V- arrived at the shelter about three weeks ago. In his first week, pre evaluation, he looked scared and timid in his kennel. He kept to the back as much as possible. I gave him little treats each day that I saw him, through the kennel gate. Pieces of grilled chicken, some Natural Balance, some hot dog. The treats brought him to the front of his kennel, and gradually he started to grow a little confidence. He’d come to the front of his kennel more and more. Occasionally, his tail would wag. And then, when I came into the room, he’d be there, ready and waiting at the front of his kennel.
Evaluation happened. Unsurprisingly, given his timid nature, he was assigned to be handled by the behavior mod squad volunteers only. I’d better explain about the behavior mod squad. We are the volunteers that work with the more problematic dogs, the dogs that are wallflowers like V-, or the dogs that have rude behaviors such as excessive jumping, mouthiness, resource guarding or a host of other behavior issues that have landed them into a need for re-homing. V- is a wallflower, a dog that cringes when he feels pressured.
Mind you, V- is only a year old. He has his whole life ahead of him. So my heart is hopeful that we can get him beyond this timid stage. I looked forward to working with him, to helping him through some of his problem areas. The first three times I took him out, he’d hump my leg when I’d return him to his kennel at the end of our session. He’d grip my leg as tightly as he could with his front legs, putting as much energy into holding on to me with his 15lb body weight as he could. Then his little pelvis would start thrusting. Given the situation and the moment, I thought he was doing this because he felt overly anxious. Perhaps he was afraid of being left in his kennel, perhaps the noise of the other dogs made him anxious. At any rate, rather than wrestling him to get him off of me, I decided to massage his shoulders instead. Slow, soothing strokes. He stopped thrusting, all by himself. He let go of my leg. I didn’t make him do those things, I just soothed him through massage. This behavior, and my solution, repeated itself over the next three sessions that I worked with him. And he hasn’t mounted me since then.
But then another behavior showed itself. V-, at a year old, was not yet house trained. On one occasion, he lifted his leg three times as I took him through various doorways on our way outside. I began to understand why a previous owner might have relinquished him. Between mounting and urination, they must have thought they had a real tough dog on their hands. But it’s not true, guys. You let your beautiful little dog down. You didn’t show him where to pee, you didn’t praise him for peeing in the right place, and you didn’t help him when he felt anxious. It makes me sad. These “problems” are so surmountable. Better education for you as a pet-parent would have made all the difference.
I’m glad to write though, that a new adopter has found V-, and he is going home tomorrow. His new owner knows about his “issues”, and she is ready to give this beautiful dog the patience and confidence that he needs to live a happy and fulfilled life. I am hopeful.