Shamas the rescue....journey of a pound dog

We adopted Shamas on October 27, 2017. Those of you who know me, know our story. He was afraid of everything, from traffic, to dogs, to noises normal in the city..and people too. He chased our cats, pulled my arm badly chasing a cat on the walk, went after a neighbour's small dog...and was himself attacked four times in a month, only re-inforcing his desire to defend himself. Over the several months in our care, and thanks to much patience, he has really settled down. He still wont go near certain roads. But he is no longer fearful of other dogs, and feeling the need to scare them away with shows of aggression. He is meeting and greeting at Petsmart with a wag of the tail and grin on his face.

Over the months, I have kept a log of his ups and downs....and I can hardly believe that the dog that I have now is the same dog that I brought home. He is SO much more calm! It only goes to show that a rescue dog can be brought around from poor mental state, as long as the new owners are dedicated and using positive techniques to train and reinforce the dog's trust and motivation to follow guidance.

Soon, he'll be ready for classes. I had wondered if he was ready now, but upon moving near to the training area when classes were in session, he became he's going to need more time before I put him into a group setting. that's fine though-as much time as he needs. I'm in no hurry for "basic training" Perhaps by the time he's ready for classes, he'll go into Intermediate instead of Beginners...who knows? It's more about socialisation than actual trainingShamas Week 1.jpg


It’s fantastic that he’s found people who are willing to take the time that it takes, rather than working to some kind of timetable. Sounds like your steady and gradual approach has produced wonderful results. He looks like a beautiful dog too.
Welcome it's great to have you here with us telling us of Shamas progress. It just goes to show you that taking on a rescue dog is sometimes very hard work but at the same time a very special thing to do, especially when you can make such a difference to their lives. Well done :) x


Queen of Turnips
Devon, UK
Thank you @Shamas mom, I missed this first time round so it's lovely to know more of your and Shamas' story. What a lot you've achieved with your gentle patience! I'm looking forward to hearing more of your journey together :)


Cornwall , UK
Thank you for writing this . I too have a rescue dog ,and I know its not easy but you are right , time to build up trust , lots of patience and love, plus praise ! Well done on your achievements , look forward to reading of the progress x
Thanks everyone :)

I'll continue Shamas' progress reports here, as I like to keep everything in one place.

We had a hiccup this morrning: Shamas has been doing SO well that I forgot about the oncoming dog panic button....we just haven't been in position recently that it was an issue...until today.

I saw the dog coming down the street, and moved aside to let them by.....but I didn't give Shamas enough space, and with only 15 feet of clearance, he panicked and lunged at the dog, who just moved in next door to us. I'm upset about the whole thing, because I blame it on myself for not giving him more room.....and also, he seems to have fallen about 2-3 months back in progress. Worst of all, I was collar-walking him because he has been so good and I was working to loose-leash train him...and now he is missing a tuft of fur where the collar buckle pinched his neck when he lunged :( I specifically waited for him to get to a point of being relaxed on walks, to start collar-training him because I was afraid of a neck injury. Back to the front clip of the harness for Shamas.

This afternoon he was tense, and this evening he spent the first half of the walk with his face in every direction, looking for threats, and growled at a dog that I couldn't see but he scented. I was able to keep him checking in with fresh chicken, and stopped him into a Sit to get him re-focused each time he stiffened......but I feel bad both for Shamas, and my neighbour. Thankfully we didn't encounter any dogs this evening. I'm going to have to watch his head and tail closely for awhile, which means leaving the kids home on walks until he settles back down.

I wasn't able to get him his customary coffee tray to carry home from Tim hortons, because I needed his mouth available for giving treats. That was asked about by the Timmies roadhouse crew(20 or so ppl that sit in the parking lot with lawn chairs) lol.

Oh-one more note: we saw the trainer regarding Prepping Shamas for classes, and he suggested taking Shamas to the dog park, on-leaash so that he can get used to groups of dogs. And he's to go into Intermediate clases, not beginner...I've already done the beginner work myself. Shamas can generally handle being around other dogs on neutral ground, like Petsmart, but in our neighbourhood he is tense because he was attacked 4 times in his first month in the area. He does OK with obviously friendly dogs, but doesn't understand subtelties of dog language(any dog walking ahead of the owner is viewed as a threat unless obviously friendly.)
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East Sussex
You've been doing so well, don't let one blip discourage you. I'm sure you'll make up the lost ground very quickly. I'm a bit dubious about the advice to take your on-lead dog to an off-lead dog park because I think it's harder for dogs to greet another dog when one is on-lead and I think it could make Shamas feel insecure.


Fife, Scotland
I'm dubious about the dog park too. It seems a focus for trouble.
I'm wondering if Shamas is picking up some of your anxieties? Are you worried too about meeting a dog on your walk with him? Could he be sensing some tension?
Sorry about the setbacks, it happens to all of us so don't lose heart. Dog park could cause you more issues due to off lead dogs coming up to him so giving him no option but to react. I would leave it. You might also find it better having him on a back fastening harness and go back a little with your training, walk him away from your neighbourhood to give him confidence away from the dogs that cause the issues. x
Agree that the dog park on leash might not go great... I would bring him to the dog park but stay on the outside of the fence so he can see/ hear the other dogs and see how he reacts. My experience is that all the dogs in the park rush up to the newcomer and it’s quite overwhelming.
Oh boy, echoing what the others say - stay away from the dog park. I'm extremely concerned that your trainer would even suggest that, that really makes me question his judgement. Training class, with other dogs on lead and under control, is where Shamas will learn to be around other dogs. He maybe even needs to just sit to the side of a class while others are working, or you work with him at a distance from the other dogs. I've had that in classes before - the reactive dog works parallel to the group but at a safe distance, and is only brought into the group once the dog is ready to do so.
I'll leave the dog park thing alone, I am a bit dubious myself. He's ok if the only dogs there are older, like himself but I don't even take him out of the van if the dogs are young. He's intimidated and therefore aggressive

I find that the back clip doesn't afford me the control that I need to curb him if he lunges.....I'm left just holding a scary dog back whilst the other handler escapes or struggles with their own dog....on the front, if he goes off, I can u-turn and calm him down fairly quickly

We did well today - found a new tactic that seems to help. Everyone lined up between Shamas and the dog, while I told him to sit and offered chicken. When he stiffened and got up to menace, I stepped into his space, saying "you're fine look at me" I backed him up step by step, interrupting each attempt to focus on the other dog until it passed...even when it growled at him....and praised him profusely when they were passed.

He was allowed a times tray today, and bit it a bit during the incident, but I believe that helped him to cope


Oh, I empathise completely! I am beginning to think that setbacks are part and parcel in the life of a reactive dog, maybe my job is more about minimising them where we can, and optimising all the good experiences instead. We had an awful walk the other day with Casper, I think we had become too complacent, and ambitious in thinking we could take him to a more public open space, at this time of year more like a dog park! The problem was down to excitement, and a few off lead dogs just not giving him enough space.

So, like the others would give the dog park a miss. Maybe find a quiet bench somewhere where Shamas can observe dogs from a distance. This works well with Casper :)
I'm just catching up with Shamas's story. You've done a fantastic job and come so far since you adopted Shamas which isn't even a year ago yet:). My two labradors are both reactive towards people and dogs. They react in a very similar way to Shamas. They became reactive at about 6 months due to prolonged veterinary treatment. They are now seven and have improved beyond recognition, apart from people touching I think that will always be a no no, but sometimes things happen beyond our control so I have a good idea how you felt when Shamas reacted to your neighbours dog:confused:. I keep a log too. I think it's a good idea so you can look back and see how far you've come. Some days it can feel like an uphill struggle with reactive dogs 1 step forward 27 steps back ;)but when you stop and think how much they've improved and how much worse that situation would've been once upon a time you know that hiccup will pass and although there may be another one you will get through that too.:giggle:
Some days I wonder If Shamas mistakes our big cat for a small dog

He spent nearly 45minutes this morning wagging his tail, making invitation growls, and shoving /wagging his rubber Frisbee in Matt's face. Like you see when a dog invites a puppy to play

Shamas doesn't seem to understand why Matt doesn't like balls,etc dropped on his head.

Good thing Matt is such a good boy, he just protested vocally and swatted Shamas nose once after getting knocked in the face with the Frisbee.