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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Shyla's Growing Confidence

In the past, I've written here about Shyla's fears, and my efforts to help her live in our world more confidently. At one point last spring, I decided that I was going to continue my efforts but not be so focused on trying to "solve" all of them. That attitude has made a huge difference in our journey because I am less intense about Shyla's progress.

Recently, we met our trainer in town for the first time after month hiatus, our longest break since Shyla arrived a year ago. Before I edited my thoughts, I blurted out to my trainer: "I'm really happy with where Shyla is now. I love her. Some things still scare her but I honestly think that she's generally happy in her world now". That unplanned speech sums up my feelings pretty well.
Except for certain situations, Shyla navigates the world in a quiet, timid, but happy way. As long as I'm aware of my surroundings and potential scary situations, she rarely "spooks" (i.e., darts away from something, holds her body low, starts making jerky scared movements). A year ago, spooking was routine.

Even more surprising to me is that she has the courage to take the initiative to meet certain strangers. I never ask or require her to meet anyone so this has been entirely her idea. I haven't figured out all of her criteria for choosing who she wants to meet but, when she picks out someone, she seems to melt their heart in an instant.

Moreover, on the trails near our house, the one thing that she has found very scary in the past is hikers with dogs - to the point that she used to refuse to pass them on the trail. We'd have to go off into the woods to let them pass before we could continue on our way.

Just today, we met two hikers with five off-leash dogs. Shyla used to be terrified of this particular group, both the dogs and the people. Today, she met the dogs in her unassuming way, and then, to everyone's utter surprise, she spontaneously greeted each hiker, sitting nicely in front of them with her tail wagging in fast little arcs. I was thrilled! This was an epic step forward for her.
I suspect that Shyla will always be a sensitive girl who will inwardly be scared of certain things, like skateboards or big crowds. However, in recent months, she's learned to cope with some of these scary things in such a way that it's not obvious to my eye that she's scared. However, when we get home, diarrhea hits with a vengance (telling me that she was secretly scared).  This week, by tweaking her diet and keeping some distance between us and the scary stuff, we've kept her GI tract calm. I'm hoping that we can continue that streak!

I haven't shown you any new tricks that I've taught Shyla this summer because we've shifted our focus to agility training. Due to our training, Shyla is comfortable with many agility obstacles now, including the teeter-totter and the weave poles. I've used Susan Garret's shaping methods to teach her the obstacles, and they've worked beautifully. Shyla seems to love BANGING the teeter down really loudly (can you believe that?), which makes me laugh. And, she can navigate 10 weave poles in a row. She's not super fast yet but she's accurate. 

She's so intense about agility. She doesn't want to stop when I say it's the end of an agility training session. I never dreamed that I'd see such intense drive in the Shyla who arrived a year ago. When we have a sunny afternoon (a rarity these days), I plan to make an agility video for you so you can see her in action.
The last change in Shyla is the most subtle but she seems to have completely dropped her guard with the Runner and me. She's always been affectionate but in a frantic and needy kind of way. Since about two months ago, she has truly relaxed. Now, if she wants to snuggle, she just rests her head on my shoulder, lets out a big sigh of contentment, and falls asleep.
I cannot describe how wonderful that feels to me.


  1. That last photograph just melts my heart! As does the story of Shyla's journey and courage in overcoming so many fears.

  2. She's come so far! I love that last photo.

    Maybe she's just sort of maturing, and leaving some puppy issues behind? From about 9-26 months, Nola was shy and reactive to some situations. Now, at almost 3, she's incredible. She's confident, assertive in new situations, social and takes everything in stride. As you know, we're going to try out therapy work. I never would have thought that was a possibility for her a year ago.

    Nola's Mom

  3. Several of the photos in this post just melted me! I'm betting that some of it is her growing up a little, too, but you've done such great work with her. I still say that you both were what each other needed. You could have been happy with another dog, but I think the work you've had to do with her has been a great distraction from other sad things, and I suppose she could have lived in another home, but I can't imagine one more perfect for her than yours.

  4. Oh goodness-what a wonderful update!! My heart beamed with pride when I read that she initiated contact with the two hikers! WOW!! And I laughed out loud at the vision of her BANGING down her teeter :) go ShyBear go! I am so happy for all of you!! Monster congratulatory hugs to all four of you! Xoxo

  5. What a good girl! Your patience and love have paid off.

  6. This is just such a happy thing to hear. I have felt from the beginning you and she would be a wonderful pair, and now look at the two of you!

    The goofiness of banging her teeter totter sounds like something she may have learned from
    R, right up his alley! Is he learning agility too?

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo and Stella

  7. I can't wait to see the agility video!

  8. The year together has been an incredible journey, and with leaps and bounds, Shyla has shown she can overcome so much. Your patience, care and love all show in these last sets of pics, the silhouette one is ,in my mind, one of the best. One huge hug to your wonderful girl, from Jean.

  9. You and Shyla are the perfect team, KB ♥
    We can't wait to see your agility video, Shyla!

    Love ya lots♥
    Mitch and Molly

  10. she really has come a long way with your patience and guidance....such a smart and lucky girl! (both of you!)
    can't wait to see the agility vid!

  11. I would love to see an agility video! Agility truly is wonderful for building confidence. And I do believe the dogs get as addicted as the handlers! In the relaxed atmosphere of my training building, Jimmy gets over-the-top excited, screaming his fool head off for the whole lesson. The stress of an actual trial robs a lot of that zeal, but I know he still loves it.

  12. "Romping & Rolling in the Rockies" has been included in the A Sunday Drive for this week. Be assured that I hope this helps to point even more new visitors in your direction.

  13. It warms my heart to hear how well your girl is doing and gives me hope for my Hailey!

  14. It's so nice to hear about Shyla's progress. I look forward to agility videos on the future! :)

  15. Shyla is such a special girl. I'm glad to see how far she has come and I can't wait to see her agility action.


  16. That's just wonderful, all her progress. As the owner of two fearful dogs (one is fear aggressive), I love posts like these. I truly believe hard work, patience, consistency, and love all pay off. With my big boy, once I was able to change my expectations, dealing with him and his fear based aggression became so much easier. Kudos to you.

  17. She's such a beautiful girl, and I'm happy that she's happy. I'm also happy that YOU'RE happy! It's so great that she's enthusiastic about agility. There's no way to tell what they'll be into, right?

    Such epic progress, truly, and I love that you used that word for it!

  18. Wonderful progress! The success is in the journey! BTW, me and Stanley are not scared of fireworks, vacuums, etc. but we are REALLLLLLLLLy scared of skateboards too!!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  19. Aweee! This is the best post ever! She reminds me of the cracker when he's afraid. He used to bark crazy at bike riders, roller bladers, scooters or even someone pulling a suitcase. Today, he can be off or on leash around mt. bikers just fine, no barking, no chasing, nothing. He still has issues with rude dogs who scare him (stare to hard or seem aggressive). then again, i can never truly figure out his criteria because he once play bowed a GSD I would have called being aggressive toward us... but he read the GSD so much differently than i did. go figure. still, he's come many miles from where he was. I still marvel that i took him to another country and I made him climb the Alps then descend in a Gondola! He still has his quirks, but don't we all? These fear things and confidence issues just take time and consistency. And knowing when to really work them and when to shrug them off. She's so pretty, it's hard not to want to help her become her full potential! I'd love to see her agility video!

  20. Well that's just a wonderful update on her progress.
    Her photos just melt my heart:)

  21. It makes us so happy to hear about the progress Shyla has made in this past year.
    You have been witness to it-
    We all hoped it would happen in time- and it has.


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