face as they asked us to evaluate this guy. With the promise to my mentee and sister we would not take any dog out that I felt posed a danger to someone inexperienced with body language and handling, I knelt down.
This boy, still without a name, stood in the back of the kennel, growling and barking at others who passed or looked at him. We sat down with our sides to him, and tossed a few tiny pieces of hot dog to him. Clearly hungry, he gobbled them up. Within minutes, he came to the front of his kennel, and I tossed a few more. He was nosing my flat hand pushed against the kennel and licking gently, so I placed a few more tiny pieces into his ever gentle jaws. Sam then tossed a few of her hot dogs and soon those two were as comfortable as he and I. It was time…
This boy was eager to come out when I placed the looped leash inside the kennel. With a hot dog piece buried deep in my fingers I was able to bring him thru. Out he came, a big ball of energy. Once into the gated yard, we transitioned him to collar and our make shift harness. Off we went for a nice long walk. He responded well when we saw another dog. He responded well as we passed others. He knew sit, although you could tell his energy was up high enough he wasn’t quite ready to do it every time (unless there was a
chance to nose dive in water).
A young lady approached open hand and I saw his tail drop as she neared, asked her to step back and just as she did, he let her know he was scared with a few barks and a pull forward. Sam walked over handed her a few pieces of hot dog and she tossed it to our boy who eagerly started to approach her and shortly thereafter was taking a few more from her hands. We then walked on. When a gentleman came outside I walked ahead to greet him, and gave instructions to Sam to walk wide around us several times and slowly we closed the gap. This boy wasn’t Cujo, he was a Prince. He just needed us there to protect him and show him humans aren’t so scary after all.
On Day 2, we were greeted with a jumpy little juvenile who just wanted his new friends to take him on a walk. The entire staff laughed as Prince jumped all over the trainers while they put a real harness on him. They shot photos (which we forgot to ask for) of what must have looked like a circus act, but we didn’t care. At that moment, his crazy was refreshing and I knew with some training (both in leash skills for Sam and “sit for harness”) the jumping would be a thing of the past. This boy can go to a real home after a bit of training! And so it began… Prince’s love affair with Force Free, Fear Free Training.