It’s been a month since I last worked with Chanty, the ALPL Rescue dog currently in foster care. He had some health conditions that needed to be attended to, and Becky, his fosterer, has been very busy. Becky reported that Chanty has regressed and has nipped a couple of people. Today was Session #6 with Chanty; based on Becky’s report, I fully expected him to try and nip me, too, because he associates me with getting between him and his most valuable resource – Becky – and taking him away from her.
Thanks to the very generous offer of another ALPL volunteer, Elise, we were able to work indoors, in a finished basement. All areas of potential escape or hiding were blocked off, leaving Chanty with only two choices: explore while I was there, or stay in one spot and wait for Becky to return. Before she left the house, Becky was asked to remove Chanty’s leash. Several minutes later, she was asked to remove his muzzle so he could get to the few treats I had tossed his way. When this was done, Becky was asked to leave the premises and find a vantage point from outside where she could watch through the window without Chanty seeing her.
For the most part, Chanty stayed put. When he found a way into Elise’s laundry area, Becky was asked to return so that she could physically remove him if it became necessary.
The video below shows Chanty exhibiting bravery for the first time since the session began. We were almost an hour into it when this happened.
At no time during this session was any attempt made to interact with Chanty in any way. Earlier efforts to lure him with food had failed, so they had been put away. There was nothing motivating his choice to smell my helper, Cathy, or to even choose to come so close to her and me in the first place. It was an extremely emotional moment for both me and Becky, made even more impacting by the fact that Chanty was neither leashed nor muzzled. If he was going to try to attack me, he had plenty of space and opportunity to do so.
Today’s session was a massive breakthrough for this pup. Not once did he growl at me, lunge at or mock-charge me, or even so much as lift a lip at me. Instead, three different times, he initiated eye contact with me… and held it for several seconds before moving back to the table Becky was sitting behind. His body was relaxed, his hackles were down, his tail was out from between his legs and hanging down in a relaxed position. He was uncertain, he was wary, and he only approached once. But it was a huge step for him to take, because it showed he was making a choice all on his own. He had to work himself up to it slowly, and it took most of an hour before he felt brave enough to try. But he did it, and in the process, he learned that he was safe, that nothing bad was happening to him.
We will be working with Chanty two to three times a week from now until the end of the year, repeating this exercise and gradually asking a little more of him as he shows us that he’s starting to feel more confident around us. My hope is to have him feeling more confident and trusting, and less intimidated by and more open to meeting people by the end of the year.
Stay tuned. Chanty’s next session is Wednesday, Nov. 25 from 10am to 11am…