All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Shy Dog Adopted From Shelter

Dear Marie,
Last month I adopted an extremely shy dog from my city’s shelter.  The shelter people told me she was found as a stray by animal control and no one came to claim her.  They don’t know much about her other than she’s a little mixed breed dog and about two years old.I knew she was timid when I adopted her, but now that I've had her home for a while, I realize this isn't a case of being shy.  I think she is very fearful.  Her tail is always curled tight between her legs, she jumps at any sound and seems always to be looking over her shoulder.  I had some friends come to meet her and she ran into my bedroom and would not be coaxed out even with yummy treats.  She seems to like and trust me.  In fact, when I am alone, she sticks to me like glue.  I've almost tripped over her a couple of times.  What do you think is going on with her and will she ever come out of her shell?


Dear Meghan,
It is hard to say exactly what is going on with your little dog, but knowing she was out on the streets all by herself is a good indicator that she went through some harrowing experiences.  It is lucky that an animal control officer was able to rescue her and take her to a shelter before she was injured or killed. Try and imagine life as she has experienced it—she had a home and a family.  Most likely, she had a warm bed, regular meals, water, and attention.  She was safe and secure.  Somehow, she was separated from all of this.  Perhaps a meter reader left a gate open, or worse, her family abandoned her.  Regardless, her world was instantly turned upside down.  She may have had close calls with moving traffic, or she may have been chased by another loose dog, or even a wild predator.  It all must have been very terrifying. Then she was rescued—but from her perspective, that experience was in all probability, just as frightening as her initial ordeal.  A stranger picked her up, put her in a strange vehicle that almost certainly contained the sights and sounds of other animals, and drove her to a facility with dozens of loud, barking dogs.  She was poked and prodded by a veterinarian, was spayed, and then given a number of shots.  Kennel doors opened and closed continually with food bowls being put in and taken out by any number of people. It was all very overwhelming for your poor little girl.  But then you came into her life and became her rock of security.  It’s good to know that she was able to trust you like this.  Now it’s your job to make her know that she is undeniably safe and sound. Based on what you've indicated, you’ll need to take things slowly with her.  Don’t bring a lot of people into your home.  Instead, play some classical music.  Talk to your dog in a happy, confident voice.  This will let her know that you are not afraid of anything so she can feel more secure.  Spend as much quality time with her as possible.  Giver her lots of affection and treats.  If she is interested in playing, get some playtime in.  If she doesn't know how to play, try to teach her a few games.  Believe it or not, playtime is great therapy. As you see her become more confident, begin a few short activities outside of your home and yard.  If she enjoys being out of the home, increase the duration of these outings.  Long walks help relieve stress so when you get to this phase of training, you should see improvement by leaps and bounds. It is at this point that you can begin to introduce her to your friends.  Ideally, you’ll want just one person a day to stop by and they should always come with doggie treats in hand (or pocket)!  Don’t force your dog to visit, let her come to each person when she is ready. Sometimes it takes several months for a dog to fully comprehend that it is safe in a new home, but many dogs adjust in just a few weeks.  Just remember that it’s up to you to show her that she will never be alone again.

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