Maggie: Puppy mill dog progress is measured in small steps
Maggie has made some great progress over the past few weeks and month. She might not be ready for a new home yet, but she is definitely heading in that direction. She eats and drinks comfortably in and outside of her kennel. She no longer needs to be led inside and outside the house most days. She now follows the herd, and sometimes, she even beats them to it and gets to the door first!
One of the things she does well inside the house, but not outside, is coming to me for treats. She will hop up on the couch next to me when called and she will engage in hand-targeting easily, but outside she keeps her distance from me.
Like many shy dogs, Maggie is afraid of someone approaching her while they are facing her. It is scary to have someone looming over you when you are a shy dog (actually many dogs hate looming, not just mill dogs). To have someone come towards you and loom? Terrifying. Maggie will run to the opposite side of the yard to maintain a comfortable distance from me at all times. She trusts me, but only so far. There is safety in distance.
To help Maggie with this I have been slowly working her up to being more comfortable with looming. This is something I have been looking forward to trying now that we all can be outside without freezing our patooties off. Debbie Jacobs of Fearfuldog’s Blog, first shared this idea with me soon after I started fostering Maggie. She did the same thing with her dog, Nibbles. (Thank goodness for her Nibbles videos!)
I started by tossing cheese to Maggie and my dogs while sitting in a chair on the patio (Maggie loves cheese and the word “cheese”). Then I started asking my dogs for tricks for cheese while Maggie watched and got tossed a few pieces here and there. This drew her nearer to me as she wanted very much to have more cheese (“More cheese, please!”). Over the past few days, she has been steadily getting closer and closer to me in anticipation of getting more cheese.
Yesterday, I decided to switch it up a bit and stand in the yard and toss cheese to all four dogs. Of course, my dogs were ALL over that. Maggie kept her distance, but she would run in to nab a piece the other dogs missed. After doing this intermittently throughout the day, last night I decided to try to see if she would participate in a game of hand-targeting with me looming over her. She watched for a while as the other dogs all touched my had and got a piece of cheese., then started moving closer and closer. From time to time, I would offer her a chance to touch my hand, but always she would back off. Then, just as I was starting to run out of cheese, she did it! She targeted my hand twice while I was standing and looming over her! Yay Maggie!
I think we’ll keep working on this one for a while, until she feels much more comfortable with looming, but I am hoping we’ll be working up to walking on a leash in the yard soon. Cross your fingers!
Curious about looming and what Debbie Jacobs did to help her dog, Nibbles, become comfortable with it? I’ve attached the video here, but to read the whole story on Nibbles and looming, go to her post titled, “Learning to like looming.”