Chanty is now about 8 months of age. He’s making good progress with the other dogs in his foster home. His confidence has been steadily increasing, and he’s learning how to join in as well as initiate play. His progress with humans, however, is not progressing as well as I had hoped. He’s still nervous and anxious with Becky’s husband and son, and extremely reactive to anyone who tries to approach Becky when she has him on a lead – either umbilical, or hand-held.
Yesterday, we practiced leash transfer using a 10-foot long lead. Using treats to distract Chanty, I attempted to approach Becky so she could hand the lead to me. Chanty immediately tucked his tail deep between his legs and began barking and lunging at me to drive me away. After several attempts at a calm exchange of the lead, I had Becky toss me the leash while I tossed treats to Chanty to distract him.
Once I had control of the leash, I started guiding him away from Becky. Chanty was very skittish and kept turning his body towards her and then sitting down and refusing to move. To prevent him from choking himself, I had to keep moving sideways so I could guide him away. He did move to a grassy area across the street and smell the post boxes, but I soon realized this was a ploy on his part. He was trying to maneuver himself into a position where he could pull towards Becky and force me to follow so that he wouldn’t choke himself.
Because of Chanty’s extreme anxiety and fear of humans, his bite history, and his unpredictability, I had no choice but to give him distance on the lead and watch his every move, especially when he came very close to me when I tried to guide him further away from Becky. Several times, Chanty did give me some brief eye contact; after acknowledging it calmly and softly, I guided him forward a bit more. I hoped that by moving him so that Becky was out of his line of sight, he would start to tune into my energy and maybe look to me for direction. The effort did not succeed. I also had Becky hide behind a van, but that didn’t work, either. It made Chanty even more anxious, to the point where he sat down for a second, started whining, and then began pulling hard at the leash to go and find her.
All of these exercises were repeated several times. Despite being offered treats, I was unable to approach Becky and take the leash from her in a normal manner. The closest I was able to come to her was about 5 feet. Any closer, and Chanty immediately started barking, growling, and lunging at me. There was no doubt that he would have bitten me if I ignored his behavior.
Our next session is on Thursday, Oct. 8. I’m hoping to make some progress with Chanty, even if it’s just to close the leash distance between me and him by a couple of feet without triggering him to lunge and bark at me, or worse, bite me. Stay tuned…