Today is the first Positive Training Blog Hop of 2015 and a good opportunity to look over our past year as well as think about the future.
Many of you remember my accounts of Shyla's behavior when she first arrived here, 2.5 years ago. She was scared of almost everything. Fortunately, she is a peaceful dog so her reaction to being afraid was to cower or freeze rather than to be aggressive.
When I saw her insanely fearful behavior, I immediately sought help from a great positive trainer, and we used a technique based on "BAT", which involved taking Shyla out to very quiet places at first and letting her guide us about how much she wanted to explore. We taught her that she always had a choice - either to approach something, to observe it, or to walk away. Whenever she showed fear signs, we encouraged her to walk away and relax before looking at the scary thing again. Scary things included almost everything that you might see in a town.
The most important thing I've learned in these 2.5 years is to listen to Shyla's body language. If subtle behavioral signals are saying that she's scared, I need to figure out what is scaring her and let her move away from it. Then, I let her decide whether she wants to explore it. If she doesn't want to, that's absolutely fine. Rushing her is the worst thing to do.
Here's an example of the importance of patience in a photo. You might recognize this spot as where K was standing when I took the banner photo. For some reason, Shyla was scared of this spot until a few days ago. I'd walk her up to it, and she'd show worry... so we'd walk away. A few days ago, I walked her up to it, and she shocked me by hopping up onto the perch. We had a treat party to reward her courage! I doubt she would've ever hopped up if I'd tried to rush the process.
I told him, "Pretend that you're not interested in her. Act like she doesn't exist.". He looked away from her and stood up straight talking to me. Within about 20 seconds, Shyla was sniffing his hand which was hanging loosely at his side. He was able to pet her shortly thereafter. This technique works with many new people but not all of them.
When I first me Shyla, I had no idea what to do when she was scared of people. So, you can see - a big part of our progress has been that I've learned (with lots of help) how to help Shyla navigate the world. In other words, I needed to be trained!
In keeping with the need to be patient and not put pressure on Shyla, I don't have specific socialization goals for 2015. We'll go to town about once per week (including training classes) like we've done for the past 2.5 years, and I'll shape our outing to Shyla's level of confidence. The bottom line is that Shyla sets the agenda.
I'll also continue to do fun training games with her. Right now, I am teaching her the names of her toys and training her to fetch a specific one, based on its name. It's a fun indoor game that is perfect for cold winter days, like today.
Today, local wind gauges are recording gusts up to 90 mph out of the west, hurling snow and ice pellets horizontally.