The thing about counterconditioning your dog’s most common fear is that you are forced into a constant awareness of it. My husband and I are, no kidding, easily over 15 instances of various lengths a day. Now, sometimes that’s the same person on the street, having a loud conversation and then being quiet and then starting it up again. Or, there are clusters around particular times of day–school letting out, say, or the popular hours for going/coming from the restaurant down the street. (Have I mentioned that we live in a terrible neighborhood for Silas?) Still, it’s a pretty rare half an hour that goes by between 10:00am and 9:00pm that one of us doesn’t have to intervene.
The other important thing is that you are probably responding to sub-incidental occurrences. That is: Silas only gets hysterical over a few things. While that number has been on the uptick since the plumber came (hence, urgency of this process), those 15+ incidents a day are not times when he would be absolutely inconsolable. That’s every time he woofles, every time an ear twitches, every time his head pops up from a nap.
This is wearing. Yesterday, when some people were moving in across the street, I couldn’t go long enough without dispensing treats to get my hair combed so that we could leave the house. After a day or two, your patience and empathy start to get a little thin.
It’s also depressing. Really watching your dog for reactions will make you feel like a terrible person. “How did I not notice before how upset he is?” “Am I ever going to be able to fix this?”
I’m hoping that we’re at the low point right now. Please oh please.
There is a little ray of sunshine, though. Today I realized that I can beat his reactions. Sometimes, even for some pretty loud triggers, I can get the treat in his mouth before he starts barking. When I can’t get to him, he seems to be less upset than before.
Also, somewhat ironically, the one thing he didn’t react to today? The lawn service.