Home > Animal Rescue, Daisy, Dog Behavior, Pet Adoption, Puppy Mills > The Old Daisy – A Look Back

The Old Daisy – A Look Back


Daisy at the beginning

Daisy at the beginning

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.

Summer 054_2

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  1. May 15, 2013 at 11:48 PM

    I see so many similarities in Daisy’s story and our Maggie and funny enough, I just posted an update on her earlier tonite. She’s been doing really well, we are so pleased, but you are right, I see the fear there just below the surface and you never know what sparks it. One day at a time is how we roll here. Aspen and Jack have both served their siblings well in helping them see they can let the fear go. I hate thinking about the lives they must have had, and the lives so many, many are still living. Thanks for sharing this…it’s good to know our experience isn’t unique.

    • Mel
      May 16, 2013 at 7:13 AM

      I will go read about Maggie Mae’s progress! It is always wonderful to meet other people with dogs like Daisy. There is a connection when you can relate on how you are helping a scared dog overcome their fears. Your experience is not unique at all. I think we need a meet up group for people with dogs like ours. 🙂

  2. May 15, 2013 at 11:49 PM

    BTW…Love that picture of her, what a beauty.

    • Mel
      May 16, 2013 at 7:12 AM

      THank you! I love that one too. 🙂

  3. May 16, 2013 at 12:19 AM

    It can take years to overcome whatever trauma they endured. Our little Bear got there eventually – but still cowered sometimes when someone moved too quickly in her direction. God knows what happened in the six short months of her life before she became ours. As much effort as it was – it was all worth it. There is nothing like the love of a healed dog. Daisy is beautiful! Great job with her.

    • Mel
      May 16, 2013 at 7:12 AM

      I completely agree Audrey. Wholeheartedly. There is nothing like it. I am glad Bear was lucky enough to have a mom like you to help her through it.

  4. May 16, 2013 at 3:06 AM

    Your post really resonated with me, because Charlie, my feral dog, took a major step back recently and I had to start over with him. It’s wonderful that you’re so understanding of Daisy’s ups and downs. She’s absolutely beautiful!

    • Mel
      May 16, 2013 at 7:11 AM

      Thanks Lisa. I can completely relate to Charlie’s step back. It can be truly disheartening, especially if they have made several steps forward, but over time you will see the rich rewards that come from working with them and helping them through the steps again. I am so sorry he took a step back. May his steps forward bring you great joy.

  5. Julie deRosier-Paul
    May 16, 2013 at 6:07 AM

    Bless you Mel; you never cease to amaze me. What a beautiful story!

    • Mel
      May 16, 2013 at 7:09 AM

      Awww! Thanks Julie! I think Daisy is the amazing one here. 🙂

  6. May 16, 2013 at 6:38 AM

    You have done so much good with Daisy and by her smile in the picture it shows. They may never be whole and completely trusting. They lived through a hell we can only imagine.
    It is so worth every step back just to see that small step forward to becoming a carefree happy dog.

    • Mel
      May 16, 2013 at 7:08 AM

      I so agree Carole. The rewards of seeing a step forward after a step back is priceless. Daisy is as whole as she can be for her. To be honest, most people don’t even know what she was like before. They just think she is a gentle and quiet and cautious dog. I think she is proof that love, patience and a safe environment can make a difference. 🙂

  7. May 16, 2013 at 7:02 AM

    Your patience and determination is inspiring. Love Daisy’s story and her courage.

    • Mel
      May 16, 2013 at 7:06 AM

      You are too kind. I think Daisy taught me patience (my mother will tell you I was never been a patience child). 🙂

  8. May 16, 2013 at 10:14 AM

    You have had so much patience with Daisy and the result is so rewarding, isn’t it? Miss Xeva went through a very reactive phase that was out of the blue- no triggers, nothing traumatic- just before her first heat in January and I’ve been working on slowly pulling her out of it, so I definitely understand about the one step forward and two steps back. We later found out that it was due to a dog in her bloodline, so it was most likely unavoidable from the start. It used to bring me to tears to see her do those steps back, but you start to realize that those steps back get smaller and smaller as long as you never give up on them. She’s to the point where she doesn’t bark and lunge at every single dog or person who look straight at her, although she does bark occasionally still. Thank you for sharing Daisy’s story with us and for being a great model for showing everyone how rewarding it can be to rehabilitate a dog 🙂 There’s nothing like that love that they give you 🙂

  9. May 16, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    What a difference it can make in a dog’s life to have a caring and compassionate human to help the dog adjust. Daisy’s one lucky pooch!!

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