Like me, my new puppy seems the happiest on the trails. She has had two days in a row of zooming in circles around me for almost our entire hike. Her joy and exuberance make me laugh out loud.
The coy look during one of our "calm" breaks...
Behavioral Adjustment Therapy" which sounds a lot fancier than it is. Essentially, we expose Shyla to new things (e.g., cars going by on the road, bikes, people running, people gardening, people roller blading, our garbage disposal, our vacuum cleaner, etc.), making sure that the new thing is far enough away that she can handle it without too much stress. We reward calm reactions. The surprising part (to me) is that the reward for a calm reaction is that we let her lead us away from the "new thing" if that's what she wants. We don't let her flee in a panic but rather walk away calmly for a short break before returning to where we saw the new thing.
So far, I am astounded by how well it works. It puts the choice in the dog's paws - so she's in control of how close she gets to anything new. Shyla seems to be inherently curious about the huge new world around her so she wants to approach new things despite her anxiety about them. Due to her curiosity, she's a perfect candidate for this approach. Just an hour of walking around a quiet part of town while using this technique made a huge difference in Shyla's comfort level with town life.
As we navigate the world together, I'm learning to look at it from Shyla's perspective, trying to predict which things might cause stress so that I'm prepared. I make mistakes but Shyla recovers very well. For example, yesterday we saw a friendly couple leading a dog into the vet hospital where R was having his tests. Shyla wanted to meet the friendly dog and then wiggled her way over to meet the people (her own initiative). That was a great interaction, showing Shyla that new people can be nice.
A bit later, the same pair of people exited the vet hospital without their dog (he was having some tests). I, being a human, assumed that Shyla would still be comfortable with the pair of people. I was wrong. Without their dog, the situation felt completely different to Shyla - probably because the people were focused on her too much. It didn't turn into a big deal because I walked calmly away at the first sign of fear in Shyla. But, it was a learning moment for me, telling me to always look at things from Shyla's perspective while she's in this phase of experiencing a whole new world.
In the meantime, thank you for all the well-wishes for R. We still believe, in our hearts, that he's going to be fine and that we may never know what caused this "episode". But, in the meantime, we are still anxiously awaiting the results of the latest tests.