That gives you an idea of what a rough start he had. Living on the streets must have been incredibly stressful for his mom and her puppies. His mom probably had a lot of trouble getting enough food, and thus the puppies probably had to fight among themselves to get enough nutrition to survive. No wonder he values food and will guard it more than any other dog we've had in our family.
|I'm so glad that Hachi can be silly now! No worries for him now.|
In the desert, we camped in quiet places. At one site, we rarely even caught sight of another person. So, Hachi was in heaven, perhaps the most relaxed that I've ever seen him. But, very small things would upset him greatly. For example, at night, we could sometimes see headlights in the distance. That made him incredibly worried, which he expressed by barking insanely at the lights.
At another campsite, cars or bikes would occasionally appear on the horizon a half mile away, be visible for about 30 seconds, then drop out of sight for a minute, and then reappear fairly close to the LabMobile. On the first day that we were there, we considered moving because Hachi became completely irrationally upset by the cars/bikes.
Here is a photo from near that campsite. I was playing with Hachi on a mesa, and he spotted a car. You can see by his facial expression that he was upset. After I snapped this photo, I went over and gave him treats for as long as he could see the car. That's called "classical conditioning" where we try to change his emotions about seeing a car by pairing it with something that he loves (treats).
In these situations, he relaxed incredibly fast after the car was gone. He'd go back to being a goofball within seconds. That's a great trait! Here, he tried to shake while galloping!
To our utter surprise, Hachi was ignoring cars/bikes by the third day in that campsite. If he was relaxing in the sun, he didn't move when a car went by. If he was playing, he kept on playing. It was almost unbelievable to us how much classical conditioning had helped him (and how fast it helped him in those specific situations).
During our time in the desert, I really began to believe that we'd be able to rehabilitate Hachi. He may never be the most laid back dog on the planet but I think that he'll be able to function happily in our world with little fear of people someday. There's a lot of work for us between now and then but the Runner and I feel completely committed to doing it.