After two and half years of near relentless badgering from my very, very determined daughter, I finally broke and agreed to entertain the idea of getting another dog. I had two rules though; I did not want to go through “puppy-hood” again (that golden age where no shoe is safe and carpets don’t stand a chance) and I wanted to adopt or rescue. I was firm on this.
A week later, we headed out to pick up our 16 week old Kijiji puppy…a great dane. And so it began…
Oliver (formerly known as Bobby) was a very, very shy boy right from the start. And, although I had done my homework, determined to not make the same mistakes as we had with our first dog, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. Oliver was afraid of everything. Having come from a rural area with very little noise and no interaction with humans other than the family where he was born he was overwhelmed when he came home with us. Here is a short list of his concerns:
- Cars make noise
- Birds make noise
- There are cats at this house
- Motorcycles go really fast and are loud
- Bicycles are quiet and sneak up on you
- Something might be behind that shrub
- I don’t know that person, or that one, or that one….
It went on from there, but you get the idea. Going for walks was a chore, as Oliver was quite resistant to leaving the house. At all. Ever. We went to a local trainer for a crash course on obedience and boosting his confidence. We played, we practiced and we celebrated the little milestones – like the first time we managed to go around the block without a panic attack. We went to grocery store parking lots to be around people more. We practiced getting in and out of the car.
And then one day while going for a walk in our old neighbourhood we met up with Lou and his dog Farley. He immediately noticed that Oliver was shy (as he frantically searched for a hiding spot…) and asked if I had been to the dog park yet? I was beside myself with glee as I got directions from him! We went that day! Our first dog park friend was Gail and her Great Dane, Karma and although it took quite a bit of persuasion to get Oliver past the park gate that day he had a great time! I was so happy I just about cried!!
It didn’t take long for Oliver to become more confident after that. We went to the park regularly, and made lots of new friends. Letting Oliver play with other dogs at his own pace seemed to make him surer of himself. We did have some setbacks with dogs from time to time but the social interaction with dogs and other people have far outweighed any negative experiences we’ve had there. And a side benefit for me is the amazing friends I have made at the park myself! I look forward to our weekend morning walks; it’s one of my favourite times of the week!
For us the park was a place where we were surrounded with understanding, likeminded people and their dogs. This allowed Oliver to develop trust in himself and others – we’ve had dogs help Oliver when he felt threatened or scared. This is something that Oliver does now with other dogs. When I watch Oliver now playing with his fur friends at the park, making new friends (especially the puppies!) and see him approaching people with trust I am amazed at how far he has come since his first days with us as that scared little boy.