I don’t know, people, I just don’t know.

On Tuesday I needed to go to the Post Office. Because that’s when the landscapers come, I thought I would take Silas with me. Our post office has a weirdly huge parking lot, so I could run a package in without stressing him as much as listening to the leaf blower.

I put his harness on. That part went great for once. We’ve done a lot of training over the last few weeks to make him more comfortable with me putting on the harness. I had this great idea that maybe he disliked the process of getting in the car, the first step of which is having his harness put on. If I could cut down the stress from the harness, maybe everything else would be easier.

But, no.

I put the harness on, and he was so excited! So excited, that is, to go out the front door, for an illicit walk through the townhouse complex. He has one route that he really likes, on the sidewalk that’s the furthest from the roads.

Once he understood that I meant we were going in the car, he was terrified. He got into the chair where I give him his goodbye cookie when I go out, and then he shook so hard I could feel it through his leash. I wound up just leaving him. I didn’t have time to coax him, and just taking him would have been inhumane.

Since then, I’ve been pretty glum. It seems like other fearful dogs make progress of one kind or the other, and I’m working desperately just to make sure that we don’t lose ground. And, let’s be honest, we’re losing it anyway.


14 thoughts on “Setback

  1. Hang in there! Steps backward are so disheartening, but progress comes in fits and starts. I was reading back in Habi’s journal, and found references to multi-block walks five years ago. What?! How could that be? I have no recollection of them, as we apparently went backward right after those few optimistic entries. It wasn’t until 2012 that we started having comfortable loose-leash walks, and we’re currently (grrr!) having issues walking in our neighborhood again. It takes endless patience, and then more patience, and the ability to laugh off the not-so-good days.

    You two will make car progress again. The landscaper stress of the last couple of weeks may have caused the back-sliding. Take a deep breath and do something that Silas finds fun.


  2. Hmm…I commend you for trying so hard to work with Silas. Perhaps I have never had a dog that is truly fearful or perhaps I have never been that sensitive. Chester has never had a problem there but Gretel was pretty fearful when I got her. She is still very submissive with us but she seems to have grown out of whatever it was using the “sink or swim” method. I know it did help her to have Chester to que off of since he is such a stable, easy-going guy. I am not trying to minimize or shrug off your challenges. I just mean that I can’t imagine how hard it is for you and the amount of effort you put into Silas.


    1. I *thought* that my Norwegian elkhound Freya was a fearful dog until I met Ruby…Freya was scared of thunderstorms and flies. Yes, flies. Ruby is afraid of keys, wary of leashes, my cell phone charging cord, gets balls out of corners in slow-motion as if something is going to jump out at her, and alerts me frantically that “A candle is flickering!” “There is a coat on the back of a chair!” I’ve never seen anything like her hyper-awareness and so of course sympathize with Jessica, in fact, we’ve started referring to Silas and Ruby as dog-twins.


      1. Silas is SO WEIRD about what he’s afraid of. Most of his around the house fears faded with age and exposure. He still surprises me from time to time–a nice, cheerful “Let’s go see what that is!” gets him through things like the day my bathrobe was hanging “wrong” in the laundry room, or when I came home with the wrong size grocery bags. Most of what we deal with now is that his first response to anything outside the ordinary is to be frightened by it, and his primary “I’m frightened” behavior is to bark like a crazy dog. Except about the ironing board and the vacuum–those reduce him to a quivering mass. If he were smaller/quieter or if he were more of a trembler than a barker, it would be a lot easier to manage.


        1. Yeah, the target training and “check it out” cue have been invaluable for us. It’s so sad that she’s afraid of keys, because that means cowering every time I leave the house. I need to work on that. The reason she’s afraid is I dropped them once (and am sure to drop them again – I’m a klutz!) and she never, ever forgets. She’s gotten better about the vacuum, but I still put her on the patio for that chore, and doesn’t care about the hair dryer or Sonicare toothbrush any more, so some progress!


  3. Poor guy — and you too, I know how disheartening this feeling is. I’ve come to believe that fearful dogs don’t always make linear progress, or progress in the way that we would define it. They seem to always be taking two steps forward and one step back. (Sometimes literally!) Silas is lucky to have you as his patient advocate.


  4. With a dog like Silas – there will be highs and lows. He’s had some rough days and frankly, you leaving him at home when he was so scared was the best choice for him. It may have made things even worse had you forced him to come with you. There’s always tomorrow to try again!


  5. I’m so sorry, and I know how easy it is to get frustrated. Lucas was 100% fine walking past people for 2ish years. Then he lunged and snapped at a woman in the park, nipping her jeans. I sobbed. For days. Unfortunately, setbacks happen. I think no matter what, it’s so important to realize that the baby steps keep propelling you forward, despite the occasional misstep. Keep fighting the good fight!


  6. Aw, poor little guy!

    Really, though, you knew enough not to force him. And maybe you should work on doing the harness, and going out the front door for fun little walks, and coming back again (which I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you about)


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