CIC

Every greyhound is an individual with their specific personalities and needs.

But here are a few stories of lovely dogs I have worked with – all struggled in different ways with settling into life in a home, but have made real leaps of progress thanks to a patient, structured training approach

Sasha’s story

Sasha’s a 3-legged lurcher who was brought into the rescue at three years old. She’d lost her leg in a traffic accident, which had left her traumatised. Sasha was deeply suspicious of everything. She didn’t trust people and wasn’t too sure about dogs either. She didn’t like to be touched and had a record of having bitten. The only way to get her into the kennels when she arrived was to drive right up and open the boot so she walked straight in. Even getting a lead or collar on her was impossible.

The approach

The only way to start with a traumatised and fearful dog is to build trust. I began by slowly teaching Sasha some skills using food rewards and got her out of the kennels to the calmer environment of an assessment room. It was important early on to learn about her and what the triggers were that made her feel uncomfortable or threatened.

Slowly and gradually, Sasha began learning that life was safe and predictable. She could feel more confident in choosing to make different responses in the way she behaved.

As she began to make progress, a willing volunteer buddied with Sasha and recorded her progress in a regular blog.

Soon Sasha had caught the attention of a prospective adopter and a new home for the troubled girl was in prospect. But we knew it was important to take it gently. After an initial meeting, her adopters visited the centre for several ‘getting to know you’ visits both at the centre and out and about. Once everyone felt confident she was ready for home, there was one last hurdle: to make sure that Sasha was comfortable with car travel again.


Result

Six weeks after that first meeting with her prospective adopters, Sasha was on her way to her new home. She’s settled really well. Her new family have an exercise routine that works and use lots of mental enrichment to stimulate and satisfy her zest for life!


Sasha image

Wilson’s story

When ex racing greyhound, Wilson, came into the rescue he had been living in very poor conditions for at least a year. He was difficult to engage and unresponsive to human contact. Wilson really wasn’t an easy dog to be around – for dogs or humans. He regularly bit kennel mates and reacted badly to being touched by strangers or if startled from sleep. Loose lead walking was extremely problematic, too.

The approach

The start point was pretty much to keep it ‘hands off,’ but to help him understand the basics of manners and impulse control to help with his reactivity to other dogs and to make lead walking easier. It soon became clear that Wilson loved to train and particularly enjoyed agility and retrieve games. We moved him from the kennels to a house on site at the rescue to live with a small group of dogs so that we could closely monitor his behaviour with them.

Result

Training and the reward of the games that he loved allowed Wilson’s personality to shine through – he became far more relaxed with people. In fact, he’s now a big hit with the volunteers at the rescue. He’s still waiting for a home, but continues to live in the house on the rescue site and has a completely bite-free record with his housemates.

Little B’s story

Little B was seven when she came into rescue. She had been racing until recently and was in a poor state physically and mentally. Her body was covered in scars and she was ‘shut down’ – closed off to any kind of stimulus and contact, either dog or human. She would startle at any quick movement, hated being handled and while she would walk on the lead very reluctantly, she’d frequently freeze and refuse to go further.

Little B’s shy nature touched hearts – she had an early offer of adoption and a stable foster home, but in each case she was back again within a month. She touched mine, too, and I took her on as long-term fosterer.

  

Approach

At home we knew we had to give Little B some space and time – she’d been on the racetrack for a long time and needed to adjust. But we discovered that Little B was one serious foodie and that really helped.

We took everything in tiny, tiny steps, pairing the quality treats that she loved with the things I wanted her to like. We didn’t expect to make great strides all at once. Something as small as my making a movement towards her would win her a treat. For the first six weeks, I didn’t even attempt to force the idea of walks in the big wide world that she found so disturbing. Instead I focused on regular short periods of trust-building training and mental stimulation games to develop her innate curiosity and burn some energy. (Exercise doesn’t always have to be physical).

Result

Now, one year on, she can manage a short early morning road walk and enjoys daily off lead mooches in a quiet field. She’s learnt hand targeting as a recall, and has a few tricks which she likes to do. But the real joy is that her training has developed a confidence in B that I would have never thought possible in the little, shy, scared dog that I took in a year ago.