Our second weekend together and this, brave, trauma survivor came onto the couch with me-AND THAT’S NOT ALL! She let me pet her TWO TIMES❣️😎💃
Here are some important lessons I have learned thus far. This is not an exclusive list, or a recipe for therapy. If you adopt a puppy mill survivor, connect with a local organization, such as your local humane society and find experts in the field to help your pet transition from a little, traumatic world, to the HUMONGOUS, loving, but noisy world.
Notes from my studies:
Understand that your formerly abused pet, in his/her"normal" mode, is usually in a state of heightened alert, when compared to a pet that eluded trauma.
"Dogs’ window of socialization typically closes at around 4 months old, notes certified professional dog trainer Liz Marsden. “Anything that a dog has not been exposed to in a positive way, by that point in their lives, will tend to frighten them,” she says. The result is often a dog in a state of hypervigilance—a challenging situation for even the most patient owner." (http://www.humanesociety.org/news/magazines/2010/11-12/life_outside_the_cage.html)
Learn what events, sounds and noises stimulate fear in your pet. This happens from close observation and taking note of what happened just before your pet's anxiety became heightened. For example, with my, puppy mill survivor, lets call her Poppy (pictured above), I quickly noticed that she consistently panicked, if I stood up, from a seated position, in my normal fashion. Poppy would bark, run at my heals, snip at them and then run away. So, I began experimenting with ways that I could stand up without "pushing her panic button". First, I slipped off the couch to my knees, looked away from her and slowly stood up. This seemed to be okay with her. After a while, I tried pushing the limits a bit more. I skipped the slipping off the sofa to my knees part. I simply looked way from Poppy and VERY slowly stood up. This worked! If she were my dog, I'd practice this as much as possible and eventually try looking away from her and standing up at a normal speed. Lastly, I'd work my way to looking at her and standing up.
Notice the dogs eye contact and use few words. (In my mind, these two tips work together.) If a timid, or anxious dog quickly looks away, then don't keep looking at them. If they do look at you, blink your eyes VERY slowly and then look away. (This is body language that communicates your comfort with them.) As their trust in you builds, so will their eye contact. After two weekends with me, Poppy felt more comfortable. I could tell so because she was sitting across the room and staring at me - even when I looked at her. Her two brothers were cuddling with me on the loveseat and she just kept staring at me. Poppy hadn't been touched, by a human in two days and I began to wonder if she was feeling very lonely. So, without speaking any commands, I patted the seat next to me and waited. After about 3 minutes, she hopped of her sofa and jumped on to the loveseat with the rest of us. She faced away from us. After about 5 minutes, Poppy was still there! I very slowly reached my hand toward her and, ever slow lightly, made circles in the fur on the back of here head! This was accompanied by a VERY soft inviting voice. I said, "It's OK baby." one time. That's a phrase I heard her owner use often. I also tried to mimic the owners tone and speed of talking when I spoke to her. She let me pet her, but she wouldn't make eye contact in such close proximity. What a BRAVE little girl!
6. I feel this is the most important tip. Believe that your pet will succeed. Never let them feel that you doubt their ability to heal. KNOW THAT EVERY LIVING BEING IS SEEKING TRUST AND LOVE.