A tale of one terrier
When I adopted Monty, my oversized Cairn terrier, from a wonderful rescue organization, they told me the previous family could not keep him because he nearly killed their cat. One of the first things I learned after adopting him, however, is that he adores cats, approaching them carefully and respectfully, and instinctively knowing when they want him to keep his distance. The second thing I learned was that he was exceptionally fearful of all men.
It didn’t take long to realize that Monty’s former family did not understand willful terriers, and they certainly did not use positive training methods. Judging by how he flinched when any man came near, the man of the house most likely tried hitting him into submission. Failing to get the obedient dog they wanted, they gave him away. I’ll give them credit for choosing a no-kill shelter, and I thank them for giving me the opportunity to live with an amazing dog.
Even puppies can have issues, so do not give up
Any organization that takes in dogs and tries to get them forever homes is amazing. But even when they take in a dog no longer wanted by an owner, they have to rely on information provided by the owner, and that story may not be fully accurate. When you fall in love with a shelter dog and take it home, you may face a few surprises as you get to know your new family member and learn to live in harmony. I can tell you from personal experience that every extra effort you make to overcome these challenges helps build a strong bond that you will treasure. Here are some tips:
- See a vet: Some dog behavioral issues clearly relate solely to some aspect of their early lives that needs to be resolved. But if you have even a slight suspicion that your dog’s issues might relate to a physical complaint, call your vet to see if further examination is necessary. Incessant chewing might point to a dental problem. Accidents in the house may relate to an infection or other medical complaint.
- Observe and decode: With a little imagination, you can often identify why your dog misbehaves and counteract the bad behavior. In Monty’s case, I asked male strangers on the street to drop treats for Monty. Within a month, he got over much of his fear.
- Get professional help: Do not be afraid to seek outside assistance. You may need a dog trainer to come to your home, but even classes can help. By all means, ask class trainers to address a specific issue during the session. Good trainers are prepared to stray from the agenda, knowing that a customized exercise typically helps all dogs in one way or another.
Worth the effort
A fear of men was only one of Monty’s many issues, and there were days that I thought I would never be able to rehabilitate him. But at some point during the first year, things really turned around. He became the most devoted (albeit wily) dog I have ever known, and he is extremely popular with the dogs and people throughout our neighborhood. I have no regrets. Monty got the home he needed, and I have enjoyed his companionship for more than a decade.