It is the time of year when I go through my photos from the past year to pick out favorites. Because we've had a snowy week, I picked out a few snow-filled ones of Hachi that I love to share in this post. The first one with Hachi wearing a purple sweater is making me giggle. That sweater is tiny compared to Hachi's current size. In fact, we gave it to our favorite dog trainer to gift it to another puppy who needs one.
Hachi had a great week. He had tons of fun playing with his sister every evening. They both adore chasing and wrestling with each other.
In fact, playing has been a theme. Hachi and I are taking a course on rehabilitative play. It's a program to help stressed dogs live more calmly and more light-heartedly. I did it with Shyla years ago. It was a long and slow process but I thought that it really helped her.
Hachi has learned to play far faster than Shyla did, probably because Hachi is really still a puppy in many ways. We play for short periods (10-15 min) several times a day. He's come to expect and happily anticipate our play sessions. The general idea is that we will eventually be able to go to a stressful environment (someplace with people around) and we'll play. Because play reduces stress hormones, he should be able to handle the stressors if they appear as he is playing.
As you can perhaps imagine, it will take a lot of practice before we'll be playing on the grass in a park with strangers around. Among other things, we need some warm weather to melt all the snow, and Hachi and I need to keep practicing our play. So, we are taking it a tiny step at a time with a great teacher advising us.
I am feeling hopeful that all the various things that we are doing (play, counterconditioning, and meds) will help Hachi be a less fearful dog. We are already seeing signs of that as he gets along well with so many people and dogs who he sees regularly on the trails near our house.
(Look at the size of Puppy Hachi's front paw!)
A really important aspect of all of these rehab activities is that our bond with Hachi grows. That's good for him and it's good for us. The bond is growing deeper and stronger every week.