When I think of him, I can’t help but say “Oh, Oliver!” to myself. My Pup Pup (what he usually goes by), my fluffy puppers. My work in progress. Oliver takes a lot of management to get through the day.
We adopted Oliver at 11 months old. He was a foster dog for a few days before we (or I, if you ask my husband) decided to make him a permanent member of our family. Oliver was an owner relinquishment via a rescue I work with. The family “didn’t have enough time for him.” They had adopted him from a shelter only 5 months prior.
Oliver was obese when we adopted him- 25lbs. He was so fat that he couldn’t even lift his leg to pee or go up the stairs to our second floor apartment. How did he get so fat? His former owners would ply him with peanut butter-filled kongs when he “got wild” instead of training, socializing or exercising him.
Generally from 3 weeks to 3 months of age is considered the critical socialization period for puppies. During this period we believe Oliver was in a pet store. It’s hard to tell- his shelter papers don’t outright say so, but they do lead us to believe that is where he was from. Wherever he was, he wasn’t socialized with strangers. So now, almost 2.5 years later we’re still working to undo a lot of fears caused by the lack of socialization during his critical socialization periods as a puppy.
The family that originally adopted Oliver had good intentions. They were a nice couple with a pair of pre-teens. They had no dog experience, and I’m sure were overwhelmed with an un-socialized puppy and didn’t know where or how to find help.
Management is the key with Oliver. Because of his fear of strangers we have to be careful where we take him, and when we do take him places we have to be well-prepared. Because of his squishy fluffiness people are naturally drawn to Oliver. They immediately want to squeeze him and love on him. Oliver, however, would rather they keep their distance. Children especially are very drawn to him, but he’s absolutely petrified of children of all ages.
My favorite place to take him to work on socialization is a big-box pet store during a weekday. Just enough people we can see them and work on looking at strangers calmly but not so many that we’re dodging people trying to grab at him, which has happened on busy weekends.
Oliver feels safest in our arms or in a cart. Down on the ground his threshold for strangers nearby is much smaller and he’s more likely to get upset. One of the big mistakes owners of fearful dogs make it not knowing their dog’s threshold for anxiety. I try very hard to stay under his threshold and make all of our training sessions as positive as possible!