Hachi seems more comfortable in his own skin than ever before. He gives us the feeling that he's open to learning things that we'd put on the back burner.
|Relaxed Hachi in the Desert|
One of the first things that we'd love for him to learn is that strangers are not as scary as he thinks. That's an overwhelming task from the point of view of his humans. He thinks that all but about 6 people in the world are potential threats. That leaves billions of people for him to learn are not scary.
In my mind, I finally figured out a way to think about it. My mantra is now "one person at a time", meaning that we will work with him on getting to know a single new human at a time. We decided that a very experienced dog trainer should be that first person. She can teach us more about how to introduce him to strangers and how to respond when things go badly than we know now.
|Happy Hachi on the Slickrock|
Our first session with her was at our place because that's where Hachi is most comfortable. We started out with "parallel walking" along our driveway. In this, we began with Hachi behind her on a leash with the Runner. They gradually caught up until the trainer, me, and the Runner/Hachi were walking side-by-side.
After Hachi seemed comfortable with that, we played a game called "treat-retreat", where the trainer tossed treats toward Hachi. After he'd eaten all the treats off the ground, the Runner helped him to "retreat" away from the trainer. Hachi could pick up treats about 10' away from the trainer without reacting.
And that was all that we did in the first session. We liked the trainer a lot. She didn't push Hachi too hard. That is the most important thing in helping Hachi get over his fears. We've seen it again and again.
We'll keep on working with our Hachi. This is all part of the bigger picture leading toward him being able to go to the vet without being knocked out by sedatives. The vet is a stranger who he's afraid of. Perhaps our "one person at a time" approach will eventually help him to generalize enough that he can be near our vet without being terrified.
We love our Hachi.