Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's a scary world out there!



In the house Jake is a sweet and gentle boy. You can pretty much do anything you want to him, and won't bat an eyelid. If you've looked at our other blogs, you'll see that Jake is a great looking dog and often displays a quiet confidence when photographed. 


Jake was around a year and half when we adopted him from the Hayward animal shelter. As far as Jake's background, well, we know he spent a month at the shelter before he came to us, other than that, we can only make assumptions. Based, on what we're seeing our main assumption is that Jake was probably a back-yard dog with little to no human interaction.


We live in a residential area, and never had any problems walking Abbey. When we started to walk Jake on our tried and trusted routes, we noticed that Jake didn't have the air of confidence that Abbey displays. Abbey walks with her head held high, and loves to meet new people. Jake appeared to be the complete opposite of Abbey, and  didn't appreciate being stared at. These situations would cause Jake to have a bit of a meltdown, often pulling on the leash as a way to try and leave whatever it was that scared him behind.  


To help Jake gain more confidence, we limited ourselves to walking Jake on two quite routes around the local neighborhood. We learned to give Jake extra time, and not to rush him when we out walking. At first, it seemed that we were take one step forward and then two steps back. One day he would do awesome, the next day something unexpected would happen and we would have to start all over again.


Over time, we've increased the number of routes we walk on, whenever we can we take both dogs out together, as Jake feeds off Abbey's confidence. For Jake, Abbey makes everything in the world less scary.




We're now coming up to the six month mark since adopting Jake, less and less these days we find ourself in the situation where Jake get spooked. His confidence at meeting new people has greatly improved. We're still working on sliding doors and gates. His first reaction is to run away, but as he's on a leash that simple means jerking me all over the place. One improvement we have seen is the length of time it takes Jake to recover. When problem situations arise, we simple move Jake a little further away, ask him to sit and wait. We then let him observe what's going on around him. Within a minute or so he calms down and realizes that nothing bad going to happen to him.  


As you can see, we've acknowledged that Jake lacks confidence and we're working on it. The frustrating part of this process is getting people we meet on the street to listen and understand us when we tell them that Jake lacks confidence and we're working on it. If Jake panics while we're outside, people often stare at us while we calm him down. They often ask 'what's wrong with our dog?'. We explain about his background, that he came from a shelter and we're rehabilitating him and he's making great progress. They start to 'pity him' which serves no purpose. Jake's certainly not neglected or being abused, we're not sure of his past and so don't dwell on that. 


What people need to realize is that Jake is experiencing many things for the very first time, and it simple takes time to get used to all these new experiences. We're not going to confine Jake to the house. So, we're working with him, day by day, step by step, trying to give him as many new experiences as we can to help build up his confidence.


In the last week, Jake now appears to be comfortable standing by a post box while letters are being sent. A few weeks ago this situation would have terrified him. To many people this may seem like no big deal. But, to us it's a huge achievement on Jake's part!


Our current challenge is to get Jake to walk by a local Starbucks without pulling on the leash. If Abbey is with him, Jake will walk calmly by without a care in the world. On his own Jake is like a worried old man. We're making progress and are seeing some big improvements. The other day, Jake walked calmly between the outside tables while a number of people were coming in and out of Starbucks. 


We're looking forward to seeing where Jake is in another six months and then looking back to where he is today and where he was in the first month or so after we adopted him.

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