The Slightly Feral Stella

Anxious Dogs

The Slightly Feral Stella

Yesterday a temporary new household member moved in. She is small, mighty and very scared.

A while back I started to ponder the idea of having a “project dog”. A dog that would be challenging and complicated, that would bring me to the edge of my knowledge and push me to explore new ways of training. A dog in whose life I could hopefully make a difference.

It is tempting to lean back and look at my own well-trained dogs and feel pretty great about myself. These dogs of course came from responsible breeders who handled and socialized them as puppies and then were raised by me, with hours of daily play time, walks and training. Truly, it is not so hard to make puppies like that quite awesome.

Enter Stella. She had none of the above experiences.

The Slightly Feral Stella

Stella lived in a dog hoarding situation for the first year of her life. She lived outside, she was very cold (cold enough to develop skin damage) and she probably had no human interaction whatsoever.
Months after she and her siblings were rescued by the Lap Dog Rescue, her brother and sister eventually warmed up to the idea of sharing their life with people.
Stella however, after over a year in foster care, is still considered unadaptable.

She reminds me of a cat. She keeps a very safe distance to me, watching my every move, and darts away if I only appear to be coming her direction. Touching her, at this point, is a far dream.

She will go to the bathroom outside if I open the door and then walk into a different room. Coming back inside is even harder, as there is a corridor she has to navigate to get back into the more open (and presumably safer) living room. This corridor seems to make her feel trapped and vulnerable, and last night I ended up leaving the house for an hour so she could feel safe enough to come back inside.

So here is my project. It has been humbling and challenging already. I am spending a lot of time throwing treats and walking around doing canine calming signals.

Let’s do this, Stella.