Dog’s standoffishness is only skin deep

When Itchy arrived at Best Friends Animal Society, that was exactly how he felt. He came to the Sanctuary with that name because he’d been scratching so much. It wasn’t long before medicated baths in Dogtown’s grooming rooms helped him get over that. But the name stuck, and something else did too: Itchy was very skeptical of people.

A chance for a cautious dog

Itchy’s big, watchful eyes made it clear that he was uneasy around people after being transferred to the Sanctuary from a Best Friends Network partner. But all he needs is a chance to get to know people before he can let his guard down. And in Dogtown, there are plenty of opportunities for a dog like Itchy to learn that the world doesn’t have to be a scary place, and that people want to be his friends.

Itchy the dog’s big, watchful eyes made it clear that he was uneasy around people

Learn how to help shy or suspicious dogs

To show him that was true, caregivers spent extra time getting to know Itchy and learning how best to help him feel more comfortable. They sat with him and fed him by hand. Then they discovered that one of his favorite things in the world is car rides. Not only did Itchy find car rides fun, but they allowed him to finally let his guard down. In the car, he felt safe.

Caregivers discovered that one of Itchy the dog's favorite things in the world is car rides

Because he loves car rides so much, Dogtown caregiver Lauren Kehoe started driving him from the building where he lives to different places around Dogtown. She took him to Tara’s Run, Dogtown’s large indoor training and agility area, where he could run, fetch and play with other dogs and, if he wanted to, dive into the plastic ball pit.

Dogtown caregiver Lauren Kehoe started bringing Itchy the dog to Tara's Run to play in the ball pit

Itchy the dog loves playing in the ball pit at Tara's Run in Dogtown

Skeptical dog makes new friends

Through Lauren, the skeptical dog also made other friends. Itchy and Lauren would often go together to Dogtown headquarters, a busy place, often buzzing with staff and volunteers. But during quiet times, Dogtown receptionist Jeri Harrington won Itchy over with treats.​

Through Lauren, Itchy the skeptical dog also made other friends

“He gets very nervous with noise and commotion,” Jeri says, “but if it's quiet in here he'll come up to you to get treats and let you pet him.”

Since Itchy also loves walking on the Dogtown trails, he’s been stretching his legs there with caregivers and volunteers. When he first sets out on a walk with a new person, it’s not unusual for Itchy to shy away from his walking partner. But once he gets going and realizes that his new friend has treats, Itchy’s tail curls up confidently over his back and he trots along. Sometimes he’ll stop to scratch in the sand and show his silly side by making funny little grumbling noises.

Itchy's made other dog friends as well

Shy dog transformation

Although Itchy still isn’t ready to be everyone’s best friend the moment he meets them, he warms up quite quickly these days. “​Once you know him for two weeks, he is a perfect dog,” says Lauren.

If you take Itchy for a walk, give him some treats and then sit quietly in his room with him, he may come and curl up on his bed next to you. He may even close his eyes and melt into some soft, gentle neck scratches. But you really know you’re “in” with Itchy when he brings you his tennis ball and asks you to play. It may seem like a perfectly ordinary behavior for a dog, but for Itchy, it’s a sure sign that he’s shed his uncertainty and is ready to be friends.

But you really know you’re “in” with Itchy the dog when he brings you his tennis ball and asks you to play

Above all, learning what makes Itchy feel comfortable — allowing him to be his happy self — will help him get a new home of his own.

Bring comfort and happiness to more animals like Itchy

Although Itchy the dog still isn’t ready to be everyone’s best friend the moment he meets them, he warms up quite quickly these days

Photos by Molly Wald