Last December we adopted Stella, a 10-month-old Bichon. We didn’t know anything about her past history, but it was apparent very quickly, once we got her home, that she came from owners who hadn’t treated her well. She startled easily, she skittered away when anyone walked near her, she cowered whenever anyone reached out to her… and I could go on.
We decided that because Stella had apparently suffered from trauma, we needed to earn her trust before taking her to obedience school. We have showered her with love and attention since we brought her home. Riley, our 11-year-old Bichon has been the-best-big-brother ever to her. (Stella Update; Big Brother, Little Sister)
We have waited out the hot, hot summer and will be enrolling her in obedience school next month.
What we have accomplished on our own:
- Stella will now sit on command.
- She will “stay” 75% of the time, but her little body is wiggling like crazy and I know it will take just a second before she loses concentration and comes barrelling at me.
- She knows “nice.” When I hand her a treat, instead of jumping up and grabbing it from my hand, she will sit (again with the crazy wiggly body), and take the treat gently from my hand.
- She shares well with Riley. When we first got Stella, if I offered her a treat, she, of course, took it. When I then offered Riley a treat, Stella would jump and grab it from my hand before Riley had a chance to take it. She now patiently waits her turn, because she knows it is coming.
- Stella wasn’t house-trained when she came to us, but she is now. She still won’t give us a verbal signal that she needs to go out, but we’ve learned her habits enough to know when to take her out. Still, she needs to learn to signal with something other than a soft touch of her paw on my leg, because if I’m concentrating on something, I miss that.
- I taught Stella to bark when she is outside and wants to come in. When we first got her, she would just sit outside, looking at the door if she wanted to come in, but would never give a verbal signal that she was done sun-bathing and wanted to come in the house.
When we have NOT accomplished:
- Stella is afraid to walk through doorways. We can only guess at the history for this fear, but it must have been very traumatic because she has made little progress in this area. If I am walking from one room into another, she will sit down outside the doorway and wait until I am far into the room because she enters. If I crouch down to her level and call to her, she MIGHT come. If she is with Riley, she will walk through a doorway with him. (Protection?). She will RARELY walk through a doorway if she is following my husband, no matter how much he calls or encourages her. She WILL walk through a doorway quite easily if all 4 of us are going from one room to another at the same time. It’s so strange….
- Stella will not come on command. If I ask her to come, she will just look at me. If I tell her to sit, she will sit. If I tell her to stay, she will stay as I come toward her. But when I reach her, she will run away. If I stand still, and don’t say anything, she will crouch down as low to the ground as she can and come back to me. It’s like she knows what to do but is afraid to do it; then remembers, “Oh, THIS person won’t hurt me,” and she obeys.
It still breaks our hearts when Stella shows her insecurities or fears, as we perceive them. We’ve done the best we can at this point. She’s been with us long enough to know we love her and she can trust us. Obedience school is next.