Trusting your Fairy Dog Mother

Meeting new dogs brings me infinite joy. They generally start with giving me a thorough sniff down, as I’m almost always covered in the scent of multiple dogs. Some progress to the microdermabrasion phase within seconds, others assess whether or not I’m interested in some playtime while a few are quite shy. If I will need to be interacting with a shy dog again, I try to give them a chance to understand that I pose no threat, as the next time I see them (or maybe even the first time) I will need to leash them up and take them away from their home. A vital piece of this is to be as stress-free as I possibly can be when we are introduced. That sniff down is not just to investigate other dogs with whom I’ve interacted, but that those dogs were not stressed and that I am not stressed for whatever reason. Dogs that know me well know when I’m having an off day and they are gently understanding. A new dog doesn’t yet know that stressed is not my normal state of being and it is not the first impression I want to present.
To some dogs, the prospect of a walk is like offering hosta to a deer. They cannot wait to get out the door and start sniffing around. Walks are one of their favorite things, so I let them enjoy it to the fullest. They can sniff what they want and they can take the route they prefer. They would walk for hours if they could. I love it when they gaze up at me as we are walking as if I’m the answer to their fondest dream of a Fairy Dog Mother who shows up to take you for a walk and then gives you a treat for having done something you passionately adore, even if she didn’t let you chase the squirrels or meet the other dogs you saw.
It has never ceased to amaze me that even a very shy dog will let me take them for a walk. I suspect this is not so much a matter of trust as it is a recognition that humans are in charge. Either way, it seems like such a leap of faith for any animal to take: letting a complete stranger enter your home and lead you down the street. Even very accepting dogs are a bit anxious, especially if their environment AND I are new to them. They will look back towards the door multiple times but come along just the same. Once we’ve accomplished the goals of being outside, if they are still anxious and not sniffing around, we will head home so that they learn I will return them to their domain. The walk home is typically quite brisk. After a few visits, they tend to relax, having sussed out that I can FIND home and that I have every intention of BRINGING them home.
The nature of trust does not appear to be related to anything so much as the innate personality of each pup. Dogs that have lived with fabulously loving humans since puppyhood can be painfully shy while dogs that have been severely abused by humans can be instantly trusting. The shyest dogs can take months to accept a new human into their circle, but once you are in, you are in. Forever. I’ve never earned the trust of a shy dog and had that dog not remember, even after many, many moons. To have won the trust of a reticent dog tops my list of life’s rewards.

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