General Interest

What’s In A Name?

posted March 15th, 2012 by
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by Dolores Proubasta

It is a remarkable sound, a name. It resonates with identity and plucks out the individual from a crowd or a pack. Men have used names since time immemorial, and there are studies underway to determine whether dolphins use them, too. To our knowledge, other species don’t use the equivalent of individual names, but cow or crow, domestic or wild, animals become “connected” to the names we give them. How connected? People seeking to adopt adult dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, ferrets, and others who already have a name often wonder if it is possible to change it.

Animal shelters tend to keep owner-given names—even when the animal is seized from its abusers—in the belief that an animal yanked out of everything he knows (good or bad) will find some comfort in hearing his own familiar name. It’s a debatable theory.

Relative to the radical changes any animal faces in a shelter or a new home—new people, rules, commands, environment and hostile pets, to mention only a few— a new name is the least of his concerns. Some “second chance” animals are in their third, fourth or fifth home (and may have had as many names), and a new name will be as readily accepted as a meal and a dry bed. Therefore, keeping the old name is not as essential as many believe; however, changing it can be.

A disturbing sign concerning timid, abused, neglected or overly-trained animals is that while they may “respond” to their name, they also shiver, cower, flinch or urinate. Whatever negative associations are the cause of the distress, shelter workers, foster parents, or the adoptive parents would be well advised to change it right away.

Even when an animal responds positively to his name, in the voice of strangers like shelter staff, volunteers and visitors, it tends to lose its “grip.” Unidentified strays, for instance, are given provisional names to which they are as likely to respond as not in the chaos of shelter conditions. I never cease to be amused (and equally irritated) by visitors who call out the name they see on the kennel card followed by an imperious command, such as “Sissy, sit!”

“Yeah…” thinks Sissy, “in a minute, Bubba, as if I understand what you’re saying with 92 dogs barking, gates slamming, kids squealing, and by the way, no hablo inglés!”

So the answer is yes, names can, and often should, be changed—left behind with a past best forgotten.

But still what to call the new companion? The power of the word should not be taken lightly, especially for personal names. Why is Dr. Dement a shrink? Or Mr. Goldman a jeweler? Think about it. Rare and crazy are the parents who would call their child, say, Ugly. It is all too common, however, for people to call their pets pejoratives like Loco, Stinkpot, Dummy, Cujo, and worse. Distasteful monikers are no reflection of the true nature of the animal, but of the owner’s low regard for him. It comes as no surprise then that animals surrendered by their owners to the local shelter often have ridiculous names.

Ideally, the name acknowledges the dignity, beauty and uniqueness of an individual. While old standbys like Max, Bella, Oreo and clichés a la Bunny, Kitty and Woof hardly accomplish such a lofty function, they are among the 100 USA favorites; each country has its own hackneyed nomenclature with which cats and dogs get stuck. Refreshingly, some pet parents find more inspired names, borrowing from flowers, gems, historic and mythical figures, natural phenomena, landmarks, vintage car models, heavenly bodies and much more—in English and in other languages, as well.

Dogs in particular quickly learn a new name, regardless of how old they are when adopted. The trick is to use it: 1) preceding every desired action; (2) in connection with treats, walks, play, approval and everything the pet enjoys; and (3) consistently avoiding nicknames, shortened versions, or “boy” until the official name is learned.

Like no other word, a name signals individuality, which is why neither “Hey You” nor “Stinky” will do. 

Oogy

posted March 15th, 2012 by
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by Suzanne Gunn

Let’s start with the title “Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love.” It’s inaccurate in that anyone who gets to know Oogy has to love him. If someone doesn’t fall in love with him, it’s not for anything he is lacking. When it really gets down to it, you may be attracted by or turned off by looks in the beginning, but it’s the relationship you build, whether it’s a person, a cat or a dog that matters. It’s all about personality, chemistry and bonds made. This book is about relationships. It’s about a family and a dog who are lucky enough to find one another and, more importantly, are meant to be together.

The book begins with the story of a man’s morning. It raised more questions for me than it answered and made me want to skip pages. I wanted to get to the story of Oogy. The story goes back and forth in time, which got a little confusing. Loose ends are tied together later in the book that gave me a better sense of why the author chose to add snippets here and there that originally made me wonder, “Why is he telling us this?” Toward the end of the book, I understood more of why he told those little bits and snippets, and it was after all, his story.

Larry Levin and his two sons first met Oogy when they took their beloved, sick and dying cat to the vet to be euthanized. Oogy was a puppy used as bait by despicable people who were conducting dog fights. His ear had been ripped from his head, his jaw broken and left for dead. The police rescued him in a raid and luckily took him to a veterinarian office where the staff fought to save his life. Many would have chosen euthanasia due to the extent of the injuries sustained.

The boys and their father decided then that they wanted to add Oogy to their family. He was mistaken as a Pit Bull, which evoked fear in many of the people who would come across him, yet his personality was anything but scary and quickly won over most skeptics. Before Jennifer Levin would let them bring the dog home, she wanted reassurance from the vet that this Pit Bull would never attack or bite anyone. She was surprised when the vet said he felt comfortable assuring her that this dog would never attack anyone!

The personality of this dog was described by many who met him as sweet, smart and uniquely special. It turned out Oogy was not a Pit Bull but a Dogo Argentino, a large, muscular and impressive dog, which grows to be much larger than a Pit. Amazingly, even after everything Oogy had survived, he continued to love and trust people and only wanted to love and be loved.

The lasting message of the book can be summed up by this excerpt: “And what appeals to everyone about Oogy is that he is proof that what we all know is lurking out there— the awful and, yes, inevitable tragic loss, the unexplainable savage attack, the seemingly insurmountable occurrence— can, in fact, be survived with love and grace intact, without bitterness or resentment, and with appreciation for all that follows. Oogy is right out there in front of everyone he meets, tangible living proof that there can be happiness, love and hope on the other side of unspeakable and unimaginable horror.”

I know I could stand to learn some of those lessons and would love to meet Oogy some day 

The Skunk Whisperer

posted March 15th, 2012 by
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by Sherri Goodall

If you’ve seen Skunk Whisperer trucks traveling the Oklahoma roads, you’ll not likely forget them—huge black vans (as in UPS trucks) emblazoned in screaming yellow letters bordered with wildlife creatures. That would be Ned Bruha’s trucks (aka The Skunk Whisperer). His fleet includes a flashy decorated Camaro and an SUV, too.

In 2005, when Ned returned to Fort Hood from active duty in Afghanistan, he confronted a situation that would define his career and his mission: a no trap, no kill, humane wildlife removal and prevention.

Many of the troops had pet dogs when they were suddenly deployed from Fort Hood. A large number of these dogs were released in the country only to form feral dog packs and become a nuisance to cattle and sheep ranchers. One of the ranchers Ned visited proudly showed off a tree decorated with shimmering dog collars and tags from dogs he had shot and killed. Ned was horrified. Here was a problem clearly created by humans. Ned suggested to the rancher using a Great Pyrenees guard dog; it worked. Today, many ranchers use llamas and donkeys to guard their herds.

When Ned started his nuisance wildlife control business in Tulsa, it took off far beyond his expectations. He started by simply removing and relocating squirrels. What he didn’t realize is that squirrels are territorial and would simply come back. Ned’s father told him he was missing the point—he needed to prevent the pests from returning, plus learn to repair the damage they had done.

“Dad, how am I going to do that?” Ned asked his father. “Squirrels chew through metal! Start by learning how to repair roofs,” his dad suggested. Like everything Ned does, he became an expert at repairs, and he also developed a spring-loaded one-way door through which the squirrels could exit, but not re-enter. Voila! No more returning pests to destroy wires, insulation and roofs.

Not only does Ned remove unwanted creatures from owners’ property, he rescues pets who find themselves in compromising situations, such as under houses, in house vents, in attics—mainly gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets, bunnies, birds, snakes and cats.

One of his most inventive solutions to furry pets lost in heating and A.C. vents is seemingly so simple, yet so brilliant.

These furry, domesticated rodents have sensitive noses and learn to recognize their owners’ scents, and they know their voices. However, the first order of business is turn off the A.C. or heating unit!

Then, Ned gets the owner’s clothes from the dirty laundry. He’ll pick out a pair of pants, stick the leg in one of the owner’s shoes, and push the whole thing down a vent. He’ll anchor it above. The hamster, gerbil or guinea pig will smell the owner’s clothes and scurry up the pant leg. Is this brainy or what?

Often, Ned will get calls from people with cats under their houses. In one case, a vacant house was about to be demolished, and the neighbor knew a cat was under the house. By the time the neighbor got in touch with the property owner, the cat had kittens. It was winter, and there was no electricity or gas to the house. Ned rigged a box with a hole in it. He put heated dry corn (from the microwave) into tube socks, which he put in the bottom of the box. He then put blankets on top of the heated socks. He placed the box next to the one-way door he installed under the house.

But first he had to crawl in and get the kittens—not his favorite job! He put the kittens in the box, and within minutes the mother came out looking for them. There they were, right next to the exit. Of course, she couldn’t get back under the house, so she relocated her family somewhere else. The tricky part, other than crawling under the house, was making sure the kittens didn’t “bake” in the box. At least it wasn’t a skunk! (Remember: Do not try this at home!)

What about rescuing cats from atop trees? Ned said his father asked him if he had ever seen a cat skeleton in a tree. In other words, cats will come down when they’re good and ready, hungry or thirsty.

As for escaped pet birds, Ned advises the owner to put food in the garage and try to lure the bird in, and then close the door. The thing about domesticated birds is they know their owners, and strangers will just scare them away.

Ned is fiercely passionate about treating all wildlife humanely, even nuisance creatures.

Ned’s mantra: Humans should not try to domesticate animals that belong in the wild or exotic animals that are brought in from other ecosystems. We’ve seen what happens when folks realize they can’t handle that “cute” 3-foot python that then ends up in the Florida Everglades at a whopping 20 feet, gobbling up the native wildlife.

To learn more about Ned, and for a wealth of information and interesting facts, go to The Skunk Whisperer’s website, Totalwildlifecontrol.com.

Author’s note: When my two Westies would not stop pacing and barking at my fountain (un-filled at the time), I asked one of my yard men to climb down and see what was there. I’ve never seen a human go airborne that fast! All he said was he saw a long tail, beady eyes and teeth. I called Ned, fearing that a 40-lb. raccoon, baby coyote or a rat on steroids had gotten under the works.

After donning long leather gloves and high boots, Ned wrestled a rat—a BIG rat—out of the fountain. I don’t want to know where he released it. He supplied me with a long piece of wood, like a gangplank, so future victims falling into the fountain could climb out, and a Frog-Log™, which looks like a large pool cleaning net. One side is anchored with weights, and the other side has floats. The critters can climb onto the Frog-Log™ and crawl or slither out of the pool or fountain—ideal for ducks, bunnies or pets that fall into pools.

I looked at the Frog-Log™; I looked at Ned. “Seriously? Do you think I’m going to lure creatures of the night out of there? I’ll call the Skunk Whisperer.”

An Unexpected Fortunate Discovery

posted March 15th, 2012 by
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by Anna Holton-Dean

Since November, patients of Tulsa Sunshine Center Pediatric Therapy have been receiving treatment with assistance from an unlikely helper—Serendipity (aka Sere), the therapy dog. So, what do the patients and parents think of their new furry therapist?

Jennifer, mother of a son with special needs, says, “Having Sere at the clinic adds another dimension to our visit. I believe that she makes it easier and more fun to come to our physical therapy appointments. My son seems to act calmer when she is present. We know that even Sere needs a day off from work, but we are disappointed when she is not there.”

Sere, the two-year-old Border Collie, belongs to Sunshine Center Physical Therapist Liesa Marie Persaud (PT, DPT, PCS). “I was looking for a place to utilize her, and improve my therapy skills,” she says. “Sunshine Center is very innovative and open to exploring anything that will improve quality of care and therapy for the children, even if it’s not especially traditional.”

Tulsa Sunshine Center provides speech/language, occupational, physical, nutrition and counseling therapy. Therefore, Sere’s job is to participate in 60-minute sessions where she calms the child and facilitates motivation and interactions. Persaud uses Sere to address functional goals just as she would use toys, equipment or any other therapeutic method.

For example, children must pronounce commands correctly, so Sere can then perform the appropriate trick. She also provides stability for children working/learning to stand or walk, and she assists with other therapeutic goals. Additionally, fine motor skills are improved by allowing the patients to put Sere’s collar and leash on her and brush her; balance is addressed by carrying her water bowl without spilling.

“Young children work on hand-eye coordination by rolling a ball to Sere,” Persaud says. “She rolls it back, and they have to catch it in order to return it to her. Children with cerebral palsy can throw a ball for her to promote arm use and strength. Also, they have to practice standing and squatting to hide treats for her to find; stretches can be done by reaching their hands up high for Sere to jump up and touch with her nose.”

Apart from the testimonies of pleased parents, Persaud says she can see firsthand the positive results of Sere’s presence. “Children report less pain (or discomfort),” she says. “A child with autism spoke for the first time outside of her home to Sere. [Sere provides] greater motivation to crawl, walk, etc., and we also discuss life and social skills, such as turn-taking, obeying, kindness, consideration of others and responsibility.

“I had a child the other day who has shown increased self pride and sense of accomplishment as shown by posture and increased smiling since he began working with Sere. His mother says she has noticed it, too, and his speech therapist says he is more assertive now and better able to express himself.”

In another instance, Persaud says a teenage patient recovering from tendinitis used her hand more functionally while brushing and petting Sere as opposed to when she performed traditional physical therapy activities.

With such positive results, Persaud has even more therapeutic plans for Sere, including the use of a sturdy harness for children—with more involved physical impairments—to hold on to while learning to walk and a lightweight saddle for very small children to sit in while working on strength, trunk control and balance.

When she’s not working at Tulsa Sunshine Center, Sere is a student at K9 Manners & More in Broken Arrow, and she has passed tests to be titled a Certified Therapy Dog and a Canine Good Citizen. According to her staff bio on Tulsa Sunshine Center’s website, she enjoys swimming, gathering sticks, running with her mom (Persaud) and playing with other dogs in her free time.

For such a well-trained, productive, loved dog, it is impressive and important to note that Sere was not born into such a fortunate situation. Persaud found her wandering on the Turnpike between Tulsa and Oklahoma City at 8 a.m. one day in the height of morning traffic.

“She was a fluffy little thing and from a distance looked like a cat.” she says. “My friend—now Sere is her god-dog/goddaughter… get it?—and I dodged traffic to get her. She was full of fun and independent right from the start; I fell in love immediately! So, I called her Serendipity, which means unexpected fortunate discovery.”

Perceptive enough to spot a diamond in the rough (or traffic), Persaud has an impressive resume herself. With 16 years experience in adult and pediatric physical therapy, she has a Master’s and a Clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy. Also, she is a national speaker and local educator on pediatric physical therapy topics.

Persaud is excited to see what future strides she and her K9 partner can make in the lives of their patients at Sunshine. “Sere has truly lived up to her name,” she says. “She has already had a great impact, and I can’t wait to see the difference she makes for many more children.”

To learn more about Sere and Tulsa Sunshine Center, visit www.tulsasunshinecenter.com.

Avian, Exotic and Zoo Medicine Service

posted March 15th, 2012 by
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by Derinda Blakeney

The Avian, Exotic and Zoo Medicine Service (AEZ) at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, directed by Cornelia Ketz-Riley, DVM, DACZM, treats a myriad of animals. Dr. Ketz-Riley is board certified through the American College of Zoological Medicine, which currently only has 132 diplomates. She also brings more than 20 years of experience in working with a lot of different species, not only privately-owned exotic pets, but also with animals kept in zoos or free-ranging wildlife. The AEZ team, consisting of Dr. Ketz-Riley, Jill Murray, certified veterinary technician, and an intern, provides high-quality medical care to all creatures big and small. “Here at the Center’s Boren Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (BVMTH), we treat all kinds of birds, from canaries to ostriches, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, actually any animals, from spiders to elephants,” laughs Ketz-Riley. “We have taken care of zebras, giraffes, camels, antelope, primates, and even an elephant. Our philosophy is that all animals should get medical care.”  The BVMTH is open to the public, and anyone can bring his or her pet to the hospital for care. If the pet is under the care of another veterinarian, a referral appointment can easily be arranged. The AEZ service offers state-of-the-art veterinary medical care for a wide variety of non-traditional animals.

The following is a list of services available for these patients:

• Preventive Health Care

• Exotic Pet Grooming (Beak, Wing & Nail Trims)

• Dental Care

• New Pet Examinations

• Nutrition Consultations

• Behavior Consultations

• Wildlife Rehabilitation

• Referral Services for Veterinarians

• 24-Hour Hospital Care

• Advanced Medical Care & Procedure

• Advanced Imaging

o Digital Radiography

o Ultrasound

o Computed Tomography (CT)

o Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

• Endoscopy

• Internal Medicine

• Ophthalmic Consultations

• Hematologic, Histopathology & Viral Testing

• Surgery

o Micro-Surgery

o Orthopedic

Being located in the Small Animal Clinic of OSU’s Veterinary Hospital gives the AEZ service access to the latest technology in veterinary medicine, including CT scanners and an MRI. The interdisciplinary atmosphere at the university allows Ketz-Riley and her staff access to many board-certified professionals in such fields as surgery, anesthesiology, radiology and more.

“One of our goals is to provide good client education regarding preventative healthcare,” says Ketz-Riley. “Many of the animals we see have systems that are much more sensitive than your everyday pet. Early detection of problems, proper husbandry, good nutrition, wellness exams, blood work and vaccinations can go a long way in making sure your special pet has a long, good, quality life.

“For example, an annual wellness exam for a guinea pig or a rabbit will cost an owner anywhere from $47 to $147, depending if blood work is included. It is important for a guinea pig to have regular checkups because it could develop bladder stones or large ovarian cysts, for example. This can go undetected for a long time, since rodents and rabbits often hide symptoms of illness as they are potential prey animals that have to hide weakness to avoid predation.

Once the animal is exhibiting clinical signs and is brought into the veterinary hospital, the disease is often far progressed, and the animal may need surgery. At that time, additional diagnostic work-up and surgery could cost the owner much more, so early detection through regular health checks is the key to less expensive medical management and treatment of this problem. So, in the long run, a wellness exam is money saved in the future and helps keep your pet healthy,” she says.

The Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences is the only veterinary college in Oklahoma and one of 28 veterinary colleges in the United States and is fully accredited by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The Center’s Boren Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital is open to the public and provides routine and specialized care for small and large animals. It also offers 24-hour emergency care and is certified by the American Animal Hospital Association. For more information, visit www.cvhs.okstate. edu or call (405) 744-7000.

Invisible Dogs

posted March 15th, 2012 by
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by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

It was an exciting day at my house— the day I got to pet my foster dogs. This may not sound like a momentous occasion to most people, but those who have rehabilitated a seriously shy or under-socialized dog realize it’s a pretty big step.

My foster dogs are a pair of 4-yearold Dalmatians that were rescued from a puppy mill in Missouri and have no concept of life as a companion animal. Dubbed Jack and Jill, the two actually climbed onto my bed today and let me reach over to pet them. I could not face them directly, and I could not stand up, but we actually had a moment where my touch wasn’t such a terrible thing.

Training sessions on my bed? Well, not what I had planned, but if it works, I’ll run with it. Every dog is different, making every training plan a puzzle to be solved.

There are a number of factors that can cause certain dogs to be shy. For some, it can be blamed on a lack of proper early socialization. Puppies are like little sponges during the first 16 weeks of life. Dogs not properly exposed to human handling as young puppies will have a much harder time assimilating into our world as companion animals.

Dogs that experience stress can also become shy. A stray dog may learn that humans can’t be trusted. A dog in a shelter environment may start to withdraw. And of course, dogs that have experienced abuse or neglect may also become quite timid.

Then, there are genetics. Just as some people have a natural tendency toward shyness, so do some dogs. You can have a litter in which each of the puppies has been raised with the same level of socialization and interaction, but some of the pups might be shy while others are quite outgoing. Whatever the root cause, our shrinking violet dogs are often misunderstood and can be a source of frustration and embarrassment to their owners.

Truth be told, humans tend to be a bit narrow-minded when it comes to communicating with dogs. Usually our intentions are good, but our dog communication skills are often quite clumsy. While most dogs take it all in stride, shy dogs can find the human approach to friendship very overwhelming and confusing.

When humans meet, direct eye contact is expected. We tend to stand squarely facing each other. We immediately grab each other’s hand for a firm shake. It’s all very direct and considered polite.

Now look at things from the dog’s point of view. The average dog generally stands a couple of feet tall or less. Human strangers tower overhead. To greet a dog, well-meaning humans generally move straight toward the dog while bending forward at the waist, staring directly into the dog’s eyes and talking in a loud, high-pitched babble. Then toss in a hand immediately reaching out for a too-much-too-soonpat on the head.

So, when the shy dog backpedals and looks more than a little panicked, what do we do? Well, most people either scold the dog, drag it back toward the newcomer by the leash or collar, or a lovely combination of both. At the same time, the newcomer loudly proclaims that “dogs just love me” and proceeds to try even harder to make the dog submit to attention.

When you consider the dog’s perspective, it’s a giant recipe for disaster, isn’t it? A truly fearful dog who feels trapped and threatened might even resort to growling or barking at the stranger in an attempt to end the confrontation.

So, what to do? How can we help our shy dogs come out of their shells to learn to accept and, hopefully, enjoy socializing with our species?

First, be your shy dog’s champion. Understand your dog’s personality and work to help shift the perception from “new person equals scary” to “new person equals safe interactions and reward.”

Be prepared to explain to people interested in meeting your dog that he or she is a bit shy. Ask them to not acknowledge the dog for a few minutes, so your dog has a chance to smell the new person from a safe distance beside you. If possible, ask the new person to squat down or sit down at an angle to the dog. If the dog chooses to move forward to sniff the newcomer, let that happen without any attempt to interact with the dog. Just give the dog a little space and time to feel secure.

If you see signs that your dog is relaxing, you may want to just stop there. The dog has had a good experience and is starting to feel at ease around a new person. Resist the temptation to ruin that progress by moving forward with too much contact too quickly.

Let the dog move casually away from the new person and quietly praise the dog. By remaining calm yourself, you are setting the stage for your dog to remain calm and happy as well.

Another great tool in helping a shy dog gain confidence is to enlist the aid of another dog. In my experience, most people-shy dogs are good around other dogs. If your shy dog enjoys interacting with other dogs, enlist the aid of a friend with a confident, friendly dog to serve as a good role model. Take the two dogs out to socialize together. Ask people to pet and pay attention to the confident dog while pretending the shy dog is invisible. Just let the shy dog observe the interaction with no pressure to join in.

After a few outings, you may find that the shy dog will start approaching new people along with the confident dog. As this starts to happen, remember the “don’t overdo it” rule. Perhaps let the shy dog sniff the newcomer and maybe have the stranger offer both dogs a treat. End the interaction at this point, again walking away in a calm, matter-of-fact manner.

My shy dog duo is particularly fond of my personal dog, Howie. Howie is a very social, easy-going dog. By petting and playing with Howie, I’ve been able to start including Jack and Jill in the fun. Howie is the best teacher I have for these two dogs.

Formal training with your shy dog is another great way to boost confidence. A group class can provide a learning opportunity where no one dog is the center of attention, allowing a shy dog to blend into the class. If you do choose to take a group class with your dog, be sure to let your instructor know about your dog’s issues, so he or she can adjust lessons accordingly.

For some dogs, however, a busy training school might be too overwhelming. If your dog walks into a training facility and shuts down or panics, perhaps you should contact a trainer for a one-on-one private session. No matter where you train, make sure the methods employed focus on positive motivation training to help boost your dog’s confidence in a fun, engaging manner.

The more you can teach your dog, the more tools you have for helping your dog cope in uncomfortable situations. For example, if you are out for a walk and a neighbor comes to greet you, ask your dog to sit and stay by your side. You have now given your dog a “job” to focus on instead of allowing it to worry about the stranger standing nearby. When you release your dog from the stay, offer lots of calm praise and perhaps even have your visitor casually hand or toss a treat to your dog. This gives your dog a positive association with your neighbor and rewards appropriate behavior.

Another fun exercise I use in working with shy dogs is the touch game. Extend your flat palm to your dog. Most dogs will sniff your hand out of curiosity. When your dog sniffs your hand, or touches it, praise the dog and immediately offer a treat. Then, repeat. Pretty soon you will see that your dog quickly touches its nose to your extended palm when you give the verbal cue “touch.”

Once your dog catches on, you can move your hand from place to place in front of you, beside you and even behind. The dog will enjoy the fun interaction.

This game can then become a tool to use with a friendly stranger. Have a visitor sit and, without staring at the dog or trying to touch the dog, offer a palm in front of the dog and give the “touch” cue. The beauty of this game is that the dog gets to initiate the contact. Keep it simple, short and positive. Hopefully, you will soon see your dog feeling more comfortable around newcomers.

These ideas are just a few of a number of ways you can work to socialize your shy dog. Most importantly, vow to stay patient and, please, always obey the shy dog golden rule: Do not force your shy dog into the spotlight. As much as you want your dog to be social, and as much as people want to win your dog’s affection, trying to force your dog to like new people will almost always backfire.

As for my extremely shy foster dogs, training sessions on my bed with the help of mentor dog, Howie, continue. I look forward to helping them understand that people are a source of good things. In the meantime, I will celebrate every touch and every small step forward.