Bringing a new dog into your home is not a one-size-fits-all model. Each dog is unique in their own way from their personalities to their favourite toys, and their backgrounds.
Some dogs that are transferred into our care though our Rescue and Transport program may not be used to the bustling city life. Uncertain of what’s going on, they may start to bark or lunge in certain situations – such as loud streetcars passing by, people on bikes, or seeing so many dogs at a dog park.
This sort of behaviour does not have to last forever. With training support and a bit of patience from their new family, dogs can grow into confident pups and enjoy socializing with others, meeting other dogs, and enjoying life to the fullest.
Here’s how Kookie’s pet parents helped her grow from a reactive dog to a friendly and polite pooch.
Kookie, a 3-year-old Shepherd, was transferred to Toronto Humane Society from Northern Ontario in May 2022. She was a sweet little pooch who liked to wiggle her butt when you tossed her treats in her kennel.
But the big city was a little too much for her. When she felt overwhelmed, she would bark and lunge at people and dogs who got into her personal space unexpectedly. Luckily, this girl loved treats, so our trainers were able to re-direct her attention. This wonderful, friendly girl needed someone to help her confidence grow by teaching her what to do in the presence of her triggers – and she found her perfect match.
Zoe and her boyfriend, Andrey, adopted Kookie on May 31, 2022. She shared a wonderful update on how Kookie is doing on her one-year adoption anniversary. “The first few months were quite challenging because Kookie was reactive towards strangers and other dogs, and we had to be cautious due to her large size. We were unsure about Kookie’s temperament initially, and her tendency to lunge at people and bark at my boyfriend’s mother made us quite anxious. It was beyond what we could handle at that time, and we started questioning whether we had made a wrong decision,” she shared. “But after much deliberation, we decided to give Kookie and us another chance.”
Together, they started by researching and watching online training videos and enrolled in an online Toronto Humane Society Training and Behaviour course to better understand Kookie’s behaviour. They discovered that Kookie behaviour was not aggressive, but instead, she was afraid and would bark to keep other dogs at a distance. To help her overcome her fear, they slowly helped her to meet other dogs in a controlled environment.
They learned that Kookie enjoys playing with other dogs – and she already knew how to play politely! After 6 months of learning more about Kookie’s behaviour, triggers, and body language they took a big step in their relationship: they took Kookie to a dog park during the day.
“She didn’t disappoint me,” Zoe shares. “She still barked when she saw the dogs in the park, but I taught her to calm down first, and she understood that she could only play with other dogs when she was calm. But what made me proud was that she kept trying to adapt and integrate.”
With a bit more training, patience, and practice, Kookie is slowly overcoming her barrier. “We have been socializing with different dogs at the dog park for about two months, and Kookie has become a happier dog. She gets along well with every dog, and the people, at the park. Even now, when she’s on a leash, she ignores about half of the dogs she sees. I’m extremely proud of her because I know it was not easy for her either.”
Is it easy helping a reactive dog to overcome their barriers? No. But is it worth it? Absolutely! Now, Zoe and Kookie share an unbreakable human-animal bond that was strengthened by training and trust.
“She has brought so much joy and love to our family, and we love her as if she were our own child. We don’t know what she has been through in the past, but we hope to make her a healthy and happy little dog,” Zoe concludes. “I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to every staff member at [Toronto Humane Society]. Without your dedicated efforts, dogs like Kookie wouldn’t be able to experience love again, and our family wouldn’t have added so much laughter.”
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