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Thoughts about Laddie

Laddie wrote a few thoughts a couple of posts back and that prompted me to share some of my thoughts about Laddie and other dogs like him.

When Laddie came to us, I think it would have been fair to say that he had the potential to be a mild fear-biter. By that, I mean that he felt threatened fairly easily, especially by open hands raised near his head. Perhaps he’d been slapped by previous owners — I don’t know. When he felt threatened, he would threaten right back, baring his teeth, lifting his lip, growling, and turning as if to bite. He did make contact a few times, so it wasn’t an empty threat. Interestingly (and unusually), he seemed to do that more with Barbara than with me, leading me to believe that his previous family had a fairly assertive man and a fairly passive woman. If the man was gone much of the time (e.g., to work) and the woman wasn’t sufficiently sure of herself, Laddie was quite willing to fill the power vacuum and be the boss of the woman!

I’ve spent a ton of time working with Laddie while he’s been her, preparing him for life with his new forever family. (I’ll have to give them some guidelines about handling him, too, just to be sure we can avoid any, umm, unpleasant incidents.) The primary thing I’ve been doing is working on trust. Laddie felt threatened, and threatened in return, because he didn’t trust the people around him. We’ve improved by now to the point where I can be yelling loudly at him to “Come here. Now!” and he will come to me knowing that he’s not going to get hit, but will be praised for coming to me even when it’s scary.

I can grab his muzzle, even (especially!) if he has lifted his lip and he not only tolerates it, it seems to comfort him that I am confidently in charge. I am not afraid of him (I’ve been bitten rather badly in the past and it doesn’t hurt all that much :) ) and that really makes a difference. Laddie, like so many dogs with similar problems, desperately wants not to be in charge, but to have a person set the rules, confidently but not scarily enforce them, and to provide stability.

When he got here, I’m not sure if I was 100% convinced that he’d be ready to place any time soon. But with just a few weeks of intensive work, I think he’s ready…at least for somebody with a smidgen of dog savvy who is willing to listen to my evaluation and suggestions.

Laddie, go home! (to play a little with that movie title)

On this day..

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