Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Shyla's Progress in coping with fear and in nosework

I mentioned Shyla's setback in my "wordless" Wednesday post. Many of you know that she was an unbelievably fearful dog when she joined our family at age 9 months. It took years and a ton of work but she now seems like an almost normal dog most of the time.

At our home, she has reached the point of accepting almost all visitors as friends. She greets almost everyone with enthusiasm and happiness.

Recently, we've needed to have some work done on our house, which has necessitated workers being inside the house for entire days. They've required access to the whole house so there was no place to put the dogs where they could relax undisturbed.

Shyla initially greeted the workers with her usual friendliness. We always explain "Shyla's Rules" before anyone meets her. They include not looking at her and not approaching her. Rather, we ask that people ignore her until she decides to approach them.

The problem started when the workers (and us) assumed that Shyla was comfortable with them after Shyla had chosen to approach them for the first time. They are dog lovers so they want to pet her during the day. To do that, they'd walk directly toward her while looking at her. Shyla twice responded by backing away, cowering, and growling at them. I suspect that their direct approach wasn't the only stressor but that the loud construction noises also had gradually raised Shyla's tension over the day.

Yesterday, after the growling incidents, I asked a worker "to pretend that there was no chocolate Lab in the house" for the entire day unless Shyla approached him to say hi. That strategy worked (and the worker complied beautifully)... and Shyla decided to approach him to say a friendly goodbye at the end of the day!

We have a few more days of workers in the house... and we'll be managing Shyla's fear as best we can. The cowering and growling incidents taught us that Shyla still has a fear of strangers ingrained in her, and we need stay vigilant in protecting her in potentially scary situations.

To help Shyla gain confidence, you all know that I've done lots of basic training with her plus some more advanced stuff like nosework. She's been doing nosework for about a year, and she can now sniff out scent sources (i.e. q-tips with oils on them) from inside closed cabinets and drawers. I am overjoyed with her progress in nosework, and how confident she is while she works.

To end on a happy note, I wanted to share a video of her doing nosework. Don't let the complicated title deter you - it's just specifying the part of nosework that we were focusing on in that day's training for a course that we were taking. I hope that you enjoy watching her work!

Since this is a Thursday, I'd like to say how thankful I am to our local trainer who has taught me everything that I know about helping a fearful dog like Shyla and also to our Fenzi instructors who have helped tailor Shyla's training to her sensitive personality.


  1. Aw, Shyla. Construction stresses me out, too. Glad the workers are being respectful of her rule and it's always nice to see her working!

  2. We think construction workers are scary most of the time too. You are lucky to have workers that will follow the rules when you ask them too.

  3. Our construction guys are here today replacing the sliding door in the kitchen and the three fur kids (cats, Bogie, 12 yrs old, Ron, almost 9 years old and Watson, 2 1/2 years old) have smartly raced upstairs to avoid the noise and any unwanted attention. Shyla's smart enough to know how much she can handle!

  4. Our cat Boris still growls when he thinks someone new is walking in the house, and definitely hides when strangers ( to him ) arrive. So glad the workers agree to follow the rules, and Shyla can then do it all her way in time that suits her. Great video, I wonder if the airports use the same type of training for their sniffer dogs?

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. So happy the workers complied with your concerns. Mom always ask people to please ignore us too. Not that we're scared but we want their full attention. Well okay, I growl then want kisses Great video Shyla
    Lily (& Edward)

  7. Shyla just likes to meet folks on her terms. Can't blame a pup for that. She does impressive nose work. Does she want to work at the airport?

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  8. Lightning gets upset when there are workers in the house too, but he is getting so much better at controlling his bark. We too tell the visitors to just ignore him and he will come to them when he is ready. Works like a charm as long as you don't get one of those who think they know better and can just do it anyway:(

    Great nosework, Shyla!

  9. None of us like any kind of construction work in the house or outside either!

  10. We are huge nose work fans and do it competitively. It's wonderful to watch fearful dogs change and gain confidence as they progress in nose work. It is such a wonderful sport for so many reasons! Our trial season starts the end of February and we can't wait!

  11. Maggie also gets upset if things are different at our house, loud noises and people moving around or getting up to quickly will set her off barking. Shayla does so well!! stella rose

  12. We have been lucky with the current resident dog (from the local Humane Society, a mix with a large portion of Finnish Spitz, belongs to my older son & his wife), that he likes - exuberantly - meeting new people. The challenge is helping him remember his 'manners' (and as he isn't my dog, I don't get to decide what training he or his people get. Sigh.).

    The prior resident dog, also was from the Humane Society, and had been mistreated before being left there. He was very wary around people, even us at first, but did eventually become calm with family members. Not so much with outsiders though, but at about 17 pounds (rat terrier) I could scoop him up if needed.

    -Jean Marie

  13. I think it is pretty normal for a dog with her history to show some fear. The workers are invaders in her world no matter how nice they are.

  14. Shyla, I don't want to tell you how I greet peeps! BOL!! Okays, so maybe I gets a little barky and excited....lots. hehehe Ma blames herself, butts she says it's good to scare off burglars that have been hitting around our hood. never had a problem here! ☺
    Anyhu, LOVED your video! kinda like me searchin' out my freeze dried chickens!
    Ruby ♥

  15. We're not crazy about peeps invading our space and spending long hours either, Shyla. You are sure one smart girl!

  16. What pawsome nose work! I may have to try that with Elsa to give her confidence after being a puppy mill survivor. Thanks for sharing a great video!

  17. We are going through construction right now. Since it's confined to our kitchen, I can let Rita roam the back of the house (my office, our sun room, and our bedroom - the last two are the places she generally spends most of her days anyway) and also have access to the backyard, so I've just been keeping her separate. She hates having strange men in the house, but rather than try to get her to be okay with meeting them, I think it's just easier for us (and her) in this situation to keep her separate. (For one thing, there are different guys here each day, so we'd have to start fresh every time, and they sometimes leave the front door open while getting supplies and I don't want to have to worry about that while i'm in my office, so I just keep her in the back. She barks a bit at certain things - mainly when they are talking, or whistling - man, does she hate whistling! But right now they are banging and sawing and she's snoozing the in bedroom, so hopefully we'll both make it through this project unscathed!)

    The nose work video is very impressive! Love watching her tail wag!

  18. Thank goodness the workers followed Shyla's rules, to ignore her!
    Love watching the nose work video


If you are a Blogger registered user, you can skip the step asking you to verify that you are not a spammer. For posts older than 5 days, I have comment moderation turned on.

Thanks for your comments!!!!!