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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We have had dogs for all 48 years of our marriage. Our most recent were these three: a 19 year old shih tzu, a 9 year old shih tzu and a 9 year old? puppy mill rescue havanese. The 19 year old recently went to the bridge. We then rescued a 1 year old poodle mix, Louie. He bit me on our first meeting. I thought, "I am ready for a challenge." Our other dogs are registered therapy dogs and I had hopes of a huge commitment for this one, but I am faltering and thinking I have bitten off too much. We started Canine Good Citizen. I know he won't pass, but I know the training will benefit him. We have had him 2 months. He had to be pulled aside during the first class for his aggression. He was literally walking on 2 feet trying to bite owners and dogs. I got some great advice, baby steps...take him to a park and just work with him on self restraint. I bought a muzzle and am working with him getting used to it. In four consecutive days, he has made NO progress at all. He continues barking and lunging at anyone even if they aren't close. Is there any hope here? I am so discouraged.
 

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Welcome! Sorry you're here under such distressing circumstances. Unfortunately from what you describe, this is likely a long-term project - longer than two months, definitely longer than four days.

How bad was the bite? Did he break skin? Do you know if he's actually aggressive? Scared? Frustrated? What type of training are you doing in your class? Have you worked with a trainer outside your CGC class?

I think both of you would benefit from individualized assistance. A force-free, rewards-based trainer or behavior consultant with experience working with aggressive dogs would be able to customize a plan for you. You want someone who uses humane, science-based methods, rather than punishment or a pack-structure approach.

What exactly have you done with him? You said, "I got some great advice, baby steps...take him to a park and just work with him on self restraint. I bought a muzzle and am working with him getting used to it." Can you expand on that?

There's good info here: http://www.dogforums.com/dog-training-forum/191506-links-books-blogs-etc.html

Once you're able, post in the Training section where you'll get more responses.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks so much for your reply! I have been busy printing information from the links in this forum! We are going camping for a few days and I plan to study study study. The class (of about 15 teams) was walking in a circle, working on "heel" and "sit". I do think in order for him to be able to calm down he needs to learn these things. Do you agree? He becomes so crazy that it's difficult to redirect him. At the park I have been told to ignore his growling for now and just work on him staying in place (not lunging) with a slight tug on his collar. That part is going well. Walking him in the park is not going well. AND I just watched a video on getting your dog used to a muzzle and I have done some things right, but still need to work on this for him. When he bit me he didn't break the skin. I originally thought he was a fear based dog, but now I think he is just aggressive. My other 2 dogs are registered therapy dogs, and I know the trainer from this group. She is completely humane and praise based. I agree - he is probably not a candidate for CGC at this time and I will need to find someone to help me individually. We live in a small town, so I may end up learning from the "book" I am assembling from the online sources I have found through this great group.
 

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My comments in bold below.

Thanks so much for your reply! I have been busy printing information from the links in this forum! We are going camping for a few days and I plan to study study study. Yes!!! Learning is always good. The more you understand how dogs work, the more success you'll have.

The class (of about 15 teams) was walking in a circle, working on "heel" and "sit". How exactly were you doing that? How did you teach heel and sit? How close together are the dogs?

I do think in order for him to be able to calm down he needs to learn these things. Do you agree? He becomes so crazy that it's difficult to redirect him. I agree that he does need to learn and respond to basic cues, but how those cues are taught is important. Is he "crazy" in class? Given what you've said and that there are 15 teams in your class, it doesn't sound as though it's a great environment for him. If he's going crazy - or even just too stressed by the environment - he's not going to learn. And any time he's crazy, he's practicing unwanted behaviors. If he's not having a positive time while training, things will be more difficult overall.

At the park I have been told to ignore his growling for now and just work on him staying in place (not lunging) with a slight tug on his collar. That part is going well. Ideally, you and he should be far enough away from other dogs that he's not growling or lunging. You want to work with him while he's aware of the other dogs, but not reacting. You also want other dogs to mean good things - and a tug on the collar is usually not a good thing to the dog. Many people pair the presence of other dogs with high value food, favorite toys, or games.

Walking him in the park is not going well. How isn't it going well? What are you doing? What is he doing?

AND I just watched a video on getting your dog used to a muzzle and I have done some things right, but still need to work on this for him. The Muzzle Up Project is a good resource (I think it's included in the reactive dog thread).

When he bit me he didn't break the skin. That's good.

I originally thought he was a fear based dog, but now I think he is just aggressive. Can you get a video? I have a friendly, but over-the-top excited dog who I thought was aggressive until several knowledgeable folks (including an expert in canine aggression) told me she was fine. My other dog is fearful and if I didn't know his overall temperament, I'd think he was aggressive. He absolutely could be / is fear aggressive, but that's somewhat different from straight aggression.

My other 2 dogs are registered therapy dogs, and I know the trainer from this group. She is completely humane and praise based. What type of reinforcement do you use other than praise? Many dogs don't care about praise - especially if they're somewhat aroused anyway. What techniques are you using to train new behaviors?

I agree - he is probably not a candidate for CGC at this time and I will need to find someone to help me individually. We live in a small town, so I may end up learning from the "book" I am assembling from the online sources I have found through this great group. There are behavior consultants who do skype sessions for folks who are too far to meet with anyone in person.
What is his behavior like at home? Is he reactive to people or just dogs?

There are a few older threads you might find helpful. I'll see if I find them for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks so much for your reply! I have been busy printing information from the links in this forum! We are going camping for a few days and I plan to study study study. Yes!!! Learning is always good. The more you understand how dogs work, the more success you'll have.

The class (of about 15 teams) was walking in a circle, working on "heel" and "sit". How exactly were you doing that? How did you teach heel and sit? How close together are the dogs?

We are doing 3 10 minute sessions each day. I am starting out in the garage because he is so easily distracted outside. I am using the only treat he responds to...hot dog bits. I found a dehydrator and made a zillion. I stop, say Louis sit. He usually does this, and gets a treat and a good boy! if he does. If he doesn't, I push his butt down. I'm not having as much success with stay. I am giving him treats if he will stay just for 45 seconds or so. I don't move away from him at this point.

I do think in order for him to be able to calm down he needs to learn these things. Do you agree? He becomes so crazy that it's difficult to redirect him. I agree that he does need to learn and respond to basic cues, but how those cues are taught is important. Is he "crazy" in class? Given what you've said and that there are 15 teams in your class, it doesn't sound as though it's a great environment for him. If he's going crazy - or even just too stressed by the environment - he's not going to learn. And any time he's crazy, he's practicing unwanted behaviors. If he's not having a positive time while training, things will be more difficult overall.

At the park I have been told to ignore his growling for now and just work on him staying in place (not lunging) with a slight tug on his collar. That part is going well. Ideally, you and he should be far enough away from other dogs that he's not growling or lunging. You want to work with him while he's aware of the other dogs, but not reacting. You also want other dogs to mean good things - and a tug on the collar is usually not a good thing to the dog. Many people pair the presence of other dogs with high value food, favorite toys, or games.

Walking him in the park is not going well. How isn't it going well? What are you doing? What is he doing?

I am saying look at me - if he does, giving a treat, trying to encourage him to stay next to me. He is SO easily distracted. He reminds me of one of my kids!

AND I just watched a video on getting your dog used to a muzzle and I have done some things right, but still need to work on this for him. The Muzzle Up Project is a good resource (I think it's included in the reactive dog thread).

When he bit me he didn't break the skin. That's good.

I originally thought he was a fear based dog, but now I think he is just aggressive. Can you get a video? I have a friendly, but over-the-top excited dog who I thought was aggressive until several knowledgeable folks (including an expert in canine aggression) told me she was fine. My other dog is fearful and if I didn't know his overall temperament, I'd think he was aggressive. He absolutely could be / is fear aggressive, but that's somewhat different from straight aggression.

I have class again tomorrow morning. My husband will come and video some of it. He is not just acting excited.

My other 2 dogs are registered therapy dogs, and I know the trainer from this group. She is completely humane and praise based. What type of reinforcement do you use other than praise? Many dogs don't care about praise - especially if they're somewhat aroused anyway. What techniques are you using to train new behaviors?

I agree - he is probably not a candidate for CGC at this time and I will need to find someone to help me individually. We live in a small town, so I may end up learning from the "book" I am assembling from the online sources I have found through this great group. There are behavior consultants who do skype sessions for folks who are too far to meet with anyone in person.

I will be talking to the instructor again tomorrow and see what she thinks. I would be happy to skype with a behaviorist. I was talking to a friend of mine and she gave me the name of a behaviorist here in Lake Havasu. I will look into that. While we were camping I took your suggestion and found a park bench quite a distance from a dog park. I had a fist full of treats for him, if he had been calm for a minute or two, but he wasn't. As we walked away he was growling and spinning. Yikes. My husband is not as on board with this guy and says if he doesn't show real improvement in 6 months, we may need to look into placing him in a rescue. The thought of this really worries me.
 

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Again, comments in bold and edited for clarity and length.

Also, I couldn't find the old threads I was thinking of, but these two are worth reading: http://www.dogforums.com/general-dog-forum/422457-medicating-molly.html and http://www.dogforums.com/general-dog-forum/444617-reactive-dog-owners.html


We are doing 3 10 minute sessions each day. I am starting out in the garage because he is so easily distracted outside. I am using the only treat he responds to...hot dog bits. I found a dehydrator and made a zillion. I stop, say Louis sit. He usually does this, and gets a treat and a good boy! if he does. If he doesn't, I push his butt down. I'm not having as much success with stay. I am giving him treats if he will stay just for 45 seconds or so. I don't move away from him at this point.

Two things. It sounds like you're using more traditional, compulsion-based training methods. That's very likely to be counterproductive. I encourage you to learn about rewards-based, force-free methods. Pat Miller's The Power of Positive Dog Training and Sophia Yin's How to Behave so Your Dog Behaves are good intro texts. Kikopup and Donna Hill are trainers with excellent youtube channels.

Second, if you're just starting stay or if you're not having success, expecting / waiting for 45 seconds is far, far too much. Start with two seconds, five seconds. You want to set him up for success and build a strong reinforcement history for the behavior before making it more difficult.


I am saying look at me - if he does, giving a treat, trying to encourage him to stay next to me. He is SO easily distracted. He reminds me of one of my kids!

Have you taught "look at me" as a cue? Does he ever offer attention? What is he distracted by? It's possible that as your training progresses you can use those distractions as reinforcers.

I have class again tomorrow morning. My husband will come and video some of it. He is not just acting excited.

Looking forward to seeing the video.

I will be talking to the instructor again tomorrow and see what she thinks. I would be happy to skype with a behaviorist. I was talking to a friend of mine and she gave me the name of a behaviorist here in Lake Havasu. I will look into that. While we were camping I took your suggestion and found a park bench quite a distance from a dog park. I had a fist full of treats for him, if he had been calm for a minute or two, but he wasn't. As we walked away he was growling and spinning. Yikes. My husband is not as on board with this guy and says if he doesn't show real improvement in 6 months, we may need to look into placing him in a rescue. The thought of this really worries me.

If he can't be calm, you're too close. Was he reacting to the other dogs or something else? Again, if you're expecting a minute or two of calm before you reinforce, you're expecting too much. Any brief instant should be reinforced, but ideally he shouldn't be reacting.

Were you just sitting on the bench watching? If so, I would do straight counter-conditioning - dog sees other dogs, he gets treats. He doesn't need to do anything other than see the dogs. These are good videos that explain the process: https://drsophiayin.com/videos/entry/counter-conditioning_a_dog_to_blowing_in_face/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7Z8befoelw

Alternatively, you can hang out at a distance far enough away from the other dogs that he doesn't react and just engage with him. Make other dogs a non-issue. This thread has a long discussion about that: http://www.dogforums.com/dog-training-forum/377897-controlled-exposure-other-dogs.html

Make sure the behaviorist you consult with uses force-free methods and does not use dominance or rank explanations for your dog's behavior.

Obviously I hope that things work out between you and your pup, but if they don't and you're not obligated to return him to whomever you adopted him from, I can give you the contact info for the national poodle rescue foundation. They'll do what's best for him.
 

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Some general thoughts--

First, a dog that "bites" but doesn't break skin is showing bite inhibition which indicates he doesn't want to cause harm but he wants to strongly communicate that whatever was happening at that moment is not OK by him. So you listen and figure out what is OK, what isn't OK, and then work to counter condition that stuff that isn't OK at the moment. It is serious yes, but it is also a dog you can likely work with and change the mindset so there isn't the "need" to lash out.

Lots of good advice so far. Most dogs IMO take 4-6 months to settle into a home even if they did not come from a place of stress or trauma. He might not be ready for visiting the park during normal busy hours, he might need time in non-dog, non-people areas to gain his confidence in you. Ideas for that might be public school or college property after class hours, sidewalks in a city or town center after businesses are closed (harder this time of year due to dark), or other generally disused public space in your town.

Consider mixing up the treats for rewards. Make a trail mix of kibble and hot dogs, dried chicken, etc, in a baggie. Shake and distribute so that the varying reward level peaks interest but isn't dull enough to drop interest totally.

Start short in terms of reaction times. 3 Mississippi's, then 5, then 10, then 15. Not 45 or 60 to start with on a new behavior or new situation. A minute of calm is LOT to ask from a reactive dog in the beginning.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I can't tell you how much I appreciate the information and such helpful tips. As I said in the beginning, we have never had a behavior issue with a dog to this extent and it's so hard for me to understand. I like the idea of going to a public place when it is not occupied, I think if I go early enough, I should be safe in one of our parks. Tomorrow morning is our 2nd Canine Good Citizen class. My husband will video Louie. I know it won't be pretty, but at least you will be able to see what is happening and maybe give me more direct advice. He is SO sweet here at home. I do feel like he lacks confidence which is why I wanted to take this class in the first place, but I don't think he is ready.
 

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Hi, I'm Molly's owner - ie: Medicating Molly thread.

You have a lot of good advice here, already. I'm going to give some that may be a bit... off the beaten regular path, but it's based on nothing but my own experience with a pretty issue-y dog.

But first let me say no, I don't believe this situation is hopeless. The fact that the dog has made contact and not broken skin is, like mentioned, good bite inhibition and that's a good sign. It means the dog wants things to stop, but doesn't actually want to hurt anyone. Again: This is GOOD.

I FULLY agree that seeing a behaviorist is a good idea.

Here's where I'm going to go off the standard advice.

Get out of classes. Don't worry about going in public or other locations, at all. Seriously, give this dog a solid month, maybe two, letting him decompress. This applies with or without meds. Work on training, yeah, but super easy or super necessary things. Train to bond and build trust and to learn to work with you, not to fix behavior (for now). Reward eye contact. Work on sit and nose touches to your palm. Maybe train a really ridiculous trick like 'say hi'. LOOK INTO SHAPING - if you can train him without touching or physically manipulating him, you will have extra trust. You're going to need that.

If you get and start meds, this is 'loading time'. If you don't, it will still help him come off edge. He really needs to see you as a source of security and trust and to have a line of communication with you before you can ask him to do things he finds stressful or hard, either way.

Second, impulse control. Look up 'it's your choice' and teach that and play with it. Those can be your silly tricks and low pressure training at lower levels and will give you a foundation. Third: Reward calm at home.

But mostly, give him 4-8 weeks of just BEING in your home, with no pressure, where you work hard on bonding with him and earning trust and building a desire to do things with you.

Then start obedience training as you are. At home. Fluid, simple, things like sit, down, loose leash walking (or use a no pull harness). Once you'v got that, yeah, start with public. With distance. With zero interaction with the public. Get him a vest or just tell people to ignore him no matter what and don't allow petting, feeding treats, or anything else. Make people furniture, not important to him right now.

But I think the most important thing you can do for this dog right now is let him decompress for a while, bond with him, encourage him to bond with you, and learn each other. This is going to be a months long process, almost no matter what. A few weeks to let him chill some more and figure out how to interact with you better than he's got now (and I'd had my dog from 8 weeks to 18 months and she needed this) isn't going to make any huge difference in the timeline but probably well in his mental/emotional state.

Which I guess is the last thing: You're not training like you think of it with another dog. The goal isn't to perform a behavior on a cue. The goal with this isn't 'DON"T BEHAVE THAT WAY" because the behavior can stop and still have an unstable, stressed, dog. Your goal here is to be able to say, somehow, to the dog 'This is okay, and I've got your back, you can relax' and have the dog understand and to trust you enough believe that.

I know that sounds very twee, and I'm sorry for that, but it's still what the bottom line amounts to. Dog's got an emotional issue, not a behavioral one. Changing the behavior is almost impossible if you can't get to the emotional state, and even if you do the emotional state's still an issue.

...if you have specific questions I'll be happy to answer. I'm sorry if this is incoherent. I'm feverish and sick and rambling in circles.
 

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It's a little bit funny.

I think the most important thing I did for Molly (besides/along with meds) was stop working on behavioral modification for a couple of months and mostly just avoid everything I thought might trigger her. It is also the one piece of advice that I was almost incapable of taking for, oh, a year or something. I kept shoving her into classes and taking her places because I was afraid if I stopped she'd just get worse. Even now, in a lot of ways, it seems counter-intuitive to me to tell someone to put it down, walk away, and stay home.

But there is a point where you and the dog are both stressed, nothing can possibly change because, lol, stress, everything deadlocks, the reactions to people/things becomes more ingrained, your relationship with your dog goes to heck because both you and the dog start to associate each other with stress and nothing good is happening, anyway.

I can still all but promise you that if I had another dog like this tomorrow I would try to work through the issues with my teeth gritted before it would occur to me to step away, take a break, play with my dog, and let the dog (and myself) come off edge. It's just not how my brain works when faced with a problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
WHO IS THIS DOG?? I spoke to the trainer this morning before class about possibly dropping out. She asked me to try again today so Louie and I stayed. He was virtually perfect. My husband took a video and I am trying to edit it down so I can upload it, but you won't see the lunging out of control agitated dog that I had last week. I don't get it! I have worked with him daily...maybe that's paying off? He has been my shadow since day two so bonding is there. We hang out on the couch every evening. I am going back to work on that video, but wanted to update...
 

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...if you have specific questions I'll be happy to answer. I'm sorry if this is incoherent. I'm feverish and sick and rambling in circles.
that was the most well written feverish ramble I have ever read :)

Overall I agree and there is a lot of good stuff to consider. The only (minor) part I might disagree is not going in public or other locations at all. Depending on a person's yard or lack of yard, neighbor dogs/cats/people etc, a trip to a quiet empty natural area can be better than time at home. Basically, the key is no interactions with other dogs or people for awhile and if communing in nature in a low-traffic park works, its an option.


WHO IS THIS DOG?? I spoke to the trainer this morning before class about possibly dropping out. She asked me to try again today so Louie and I stayed. He was virtually perfect. My husband took a video and I am trying to edit it down so I can upload it, but you won't see the lunging out of control agitated dog that I had last week. I don't get it! I have worked with him daily...maybe that's paying off? He has been my shadow since day two so bonding is there. We hang out on the couch every evening. I am going back to work on that video, but wanted to update...
That sounds like improvements however...be careful that you are not mistaking a shut-down dog for a calm dog. Sometimes with classes and lots of dogs etc it can be like tripping a breaker on a home electrical circuit. When the electric overloads, the breaker trips so that nothing gets through rather than the risk of too much. Something similar can happen with dogs where they just go "nope, too much" and go from 60 to zero instead of zero to 60.

Hopefully it is real progress for you and your pup but stress shut-down is something to be aware of.
 

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that was the most well written feverish ramble I have ever read :)

Overall I agree and there is a lot of good stuff to consider. The only (minor) part I might disagree is not going in public or other locations at all. Depending on a person's yard or lack of yard, neighbor dogs/cats/people etc, a trip to a quiet empty natural area can be better than time at home. Basically, the key is no interactions with other dogs or people for awhile and if communing in nature in a low-traffic park works, its an option.
Thank! I TRIED REALLY HARD.

And yeah, agreed. Low traffic, low pressure areas, off hours, etc. might be a really good option. I tend to forget everyone's not quite as lucky as me in that regard, but yeah. The important part is 'avoid the triggers' for a while and let the adrenaline response fade and the dog (and you) breathe. Stuff happens, but when it does actually turning around and running away or kicking up speed and running PAST works very well. Whatever you do, avoid sitting there, with the dog reacting, and desperately trying to get focus on you so you can feed.



That sounds like improvements however...be careful that you are not mistaking a shut-down dog for a calm dog. Sometimes with classes and lots of dogs etc it can be like tripping a breaker on a home electrical circuit. When the electric overloads, the breaker trips so that nothing gets through rather than the risk of too much. Something similar can happen with dogs where they just go "nope, too much" and go from 60 to zero instead of zero to 60.

Hopefully it is real progress for you and your pup but stress shut-down is something to be aware of.
Also agreed. Also possible is this dog is going to quickly be okay THERE because it's a known, but won't be when something changes. Different people, different dogs, different settings, needs to pee - lots of things can make a difference.

Which brings me to - you've had the dog two months. The dog following you and cuddling you are not what I mean by 'bond'. I mean being able to get into the dog's head and having the dog really trust you. That isn't going to happen in 8 weeks. It just... it isn't. The dog can be sweet and like you (or use you as a security blanket when unsure) and still not be in a position where you recognize stress in the dog, know what all the factors and variables to a reaction or stress are, and have the dog trust you enough to say 'Whoa, this is scary but you say you've got it? I believe you'. That takes a lot of time, even in the absence of stress/fear/reactivity issues.

I can tell you stupid stuff like 'My dog reacting to a dog or person she would not normally react to means she has to pee' and 'if it's windy, she's worse, but rain is better' and that sweet spot between tired enough to have more focus and overtired and having worse focus. I can tell you that ACDs, hounds, and doxies are worse for her, consistently. That she likes men more than women, in spite of me being a woman and her considering my husband irrelevant (they're less likely to coo at her, I think, and more likely to ignore her). That the best way to get her to make friends is not tossing treats but by having them issue commands to her, because work is the best and throwing a ball is second but to heck with treats. That baby talk freaks her out. How much trigger stacking can happen before she blows up and is done and what her recovery time and distance for that need to be. That the best way to calm her down is to let her jump into my lap and hide her face. That outdoors is almost always fine, indoors almost never is and the more 'crowded' indoors is the worse it is - ie riding arena is okay, a petstore is NOT.

By all means stay in this class if he keeps doing well (and I Hope he does), but don't... assume you know everything that's in his head. The more you can get in there and learn and figure out and the more you work with him the easier it will be. The more often he does react and practices that, the harder it will be.

Just. Remember that your primary focus is not on what the dog is doing and asking him to obey commands. It is on making him feel secure and comfortable in the world. This is very much less dog 'training' and much, much more 'dog psychology'.
 

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Which brings me to - you've had the dog two months. The dog following you and cuddling you are not what I mean by 'bond'. I mean being able to get into the dog's head and having the dog really trust you. That isn't going to happen in 8 weeks. It just... it isn't. The dog can be sweet and like you (or use you as a security blanket when unsure) and still not be in a position where you recognize stress in the dog, know what all the factors and variables to a reaction or stress are, and have the dog trust you enough to say 'Whoa, this is scary but you say you've got it? I believe you'. That takes a lot of time, even in the absence of stress/fear/reactivity issues.
I think almost every one of my fosters followed me from day one, cuddled from day one, but in some cases, it was a desperate need for comfort rather than a "Hi, my human, i like you"

It is weird thinking back on Eva's timeline of emotions and behaviors because while she still sometimes goes wild for a cat or bunny if they are near, I have to remind myself that originally she couldn't handle such things as lawn mowers, bouncing balls (like basket or soccer balls), ANY sight of a cat/bunny/squirrel, even plastic bags blowing in the wind.

And on top of that, I wouldn't even have considered her a reactive dog in the beginning.

Bond is her trusting me when I ask her to walk across an open grating in a park and she does it. Something weird on her feet, something visually scary (but safe!), something new.
 

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I think almost every one of my fosters followed me from day one, cuddled from day one, but in some cases, it was a desperate need for comfort rather than a "Hi, my human, i like you"

It is weird thinking back on Eva's timeline of emotions and behaviors because while she still sometimes goes wild for a cat or bunny if they are near, I have to remind myself that originally she couldn't handle such things as lawn mowers, bouncing balls (like basket or soccer balls), ANY sight of a cat/bunny/squirrel, even plastic bags blowing in the wind.

And on top of that, I wouldn't even have considered her a reactive dog in the beginning.

Bond is her trusting me when I ask her to walk across an open grating in a park and she does it. Something weird on her feet, something visually scary (but safe!), something new.
My weirdness with Molly was that I got her at 7 weeks old. By all rights, we should have had a fantastic bond, but we didn't. We had a... functional relationship that was danged close to professional for a long time. Because I was caught up in training behavior, not teaching training as a foundation for a bond and communication with the dog, or in learning the dog. I was busy in "LOOK WHAT MY DOG CAN DO" that 'Who is my dog?' didn't come into the equation nearly early enough, or just even enough.

That was my real take away from her. The 'every dog has a lesson to teach' thing? Molly's has been that teaching behavior matters and is important, but the relationship with the dog has to come first. That training happens, at first, to learn the dog and to teach the dog to learn and to give you communication with them - and that that communication goes both ways. Ie: It's not just the ability to tell the dog what to do, or even 'it's okay', but the ability of the dog to read you, and know you, and what you expect, and to understand and believe that you are dependable and stable.

Don't get me wrong, it was never a "PERFORM MONKEY IT IS YOUR ONLY FUNCTION" but there wasn't nearly enough just plain play or downtime together. She was aloof as a pup and young dog, and she always had work ethic and wanted to DO STUFF. That made it really easy for me to slide into performance based interactions and tanked the CRAP out of our relationship for a long time.

It has easily taken 18 months to bond with her in a way that was meaningful TO HER. The day she got stressed, I was able to say 'It's okay' and have her stop exploding, crawl into my lap to hide her face in my chest and lean seeking comfort was the first day I actually figured we were getting somewhere. All the cuddling and following me around in the world doesn't get close to that. The day she looked at something (a hound, actually) looked at me and I said 'it's okay' and she carried on with her life, I KNEW we were.

Though incidentally she became more cuddly and attention/affection seeking afterward. Kylie? Kylie got more independent after she gained some confidence in the world and about 200% more likely to blow me off and 200% less likely to want to cuddle or sit on my ankles. She doesn't need a security blanket anymore, and that's a good thing.
 
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