Story is a beautiful Afghan hound cross (apparently bred with a Golden retriever) from Washington state. We do not know how long he had been feral, only that he was caught in Washington by another rescuer there (thank you, Harbor Rescue) after a sighting 1.5 weeks previous. He was not approachable and not touchable.
We have worked with Story every day and evening since his arrival to help him reintegrate, at his own pace, and without force, pain, intimidation, or fear –as much as is in our hands anyway–we accepted Story’s fearful reactions while at the same time slowly helped him form new associations. Story’s startle responses are/were notable, though non-threatening; he would, for example, jump and dash away at pretty much any sound, big or small. Before coming to us, he did also growl a bit while moving away when a stranger would come too close too abruptly. Generally we do not discourage growling, since behaviors such as growling are forms of communication and if a trainer disallows them, s/he risks setting up a dog to go directly to the next level of communication. That is, a dog trained to suppress a growl may decide that the next best communication tool available to him is a snarl or a snap; a dog trained to suppress a growl, a snarl, and a snap may decide that the next best communication tool available to him is a nip or a bite.
Story learned his new name after a couple of days, began coming to Rain when she called him a day or so after that, and about that same time began following her around the yard, etc. Around that same time, Story also took one treat from her fingers, but did not repeat it. It was about 2 weeks after his arrival day when Story finally took his first treats from Rain’s hands–that is, not just one treat, but a string of them–and continued to do so from there on. The day after, he was standing next to Rain with another dog, for practice sharing polite treat time without crowding, when he comfortably allowed Rain to touch and pet him. From that day on she then proceeded with a methodical touch/petting process in a purposeful, slowly expanding way to ensure Story’s comfort while expanding his progress.
Story is about 1.5 years old (estimated DoB February 2016) and it has been wonderful watching him enjoy retrieving his puppyhood. He loves to run around the yard in a frenzy, ears and feet flopping, tail waving its natural golden mean. He adores all toys and even things that are not really toys, such as blankets, bed pads, and Rain’s cellphone if she forgets to pick it up! Fortunately, Story is not destructive, just playful. 🙂 Lately he has begun storing all the toys along the shady side fenceline. That seems like a good plan for summer.
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A day or so after Story started accepting petting, he learned about being brushed, and decided he enjoyed it. Brushing quickly became a daily event, usually a several times a day event. Next we taught him to allow clipping of mats, which build up quickly in his hair type, and since it was a couple of weeks after he arrived before we were able to touch him, he had some doozies. This was a bit slower process, but he succeeded there as well. Now he sleeps through grooming, which he receives daily, and we have not had to cut any mats since the first time! Since he moved into the house, though, he’s been a little more coy about grooming. Perhaps he enjoyed the irony of getting Rain to groom him while he lay in a big pile of sand-soil. 😉 Nevertheless, he still is on a daily grooming schedule!
Story was a big Nope! about having his collar handled and about having a leash anywhere near him at first. Unfortunately, as he gained weight, which was needed–though not anymore!–the collar in which he arrived became too tight and could not be loosened while he wore it–he would run off every time we tried–so it had to be removed. A slow, stepped R+ process eventually allowed Rain to first place a Hound Sanctuary embroidered ID collar on him, then another slow, stepped R+ process allowed the removal of the old collar. We then needed to take his tags from his old collar and put them on his new collar. Rather than remove the collar he was wearing and have him collarless, which is simply a risk we never want to take, we placed the tags on another HS ID collar, put that collar on him, then removed the tagless HS ID collar–following the same process as before.
Leash training is being handled similarly, with a very slow, stepped R+ process over time. As of this update, Story has had a leash connected to his collar twice and walked with it once, within the safety of our fenced acreage only of course. Given his history, our hope is to acclimate Story not only to leashes but to a safety harness before walking him outside a securely fenced area. Story so far does not comfortably accept having anything put over his head, so a harness is not yet an option for us. We are hoping to acclimate him by practicing with large hoops, working down in size, then eventually going back to the harness.
Now that Story lives indoors with the rest of us, he is working on redecorating his room (moves his area rugs and beds around), enjoying his own couch (on top of and under!) and making the most of the extra space for hoarding toys. He also gets to cuddle with Rain, who draws the line at spooning in the dirt outside, even if it is a sandy soil.
Story appears to be a sweet-natured, playful, affectionate, happy dog who is afraid of and figuring out certain things about the human world, but appears to be capable of trusting those who prove themselves trustworthy.