She’s scared of a flag. Or… something in the direction of my neighbor’s yard. Dora can’t really tell me what was so scary. But today, as we stood outside in the snow and the wind, my normally silent dog started growling, barking, bristling her hackles, tucking her tail, and staring intently at… whatever it was. She wouldn’t respond to verbal cues (her name, shh, etc.) or physical ones (touching her muzzle, petting her head or neck, etc.). Dora wanted that thing to know that she was absolutely not scared of it. But she was.
I wonder if that’s how I look as well- convincing myself that my posturing or feigned indifference or painful insults actually track people into believing that I’m unaffected by the scary stimulus. I wonder if people can tell right away that I’m scared, but no one says anything because it’s dangerous to get too close.
Anyway, back to Dora: She’s lived with us for just over a week, and some new behaviors are manifesting. She has more energy than she displayed when we met her- occasionally launching herself into and off of the couch and sprinting through the hall. She has also started barking at the mystery terror and door noises (but usually just when she’s waking up). I’m nervous that she may not be a good candidate for the training after all, but it will probably be fine. She is still treat-motivated and attentive,unfazed by barking dogs, trusting with strangers, and so on. It should be fine.
We did a bit of work today with her fear. I brought her back in, and we started at the window. She could see the scary thing but it was outside, so she growled a little, but it was much lower intensity than her outdoor reaction. I called for her attention when she got scared and rewarded her for breaking line of sight with it to interact with me. She did ok.
We went back outside and I had to coax her for each 3 feet or so of walking. She would freeze and stare at it; I would move to the end of the leash, hold out a treat, and call her; Dora would choose to walk to me and take the treat. We did this a few times, and then, all of a sudden, she was ok! Dora pranced on her leash, followed me to her bathroom spot, and relieved herself, then just nonchalantly came back inside with me.
An hour later, we were back outside, and it went pretty much the same: initial mild fear response, relaxation, and calm inspection of the yard before returning indoors.
As I write this, she’s sleeping again, presumably because stress and cold both put a bit of strain on the body and mind. Either way, today I could support my emotional support dog. That’s kind of cool. We’re like partners in this big, unexpected, scary, surprising world.
It’s nice not to be alone.