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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Back to town for Shyla

Yesterday morning, we were on the trails just after sunrise, catching some of the gorgeous light of the dawn of a new day.
We lingered in the area where the sunrise views are the best. It's rare for us to be out that early - so summertime sunrises are something to be treasured.
After sunrise, because I was going to take Shyla into town for a training class, we biked/ran extra far, with the hope that it would "take the edge off" Shyla's tensions in town through exercise. During our ride, Shyla found some wet areas to cool off, as you can see!
Then, we headed home, to get ready for training class. Here was Shyla's thought on the trip to town.
During class, Shyla seemed much better than she's been over the past couple of weeks. Our class consisted of walking politely around shopping areas in town and even going into some shops. We did specific skill training in the midst of it all (e.g., heel, wait, sit-stay). The other people and dogs in the class were SO nice to Shyla that it made her very comfortable with the potentially scary situations.

After class, I needed to do a couple of errands at dog-friendly places. I tried to make them as fast as possible, to keep the stress down for Shyla. Shyla went into the stores with me because it's too hot to leave her in the car in the summer. By the end of it all, Shyla was definitely tired but she was still acting reasonably confident.

Then, when we arrived home, Shyla started having diarrhea. And, it has continued. Poor girl - she must have been stressed out on the inside even though she seemed pretty good on the outside when we were in town.

Despite that, I still put yesterday's class in the success column. She wasn't skittish for most of the time, and she wanted to meet new people. Both of those are good things.
I have a hypothesis that the sudden onset of heat in town (3000' lower in elevation than our home) was the factor that made town much scarier for Shyla. I think that Shyla was barely staying below her stress threshold in town when the weather was nice and cool. Then, one more stressor, the shocking heat hit (it really is shocking, like a furnace blast, when you come down from the mountains into town). I think that the heat is why Shyla now cannot handle bustle of town as well.

In the training world, this is referred to as "stacking stressors". For example, when in the safety of our home, Shyla can now meet almost anyone with little fear. However, when she has the stress of being in town, she hesitates to meet some people out of fear. Thus, "stacking" the stress of town and the stress of meeting a stranger together can be too much for her while either one alone would be okay. Another example is that, if there's loud construction noise nearby when we're in town, Shyla suddenly becomes afraid of certain objects that look odd to her, like statues, due to "stacking" scary noise and unusual objects.

I'm learning so much from Shyla, and I'll keep letting her (and my trainer) be my teachers. For a while, I'll try to make her town visits be on cooler days or to spots where she can swim, hoping to bring back all of that hard-won confidence that she had before summer hit so hard.

Up here in the mountains, summer isn't hot, and the flowers are absolutely glorious. Maybe Shyla is onto something - we should be hermits who never leave our slice of mountain paradise!


  1. I hadn't heard the term 'stacking stressors', but it makes perfect sense. Shyla is lucky she has you to understand when things get too hard to deal with.

  2. Thanks for the scoop on these stacking stressors, another tip to help us out with Lightning.

    The heat is here too, maybe we can move in with you for a while:)

  3. It's interesting to learn about Shyla's triggers and safe places/factors. Rufus is actually the opposite. He seems to do much better meeting new people in strange places - I recently took him into a dog boutique in which he let two men pet him and feed him treats. In our own home or at his favorite park, he becomes weary and sometimes even bark-y. I think he's definitely more reactive/protective in familiar places.

  4. i think shyla is definitely on to something!!

  5. Beautiful. Thank you for the comment, I know you understand for sure. How the heck did you get through it
    Benny & Lily

  6. Great pix and great post! All very interesting to think about. She is gonna be just fine, in town or at home, I just know it.

    Cheers and hugs all around,

    Jo, Stella and Zkhat

  7. Stacking makes perfect sense. That flower is just beautiful. And I smiled real BIG at Shyla's thoughts on going to town.

  8. I could so easily be a hermit, and understand Shyla's happiness when home in the mountains. Beautiful flower photo. Greetings, Jean.

  9. Shyla is such a beauty even with her tongue out.


  10. The colors of the flowers in your last few posts are unbelievably beautiful. Maybe the training class can have an outing to the mountains one day, challenging Shyla in her element!

  11. Your theory makes sense. The heat might also make smells more intense, and if there are a lot of things there that she doesn't normally smell at home, that could be overwhelming, too. I hope she keeps moving forward with you! :)

  12. you may have to take Shyla when it's not so hot.

    XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

  13. I wouldn't have thought of the heat as being the extra stressor that pushed her over the edge, but it makes sense. I'd have a hard time leaving your mountain too ;-)

  14. We love your blowing raspberries photos, Shyla, and our mom is in love with the flower!

    Love ya lots♥
    Mitch and Molly

  15. I'm sort of in Shyla's camp on this one - avoid the town/heat and stay in the mountains until Fall :-)

  16. That's a really good way to describe the cumulative effect of stressors!
    I wonder if the sudden heat could also be a factor in the diarrhea? Heat, or heat and humidity, certainly have that effect on one of the animals living in my house. And it ain't Piper.

  17. Great she is doing better. I have to train VIlja too. She is very unsecure an barks a lot when she meet peoples she dont know. After a while she goes to them. I did a mental test, maybe you read about it on the blog so I know what I have to train.


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