Sunday, 17 July 2011

On the subject of dogs.

A lot of people round here have dogs - it being a country area. The vast majority are of the hunting variety - labradors, spaniels, pointers, retrievers etc. Then there are plenty of terriers - good for ratting and rabbiting.

There is also a good percentage of 'rescue' dogs - for people reading this who are not living in the UK - these are dogs nobody wants and are put up for rescuing and to be given good homes. Their stories are often very sad - and often their history is totally unknown anyway.

We are lucky with Tess. We bought her at eight weeks old from a farm where she was bred. They had her mother and father, her aunt and uncle and various cousins, brothers and sisters. They all ran about the farmyard all day and in the evening they went into the farm kitchen. Tess in particular spent most evenings asleep on the farmer's knee. She came home with us on the day we bought her and has had a similar life here, which means she has never had occasion to mistrust anyone.

This is not so with many rescue dogs who have been passed from pillar to post, had several owners, been ill-treated etc. Such a dog is Topsy, the dog my friend J and her husband decided to rescue.

Topsy is a black cocker spaniel - very beautiful and of show quality. She has been used for breeding and has had two or three litters of puppies. She has been kept outside in a shed with a run and has had little or no experience of love, affection, home comforts etc. She is seven years old which in human terms (1yr = 7 years) is almost 50.

She is now in a loving home where she is cared for indoors and given a lot of love and affection. But she is damaged and we are beginning to think that the damage is not repairable. She is afraid of everyone except her new owners and if anyone comes to the door she runs upstairs in terror. When I go to see her she retreats round the corner and will not come out. She is literally terrified of people, particularly of men.

I suppose if we were to befriend a seriously damaged human at the age of fifty it would be a long time before we would see him/her able to trust anyone and it seems the same with Topsy. Isn't is appalling that as humans we can treat an animal in such a way.

I told my friend I would put a blog on about Topsy and see if anyone reading it had any tips on ways in which she could help her to overcome this terrible fear of everyone and everything. Any ideas?


Pondside said...

What a bitter sweet story. We had a rescue dog that seemed to know that she'd found her forever home - quite amazing. She walked into the house and our hearts and never looked back. I don't have a lot of advice apart from the suggestion that all interactions/visits etc be as calm as possible, with lots of talking Topsy through each one.

Heather said...

I think continued love and patience is the only cure. We had a 'rescue' spaniel who was scared of men but eventually took to my husband. Three of the five dogs we have had have been rescue dogs and they have all be such lovely pets - so rewarding and affectionate. The last one had been ill treated and was abandonned in a busy street in pouring rain. She always hated wet weather. I think it is important not to sound too sympathetic when the dog shows fear, and make the things that scare them seem normal. Does that sound stupid?! It beggars belief that someone making money from breeding puppies can't treat the 'puppy machine' with greater respect and kindness.

Unknown said...

You are all wonderful folks to help these puppies! They deserve all of your love! Hope Topsy finds comfort.

Elizabeth said...

Our son's dog, Joba, a cockerpoo rescue
is very nervous of anyone except immediate family.
And he arrived at about 2 years old.
I fear your friend's dog may never overcome her nerves.
Buster, like Tess, came to us as a pup and has been most pampered and adored so is pretty easy to get along with!

John Going Gently said...

dogs are no different to people.... damage them psychologically and physically when little and they are scarred for life.....

Bovey Belle said...

I would recommend Clicker Training. Friends have used it with horses that are damaged psychologically and because it works in terms of black and white, animals understand that there is no reason to fear what MAY happen to them, they become more confident and gradually put their past behind them. It really DOES work - two friends had horses so dangerous she they were thinking of the final option (being put down), but one is now a reformed character. He is 90% trustworthy now - at one time you didn't dare to make certain movements or he would have attacked. The other, sadly, had a fatal hoof infection and is no more, but he too, overcame his fears and lost his aggression through clicker training.

I hope your friend's little dog will have her faith in human nature restored again too.

Rarelesserspotted said...

No tips, but I admire people who take on rescue dogs, all our cats have been rescue cats. I also despise anyone who treats an animal in a cruel way - inexcusable.

Reflections said...

We rescued a black cocker/lab mix who had been abused. Since I had picked her up, she believed she had to spend the nights only with me, I could never be away...

We were able to work through her fear of people when she took overly kindly to her 'cush'... it was a rubber, spinely ball thing that she sucked on endlessly (except when chasing our throws) as if it was a pacifier. You never saw her without it and when the first disintegrated, we searched for about a month to find another.

Best of luck to your friends and their rescue... much patience and positive reinforcement.

angryparsnip said...

A friend of mine had some luck with putting the her dog on some medication for anxiety. It seemed to take the edge off just a bit. It took quite awhile and they did wean her off the meds. She was never super friendly but seem to be more at ease.

Don't know if this helps any.

cheers, parsnip

MorningAJ said...

That's so sad. I have rescue cats and there's one who never did get used to sharing his home with other cats. He now lives up the road with an old gent who can devote a lot of time to him. I still see him around the street sometimes but he'll never be my cat again.

I can't help with dog psychology but I wish Topsy all the best.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you for the comments - I will pass them on to my friend.