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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Two steps forward - one step backward

Who knew that today would be rough day in town for Shyla?
I've been reading everything that I can get my hands on about fear in dogs, and a recurring theme is that "recovery" is never a straight line. There are regular set-backs, and we experienced one today after an amazing week.

Shyla was having a great day. Our morning snowbike ride and training went beautifully. She's learning to cover her face with a paw using clicker training, and today, she progressed to holding her paw in place over her nose for long enough that I could take a photo.
In clicker training, you need to find a way to initially trigger some semblance of the behavior that you're training. So, I started this trick by putting a small piece of masking tape on Shyla's nose. Of course, she swiped at it with her paw to try to get it off. After about three swipes that I clicked and rewarded, I removed the tape. Because Shyla is so experienced with clicker training, she kept swiping at her nose after the tape was gone to earn more rewards. I added a verbal cue, "cover", so that I could ask her to do it in the future.

Then, my next goal was to change the rapid swipe into a stationary position with her paw on her snout. So, in the next session, I progressed to clicking only the swipes when she moved slowly. Then, today, I clicked only the ones where she stopped and held her paw on her nose. I'd like her to have her paw higher up on her snout - so that will be our next goal.

In any case, Shyla is super smart, and had no trouble with complex training games at home and in the forest this morning. Yet, going to town threw her for a big loop. Many things spooked her that she's been okay with over the past week - like bikes, baby carriages, and even people. I've never taken photos of her when she's in her fearful mode because I'm so focused on helping her. But, believe me, you would not recognize her - she looks so much less confident than in the mountain photos that I show you.

I hope that it's just a brief regression. On days like today, I try to help her deal with her fear, using a variety of techniques that I've learned from my trainer. If I'm not successful within 20 minutes or so, I find a quiet nook where we can play a fun game that makes her happy, and then I quickly whisk her into the car on that good note.

When we got home, I let her burn off her nervous energy running with her brother, R.
They have so much fun on our evening jaunts together.
I'm so glad that both of them, but especially Shyla (due to her intermittent discomfort in civilization), love the mountains as much as I do.


  1. She is so very smart to learn the nose cover so fast and with each step just gets better and better. As you said set backs or regression will happen, but you handle it beautifully. And as time marches on I am confident that her confidence will grow in town just like my confidence at the Fort ball fields. Love that last photo of the Duo.

  2. She's really smart! I tried teaching Nola "cover" by using the tape, but she just rubs it off on the floor. (any tips on how to teach it without tape?) But after she got the tape off, she picked it up and brought it to me, LOL!

    Cudos to you for sticking with Shyla through this all!
    Nola's Mom

  3. Sad that Shayla had a not so good experience, but sounds like you have it all in hand. Your silhouette picture...sigh.

  4. You love her, and thats most important.
    But just keep trying

  5. KB, how on earth do you get those stunning shots. The glistening coats on the dogs, the reflection in the eyes. You blow me away with your photography skills

    bert's My vickie

  6. Shyla is a smarty. Hopefully it is only a tiny stept back.
    Benny & Lily

  7. I'm glad that Shyla has her mountain to be happy and I hope that eventually she will be comfortable in all situations.


  8. Everybuddy is entitled to a bad day now and then. She was successful with her paw exercises but perhaps she saw something in town that brought back a bad memory for her. My Dad's favorite line would always be "She'll be fine, give her time."

    Cheers and hugs,

  9. How old is she now? I do know that pre adolescence even "non fearful" pups go through a "fearful" time where everything is frightening. so with a dog like Shyla, who already has that challenge, to have good days and then suddenly freak with things she's not been afraid of, may make sense if she's entered that stage of her life. Anyway, having a fearful dog myself, (believe me i know), the more they trust you the easier it is, but I don't think it ever goes away. they just look to you to make them feel better, which is all you can hope for. Loki's come so far but it's always about management with him and he always looks to me to help him and that is all I can ask of him. because it ain't nothing but a thing to ease his fears now when he tells me about them. the more shyla sees you as a stress reliever, the easier it will be in the future to handle it. but sometimes that anxiety never disappears. it's just managed better between you and her.

    She's so pretty and sweet and worth it all!

  10. I'd love to see a progression set of pictures sometime when she learns a new trick! I am not surprised that she learns them so quickly. She's such a smart little thing!

    I'm sorry for the setback. Was it a particularly windy day, by chance? Here's hoping that the next trip to town is much easier!

  11. You are so good with teaching ...Shyla is a great learning dog. The duo are beautiful together, have a nice weekend.

  12. My Kirra still has moments of uncertainty, when she was a pup she was never sure of bikes, pushchairs etc, now she still is a little uncertain, although stometimes a new thing will bring a snort - which is rather funny, I try and let her understand it will not hurt her. A new experience.

  13. My Kirra still has moments of uncertainty, when she was a pup she was never sure of bikes, pushchairs etc, now she still is a little uncertain, although stometimes a new thing will bring a snort - which is rather funny, I try and let her understand it will not hurt her. A new experience.

  14. You take the most awesome pics of the duo!! I think they all have setbacks from time to time. Tomorrow is a new day! Happy Weekend and hope you are feeling much better! xo Jeanne, Chloe and LadyBug

  15. You take the most gorgeous photos, KB! We hope you have a better day in town next time, Shyla. Thank goodness that you have the smartest and most loving mom!

    Love ya lots,
    Mitch and Molly

  16. I guess dogs is a lot like peoples when they has a set back...just a little trigger can cause a set back. But Shyla is in good hands with you.
    I loves how you taught her da cover thing...dat is just amazin'!


  17. I suppose it's just an off day? Maybe like humans, sometimes Shyla just doesn't feel like dealing with people and noise? Glad that you always end it on a positive!

  18. Without spending too much time in your archives, just let me ask, is Shyla scared just by nature or did some event cause her to be fearful in town? Is R a rock solid social lab in public? If so, could you take him into town with you so he could set an example for Shyla. I know Wilson has always been (while not fearful) suspicious of most people. The breed standard calls it "reserved with strangers", but he takes it a bit too far. When I got Jimmy, he LOVED people, running to greet everyone. This helped ease Wilson's reaction quite a bit. Neither of my guys are fearful in crowded areas thanks to years of agility trials, but Wilson truly prefers not to be touched by anyone but his family.

  19. You are like a training genius! I would never have thought about tape on the nose!

    Don't worry - like others have said, all of us have good days and bad days. Dogs are no different. You just keep on doing what you are doing and hopefully she'll be less fearful in the future. :)

  20. Sorry to hear Shyla had a scary day in town. I always try to remember that Wrigs sees/hears/smells the world completely differently than I do. They are so sensitive. Sounds like other than that, her training is progressing by leaps and bounds. Great photos, as always! Love seeing the duo in action together. :-)

    Susan and Wrigs

  21. Your last photo, of Shyla outlined by the setting sun, is truly one of the most stunning photos you have ever taken. You really should have it printed poster-sized and sell copies -- I'd certainly buy one!

    Most of all, though, I'm so glad you are so gentle with Shyla's difficulties in town. It probably will take a long time for her to completely overcome her shyness issues, but the fact that you're willing to move at such a gentle pace suggests to me that you will one day reach success.

    But seriously, I want a poster of that beautiful dog against sunset photo!!! And I don't want to just gank it off your website; you deserve the copyright of it!

  22. If you haven't read Pam Dennison's book, Bringing Light to Shadow. And How to Right a Dog Gone Wrong, you should consider ordering them.

    Both books focus on dogs with fear of people/objects. Easy to read and understand.

    Sounds like some space from the "scary stimulus" might be helpful.

    I too live with and train my fearful dog, Chico. If it moves, it's super scary!

  23. The photos are fabulous!

    Sorry to hear that Shyla had such a set back but we're keeping our paws crossed it was just a little setback.

    Hope you all have a good weekend,
    Clive & Murray

  24. Wow. Just like raising kids. Except I got a lot of two steps forward, eleven steps back... :)

    I, too, am glad both the duo love mountains, and I'm glad you love photography so we can enjoy the stunning late afternoon light on their gorgeous coats!

  25. Hi my friend, Love these photos as always-your girl is so smart and although had a minor set back, I know she'll get over it soon. It does throw us for a loop when things impact them. My poor Hunter had a flu/virus for the last week and let me tell you I was so worried and stressed, especially because we were away.
    I know you'll enjoy the snow this weekend but after having nice weather in AZ. I am hoping it isn't as bad.
    Hugs, Noreen

  26. It's interesting to read your accounts of her training. I'm at the point with Addie of initial introductions of "the real world". I often take her into stores that we're allowed, and try to make her experience everything. Last week we came upon a woman in a motorized scooter chair. I asked the woman from a distance if we could approach. This was something completely out of Addie's realm, so she was a bit nervous. But, the woman was totally into it and was able to stand, so she got up and let Addie approach and climb onto it and we placed treats all over it to make it less scary. The woman also uses a cane, so she walked around a little and asked Addie to approach. I was so proud of my girl, and thankful to the nice woman for allowing me to take 5 minutes of her time. We didn't start the scooter up and move it around, I think that would have put her over the edge. And as you say in your posts, I didn't want to over do it and wanted to leave on a positive note. My trainer is awesome and incorporates a lot of "scary" things or unexpected things into our training sessions. I love reading what and how you're doing things. How old was Shyla when you got her, and I'm curious as to her background? I was very lucky to be the only shaping influence in Addie's life.

  27. Hi Y'all!

    R and Shyla make such a handsome pair!

    You get the most amazing silhouettes of your dogs.

    Y'all come back now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog


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