Ally- When rescues regress…

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So Ive been very quiet, well I’ve actually been in the UK getting my work visa, thanks to these wondrous new visa regulations it only took me a quick TWO MONTHS!!..not that I’m bitter or anything…

Whilst I was gone my long suffering boyfriend and Cathy (of Woof Shack fame) looked after Ally, but as the weeks rolled by I got more and more worrying updates- “Ally’s snapping at people”, “Ally won’t let people in the house”, “Ally’s limping more”…

You see contrary to cute Facebook adoption stories (wasn’t it cute though! ;)) Ally isn’t the simplest of Doglets, I adopted her because I love her naturally- but also because she needed a little more than the average rescue.

Apart from a rough beginning in life which has left her very wary of strangers, she also has severe elbow displacia, this means she’s in constant pain which makes for a rather twitchy pit bull!

[We’ve seen a specialist, who doesn’t recommend surgery at this stage, Ally now has a better diet than your average pro-athlete as well as pain killers on hand.]

You see me and Ally have an understanding- I’LL be the over protective bi*ch so SHE can relax and be the sweet puppy she was always meant to be!

When something scares her, she looks to me, I reassure her all is well and no one dies!

Now I had to leave: my visa was up, I’d boarder hopped twice to delay the inevitable however one simply cannot be an illegal fugitive and rescue dogs at the same time! Believe me- I tried!

The only thing was- Ally wasn’t ready for me to go, she wasn’t confident in herself yet and without her militant mummy she went and developed a huge case of ‘Stranger Danger’!

So there I was in England receiving phone calls which said “your dogs being aggressive” whilst hearing the truth which was “your dogs scared“!

It was heart breaking and frustrating as hell!

What was truly depressing though was the reactions a scared pit bull gets, not ‘awww poor puppy‘ but rather ‘your going to have to put her down‘! I mean seriously?! Your child goes through a phase and you ‘Green Juice’ em?!

Karma being what it is- the muppets that uttered such cold hearted sentiments now get to face a ginger who is 99.9% more likely to rip out their throats than her pit bull ever was!

Anyway, I guess I’m writing this to all the rescue parents who are having a hard time, who deal with the disapproving glares of people who assume you raised your dog wrong whilst what your actually doing is cleaning up another humans mistakes/cruelty on a daily basis!

If I wrote about every step we took to get Ally right you’d have a novel, but here’s a few, maybe someone will find them helpful:

  • BEHAVOURIST!

You dont know what you dont know“- Damn straight! If you dont know what you’re doing, ask someone who does!

On this note anyone who bases their knowledge on Cesar Millan should be avoided at all costs, especially if what your dealing with is in essence a scared dog.

Your dogs already scared, dominating it is totally unnesscary, you control what it eats, where it walks, when it sleeps, if it lives or dies. If you still fear your dogs controlling you- seek psychiatric help!

Learning to communicate with you dog is key, figure out your dogs triggers/ fears/ responses, then you can begin changing negative patterns of behaviour! Positive reinforcement and patient consistent training will sort most Doglets out! For the rest there’s always shock collars…JOKE! Unless your happy for someone to tazer your neck every time you mess up, then please don’t subject your dog to it!

An example of addressing a fear whilst changing a behaviour pattern: 

Ally is scared of strangers entering our house (the feeling was mutual). So visitors are now furnished with Biltong which they drop as they move around the house whilst ignoring her growls etc.

This a) gives her positive associations with people entering the house!

b) people not reacting to her calms her (eventually) and reminds her the hoo-mans are in control, she doesn’t have to guard/ protect us!

  • CRATE TRAINING 

No this isn’t locking your dog in a cage so it can’t misbehave!

This is giving your dog a safe space where it has some element of control.

Crate training has its uses in house training etc (feel free to google it) but for Ally it was a way she could tell us ‘Ive had enough, I need space‘ without having to resort to aggressive behaviour.

The basic rules are:

  1. The crate is Ally’s safe space, we can not reach in/ force her out.
  2. It is always available to her.
  3. Ally must choose to enter the crate (chicken- lots and lots of chicken!)
  4. When we leave she goes in, as soon as we return she comes out.
  5. It is NEVER used as a punishment.
  6. All treats etc will be given there to further enhance the wonderfulness of the crate.
  7. You do not crate your dog for longer than 3 hours max.
  8. You make sure they use the toilet immediately before going in and as soon as they come out
  9. Make sure they are cool and comfortable, no direct sunlight.
  10. Ensure your dog has been exercised and is suitably tired before being crated.
  11. If your dog suffers separation anxiety (Ally did) then you must start small, ten minutes (hiding in the car) then return, fifteen minutes (back to the car), start small and build. They have to trust you are returning and they are in their safe space until you do!
  12. I repeat, NEVER use it as a punishment! Ally now gives herself time outs when she’s had enough, its a beautiful thing!
  • HALTI COLLAR

Ok so she looks like Hannibal but its a way to stop her jumping and snapping at people without using force, it means we can keep socialising her/ desensitising her to situations whilst maintaining safety.

Now don’t just slap it onto your dogs muzzle, start by putting it on at meal times/ when they have treats, let your dog have good associations with it and they’ll accept it faster!

Its not my favourite thing to use as it makes her look killer, so people are scared of her which makes her scared of them, oh what a vicious circle! But sometimes it is a necessity!

Anyway’s long story short, three weeks later and Ally’s back to her silly self! 

She still has fear issues, but hey this is South Africa- who doesn’t?!

She’s loved and safe! With time, patience and training- she may even start to believe it!

Over and out, a very happy to be back, Foster Mom & Ally x

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