Boo was being re-homed by British Dalmatian Welfare, when Boo was assessed she was found to be very nervous with people. Our adopters Karen and Graeme already had an older Dalmatian Maisie and it was agreed that they would all meet on neutral ground to see how they all got on.
Boo’s (now Bonnie) Story.
After meeting Bonnie’s owners for a walk and the mutual decision was made that she would come home with me, my husband (Graeme) and our other British Dalmatian Welfare dog (Maisie), there were tears all round as they obviously loved her and we could empathise with their pain. So often the kindest thing you can do for someone you love is also the hardest.
BDW had advised that Bonnie was a nervous girl, but as she was confident with her owners we didn’t really start to see signs of this until we got her home. We clipped her lead onto her harness and gently led her out of the car and let her sniff around before going to the front door. Maisie walked in but as we went to lead Bonnie in she got very nervous and a bit panicked – she didn’t want to be led into the house. Obviously we needed a different approach to introducing her to our home, so we took her into the back garden and let her off the lead so she could explore on her own.
We sat in the kitchen with the door open to keep an eye on her but basically left her to it, deciding she really had to do this bit all on her own if she was ever going to trust us. Maisie went out a few times to see her and eventually Bonnie braved coming to the back door. The next 15mins or so we’re heartbreaking, Bonnie obviously wanted to come in but was just too nervous – she would put a paw over the threshold, whine then step back. We tried putting a few treats outside and just inside the door and this helped, but again we really wanted it to be her choice to come inside. Eventually she did, running straight past us and into the rest of the house, which we knew was doggy proof so we just left her to it.
We quickly learned that slow and quiet (but not sneaky!!) movements were the way ahead. Maisie was a huge help in showing Bonnie we meant no harm when putting her collar on etc.
Bonnie’s training was quite good and she followed Maisie’s lead a lot so we felt the most important thing was to gain her trust by initially getting her to focus on us. It took a day or two but eventually we started to get eye contact which was rewarded every time, either with being let off the lead, given a toy or a treat.
There have been a few ups and downs since with an incident over food between Bonnie and Maisie which was totally my fault. Thankfully no harm was done and they remain pals. Bonnie can also be quite possessive over toys, or when other dogs were visiting us, her place close to Maisie and I. She would in fact give up her seat on the other couch to come and lie on the floor next to the couch Maisie and I were on. We have tried to discourage this kind of guarding behaviour as she slowly learns she doesn’t need to protect us as I will protect them both! It is still a work in progress but we are making headway thanks largely to the group of friends and their dogs where we go for our morning walk.
Her possessiveness is also lessening, thanks in part to a good “Leave it” command which she knows doesn’t mean she won’t get it back! Also thanks to our doggy visitors who have shown her toys are much more fun when they’re shared!
Bonnie is still nervous around strangers and we will keep working on this, she will now go up for a sniff as long as they don’t try and pet her, although she has let a few of our morning walk group pet her, as long as it’s not on her head or ears! Her confidence and trust in us has grown hugely and she will come up for cuddles and even push her head into our hands for an ear rub! Maisie as always plays her part and gives Bonnie’s face a wash (good thorough licking) every morning!!! She is instrumental in teaching Bonnie new things.
As you can see from the photos Bonnie has come on in leaps and bounds, although she still occasionally seems a bit nervous of Graeme, despite the fact she goes up to see him in the study when he’s working to get what we’ve started calling “secret hugs and tickles”!!!
Next step, now that we’ve gained her trust, is to start some serious training and hopefully an agility class with her as she is remarkably athletic and even downright acrobatic at times!!! Some of which she showed off at our first Dally Rally in the New Forrest (with 37 Dalmatians!!) where Bonnie was most definitely the leader of the pack when it came to getting herself, and as many other dogs as she could, as black as possible in all the muddiest puddles!!!
We are looking forward to many years of fun, mischievousness and frolics with our two gorgeous wee girls, all thanks to the wonderful British Dalmatian Welfare! As always a big thanks for bringing so much spotty fun and love back into our lives after the heartbreaking loss of our first Dally – Gem! X