A dog’s dog
By David Dickson
Some talents and abilities aren’t always easy to spot in others. The next-door neighbor you’ve known for years, for example, might be an incredible singer, but you wouldn’t have a clue if she never sang around you.
Other talents, however, are more visible. Consider Keeter the dog. One of his talents was noticeable a mile away from the moment he came to the Sanctuary.
"His dog skills are unbelievable," explains caregiver Carin Carothers. In two short months at Best Friends, Keeter has already turned into something of a secret weapon for caregivers to use with dogs who have a hard time meeting other dogs.
Keeter came to Best Friends from a rescue in Arkansas that was closing its doors. From the very beginning, he got along with just about any dog he met. "He seems to read dogs exceptionally well," Carin says.
If a dog is shy, Keeter takes the lead and initiates playtime. If the other dog is a bit aggressive, Keeter knows how to back off until they’re ready to play. "He’s a goofy kind of playful," Carin says. "He knows how to take that playful side and turn it into a relaxing thing for the other dog."
If at first you don’t succeed
One such meet-and-greet happened not long ago with Honey Bun, a dog at the Sanctuary who hasn’t had a lot of luck with playdates with other dogs. When she met Keeter, Honey Bun ignored him at first. She wanted her personal space. After Keeter took the initiative and wanted to play, she gave him a low warning growl.
He immediately backed off, but didn’t want to give up permanently. With caregivers there to supervise, Keeter kept trying to entice her to play. And, in 10 minutes, he pulled it off. They started playing chase games. He’d convinced her he wasn’t scary, and Honey Bun had the time of her life zipping and zooming around with him. "Keeter was a rock star," Carin says.
Keeter simply has a knack for making other dogs feel comfortable. He has this laid-back way about him that puts other dogs at ease.
Billy Bob, one of the dogs in his play area, was another challenge in need of a secret weapon. His problems were due to shyness. In the past, Billy Bob has not done well with introductions because of a lack of confidence. He’d get intimidated.
However, Keeter wouldn’t intimidate a fly. He’s simply too friendly. Sure enough, Keeter took the pressure right off from the moment they met. He immediately ran up to Billy Bob and initiated play. Billy Bob responded with enthusiasm, and that was that. They’ve been buds ever since. Best of all, Keeter has been helping Billy Bob become more confident overall.
"Because he’s so nonthreatening, he tends to allow other dogs to grow into their confidence," Carin says.
Keeter’s special abilities may not win him any awards in a talent show, but make no mistake, he has world-class skill. "He is amazing," Carin says.
Improving a dog’s social skills
Not all dogs are as naturally talented as Keeter. But they can all make improvements. Learn more about helping a dog develop social skills.
Photos by Molly Wald