Maverick, a teenage puppy, came to HSU’s Pet Resource Center in Murray five days before Christmas. His guardian said he could no longer care for him due to having a newborn. He described the 8-month-old pup as “smart and kind” and “very fond of his soccer ball.” He also shared that Maverick had a history of being nervous around all people, both familiar and strange, and he’d almost exclusively lived outside. Maverick was a fearful dog who needed a little help from our team of certified dog trainers.
Extra attention from our Behavior Team
While in our care, Maverick’s nerves reached new heights. He was uneasy with his surroundings and terrified to cross the middle divider in his kennel, separating his food area from his potty area. Erika Newman, HSU’s Behavioral Coordinator, shared, “When Maverick first came to us, he avoided contact with me at all costs. When I slowly introduced myself to him, he offered up low tail wags, which for a dog, translates to, ‘I want to interact, but I’m very uncomfortable right now.’ When I finally approached him, he melted into my lap and began licking my face. It was clear he wanted affection and closeness but was unsure how to go about it.”
During meet and greets with potential adopters, Maverick continued with his low tail wags and would even roll over to show his belly or pee when approached. Erika pointed out that these are submissive behaviors and indicate that a dog feels frightened or threatened and lacks confidence. “The goal of our department is to help all the pets in our care to build confidence through positive reinforcement techniques. Since behavioral issues may lead a guardian to rehome their pet, positive reinforcement training is a critical service we provide for pets and adopters.”
A foster home for the holidays
Luckily for Maverick, the Humane Society of Utah was hosting its annual Home for the Holidays program, which places pets into foster homes, so they don’t have to spend Christmas in a kennel alone. This meant Maverick could have more one-on-one time in the comfort of someone’s home without a scary kennel divider in his way. Annette Perkins took on the role of Maverick’s foster mom. With Erika’s guidance, Annette worked to help Maverick feel more at ease by going slow with her interactions with him. And she taught him alternative ways to connect with humans through positive reinforcement.
Over two weeks, Maverick’s nerves began to subside, and he started interacting more easily with other dogs and humans at Annette’s local dog park. Slowly but surely, Maverick was transforming from a low-wagging tail pup to one who was more adventurous and easygoing. With his newfound confidence, Maverick was ready to return to our Pet Resource Center and find an adopter. He didn’t have to wait long; he found a home with a woman named Beatrice and her daughter the next day.
From fearful to confident
Recently, Beatrice shared with our team that Maverick is thriving in his new home, where he has a doggy door and can come and go as he pleases. Outside, he enjoys chasing balls and playing in the snow, but his favorite place is right beside Beatrice, especially when it involves cuddling up next to her at night. Beatrice wrote in her email, “I took Maverick to a dog park this week, and he had a blast running around with all the doggies! I am just so impressed with how well-behaved he is. He is settling in great, and I already love him so much!” We were so happy to see this fearful dog blossom into a happy and healthy companion.