The following is an excerpt from my book “Who Said I was up for Adoption?” which covers the first 18 months of Ray living with us. This particular text is near the end of the book where I am summing up the changes over the 18 month period. For more information on the book, please click on the book front cover over in the right hand column (and probably down a little!).
When he moved in with us, his facial expressions could best be described as blank. His face gave no insight as to whether he understood us, whether he was feeling anything, or whether there was any interest in the world in general. Now he tilts his head in so many ways that, together with raised eyebrows and a number of other facial subtleties, he can say so much. He now seems to be able to tell us a number of things that could include, “I don’t get it yet, but I’m interested so keep trying” or “You said what? Did I hear you right?” or “Are you guys up to something?” or “That’s not part of our daily routine!”
When he moved in with us, he was considered unpredictable and therefore needed to be treated accordingly. Now we still have to be cautious with many aspects of him, particularly if young children are around but he does show us, by his subtle body language, when he is not happy. As we are now much better at reading his signs, we can re-direct his attention as necessary. Whereas he was clearly uncomfortable being in close proximity to strangers and dogs, he now displays more indifference than discomfort. This is, of course, an ongoing work in progress situation, but wearing a muzzle in the past became a necessity in view of his ability to totally misread a set of circumstances.
Ray has progressed to where we no longer muzzle him when out for walks. He has participated in fundraising walks for both the Humane Society and Canadian Dog Guides without his muzzle, and without any negative interactions.
When he moved in with us, the only sound he made was a very threatening bark, but now he has quite the vocabulary of sounds, most of which appear to be expressing varying degrees of frustration. This usually presents itself when he wants immediate attention, or when he was asked to do something which was clearly contrary to his wishes. He also appears to give the occasional grunt of general disapproval, or what may well be a snort of derision!
Without doubt Ray has been very challenging, but we both simply focused on all the positive aspects of him and moved forward. It would have been so easy to dwell on the negative aspects of his behavior, but we had to acknowledge his contributions in terms of efforts to change. All the time that has been spent in training Ray to become more self-assured, less threatened, and generally a more social dog, required significant cooperation from him to be as successful as we feel it has been.
Note: All profits from book sales are directed to the Oakville & Milton Humane Society.