When Walnut and Leia leap and tumble around the playroom, they look like to noble warrior pooches, battling each other to prove their valor and bravery. Really what inspires their romps around the playroom is a delight in play and a mutual love for each other. However, Walnut and Leia do posses the bravery of great warriors. But rather than use their bravery to do feats in battle, they use it to slowly overcome the fears that complicate their lives.
Walnut and Leia are two sweet little dogs with big hearts and shy demeanors. Both of these lovely pooches were rescued together from the same house. Witnessing their tendency to back away from the human touch makes it obvious that these two were highly under socialized with humans. Instead of thinking of people as cuddling companions, we are considered scary and possibly threatening to Walnut and Leia. But it is also evident by the way look at us and the way they move around us cautiously but with curiosity, that these two dogs want to trust us humans, we just need to prove ourselves first.
The Emerald City Pet Rescue staff has worked with many shy dogs and fearful dogs, and it is part of our mission to work with these animals to rehabilitate them and prepare them for a wonderful future with their forever home. A lot of working with shy animals involves figuring out the animal and trying to understand what will make them most comfortable. Techniques that work with some animals may not work as well with others. But there are certain surefire things that help when working with shy animals: patience, gentleness and encouragement.
Animal lovers want to spend all their time cuddling every cute dog they meet. But when interacting with shy animals, it is essential to stifle this urge to cuddle. Sometimes an animal needs to learn about you and trust you before they feel comfortable with your cuddles. Sometimes all it take is a couple of kind words before a seemingly shy dog is bounding into your arms and covering your cheeks with doggy kisses. But often, it takes much more time for a shy dog to feel comfortable with a new person. Taking the time needed takes a lot of patience, because for a severely under socialized animal, it can take a very long time for them to gain trust.
Luckily, Walnut and Leia are not plagued with unbearable fear of people, but they do have a greater degree of anxiety with people. The ECPR staff has been very patient with them, and our patience just makes the significance of their improvements all the more delightful. When I first met Leia, she wouldn’t even let me touch her without frantically trying to escape. But soon, while in the playroom, she started sneaking up to me when she thought I wasn’t paying attention. She would take an inquisitive sniff before retreating to the safety of distance. Soon, she would give me approving sniffs when I was paying attention. I would lean down and let her smell my hand. The best part was watching her tail start to wag while she sniffed my hand. Progress! Now she’ll trot up to me and let me scratch her head. She still rarely lets me pick her up in the playroom, but at this point, I feel like we are pals. She has other ways besides letting me pick her up to show her approval of my friendship. She comes and hovers near by when she sees me. Sometimes when she is in an especially good mood, she will leap in the air like spastic dancer, her skinny limbs stretched and her ears flopping by her side. She also has a signature ‘hello’ stretch. She will saunter on over, stretch out her front legs and arch up her butt. If she does this stretch to someone, you know they received the Leia stamp of approval.
Gentleness is also an extremely important component to developing a friendship with a very timid dog. At ECPR we interact with shy dogs by being gentle in our movement, gentle with our voices and gentle in our touch. Being gentle helps the dogs feel safer, and being safe makes them feel braver.
Encouraging a shy dog is just down right fun. I love giving a shy dog a hardy and well-deserved “Bravo!” (or more often, “Good dog!”) Often times, it is easy to tell the shy dog is proud of themselves too. There is an excited gleam to their eyes as they soak in the encouraging words.
Walnut has an especially cute way of reacting to encouragement. I will tell her how wonderful she is and she will look at me with an expression of curious bafflement. She will have her ears perked up and her head will tilt to the side. But soon, my encouraging words start working their magic. She will inch closer to me till the tip of her wet nose gently nudges my hand.
The great progress that both Leia and Walnut have made overcoming their fear of people shows that as long as their forever people stick to a strict regimen of patience, gentleness and encouragement, these two dogs will have great success in their lives.
And Walnut and Leia are not scared of everyone. Although they were under socialized with humans, they have a great love of other dogs. Both Leia and Walnut are playful and boisterous dogs. They love to dash around the playroom, chasing dogs back and forth. They love to jump and bounce and wrestle with dogs both bigger and smaller than them. Walnut is especially playful. She likes to invite other dogs to play with her by going up to them and wiggling her but in a joyous doggy dance. Soon enough, this joyous doggy dance will be directed at people, because Walnut and Leia may be shy, but they are also brave, and bravery can take a little dog to far reaching successes! If you want to give a sweet but shy dog the chance to shine in a forever home, call Emerald City Pet Rescue at 206 557 4661.