I’ve met the anxiety ridden dog everyone told me about. I can see how someone adopting her, thinking that an adult dog doesn’t require the amount of attention a puppy does would be overwhelmed.
Of course I am not swayed by any of that. In me Colorado has found the most stalwart of friends.
I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading on dealing with dogs, especially ones with “behaviour problems”. Patience is a must, but you must also be aware of your own feelings and emotions. I have a developed an every morphing set of rules to help Colorado settle in and be the happy dog I know she can be.
Rule #1: Love her openly and unconditionally.
Rule #2: Never yell, never hit, never let her see your frustration. If you have to, walk away, leave, whatever. She’ll still be there when you return.
Rule #3: Crying, stressed dogs get ignored. Calm dogs get adored.
This might sound cruel but look at it this way. Have you ever been on a plane experiencing rough turbulence? If you have you may have had the presence of mind to see that many passengers watch the cabin crew and take their emotional ques from them.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that as a medic I had a pretty relaxed attitude. This was invaluable during emergencies.
The reason for this is that people look to the experts. If they are calm then there’s no reason to panic or worry.
So Colorado sees that her human is so not-worried that he doesn’t even notice her raising the alarm, so everything must be cool.
She has never had any of stress attacks last more than 30 seconds. (except when out for walks, but we’ll talk about that)
A very important part of this is to not feel sorry for her. Again, on the face of it this might seem cruel. Here’s the thing. Dog’s can key into human emotion. I read an article talking about how it is like one of our 5 senses. If you feel sorry for her, she’ll sense it. If you feel sorry for her, then there must be something going on where you need to feel sorry for her, so she gets stressed. Its a circular thing. The key here is empathize, don’t sympathize. (understand that she’s stressed but don’t buy into it).
This is very hard for me. Cruelty, especially to animals makes me angry. When I see my lovely, adorable dog acting out due to some past trauma I want to see red. But I cannot.
Rule #4: I (the human) am the alpha. the pack-leader, the Boss. This is a fairly easy role for me, but dogs are different. Little things to us are big things to them. I will never let her in or out ahead of me. She’s getting really good at this to the point where I don’t make her sit before opening the door. If she bolts ahead of me though I pull her back and make her sit.
This was actually the easiest thing to teach her.
So, Saturday morning I met the stress-dog. I took her out for her morning walk. Up to Downie Street which can be fairly busy and back down Norfolk. I should’ve known to turn back when she started acting out but I didn’t (live and learn). There’s wasn’t much going on, except to Colorado who wanted to be be everywhere and see everything. I could feel the frustration growing in her and couldn’t get her to calm down.
I finally got her home, she was freaking out during the last hundred yards or so. I stayed calm as I tried to calm her. I couldn’t get her to settle, but I observed and learned.
I got her in the house, unclipped her lead and walked away instead of giving her a cookie like I usually do. She followed me, whining but within a minute or two settled down. I gave her a cookie and praised her and it was a happy, excited dog who ran to the couch with her prize (turning around twice to make sure I was following).
This is her less than an hour after that meltdown…
The weekend was a bit of a roller coaster for her, but I have the rules in place.
Saturday we spent a lot of time in the back yard throwing around her ball and frisbee.
Saturday night I managed a short walk with her before she started getting anxious. I turned around right away.
The Sunday morning walk was worse. I made it half a block before she went ballistic over other dogs. So I brought her back and once again calmed her down.
Sunday afternoon I had her out in the backyard with a harness I’d bought for the car, just to try it out. I noticed that when she ran the length of the training leash, and pulled taut that she immediately came back to me. I made note of that. I took her out a few times and played with her in the front yard to get her used to the street and the sights and sounds.
Sunday night’s walk was a success! We went farther than ever and she was well behaved for most of the trip!
Monday she was too wound up for our nightly walk. It was bitterly cold and it only last 20 minutes and went for a block…..most of it was “Colorado-sit!”, and being ignored. I noticed that as we approached the house that she started behaving so I turned off to take her around the block and she immediately started acting out again.
It was pretty exasperating, but shortly after we got home she jumped up on the couch and gave me a kiss…so it was all good 🙂
Tuesday I spent most of my time with her. Playing and observing, trying to get into her head. I got her a tie-out so I could put her outside on her own before walks so she could run off any excess energy.
That didn’t work at all. Last night she knew it was time for her walk. I put her out while I got my coat on and turned around to see her jumping at the door. I dressed quickly and grabbed her green leash (which she knows is her “going for a walk” leash). She saw that and lost all interest in frisbees and balls.
So, praying for the best, I clipped her green leash on and headed out. We went 5 or 6 blocks and she was pretty good. I tried a different tactic when she started acting out. Instead of stopping, I pulled her in beside me (she actually knows “heel”) and walked faster only letting her wander away from me when she was well behaved.
Worked like a charm! I was exhausted though 🙂 By nature I’m an ambler. I don’t walk fast but I had Colorado almost at a jog for a fair distance.
When we got home she was keyed up! Happy, playful and bouncing around. I groaning inside (as it was 12:45am). But, when I went to bed and turned the light off she plunked herself down beside me and went to sleep!
This morning I only had time for a 2 block walk as I had to get to work.
So yeah, things are working out just fine 🙂
I have pictures and video but they’re on my computer at home. I wanted to finish this and post 🙂