Adopting street dog

Posted by Hamis
Feb 12, 2008
Hi, I've been living on the island of Madeira for the past few months, and there are a lot of street dogs there. One of them, a cute young one, has adopted me & my friend as his owners. When we moved, we decided to take it with us, even though our new flat was rather small, but on the street he got beaten a lot and didn't have a good life. In between moving houses, we had to leave him a few days on the street. Now he doesn't want to leave the apartment, gets aggressive as soon as we're trying to bring him to the door (trying to bite us, howling etc.); he's probably afraid of being left alone again. What can we do to make him go out? After all, he can't continue doing his business inside... We already tried tempting him with favourite bits of food, but he didn't fall for that...
An additional problem is that we'll have to take him to the vet to get vaccinations and to check his health, and we'll have to leave him with someone else for a week as we already planned to be away for a week and can't change that. This might make it even more difficult for him to trust us. Any suggestions of how we could best handle this?
Posted by Todd
Feb 17, 2008
Hi there and thank you for your question.

It is great to hear there are people out there that still take care of wild dogs.
I think the first thing to point out is that rehabilitating a stray dog can be a very long and torublesome experience. But trust me the pet you get at the end of it will be very loyal to you and your family.

Rescue dogs can become very attached to their owners as it sounds that your dog may have. You need to start working on breaking that cycle.

It is important that you do not let your dog follow you around too much in your home as this can cause a dog to become too clingy, which can be detrimental in the future when you need to leave your dog for any long period of time (i.e. can cause separation anxiety).

I would work with your dog to gain its trust in your contact with it. Ultimately your goal is to be able to touch and pet your dog all over without suffering any adverse reactions.

It is a good idea that you make your dog sit and stay with you, just for the sake of keeping your dog close and touched, on at least a daily basis. Even if your dog squirms of finds it uncomfortable just be patient and calm, talk soothingly to your dog and if it becomes to agitated release it from the command. The more you do this the more used to it your dog will become.

Read the 'secrets to becoming the alpha dog' bonus book, which every dog owner should use to communicate to their dog that the owner and their family are the alpha dog, even for a submissive dog. (Although obviously it is much more gentle approach required than with a more dominant temparamented dog). It is important to tell your friends and family how to behave around your dog.

Your dog certainly needs to be socialized more, but it is important that visitors know how to help the situation and not reverse it. Your visitors must:

Not directly approach the dog at any time, this will only increase its anxieties

Not stare the dog in its eyes, direct eye contact is intimidating for a submissive, fearful type because it reminds the animal that you are a predator. A predator or potentially threatening person/animal will keep eyes on eyes and quietly approach head on (which is most often how we approach our pets without realizing it).

Talk in quiet voices while the dog is around. A big booming voice would not help in the beginning, in time this should not matter though

Your dog should always have a safe area it can escape to at any time eg a quiet room or kennel.

After a while have the visitor get down to the dogs level (i.e sit on the floor) and if the dog seems comfortable it may approach the visitor.The visitor should not pat the dog, or look it in the eye unless the dog seems comfortable.

Continue to introduce people in this gentle manner. It may take your dog a few months to become used to strange people or it could take a few years, but patience and perseverance can only help in the end.

The readjustment process will take a great deal of time but you need to be patient and try not to flood your dog. Flooding him with lots of things that will scare him will only serve to make things worse.

To get him outside you need to give him the indication that everything will be fine if he comes out. So what i suggest you do is go outside with your family and totally ignore him. This means not looking at him or trying to coax him out. Go about some fun activity that he would want to join in like throwing a ball or his favourite game. Keep ignoring him until he starts to show some movement to coming outside. The second he does this turn slowly and praise him with attention and a quiet voice.

Try not to ever growl at him as this may encourage him to become fearful.

Be patient and please let me know how things go and if i can help at any stage.

Cheers, Todd