Feral and Fearful Dogs
Among the abandoned dogs that roam streets and neighborhoods are feral dogs. Feral is defined as existing in a natural state, not domesticated or cultivated, wild. When thinking of wild animals, you probably think of something along the lines of this:
Would you see the beautiful girl below as a feral dog?
The dog pictured above was indeed feral. It took many months of training, trust, and patience, but she is currently a beloved family member!
Feral dogs are typically house pets that have been abandoned by their family due to varying reasons, none of which are good. They try to defend themselves or even join other packs of feral dogs where they will pick up the traits of the pack. Feral dogs tend to be shy, skittish, and will bark when anything foreign comes near them.
According to Randy Grim at Stray Rescue in St. Louis, there are a few methods to consider when attempting to rehabilitate a feral dog. He is one of the forerunners of rescuing and rehabilitating feral dogs. Every dog is different, so please keep this in mind. If you have the opportunity to foster a feral dog, here are some tips on rehabilitation written by Randy Grim:
1) The first 24-28 hours requires the dog to adjust to his/her new surroundings. Some pacing will be noticed as well as whining, whimpering, and howling. They may eliminate for three to four days, and they may not eat. This is normal.
2) They will have a tendency to bolt because they are afraid. Use extreme caution when entering and exiting pens, or the area in which the dog is being housed.
3) Body language and tone of voice is crucial. Use slow, non-threatening movements. Always use a calm, monotone voice avoiding the high baby voice or stern voice for those tones could frighten the dog even more.
4) Let the dog accept you in the pen before you move about, and avoid direct eye contact. Crouching down low with your arm extended in a clsoed hand fashion is a good way to begin a greeting.
5) Spending time in the pen reading, doing work, etc. is crucial. The more human contact, the faster the rehab.
6) try not to force petting as fear can lead to a bite. Read the dog’s body language. If their ears are back, you stay back.
7) Bring some incredible treats with you such as hot dogs. Gaining their trust includes proving you are the better hunter. They will start to see that this human is a great hunter who is non-threatening.
8) It may be a full month or longer before leash training can even begin. This means many messes will need to be cleaned. Do the clean up slowly and calmly as loud noises can incite the dog to panic.
9) When a leash is an option, only walk the dog around a building. A harness is preferable in the beginning.
10) Habituating the feral dog to other dogs (especially well-adjusted dogs and you interacting with them) also helps them adjust quicker and see how great humans can be.
These tips can also be applied when fostering a fearful dog. Fearful dogs are fearful for various reasons - abuse, neglect or just never being socialized.
Please check back for more updates on these special creatures. More research is currently under way! In the mean time, please check out these websites.