Stella is doing very well with the meal-time exercises. She’s doing a good job waiting for permission, she gives calm, soft eye contact, and she takes the food politely. She is still unable to tolerate having the door open when she is eating – even with a barrier in place to prevent Glimmer or Violet from coming in. She growls, hackles, stiffens, and goes into attack mode when she knows they are near.
On the leash, outdoors, Stella is doing a very good job observing strangers instead of barking, growling, and lunging at them. She does try to get the muzzle off, but she’s pretty good about stopping when she’s told to stop, and using her nose instead. She’s also becoming a bit calmer when she sees and observes strangers.
While Stella is making good progress where other people are concerned, she is really struggling with dog-to-dog interaction in resource areas like the kitchen [water] and the office [where she eats]. Glimmer often lays on our bed, and yesterday, while bringing Stella into the bedroom to put her down for a short nap, Stella presented guarding behavior when she saw Glimmer. The only reason she did not attack is because I had the leash very short, and I was between her and Glimmer, effectively preventing her.
The only area in the house Stella shares is the living room. Even the kitchen is a volatile area because that’s where the water bowls are. I have not put a water bowl in the office, nor do I intend to. Stella must learn that she has to share water, that she does not own it.
Stella’s muzzle allows her to drink okay, but it’s too small for her to take food through it. When I remove it so that I can offer her food rewards when she makes the right choices, she ignores both me and the food completely and focuses solely on attacking. She disconnects almost completely and puts all of her focus and energy into attacking. I say “almost completely” because she has not redirected, or attempted to redirect that energy onto me.
Today is Day 5 and while I am happy that Stella is making progress in most areas, I am not happy that she is not making progress with resource issues. But, Stella has been this way for a very long time; recovery is not going to happen overnight. To expect otherwise is unrealistic and unfair to her.
Stella is a very tough case, but her ability to be calm and relaxed in at least one area of the house, and the few occasions where she’s tried to make friends with Glimmer shows me that she does want to be happy, that she does not want to fight over resources, that she just wants to be a dog. And that is why I refuse to give up on her.
Stella is actually a very loving dog. She’s gentle, she loves to cuddle, she’s funny, she’s extremely smart… She just needs extra help letting go of the things that are currently holding her back from living her best life. And on that note, it’s time to get her out and get our day started.