Danielle Chenery discovers how a nervous little pug puppy became Insta-famous and learned to conquer his fear of humans.
Homer can thank his human parents’ desire to become more active for his Insta-fame. His human mum Mei Chandra first made the decision to adopt a dog so she would have a reason to exercise. “We were a bunch of lazy couch potatoes. We wanted to bring a dog into our family to help us be more active.”
Since Mei and her partner both work full time, the demands of a puppy would have been too difficult for the couple to meet, so they decided to look for an adult dog that needed a loving home.
“We wanted to rehome from a breeder because these dogs also deserved a loving home,” Mei explains. She was even keen to take in a retired breeding dog or a pooch that had been left behind because it hadn’t quite made the cut to become a show dog.
“We searched high and low,” she recalls. “For weeks and weeks we called breeders and also sent out emails because, believe me, being able to provide for dogs is not enough. Breeders are really picky about who rehomes their dogs and couples that work full time are deemed ‘not good enough’,” says Mei.
All up, Mei ended up calling almost 20 breeders, to no avail. They either deemed Mei unsuitable or they simply didn’t have any dogs available.
“But lucky last, I called the final number on my list and the lady that took the call said she had adult dogs available! She sent some photos and we arranged meet up.”
The signs that there was more to Homer than met the eye were immediately apparent. “When we first met Homer, he shied away from us, but being a first-time dog owner we didn’t think much of it. The breeder just said that he was simply shy and took time to warm up. We decided to give him a home — it seemed like a dream come true.”
But as soon as Homer got to his new home, his parents knew something wasn’t quite right. “He was so fearful of everything. Every little weird noise would send him running to cower in the corner — the horrible sound a bag of chips makes, the sound when you accidentally bang a pan on the stove or table when cooking, squeaking noises, the vacuum, etc. One time he even pooed and peed on the spot when I turned on the vacuum.”
Two weeks later, the problem was not getting any better. Homer began barking at strangers — both human and fellow dogs — while out on his walks.
“He wasn’t potty trained either. One time we were playing on the floor with a soft toy and he literally peed in front of me when the toy was still in his mouth!” Mei and her partner had a challenge on their hands.
“After realising what his problems were, I started to crate train him,” Mei explains. “I wanted the crate to be his ‘safe place’ so if anything scared him, he could go there and know that it is safe. It also helps with toilet training problems.”
Mei also called in a dog behaviourist and started taking Homer to basic obedience classes run by the RSPCA. “My dog behaviourist gave me a comprehensive analysis of what might cause Homer to behave this way and what could be done. She also taught me a way to desensitise him towards strangers.
“On his very first obedience class, we were standing literally a few metres away from the circle of the group. However, as we progressed from class to class, and thanks to our efforts to desensitise him, we eventually moved closer and closer to the group. Now, we can finally stand in the circle,” she says.
It turned out Homer was not scared of dogs at all — he loves them. He was scared of humans and he has come a long way from his first, fearful beginnings. “He will come to you if you give him treats,” says Mei, “However, he still doesn’t accept pats (except a few sneaky ones).” Mei also likes to remind dog lovers that force-patting fearful dogs actually hinders their daily training regime. “Luckily, even though he’s scared, he’s always preferred to run away rather than attacking/biting. He’s such a gentle little guy.”
So chuffed was Mei with her new family member she began uploading his images on social media. “When I first got him, I was so obsessed with taking photos of him and posting them on my own Instagram account that a few of my Instagram friends suggested I convert my username to his name. And so I did.” You can now find Homer on Instagram, Vine, and Facebook: @HomerPugalicious.
“I am actually not too sure what the secret to Homer’s [social media] success is. I guess take lots of photos and have fun with your dog and don’t force it to do anything it doesn’t want to do.”
Mei’s general advice to other adoptive parents is simple: persevere. “Having a dog is hard work and you should always be prepared to put effort into training. Getting a dog or puppy shouldn’t be taken for granted. Dogs entrust their life to us and we shouldn’t take that lightly. Put effort in and don’t simply give them up because they have problems.”
Mei says the best part of having Homer in her life is coming home to him each day. “Every single day he is so happy to see us — all my problems just melt away. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. The not-so-great part is that I wish he was a ‘normal’ dog. Lots of people on the street want to pat him, but I know he’s just not that kind of pug. But I have no regrets. He is the best birthday present that I have ever received.”
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