Blog The Change for second chance dogs

Shayne about a month after I got her (back up to a normal weight)

I was pondering for the last two weeks just what to write about for the Blog the Change for Animals and although there are many things I’d like to write about, none of them really struck me.  Although not fully inspired, I began writing a post the other day and although I think the topic is really important, something inside me told me to stop… I just wasn’t thrilled.  After further thought, I began thinking about the CGC class I’m taking with Shayne right now and it hit me, that is what I want to write about.  I want to write about the second chance dog… the project dog… the dog you didn’t necessarily want but got anyhow.

I was looking for a black and white border collie puppy (or young dog) to do agility with.  I was hoping for a dog who was basically a ready-to-go type dog… one that I could take anywhere and do anything with without the need for a lot of remedial training to fix behaviors.  I really wanted a dog who was good with other dogs (my previous dog had space issues with other dogs).  Although I could work with a variety of behavioral issues, I wasn’t looking for that type of dog at the time.  When I sat with Shayne (then LuLu) in the meet-n-greet room and she did everything she could to avoid me for 25 minutes before curling up in my lap … well, there was no saying no.

My throw-away girl was featured in a national coupon a few years ago... it's been quite the journey, that's for sure.

I knew I was getting a very timid dog who was under-socialized, had some resource guarding issues, and who very easily became overwhelmed with novel stimuli.  I discovered I also got a dog who had some fear-aggression issues with men, was fearful of strangers, had a hard time coping in new environments, was very insecure, and who had some issues with other dogs.  What I didn’t know was that I’d also gotten a dog who was ultimately very resilient, who desperately wanted to work with me, who taught me more than I could ever imagine, and who would take me from a casual trainer to someone really invested in the science of behavior.

My Blog The Change is not about finding the least adoptable dog and adopting him/her and trying to work through problems without the knowledge or experience to safely handle them.  There are many nearly perfect dogs in shelters… anyone who tells you otherwise has probably not been in shelters too much.  However, there are also other dogs who may be longer-term residents (if lucky to be in a shelter that has that ability) who may be a little shy, may be a big black dog (regardless of temperament, big black dogs tend to stay in the shelter longer), may lack manners, may not be house-trained, and may have some cage-quirks that cause them to be looked over time and time again.

So what should you take away from this then if it’s not necessarily about adopting the least adoptable dog in the shelter?  If you have the means (time/training skill/ability to get into a training class) to adopt a dog who may be shy, who may be timid, who may not be housebroken, who may have some undesirable cage behaviors, please consider giving these dogs a chance–you don’t have to pick the most challenging dog of the bunch to be able to make a huge difference in the world of a dog who may have been passed over.  The journey you take with a dog who needed some extra care, and the learning you do as a handler, is simply amazing.  I may not have been looking for a project dog, but I cannot adequately put into words how amazing our journey has been.  She was not the dog I wanted but she was the dog I needed and the dog who changed the course of my life.

If you know that adopting a dog who may have some extra needs is not what you are able to work with at this time, it’s good that you know that!  You may, then, consider donating some time to go to a local shelter and help those dogs who may need some extra work.  Spending just a few minutes with some shy dogs on a regular basis can make a world of difference.   I think to Shayne, if someone had been able to spend just 5 minutes a day working with her, she may not have hid in the corner of her run and she may have been interested in interacting with me in the meet-n-greet room.  Or maybe you consider getting involved with transporting rescue dogs who may need foster homes to help them become more easily adoptable.

You can find local shelters by doing a simple Google search, check out Petfinder’s shelter search or searching from the ASPCA’s website here.

Then, while you’re at it, take a minute (or a few days) to browse through the great blog posts for Blog the Change for Animals.  I can’t add the link list but you can find it here: http://btc4animals.com/blog-the-change/

18 Comments
  1. Outstanding post. And so true. It is amazing what those project dogs teach us. They force us to reconsider everything and, in doing so, completely change our worlds for the better.

    • Thanks Jamie… without Shayne I wouldn’t be doing what i’m doing for a job… i mean… this little dog absolutely changed my entire life… it’s pretty amazing!

  2. Katy’s journey has been so much harder than Bailey’s but she has been worth every moment. As she woke me this morning in a wild zoomie that she has taught Bailey to enjoy, I realized how much energy she has brought to this house.

    Each has something to teach us, joy to bring us, and unimaginable love to bless us.

    • “Each has something to teach us, joy to bring us, and unimaginable love to bless us” couldn’t agree more…

  3. Fabulous post! We’re in the midst of our own second chance relationships – one being the project dog of our hearts. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like seeing an anxious soul quiet down and learn to be loved.

    Best to you and yours, and thank you for Blogging the Change!
    Kim
    BTC4animals.com
    ThisOneWildLife.com

    • Thanks for stopping by! It’s so true.. i can guarantee that if Shayne passes her CGC next week that I will be an absolute mess … everything she’s gone through… all the work we’ve put in…. the resiliency of dogs is phenomenal.

      Good luck on your journey with your project dog… it is truly amazing to see them progress and improve… thanks for giving him/her a second chance!

  4. The thing is, I didn’t think I had the time or the patience for a more difficult dog until I already had one on my hands. About three or four weeks in I starting wondering if we’d made the right choice. Not only was my dog’s energy a lot more than I’d expected – and I’d actually wanted a high-energy dog – but her reactivity, separation anxiety, non-existant training, and fears of garden gnomes absolutely threw me. In fact, we’d turned down a different dog before her after learning she had SA. I’d thought that would be a deal breaker. Apparently not. Somehow I had the time, or at least I made the time. Somehow this dog I barely knew became my number one priority.

    Dogs like these, they are life-changers. I don’t even know the person I used to be anymore.

    • Yep… I knew what I was looking for but somehow come home with a completely different dog but I wouldn’t change it for the world! I think Shiva has been so incredibly lucky to land with someone who was willing to make her the number 1 priority and make her the AWESOME dog that she is today!! I won’t speak for you with Shiva (but i’m guessing you feel similarly) but I know I feel so lucky that Shayne landed in my life I’m a much better human being because of her.

  5. I really loved this! As a dog trainer myself (and a CGC evaluator), I see so many people adopt dogs that aren’t right for them–people who don’t work with their dogs. Your point is well-taken–adopting a dog can be a joy–and doesn’t have to be the most challenging one to make a difference. You already make a difference by simply adopting! I have two difficult dogs that I sometimes wish I had heeded my own advice! But yet, for all they’ve gone through, they’ve bounced back and adapted the best they could. They always try. Thanks for bringing up this important issue, and congrats in advance for Shayne’s passing the CGC!

    • Thanks… i’m hoping… if she doesn’t pass at this particular venue (the shelter where she was adopted from and where she was really traumatized) we’ll go elsewhere because she isn’t as people-friendly in this particular space. We’ll see… our instructor has said there’s no doubt she’ll pass… but I don’t want to count my chickens until they hatch.

      I really do value the project dogs… after Shayne I knew I needed a break from project dogs and got Rio but I’m sure i’ll get a few more project dogs along the way.

  6. This is a great post! Some of the best bonding (for us and them) comes from working through challenges with our dogs. And even though I’m sure everyone can think of challenges they’ve had with their dog – whether or not they’d be considered a ‘project’ dog – the amount of learning opportunities that come with and added challenge can add a whole new level to pet guardianship.

    And it’s important to remember what may have been a ‘project’ dog for someone else (and then resulted in a shelter surrender, for example) may just be a perfect match for you!

    And I wrestle often with practising what I’ve just preached. (My current dog is not a second-chance dog. He’s also my first dog ever, though, and the idea of getting any dog – let alone a ‘project’, was intimidating enough at the time. But now that we’re starting to think about a second addition…)

    • You know… you are totally right. My IDEAL dog/puppy is that pushy, bitey/mouthy, drivey toy monsters, who have non-stop energy. They are often perfect candidates for performance dogs! LOL!

      Maybe consider a second chance dog from a shelter/rescue… you’d be surprised just how many are relatively well adjusted and are not really project dogs (other than some house training and maybe some basic manners….but you’d do that with any dog).

  7. I think I’ll cry myself if/when Shayne passes her CGC test. LOL

    • Apparently we missed the deadline to sign up for this test 🙁 I didn’t realize we HAD to sign up (teaches me for starting the class 3 weeks in LOL)…but i’ll check out a few other places to see if they are having any outdoor tests or wait until october for this one again.

  8. Three of our four dogs to date have been challenges, (one intentionally adopted that way), and I totally agree about how much we’ve learned from each and every one of them. What a great post for blog the change day…and thanks for rescuing a dog that you initially didn’t want, and letting her worm her way into your heart!

    • I think i always WANTED her…. just wasn’t looking for a dog like her… but i’m so glad i went for the dog i wasn’t looking for .. she’s been just amazing. Although I think i may one day get a well bred pure bred dog… i will always have rescues… it’s just so important to me… and i feel like i’m always benefiting by rescuing becasue of what they teach me.

  9. As a volunteer with my local humane society, I thank you thank you thank you for this post! And big thanks to Shayne, too, for taking you on this journey. Best of luck with CGC!

    -Chandra at Daley’s Dog Years

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