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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Bolstering Shyla's Confidence

When I see these photos of a happy Shyla, even I can't quite believe that the world can be so scary for her.
This photo was from when our meadows were briefly filled with my favorite yellow and orange flowers. They didn't last long so I'm glad that I took a zillion photos in a couple of days.

She's come a huge way over these years with us. Shyla can now (sometimes) pass people on a trail without being freaked out.
Under the right circumstances, she can charm people with her affection. She can even visit quiet parts of town and appear to handle it just fine.

But, often, she'll appear to be fine to untrained eyes but then come home and get sick from the stress of being out in the world. For example, just last week, she got an upset GI tract after we got home from a vet visit. During that appointment, people commented on how much fun she seemed to be having. This is a recurring theme... that she appears to be fine but she isn't.

She is actually fine when running through a field of flowers!

So, I keep searching for ways to bolster her confidence. We are continuing to play everyday, and I have no doubt that it helps her. We had a puppy visit the other day, and Shyla was more outgoing than ever before with a puppy. It was as if she was trying out the play moves that she does with me on the puppy!

We are also taking a class designed to "empower" Shyla. The idea is that she learns to embrace things that are a little scary, like the sound of pans clanging against each other. One game involves her stepping on things (like metal pans) that make sounds...

... which brings us to the short video that I'd like to share with you. I put out odd items for Shyla to step on, and I rewarded her whenever she authoritatively stepped on one of the weird items.

Be sure to watch to the end. I was so pleased when it appeared that Shyla totally "got it" - she banged a pan with her paws in such a powerful way and she didn't flinch at all! You can watch it here or over at Youtube.

I have accepted that Shyla will always have some fears but I also will continue to try to make some parts of life easier for her handle - especially when the games that we play to help her are so much fun!


  1. you are a wonderful leader for Shyla... and you know what to do when the fears come back... that's just great!!!

  2. You are doing wonderful sweet Shyla and your Mom will always make sure to help you out just right.

  3. Wow, that just makes so much sense! My Emma was scared of loud noises her entire life until she started losing her hearing during her 14th year. It was sad that she was losing her hearing, but a blessing for her in a way as she was no longer bothered much by thunder or noises in the kitchen. I wish I had known to try something like this...

  4. You are making quite the noise, Shyla! Good girl!

    1. We would love to hear how the Solliquin works with Shyla. Yes, please keep us updated. And as far as the CBD oil - which brand do they recommend? There are too many choices.

  5. if I had seen the video years ago I would have done this with Jake, he is terrified of framing pans when I cam getting them out of the cabinets, or drop one on the tile floors. now that his hearing is so bad, he pays no attention. it never occurred to me to help him get past it... hope others see this

  6. Way to go Shyla for sure. Our old cat Felicity was so scared of newspaper being crinkled up for the fire for years, we thought she might have been whacked with it, as she was an SPCA rescue kitten. Then it was the vacuum cleaner, now she is quite deaf, and those do not bother her at all. Interesting how ordinary items play a huge part in training.But in golden flowers, that is so beautiful.

  7. Love this idea! Shyla looks like she's having fun. I think it is easy to mistake anxiety in dogs for excitement. Maybe because they are often together? Chance and Blaze chase bikes and cars in our fenced in yard. And the passerbys all think the dogs are having a blast running after them. Which they are, but they are also trying to scare them away. So they are in that elevated state of protecting.

    I have one friend that works at a shelter, but has never been able to read my dogs at all. Completely different setting. As he deal with needier anxious dogs who come to him. Whereas you have to earn and practice respect with mine. They are so much different around strangers in our than than out of our house.

    I don't know how I got onto all of that, but I can relate to some of your issue with Shyla. We are always fascinated with the work you do with her. We learn so much! Thanks for sharing!

    1. I agree that it is easy to mix up excitement and anxiety. When Shyla gets close to non-family members, she often acts "excited" but, in fact, my trainers and I have concluded that her "excited" behavior is actually a manifestation of anxiety.

      It's really hard for me to navigate the muddled combination of the social situation between me and the "stranger" and to keep Shyla from getting too anxious. The person seems to feel that I'm making a statement about their suitability to interact with my dog when I intervene to stop Shyla from getting too close to them and thereby getting very anxious. I find this situation to be very hard! I have to put Shyla's needs first (by having her move away from the person) and then attempt to explain why to the person afterwards. To them, Shyla appears "excited" to meet them so they don't always agree with me stopping Shyla from getting very close to them... It is a complicated situation!

  8. Wow, that is impressive! I never thought of trying that with Luke, I don't see it going well, but you must have started out very slowly?
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  9. I just love it! God bless you for all you do for her! Near the end, she was just wagging that tail even when the pans made a lot of noise. It's a great example of so many things -- I love seeing her trust in you and how a little work can make a huge difference!

  10. Shyla you are such a brave girl...shows what TLC can do for you. Did this fear result from the terrible experience on the trail some years ago? That is kinda like PTSD right.
    MOLMOL we both cackled at the end when you let that pan know you were boss of it and it better not forget.
    Hugs and kitty kisses madi and mom

  11. You are so good for and with Shyla. That is a great way to get her to accept the loud noises. Is she bothered by loud thunderstorms? Ciara was terrified of them and would end up with a seizure. And now Misty seems bothered by them too:(

  12. I really enjoy seeing how far Shyla is progressing over the months and wonderful that you both found each other!!

  13. It is so wonderful to see all the things you do to help Shyla.
    Hazel & Mabel

  14. Dogs always give something to work on be it normal training, fun tricks, or overcoming fears. What a great idea for her to train making noise!

  15. Wow, that video was incredible! Way to go Shyla!

  16. I always ask the same question on videos like this. What do you use for treats that the dog likes enough to keep it up? My dog quickly bores of the treats I've tried, tells me it isn't worth it and gives up. She is a Jack Russel.

    1. Because she's a Lab and loves food so much, I can use very low value treats. She keeps working for them as long as I ask her to. In fact, she has an ongoing case of diarrhea, and these treats were extremely low value. I believe that they were cheerios!

      In the past, I've slightly more picky dogs, and I've made a habit of having a variety of treats available. I tried to switch treat types regularly within a session to keep them interested.

      Lastly, the one situation where I need to use extremely high value treats is for recalls out in the forest. I carry cheese cubes and hot dog slices just for Shyla's recalls. She also used to "wander off" just at the end of an outing, exploring the area near our house and not coming when called. I started giving her 4-5 small pieces of cheese and hot dog when she gets inside from an outing, and it completely solved the problem.

      I hope that you can figure out a good treats for your Jack Russel! I cannot imagine how hard training would be with a dog who isn't really into treats.

  17. Wow - look at that happy tail throughout! Tails don't lie. We took the empowerment class too (and loved it!) - wait till you get to the Broccoli Game!

    Chris from Boise

  18. And look how happy she is!!!


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