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Animal Welfare Awards dogs

Rescue dog who was terrified of the world earns his Good Citizen bronze award

A dog who was so scared of the outside world that he’d be left ‘shaking and whining’ has earned his Kennel Club Good Citizen bronze award after almost 18 months of hard work and dedication by his adopters.

Lorraine* and her family, from near Swaffham in Norfolk, adopted four-year-old Shar Pei Major in August 2019 from RSPCA Norfolk & Mid Suffolk branch

She said: “We’d been looking for a friend for our eight-year-old Staffie, Kizzy, who we adopted in 2017 from RSPCA Block Fen. Our son found a photo of Major online; his eyes were full of love. We introduced him to Kizzy and the rest of the family and knew he’d be coming home with us!”

Major had been found abandoned, starving and suffering from a skin condition when he was taken in by the RSPCA. He’d been left traumatised by his previous life experiences and staff at the branch knew he’d need a committed owner to help him learn that the world wasn’t such a scary place.

Lorraine said: “As soon as we put him in the car on the way home he was worried. When we walked in the house he went straight to the water bowl and drank until it was all gone. Even now, he will drink the last dregs like he’s worried that it’ll never be full again. He found a bed, curled up in a tight ball and watched. 

“The toys in the toy box didn’t get a second look. He hated being left alone and would eat the skirting boards, doors and furniture. Going out for a walk on the lead was almost impossible; he would lunge, bark and react at everything. He was always on high alert, unable to relax. He’s the most nervous and complicated dog we’d ever had so we contacted a behaviourist for help.”

The family slowly started to introduce Major to the world, slowly adding new experiences and using lots of treats and positive reinforcement. 

“Anything new would leave him shaking, pawing and whining,” Lorraine added. “I joined an online group where we taught the dogs different concepts using games and Major loved it. The pressure was off and it became fun to catch food or find treats using his nose. He was starting to make tiny improvements.”

Lorraine started taking Major along to a local training group and he began to enjoy his weekly visits. 

“When lockdown hit we continued playing games at home and working on going for walks,” Lorraine added. “We’d sit in random places to watch the world go by and practice staying calm. Major would wear his yellow ‘Give Me Space’ jacket to help other people keep their distance. 

“When we returned to training classes outside in a new venue, it was mind-blowing for Major and stressful for me! But, with support and patience, Major’s confidence started to grow again and we were all so incredibly proud of him when he passed his Kennel Club Good Citizen Scheme course and received his bronze award in April 2021.

“We’ve been through so much together and now have such a lovely bond. I’ve learned so much from Major and, I hope, we’ve helped him to come out of his shell and find a happier life.

“We’ve introduced him to the beach and the forest, he’s enjoyed Christmas with the family and we’re even trying man-trailing. His confidence grows daily. We still have wobbles; a door that bangs in the wind will leave him shaking for days and he’s very picky over his furry friends, but we hope we can help him continue to progress. 

“He and Kizzy are the best of friends. They love to cuddle up together and she has taught him so much about how to play and enjoy being a dog. It’s a joy to see.”

To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care, please visit our website or call our donation line on 0300 123 8181.

To help RSPCA Norfolk & Mid Suffolk branch continue helping dogs like Major, please visit www.rspcanorwich.org.uk/donate to donate.