Rescuing Jake and Judy part 4
Following Jake and Judy's first outing, they for the first time showed interest in going for a walk. Normally when we grab the leashes for our dogs to go on a walk, they paid no notice. The next day when we went to take our dogs for their walk, they perked up and got excited. We did not expect this reaction. If anything, we were expecting that they might show a slight aversion to going out being that their only experience on an outing with us was for a bath. After we walked our dogs, we decided to go ahead and walk them and open their world a bit more again.
We took a short walk through the park down the street and they did pretty well. It was clear that leash manners weren't a strong point. They didn't so much as pull as they were simply interested in smelling as much as they could and going in a straight line along the path was just not going to happen. Dogs explore their world through their noses. All of that sniffing takes a lot of mental processing. Sniffing on the walk is the simplest form of mental enrichment they can get on a walk and research shows that it is important to let them sniff things. In fact, mental work actually wears a dog out about 30% faster than physical work.
The whole walk only took 30 minutes. We didn't want to push them too much or over do the walk. Because this was their first walk, we wanted to make sure that the experience was a positive as possible. This walking experience was the key to further building their confidence at home. Its important to understand that they were still fearful of novel things while on their walk. Things that made noise, traffic along the road, a piece of paper blowing in the wind would be enough to cause Jake to need to stop for a minute and re collect himself. The experience was a lot for them to take in. Once home, his confidence level with his surroundings went up. The novel things at home that had bothered him up to this point all of a sudden mattered less. Judy already struggled far less than Jake with novel things but her confidence also improved. Life at home was getting easier for both of them.
Over time, we began taking them on longer and longer walks. One walk in particular, we were crossing a school yard and the dismissal bell rang. Naturally, a swarm of kids came out of the building but despite the chaos, they both handled it quite well. The kids were respectful when we told them to not pet the dogs and that the dogs were simply too scared right now and we moved along quickly to keep the unexpected overwhelm to a minimum. We got to a point walking them that we could go for 2 hours and they loved every minute of it. They enjoyed their walks so much that if we missed a walk, they began asking to go waiting at the closet where the leashes are kept.
Once they were ready, we began adding other things to their walks. We began going to places that required using stairs, going over bridges and other differently textured surfaces. The goal was to socialize them to as many different things out in the world as we could. Now, socialization is not exposure. Exposure to something is only a part of the puzzle. To properly socialize, we need to expose them to new things but do so in a controlled way that makes the interaction positive. We took our treat bags with us on walks and used treats as a way to help make things positive for them. We started very slow when introducing them to new things so that we could manage their reactions and keep them calm. The idea is to not trigger the fight or flight response because once that happens, leaning stops and a bad association is formed.
We continued our work with them until they were adopted to their new families. As time went on with them, it became clear that they had very different needs and were now capable of being separated from each other. Each decision along the way was made with their best interest as our top priority. We are grateful for ATRA rescuing them and reaching out to us to help save them. They are now in their living forever homes living their best lives