A little background:
Snowcone is an undersocialized dog; as a result of being on the run, he has developed coping skills that depend largely on the avoidance of contact with people in order to be safe in uncertain circumstances, so we have to gently guide him using his own comfort level as a blueprint. We can’t wait for him to get used to people, so we reward small behaviors in order to shape new habits. Rewards can be treats or even creating distance.
Snowcone’s in foster:
Because he was not doing as well as we had hoped, Snowy went into foster care with me. I initially set up a large crate in the bedroom, so he would feel safe. During the day, the crate was left open. I also have a very mellow St Bernard, Violet, another rescue from PA. They could interact without Snowy feeling too stressed.
After about a week of being in the crate and finding the two of them snuggling in it together, I decided to dismantle it.
Snowy did have a few problems acclimating to living in a home:
His first obstacle, or rather mine, was his need to mark as well as urinate on the path he felt the most comfortable with in getting to the door to go out. Sadly, my dining room table and a few wing chairs fell victim. What to do? Management always comes first, so I wrapped the furniture legs with wee wee pads and placed shower curtain liners on the rug under the table. Problem solved until training could kick in, right? Not so right: My senior girl Violet had developed pancreatitis; this exhibited itself in sudden diarrhea, which I discovered when I first woke up one morning, eyes half opened, and drowsily made my way into the bathroom. You guessed it. I stepped barefooted right into it! Poop to the left of me, pee to the right.
Luckily, this poop and pee fest only lasted a month.
Then there was the feeding issue. Because Violet is on special food for her pancreatitis, she cannot have regular food. Snowy was initially fed in his crate with that door closed and the bedroom door closed. Now he is fed in the bedroom with the door closed; in fact, he will not eat with anyone in the room or noise outside of the room. This is something I can slowly work on by being in the room for his breakfast; he should be hungry enough to eat.
The most important aspect is building trust. While Snowy allows petting, he doesn’t trust enough for him to enjoy it. I slowly built up the time I pet him. Low and behold, one day he jumped up onto the bed next to me. I pet him for about 5 seconds and stopped as soon as he exhibited any sign of stress. Before long he was enjoying full out belly rubs. I was in seventh heaven.
Then the holidays hit…
Written by Robin Markovits CCDT, AKC