I was looking through some photographs of Lara the other day and realized the first time I met her was in January of 2010. She was curled up in the corner of her kennel at a local animal shelter, so afraid that she would not even raise her head from beneath her paws. For several weeks I watched as nobody adopted her, actually nobody even showed the slightest interest in her as she did not present well at all.
I have been fostering her since early March 201o on behalf of New Spirit 4 Aussie Rescue and the journey has been very slow yet very rewarding. I decided to foster Aussies about four years ago when I adopted Bailey, my five year old Red Merle Aussie, through APRH. I wanted to help rescue dogs and it was a great way to do it.
Anyway back to Lara, for those of you who have been following my Lara Blog you know we have gone through many stages.
Stage 1 – We could not even approach Lara, she would run and hide in a bush or behind a chair or just freeze on the spot. We began to treat her for being close, 10 to 15 feet away
Stage 2- We could finally approach her inside but had to carry her in and out, her outside trips were on a twenty foot line. She was so scared of a leash if it became taut that you had to follow around behind her making sure it did not get trapped on anything. If left unsupervised for more than 5 seconds with the long line she would chew straight through it.
Stage 3 – We began shaping calm behaviors around people, we shaped her to approach people and then to touch a hand. We then used this to catch her to carry her in and out. We then used the touch cue to move her in and out so we no longer had to carry her. A six feet trip could take 5 minutes.
Stage 4 – We began clicker training her to sit and down. We had to do this from a distance as she became too scared if we got to close. We could now move her in and out and we began working on name recognition so we could get her attention if she was outside.
Stage 4- We began working on ‘let’s go’ so we could control her outside. She was now allowed off leash in the yard as we could at least get her back to us. She began playing with us and the other dogs. We shaped a nice ball drive so exercising her became easier.
Stage 5 – Lara was allowed to romp on the north 5 acres of our property with the other dogs, she was attached enough to me and the other dogs that she would follow us all back into the yard.
Stage 6 – Lara has learned that begin inside the house is not that scary, she still shudders at strange noises but has learned to sit and relax on the couch when we are watching television.
So what have we learned through all of this.
1. Dogs that have been abused or had zero socialization have a long road to travel, that needs to be taken slowly and at their own pace
2. There is nothing more satisfying than working with a dog that is almost feral, very scared and very shut down and the simplest of behaviors they offer are a huge breakthrough. I never thought I could get so much joy from having a dog tap my hand with its nose on cue.
3. With patience, kindness and a good plan, almost anything can be achieved with a dog. Check out the DogSmith FREE MTR cards that show how to train each of these skills.
So who is Lara now?
Lara is a delightful dog, with a lovely personality. Her exuberance with her new life sometimes gets her in trouble. She does not always respect the space of other animals and has been known to climb over the other dogs in excitement to reach a goal. She loves her ‘peeps’ those she trusts and they are few and far between as she is not overly keen to meet new humans. Her antis are comically entertaining. Even at her most frightened she has never show as much as a snarl. She is amazingly athletic but I believe her personality will restrict her from ever performing, had she had a normal puppy-hood she could have been a fantastic agility dog. With that said if she continues to progress the sky may be the limit.
Lara is welcome to stay in our home for as long as it takes to find her the perfect home. A home with patient and understanding owners who will enjoy what she has to offer at the speed and pace she can offer it. Owners that are prepared for the first few months to work slowly with her and to build a loving and trusting relationship before they expect anything from her. Owners that are prepared to give her adequate exercise and mental stimulation in a safe environment while she assimilates to her new home. Owners that can wait for the day when she feels safe enough to give back the same amount of love and trust that they have put forth first.