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The Fearful Dog Thread

48745 Views 903 Replies 55 Participants Last post by  KBLover
Would love to hear your prior success stories and current works-in-progress with dogs that have behavior problems which are fear-based. What fears did they have and what did you do/are you doing to get them through it? How long did it take to see drastic improvement?

I'll be back with mine tomorrow...
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Great thread idea! It's encouraging for those of us just starting out on the journey...

We've had Brenna for just under 2 months now, and she is already making some good progress. She was owned by a BYB for the first 5 years of her life, and she obviously had many litters there. She was kept outdoors in a kennel except when whelping, so she was probably undersocialized. After the BYB retired her, they sold Brenna to a couple who apparently expected her to majically turn into the perfect house pet overnight. They left her in her crate for up to 12 hours, then wondered why she'd have accidents in the house. It is apparent that they were at least verbally abusive with her as loud voices really startle her. She also exhibits some fear of men, so every time my husband comes home from work, it is like starting all over for her.

When we first brought Brenna home, she walked around with her tail tucked all the time and looked like she was ready to bolt at a moment's notice. She preferred to stay in her crate all the time, so we would close the door on it so that she would have to get used to other spaces in the house, one room at a time. Now she has her favorite spots to lay in each room, and she is comfortable anywhere in the house as long as we are there with her. She has not yet held her tail high and wagged it...but it is relaxed and hanging straight down unless she is suddenly frightened. She even lets it sway back and forth when we are on our daily walks!

Brenna is particularly shy with strangers...she seems to just shrivel up when new people approach her, even though she will submit to being petted. Last week I had a friend over for a few hours, and by the end of the visit, Brenna was finally starting relax and lie down rather than pace. She would even come over to be petted every now and then. The same friend returned yesterday, and I could tell that even though she was nervous at first, Brenna did remember my friend and was willing to enjoy even more petting.

Today I was especially proud of Brenna's progress as I took her to the vet for her heartworm test. She went around to the three other dogs in the waiting room and greeted them very calmly (thankfully, they were all friendly and calm, too!). She even willingly went with the vet tech to have her blood taken! She was very calm and didn't hide behind me at all, which is what she normally does when strangers approach. I think that pretty soon I will be able to start taking her out to PetSmart and other places around town, letting her have some more interaction with new people, places and dogs.

The hardest part is watching my husband struggle to gain Brenna's love and trust. It breaks his heart when she acts afraid of him. She does alot better with him when he is home all day...when he is gone to work it is almost like she forgets all the good things about him, so it is going to be a longer journey for her to bond with him, I think.
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So, question for those of you who have alot more experience with fearful dogs than I do...

Now that Brenna is to the point of being totally comfortable around me, follows me around the house and such, should I start taking her to places with people more often? In the two months we've had her she's been to the vet's office twice, a hiking trail with a fair amount of people walking past twice, and met a couple other people outside our church once. We've also had a couple people over for dinner 3 times. I've really been hesitant about taking her to PetSmart or the local feed store that allows pets inside because of the higher volume of people present. But I don't want to hinder her progress, either.

BTW, Brenna is not the aggressive sort of fearful dog, rather the type that shuts down or tries to hide when she is afraid. And she has never yet taken treats from me when we are in new places, so that doesn't seem to be a good source of positive reinforcement for her.
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Thanks for the advice on taking Brenna out more. I know I need to work more on obedience with her at home, so that is a good next step, I guess. When she first came to us, she was too fearful and nervous for me to really work with. She would grudgingly sit for me, but it was more out of submission and fear than anything. We have, however, figured out what makes her "tick"--hot dogs! She LOVES them and will even follow hubby around the house if she thinks he has one in his hand! So, that is great! Yesterday I got her to sit and then lie down, all for one piece of hot dog! I was so happy.

She is also getting more relaxed during our walks around the neighborhood, which she has always loved, but has had some rotten experiences as well. We live on a country road with no sidewalks, so we just have to scoot off to the edge when a car or truck goes by...Also, one house along our route used to have a couple of nasty dogs that would randomly be outside roaming free without supervision, and one day, one of them threatened us. That really set Brenna back, but I wrote the people a polite, but very serious letter informing them that if this happened again, I was going to call Animal Control. I haven't seen the dogs again!

Anyway, I'm enjoying reading about all your dog's good days and not so good. It's nice to have some people that understand where I'm coming from!
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Well, it's been an up and down sort of week for us around here....

Things started going downhill when we had a major storm that downed literally thousands of trees in our local area...Brenna doesn't seem to mind storms at all, so that is good. But hubby and I had to be away from home alot in the following 2-3 days helping with clean-up, and Brenna never likes it when we are gone for long. She doesn't do anything destructive when we are gone, so I'm not sure if it's separation anxiety. It seems more like she has to rebuild trust in us again when we come back home...more with my husband than with me. I think she is also very sensitive to changes in our routine, which I would expect with a collie anyway, but even the tiniest change seems to cause her worry and stress.

Then later in the week, hubby built a new shed in the yard for his scooter (we don't have/can't afford a garage)...this was not a good thing for Brenna. A building suddenly appeared out of nowhere off the side of the deck...and she really didn't know what to make of it. At first, she would charge down the steps and run out in the yard to get away from the shed before going potty. I did get her to come close to it using some hot dogs as bait, but she is still getting used to this big "thing" in the yard. At least she is no longer running past it to get far away from it, though.

Oh, and then we had a strange/stressful experience on a couple of our walks...but that will have to wait for another post...it's getting late!

Anyway, we did have some ups, too. We had a new friend over for dinner and Brenna was actually pretty interested in coming over and sniffing her hands right away. She didn't really tuck her tail or go hide in her crate at all.

Brenna also has been having less fearful responses when cars drive by when we are walking. Sometimes she wants to stop when they pass, and others she will just keep going...but she hasn't been pulling on the leash to get home faster once they go by like she used to.

And she has been going up to hubby for petting on her own! This is so great to see...he is so happy when she wants to be near him, and it makes me happy to know that she is slowly gaining trust in him. Every day is a new day, but each little step of progress is worth the time!
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Thanks, winnie...yes, the progress with DH is the most rewarding. Brenna actually surprises me with him sometimes. For example, she easily will go to the back door with him to go out and go potty, which is a really big deal, considering that when she first came to us she was scared to go to the bathroom, period. She also did something funny/cute with him that I forgot to mention last night.... He took her outside to go on a little walk, but stopped by the car to get his sunglasses out. As soon as he opened the door, Brenna hopped in and went to sit on the passenger side seat. She was all excited and ready to go for a ride! :) He let her sit there a minute because she was so happy before having her get out so they could actually go for a walk. She really likes to go for trips in the car! So yesterday, as a reward for getting through the past week of craziness, I took her on a little "field trip" to the nearby state park for a walk in the woods. She had a great time, and it was nice for both of us to get out and enjoy the scenery.

I've decided that I really need to get a clicker and try using that to help train/desensitize Brenna. I know I should have gotten one a long time ago, but I have been hesitant because I don't really know much about clicker training. But since there are so many great resources on the net, and here on the forums, I don't really have any excuses not to give it a go. Plus, all these success stories about Wally have me really motivated! :)
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Excellent reminder, MissMutt! Celebrate each victory, no matter how small it may seem at the moment!

The last couple days have been good one for Brenna, back in our normal routine for the most part. She has really been enjoying her walks, and I've been impressed with how much progress she's making where passing cars are concerned. In fact, yesterday a big ole' dump truck full of dirt was making it's way down our road just as we were starting out on our morning walk. It passed by us twice, but it didn't phase her a bit! Yay!

Today I'm going to Petco to see if I can find a clicker and maybe a treat-ball or puzzle toy that will get Brenna using that incredible collie brain of hers. I think we're both finally ready to really start a good training regimine at home. Wish us luck! :)
missmutt---Yay for Marge! Isn't it good to have a nice, happy, relaxed time out with your pup? So rewarding!

winniec---that's interesting about Poca. I can see how the windows being open for the first time, hearing lots of new sounds that belong outside coming INSIDE could throw her off. I'm glad Brenna hasn't had that problem because we have the windows open alot here!

I went to PetCo yesterday and got a clicker (after searching the entire store, having to ask a cashier, then watching her search only to find they were in a shopping cart waiting to be re-shelved!) as well as a fun-looking thing called an "Amaze-a-Ball." You put treats in one end, and as the ball rolls around, the treats eventually work their way out a hole in the other side. I'm hoping that it will motivate Brenna to play with a toy and put her problem solving skills into action. So far, she hasn't figured it out...but she knows there are treats in there, so she keeps licking the opening, hoping she'll find something tasty! I started "charging the clicker" a little yesterday, and found that she is a bit nervous about it. Anytime I'm holding something in my hand, she is concerned that it may be something that will hurt her, so I probably will have to keep it in my pocket until she learns that the sound it makes is always followed by good things, not bad ones.

Also, we had a big "happening" last night, and I was very proud of Brenna! DH's dad came to spend the night with us, and this was the first time that Brenna had met him. He arrived after dark, and Brenna heard/saw him in the driveway and started barking...alot... I realized that noone has ever visited at night before, so this was a new, frightening thing for her. But once he came in and sat down, she calmed down enough to take a few pieces of hot dog from his hand. Before long, she even let him pet her on the head! This morning she continued to gain confidence and even came up to him for petting a few times. Positive interaction with men like that is sooooo important for Brenna as they seem to be her biggest fear. I was so happy to see her warm up to him as quickly as she did. It reminded me how far she has come in just a couple of months!
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I guess I do have some updates to add: Brenna has been doing well lately. Clicker training is fun, and she loves the opportunity to work for a bit of hot dog or chicken! :) So far I've been working on training her to sit and to touch a target stick. I wasn't using any cues at first, but I am starting to add them in now. She is alot better at targetting than I expected, and she is getting better about sitting right away. She used to sort of wander a round a bit, trying to figure out other ways to get the treat, but I think she has learned that the fastest way to earn it is just to sit...quickly! :) Hubby and I are also starting to work on her recall between the two of us. She is really bad about coming to him sometimes, and for her well-being, she needs to be confident in coming to either of us when called. Hopefully, we'll be able to use training to build her trust in both of us. The only thing I wonder about is just how much time to spend training each day. I probably only do about 10 minutes a day at this point, and Brenna always seems ready to keep going longer. Should I do more? I do want to start working on a few things outside with her as well, so maybe we could do one session inside and one outside later on in the day?

We did have a bad experience while out a walk last week...I could hear some men working in the woods, chopping down a tree or hammering something, I don't know. We couldn't see them, so I didn't know how far in they were, but I wasn't worried because the tree line is a few yards away from the side of the road. However, as we rounded the corner where they were working, two dogs suddently jumped out of the tall grass and came at us. I immediately recognized one of them as a dog that has threatened me and Brenna in the past and yelled to the men in the woods to please come get their dogs immediately! Thankfully, one guy was there before the aggressive dog got close to us, and he called them both off and ran them home. But that was the end of our walk for the evening! If Brenna's little heart was beating half as fast as mine was after that, I wouldn't blame her. It was just such a shock to suddenly have these two large dogs jump out at us from nowhere! Thankfully, since then I noticed that the owners have fixed a fenced area for all four of their dogs to stay in, so I'm hoping that is where they will keep them when outdoors. These people know that I will call animal control if their dogs are ever loose and unsupervised, but I still don't fully trust them to keep them contained. It is so frustrating. Thankfully, Brenna is not afraid to walk past that house, although she does walk faster when the other dogs are out barking at her. I just wish that people wouldn't be so irresponsible, especially when they know their dogs are aggressive!
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Brenna knows this is her home, and she's definitely found her voice!

When we first brought B home, we were told she didn't really bark, not that she couldn't...she just chose not to. I think she was actually too afraid that she'd get yelled at for barking. Gradually over the past three months, she has lost alot of inhibition and has begun barking occasionally at the neighbor or kids passing on the street... But yesterday and today she has really shown me that she "owns" the space around our house.

Yesterday I took her out for a potty break, and four squirrels were in the yard. She immediately went on high alert--tail high in the air, barking and chasing after them. Now this may seem like no big deal to most dog-owners...but for us, this is priceless because Brenna never holds her tail high or wags it. And she doesn't play, so we never get to see her running around the yard. Then this morning the same thing happened, only with a deer...oh, and she was on her training leash, so she couldn't chase after it. But to hear Brenna bark as if to say, "Hey, this is my house and my grass...keep out!" and to see that fluffy collie tail of hers standing like a flag in the wind....I just loved it! :D I think we may have a guard dog in the making after all!
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Anything new from anyone this week?

Brenna has been doing so well around the house and out in our neighborhood that I decided to take her somewhere new today. We drove into town and went to an empty soccer field. I had hoped that she would plunge into the grass and be all excited about the new sights and smells, like she does when we go hike in the woods at the state park. But instead, she acted all panicky, pulling at the leash and trying to go back to the car. I did get her to walk around a little bit, then I sat down at a picnic table in the shade and just let her stand there and take in all the sounds and new things she was seeing. She calmed down enough to stand still and let me pet her quite a while, but she wouldn't take any treats (which I expected) and was not really relaxed. We also stopped for a bit at a park next to a municipal pool and a busy street, just so I could see how she would act there. Again, I sat at a picnic table and let her take it all in, but it was obvious that the traffic noise was really bothering her, as she kept pacing back and forth. It seemed like she wasn't as concerned about the people around as she was the cars out on the street. But we were pretty far away from the people anyway.

I have to wonder if poor Brenna had ever even been to a park before today, by the way she acted. So sad.... And what's worse is that I really don't know how to help her overcome these fears. I mean, if she won't take treats, and she doesn't really seem to be all that comforted by petting and talking to her, what else can I do? Should I just keep exposing her to these new places, even though she doesn't like them, in hopes that she will learn that they are not so scary? I am feeling a bit discouraged now. :(
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Sounds like everyone is making some great progress these days! I know this process will have ups and downs...I feel like a couple weeks ago Brenna got over a big hurdle, but now we're having trouble moving on from there. I guess I just have to keep being patient and persistent with her. It's just hard because I don't like to put her in uncomfortable situations, so I tend to want to shelter her instead. But I know we won't get anywhere that way...it's hard for me to find a balance there. I'm especially concerned about a long trip we're taking this summer to visit some of DH's family. I know she'll be fine on the car ride, but I'm not sure how she'll respond to staying in someone else's home. We'll be there, and we'll take her crate, bed and bones, of course...hopefully she will be able to relax and enjoy it, not be stressed and nervous the whole time.

Oh well, at least we had a nice, peaceful walk around our neighborhood today. It was early enough in the morning that noone was out working in their yards, so it was just me, Brenna and the road...just the way she likes it!
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Hey everyone! Sorry I've been away for a while. I've only just been able to skim through the posts from the past 2 weeks! We were on vacation and away from internet access for a while, and I haven't had to time to write an update since we got back. I'll try to be brief, but this may get kind of long! :)

Brenna has had to face alot of new situations and challenges in her socialization over the past two weeks. It began with a large group of people (about 20) we had over to our house for a church choir social. We anticipated Brenna's need for her own safe, quiet place and put up a baby gate across the doorway of the office so that she could hear and see people without feeling threatened by them. After about 8 people had arrived, I let B come out into the living room just to see what was going on. Then I took her back to her room. During the course of the evening several people came to the gate, and she came up to each of them to sniff their hands and even allowed some to pet her. There was one little girl there (about 6 yrs. old) who wanted to look at Brenna but was a little afraid to touch her. Her family doesn't have any pets, and her only previous interaction with dogs has been with a hyper-active, overly "friendly" little fuzzball who jumps on people constantly. Once I assured her that Brenna would not jump on her, the little girl finally let Brenna sniff her hand...before long B was coming over to the gate looking for her new little friend! :) It was so cute! I was pleased and surprised to find that Brenna did not pace or pant or otherwise act upset by the presence of so many people in her house. I know that being in her favorite room with a "safety net" up helped alot, but she really did even better than I ever expected!

We also took B along on our vacation...the first time hubby and I have travelled together with a dog! Trying to get Brenna to go potty at rest areas along the way was difficult, but it had to be done because our first day of travel was 10 hrs in the car! The noise from the interstate traffic really bothered her, and anytime she was within visual range of the car, all she could think about was getting back in it. But we eventually found a couple of nicely forested rest areas where she was able to relax enough to go. :) Ah, relief!

We spent most of the week with hubby's grandfather who lives on a little lake in MI. Grandpa is very dog-savvy, and even though Brenna started out very nervous, she quickly warmed up to him. She also seemed to like his house because it had lots of corners for her to curl up and "hide" in! By the end of the week, B was laying at Grandpa's feet and watching TV with him! Our biggest problem there was with the neighbor's dog...it seems that most people around the lake let their dogs roam quite a bit, and this dog didn't know where the property line was. So, half the times we took B outside to go potty, this dog would hear us and come running through the trees into grandpa's yard, barking loudly the whole time. It's owners weren't very helpful either, as they would start frantically calling the dog back, only scaring Brenna even more.

The last couple days of our trip were even more challenging. Brenna came down with a nasty case of diarrhea, and it didn't look like we could wait to get her home before seeing a vet. So, we had to make an emergency trip to a vet in MI. Brenna was very cooperative there, even though she was nervous. I'm so glad she doesn't flip out at the vet's office like some dogs I've seen. Then we headed on to spend out last night away with hubby's family. They have 2 mini-doxies, so I knew this would be an interesting experience for us all! The meeting didn't go as well as I'd have like, partly because the in-laws didn't go along with our idea to let the dogs meet in a neutral area away from their house. But it was okay in the end. Mitzi, who is a female long-hair, was afraid of Brenna and wanted to be far enough away to make a quick escape, but close enough to catch B's scent. Fritzi, a male wire-hair, was all excitement and kisses at first glance. He was literally standing on his back legs trying to reach up and kiss Brenna on the nose! B was "tolerant" of all this to a point, and whenever she got tired of the unwanted attention, she would just walk away. I was somewhat surprised that she didn't even growl at him or do anything to send a "stop that" signal, but I have to wonder if all those years of having puppies crawl all over her and nip at her somewhat desensitized her to being bothered by small dogs. As far as interaction with hubby's family, Brenna was pretty brave. It seems that she is finding that inner craving for attention and love, even though it is still somewhat buried beneath layers of hurt and distrust.

The greatest thing about our vacation was coming home! Brenna has been like a new doggie since we returned. Something clicked inside her while we were away, and she is no longer afriad of hubby at all! I don't know what happened between them, but they have really bonded. Today I watched the most precious sight as she sat next to his recliner and gazed up at him with love in those bright brown collie eyes. It's as if going away for a while, but coming back to the same old familiar place again, solidified in her mind that this really is home now....and that we really do love her.
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This isn't really "fear" related, I guess, but since you all know more about Brenna's background and progress, I'll ask here anyway....

A couple nights ago, hubby and I were away from home for a few hours, and when we returned, we found one of my wooden collectibles in her crate, all chewed up! I wasn't angry or upset, just surprised that she would actually have gone in a room she isn't normally in...found this decoration and carried it back to her crate to nibble while we were out! Then I started thinking back and remembered a few other instances in which a random item from around the house "appeared" in the living room while we were gone. At the time, I blamed most of these occurrences on the cats...but now I'm starting to connect the dots, and I realize it was actually Brenna!

Does this sound like a wee bit of separation anxiety to you all? That's the only thing I can think of...at this point, she isn't showing any other signs of stress, but it's apparent that she is getting a little bored/lonely when we are away.

I did buy her a couple of new chew toys yesterday, and I'm thinking of spreading them around the house anytime we are going to be gone for a while in hopes that she will go get them instead of anything else that she shouldn't have. The funny thing is that she really doesn't chew or carry toys around when we are around, but I know she chews on her rawhide bones at night and when we are away.
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Hey everyone, just checking in 'cause I haven't been around in a while. Nothing too eventful has been happening around here with Brenna lately. We've been really busy this summer, so I haven't had many chances to take her new places lately. I'm hopeful that this fall we'll be able to go on more "field trips."

We did take her (and the cats) to the vet a couple weeks ago. They were having one of those big festivals when you can get a discount on all the vaccines and nail trims and such...which meant, of course, that the everybody in the county seemed to be there with their crazy dogs! It was a bit stressful for all of us, but since we had the cats, at least we were able to go inside with Brenna and be in a quieter, less chaotic environment for most of the time. We did have to go back outside for the nail trim, which was not fun for Brenna at all, but that was the last thing we did before packing everybody in the car and heading home. I was actually very proud of Brenna, because aside from pulling on the leash when we were outside because she wanted to go back to the car, she really behaived much more calmly than alot of the dogs we saw. I'm guessing that many of them were just overstimulated by all the other doggies and wanted to play with everyone. There were alot of others that seemed a bit reactive, but again, there were so many dogs and people everywhere, that I probably would have acted crazy, too, if I were a dog! Once we were inside, Brenna just wanted to thoroughly inspect her little area of the waiting room, and eventually laid down to watch all the action.

This weekend will be interesting, too, because our inlaws are coming for a couple days...and bringing their two doxies with them. It was only a month ago when we stayed with them, so I'm sure the doggies will all remember each other. Hopefully Mitzi and Fritzi will not be quite so scared/excited about Brenna this time. I'm planning to have her outside when they arrive so that they can make their re-introductions there. I'm actually more worried about the cats...I'm going to have to confine them mostly to their room for two days because Mitzi and Fritzi have never even seen a cat before! I don't want to set the cats back in their interaction with Brenna, because they have come such a long way. So I think we are going to try our level best to keep them and the doxies separate. I'll let you know how it all pans out next week! :)
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Oh dear, it sounds as if the last few days have been rather stressful and emotionally tense for many of you! I'm sorry to hear about so many people who are treating you guys negatively over the work that you are trying to do with your precious dogs. Thankfully, my hubby and I have understanding family and friends, and they don't pry into our personal lives like that. Let me encourage you all to keep on the course and to stick to your plan of action, regardless of the mindless criticism people may give you. You know your dog best, its background, its habits, its fears and its pleasures. Only you can decide what is in its best interest. You all are doing a great job, and I know I wouldn't have the stamina to handle the things that you've all had to handle. Brenna is a shy dog, but she is pretty easy-going other than that. I admire all of you for the work you've done, and the success you've had. And what's more, your dogs LOVE you for it!

By way of updates, Brenna had a great weekend with the family! Hubby's parents arrived late Saturday afternoon, along with their 2 little doxies, Fritzi and Mitzi. We had originally planned to have the reintroductions outside, but changed our minds and decided to let Bren stay inside while Fritzi and Mitzi got some of their wiggles out in the yard. When they arrived, I called Bren to the window so she could see them all as they walked around the yard with DH. She didn't bark at them, but was definitely at attention, so I petted her as she watched them and reassured her that it was alright. When everyone came in, Mom was the first to come to meet Brenna. She seemed to remember her, sniffed her hand and clothes and let Mom pet her some. She did the same when Dad came to greet her. When we let the doxies out of their gated area, Brenna and Fritzi quickly went right to introductions, but Mitzi was too afraid of Bren to come very close. (My inlaws' dogs don't really play with any other dogs or have any interaction with other dogs except for meeting them on walks, etc., so they tend to be a little unnerved by large dogs.)

Shock of all shocks, as soon as introductions were finished, Brenna started wagging her tail and Fritzi and trying to get him to play with her! Mind you, we have never seen Bren actually wag her tail at anyone, ever...It was a priceless moment when we first saw her doing that. Then, even more wonderful, was watching her try to entice Fritzi into playing with her. Seeing her bounce around and toss her head, prancing, pouncing....I just couldn't stop smiling. She was so excited and so happy! It was like having a totally new dog, one without a care in the world! Too bad Fritzi was not sure how he could possibly play with a doggie so much bigger than him...but at least we know now that Brenna can play, even wants to play. If only we could show her that we want to play with her like that, too. Now I'm determined to start setting up some play dates for her with some doggie friends nearby so that she can be happy and enjoy the company of other dogs more often. The experience was almost enough to make hubby and I want another dog, just for Brenna's sake...but we can't realistically do that right now.

Anyway, the visit was a great success for Brenna...not so much for the cats, who stayed in their rooms or hid under the recliner because every time the little dogs saw a cat, they barked up a storm. But I think they've recovered nicely from that little experience...and haven't changed their interaction with Brenna over it, either.
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MissMutt--glad you got to have a nice morning walk with Marge today. Those really are so refreshing, aren't they? I can't believe how long you've been dealing with the fireworks where you live! Goodness! That would really be frustrating...

I had some company over last night, most of whom Brenna had already met before. The first person to arrive, however, was DH's sister, whom Brenna had not met before. Brenna was sleeping when the front door opened, and I think it startled her awake because she acted really alarmed when this "intruder" walked into the house. Bren has this funny little half-bark that she does sometimes...like she wants to bark, but isn't sure if the situation is serious enough to merit actually opening her mouth and letting sound come out. It is rather comical, and this is what she did when Amy arrived. Eventually, Brenna relaxed enough to come over and sniff her, but she wasn't up to petting until more people started coming.

It seemed that with every new person that came, Brenna became more outgoing. By the end of the evening, she was walking around the table where we were playing a game, letting different people pet her. She even relaxed enough to lie down on her big pillow in the kitchen with us a couple of times. Of course, being a collie, she is always watchful and alert when people are in the house...but I must say that she seems to be getting braver these days.
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Yay for Jonas, Tiberius and Donatello! It's good to hear of even the smallest success, isn't it!?

Last night my hubby's sister was here again on her way back home. Brenna definitely remembered her and was much more quick to allow Amy to pet her this time. We even all went on a walk together, and Brenna seemed to enjoy having the extra company around. We pay more attention to Brenna when we have friends in the house, so I think perhaps she is starting to learn that having more people around means more loving on her, too! Tomorrow we have more company coming to stay for a few nights (August seems to be the month for visitors around here!), so Brenna is going to get more practice in socialization. Then, Sunday we hope to have some other people over for lunch! By the end of all this, I think she'll be all worn out! :) But it's really good for her, too. I'll report back to you all next week and let you know how things go!
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deege--good to hear that Donatello is having a good, happy day so far. May it continue! :)

Colorado--it is such a blessing to feel you can trust your vet and really discuss problems with them. I finally found one that I think I like, but I haven't actually taken Brenna to her yet, just the cats.

Brenna had a good time getting to know the friends who stayed with us the last two days. She did bark at them when they came in the house for the first time, but I think it was because she was startled. I didn't even hear my husband bring them in the back door, so I was surprised when they arrived, too. Her moments of fear/panic when meeting new people continue to decrease, though. She really was very quick to come over and sniff the new people once her initial surprise was gone. After a couple of hours, she was readily accepting a little petting. By last night at dinner, she had become so comfortable with our friends that she laid down right behind their chairs and fell asleep. The cats actually took alot longer to come out of hiding and meet everyone. But, they, too eventually relished the extra attention! ;)
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Maru--afraid I can't give any advice as I'm a novice at this fearful-dog thing myself...but I do hope that you get some good feedback from the behaivorist and that you are able to help your precious dog learn to overcome whatever is causing him to react this way.

I just have a few funny little tidbits about Brenna to share today. We had a couple over for Sunday dinner, and although Brenna was hesitant to come up and sniff their hands at first (they were a little too loud and tall for her liking), she did eventually warm up to them very well. Actually, she spent most of the meal standing, sitting or laying next to their chairs while we ate...of course, I think the fact that the roast beef was on their side of the table may have had something to do with that! :) But hey, what better association could a dog have with a person than the smell of a good piece of meat!? :D

Another happy note is that I think I caught Brenna actually wagging her tail at me a bit last night and again this morning. It was just the tiniest little wag, and it only lasted for a second or two, but coming from a dog who used to hold her tail tucked all the way to her tummy, that's a big deal! Now hubby is jealous, so I hope that Brenna will give him a little tail wag soon, too.

This morning on our walk we met the one friendly dog in the neighborhood--a cute medium small spaniel mix of some sort. He is allowed to roam around when his owners are working outside, and he always wants to come greet us when we walk by. I let Brenna stop so they could sniff each other, and both their tails were wagging. Then, Brenna jumped up and tried to invite him to play chase. It was so cute! Thankfully, she couldn't really go anywhere because I always walk her on a 6 ft. leash...or else she and her little friend would have been running out in the middle of the road! I sent him back home (he really is a very good dog to listen to me) and we went on our way. But it both makes me smile and breaks my heart to see Brenna wanting to play with other doggies. I am glad to see she still has that playful spirit in her, but I wish she knew that we want to play with her, too. And don't anybody go suggesting we get another dog...it's tempting, but we simply can't afford another mouth to feed! I wish we had a dog park here, but our town is too small for that. So, I guess I will have to find more friends with dogs and set up some play dates!
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Interesting article, Colorado...thanks for sharing! The brain (human or otherwise) is a truly mysterious and amazing creation! :) I feel sorry for those poor rats they had to put through so many stressful situations, though!

Well, Brenna had her first play date with Bella yesterday...and it was a little disappointing for both of us. Bella's owners brought her over to our house, and they brought some tennis balls along for her to chase. She loves to play fetch and catch, and they thought maybe seeing another dog play would encourage Brenna to chase after the balls. Well, I didn't really think so, but I went along with it because it couldn't hurt to try.

The visit started out fine with both dogs sniffing each other and no signs of tension between them. Brenna was a little anxious about the humans and the strange car, so she wasn't ready to play right away...just needed some time to check everybody out. So while she was doing that, Bella's owners started playing fetch with her...and Bella was so totally fixated on the ball that she completely ignored Brenna! It was really strange to watch. When Bella would run out to catch a ball, Brenna would run after her and try to get her to play chase...but Bella acted as if she wasn't even there. This continued for a good half hour or so. Finally, Brenna gave up trying to play with Bella and just wandered around the yard or stood by me for petting. Even after the balls were put away, Bella really didn't act interested in Brenna at all. She was more interested in sniffing around the yard than paying attention to the dog the yard belonged to! I guess I should be thankful that at least Brenna got some good exercise and that the two dogs didn't show any outright dislike for each other. But I am mostly just disappointed that Bella showed no interest in playing with Brenna. Now I don't know whether to have her over again another time and see if they will act differently...or try to find some other dogs for her to play with. It was a really strange experience...
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