Today I am taking another look back to the first year Daisy came to live with me. This is an old blog post from Daisy’s blog, “Daisy the Wonder Dog (and how she found her inner Lab).” It highlights one of the many set backs we faced in those early years.
I think it is a good reminder for those who have a damaged or unsocialized dog. Progress is often made in fits and starts. For every step forward, there are two steps back. Understanding this may be easy, but seeing it can be hard. They key is to never give up hope. You need a lot of patience and understanding. You also learn to learn to celebrate the small successes.
Daisy rarely has a set back any more, but when she does it is usually a small one, and it is often missed by those who do not know her past. Looking back now, it’s hard to believe Daisy was like this once. I first wrote this back on November 10, 2008, almost one full year after I first adopted Daisy.
I was reminded once again this weekend that despite her progress, Daisy is still a puppy mill dog and as such, will still react to new experiences with fear and uncertainty.
While marveling at her progress this past year, I forgot that the old, fearful and uncertain Daisy still lurks beneath the surface. The “new” Daisy is so much different from the old one. The new Daisy is vibrant, energetic, and curious and much more present than the old one. She interacts with strangers at the dog park, even placing her head on a stranger’s laps for a long pet. She often leaves my side to explore new places and smells. She is even confident walking into a pet store, as long as no one looms over her too much. The ”new” Daisy sometimes makes it easy to forget that I need to go slow and introduce her to new situations with care.
A new toy (a stuffed wiener dog with squeaker sounds in it), a towel draping over her body (to dry off the wet snow melting into her fur), a strange new environment, new people or young kids, new doggie friends – all seemed to cause fear this weekend. System overload? I’m not sure, but it all seemed to start with that small toy and only escalate from there. Her behavior this weekend reminded me of what Daisy was like when I first adopted her.
When I first brought Daisy home, one of the things we had to work on was how to come inside the house. The first step always required getting Daisy to enter the garage, which is the only way to get from the backyard to the house, then we had to go through a series of rituals that would eventually take us from the garage to the house.
Daisy was more likely to enter the garage if she was following Aspen (her doggie guide), but only if I met her specific guidelines, which of course, were only known to her. Direct eye contact, a sudden movement, even holding some unfamiliar object in my hands, would frequently send her skittering away from the garage door and back out into the backyard. Often when this happened, Aspen and I would have to start the whole process over again. This meant going back outside, frequently in the middle of winter, so we could all come in the door again – the correct way. I would enter the garage door first, followed by Aspen, and then Daisy – if I wasn’t too close to the door or looking at her as she entered the garage.
However, this wasn’t the end of the process. Once I had Daisy in the garage, I then had to convince her to enter the house. Wood floors have always been a problem because she is afraid of slipping on their surface – something I hear is quite common with dogs who have not been socialized to live in a home. Unfortunately, the first thing Daisy encountered when she entered the house were wood floors. If Aspen led the way, Daisy would follow, reluctantly. But once again, her entering often depended on where I was standing, whether I was facing her when she came in, or if I was far enough away from the door to allow her to enter in a way that she felt was safe.
More often than not, we played a game of chase in the garage. Daisy would run in circles around the car, sometimes in fear, but often in some sort of pacing pattern (very similar to what you see when a zoo animal is confined to a small enclosure), and I would try to head her off at the pass.
Sometimes, I would go slowly towards her from the opposite direction and attach a leash to her collar and lead her inside, but that only worked if she froze in fear. Not exactly ideal. I always felt awful in those situations because it only seemed reinforce the fear, and it did nothing to help me build trust with Daisy. Other techniques included: opening the car door and letting Daisy jump into the car so I could attach a leash to her collar and lead her inside, using treats to get her to approach me so I could attach the leash, and/or using Aspen to lead her inside.
All of these techniques could be, and often were, thwarted when Daisy pulled her head out of her collar – something she did quite often. In those cases, Daisy would begin to circle the car again and I would need to open the car door so she could jump so I could put her collar back on without her running away. After a while, I started putting on her Easy Walk harness while in the garage. This allowed me to safely lead her inside without her pulling her head out of her collar and it short-circuited the pacing behavior that seemed to border on obsessive compulsive.
Why do I share all of this with you? Because this weekend I was reminded again that while a lot of Daisy’s old behavior seems to have gone away, it is still there, just beneath the surface, waiting to come out again. Put Daisy in a new situation or expose her to a new experience, and you can and should expect that she will revert to the Daisy of old. This past weekend, I actually had to use the leash to lead her back inside the house again – several times. Whatever scared her, caused her to revert back to behavior she hasn’t demonstrated in some time. I guess trust is a hard thing to come by when you’ve been mistreated most of your life.
So, we will begin again, my Daisy and I, slowly building trust through positive reinforcement. And slowly, with patience, we will rebuild her confidence. Together. Daisy’s story continues…. stay tuned.
Today, I am sharing another blog post from Daisy’s blog, “Daisy the Wonder Dog (and how she found her inner Lab)“.
Daisy is my former puppy mill breeding dog that I fostered and then adopted in November 2007. Even though I don’t write on her blog much anymore, I still treasure the words I wrote back then because they remind me of how far Daisy has come in the past 5 years.
This post was written on November 17, 2008, nearly a year after I first brought Daisy home.
Friday morning was a cold day at the dog park. The dogs didn’t seem to mind, but I certainly did! I was not ready for the bitter wind that came with the low temperature of 15 degrees. Brrrr! Nothing like having your legs go numb while you watch your dog run and play in the woods. As a hearty Minnesotan I should be used to it, but I’m not. Despite the weather I was still able to enjoy the sun and laugh at the dogs and their antics.Daisy’s buddy, Brutus, a 110 lb. Rottweiler puppy was there, as was her favorite pal, Henry. Everyone seemed ready to have some fun. Brutus was looking for a playmate so the chasing and running began as soon as we got inside the park. Daisy really likes Brutus, but I was still relieved to see that she was okay with Brutus stalking and chasing her. I was expecting her to be a bit tentative or fearful, especially after last week. Thankfully, she wasn’t fearful at all.Last week Daisy got into an “altercation” with another one of her friends over a stick. In past experiences, Daisy has learned that a stick can be a great toy to play a game of tug. Unfortunately, she chose the wrong partner this time. She chose someone who was not open to sharing the stick. On top of it, Daisy thought she would tell the other dog she wanted it and that led to the altercation between them. It escalated when other dogs in our group also joined in. In the end, Daisy ended up with a few bites to her head (just above her ear) and one to her backend (by her tail). She is totally fine, but I think she learned that perhaps she should be a bit more cautious about who to challenge when her stick is taken. It reminded me how careful I need to be when Daisy’s gain in knowledge can be.As her dog mom, it has been fascinating to watch Daisy learn from the other dogs at the dog park this past year. It’s like she’s trying to figure out how a dog should act. Obviously, some things are instinctual, like the constant need to carry something in her mouth (definitely a lab thing to do), but other things she has learned by watching what the other dogs do. She started picking up sticks and chewing on them only after watching other dogs do it first. She learned how to drink out of the spout of a water bottle after watching other dogs do it. She learned how to roll over on her back and wiggle around in the dirt and wood chips after watching her friend Turbo do it. She learned how to chase a squirrel after watching her friends Prince and Princess do it (luckily she has never caught one, but I don’t think she would know what to do with it even if she did!).The first time she left my side to go run through the field with some of her friends was amazing. In the past (and still to some degree today), Daisy has always walked beside me or right behind me. The first time she ran off with her friends was a beautiful moment. It’s like she was saying, “I’m free! I’m free!” Her tail went up, she started bouncing along the trail ahead of me and then off she went flying over shrubs and tall weeds. All of this was learned from watching other dogs and then mimicking their behavior.But that’s also why I have always been a bit cautious with her. In many ways, Daisy is like a tabula rasa, a blank slate, she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know, so every behavior that she observes leaves an impression on her. You can actually see her watching everything the other dogs do and mimic their behavior. She seems to learn from from every interaction. Picking up a stick and then flaunting it in front of another dog so he or she will chase her, is something she learned from watching her friend, Turbo.Unfortunately, not every dog displays good behavior. Sometimes they are aggressive or possessive, or they jump up on people, or they nip at other dogs. And yes, sometimes they think that their stick has magical powers and must be protected at any cost. It is because of this that I constantly watch Daisy to see what or whom she is observing. I encourage her when she acquires a new desirable behavior and displays it, and I gently discourage her when it is a behavior that I don’t want her to display.Overall, I Have to say I am very lucky because she really hasn’t picked up any behaviors that have caused me real concern. But it is something I am aware of each time Daisy interacts with another dog. It made me think that in some ways that my role as Daisy’s owner is very much like a mom or dad’s role in raising their children. Parents are there to set an example for us. They show us what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior throughout our lives. Although my job is much, much easier than any mom or dad’s, it is something I take seriously. I want Daisy to be a good citizen – one that interacts with both humans and dogs in a positive manner.So today, I want to recognize all those parents out there, to both human and animal. Keep up the good work! May your “child” represent the best of you. And, may they make you proud!
No bunny ears today, but I thought a variation of the traditional Easter Egg Hunt was in order for today. Hunt for Daisy and see if you can find her in these 3 pictures. I listed them from easy to hard (of course, you may disagree with me).
Happy Easter everyone!
Unfortunately, WordPress.com doesn’t allow Java script so I can’t provide a direct link to the linky, but you can join here.
Here we are about to enjoy another Thanksgiving together and I can hardly believe it.
I can’t believe it has been five years since you first came to live with me – first as my foster dog and then as my very own. Where did the time go?
I remember the day I first brought you home and how terrified you were getting out of the car, through the kitchen doorway and across that darn slippery wood kitchen floor. Do you remember how you used to run as soon as you hit that wood floor because it scared you so?
I remember those first few days and how you hid in your kennel, afraid to leave it for fear of what might be outside it’s safe confines. Do you remember how I used to sit on the floor outside your kennel and toss you treats in hopes that you would learn to trust me?
Aspen was your rock then. She was the confident dog who knew what to do around humans. She knew the couch was a safe place and you felt safe there too… as long as she was there. You would lie next to her on that couch with your head on her body and sleep so deeply, only leaving her when I got up to go into the kitchen or bathroom.
I didn’t know how much you had come to rely on Aspen until the first and only time I left you in your kennel and latched its door. Oh how you must have panicked. The teeth marks on the top and sides told me how scared you had been. I never shut that kennel door again did I?
Do you remember how you used to panic when coming in from outside? Those darn doorways have always been a bit of a problem for you. So many times I would hide behind the door and let Aspen lead you inside, but often there were times when something would spook you and you would back away from the door. Aspen and I would come back outside and try to lead you inside again – over and over again, until you felt safe.
Do you remember that time it was pouring out and you were too scared to come in? It wasn’t until I put your harness on that I was able to lead you back inside. I smile when I think of that crazy night now. How silly we must have looked.
I still remember the first time you saw a lake. You were so scared. Get your feet wet? No way! I gently encouraged you until you let your toes touch the water. Who could have guessed then that you would come to love water so? No longer afraid, you now jump in as if it’s the best thing since sliced bread. And to you, it is just that.
I look back now and can hardly believe that it has been five years. You’re nine years old now, and oh how much you have grown.
I swore when I adopted you that I would give you the very best life possible. Sitting in a cage having puppies over and over again was a thing of the past. I wanted you to have every opportunity to enjoy all the things most dogs do – long walks at the park, swimming in a lake, playing with other dogs, cuddles and belly rubs, a chance to hang your head out the car window and enjoy the breeze, the pleasure of eating the occasional ice cream cone from Dairy Queen. I wanted you to live a life free of fear. I wanted you to feel true happiness and joy. I wanted you to be a dog. Not a scared, muddled mess of fear hiding away in a kennel for the rest of your life.
I am so proud of you my girl. You have accomplished all of this and more. You experience joy. You are not afraid to explore and try new things. You love most people and approach them on your own.You aren’t confident 100% of the time, but who cares? You are who you are and I love you just the way you are, here and now.
Happy Gotcha Day my girl.
I could not have ever guessed that the dog I offered to foster that day five years ago would bring such joy to my life. You have truly found your Inner Lab.
Today I am taking part in a challenge from our friend over at 24 Paws of Love. Here is the challenge:
Tell us in a post what was the most monumental moment that you and your dog shared, that changed the course of your lives together. How ever big or small, what happened that brought an understanding between you and your dog and brought your relationship closer than it was before. What is that one story in your mind that stands out and you repeat over and over to anyone that will listen? Tell us all about it!!
I knew from the first moment I read about the challenge, I would be writing about Daisy. Although she is the most wonderful dog you could ever imagine now, she was a really big challenge in the beginning. Being a former puppy mill breeding dog, Daisy was fearful of me (and others). In the past, humans had always meant pain to her. Getting close to her ,and connecting with her, was difficult. I had to think outside the box – a lot. I had to learn patience, how to move slowly, and speak in a soft voice. For every step forward there were two steps back.
Our challenges included the following:
- Getting in and out the door to the backyard
- Building trust
- Riding in the car (Daisy would lie flat out on the back seat as if she were hanging on for dear life.)
- Wearing a collar
- Going for walks
- Letting someone touch her
- Approaching her
There are so many moments along the way that brought our relationship closer, but perhaps the one I remember most fondly I shared on her blog about a year after I first brought her home. I’m going to steal my words from the post I wrote back then, “Have a Daisy Day”, and share what I remember as the moment our relationship changed.
Most mornings, Daisy and I pick up Henry, another wonderful pet sitting client, and head off to the dog park. Daisy, as is her wont, claims the full back seat as her own; sprawling across the full length of the seat so she can sleep comfortably. Henry rides shotgun; always alert for the lone squirrel crossing the street or another dog on a walk. On occasion, he looks over at me with his adorable puppy-dog eyes and I cannot help but pet him and tell him how cute he is – an absolute truth and he knows it.
Usually, when we drop Henry off, Daisy remains sprawled in the back sleeping until we near home and then like some hidden radar, she sits up (after the 1st stop sign on our street) and looks out the window. Sometimes, she will stand up, tail wagging, as she waits for me to pull into the driveway and then into the garage.
But, recently Daisy has added a new behavior. After we drop Henry off, she climbs into the front seat, where she sits until she falls asleep, head drooping down lower and lower until she finally lays down; or she curls up in a ball (so she can actually fit her lab body into the seat) and lays her head on my lap between the stick shift and my bottled water. It’s the first time she has really sought me out for affection in this way. I know I may be adding human emotion into the mix, but it’s almost as if she feels more at peace being near me. When she rides up front, her whole body relaxes and she sleeps more deeply, sometimes snoring gently. She seems to love that I can pet her continuously from that position.
For me, it is the most peaceful ride I have ever had. There is so much love that is contained in that one small moment in time. Knowing how afraid Daisy was to trust anyone, including me, for so long makes it all the more amazing and beautiful. How is that a dog so mistreated and unloved for so much of her early life could trust enough to let me see her vulnerable? I know I’ve said it before, but I really am lucky. She is one special dog and I don’t think I will ever be the same again. She has taught me so much in the past 11 months that she has been with me, including: love, patience, trust, commitment, beauty, peace, and the joy that comes from the small things in life. It’s my wish that everyone gets the chance to be blessed with the same.
Have a Daisy day on me.
Yeah. That’s definitely the moment our relationship changed.I’m smiling even now as I remember those moments. I love my Daisy.
How about you? Is there a moment when your relationship changed with your dog? A moment when you really connected? A moment when there was a breakthrough? I’d love to hear your story.
Okay. I admit it. This Find the Hidden Daisy Dog is much, much easier than the last one, but trust me I did try to get a tough one for you. It appears that getting a hidden Daisy Dog to stand still is quite an issue. Who knew?
Add a moving Daisy Dog, and a photographer who is not that good (nor that fast) when it comes to pulling her iPhone out of her pocket and taking that quick shot, and well you get this.
Can you see her? I thought so. Back to the drawing board.
Did you think I would give up that easily? Ha!
Try this one.
Daisy Dog is pretty clever isn’t she?
Last evening I was reflecting on Daisy and how far she has come in the 5 years she has been with me. I went back and re-read some of my old posts on her (from her “Daisy the Wonder Dog”). That’s when I came across one I had written back in December 31, 2009.
My how time has passed!
In that old post, I had written about Daisy’s 2009 goals and her progress (as told from her perspective):
1. Be able to eat and drink my water with my mom in the same room.
2. Continue to build up my confidence (my posture still indicates that I am not a fully confident dog yet).
3. To sit confidently and not run away in fear when Mom touches my collar.
4. Continue to be exposed to new situations so I can build my confidence.
5. Learn how to play like other dogs (with a ball or frisbee). Anything that has to be thrown scares me right now.
6. Learning the command “heel”.
7. Getting better at following the command “come”
8. Become more comfortable being left at home on my own for a few hours (I am much better than I used to be).
9. Be okay with having my picture taken (this one may take a while).
How funny it is to look back with some perspective and realize that some of the goals I had for her back then were ones I thought would make her a “normal” dog. How silly. What I’ve come to realize is that Daisy IS a “normal” dog – normal for her. And, you know what? I’m totally good with that.
She still eats in her kennel and prefers to drink her water when I am not in the room. If it makes her feel safe and secure, who am I to mess with that?
She no longer has to stay home alone because she has Jasper and Lady to keep her company.
She has long since learned how to respond to “come”, but I hardly ever have to use it since she rarely strays very far from me. Her preference is to still walk behind me, where she feels the most safe, but she is not afraid to venture away from me to explore her surroundings. Sometimes she will even go run with Jasper through the woods. I love that.
I could care less about “heel” anymore. Yes, it’s a nice command, but if Daisy feels safer behind me than beside me I am good with that too. I’ve come to think of it as Daisy’s version of “heel”.
Daisy has also learned “sit”, “down”, “stand”, “drop it”, “find it”, “Are you hungry?” “walk” and “belly rub”.
I very rarely see Daisy’s old body posture anymore (mostly just when she sees my camera come out). Now she stands and walks with more confidence and she very rarely (if ever) cowers away from me or others. In fact, she seeks out attention from adults more often than not and she has even approached children on occasion.
We’ve also made progress on her fear of her collar. Some time ago, I realized that if I took Daisy’s collar off and only put it on when we were going somewhere, like on a walk, she would begin to see having her collar on as a reward. It’s now a sign that there are good things to come.
Daisy loves water now too. She goes in the pool I set up for her, Jasper and Lady, and she has been known to jump in a lake and swim around, something she never would have done a few years ago.
Play was something Daisy had never had the chance to do, not until Jasper came along and taught her the game of tug. Now they play often and on occasion she will even play tug with me.
The one thing that we continue to work on is her fear of cameras. It is getting better, but it is a slow progress.
Looking back now I can’t help but be amazed by how far Daisy has come. From puppy mill dog to rescue dog to foster dog to adopted dog, who could have ever predicted that a dog with such a troubled past would become the perfect companion? She has made so much more progress than I ever expected. If she hasn’t found her Inner Lab then she is awfully darn close.
Connecting with Lizzie a couple of weeks ago, and seeing her video of Gracie, made me start looking through some old videos of Daisy. I’m disappointed that I have so few pictures and video of her from the early days. I kind of wish I had taken more to show her progress.
However, I do have two videos that were taken about a year after I adopted her. They’re a good reminder that Daisy wasn’t always a fearful dog, like she was around people and at home. She loved (and still loves) other dogs. At the dog park I always got to see a different side of her – the carefree, happy pup.
To me these videos are examples of Daisy’s second puppyhood. Considering she never really had the chance to be a puppy its probably more accurate to say this was her first puppyhood, but I am sure you get the point. Watching her in these videos it’s easy to see that her inner puppy was just dying to get out.
You’ll notice that when she gets excited she starts to bounce around and run around but doesn’t really engage the dogs yet. She did this a lot at the beginning, excited to see her friends, but not quite sure how to greet them. Just like watching a puppy discover it’s world for the first time. The dog she is running with is her friend Henry. Forgive the goofy laugh you hear in the background. That would be me.