Using treats to help fearful puppies



I attended a training session at the humane society on Monday so now I’m allowed to take the shelter dogs for walks (yay!). During the training session my mentor and I worked with two extremely shy dogs, and it was very rewarding to see the dogs become slightly more comfortable with us over 45 minutes or so.

The dogs are six-month old siblings that were transferred from a shelter in Mississippi along with about 13 other dogs. They are labeled as “Basset hound/Lab mixes” which looks about right only they have longer hair than both breeds. I don’t know anything else about them, but I can imagine they might’ve grown up in a shelter environment. Who knows. Whatever the case, they are now very shy dogs and spend the majority of their time huddled together in the back of their kennel. When someone approaches their cage, they do not come out.

I liked the attitude of my mentor, because she seemed to share my opinion on the situation. The dogs would have to get used to people. They would have to go for walks. We can’t feel sorry for them.

Cute Black Lab/Basset mix

So, armed with lots and lots of small jerky treats, we sat in the cage with the dogs. Their cage is about 12 feet long and 6 feet wide (just guessing), and they have a plastic kennel in the back filled with blankets. The dogs stared at us for a bit as we tossed them jerky, and then the braver one of the two came out. Her brother followed.

We continued to feed them treats as we clipped their leashes and harnesses on, but once we tried to lead them out they flattened and refused to move. So, we lifted them and carried them past the other kennels with barking dogs. Once out in the grass, they were willing to follow a trail of treats to the fenced yard.

There, we let them loose, and they were happy to run and sniff in the grass – totally different dogs. You could almost see some of their stress float away. They rolled in the grass, followed their little basset noses, chased toys and asked for treats.

When we led them back to their cage, although jumpy, they were willing to do all the walking themselves.

A little progress. A good day for the puppies.

To adopt one of the puppies

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  1. Jessicavy on December 11, 2013

    That sounds very rewarding! I like that you guys were able to get it done without feeling sorry for the dogs and babying them. Is that black puppy pictured one of them? Basset/lab mix sounds too cute! I met a woman at the vet who had this massive, lab-sized dog on stumpy legs with a yellow lab head and splotchy basset markings. He was so wonderful and I have to admit I’ve never wanted to steel someone’s dog more in my life!

  2. Lindsay Stordahl Author on December 11, 2013

    Yep she is one of them. The other one is black and white. They have short legs and long bodies :)

  3. Sean on December 12, 2013

    Amazing how far a little patience and lot of treats will go!

    One thing that surprised me at first coming from owning big dogs is that little dogs or younger pups can expect you to pick them up or not mind being carried to somewhere less overwhelming, once you’ve gotten past the shy intro/leash/harness/handle part.

    I wouldn’t have known that lift & carry is easier on some scared or shy dogs that having them walk with you until I saw it for myself.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on December 13, 2013

      In this case it was very helpful that the dogs were not at all aggressive.

  4. Dawn on December 14, 2013

    That’s fantastic! I really should get back into volunteering. I think I’d be very good at helping shy dogs.

  5. snoopy@snoopysdoglog on December 17, 2013

    Yay, so happy you’re able to help the pups learn how to have fun and be less shy, great job!

    Wags to all,

    Your pal Snoopy :)

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