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.


7 thoughts on “2014

  1. The car thing is big. I’ve had Delilah lose her sh*t in New Jersey (where you are not allowed to pump your own gas) when the gas attendant approached the car. I also have to be wary when one of us waits in the car with her, because it never fails that someone spots the dogs and wants to pet them.

    She’s getting better as she gets older and she relaxes more. But it’s still challenging. Best of luck as you tackle this issue and let me know what works for you.


  2. Ruby is reactive in the car, also, although I got pulled over once with her and she had no problem with the officer approaching the window. She seems to handle drive-up windows as well, but she barks at pedestrians, bikes, and of course other dogs while we are moving or stopped in traffic. It makes outings pretty unpleasant. We had a major triumph this last trip to visit my aunt, when I had her wear her Thundershirt for the first time in the car. She didn’t bark once, and we even passed several people walking dogs. I was cautiously amazed. She was also car-sick, which seems to have become a regular occurrence, and I wonder if that’s anxiety-related, too, so she may just have not felt up to acting like a maniac.

    I do plan to put the ThunderShirt on whenever I take her somewhere from now on. I have also tried the Calming Cap, which is effective in that she lays down in abject depression, but I hate to rely on a “solution” that makes her miserable. The easiest treat I’ve found for the car that distracts me the least is peanut butter in a Treat Toob.

    You know I’ll be following along with your progress in 2014 and hopefully making some of my own!


  3. I don’t think your goals need to be “big” goals for them to be worthwhile. Having him much more relaxed/less stressed in the car is a great thing to work on (and it’s a good sign that he’s more willing to take treats in the car).

    Happy new year!


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