FINALLY! Etta and I have made it through the front door. This is a huge triumph in her little life. Why has getting through the door such a big deal? When I first got Etta she was very shy and scared of nearly everything. She would not walk on a leash more than two or three feet near our home in the country, so walking on a crowded Commercial Street, in downtown Portland was out of the question. That did not keep us from trying. I got Etta an Easy Walk Harness and it made a huge difference. As soon as she had it on she was able to walk normally down our quiet street at home. I think the harness helped her feel secure, it also keeps her from pulling like mad due to fright. Had she been a larger dog, with more strength I would probably have opted for a Freedom No-Pull Harness since it gives you a little more control.
When I bring Etta to work with me I need to take her outside for pee breaks. At first these breaks were very challenging. As soon as Etta saw her harness come out she would take off and hide under a desk. I would have to pick her up and carry her out the door. She would NOT come out from behind the counter. Once we did get outside she would not walk down the front steps or around the corner to go potty. It was very frustrating and it made me so sad to see her scared.
In order to desensitize her to the people and the traffic I began coming in extra early so I could walk her around the Old Port while it was quiet. We would take short walks before 7am and slowly increase the length of time. She got to the point where she would walk without too much trouble except for on Commercial Street right in front of Fetch! I started feeling a little defeated. I couldn’t even get her to follow her Buddy Capone outside. I even had my husband, her beloved human dad, come and wait outside the door to greet and praise her. It didn’t work. She ran right back behind the counter.
I admit that I gave up for a little while. I thought; if I have to carry her out the door forever so be it. I am not really fond of giving up so I decided I would just take a break from pushing her for a little bit. I think we both needed it. A few weeks ago I started calling her to the door, with the door closed and her harness off. She would have to come from behind the counter, right up to the front door on her own to get a treat. I did this for about two weeks. Two days ago we finally made it out the door! I didn’t think she was going to do it. She came from behind the counter to say hi to another dog in the store and then we just kept going. She went right through the door, hesitated a bit on the steps and then followed me down and around the corner.
I am so thrilled! we have done the same thing a number of times since. Some days it is easy and some days she still hesitates, but now I know there is hope! It took us almost 4 months to be able to get through this. This was a huge reminder to me that I need to be patient with her and that I need to take things at her pace and not push too hard. So, any of you who are struggling with a rescue pup keep at it. Take a break, breath, play with your dog and have fun and then try again. It may take time but eventually you can get there!