Sunday, January 14, 2007

Best part of this job

I love winning over the timid dogs but it is even better to watch a timid dog go from a tucked tail and laid back ears to a rambunctious player busy jumping all over his new found friends with a new found level of self confidence.

Dufus pulled a spectacular transformation while she was here. Dufus was playing to a tough crowd when she first arrived. The new dog is always in for the gauntlet of sniffing when they first come out to play. In the dog world, the new butt is the one to smell. And this can be hard on a dog, 1 dog is no problem, but sometimes it will be 5, 6 or more dogs all trying to ‘get to know you’ all at the same time. Even I would be overwhelmed with this much attention.

A happy, confident dog will stand still and let everyone get a nose full and then will go up to each dog individually to get his shot at an introduction. This is a perfect doggie introduction; everyone has shown the height of canine etiquette. And playtime can now start in earnest.

I wish this happen every time but you know not everyone has the best manners. A dog that is frightened, skittish, and basically not confident will not be able to stand still and let other dogs do the smelling. They will run, and get chased which only makes them more frightened, skittish, and even less confident. This is where I usually step in to let the timid dog get a break. I try to just get the new guy on one side of the play yard and keep the other dogs away for a bit. I try not to put the dog back in his run, because that just reinforces the idea that being afraid and running away is the proper behavior.

Just like for people, the only way to build up a dog’s confidence is to have him act with confidence and succeed at it. This is how I pull this off at the kennel. Take Dufus, she was freaked by Tessie, BB, and Izzy all trying to ‘meet’ her all at once. I am freaked out by having Tessie, BB, and Izzy all trying to do anything to me all at once.

These are what I call my ‘players’, they can play with any dog, any time for as long as the other dog can last and then some. Using the Dog Whisperer’s terminology, these dogs are high energy dogs but they are all completely without aggression. I don’t have to worry about fights, but that doesn’t make them any less intimidating.

I let those three play together for about 10 minutes before I introduce Dufus. This should get us past the initial ‘I just got let out of the run’ wanton abandon. Dufus was shaking but stood her ground to be smelled. SO far so good, but she didn’t have enough confidence to make them stand for a return smell. So she would run up behind each one while they were preoccupied wrestling with the other two. Sneaky, yes, but also effective.

Once she had her ‘introductions’ Dufus was running with the big dogs and having a great time. Tail up, ears up giving Izzy a run for his money.

Along comes Happy, who is anything but happy. He is so skittish that he is running like a maniac to get away from anyone who is trying to sniff him. I shoo Dufus and Happy onto one side of the playyard and keep the other dogs away. A perfect match. Dufus is no threat to Happy so he can relax and start to play. Happy went from freak-out to playing in record time. When I brought all the dogs back together, the freak-out reappeared. But Happy has now got the hang of being a dog with other dogs and is just all over BB and Tessie. I am now having a hard time getting Happy to stop playing and go back in his kennel. My work here is done.

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