Fear Itself

One of the crazy-making things about a fearful dog is that the fear can wax and wane in a way that seems quite random. Take our week:

Monday morning: a helicopter landed across the street to air-lift some construction materials to the roof of a high-rise building. Silas did not react, at all, until my staring out the window convinced him that something might be up. Oops.

Monday night: We tried to do our walk out the garage, and Silas refused to even go out onto the patio. Once I clipped his leash on, he got into the chair and trembled. This, after five or six successful walks.

Tuesday afternoon: the landscapers came. I forgot it was Tuesday. Silas curled up on my lap and listened to them go by. No barking. They came back by a second time for some reason. That time he got mildly upset, so we did some more of our training. Overall, though, I think our counter-conditioning is really starting to work.

Tuesday evening: The weather was perfect, so we went to the park. So did everybody else in town, something we should have thought about beforehand. We had to park at the far end of the parking lot, which meant a long walk through the cars to the park. Then the park itself was pretty busy. They’ve also cut down some of the trees that blocked the view of a highway. Usually when Silas and I go to the park, it’s during the daytime and the interior of the park is pretty quiet. With the park busy, Silas was scared. He refused to go far enough into the park to get away from the things that were scaring him, and almost immediately he started making a beeline back for the car. The only good thing is that I carried his favorite dehydrated turkey hearts, and he was able to eat a few.

Wednesday morning we had to go to the vet for Silas’s vaccinations. He started shaking the second the car pulled out of the driveway. He shook all the way to the vet. He walked into the office like a champ, but then he got into my lap and shook the whole time we waited for our turn. He did okay, but not great, during the exam. Since he needed shots, he had to get onto the table, which he wasn’t wild about. He was apparently terrified to get on the scale. He was so desperate to get out of the office that I could barely check out.

So, ups and downs. And, to be honest, mostly downs. Some of them make sense–he had to stay at the vet for a bath last time, he’s always been afraid of cars, etc–but some of them don’t. Such is life with my fearful dog.

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3 thoughts on “Fear Itself

  1. It gets better! With a fearful dog, I think progress is measured in months, not daily ups and downs. Sadie now loves the vet, doesn’t even move when I’m vacuuming and enjoys saying hello to people on our walks. Five years ago, I never ever thought we would be here, where I could say she’s a pretty normal dog. So hang in there!!

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement!

      I was also reading today about the fact that, like in humans, stress in dogs can accumulate over days, not just minute to minute. So something like his mildly traumatic trip to the park probably made it that much harder for him to go to the vet later, and so on.

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  2. I feel your pain. I agree with Married, you will see these little set backs, it is only natural! Five years from now you will look back at these blog posts and you will say, I would never have thought this dog in front of me is the same dog I wrote about.

    Honest to God, Delilah taxes me, but when I think back to that first day, it really is a different dog. There are so many things she does now that she didn’t do back then. For instance, we could not touch her ears, she only liked being rubbed on the chest. Now she lays with her head on my lap and I stroke her head and rub her ears. She sighs.

    Hang in there, it’s possible. 🙂

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