On January 1, 2013, I said I wanted to do two things with Silas: get him out more to non-park environments and finish the Relaxation Protocol.
I dimly seem to remember taking him more places in the Spring, but I’ve been struggling with it through the fall. The weather cooled off, but I kept up my lazy summer habits. Hanging out while one of us shops for groceries and the like has also gotten very hard, because Silas is increasingly reactive toward people while we’re in the car. This has been a bell curve of sorts–he was terrible as a puppy, barking at anyone he could see, both when the car was moving and when it was stopped. Then he got much better. Now he’s regressed, but only while the car is stopped. We’re well past “this isn’t a great thing” and into “this is a major problem.” The biggest reason I use his car harness is that I live in terror of getting pulled over for a traffic violation while I have Silas. I can’t take him to parks that have a drive-up pay window, because I know he’ll go crazy when he sees the ticket person. Not good.
We did actually finish the Relaxation Protocol, finally, in mid-December. Getting through it once isn’t really “finishing,” but it should be easier to repeat now. With our holiday travels done, we’re starting a new repetition tomorrow in a different part of the house.
2013 was a major, major year for us. When I made those initial two goals, I had no idea that I would wind up taking Silas to the behaviorist or putting him on medication. Getting help for his big-picture problems wasn’t an original goal, but it was a huge accomplishment that I’m very proud of.
My 2014 plans don’t sound earth-shaking, but they’re ambitious.
First, I’d like to work on the reactivity while in the car that I mentioned above. He’s taking treats much more consistently these days, so this just needs lots of patience, car-friendly treats, and some garden-variety counterconditioning.
I also want to take more concrete steps toward getting him over his fear of cars. His medication gives me enough room to actually work, so I want to make and execute a systematic plan. I’m not making an outcome-based goal here, because that way lies madness, but I would like to see some marked improvement this year.
As for Silas, his goal is to figure out what lives in this drainage ditch at the park.