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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Being Shyla's Protector

I feel lucky that this dog, Shyla, has chosen to trust me. When I first met her, I wasn't certain that she would.
Of all the dogs I've had, I find that she relies me to help her navigate the world more than the others. We've worked out routines to deal with the things that scare her. We have a different relationship than I've had with previous dogs because Shyla needs me to help her cope with scary stuff.
For example, she is very afraid of loose dogs or strange people on the trails. Normally, I try to avoid meeting anyone by being out on the trails very early but that's not foolproof.

When Shyla becomes aware that loose dogs are approaching us, she freezes in place, standing directly in the middle of the trail. She shrinks by lowering her body so that she looks smaller. And, she becomes unresponsive to verbal instructions or even treats.

I've finally found a strategy that prevents her from being surrounded by the dogs and bullied. Before they get to us, I gently lead her off the trail by the collar. If there's a high spot, like a boulder, I guide her to stand on it. Then, I serve as a blocker, keeping the dogs or curious people away from her. None of the dogs who we normally see on our trails are aggressive. However, Shyla's fearful demeanor seems to make them overly focused on her.

I'm so glad that we've figured out a way to cope with it, assuming that we see the other dogs soon enough. Shyla has started to look to me as others approach, waiting for me to lead her to safety.
But, as much as I love being needed by Shyla, I am still hoping that she will learn to stand tall on her own. My latest thought is that she might eventually figure out that she can leave the trail and stay off to the side all by herself - and thereby avoid the onslaught of a group of loose dogs. She does initiate this strategy, but only when she becomes aware of the other dogs before they see her. After they see her, she's paralyzed by fear.
She's come so far that I have hope that she'll someday have confidence in herself around strangers. Look at those eyes - they have a spark and determination that make me believe that she can do it.
In the meantime, I'll continue to help her when she's afraid. There is something gratifying about being needed by her. However, I hope that someday she doesn't need me to protect her because that would mean that she has self-confidence!


  1. i'd protect that sweet girl, too. so glad she has you. :)

  2. Awe! I love this post so much. It's awesome that you've figured out something that works for the both of you. I hope that she will be brave one day, too! <3

  3. There is so much energy in her spirit.
    It would be awful if she had to stay confined to your property only.
    Tell the scary dogs to go away.
    xo Cinnamon

  4. Oh Shyla. You are so gorgeous. We hope one day you will be a little braver but until then, you don't have to worry cause your mum has your back. Take care mates. No worries, and love, Stella and Rory

  5. I think a shy dog sounds good after having to hold THREE terriers who want to play with any dog they see....

  6. Hi there, There are certain traits that Shyla and Hunter share. While he doesn't shrink in fear, he is definitely scared when there are loose dogs(I also get worried because of the 4 times he was attacked in our old neighborhood). I think he must give off some sort of hormone or smell that makes him more apt to have dominant dogs go after him. While I've been walking, since my surgery, I'm constantly on the lookout-trying to figure out what I would do if a dog went after him. Thankfully this hasn't happened here. I have thought of putting him on my shoulders if need be, but I am still healing from the surgery so don't think I could keep a large dog away. You have done an incredible job with your girl; I know if the next several years you'll be amazed at her progress. Enjoy this weekend's sunshine.
    Hug, Noreen

  7. (My comments soared into Cyberspace so I hope this is not a duplicate.)

    Shyla has overcome so many problems that I honestly believe she will work this one out. Until then you have her back and that is indeed a good thing.

  8. It seems like Shyla has the perfect Mom. You have done great work with her and we know she will improve

  9. I so admire you for what you've been able to accomplish with your girl, Shyla. You've taken the time to understand her, and with that and the bond you two share, there is nothing you both cannot accomplish.

  10. She loves you for protecting her!

  11. You and Shyla have come so far, we can hope that the day will come she will be able to handle the loose dogs But how wonderful she knows you will protect her
    Mr Bailey, Hazel & Mabel

  12. And were grateful that Shyla has you,,, because without you,.,, she would have no world to be enjoying..
    You share special moments together,,, and there will be many more.

  13. You and Shyla were truly meant to be together for a lifetime, KB. You are such a special team together♥

  14. The love that the two of you share is very special indeed KB! Her eyes do show a very special confidence...perhaps it will come with time. You have done an amazing job with her. Happy Sunday to you!

  15. I think it is great that you and Shyla have found ways to cope with her anxiety.

  16. I like the idea to enter a higher place with Shyla when you meet peeps&pups. I hope Shyla will lose her fear once, when she knows her "doggy guard" is always on her side to protect her :o)
    easy rider

  17. Hopefully she's young enough that time will give her some confidence. I think your strategy is a good one.

  18. She is not done yet! You are definitely a team and she is still evolving!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  19. I just love your Shyla. stories! It is different when a pup needs you more. I certainly feel that with Macy Blue.

  20. I'm so glad Shyla came into your life, and I'm guessing it was easier for you dealing with the loss of K that Shyla needed you so much. I do hope she gradually gets more confident. I wouldn't be at all surprised.

  21. Has Shyla ever met a young puppy? What is her reaction? I wonder if a low-key puppy would help her with her fear of dogs.....

  22. Do you use treats? Have you considered leading her off the trail and treating her when she gets there? That would motivate my Delilah. :-)


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