Acquired: Rescue / shelter organization
Training: Attended conferences / shows
Posted July 26, 2015
This dog, whose name is Kai, is a mutt of dubious heritage, which includes some kind of foxhound, shepherd and terrier (at least) and he is a dog with a story.
When I first got him, it was as a result of a sort-of rescue mission: We took him out of simply atrocious circumstances, where we had been beaten, kicked and starved, and we tried to turn him back into a normal dog, eventually.
It turned out to be a task which was nearly impossible, but not quite ...
The brutal way in which he had been treated during the first part of his life, had made him completely distrustful of humans (can't blame him), so, we first had to socialize him, and make him get used to having us around, to come to the realization that not all humans are the enemy any longer...
It was a long and arduous task, and yes, I did get bitten more than once.
To begin with, he was completely de-socialized, which means that he, for instance, had a huge problem with others (people or dogs) touching his food bowl, had a huge problem with strangers (such as the mailman) walking by the door, had a habit of barking and howling in the middle of the night, running all over the furniture and tearing it up, and so on. And, this was only after he had gotten used to us!
But there was one crucial point that led us to somehow succeed to resocialize this dog (beyond the refusal to simply give up on this hard luck case) and that was my other dog which I had at the time, which was a big, black Labrador called Floortje. She was a sweet, stubborn, energetic, completely loyal soul, and from day one these two dogs were totally devoted to each other.
We were lucky that this little multi-colored mutt and this big, muscular black haired Lab complemented each other: She stabilized him when he went crazy, got him back into line and taught him how to act like a normal dog raised by normal people, and he taught her how to be a bit naughty now and then, and how to connect to her "inner wolf" ...
Of course, this review is not enough space to give a complete blow-by-blow (or bite-by-bite) account of how we managed to bring Kai back into the normal world of dogs, but there are a few general recommendations I can make:
- Dogs are social animals! Never underestimate the need of a lone dog to be with its own kind. Therefore, if you want to try and resocialize a neglected dog, it might help tremendously to introduce him/her to another dog. If you can, make sure that this other dog is of a breed which is both emotionally stable and physically strong (such as a Lab), because this way the more emotionally stable dog can assert its dominance when necessary and "level out" the bad behavior of the other dog.
- Be prepared to get bit, scratched and mangled! A desocialized dog will not consider you its friend, not at first, at least. Even after he's gotten used to you, his antisocial behavior might still lead to the occasional little accident with fingers in teeth ... And even after he has learned to love you for who you are, for all the effort you have put in, he's still a dog, after all, and getting scratched and bit is part of the fun!
- As a result of this, a mutt like this is generally not a dog to be left alone with little children or other animals (although Kai was always very good with little kids), simply because dogs like this are always a bit unpredictable because of their backgrounds. You never know, after all, with a dog that's psychologically fractured ...
- But most of all: Never give up! A broken dog can be saved, but it takes an awful lot of effort and dedication. Just be prepared for the long haul!
All in all, rescued dogs can be an incredible amount of work, but you do get a big return, which is the knowledge that you saved a hard luck case, and ended up with a hugely characterful dog which loves you for the change in his life that you brought him.
If you can bring it up, saving a mutt is definitely worth the effort!