This is Maggie. She’s a good dog, but when she came to the shelter, she wasn’t a very well-socialized dog. What she lacks in social skills, she makes up in size, which is unfortunate. When you’re as big and strong as Maggie, manners are important.
Maggie had a bad habit of lunging and snarling at other dogs who barked at her from behind fences.
Natalie, one of the other shelter volunteers, contacted me for advice. I recommended a gradual process of desensitization that involved establishing herself as Alpha to gain Maggie’s confidence, then demanding that Maggie sit and stay within sight of the kennels, gradually working her closer and closer to them, until she could sit still no matter what the other dogs were doing a few feet away.
Natalie started working with Maggie on Wednesday. She got the other volunteers on board, so they’d set the same expectations for Maggie whenever they walked her, and this morning, I watched this happen:
That pretty little brindle pibble in the background is Brenley. Maggie and Brenley do not get along. Brenley barked at Maggie, but Maggie was focused on Natalie and sat and stayed as she was told.
When Natalie praised Maggie for being a good girl, Maggie rolled over and clamored to have her belly rubbed.
If you know anything about pack instinct, you know why this was a huge deal for Maggie. Rolling over, belly up and feet in the air, is an extremely vulnerable position for a dog. It’s a submissive posture that says, “I’m no threat to you” — kind of like when humans put their hands up to show they’re unarmed.
I expected our incremental desensitization project to work, but I had no idea it would work this fast or this well.
Maggie is going to make an excellent pet for somebody. Bravo to Natalie and the other volunteers who made the effort to train her.