In a comment, a reader from the acd6pack asked a great question recently when I wrote about Shyla's socialization in town. The reader asked why I was so intent on in-town socialization for Shyla.
I'm fairly certain that Shyla would not be confident, like in the photo below, in the big city yet. I think that we're still a long way from asking her to try to visit the big city. Our smaller town is still plenty of bustle for her.
The other reason for town socialization is that there are lots of people in town compared to our quiet little part of the forest. Up here in the mountains, we could go for days on end without seeing anyone outside our small pack. Shyla is still not consistently comfortable with meeting new people. Again, you might wonder why we want to change that. The main reason is that there will be situations in her life when she has to interact with people who she doesn't know well - like at the vet clinic.
Now, when she's too close to new people who aren't absolutely awesome at fearful dog interactions, she goes "over-threshold" and can't function. She forgets all of her training and takes on a scared posture. In the photo below, she's actually doing a trick that I taught her... but I am fairly sure that she couldn't do it if a stranger were standing nearby.
We've had a recent backslide in her socialization. She was spayed almost 2 weeks ago and was "very scared" of the people and sounds in the clinic while she recovered there for the day. When I took her to town a week later, she had regressed hugely in her confidence. Believe me, you would not recognize her in town. When she's in town, her eyes and body language never possess the zest and confidence that she emanates in the photo below.
Here we are, almost 6 months later, and I haven't managed to do that, despite my very best effort. My new attitude is that, although I plan to keep working at socializing Shyla, I'm accepting that she may not ever be truly confident out in the big world. She may be a lot like me - a mountain girl who wishes that she could avoid going to town indefinitely.
Most of all, I've realized that, even if Shyla outwardly learns to act confident in new situations, her timidness will always be part of her. She's a very sensitive dog who picks up on small nuances about the people who she loves. Perhaps this sensitivity, which one of my favorite things about her, will make being truly comfortable out in the big bad world very tough for her.
She's an amazing dog - and we're lucky to have her, no matter what.