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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Shyla's Socialization Report

This morning, Shyla and I were out on the trails as the sun rose. When the sun first peeks over the eastern hills, it renders the world and Shyla a dusky red.
I have no doubt that Shyla has come to love our daily routine. One morning recently, I couldn't find Shyla when it was time start our sunrise bike ride. Finally, I heard a rustle from down in the darkness by the basement door, which is our exit route every morning. Shyla was sitting there, staring at the door, waiting for the moment when we could go out into the cold air. Yup, she loves our morning mountain bike ride!

I've written a lot recently about how much progress Shyla has made with her fears. Many of them are now almost invisible, as she delights in things that used to scare her, like meeting new people. But, as we all know, it's very hard to completely leave the past behind, and that's true for Shyla too.
She's met many new people in the past few weeks with great joy and excitement. But, every now and then, something about a certain person reawakens her fears. In the past week, it's happened twice. One nice gentleman with a white beard spooked Shyla when we met him on a trail (he did nothing to provoke it). Similarly, in town, a little girl with dark hair walking directly toward Shyla while staring at her caused Shyla to back away and cower.

Both of these incidents surprised me, because I'd started to think that no one scared Shyla anymore. However, the amazing thing is that Shyla desperately wants to meet people, even when she's scared of them. So, in the case of the nice bearded guy, he and I chatted while ignoring Shyla. Shyla gradually sneaked closer and closer to him, and finally belly-crawled the last few feet to meet him without any encouragement from me or the guy. I find it remarkable that Shyla has such conflicting drives inside of her - serious fear of certain people but an incredible drive to meet the people who scare her.

The mind of Shyla is not simple to understand...
I predict that, eventually, Shyla won't be afraid of any adults. I'm less certain about small children. I think I'll have to supervise those interactions extremely carefully for a long time to prevent Shyla's fears from festering.

In any case, the "Shyla Socialization Report" continues to be good. She has made stunning progress in the past couple of months, and I have no reason to believe that it won't continue. She meets 99% of people with nothing but happiness.
The journey continues, as always does throughout the lifetime of a dog. I'm thrilled with how far Shyla has come since those scary days when I first met her. She's exceeded my expectations in every way.


  1. she is literally glowing in your loving care. :)

  2. This is so exciting to hear. Beamer is so similar to Shyla. He doesn't like people with their face/eyes covered (sunglasses, beard, hat, etc) and is weary of small children. I've done nothing to provoke it and can do nothing but nurture him until he overcomes these fears.

    Keep up the great work with her socialization. Maybe have children give her treats so that she associates small people with reward?

  3. Horray Shyla! You have done great with her. She is becoming the dog you have helped her to be.

  4. It's amazing what positive reinforcement and patience will do, isn't it? I adore that second photo of Shyla!
    Nola's Mom

  5. We so love that you share with us all the forward steps Shyla is making.
    And she is getting more and more beautful everytime we see her photos.
    Shes so happy to be by your side- so happy

  6. I love the story about her waiting downstairs in the dark by the door! The girl is very clever, that's for sure. I love celebrating how far she's come! I think one day, you'll look back and have almost forgotten how skittish she was about the world, and her fearfulness will no longer be the thing that defines her in your mind. :)

  7. Great progress Shyla! We hope she isn't scared of all white bearded men cuz then she might be scared of Santa Paws!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  8. Like Houndstooth, I love Shyla waiting for you in the dark . .how cute!

    Cheers & hugs,

  9. You have make beautiful photos!
    Greetings, RW & SK

  10. She has come a long way indeed. Want to know a secret about me? I don't like bikes. Want to know something funnier? I don't mind bikes when they are on a mountain trail, butt one going down the sidewalk or street and I DON'T LIKE IT AT ALL.

  11. Shyla sure has made great strides under your wings. She sure is a beauty.


  12. Shyla rises to meet the expectations you put on her and gently help her achieve...that is a bond of trust that lifts the heart. As they say when it comes to people, trust your dog's instincts...if Shyla has a reaction it may not be without reason.

  13. How is Shyla around your nephews? I seem yo remember she did fairly well...

  14. You are such a sweetheart, Shyla, and we are so very proud of you!

    Love ya lots♥
    Mitch and Mom

  15. What a team the two of you are together! She really does BEEM in your presence!!

  16. Hi Kat!

    Thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately, when Shyla gets scared, she refuses to take treats. So, the classic approach that you suggested (which works for many dogs) doesn't work with her. Normally, when I am on my toes, I back her away before she gets very scared, and then I give her the choice about whether to approach someone. This is harder with kids because they often keep approaching even after I ask them not to... but I may be able to do some "set-ups" with pre-coached kids.


  17. Hi Rottrover,

    You remember well - Shyla is now quite comfortable with my nephews. We did a bunch of things to make that possible, with tons of coaching of my nephews ahead of time and by letting Shyla take all of the initiative in interactions. Now, she meets them easily every time.

    This is harder to do with a younger child (5 or so) who I don't know. I'm brainstorming about whether I know any children who are younger than my nephews and whose parents would let us try meeting, with careful coaching ahead of time.

    Thanks for reminding me of that!!!!


  18. I don't like everyone I meet, so it is no surprise to me that my dogs don't! (although we have yet to find someone Phod didn't love!)

  19. I don't like everyone I meet, so it is no surprise to me that my dogs don't! (although we have yet to find someone Phod didn't love!)

  20. Good job Shyla. Don't be afraid of people. I run to them and they give tons of hugs and pets

  21. Hey - some people are sketchy (even kids) and if she isn't comfortable around them I wouldn't say that's too far off from normal. :) She's made great strides in coming out of her shell and I love that you let her approach the bearded man in her own time and in her own way. Her coming so far has a LOT to do with how patient and consistent you have been with her training. Keep it up!

  22. I too am so impressed with how far Shyla has come. Good work by both of you. Enjoy those early cold mornings with no people - that is our favourite too!

  23. Shyla is indeed a wonderful example of the need for contact with all.

    Her awareness to overcome is evident and she will continue to achieve her goal.

  24. I havent been with Vilja out in crowds of people lately. Today while she was eating I put the dish from the washer away , she reacted on that clatter....
    Next week we have field trials for 3 of them

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  27. I remember reading about an amazing horse who survived the First World War, having been through most of its worst battles. His owner, who later wrote his life story (the horse's - he lived to be 33!) said that he could feel the fear in the horse as he faced horrendous experiences but, at the same time, he could feel the determination to conquer those fears. It sounds like Shyla is made of the same stuff.

  28. Hi Y'all!

    Love, patience and TRUST...your secret recipe to silencing Shyla's fears.

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  29. Not surprised about either of the scary people. Beards are scary bushy ones make the jaws look huge and trimmed light ones can look like bared teeth, and no one likes it when someone approaches them while giving a hard stare.


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