Another shy chihuahua

I spent a wonderful week visiting my mom in Buzzard’s Bay near Cape Cod. I boarded Nibbles with a woman and her family who had adopted another of the dogs who were confiscated along with Nibbles and Kelly. Nibbles had a great time working through many of the challenges a dog needs to sort out when they live in a world with people. He was going in and out of the house on his own. He was snuggling on the couch with his caregiver, who was able to give him pets and scratches. He was tolerating being on a leash. Bottomline was that I hated to take him away! He’s back in my office and I suspect that in a day or two we’ll be back to running around and playing, but in the meantime I’m being cautious and keeping him confined to his pen.

It’s easy to think that when dogs like Nibbles begin to show indications that they are happy and playful, that they are no longer flight risks. It doesn’t take much to add to the pressure they may be experiencing and see them revert to their earlier behaviors of fleeing or avoiding handling. The woman who was boarding him quipped that she didn’t want to end up being the subject of another story in a local paper which had already written about Nibbles’ adventures after he fled from his first foster home. I feel the same way. Better safe than sorry.

The following video is of Kelly, now called Rocky, who I had met in the barn along with Nibbles. Kelly showed more skills when it came to interacting with people. I had fun teaching him to target and play other ‘get used to hands’ games. Every dog is different and how we work with them will vary, depending on their abilities and comfort level. Pay attention to the dog, be patient and gradually ‘up the ante’ in regard to what you expect of them as their skills improve.

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4 comments so far

  1. Mel on

    I loved this post because it is such a good reminder to all of us that fearful dogs can make amazing progress, but to expect that they will take some steps back and all it takes is one sound or one scary movement and they are back in that fearful place again.
    Daisy experiences these moments less and less ow, but there are still days when it comes back. For almost the whole month of July she was afraid to go outside at night because of the fireworks. It didn’t matter that none had gone off that particular night. She just knew it had happened several times before. I have no doubt she would have bolted if given the chance.

    So happy to hear about Nibble’s progress!

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      Thanks Mel! I think of their behavior as if it’s layered, new behavior on top of old. The old behavior is never gone, just replaced by another behavior. If the new behavior is practiced enough it will ‘thicken up’ and can withstand added pressure. But should the pressure be too much, the older, more practiced behavior comes squeezing out. We know that the more a behavior is practiced the ‘better’ a dog becomes at it, so preventing this kind of practice of an unwanted response is important, but it happens, especially early on when the new behavior hasn’t ‘thickened up’ yet. That’s why we try to practice the new behavior/response a lot. Not only does it help withstand pressure it makes it easier for a dog to revert back to it should they have had to fall back on the older response.

      • Curtiss Lanham CPDT-KA on

        Debbie: I really enjoy your style of putting these behavior concepts in a very usable format. You have a great knack for this and I have benefitted greatly from your writings and videos.
        This one of the fearful chi is a great illustration. Curtiss

      • fearfuldogs on

        Thanks Curtiss I appreciate the feedback!


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