A street dog is moving in
Imagine that you grew up in a tiny village community in the middle of the Amazon jungle: there was no electricity, motor vehicles, and medical care there, and every now and then you suffered from hunger. But you didn’t know it any other way.
An American couple learns of their situation. They are well-meaning people, to whom your way of life seems extremely unpleasant and dangerous. They adopt you and bring you to New York!
There you now have a solid roof over your head, electricity, water that flows cleanly from taps, and regular meals.
But what an urgent tightness! What a stench! What a noise! You are as if slain. You would prefer to crouch on the floor in a corner and hold your eyes and ears tight.
But your new family wants to welcome you to New York and show you everything!
As soon as you step out of the house into a street canyon where traffic is raging, you want to ram both heels firmly into the ground. But it goes on: more streets, more huge buildings, more noise. They do not understand any of this, all that foreignness frightens them terribly. You only want one thing: back to your corner!
Instead, you should now learn to tie a bow and eat with a knife and fork.
This is roughly how many of the dogs that we bring to us from the street or from a killing station abroad have to feel.
These dogs don’t know that from our point of view they were bad on the street: it was the way it was. Nor are they aware that their lives were in danger in a killing center. That is why they are not grateful that we “saved” them, even if some animal welfare organizations would like to present it that way.
All these dogs know is that suddenly everything is different, strange and scary.
Those who have lived close to people and have successfully begged for food, for example, are often quite devoted, but there are also those who have mostly had bad experiences or who may not be used to contact people.
These dogs are scared. In front of closed rooms, smooth floors, streets, cars, public transport, children, strange men … and often in front of us, too, what besides the problems that result from it, we wanted to do something good for them.
Of course there are also happy minds among the street dogs who start their new life as if nothing else had happened! Unfortunately, they are very rare …
If you have caught such a copy, it might be worth taking a quick look at Part IV “In the beginning everything went well!”. Otherwise you can count yourself lucky!
How can I make it easier for my dog to start his new life?
Give him time!
For you, it is your apartment, in which you do not bump into the furniture even in the dark – new impressions patter on it every waking second, which you first want to process. He doesn’t have to get to know the neighborhood right away. If your dog looks very insecure, first offer him a quiet room with a lounger. We all need breaks, phases of relaxation in order to process new impressions – the expression “I have to sleep on that first!” Does not come out of the blue – so just let it calm down.
Stay calm (unless he can’t calm down because he’s afraid of you): Sit quietly and read a book, or lead by example and doze a little. Your dog will perceive your relaxed mood, which will also help him to calm down. If he is scared and suspicious of you, you will be much less worrying.
Healthy adult dogs rest about 17 hours a day, puppies, old or sick dogs 20 to 22 hours. Whatever you believe that your dog needs to get to know urgently:
Treat him to these rest periods! If they are missing, he cannot process all of the new.
Can I use feed to gain my trust?
A dog who is very scared is no longer able to ingest food – the reaction to the food offered can therefore be an indicator of his emotional state.
When in doubt, a lot has been achieved if the dog can eat, even though you are in the same room.
It is often advised to feed the dog exclusively from the hand …
Not a bad idea, actually, if we humans weren’t so inclined to face the dog with the food in hand, to look at him and possibly bend over because he is small.
At this moment, our whole body language signals “WAY you are approaching this feed!” … and at the same time we may let the poor guy push coal steam so that he engages in this “exercise of trust” …
When I try to feed a scared dog out of my hand, I sit on the floor, my hand with the food outstretched behind my back, and I look in a different direction. If he lets himself in without hesitation, I am secretly looking forward to a hole in the stomach, but do not try to “add another one”. I will keep this position for the next few times and will only hold my arm aside for a trial period …
If he does not do it, I will certainly not let him go hungry, but offer other solutions.
“Throwing chunks of food” (both from me and from him) is one of them: I offer hunting pleasure and success without forcing him to approach me too much. If that works, he may later dare to pick up chunks of food that I have decorated on my toes with my legs stretched out on the floor.
And if not: Then it must be enough for now that he dares to eat while I’m around!
How can I approach my anxious dog?
Just as I can intimidate a dog through my posture, I am also able to signal that I pose no danger.
Always move calmly and calmly, avoid sudden movements. Make yourself small, for example by crouching down. Speak – if at all – quietly, calmly and kindly. I personally think little of wanting to demonstrate my harmlessness through a high, squeaky voice. No dog in the world will think of me as a puppy because of that. Instead, he will very well notice that my behavior is fake.
Approach them in a roundabout way: make a little bow instead of walking directly towards them, rather look out of the corner of your eye than look at him directly.
And – if it is possible in any way – let him take the initiative.