A fresh start for Magda?
I am a member of the Facebook group, GSP Rescue Victoria. The work done there by tireless and dedicated volunteers is incredible, and I follow posts avidly.
One day, I read a post about a dog in a particularly distressing state.
She had been confined, with two other dogs, in a compound. Her owner, thankfully, was persuaded to surrender her and another dog.
After three years in this compound, this little pointer was, probably not surprisingly, franticly anxious when she was bundled away.
Her assessment was bleak, and at the very least it seemed she'd have to be on some form of anxiety medication - and perhaps could not even be rehabilitated.
I am nothing if not tenacious, and firmly believe that all but the most unfortunate dogs can be rehabilitated sufficiently to find them a good home - albeit with a lot of hard work.
I contacted GSP rescue and said I'd like to spend some time with her, and so the next day I drove to Hampton and picked up the timid wretch.
I called her Magda for the day!
I applied gentle reward-based, positive reinforcement and established pack order to allow her to relax and reduce stress, and build trust. I took her out with my own dog, and on her own.
She was not medicated when she was with me, and I cannot imagine her ever needing any medication for anxiety.
I would describe her as being nervous in new situations - hardly surprising given her lack of exposure to 'stuff'. I have worked with many people's dogs which are far more affected by anxiety. She did not display any associated anti-social behaviour with me.
Throughout the day, I exposed her to a wide variety of new things - van, cage, new dogs, children, lead exercises, stairs, gates, lifts, ... she took most of it cautiously but was increasingly comfortable over the day. Over the day, she was less and less nervous about her collar being touched and a lead put on, for example.
In my home, she relaxed relatively quickly, settled and slept. I am confident she did not wee in the house, but she was out and about a lot.
I periodically did exercises to test 'separation anxiety'; during these exercises she appeared unconcerned, which is consistent with ensuring proper pack order.
She was a pleasure on the lead, was happy to run with me on and off lead, and travelled very well in my travel cages. She lay down in the cages, and slept after walks as we drove.
She was excellent with dogs, and a mother with a baby asked to introduce her baby. The dog was interested but not intrusive, did not lick, nor was she phased by baby smells and noises.
In my opinion, she would do best in a home without another dog - at least in the beginning. The reason for that is she needs leadership from a person/people, not a dog, and a person would have more work on their hands to do the basic work she needed when she'd be so focussed on another dog's leadership.
She also needed training from scratch - She showed no experience of play, nor of conventional rewards like food or balls, for example. She did begin over the day to develop the beginnings of recall, and play, and to eat from my hand - all very positive signs.
She is a lovely girl, very sweet, and frankly much easier and less mucked up than most dogs I deal with! I bumped into a client of mine in the park - he said his wife would probably gladly swap their dog for this! (true story!)
This story has a happy ending.
I posted my day's activities on Facebook and Instagram, and a good number of people followed our progress with interest.
One follower in particular was VERY interested, and after some discussion, picked up a new addition for her family that weekend.