Saturday, June 18, 2011

Socializing the Feral or Semi-feral Dog Phase One

If the feral dog is safe with other dogs, introduce him to a socially skilled dog that is well bonded with you. Give them time to become buds. Once they bond, your k9 ally will pull the feral into your energy field.

This is a huge step; patience, please. Happy talk the friendly dog, pet and focus on the friendly dog only. There should be stillness, a quiet deliberateness in your movements. Be aware of your body postures, no stances where you are bent at the waist. Avoid facing the dog frontally, oblique is best. If the feral stands in front of you, fine, but he probably won’t.

Bonita, the feral I worked with the most, always came up behind me. When she built her confidence up, she began bumping me in the back of the calf with her nose.

Your facilitator dog will do wonders for teaching the feral that you are not a crazed monster about to attack at any moment. I don’t know where a feral dog would get that, but it will need convincing.

Taking this approach with a k9 facilitator, you’ll spend frequent, short times in the dog area; not the hanging around all afternoon, as you would without the dog.

After enough repetitions the feral knows that you are coming in the enclosure to pet and talk to the other dog. The feral lying comfortably in a corner is the end of the first phase.

Watch how the feral signals stress in the beginning. Absence of fear/stress signals demonstrate that a minimal level of trust has been created.

WARNING: At this phase, DO NOT be tempted to talk to the feral! DO NOT look at the feral trying to make eye contact. If eye contact occurs, make your eyes soft, then look back to whatever you were doing. Go back to talking to your facilitator dog, if appropriate.

Once you become predictable to ferals, they will relax. . Congratulations, and then begin phase two.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with much, but dogs have not read your book. There are no hard rules other than "the Dog is Always Right". During assessment I test for eye contact, approach, posture, speed of movement and several dozen other small items. In each case, the dog will inform me. Training dogs are often useful, but there's no "energy field" involved. Some will follow a training dog in certain ways, but not in others. In each case, I carefully look for what prompts a desired response and enforce it.

    That's where many books and advice cause problems, as many people take different comments as hard rules. By referencing the dog instead of the book I work with many dogs that others cannot, taking many shelter dogs to where any volunteer can work with them and they have a chance for adoption.

    And, my approach includes failures. There are some dogs (e.g. high-apathy, often horder dogs) who will only progress so far and in only certain ways. There, your targets should be adjusted to give them the best chance.