A shy dog’s journey

This is the story of a shy dog's journey to becoming less fearful of the world. She started life as a stray and didn't get crucial socialization.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

Mocha Too missed out on crucial human socialization the first few years of her life as a stray. When she came to the Sanctuary, she was extremely skittish and would “pancake” – flatten herself on the ground and try to disappear – whenever overwhelmed or frightened. She needed love and patience to acclimate to life with people.

A project pet

Mocha Too the shy dogWhen I first met her at Dogtown last November, she immediately turned and dashed through the doggie door into her large yard. She trusted her caregivers, but wanted nothing to do with a stranger. All I saw of her that first day was the swoosh of her thick, golden tail as it disappeared through the doggie door. She was going to be my project dog. (Best Friends staff members often choose to take on project pets who need extra time and love.) It was clear that getting to know her wouldn’t be easy.

Anticipating the disappearing act the next time I visited her, I slowly followed her out into the yard. She soon realized I had hot dog bits, her nose twitching as she caught the scent. Bravely, she crept close enough to snag the hot dog pieces I tossed her way. Still, she kept her body as far as possible from me, crouching low to the ground and stretching to snatch the treats before retreating again. But after a few weeks, she was eating out of my hand. She didn’t even run when I arrived.

Next steps for shy dog

Mocha Too was ready for the next step – a car ride. She was comfortable with riding with her caregivers, but no one knew how she would react to a different car. The first time I drove her around the Sanctuary, her amber and blue eyes were as wide as saucers as we started off. But soon her mouth opened into a wide smile, and she put her nose up to the wind coming through the open window.

Since she’d done so well in the car, sleepovers were the next step. Though Mocha Too’s caregivers worked with her extensively to prepare her for an overnight outing, new places scared her just as much as new people did. As soon as she got out of the car, she pancaked. It took her 45 minutes to walk from the car to the front door of my home – a distance of approximately 15 feet. Once inside, she dove for the nearest corner and remained there, frozen, until it was time for her evening potty break. She wasn’t about to refuse food, however, and ate her dinner from my hand. In the morning, she raced back to the car as if she couldn’t wait to get back to her familiar surroundings in Dogtown.

Dog with lots of love to give

Mocha with AlamoSeven sleepovers later, Mocha readily jumps out of the car and walks up to my front door. She hasn’t explored the entire house yet, but has picked out a few favorite spots. She enjoys treats – like a peanut butter–stuffed Kong – and even some gentle petting.

Though she’s still got a long way to go on her journey toward being a well-adjusted house pet, Mocha Too is getting there. She’ll now run up to the door of her room in Dogtown, tail wagging, when her caregivers approach. Instead of looking away from people self-consciously, she’ll give brief moments of direct eye contact, as if craving that human connection. All this will help her bond more closely to that special person or family who falls in love with her and brings her home. Because, under that shyness, Mocha Too has a big heart and lots of love to give.           

Read about how to socialize a dog

Photos by Molly Wald