Silas will be two years old at the end of next month. It’s something I approach with a little nervousness. I know with my logical brain that no door is going to snap shut, but two is the last date you usually hear about for making big changes, for good or ill, with a dog’s mental development. I’ve read in a few places that it’s easiest to fix socialization gaps before age two. I’ve read a lot of reactive dog stories that contain the phrase “Oh, he was okay until he was about two and then he started … ”
It’s left me with the feeling that there’s a big clock ticking over my head. Especially because we’ve seen a lot of behavior changes in the last few months, on both sides. Silas is finally capable of loose leash walking! He’s learning to take treats and do simple commands at the park! He’s reacting better and better to people in familiar environments (like strangers in a store or park we go to frequently). He’s learned to jump in the bathtub on his own, and he’ll play with water in puddles. He ate dinner for my mother one evening while we were there over Easter.
On the other hand, he seems to be getting particular about other dogs. He only reacts badly to maybe two dogs out of ten, but that reaction is no little mild grumble. He will wake up from a dead sleep to bark hysterically at someone talking on the sidewalk in front of our house. That last one I don’t get at all–we’ve lived in the same house, with the same street noises, since he was five weeks old. He would rather die than walk down our sidewalk or even put his head out of our garage door.
I’m trying to take it one day at a time, but looking ahead I’m worried. I feel like we’re working through his mild problems, while the big problems are silently escalating in the background. For the first time, I’m seriously considering going to the veterinary behaviorist (we have a good one locally) and getting him professionally evaluated and medicated, at least for the short term. I can’t train him through a problem that instantly turns his anxiety dial to 11, and it seems like that’s what we’re getting down to. We’ll see.