Do you rescue or foster dogs? Then you have probably dealt with fear in one or many of the dogs in your care. As I wrote in a recent blog, fear is real and must be handled with patience, understanding and kindness. Taking a fearful dog in and housing it is not enough. If you rescue, you must attempt to rehabilitate or at least get the ball started. I have met several dogs from rescue groups that were in bad shape; not physically, but mentally. One had been taken in as a puppy and raised by a woman, alone in her home. She never took the puppies anywhere, never socialized or introduced them to anything. It was a horrible situation. The dog was extremely fearful, especially of men.
Many dogs who end up abandoned have lead a sheltered life. This can mean that they have become fearful due to a lack of socialization. A fearful dog does not mean that it has been beaten; more often it is a fear of the unknown. So what do you do to help these guys overcome their fear? Get out there, out in the real world. But you don't just take these dogs out into crowded public places. If you overload a fearful dog you can make matters worse. Offering too much can backfire and cause a dog to shutdown. Baby steps is how it must be done. Offering tiny little pieces of social introductions and moving onto more when each step is overcome.
There is no timeline for how long it can take. The younger the dog the better; but there are many different levels of fear. Some dogs are so fearful that baby steps can seem almost non existent. But it must be done, keeping them in the safety of a home or yard is just unacceptable. Fear goes from bad to worse when not addressed and worked on.
Rescuing and fostering dogs is work and if you are not up for working on a dog's problems then don't do it. I think foster people are wonderful but they must be willing to help start rehabilitation in order to give dogs a better chance at their life ahead of them. I've met a few foster dogs who were spending their fearful days in a yard behind a bush. Yes they were in the safety of a fenced yard but they were also growing more fearful by the day. Working with a 12 week old puppy with a bit of fear is far easier than dealing with an adult with full blown severe level fear.
Dogs need to be introduced to all sorts of environments, objects and people. A starting off point could be as simple as a new room, one new person sitting quietly or putting a box in the room with the dog or puppy. Introductions of new things are basically anything that the dog has not seen before. By starting to introduce, people, places and things you will quickly learn what areas need work.
These scared dogs must be introduced to life, slowly, patiently and with kindness. You must portray a secure, positive and calm aura so that they feel confident following your lead. Just like I said in yesterdays blog, chill is the name of the game. Chill little baby steps is the way to success.