A Fearful Dog Gets the Gift of Courage From OHS Trainers

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How OHS’s Behavior Modification Program helped a fearful dog blossom.

Jarvis when he first arrived at OHS.

Right now, you can make an even bigger impact for pets like Jarvis! Through December 31, your donation will be doubled up to $50,000, thanks to a year-end matching challenge from the Willard L. and Ruth P. Eccles Foundation. Donate now.

Sometimes progress is measured in the smallest of baby steps. This is especially true for a petite dog named Jarvis.

He came to the Oregon Humane Society from a shelter in Fresno, California through the Second Chance program. When he arrived after the long journey, he was terrified. It was understandable that the trip may have been scary. After all, Jarvis didn’t know he was on the road to a new life. While most dogs adjust to their new surroundings after a day or two, Jarvis struggled. When staff tried to interact with him, he would tremble and hide. He was unable to walk on leash and would panic if anyone tried to pick him up. He spent time in the Placement Prep program to help him overcome his fears, but after almost a week it was clear that Jarvis needed something more.

“We are constantly triaging animals’ behavior,” says Tanya Roberts, OHS Training & Behavior Manager. “Every pet is different so we monitor each one closely to determine the best course of action. In Jarvis’s case, we decided to make him part of the Behavior Modification, or B-Mod, program since he needed extra help. Because he was a stray, we didn’t know anything about his background and early socialization.”

Jarvis proudly displays his courage.

The OHS Training & Behavior team went to work and created a plan for Jarvis. They started by developing a relationship with Jarvis – using food and playtime with other dogs to build trust. Eventually they were able to pair treats with gentle handling.

“The hardest step is zero to one,” says Tanya. “You have to be extremely patient with fearful dogs and understand that being careful now will help them in the long term. It’s important to accept that in the beginning you have to carefully balance what you could do, with what you should do. What is normal for most pets is giant progress for a dog like Jarvis.”

Tanya and her team noticed that Jarvis enjoyed being around other dogs. To help him feel comfortable on leash, the team would carry him to a quiet spot and then encourage him to walk by having him follow a “helper dog.”

Jarvis spent two months in the B-Mod program and now walks on a leash like a champ, loves to play with toys and enjoys running around with other small dogs. He’s even gotten brave enough to climb on agility equipment.

Thanks to generous donors, 21 dogs have “graduated” from the B-Mod program in 2019. Fearful dogs like Jarvis get the expert training they need to blossom and transform.


“When we look back at Jarvis’s behavior when he arrived at OHS, his progress is really extraordinary,” adds Tanya. “We are excited for him to start his next chapter in a forever home.

Jarvis is looking for a quiet, adult-only home with another small dog and a fully-fenced yard. Learn more about Jarvis.

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