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Terrified stray dog overcomes his fears

Keith stands on the sofa of his home room

A nervous stray Chihuahua has found a loving and patient new home where he can continue to overcome his fears.

Little Keith was found by the dog warden wandering the streets in Wales and spent a week frightened and all alone in the council pound before being taken in by Blue Cross.

For nearly two months he spent the days with one-on-one support in his cosy homeroom at our Newport rehoming unit, which provides daytime care, and the nights in local boarding kennels. But last week, he finally went home.

Hannah Wiltshire, Manager at Newport, said: “He arrived in a van with some other dogs and he was just terrified. He was so scared, particularly of men.

Keith snuggles up to a member of the team at Newport
Keith snuggles up on the sofa of his homeroom beside a member of the Newport team.

“We had to leave him in there until all the other dogs had left. When we got him out I knelt down beside him and as soon as he saw that I wasn’t a man, I wasn’t so scary to him. He made friends with me very quickly as he didn’t have anyone else.

“I was really worried about taking him to the kennels that first night and leaving him there. As soon as he got into his kennel he ran straight into the outside pen, and sat in a corner so that he was surrounded by walls. He didn’t want to be seen.

“When I went to pick him up in the morning he hadn’t moved the whole night, he just stayed there. So when I went into his pen and started talking to him and he realised it was me, he went mad and was really happy.”

But Keith then adapted well to the routine of spending his days at the unit and nights in the kennels and made brilliant progress with help from the Newport team who worked hard to teach him that he could trust humans again.

“He soon wasn’t bothered about being in kennels, which was a relief as he was with us for such a long time.”

“He absolutely loved his homeroom and would just curl up on the back of the sofa like a cat. It meant that we were not under any immediate pressure to find him the perfect owner,” said Hannah.

Keith curls up in his favourite spot on the back of the sofa.

It’s likely that Keith, who is about six years old, had missed out on vital socialisation in his early life, which is why he is so scared of so many things. It’s vital that puppies meet a wide variety of people and other animals, as well as encountering a range of situations before they are three months old.

Keith relaxing in his new home
Keith relaxing on the sofa of his new home.

Hannah said: “It may well be that Keith has just lived with one woman and has never been walked, so finds the whole world quite overwhelming. Because Chihuahuas are so small and vulnerable they do have a predisposition to this without the right socialisation.”

To help him build confidence around people, the team familiarised Keith with an ever-growing circle of human friends by taking him out in the garden for a run around with someone he knew, and then sitting a new person on the sofa in his homeroom for when he returned.

“If he didn’t bark at them, that was a great start,” said Hannah. “We then gave him something nice like a Kong or a puzzle game, which he loved. The new person wouldn't look or speak to him at first but once he looked comfortable with them being around, the person he already knew left the room and his new friend started interacting with him. We’ve gradually built this up until he had a circle of around 15 people.”

We always knew that Keith would make a wonderful pet to the right person, as he is so happy and affectionate once he gets to know you." Hannah Wiltshire

And soon enough, the perfect new owner came along for him. The team used the same method of introduction and, after weeks of carefully-planned meetings, he was ready to go home with her. He has not looked back, and his new owner is providing regular updates about his brilliant progress to the Newport team.

Hannah said: "We always knew that Keith would make a wonderful pet to the right person, as he is so happy and affectionate once he gets to know you. It takes time for him to come out of his shell around someone new but once he does, he just wants as many cuddles as you can give him, and not much else. He's a real companion.

"We're keeping in close contact with his new owner to make sure he continues to settle in and build his confidence in the best way possible. His owner has said they have his routine down to a T and she has already seen huge reduction in his anxiety levels in the short time that she's had him. We're so grateful that Keith has found the lovely home he deserved."

There are many more dogs like Keith in need of loving homes at Blue Cross and you can find out more about rehoming them here.

— Page last updated 4/01/2018