Happy Labour Day Long Weekend

Ahhh, sunny long weekend.  How peaceful.

Peacef-what?

AGHH!  AGGGHHHH!

Poor Wootie.  Shut The Fuck Up has been assimilated by The Terriers, and is learning their naughty, evil ways (aka, beating up on Fat Wootie).

She’s too stubby to get any kind of real lift though, so she leaves that to the lurcher!

She’s quite the little monkey.  She’s got some serious Lhasatude … strangers!  Alert!  Barkbarkbark!  A strange noise!  DANGER!  Barkbarkbark!  But she’s also quite a bit more worried about strangers than I would like to see in a 4 month old puppy.

Alert!  Alert!  Strange Creepy form approaching!

Earlier this week I got to go see Chirag Patel through work, doing a seminar on how to provide enrichment and stress-free training for shelter dogs, always a challenge in a shelter as busy as ours.  One of the training philosophies he really emphasizes is allowing the dog to make decisions in the training process, allowing them to work through problems without redirecting them, or actively working to get their attention and put them back on task.  I’m a self-admitted impatient trainer, something I am always working on, so I decided to take this as a reminder and opportunity to improve my impulse control ;-)

It took STFU about 5 minutes to grasp the concept of standing on her mat, and about 5 minutes more to learn to sit on it and wait patiently.  She’s lots of fun to train!  However, what I did notice is that one area where I’m not allowing her to make decisions is by plunking her in an XPen beside my desk during the day and allowing the public to approach her.  She Does Not Like This and the other day I found her sleeping sitting up, pressed up against the bars closest to my leg and as far away from the public entrance as she could get.  Asleep sitting up!

I put her in the XPen so that she could become acclimated to strangers.  But I didn’t stop to consider that her rate of acclimation should proceed at her speed, not mine (or the public’s) and all I’ve really accomplished, without realizing it, is to make her not only fear people more than she already did, but also fear the shelter.  She shakes in the morning when I take her out of the truck to bring her into work.

So I put signs on her Xpen that says “PLEASE IGNORE ME.  I am a fearful puppy and when you loom over me, you frighten me.  Please do not touch or talk to me.”  I plan to continue her mat work so that the “safe place” mat can be used for her to be near to, but not forced to interact with, strangers.

But OH MY DOG are people such assholes.  I see them read the sign and then walk over and try to pet the puppy ANYWAY (while she skitters around in her pen trying to avoid their hands).  I hear them read the sign out loud and then say things like “Yeah, it looks real scared, whatever.”  Or they read the sign and rather than look or walk away, they stand 2 feet away instead of right next to the pen, and stare hard at her like she’s a lion cub or something.

What the f*ck are YOU lookin’ at?

The shelter area where my desk is located is kind of open concept, so I am trying to come up with some alternative for her so she’s not always exposed to people she is afraid of.  But I also need her to come along a lot faster.  Her socialization window is closing fast, and I’m worried she’s going to be one of those snappy little dogs that are so annoying, if we don’t get her loving peoples.  Any suggestions?

Tomorrow we are off to our Club’s annual trial.  Because I like to support my club, I entered Dexter in some stuff.  I’m sure he will entertain ;-)  At a high rate of speed.

And I will try, once again, to market The Better Dexter.

Enjoy your long weekend!

And remember – Fear The Terriers.

Comments

  1. Treat toss and walk-aways. For the STuFU. Don’t know if it will help, but it’s a suggestion.

  2. Kt, Mitzi, sage and pickle says:

    Is she the type of dog to find a dark,covered cage or enclosure safe, or would that just scare her more? It may help to limit the amount of sensory systems she’s using while at the shelter. Maybe if you put cardboard over the pen, or put a second pen up so people can’t get near her, but she can still smell, see, and hear them.

  3. How about a fabric curtain (a cheap twin or double mattress sized bedsheet works well with clothspins to hold it in place) to wrap around her xpen so she can have privacy and be able to hide behind it when she wants to. On the public side of the curtain you can place a pail of her kibble and a sign asking people to drop food in the pen but not hand it to her. Food raining from the sky when footsteps approach is a pretty happy thing to experience. Good luck…not all dogs want to be social butterflies with people and that makes them tough to adopt sometimes. She is a cutie-patootie so she’s certainly got that going for her!

  4. BAT work? I’ve heard good things about it for fearful dogs. Being stared at is so threatening…short term for her being at work can you block off part of her x-pen with a towel, or put a crate in it or something so she can have breaks from “prying eyes”? Kind of like some places do for cats – give her a sense of having a place to retreat to so she doesn’t feel exposed without having her hide away entirely. Might make her feel safer but she’d still get the sounds and smells of people coming and going…idk, just a thought.

  5. Definitely no crate. Yes, its a good retreat for her, but can create all new habits that she will need to break. Refusing to come out, possibly biting when someone tries to get her out, guarding crate, etc etc. maybe put a blanket over half of the front? She can go behind it to get away from the idiots who stare, and come out when she is more comfortable. Maybe when she warms up, slowly shorten the blanket wall so more of the front is exposed, and eventually remove it entirely. As far as further socializing, dont hold her. Make her walk, ignore her being skittish and reward curiosity/good interactions. Toss treats or praise, or whatever works with her, in stressful situations when she is behaving as you want. Take her to vet clinics to meet and greet, many employees there know how to treat shy pups. Move up to petstores, busy parks, etc. Have other people (who you trust) take her lead and walk her away from you, so she doesnt attach too much and have you be her safe place.

  6. Um... Mystery Woman says:

    Great post and just when I needed to hear something warm and fuzzy (with photos to match)! Just think of it as ‘Chirag on Your Shoulder’. A reminder to stop and observe. You are awesome, keep doing what your doing !

  7. My Lhasa barked and growled at strange dogs when I got him at 3 months. I did lots of rewarding him for looking at me instead. He soon became focused on earning treats rather than demonstrating what a tough guy he was. At some point, he started becoming suspicious of strange people and I worked on rewarding for ignoring (kids) and offering polite if lukewarm greetings (adults). He is a dog who requires management in that he is perfectly lovely with strangers 19 times out of 20, but I treat every time like it is the 20th. I do not let him have unsupervised interactions with people he doesn’t know and keep kids away from him.

    Another thing I did was have new people offer him treats but I also made sure they didn’t overwhelm him with petting after treating. I think the environment really needs to be controlled so these dogs feel safe and that THEY are in control (a Lhasa’s Prime Directive). Since they have that Teddy Bear quality, most people, even sharp Dog People, tend to underestimate the strength of their character and reactions. The current x-pen set up, as you noted, is making things worse. I would use dog savvy people who can follow instructions to help socialize her. It is very hard to change a Lhasa’s mind. They know what they know and are not impressed with others opinions. But mine have been willing to reconsider matters when treats enter the picture. :-)

    Something else that works well is friendly competition. My Lhasa becomes outright gregarious if he sees the Border Collie getting attention and pats. He once even became affectionate with children because he couldn’t stand seeing them fawn over the Border Collie. I think the happy friendly dog helps them view the strangers as safe and potentially good (especially if food is involved), plus they hate not being the center of attention.

    Sorry for the book! Thanks for working with this pup!

  8. Would it be possible to temporarily restrict StuFu’s people experiences to those humans that will follow your instructions to the letter. If I was in BC, I’d do it for you, but I’m not…so pointless use of pixels there… In addition to the suggestions above, what about having someone sit/lay on the ground near StuFu and proceed to completely ignore her? Maybe give lovies to another dog. Perhaps have some treats to reward StuFu for showing curiosity about the completely non-threatening human?

    My in-laws were staying with us for a week, and we have a pretty reactive boy. My FIL came in and lay down on the floor (hard to get low enough to not threaten a basset). Beast’s train of thought was: 1. Stranger Danger!! 2. What’s he doing? 3. This is interesting. 4. I should investigate, he appears to have the best treats ever. 5. Hmm-stranger has found the itchy spot under my chin, perhaps I shall not eat him.

    He also tends to show interest in strangers when they pay attention to his little brother, but unfortunately, the desire to get what brother is getting isn’t enough to completely override his panic switch, but Cranky is a lot older than StuFu and his behavior is a lot more ingrained.

  9. Most of my ideas have been mentioned above but since I love redundancy…
    Perhaps another more grounded dog sharing the xpen with STFU would help take some of the pressure off STFU and help shape better behavior. I also was going to suggest a curtain across part of the top and down the middle to give a little privacy. I’ve done this with a curtain rod and clothes pins. And then of course the infamous treat toss…but I was going to suggest to not toss them if necessary. More of a treat hand out. Another thing that helped the feral dog we socialized was bringing her up to our level whenever we could. An elevated wire kennel on a sturdy table helped with this. It sort of leveled the playing field and made her feel less threatened. She weighed 40# so this was a bit of a challenge. STFU is much smaller and it might be easier to do. I know you can’t make them perfectly eye level but it’s much less daunting then being on the floor. It really helped in our case, so I thought I would toss it out there for you. At any rate, good luck. You do great stuff. You’ll be great at this too.

  10. Is there a social dog she could hang out with in the pen? I like the idea of having a secondary barrier so folks can’t reach towards her, but maybe a social calm dog with her will help her have an example to follow.

    You might put an instruction on the sign to stay so many feet/meters away? Start with a distance she is comfortable with and shorten it if she responds better. I seem to get a better response when I say “dog in training” first thing when I am talking to folks about a dog. Seems that folks follow instructions more often when I tell them we are training first, then instructions second. Otherwise they start getting the “oh I want to save them, I can fix them, I am different from everyone” attitude.

  11. So many wonderful suggestions that I have nothing to add but I do like the idea of a social dog sharing the x-pen. Hope Dexter “disappointed” you at the trial and kicked ass! Much better than you kicking his. :-)

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