As we begin the third and final week of Skylar’s training and rehabilitation, I am happy to say that the goal we set for her – to decrease the intensity and duration of her hyper-vigilant, reactive behavior – has been achieved, with great success. She is hard-wired to “alert” to unexpected and [to her] unusual sounds and movements – she is a herding breed, after all – but helping her learn how to look for guidance and practice self control has made a huge difference to her confidence as well as to her overall well-being. Her pacing tendencies have significantly decreased, and not only is she able to truly relax, she’s able to maintain that state of relaxation for several hours at a time.
Door and people – Skylar is still reactive to the door and to people coming in, but she goes to “place” almost right away now, and she looks for guidance more often. She still needs work with this, but she is learning to take control of herself, and she is working very hard to quiet herself more quickly.
Vacuum and other loud sounds – Although Skylar still sometimes tries to “kill” the vacuum when I turn it on, she is making a real effort to look for direction rather than attack out of hand. As a result, the frequency and duration of her attacks has decreased dramatically, and she has become more accustomed to the sound.
Hugging, laughing, etc – When Skylar first arrived in the program, she could not tolerate laughter or people hugging each other. She became overly excited in these situations, barking uncontrollably and running around in circles. As of this posting, Skylar is almost completely non-reactive to these situations. Yesterday, while cleaning my vacuum, I had the radio on fairly loudly and I was dancing around; Skylar observed but did not bark or otherwise react.
People with dogs/public places – Three weeks ago, Skylar was extremely nervous and anxious around people with dogs. She would pull on the leash to try and run away, and she would sometimes bark. As of this posting, Skylar is not practicing that type of avoidance when I take her out. She is still nervous and anxious, but instead of trying to run, she now stands beside me on a loose leash. She has been learning that nothing bad is going to happen to her, and as a result, her confidence and her trust has increased.
Food – Because she goes into survival mode around food, eating very fast and with no regard for the size or density of what she’s eating, Skylar is still being hand-fed at each meal. Not only does this control the amount of food going into her mouth, it also slows her down, it prevents her from choking, and it improves her digestion. She does need to be reminded to “be gentle” at times, but generally speaking, Skylar has responded very well to this method of eating. She does raise her lip if Glimmer or Violet get too close while she’s eating, but she does not attempt to nip or bite at them, nor does she growl. Instead, she waits for me to move them out of the way. This is a huge show of trust from her; when she first arrived in the program, Skylar tended to mock-charge when they got too close.
Overall, Skylar has made tremendous progress in virtually every problem area. Her people will need to learn how to maintain the methods she’s been learning, but as Skylar continues to mature and gain confidence and trust with her family, these issues will resolve and she will be the same happy dog she has been while she’s been in the program. It’s all just a matter of patience, consistency, and remaining calm but assertive, no matter what’s going on. Give her these three things, and Skylar will give trust and confidence in return.