Today marks Ben’s 24th week with us. He’s still learning to trust, and he’s still showing insecurity and uncertainty in certain areas, but generally speaking, he is no longer the dangerous, red-zone dog that came to us nearly 6 months ago.
Ben has gotten much better with meeting new people. When guests come over, we ask them to ignore him completely. Once they’re in the door, we ask them to continue ignoring him, but let him smell them. This is important for him, because until he came to us, Ben never used his nose. He was all eyes, all the time. Giving him the time to smell things out and determine that way what is and isn’t safe is a critical aspect of his rehabilitation.
Eye contact is a continuing challenge for Ben – although he has improved quite a bit when it comes from a human. He used to react immediately and very intensely when a human gave him eye contact; now he only gets a bit reactive after about 10 seconds. However, when other dogs give him eye contact, he’s still highly reactive.
Although it still isn’t total, Ben’s ability to trust has improved quite a bit. He still tries to take control when situations come up during walks, but he’s getting better. He’s standing back more often and letting us deal with things instead of automatically charging in like he did when he first came to us. This is a really big deal for him, because he doesn’t trust easily. Earning his trust has been the most difficult challenge I’ve had with him; everything he does with us depends entirely on his level of trust; if he doesn’t have confidence in our ability to control a situation, he will try to deal with it himself – and he won’t let up until the situation changes, or, if we have no other choice, we remove him from it.
This dog is one of the most challenging, most difficult, most frustrating… and most rewarding cases I’ve ever had, and every time I earn a little more trust from him, I feel like I’ve won the lottery. Earn his trust, and you have a dog who will give his life for you without any hesitation whatsoever….
Ben still has a long way to go in his rehabilitation. But he’s worth every second of effort. He teaches us so many things about ourselves that we weren’t aware of, he makes us laugh on a daily basis with his comical expressions and antics, he gives us love when we’re having a rough day… He really is a special dog…
Have a great day, everyone, and remember to stay calm and lead on.