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Monday, March 31, 2014

Good Days, Bad Days - and Wild Cats

Although we humans have good days and bad days, sometimes for no discernible reason, I tend to assume that a dog's perspective doesn't change much from one day to the next. I tend to expect that a dog will respond in the same way to training or potentially scary things every single day.

Shyla is a dog who makes it very obvious that she has a complex inner world that isn't always the same. Some days, she surprises me with her confidence. Other days, she surprises me with her fearfulness when I can't see anything to be afraid of.

Today was one of those days. I tend to show photos of her when she looks confident and happy. I think you'll agree with me that neither of those adjectives describes her in the next photo.
As I watched her continue to act fearful, I tried our time-honored method of playing training games to build her confidence. The games helped as you can see from her posture in the next photo (ignoring the fact that she was "hiding").
Then, we hiked for a little while, and she climbed onto her favorite boulder. Shyla looked scared again almost right away. That is not the posture of a confident dog.
I started contemplating what she perceived as scary. We did see a dog who has scared her in the past near the start of this morning's hike. However, Shyla has never remained scared for so long after seeing that relatively benign dog. It was also very windy today. Perhaps the combination of seeing that dog and the gale-force wind put Shyla over her threshold ("trigger stacking").

I also wondered about whether Shyla might be smelling scary wildlife. I later discovered that a bobcat had spent ten minutes in front of a nearby trail camera.
He did a complete body washing right in front of the camera (I'm going to make a video of it - it's incredible to see). Then, he must have sensed a prey animal because he used his stalking gait to depart.
As I thought about it, I doubted that the scent of a bobcat would scare Shyla that much.

I also know that a mountain lion has been in our neck of the woods very recently although I don't know whether he's still in the area. Perhaps Shyla smelled him? She is, without a doubt, scared of the scent of mountain lions.
As I mentally listed all the possible causes of Shyla's fearful behavior, I realized that I have "bad days" for reasons that can't be seen by outsiders. I have migraines, shoulder pain, spine pain, and things that are weighing on my mind. All of these things can make me behave differently than usual.

Why shouldn't dogs have similar inner things that cause them to act differently from usual? Perhaps Shyla had a migraine. Oh man - I hope not!

She did have fun on our morning hike, especially when she was playing in the snow or galloping at full speed. I captured a photo close to the end of our hike after she'd been playing in the forest that shows the "normal" Shyla.
Although she did bounce back, I think that it's important that I remember that she'll have good days and bad days, just like I do. Dogs are living creatures with complex inner lives - and it's worth remembering that, especially when your best friend is a dog who is prone to fearfulness.


  1. a good post and thoughts to consider. :)

  2. I, too, sometimes see Sage acting fearful and wonder what triggered it. Our dogs do have complex feelings that we can only analyze with what we know. If only they could talk!

  3. I'm sure dogs are just like people in that sense. We can't all have a good everyday. Even a dog. Love love, the bobcat pictures! So awesome!

  4. Can't wait to see the bobcat washing. What a beautiful animal. Yes, I do believe dogs have moody days just like we do.

  5. I agree, dogs have ups and downs just like us. Ruby often has fearful days where the tiniest little thing makes her cower, but then the very next day she is confident again.

    The bobcat pictures are amazing!

  6. Are the bears coming out yet? Maybe she smelled those.

    XXXOOO Bella & Roxy

  7. This a great post and point to remember!

  8. Your comments about the wind made sense to me, because I've been dealing with that, too. Bunny is normally not phased by anything, but wind really bothers her. I have no idea why, unless it's just the sound that she doesn't like. We went on a hospice visit this week and it was windy when we got out of the car. Inside, I noticed that she was actually shaking. She settled down after a few minutes, and it's not the first time that wind has bothered her. It might have been more a factor for Shyla today than you realized.

  9. She is definitely nervous and looking around for what she considers a threat. High winds bring a millions scents with them and they are all jumbled up. The scary dog's scent and/or the cougar's scent might have seemed to be coming from every direction. That could very well be what upset her.

  10. I gets scared sometimes too. Last week noises freaked me out...I don't know why, and Ma can't figure it out either. I would blame it on the earthquakes, butts we're in No. Cal, so that shouldn't matter.
    Just one of those weeks, so maybe Shyla is having one of those days, too.
    I'm sure glads all ended well!
    Tomorrow is another day...
    Ruby ♥

  11. Gorgeous cats!

    She does look pitiful in that first photo. I actually said, "awww" out loud when I saw it. My girl is occasionally grumpy, and I wonder if it because she is in pain somewhere.

    My boy Faolan can be grumpy when he is sleepy, and he is the king at fearful body language. I sometimes look back at some of the first photos I took of him, and am amazed at how much more confident he is most of the time now.

  12. We agree with you KB-- we all have good days and bad days

  13. I, too, said, "Aww!" at the first picture. The part about the wind being a factor makes sense. It should be interesting to check if there's a correlation in the future.

  14. I Think she smelled them.
    Ayla is very scared to go into forrest where hogs have been. They smell very strong.

  15. We totally agree with you, KB. We doggies have our downer days too.

    Love ya lots♥
    Mitch and Molly

  16. As a human who is sensitive to wind myself I can readily understand how shyla could have been unsettled. Love those cats, can't wait to see the video.

  17. That was really interesting. Actually, even my joyful and never traumatised Tommy occasionally gets that look (as in Shyla's first photo). I wonder if it is more a sign of a deeply submissive nature rather than just fear?

    The bobcat is awesome!

  18. Mom noticed my moods too. Sometimes I am so scared she she takes me out at 5am I tremble. Other times, it's let's go
    Lily & Edward

  19. The wind can bring so many different smells! Maybe it was even a case of sensory overload that concerned her. Our winds have been crazy lately (50 mph gusts - Springtime in Kansas can be so fun!) and I have noticed my dogs alerting to things they'd otherwise ignore.

  20. Mom says a doggy's mind is more complex than anyone gives us credit for and I know she is right! We are just now getting out to Blogville after our vacation.

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  21. I probably wouldn't have a good day either if I caught a strong scent of a wildcat in my neck of the woods!

  22. Wow amazing photos - I learn so much from your video captures and sharing here. Hope your feeling better soon and back on your bike.

  23. My Ruby is a very anxious dog and I notice that windy days have her especially on edge. I would guess there are so many more smells swirling around, as well as the unnerving sound. Wind makes me a little antsy, too, so I can't say I blame them!

  24. Oh my Momma needed to read this today...thank you.
    stella rose

  25. Sweet Shyla...the wind is a good bet. Our Tino, who lived in the wild for months and was not afraid of anything hated the wind. After he went blind, it particularly freaked him out. Lots of odd and different noises get created with the wind. Although it could certainly just be she got up on the wrong side of the bed.

  26. Well written!

    If only they could talk.....

    Lily Belle & Muffin

  27. I wouldn't call Phantom a fearful dog, although he may have appeared that way as a young dog. But he definitely has swings in his "mood". It has taken a long time to figure him out, but I do believe he responds to changes in the barometric pressure. I used to think he was afraid of thunderstorms, but since his behavior changes BEFORE the storms come, sometimes by at least a day or more, I think it is more the anticipation of what is to come. A part of me also thinks he does have migraines since he often gets sick to his stomach at these times and hides in his crate. Oh, if only they could talk.

    Hope you can find some relief from your many pains and discomfort.

  28. Stella also hates the wind (and we get lots of it), she still fears stormy weather (but less so than she did earlier). She requires patience and I try to gift her with it.

    I hope every rescue and adoptee gets the help they need. Shyla certainly has and Stella as well. Its worth it all!



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