For a long time, Silas has had one rule about people. He wants to play a little hard to get. You reach quickly for him? You are done, and are told so with some volume. You hold your hand down and let him come to you? You get the sweet and pitiful routine. Closest analogue:
I’ve honestly been fine with this. I mean, it might be nice to have a unanimously friendly dog, but I don’t. It’s okay with me that he has rules, now that I finally understand them. I learned to call out to people in advance that he’s nervous, and 97% of the time these days we have the good reaction. (Actually, as a side note, I’m not really sure that these break down into “bad” and “good.” A lot of the time the barking is kind of playful, like he thinks you were going to chase him. He’ll even drop into a play bow with some people. The “sweet and pitiful” routine is so excessive that I worry about it. But barking is not socially acceptable, and making big eyes is.)
The problem that’s been lingering, though is the fallout from option one. Startled Silas will bark every time he sees that person move, until I can finally leave whatever situation it is. The rare exceptions to this have been professional dog people. He doesn’t sound really upset at any point in the whole process. Just, “Hey! Be still!”
We’ve been making real progress, though! I think the credit goes to the fact that we’ve been going out at least three times a week since January, if not four. He’s getting a lot more practice with people, and most of it good. Last week at PetSmart, we had a tremendous first. The employee who wanted to pet him reached down a little too fast. Silas barked and backed away. I said, “He’s nervous.” She said, “Oh, I see,” and stood quietly. Silas stopped barking and went right back up to her. I almost fainted.