If you want to find a cache of dogs who look as much like Silas as you’ll ever see, google “Squirrel Dogs.”
I can see it in his temperament. Not that I know what makes a squirrel dog any different from any other hunting dog, but I can see how he would be a good hunting dog. (Also how he would be a terrible hunting dog, but that’s another story.)
Some of this comes out in cute ways. If I drop his toy from the upstairs loft and ask him to find it, he will walk around the corner, stick his head out between the railings, and look for it. Then he will go downstairs and get it. He will “alert” to a bug on the wall and refuse to go to sleep until someone kills or relocates it. He can find anything that I hide anywhere, even when I don’t want him to.
The downside is that he’s always, always watching and listening and sniffing. He will leap up from a dead sleep because a leaf falls “weird” against the front door. He can spot a moving car from across the park. He fascinated a PetCo employee by the way he was air-scenting for some ferrets. He notices everything.
The problem is that he has no way to process all that data about the world. That car a quarter of a mile away at the park frightens him as much as a car that’s a hundred feet away. The leaf against the front door is as bad as a person being outside. Those ferrets? He couldn’t bring himself to get within three feet of their cage. (They were safely up out of his range, I promise.)
I see my job with him in pretty simple terms. I need to help him bridge between “I notice that” and “I am afraid of that.” Or, even more simply, I want him to understand that he doesn’t have to react to every single stimulus. My usual working formula is one part confidence-building, one part counter-conditioning, one part exposure and familiarization.
Some days I do better than others.