Pet-Fest 2016 is here and we’re so excited! What the heck is Pet-Fest? Well, it’s our tongue and cheek approach to a very serious matter. We have two formerly feral dogs, Pappi and his puppy, Betty, who are under-socialized. Pet-Fest is the next step on the dogs’ road to full socialization and domesticated bliss.
During Pappi’s two year stint running feral at the local park, Pappi learned that if he lunged and growled at people they would go away and he would be safe. Pappi and Mommi taught Betty to be fearful of humans and to run away from them. Both dogs are fine with their foster human. They love, trust, and snuggle their foster, but other people are still scary to them. Pet-Fest is designed to safely help our two dogs over the socialization “hump”. We are going to teach them that it is OK for people to touch them.
We don’t just want Pet-Fest to be safe for the dogs, we want this to be a safe and positive interaction for the dogs and the people. If while forcing the dogs to do something they don’t want to do, they bite someone, it will reinforce the bad behaviors we are trying to break. In addition to preventing the potentially painful bite to the human, we want to prevent the dogs spending time in quarantine as that would definitely set them back.
When Betty first arrived, her fear based flight response was so bad she would “panic poop” (the kind you can’t clean up) anytime she was flooded with fear. Even though she trusted her human, other humans were just too much for her. We have worked with her and now her panic response is to rely on her human, to stay put with her human, and to look to her human for leadership. Now that her trust in in place, she is ready to get “flooded” with more positive human contact.
In order to be safe about conditioning Betty to being touched by friends and strangers alike, we are using a basket muzzle on her. This is how we will decondition and desensitize our girl and get her over the hump – Pet-Fest 2016! The little stinker actually loves to be pet and to snuggle, we just need her to expand her circle of trust past her two trusted humans.
Pappi also trusts his human and loves to be pet and to snuggle, but like Betty, only with a few specific humans. Pappi’s bad habits from the park can be safely overcome with a basket muzzle. He is a big teddy bear who loves praise and attention, so we think he will move through this process pretty quickly.
When most people see the basket muzzle, they assume the dog is aggressive or the need for the muzzle is extreme, for us, it’s just about being extra safe. Again, the objective is to make a safe and positive environment for the dogs to experience positive interactions with humans. We want the dog and the humans to be safe while we stress out and stretch the dogs.
We first had to take baby steps with the dogs and get them used to the muzzles before starting “Pet-Fest”. The dogs have now worn the muzzles around the house, are comfortable in the muzzles, and are used to getting treats while wearing the muzzles. We’re ready!
Betty started “Pet-Fest” this last weekend. Our little stinker looked a lot like Pepe Le Pew’s girlfriend when she was being pet, but she accepted pets from our first few official Pet-Fest participants.
Want to help us with Pet-Fest? Keep an eye on our Facebook page and look for posts when we take the dogs out and about on neighborhood walks, to local restaurants, and dog friendly businesses. Come on and join us!
Want to learn more about doggie body language and doggie behavior? Check out some of our favorite links:
- Here is a simple easy to understand link to doggie body language it covers
- Common Stress Signals
- Signs of Arousal
- Signs of Anxiety
- Signs of a Happy Dog
- Signs of Aggression
- Signs of Imminent Bite
- Bite Prevention
- Why Dogs Bite
- How To Meet a Dog
- Be A Tree
- Activities for Children
- More doggie body language videos here
We’ll try to update the gallery regularly – here are the first sets of Pet-Fest images