fear and the pup.

I am skeptical of you and all you stand for.


Lumen is, through genetics, I suspect, naturally cautious of things.
I made a real point with her as a young pup to expose her to as much as I could- all people, lots of places, lots of things. I took her to an agility trial near the airport, an hour and some away from our house, so that she could experience the trial and the planes.

On Saturday we were in the same area and a plane flew overhead and she cowered, looked up, and started to do her run-away-run-away! dance.

I suspect she’s in the middle of her next fear period, and I also suspect she will continue to be hard work in terms of getting her to be ‘ok’ of big monsters (trams, planes, trucks, trains)… 

That being said, my well-socialised, people-loving dog fights this massive internal battle with herself every time we come across a man while out on a walk. I see her thought-process very clearly:
OOO!! Person!!!

Wait…. scary….?!
But it’s a person! I love people!!!
But he’s tall and large, and has a deep voice…. BE AFRAID NOW!!!
But… but… Be my friend Mr. Person!?!?!
STRANGER DANGER! STRANGER DANGER!!!!!


Which manifests itself in bouts of over-the-top tail and body wagging in her traditional wormy-bent-in-half kind of way, while at the same time, staying far enough away that the person can’t touch her and she can’t sniff them. Oh, puppy.

Similarly, the other day there was a stick stuck into a log on the ground.
SCARY!

We went up and investigated, and it was ok.

Safety tape to mark out where some construction had gone on?
SCARY!

Oh, it’s just fluttering in the breeze. 

Music coming through the speakers unexpectedly or sounding weird? (and trust me, I socialised her to music, I’m sure!)
SCARY!!

You get the idea.
I’ve written before about our treat-and-retreat game but then there comes a time like Saturday when a plane will fly overhead.
How the hell does one treat and retreat an aeroplane??

I’ve read so much about how if you feed your dog or ‘help them’ by soothing them when they’re scared that it reinforces that they should be scared… Then I found this website and I loved what she said about helping your dog: It is ok to comfort your dog when it is afraid. You are not telling your dog it’s ok to be afraid. You are holding their hand and helping them jump off the high diving board. Your dog is afraid and doing what it has learned to do to protect itself. You are going to show your dog that it doesn’t need to worry… everything will be better than alright.

Right now, if there’s a scary thing- like, a really scary thing, like a tram, Lumen will want to run far, far away. I need to turn that around- to look to me for reassurance. That when planes fly overhead, it’s ok to be anxious but guess what- food is coming!! Planes=food. Scary things=games, food, praise. 
I don’t think dogs have the capacity to be afraid in order to get more treats. I think if they’re afraid, they need tools to help them work through that fear – if that’s treating and retreating, great, but in situations when that can’t or won’t work (planes), she needs other ways to feel ‘good’ and ‘ok’, and if that’s me shovelling food into her face when a plane flies overhead, that’s what I’m going to do.
Plane=food, not fear=food. 

Now to ride out the rest of this fear period- at least, that’s what I’m hoping it is…!

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2 thoughts on “fear and the pup.

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