Facebook

23 June 2018

Saturday Spotlight | "It's About The Dog" By Guilie Castillo & Rescue Dog Tips

In addition to the usual blog posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday about our travel adventures and day-to-day life living aboard a sailboat, I also occasionally post on Saturdays, focusing on things related to writing such as cover reveals, book launches, reviews, interviews with authors etc. So if you're a bit of a book nerd like I am, check in on Saturdays - you never know what might pop up.

Today, Guilie Castillo is joining us to tell us about her new book, It's About the Dog: The A-to-Z Guide for Wannabe Dog Rescuers as well as offer some insights about how to handle dogs who hate the water.

* * *



Ellen, thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of your Saturday Spotlight series! I’m thrilled to talk a bit with your crowd about my new book, It’s About the Dog: The A-to-Z Guide for Wannabe Dog Rescuers. I know several of your followers are into sailing and water-based lifestyles, as are you, so—although the book is about actual rescue (the process of identifying, befriending, helping, and catching a dog straight off the street)—I thought I could share some insights about the challenges that come after rescue, when it turns out that this once-stray dog, now adopted by a loving family, hates water.

When Panchita, my first rescue here in Curaçao, came to live with us, I naturally assumed she would love water. This is an island—a rather small one, as far as islands go; no matter where you are in Curaçao you’re never more than five or six kilometers from the coast. And Panchita was a mutt of mutts, a dog who clearly came from a long line of mixed breeds, what locals here call ‘Westpointers’, or ‘Selikor terriers’. A dog of this lineage had to have the love of water woven tight into her chromosomes, right?

Well, she didn’t. In fact, water terrified her. I, who had grown up in Mexico with dogs that jumped into the pool at the first opportunity, now lived surrounded by gorgeous beaches with a dog that refused to set foot in water, be it ocean or lagoon. She even skirted puddles (ever so daintily).

So what does one do, when one’s love of water and love of (rescue) dogs seem so incompatible?

It’s no secret that rescue dogs come with… how shall we put it? Issues. Some more than others, certainly, especially if they’re adult when you adopt them. The main thing to remember when dealing with rescues is that they’re individuals: there is no recipe, no ABC of steps to follow, that will work on each and every dog. (This is true of all dogs, all living creatures even, but even more so with rescues.) If your life revolves around water, and if you want to share that life with a rescue dog, here are a few tips to make your—and their—life easier.


Adult vs. Puppy

Puppies (under 3 months) are naturally more adaptable than adults, and usually have less phobias, so it’ll be easier for them to learn to love the activities you want to share with them, including water. Note, however, that I said ‘easier’, not easy. Certain fears and aversions seem to be inherited, hard-coded into DNA somehow, so getting a 12-week-old puppy does not necessarily mean you’re getting a blank slate. Yes, breed—when breed can be determined; rescues are quirky that way—may provide some indication, a foundation on which to base the training you’ll provide, but it won’t be determinant. I know Labradors that hate the water. And I know a Chihuahua who cannot get enough of it. Breed may be about aesthetics, but it gets a lot less predictable when it comes to behavior.

Go Easy. At First and Always. 

Rescue dogs have very little experience of human kindness. For them, the canine-human bond has been broken; earning their trust is your first task, and dragging them into the lake is not going to help. Take it slowly. Go on a walk close to the water and observe their behavior. Does s/he seem curious or apprehensive about the water? Maybe you get lucky and s/he makes a mad dash into the surf the first time out; you’ve got it made. But if this doesn’t happen, you have your work cut out for you. You’ll need tons of patience, and—maybe more importantly—good humor. The reward, however—that moment when your dog overcomes his/her fear and discovers this weird thing is actually fun—is more than worth it.

Make it Fun. 

I’ve seen people bribe their dogs into the water, or try the toddler technique of picking them up and carrying them into the water: “See? It’s not so scary, is it?” (And then they’re surprised when the dog hides under the bed when it’s time to go to the lake or the beach.) If you want your dog to enjoy water, and the time spent with you in or around it, not to fear it or to see it as something you demand of him/her, then you need to make it into something not just positive and fun but also non-threatening. The dog needs to feel safe, and s/he needs to know s/he can trust you, so show him/her you’re willing to go at his/her pace. (And mean it.)

Reward, or Bribe? 

This is a tricky one, and I think the difference has a lot to do with attitude. The way I see it is this: if I offer my dog a chunk of, say, beef, and hold it just out of reach as I back into the water, using the beef as a sort of ‘carrot’ to lure him/her into following me in, I’m bribing. If, on the other hand, I actually give him/her the piece of beef (along with very enthusiastic cuddles and praise) every time s/he takes a step closer to the water, then I’m rewarding. Small distinction, but significant, and one that can have powerful long-term impact on how your dog responds to handling new situations.

The Miracle of Professional Training. 

Don’t ever underestimate the transformative power of a trainer who knows his/her stuff. Even a puppy course, or a basic obedience series, will work wonders for any dog, but especially for rescues. Ideally, though, if you’re serious about committing to your dog’s mental and emotional well-being, you should talk to a trainer—someone experienced in working with rescues, someone who uses force-free methods—about setting up one-on-one sessions. Training isn’t only about dealing with a certain issue or modifying a certain behavior; the overall, and lasting, result is that it strengthens the bond between you and your dog. Think of it as a sort of language course in Dogspeak—and, when you take out all the fluff and chaff, all behavior issues are about communication, aren’t they? Getting your dog to understand you—and learning to understand him/her.



* * *


Guilie Castillo, Mexican expat, writer, and dog rescuer, is the author of It’s About the Dog: The A-to-Z Guide for Wannabe Dog Rescuers (Everytime Press, April 2018), a hands-on, less-tears-more-action, 100% practical introduction to dog rescue. 

This is some of what readers have been saying about the book:

“Not only an incredibly thorough and brilliant How-To, but a pull-at-your-heartstrings look at the selfless world of dog rescuing—and a must-read for anyone who loves dogs. This book will renew your faith in humanity.”
 ~Robin Cain, author of The Secret Miss Rabbit Kept

“This is a must-have book on every would-be, could-be, and veteran dog rescuer’s shelf. Guilie Castillo Oriard’s It’s About the Dog: The A-to-Z Guide for Wannabe Rescuers is packed with invaluable information gleaned from experts and experience, on how to put good intentions into successful practice so you can provide real help for four-legged friends in need.”

~ Lynne M. Hinkey, author of Ye Gods! A Tale of Dogs and Demons

“The saying ‘I didn’t know what I didn’t know’ really applies for me. I had no idea what was going on at the ‘front lines’ of rescue work and as I read the book it made me that much more grateful to have my dogs by my side.”

~ L. M., Amazon review

It’s About the Dog is available as paperback and ebook (find all links here). You can also add it to your Goodreads here.

Have you ever had a rescue dog or cat? What obstacles did you have to help him/her overcome? Have you ever had a dog who hated the water?

23 comments:

  1. Dogs are wonderful, and it's amazing how love and good training, as well as infinite patience, can transform them.

    It's harder with cats, but they can also learn to trust a primary human or two, even if they've been feral all of their lives.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so right, Mimi! I've most often been involved with rescuing dogs, but there's been the odd cat or two, and yes, they're much harder—by far—but when they do 'accept' you, oh the joy :)

      Thanks so much for coming by!

      Delete
    2. Cats are trickier, but as Guilie said you feel so special when they do decide that you're okay.

      Delete
  2. Thank you so much for shining your Spotlight on It's About the Dog, Ellen! I hope you and your readers enjoy the post — and happy weekend for everyone!
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

    ReplyDelete
  3. A rescue will need a ton more effort and consideration. You have to be that one person they can trust. And just dumping them in the water is a sure way to destroy that trust.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They do take time and effort, but it must be such a good feeling to help them overcome their fears, adapt, and provide them with a loving home.

      Delete
    2. You're right, Alex. Some rescues do adapt to family life rather quickly, and take to water (or any 'new' thing) easily, but it's important for adopters to realize that it might require a bit more empathy... Although that might be true of any dog :) Thanks so much for coming by!

      Delete
  4. We always had rescue dogs. They need us the most. Our last love was Little Bit. She was the best girl ever because we spent so much time with her. He hated to swim. Not a fan of the water at all and we boat all the time. She went with us, but water wasn't something she wanted anything to do with.

    Have a fabulous day, Ellen. ♥

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rescue dogs and cats definitely need us the most. It's great that you've always had them.

      Delete
    2. Oh, Sandee—bless you and your family, two- and four-legged :) Yep, rescues really are awesome, and putting the time (and work) in to help them achieve their potential really is its own reward. Kudos to you for making Little Bit feel safe enough to go on the boat with you, in spite of hating the water. Sometimes that's all it takes :) So glad to meet you, and thanks for sharing your experience!

      Delete
  5. All of our last 5 cats have been rescues. Two previous, (now over the rainbow), came from the animal shelter, and the last three, Beyza, Elsie, and Gus showed up at our doorstep, declaring they were now home. We advertised, etc, and we have no idea where they came from, but we're glad they chose us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, that's so sweet that you've had rescue cats and that some of them just showed up and chose you :-0

      Delete
    2. So wonderful to hear that, Donna! Cats are much harder than dogs when it comes to earning their trust, so much respect to you and your family for creating the kind of environment these felines actually chose as 'home'. May you have many long years of joy with them :)

      Thanks so much for commenting!

      Delete
    3. Oh, Ms. Castillo, thank you for your kind heart! I'm not sure I agree about cats versus dogs. My paternal grandparents took in abused dogs, though, for which I'm very proud. It was just sad how few could be trusted with kids. My desire to love on them was mostly thwarted. ~sigh~ As an adult, I was adopted by a cat off our streets. At the time I had life threatening asthmatic reactions to felines. She inspired me to see a doctor who put me on better medications, and I never felt better. That was in 1999. Luna passed away in 2014, but the cat we got from the Humane Society a few years later and a younger cat dumped near a friend's house after that are in their mid teens now and still going strong.

      Delete
    4. Darla, so very sorry about the late reply! I'm so happy your experience with stray/feral cats has been so positive! May it inspire many, many others around you to take in one—or three ;) And I'm delighted to hear about your grandparents adopting abused dogs; yes, they do come with issues (and kids are a BIG no-no), but—as someone who lives with eight of them—they're totally worth the effort (and the occasional mauling, haha). I really believe there is no love like the (hard-earned) love of an abused animal, regardless of species. Kudos to you for taking Luna—and the two who followed—in!

      Delete
  6. We currently have two rescues. One is missing half of his back paw, but he is such a sweetheart! The other was tossed out during the really freezing weeks right after Christmas as a puppy and we took him in. His jaw is a little askew, but both are tight knit parts of the family. Lol! Only one of ours would have liked being thrown into water, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How awful that people would toss out a puppy and how wonderful that you rescued him. You are good people.

      Delete
  7. We have one rescue and he's a sweetheart. A little odd acting at times. He's very timid. If there is any sort of yelling or loud noise, he will run and hide in the basement. Sadly, we assume he was abused. We've never forced him out of his comfort zone. He was here for months before we could lure him into the living room with the chaos of a big family and he still lays in the doorway, for a quick escape. But one on one, he's the most affectionate dog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Poor thing :-( So good that you guys took him in.

      Delete
  8. Kudos to Guilie, for being a dog rescuer, having patience, loving and caring for dogs, and writing a book about it. When I met my future husband, he had two rescue dogs. Luckily, they loved the water, as we took them sailing with us for years. They were a part of our lives 24/7, and we even changed boats (from a monohull to a catamaran), just for them. :-) Rescues are the best. What better joy than turning an unhappy doggie life into a happy one, even if it’s challenging at times. It makes the reward even bigger.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just read that part about changing to a cat because of the dogs :-)

      Delete
  9. :-) I hope it all makes sense!

    ReplyDelete

We LOVE when people leave comments. It's so much more fun hearing what you have to say. If you have a blog, make sure you leave a link and I'll be sure to pop on by.