By Annie Scudder
Pointer Professor | Dog Life Specialist
Sunny is a 10 month old mixed breed who first came to Wag Central in July. During her personality profile, our staff saw that she was lacking confidence around other dogs and in new situations. Our specialized daycare program was recommended to Sunny’s awesome owners, who had adopted her just a couple months prior, and were trying to catch her up on the socialization she had most likely missed as a young pup.
Sunny began coming once a week and quickly became my sidekick. During her first few visits, she was extremely unsure of the whole situation and needed to learn that Wag Central is a fun place for dogs, not a scary place! It became clear that she didn’t know how to “speak dog” and out of frustration would begin barking at other dogs and using other less appropriate ways to try to communicate with them. But it was also clear that she wanted to be their friend so badly! Her lack of confidence, coupled with her lack of knowledge of dog language, led to her simply not knowing what to do or how to do it! In came Luke, my 8 year old German Shorthaired Pointer. He is my right hand man and the dog that I can always count on to be even, stable, and unfazed by anything you throw at him. He has earned himself two nicknames here at Wag Central: Mr. Confidence and Mr. Cool. Both fit him perfectly.
The first time Luke and Sunny met, Sunny went through her usual repertoire of “greeting” another dog, and Luke sat there completely unimpressed by the whole show. Only once she calmed down did Luke give her the time of day, and I immediately saw a light bulb go off in Sunny’s head; “Being calm means I can say hello to this handsome dog!”
Luke became Sunny’s mentor of sorts and her confidence started to grow. I found that she has an extreme love for swimming and is Little Miss Confidence in the pool. Swimming her every time she came in built her confidence up, burned off some of that nervous energy, and prepared her mentally for interacting with other dogs.
Through very slow, methodical introductions, Sunny, with Luke by her side for extra confidence, began meeting other dogs. She is such a great girl because she so eagerly wants to learn and wants to know what’s right. She has learned to look to both myself and Luke for direction, and often approaches another dog and then looks over her shoulder at me like, “Is this ok?” I’m not sure who is more excited when I affirm her for correctly approaching another dog—her or me!
The first few dogs she met after Luke were puppies. Puppies are awesome because they are just learning the whole “dog body language” thing too! Pups learn all of these things through play when they are young (typically before 16 weeks), and they had no problem letting Sunny in on the fun. Since they were all in the same learning process, they were all very forgiving of each other “getting it wrong” and were more focused on having a good time! Sunny’s confidence once again sky rocketed as she formed a new pack of playmates.
Sunny is now able to happily spend her day in a play room with both adult dogs and puppies. She is still learning and occasionally needs redirection, but has come leaps and bounds from her first day at Wag Central. I am so proud of her, and so excited to watch her grow and guide her through what I imagine must be a confusing time! She is also now working with our trainer, Danielle, who reinforces her obedience training and is fine tuning a few things. Danielle meets with Sunny’s family once a week to give exercises and directions for things to do at home, to answer any questions about her progress and training, and to teach them to be the calm, assertive pet parents that Sunny needs (all of which they do exceptionally well, by the way!). All of this is included in her specialized daycare package—individually designed for any dog that is not an immediate fit in our daycare program. We believe in setting dogs up to succeed, and sometimes that means a little extra leg work to get them there.
I look forward to the day when Sunny graduates from our specialized daycare program—which will be very soon! Even though I will miss her being my sidekick, I know it will make me smile to see her confidently navigating her way through Wag Central on her own.
If your pup is like Sunny, or may need a little extra confidence boost to become a regular Wag Central daycare dog, please contact us to set up a consultation.