Wilson has been with us at Homeward Bound for over two months ago. He’s a spunky little guy tipping the scales at a hefty 35 pounds are so. He comes with a ton of personality that makes people like him immediately. Unfortunately, he’s also fearful of other dogs and has chosen “the best defense is a blitzkrieg offense” strategy when it comes to the scary dogs. To make things worse, Wilson’s size has helped him become a master of slipping by slow humans at a gate or door. Twice this has given him access to attack other dogs. I use the word “attack” loosely. I don’t believe he did any damage to the other dogs. Spit fights is all they were. But that still won’t do in the world of dogs and we needed to help Wilson learn better ways to interact with his canine friends.
When Wilson met Scrappy for the first time, we kept Wilson on leash. We don’t normally do that because a taut leash can create reactivity all by itself. But with Wilson’s history we had to take precautions. Sure enough, Wilson decided Scrappy needed to be taught a lesson even though they had never met before. So further precaution were in order. We introduced Wilson to a muzzle. It’s not as uncomfortable as it sounds. We chose a soft basket muzzle that allows the dog to drink and take treats. It’s not like running free but it’s comfortable. Wilson adjusted to it almost immediately
The muzzle made the rest of the story possible. Without any worry that Wilson could hurt Scrappy, we dropped Wilson’s leash and a seeming miracle happened. Suddenly, Wilson’s approach flipped 180 degrees. Perhaps realizing that attacking would be futile he started following Scrappy around as if Scrappy had suddenly become his big brother. And then they played! A little bit. But it was almost enough to bring tears to your eyes to see this little red hellion playing and having fun with another dog.
I don’t normally add video to the blog. That’s because I’m not good at capturing good footage. Nor can process the raw files and produce a good product. But I’d like to be able to show what is not possible–for me anyway–via photos. So, with apologies for the quality, here is a video of Wilson and Scrappy.
But wait, there’s more! We kept the muzzle on Wilson for a week or two of sessions with Scrappy. And it’s a perfectly good strategy to always use a comfortable muzzle that fits well whenever a challenging dog like Wilson is interacting with other dogs. But wouldn’t it be nice for Wilson to mingle with dogs without having to wear protection? Last week, we decided to take the plunge. Now we have to find a few more good dogs for Wilson to meet.
But before we go there, I’d like to thank all of the people that have been working with Wilson to help him become the dog he is supposed to be. There is more to Wilson’s development than what you see here. Still, I think the biggest role has been played by Scrappy. When Scrappy came home with me as a permanent foster, I had no clue that he would end up helping as many dogs as he has. He’s amazing.