#ADOPT A SHELTER DOG
Meet Mercy the Trick Dog Star and Wonderful Woofstock Winner!
We met Mercy and her family at this year’s Woofstock where she won the Sunday Pet Trick Contest (See Photo’s HERE). This adorable rescued cockapoo wowed the crowd with her fun tricks including shooting basketball hoops like an NBA pro. Seeing Mercy and her family performing then accepting their prize on stage, it’s hard to imagine this amazing dog was once abandoned.
At Talent Hounds, we love to share and promote happy tails just like Mercy’s. They show just what can be achieved with love, patience and dedication to positive training.
Three years ago, Mercy was a very shy little 1 1/2-year-old puppy who was surrendered to the Provincial Branch of the OSPCA.
Eric, a volunteer at the shelter, instantly fell in love with the small pup. Initially, Mercy was very shy and withdrawn and distrustful of new people.
Eric said, “I would have described her as depressed and broken. Once she got to know me at the shelter, she was eager to sleep on my lap if I was doing computer work, but she certainly wasn’t the energetic performer she is now. She is a very different dog these days!”
Was It Fate That Brought Them Together?
Eric thinks so. He told us “When I met Mercy, she was quite scared and in need of a home and a family. Though she wasn’t what I had pictured, something about her seemed like a good fit. Unfortunately, a gentleman had already assured us he would be coming the next day to adopt her, so I didn’t think too much of it; I just tried to help her to be happy while she was with us. When he never showed up the next day, I didn’t hesitate – Mercy and I had bonded in the few mornings I’d spent with her. I never heard from her prospective owner again, and I am eternally grateful that he changed his mind!”
Who Rescued Who?
As we often find with rescue dogs, it’s not only their lives that are affected by adoption. Eric doesn’t question the impact Mercy has had on his life.
“She has changed my life immensely. As much as I saved her, she saved me too. I’d been going through a time of personal loss when we met. It was therapeutic to have someone to look after and just forget my own worries. Teaching her, training her and reassuring her became a past time. I read books, watched videos and studied; eager to become a dog expert and help her get the most out of life. My family loves her too – they treat her as they would any other member of our family.”
How To Break A Shy Dogs’ Shell
In their short time together Eric has noticed a big change in Mercy. The once broken puppy is now an eager performer who is outgoing and courageous. So how did he help her out of her shell?
“When we first met, it took an hour for her to even approach me. Now she’s my sidekick! Initially, she was afraid of most people and other dogs – clearly she hadn’t been exposed to friendly social situations. Mercy needed some consistency, kindness and time to build trust. A calm environment and a predictable routine helped her immensely. I used clicker training to support her in learning basic commands like “stay” and “down”. Now I can say complex sentences and watch her piece together words to figure out what’s happening. It’s quite an exciting transformation – very rewarding for both of us.”
How Training Can Help Build Trust & Confidence
In the early stages, Mercy was Eric’s shadow following him everywhere he went. In order to help build her confidence and trust and convince her that she wasn’t going to be abandoned, Eric began basic training. They started with a “stay” command, which eventually grew into playful games of hide and seek. Her speed was immediately obvious, and to Eric’s surprise she would jump 3 foot high counters when ‘smelling’ him out.
“Having used a clicker to teach her simple commands, Mercy was an eager learner. As soon as I picked up the clicker, she would bark and get excited as she tried to find out what she’d be learning each day. I set aside a quiet room, free from distractions and would spend 5-10 minutes a day teaching her the building blocks of a new skill. It was great for her mind, excellent for our bond and a wonderful use of her energy.
Mercy was so happy in our home that she was eager to follow any rules – she just needed to be taught. If a dog is having trouble, build on what they know; slowly scaffold their knowledge to where they need to get to. Mercy had very little training when I got her, but praise and security helped her immensely.
One tip I learned to help shy dogs is to show interest and curiosity in things yourself. It sounds silly, but when Mercy cowered at the vacuum, I turned it off, put it in the middle of the floor and sniffed at it myself. Sure enough, she came right over and smelled it too. Problem solved. She watches everything and takes cues from me. Gradually she has developed her own confidence and now doesn’t fear new settings or situations. I don’t think of dogs as grateful, but she clearly appreciates her new situation.”
Eric’s Training Principles:
1) Keep it fun: 5-10 minutes, treats and praise. Maybe a half dozen repetitions.
2) Build on what she already knows: If I ask her to do too much, too soon then it would just confuse or stress her out.
3) Start with the most basic skill to ensure success and add complexity as she masters it. I’m a teacher in my career, so I was pretty good at identifying what she already knew and finding a way to build upon it, in small manageable steps.
The Woofstock Win
What’s the secret behind this rescue dog’s win at Woofstock’s Trick Contest? Eric says a few pieces of her favourite treat (chicken hotdog) always helps to motivate her.
“I hope that the judges saw how excited she was. My challenge isn’t to get her to listen or execute a trick, it’s just to get her to manage her enthusiasm! Mercy always knows what to do. I just want her to have a good time and represent for all the great rescue dogs out there. As for winning at Woofstock, it was pretty special to have people appreciate her, despite her humble beginnings. I already think she’s the best, but it’s neat that she got recognized.”
“Stability and lots of love had made her a confident little pup.”- Eric
Rescue dogs are great. Don’t believe negative stereotypes. Mercy is kind, not troublesome. Mercy is intelligent, not wild. Mercy is loving and happy, not ‘emotionally damaged’.
When volunteering at the shelter I met so many great animals – I wanted to take them all. Adding a pet should be a blessing for both of you; if you need a companion why not pick one that desperately needs you too? Only a rescue dog can truly know how lucky they are to have a stable, happy home. With so many dogs out there looking for their ‘happily ever after’, how could you not help a rescue?
Train Your Dog To Shoot Hoops Like Mercy
After seeing her physical strength and proficiency through play, Eric wanted to share his love of basketball with Mercy.
“It took me several weeks just to teach her to “fetch”, (clearly not a game she had played before…she didn’t seem to have many typical dog experiences prior to her rescue). Once she’d mastered that, I taught her to drop the toy in front of me. The next week there was a hoop beside my feet. Then it was just a matter of raising the hoop higher and higher to dunk.”
Rescue Round-Up @ Woofstock
It was great to see so many different rescue groups come out to the event to help spread awareness. Many of them we have worked with in the past so it was great catching up.
Did you know millions of pets go into Rescue or Shelters each year in north America and sadly, too many still get euthanized. Help us share the message that rescues aren’t broken, they can learn and they can change lives. They often end up rescuing their adopted humans by giving unconditional love and loyalty and making life more fun.
If you are considering adopting a dog, visit one of the rescues listed below, Pet Finder .com or check local Shelters and Humane Societies. If you are not ready to adopt, consider fostering, donating, sponsoring or volunteering.
Kilo the Pug (from Homeward Bound Rescue) will be celebrating Pugoween at the PugALug Pug Rescue fundraiser on Sunday.
#RescueDogsRock & #AdoptDontShop
I bought a little Santa suit for Kilo LOL.