Miss Bailey arrived at my home yesterday evening and has started to settle in. She is a 7 year old Yorkie mix and has had a hard life. Bailey is reportedly from a Puppy Mill and after being retired as a breeding dog she has been unable to find a suitable home. She has been placed twice and neither home worked out. Her first adoptive owner moved after having her for a few short years while her second home had a small child and a cat that were unsuitable for her shy personality. Her second family decided to get help as she clearly needed a new family.
So Bailey has joined my pack and I for some rehabilitation before moving on to her forever home. Her next adopters will be carefully screened to make sure they will be a permanent and exceptional home for this tiny little girl.
Bailey makes a great case study for anyone who owns a shy, timid dog. Her story is sadly altogether common. She missed out on early socialization as a puppy when the people responsible for her kept her locked in a cage. She is therefore terrified of most things: kids, strangers, loud noises and lacks key social skills that would allow her to interact comfortably with other dogs (rather than avoiding them).
The Plan: give Bailey a much needed confidence boost and help her learn new skills that will allow her to be successful with her next family.
How are we going to do that?
The first step is to allow Bailey to settle in and adjust to the new environment. This might take some time, but once she realizes she's safe and my dogs won't bother her, life will get a little easier for her. I help new dogs settle in by setting up a regular daily schedule so she can expect when meals will be, when exercise will happen, when nap time/bed time are and other regular activities. Structure is crucial for anxiety ridden dogs (and good for all dogs). Setting up a structure will also allow us to house train Bailey.
We will also consider a DAP collar and a Thunder shirt for Bailey depending on how she does over the first week. She will also get a vet check up to make sure she has no medical issues that could be affecting her mental state.
Step number two will involve some confidence building. We will begin to work on "hand targeting" which will encourage Bailey to come to my partner and I. We'll be using cheese as a reinforcer for this and a clicker to mark the behaviour. Video to follow.
Bailey will also begin attending a group training class at Where's Your Sit. My partner Douglas has been kind enough to volunteer his time as her handler. We selected a class with dogs all under 20lbs in size. This was done on purpose. Bailey will be introduced to larger dogs but only ones who have already attended obedience classes so that they don't scare her further. My own pack includes 2 medium size dogs that she has already met.
The goal of a group class for her will not be obedience skills. If we expected her to learn sit, down, stay, heel , etc. we would be disappointed. Bailey is going to work on being in the room while the other dogs learn. She will get to meet people and dogs in the class when she is ready. The new environment will be her challenge in this case. Once she's comfortable we can practice the skills she's learning at home like the hand target. She will not be expected to learn anything new in class. When she's more confident we can explore classes for training but this time it's about socialization to a new environment, people and dogs.
Bailey's progress will be posted on the blog and our website. Feel free to ask questions! Also note that we are interviewing potential adopters for Bailey. She will be available to the right new home once she has finished the beginning stage of confidence boosting. Her new family will receive both group and private training lessons through Where's Your Sit as part of her adoption package.