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Tips for helping rescued dogs overcome fear and anxiety: Liberty's journey

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Are you a dog lover who's ever taken in a rescue dog with a troubled past?

If so, you'll appreciate a story about a skittish dog who was surrendered to a rescue after allegedly biting her owner's daughter. Liberty was welcomed into my home, providing her with a safe space to decompress and heal from her traumatic experience. Through patience, dedication, and a deep understanding of canine behavior, I worked with Liberty to help her become a more confident dog. Read on to learn more about Liberty's journey and discover some tips for helping rescued dogs overcome their fears and anxieties.

I thought I would let you meet my housemates. All of the 4 legged ones anyways. Y'all ready to meet my family? Let's start with the latest, Liberty. She's a rescue dog who had a rough start. The previous owner claimed she bit their daughter out of nowhere and wanted her gone, so the rescue reached out to me for help. I said, "Sure thing!" and told them to bring Liberty over to my place so I could evaluate her for a couple of weeks. I got her set up in a kennel with a 6 x 12ft chain-link fence so she could see me and the other pups but still have her own space to decompress.

When the rescue arrived with her, she was extremely skittish. We took her out into the yard on a long leash to give her some space but keep her safe. Liberty didn't trust anyone looking at her, and would run away but she'd tentatively follow you if you walked away. so, i had to wonder how a human could get close enough to her previously. After about an hour we managed to get her into her room without too much fuss. After the rescue left, Liberty and I got to know each other. Every day, I'd open her door, but she wouldn't come out until I was out of view or sitting down. It turned out she was hard of hearing, which explained why she never responded to me. She also freaked out if I had a flashlight - go figure.

Fast forward a few weeks, and Liberty started coming out of her shell. She loved playing with the other dogs and got along with pooches of all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, human interaction was still a slow process. We tried to find ways to make her feel more confident, but it was tough and a very slow process. Liberty's a chill yet playful dog who just wasn't cut out for a lot of human interaction. But that didn't stop her from becoming part of my family. I let her be a dog and learn to fit in with my pack. We had a routine where I'd open her door, she would run outside and then she'd come into the living area as long as I was sitting. She'd go back to her room once the other dogs calmed down, but that was okay with me becuase she had choices. My motto is to never stress a dog unless it's a life or death situation.

Liberty became my welcome dog to all the boarding dogs that came over. This has been a great and playtime with guest dogs goes great. To continue working on the human interaction we developed our own version of game play, and she even started searching for me if I hid. We were making progress. One evening, as I was lounging on the sofa, I caught a glimpse of Liberty lying on the floor at the far end. It took over a year to achieve, but it was a big step forward. A few months later, I woke up to find her sleeping, sitting up with her head on my knee - another major milestone. of c ourse this a very simplified account of our story, however it is a peek insideher journey.

Nowadays, Liberty has found her comfort spot next to my chair or sofa. She'll stay outside if I'm out there, as long as I'm not coming toward her. And she's become quite the demander of pets - I mean, who wouldn't want to pet that sweet face? We'll keep taking small steps forward and making her life as full as possible. She may not be the cuddliest dog in the world, but she's got a place in my heart forever. Dont give up. We not ever get the dog we expect but we often get a dog in our lives that we need at the time.

Here are some starting tips if you bring a fearful or anxious dog into your family.

Create a Safe and Calming Environment: Provide a safe and comfortable environment for your dog to relax in. This can be a designated area in your home, such as a crate or a quiet room with a comfortable bed. Use calming scents such as lavender or chamomile to create a relaxing atmosphere, and play soft and soothing music to help your dog relax.

Positive Reinforcement: Use positive reinforcement techniques to help your dog associate positive experiences with relaxing and feeling calm. Use treats or toys to reward your dog for calm behavior and praise them with a soothing voice. Gradually increase the duration of calm behavior that you reward to help your dog learn to relax for longer periods of time. Don’t force or push for fast improvement.

Consistency and Routine: Establish a consistent routine for your dog to help them feel secure and reduce anxiety. Create a schedule for feeding, playtime, and exercise, and stick to it as closely as possible. Consistency can help your dog feel more in control and less anxious.

Professional Help: Seek the help of a professional trainer or behaviorist if your dog's anxiety is severe or interfering with their daily life. They can provide specialized training techniques and behavior modification strategies to help your dog overcome their fears and learn to relax. Products like Rescue Remedy, CBD, calming chews can be used alongside rehabilitation.

Remember that every dog is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Be patient and persistent in your efforts to help your dog learn to relax and trust. With time and effort, your dog can overcome their anxiety and learn to live a happy and relaxed life.

The following are just some products and items yu could put in your rehabilitation and enrichment tool box.

For a more thorough list please check out My Favorite Brand and Products page

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