Daisy was confiscated from a hoarder. She lived in a cage with so many other dogs she had no chance of knowing who she was meant to be.
The next step in her journey was to be adopted by a wonderful couple. They took this American Eskimo dog home and thought they knew how to bring her out of her shell.
They cleaned her up and the beautiful white fluffy fur shone. But she was a real challenge for a couple who did not really “know” dogs. You see, Daisy was locked inside and had never known the love and kindness of humans.
She did what instinct told her to do. Herd people around, nip at their heels and avoid being touched at all costs.
She was not too fond of a kennel as she probably had spent countless hours crushed in one with other dogs, nose to nose, tail to tail.
Her new owners waited for a long while before realizing she was not getting more social and she had started looking at them with a different look in her eyes.
They feared their own dog.
Was Daisy going to bite them? Was Daisy going to bite someone else?
They contacted many dog trainers and had long conversations about her behaviors. One trainer suggested taking their “aggressive dog package.” Another suggested dominance training. These trainers never met Daisy and did not ask any questions about her lifestyle, routines, and behaviors in and out of the home.
The owners felt Daisy was not living the life she deserved.
Nor were they!
Daisy’s owners knew in their heart she was not an aggressive dog. So they kept searching for help.
They were referred to me by our veterinarian. We had a long conversation on the phone and I asked them to fill out my New Client Form. I have every new client complete this questionnaire as it tells me so much about what they are doing at home and their issues with their dog.
Once I read the form I knew exactly what was happening, what was creating chaos in the mind of this little dog, what caused her to avoid eye contact, avoid touch, run after people as they were leaving, give that uncertain look they thought was aggression.
Eskimos are intelligent, alert and friendly, and also an excellent watchdog, protective of the home and family. They learn quickly and are eager to please, but require daily exercise.
What I saw was a dog craving for direction and structure. She had spent the first part of her life with no human connection so she found a way to survive on her own. Keeping people away was a survival tactic.
She was so afraid of doing the wrong thing, so in need of kind humans to take the lead.
I met Daisy and her owners and found them to be the perfect family for her. They were calm, patient and dedicated to this little dog.
As soon as I met Daisy and looked into her eyes, I saw a dog very much like my Benny when I adopted him.
At first, she turned away and put her head down and backed up when called. Once I showed her owner that she should not nurture this fearful behavior but help her to be brave by moving aside and not letting Daisy hide behind her, a different dog came through.
Daisy was not aggressive or unable to learn.
She was shy and scared and untrusting.
They understood her need for time and knew they should not rush her. We decided to work privately for a while before putting her in a group class. At the first session we discussed some routines such as a feeding schedule and the introduction of a new kennel. After having it available to her for a while, she calmly investigated and started being fed in her kennel. After a very short time she found it to be just the perfect place to have quiet time and before you knew it she loved her safe place.
We used only positive methods for training and did not use food so she was not motivated only to work for food. She actually craved affection but did not know how to receive it.
Trust was the most critical goal.
After a very short period of time Daisy learned so much. She is a very smart dog and learned basic obedience very quickly. She walks nicely on a loose leash and started looking towards anyone who called her name.
She would even take a nap in front of me and all the distractions of where we were training.
We learned what her displacement / stress signals are and respected them.
Her owners signed up for group classes in May and everyone hoped Daisy would be ready for this new challenge.
But first I invited her to “observe” a group class with other dogs and owners. I had only expected her to watch from the side, lying calmly on her blanket, maybe doing a few of the exercises. I did not expect her to have a problem with the other dogs but was not too sure how she would respond to other people around.
I thought the perfect person to have with us is our youngest Pet Partner / Love Dog volunteer, a ten year old girl. This extraordinary child has the demeanor that is so dog-soothing. She is quiet and loving and patient.
Daisy’s owner is a Love Dog therapy program volunteer without her own animal and her long-term goal is to one day work with Daisy.
Can the dog who does not welcome touch be a therapy dog?
Well I wouldn’t put it past her. During this one class she joined just to observe, a miracle happened.
The young girl who connects naturally with dogs sat down next to the untrusting Daisy. She didn’t look at her or rush her or touch her at first. She just sat with her.
After a while, I looked over and had to grab the camera. Daisy was not only letting this child pet her, but enjoying it.
Daisy’s true nature is blossoming. A quiet, loving dog that is learning that people are good. People are kind. People are loving.
And it’s ok to love them back.