I’m Nihal, founder of Rescue Tails and the beautiful Podenco-Lab mix in the photo with me is my rescue dog, Rosa.
I created Rescue Tails to help first time adopters settle their rescue dogs. When I first brought Rosa home, she was scared of pretty much everything. She spent the first few days sleeping in a corner by the front door because she was too afraid to come inside.
I struggled to find resources specifically dedicated to helping first time adopters settle a rescue dog.
So started to do some research. I spoke to behaviourists and trainers who specialise in working with rescue dogs. I read books about dog psychology and took courses on dog behaviour.
My aim was to learn as much as possible so I could give Rosa the support she needed to really feel like she was at her forever home.
Then it dawned on me that there are probably a lot of people in my shoes and would benefit from the knowledge. So I decided to share what I learnt and Rescue Tails was born!
Rosa was found in a field with her puppies. She was a stray and I’m not sure she ever had a real home. Like many rescue dogs, I'm sure she's been through some sort of trauma.
When I first brought Rosa home she was so scared of everything - buildings, doors, people, dogs, cars - you name it.
I knew she would need time to settle but I didn’t expect such paralysing fear.
She slept by the front door for the first few days. This is very typical of rescue dogs when they're first brought home. Often they will hide somewhere for days or weeks. It takes a lot of patience and very gentle encouragement to get them to start exploring.
They'll do this in their own time so it's really important to give them the space to do this.
It took rosa a few days to feel comfortable enough to come into the living room.
Once we'd settled in that first couple of days I thought i'd to take her for a walk. I quickly found out that it was easier said than done.
She was scared of doors and the hallway. We live on the 9th floor and have to walk through a hallway to get to the elevator. She would just stand at the front door and freeze.
That is her natural defence reflex when she is scared.
So everyday several times a day I would walk outside the flat and just sit in the hallway. I’d let her take her time to come towards me. I tried treats to encourage her but she was too scared to eat. She would take one extra step a day and some days she refused more than a peak outside the front door. We did this for more than a week.
If I'm honest, I had started to lose hope after days of repeating the same exercise with very little progress.
Then one day she just followed me to the elevator. It was as if she’d decided she trusted me . It was such an amazing moment.
That was the first and most important lesson Rosa taught me: trust needs to be earned.
However, my enthusiasm didn't last long. When we got outside I realised we had another problem. She was scared of other dogs and if one got too close she would growl and try to bite.
A lot of the time fear is what drives aggressive behaviour which is why it's so important to focus on addressing the underlying emotion not just the behaviour.
I worked on slowly socialising Rosa with other dogs and over the weeks she became more confident and less sensitive about being around dogs. Now she absolutely loves playing with other dogs!
We've had to work through many challenges over the months and I've learned so much about the importance of patience, space and the emotional support Rosa needs.
Seeing her transformation has been so rewarding! She now knows she’s at her forever home. We've also built the most incredible bond and I know she is my lifelong companion and she knows that I am her person.
When I think back to those early days when her head was always low, eyes down, tail tucked and compare her to the dog she is today, she’s unrecognisable. She is just a happy, joyful dog who loves people, dogs and she even loves the car now!