Nearly eleven years ago, during parent-teacher conferences, I ran into a former student, her mom, and their adorable black and white puppy. I stopped to chat and told them the dog was a cutie. The first thing out of the mom’s mouth was: Do you want her?
Not one to make a snap decision, I went home and thought about it. At the time, I only had two cats. I wasn’t sure that I could handle a dog. (At that point in my life, I didn’t think I could take care of a five-pound puppy. Ha! Now my house feels empty when there are less than three dogs hanging out.) But she was cute as heck, and my mother encouraged me to get her, so I told the student the next day: YES! Bring me that dog!
I’d had Quincy a few weeks, working on potty training and just having a dog, when my cousin came over with her kids. After a few minutes of playing with Quincy, her eight-year-old daughter told me Quincy bit her. It didn’t leave a mark, so I wasn’t concerned. Honestly, I thought she was exaggerating.
A few weeks later, I had Quincy in the airport for a trip to Portland. She saw a toddler, crouched low in fear and growled. Even with my lack of experience, I realized that kids had hurt her, and that she was terrified of them. I felt bad too, for not believing my cousin’s daughter!
The next time my cousin brought her children over, Quincy hid under the furniture and darted out to bite their legs when they walked by. My dad called it, “Quincy’s Revenge.” He wasn’t wrong.
In order to overcome her fear, I knew Quincy needed more help than I could give her. So, I signed up for obedience lessons at a local park, where I met an exceptional dog trainer. I took Quincy to obedience classes once a week for more than two years. The classes and the time we spent working together laid the foundation for Quincy to become a more balanced, less fearful dog.
Now, I have a two-year-old niece, and while I would never leave any child unsupervised with a dog, they get along just fine. No more darting out from behind furniture to attack. No more hackles. No more fear.
Tips for a Fearful Dog
Take your dog to a basic obedience class!
Obedience training helped Quincy make sense of the world. She learned how to learn, and became a happy, balanced dog because of the hours we spent working together.
Take your dog out and about!
Anywhere I could take a dog–Petco, PetSmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s–Quincy came along. Exposure to new places helped her become confident.
Take dog treats!
I prefer Zuke’s Mini Naturals! Everywhere we went I had treats in my pockets so strangers could feed her. It worked like a charm–Quincy’s quite a piggy. She anticipated food when she met new people, and so she didn’t feel quite so much like attacking.
Turning Quincy into a good dog took years! We spent hours working together and going places. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it!
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