Friday, February 22, 2013
Earning Dogs' Trust
Chi-Ping’s voice comes through clearly to me, as her body language tells her tale. Teeth on hands ready to bite or nip, whenever we touched her, was her standard behavior. The touch varietal didn’t matter: slow or fast, completely still, light to heavy pressure all the same. A hand resting only on her chi resulted in teeth on hand, ready to bite hard, if necessary.
Do people really con themselves into believing the dog likes to be tickled or handled roughly, when the dog puts its teeth on us, just because the tail is wagging like crazy? Sadly, this is the relationship many dogs endure. When I began touching Chi-Ping, she would sting my hands sharply. Clearly she took no pleasure from my touch, but kept coming to me asking to be touched. Hmm, there’s a push me-pull you.
The months we lived in New Orleans both dogs came in and out of the house several times a day. We had no access to a fenced yard from the house, so we developed a lovely leash routine before getting close to the door. They had no fear of going through the door. Both dogs raced around the small apartment in wild abandon when we came home.
We returned to Puerto Rico. Deep lack of trust issues resurfaced for both Chi-Ping and Blondie. Blondie acted as if she were a “Sato” again. An invitation to come in caused her eyes to become big with fright, like she didn’t know what to do. At first I called her in, to me. She whined while stepping in place. A good rule of thumb is to NEVER ask more than another can give, so I went outside, thumped her and played with her as we often do. Blondie de-stressed and walked in with me. Smile, I knew how lucky that was.
Blondie fears going in the house occasionally, but more often just refuses. The difference is most easily read by her ears. Ears forward, she wants to go in, but is afraid. Ears back means, “I want to stay out here.”
A trail of treats worked frequently with other dogs, so I gave her a few cheddar cubes, which she loves. Gobble, gobble up the trail she went. In the entry Blondie picked up the cheddar and looked right in my eye before walking away from the big stash of cheese just inside the door. Screw you and your cheese was clearly implied.
We worked through the fear issues to the point that when Blondie becomes afraid, I tell her what a good girl she is, and she’ll come to me. Blondie prefers to be in the house at night. Chi-Ping changes her mind from night to night. Before I went to San Juan she wanted to be out at night. Since my return, Chi-Ping sleeps by my feet. In New Orleans she would push her back between my breasts. Despite our sleeping proximity, I could feel our distance. I have yet to win her trust. Do you find it as interesting as I do that Blondie the street dog, who grew up wild, has less trust issues than Chi-Ping, who spent less than a year on the street?
I hadn't found my voice in a while. Staying with the wonderful Animal Advocate, Adrienne Galler Lastra gave the dog fix I’ve needed. Thanks, Adri. It’s good to be back. Tricia