In a Happy Place

It hit me today, while we were taking a practically perfect walk on a practically perfect day, that we’re in a really good place right now.

First, we’re finally reaping (some of) the benefits of all that good training we’ve done over the years. Teaching a puppy and an adolescent dog is really a leap of faith. You (or we, at least) don’t always see the kind of results that you want. They’ll learn to respond to your cues, but “behaving” like a civilized dog comes along slowly. Now that Silas is two and a half, we’re starting to see some really nice things. Like, I can finally sweep the floor without him chasing the broom or eating the hairballs I sweep up. Or, when I unbuckle his seatbelt at the park, he can hop in my lap and sit still until I let him out, rather than clawing my legs to ribbons.

His hyper vigilance is also settling down, thanks to the wonders of modern pharmaceuticals. He still gets really upset at certain things that happen outside, but it’s two or three times a day rather than twelve. Literally twelve–I kept records.

This has combined in a wonderful way with a lot of work we did teaching him how to settle down. That’s most of what we did the first three months we were going to the behaviorist. Stop inadvertently encouraging/rewarding pointless busy-ness, and instead teach him to chill out on his own. Instead of poking a toy at one of us constantly for four hours a day, he’ll try it a time or two, get the message, and go relax somewhere.

Lastly, as I mentioned yesterday, Silas is on a pretty stable diet now. It’s been three months or more since his last food allergy outbreak. A happy stomach makes for a happy dog.

You know what this all means? At least compared to what life has been for the last two years, we are living like regular people with a regular dog. I mean, I don’t have any illusions. That normalcy hinges on a lot of avoidance behaviors that have become an invisible part of our routine and may, to be perfectly honest, always need to be there. There’s always, always work to be done. But for now, I’m pretty happy in our happy place.

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11 thoughts on “In a Happy Place

  1. ” I mean, I don’t have any illusions. That normalcy hinges on a lot of avoidance behaviors that have become an invisible part of our routine and may, to be perfectly honest, always need to be there. There’s always, always work to be done. But for now, I’m pretty happy in our happy place.”

    This is just wonderful. Ruby has setbacks, of course, but I feel that we are making progress. She can lay on the back of the sofa and watch out the window for the most part – dogs still make her nuts but she can handle people. We’ve been taking it pretty easy on the walks, I think more active DS/CC/LAT training is going to resume when the weather warms and we have light on our evening walks again, but for now, things are relatively simple.

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    1. Our big lifestyle adjustment is that we *never, ever* have people in the house. Not the plumber, not the cable guy, nothing. If someone needs to come in, one of us takes Silas and leaves. (We took turns sitting in the garage with him once.) If we had a regular house we could just put him away somewhere. Open floor plan + loft-style bedroom = nowhere for him to go.

      And that’s not because I think Silas would attack them or anything; it just stresses him out so much, and most people don’t enjoy being barked at.

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      1. Oddly, though she will bark, lunge, spin at any person approaching on a walk (stationary or off to the side are usually okay, it’s largely a motion thing with her), Ruby LOVES anyone coming in the house! Friends, family, strangers, she wants to lick all their faces off and then show them all her toys. This is a nice change from my fear-reactive/dog-reactive Norwegian Elkhound, who took a very long time to warm up to people, was very skittish around strangers and snapped at people several times (always after I’d already warned them to ignore her/leave her alone).

        It really sounds like you’ve come such a long way with Silas, thank you for giving the rest of us hope!

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  2. Love it!
    There are always ups and downs, but as long as the general trendline over time is still up, you’re making progress!
    Together with consistency, we found as Moses (and Alma) matured some of the more puppy-like stuff like exhuberance (and humping other dogs, in the case of Moses) melted away a bit easier. We noticed them around his birthdays – 2 was good, 3 was significant, and 5 was another one where he just became calmer. We can only guess at Alma’s age, but over time she’s improved greatly, too.
    I don’t want to discount all of the hard work we all put into training – and consistency is always the key to long-term behaviour modification – but I think there’s an element of nature with the nurture, and maturity helps us (ours and theirs, I suppose).

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    1. It’s such a weird process. I remember *vividly* the first walk I took with Silas after he turned eighteen months old, and it was like he was a different dog. I had almost given up on taking him out, because he had gotten so strong and he was impossibly bad on leash. Then, there we were, trotting along like it was no big deal. I thought, “Oh, okay, I guess that was the end of dog adolescence?” HAHAHAHA.

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  3. That’s cool! There’s nothing wrong with avoidance. I think learning what your dog likes and doesn’t like is part of being a good dog owner:)

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