Thanksgiving in Charleston with my fearful pup in an apartment filled with 5 people and another dog (Ember’s cousin, Kairo) went amazingly well, if not just a hair hyperactive for all involved. Ember warmed up to every man in the family and would flitter from person to person wanting that ever-loved touch. There was one fight between the dogs because Kairo decided to attempt dominance, and Ember was having none of that. But overall, it was a great time!
Now that we are home again, comfortable is comfortable. And boundaries are being pushed.
My once non-confident, run-to-mom-cause-she-will-
Diva. Very good word for it. Lets throw a full blown flop-over-and-cry temper our second time at the dog park because I decided I didn’t need mom or her recall and she collared me for it. And then after, when my time-out was over, let me wander up nearly fearless to any and every stranger that wants to say hi – as long as they have a dog close by.
Ember is testing everything I thought I knew – no, spent months studying – about dog training. I swore I would NEVER flood my fearful dog. I refused to break her spirit, to turn her into a melted puddle of black and white.
Guess what is the biggest get-over-fear technique she responds to?
Flooding and force.
How did we overcome the fear of the harness? Grab the dog in a full body hug and hold her until she completely quits fighting. Slip on harness without an ounce of struggle – then prance out the door all wags and dance like nothing happened. No more harness issues. She gets super excited when I pull it out now and sits for me to put it on her. She realized it meant outdoor time in that one moment. For that matter, no more collar or hand issues between me and Daniel (still shy around strangers – but I actually prefer this; no one needs to touch my dog without my permission, and she looks to me to get that permission and then she is fine with touch).
How are we handling leash-pulling and charging other dogs (even thought it is only play)? This is my least favorite. Hold the leash as short as possible so she is forced to stand at my heel until she quits flailing like a cat on a leash. When Ember finally looks at me, when she finally realizes that I am the source of all she wants, I tell her to sit. She will fight that a moment or 10, and once she finally does – lots of love and the leash gets lengthened or removed.
If there is a better way, please let me know >_<. Treats do not work outdoors. I have done a thousand hours of research on dog thresholds and triggers, and even though she is far from fearful outside, she instantly hits hyper-vigilant (wants to take in EVERYTHING for minutes at a time) and refuses any and all types of food. She will walk happily and roll over for belly rubs and great strangers with perfect happy-pup posture, but she simply will not take food. I can only assume that this hyper vigilance crosses her thresh-hold and it happens without fail outdoors.
Training is an entirely different issue. Because I am so opposed to the techniques that I have been forced to use with her outside, I try to make her indoor training time as enjoyable as possible, all love and smiles and giggles and more love. Where she was super excited to get food at one point and do anything for it (indoors only, of course), now she is choosy. I feed her 1 bowl of food a day, in the morning, since she still doesn’t have an appetite (she eats about half a cup of food a day, slowly growing as we burn more energy day after day). This helps with her being hungrier in the later part of the day, but after only 2 or three minutes of learning time, she walks off and goes to bed. If she doesn’t want to do a trick, she rolls over like I’m about to hit her – and if I ask a second time, she gets up and walks off. I am having a heck of a time trying to keep her interest and I fear that the time spent at the dog park taught her that she didn’t HAVE to do what I wanted.
I am happy to say that all these struggles have not hurt the bond between us – in fact, it is growing stronger every day. What once was mistrust and fear is now simply stubbornness and disinterest. She will NOT play with Kong food toys, does nothing to keep her mind entertained indoors. Does not act out or try to find ways to play indoors. My only indoor-complaint I have now is that she is all too willing to put herself to bed if we are not directly interacting with her. She does not lay around us, does not “hang out”.
List of learned tricks over the past two weeks:
Sit (the go-to for anything she wants)
To me (recall, worked until the dog park incident)
High five (1 hand)
High five (2 hands, taps both hands with 1 paw)
Touch (targeting with paw, working on getting her to touch the container that has the treat she wants)