Pathetic dog update---year three
Three years ago we adopted a whippet mix from a local kill shelter. We have a GSD chow mix male that I also rescued because he was uncontrollably aggressive. He is now totally controllable, but was still a bit dog aggressive, so I had to be sure he would accept a new dog---since one dog does not a pack make.
We actually took Max(the male) to the shelter and brought females(our choice) out for his approval/disapproval. Molly was his pick. She was less than a year old(shelter/vets estimate) and literally scared to immobility. In all my years of working for a vet and handling animals, I have never seen a dog so totally scared of everything.
The folks at the shelter were astonished we picked her---she was skin and bones, was filthy(would not move to do her business) and so scared she could no longer shiver.
But, Max indicated she was his pick of the four we tried, so home she came.
Turns out the weight loss was because of allergies---lamb and rice diet put weight on so rapidly she was overweight in less than two weeks.
Her self esteem took much longer. She was so unbalanced, Max totally ignored her for a week. She did not move from the place in the dining room we put her initially for two days. I literally picked her up, took her outside and cleaned her off after she eliminated in place.
After two days, she timidly got up and began exploring the room she was in. The next day, she began to venture out into the rest of the house. Max now began to pay attention to her and helped her search and explore.
Any unknown/loud noise caused a panic and she would flatten out on the floor/ground.
Max and we simply ignored any of these episodes. And I mean ignored. No eye contact, no voice communication, no comfort at all. Continued normal activities. The only attention she got was when she acted 'normal'. She started playing after about three weeks. It was obvious she had no dog experience---did not know how to play/interact with Max at all.
Picture a 75 pound GSD mix that was once a very dangerous dog because he had no control and would get so aggressive he would bite himself. I rehabilitated him and he is now rehabilitating a dog. The things he allowed Molly to do to him amazed me.
Picture a grandfather letting three grandkids jump all over him, pull his ears, run into him, pile on top of him and more. That was what came to mind when Max taught Molly to play.
Fast forward three years. Molly can no longer do many of the things she once did to Max. She is now a fairly well balanced pack member, subordinant to Max. Max goes out/in the door first(after humans), and corrects her when she gets too rambunctious.
I can now make vocal corrections when she does something wrong(mainly barking too much) without her dissolving in fear. She stops the unwanted behavior and come running happily to me.
I have rehabilitated aggressive dogs before. I had never tried a really unbalanced fearful dog. And certainly not one of the intense disturbances Molly had.
She still has episodes of what I call flashbacks, and we still have to be careful of when we give her affection---so as not to do so during a flashback episode. Those episodes are more fearful looks and attitudes now---and a good tousel and happy "Pretty Girl!" and redirection of attention usually reverses those moments.
My point is this. Dogs, like people, sometimes have bad experiences. We humans are still exploring ways to help people overcome bad experiences. Dogs have that covered. Max showed Molly how to act and how to behave. I simply followed his lead and did what I learned dogs do. Treated Molly like a dog, and made sure the bad experiences disappeared---and most importantly, never allowed her to remember them.
Today. Molly keeps the trash trucks, school buses, and certain motorcycles from attacking her yard. She has yet to catch a squirrel, but surprisingly is a decent mole catcher. She chases and catches prey(soccer balls I kick for her) and devils Max on occasion.