Henry, The most anxious dog I have ever met at Spotswood quarantine - VIDEO
Normally quarantine can be hard for very well socialised dogs. Socialisation means that a dog is able to initiate and sustain 'normal' dog behaviour and play around other dogs in an off lead situation. Not all dogs will get on with each other, and a social dog knows that, and will meet and greet and then move on in an off lead situation.
However even the most social dogs can have great difficulty in quarantine for many reasons. Some of these reasons are: they are removed from their owners (the alpha dog); they have a long flight to Australia and are then usually isolated in cement pens. If your dog is used to an inside of house life this is particularly difficult to get used to. The weather can be dramatically different from the original country, because most dogs travel from the northern hemisphere, much of the weather is 'polar different'.
Then you have to understand that for 30 days (now ten) the dogs are rarely let out of their cement pens and have to listen to all the other dogs complain (barking). This will often drive the most sane and social dog to near temporary dog madness. Though I have also met many dogs that didnt seem to be affected at all by the experience!?
Bronte and Henry
Like many dogs, these two dogs were abandoned and then found homes with their new owners in Los Angeles, America. With very sketchy details about their past, the new owners only had current behaviour to go on. They said to me in email correspondence that both may be a little 'stand offish'.
My experience was a whole new world of anti social dog behaviour. Bronte (brown and white dog) was the more social of the two, and on a good day would allow me to pat him. However some days he was just as distrusting of human interaction as Henry.
Henry was a whole new ball game. He looks like a white golden retriever cross, which I previously have found to be nothing but goofy loving dogs, however something in his past had changed any traces of that with me. I could only get his lead on to take him to the yard, after he saw me get Bronte's lead on, and because he desperately wanted out of the pen. He would be skittish on the way to the yard, and from the moment I got the lead off his neck, he would dart around and do everything he could to avoid me.
As a professional dog walker, I find that most dogs learn to trust me, even over a single walk session we usually come to some kind of agreement. However that was never the case with Henry. If Bronte was feeling good and semi social, Bronte would walk near me and occasionally let me pat him. I might be able to glance a hand on Henry twice in an hour session. If Bronte was having a bad day and was anti social, Henry took his queues from Bronte and was ten times as evasive as usual. Even verging on aggressive if he thought he was cornered.
This dog video was shot over several visits. You will see continual pacing behaviour by both dogs. In fact I sped the video up in the middle to show you how consistent this was over the one visit (single take). While Bronte does pace, Henry does far more metres. They both face the wire fence and look at other dogs and stop at either end to have a look around, but they just repeat the pacing over and over. This is typically a sign of a bored dog, but this pacing was taken to an extreme.
While Bronte keeps his eyes mostly on the dogs in the other yards, you will see Henry size me up at most ends of his run, and would also bark a warning bark loudly at me.
About three quarters of the way through the video you will see I have stopped them for a treat break. The owner's bought some healthy chicken breast dog treats off me (and this site) to compliment the grain kibble they were getting as their main quarantine meal. You will see that Bronte eagerly, quickly eats a lot of breasts in quick succession, but I had to keep throwing the breasts further and further away for Henry to get any. He would not risk getting too close to me, even though Bronte did.
Annoyingly, one of the staff at quarantine had a particularly good relationship with both dogs. If he was patrolling the yards when I was there exercising Bronte and Henry, he would drop in, and both dogs would come over for a pat by him. He could actually call them both over and they would act like any normal affectionate dog. Yes, a little bit bruising to the self esteem, considering that for the entire eight visits I found Henry so non-trusting of me.
This might of course lead you to think that the problem was with me, that I was the cause of the lack of socialisation, something that I thought about a lot too. That was until the owner made a visit about half way through the dog's stay, and at the end of his visit, one of the dogs didn't like the affection the other one was getting and a major fight broke out. The owner was unable to do much besides try and get between them, and in about 10-15 seconds it was over.
Even between these two dogs that had been rescued at similar times in Los Angeles and had lived together in a good home, and had regular on lead walks, a serious fight broke out. When the owner mentioned this to the staff at quarantine, who also noted the dog's 'temperament issues' , it was decided for each dogs safety that until the end of their stay there, they had to have separate pens.
There is a good chance that outside of this stressful environment that both Henry and Bronte's' behaviours would soften. However, the owner mentioned that even in America that both dogs had much more on lead walk times than off, because of aggression/ recall issues. Not outright savagery, but when a dog is anti-social and leans towards fear biting, it is difficult for many owners to bring their dog back to being social.
I am not going to pretend I have all the answers on this one, the owners were very concerned for their dogs and doing the best they could. I saw how both dogs reacted completely different to another handler, but also how they tried to seriously attack each other in the owner's presence.
The eventual goal I would have for these dogs is being social and learning to be social in all manners of off lead situations. The difficulty of this for many people is that when a partially social dog (that has come a long way from being anti social), meets an anti social or aggressive dog, in that moment the dog can easily regress for a long time after that one off meeting. And so a lot of owners just give up. The dog becomes a lawn ornament.
It is fantastic when people rescue large anti social dogs, but it can be so difficult on their daily lives when those dogs take a long time to become social. I sincerely wish Bronte and Henry's owners the best of luck !
Article by Bruce Dwyer. Like this article? Then please use a LINK reference to www.dogwalkersmelbourne.com.au
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