Thursday, January 7, 2010


For those who don't know, my Australian Shepherd, Gus, is very fearful, particularly of new people.  This makes for exciting times when we go on walks around the Marina, in our neighborhood...or really anywhere with people.  It also makes for quite a bit of barking and obnoxiousness any time we're in public.  It's fantastic, really...or not.  To make things even more interesting, Gus is an extremely handsome dog, if I do say so myself, and people cannot help but want to touch him.  And who can blame them...I mean, look at that face!

His fearful behavior is extremely frustrating for several reasons.  First, he's a dog!  Dogs should like people and want attention, but my dog is not your typical canine.  Secondly, it's embarrassing to have the dog at the end of your leash barking hysterically and pulling every which-way to try and escape the big scary person...but I know he can't help it, he's scared.  Not to mention the amount of extra work it is to manage a dog who is so terribly afraid of something that is everywhere.  It's difficult to tell everyone, "No, please do not touch my dog, he's not comfortable with people."  Then there's my favorite...the "Dogs Love Me" people.  I don't care how many dogs love you, or how great you are with dogs, or if you've never had a dog dislike dog will not love you, like you, nor tolerate matter how "great" you are with him.  Can't you see him backing away with his ears down?  Don't you see him trembling and his eyes darting back and forth, catching mine and pleading, "Can we go away now? Please, Mom, make this big scary thing go away"?  Please just leave my dog alone!

That being said, as frustrating as it is, I will do everything in my power to advocate for my frightened Fluff Butt because I love him.  For me, that means that I need to learn everything I can about fearful dogs and fear-based behaviors.  I have to know about triggers and thresholds, and I need to practice counter-conditioning and desensitization every time we walk out of the house.  The thing is that there is so much out there!  I am incredibly overwhelmed with the amount of information and the number of suggestions for working with fearful dogs.  It's a catch-22, I guess.  It's wonderful to have so much available, but I cannot devote eight hours a day to studying this...I have a career and a little bit of a life on occasion.  Beyond those facts there is also the big one for me...I'm not learning anything new.  I know what I'm reading (thank you, Jana!) because I have devoted quite a bit of time to becoming a knowledgeable advocate for my four-legged companion.  I have books on the topic, I've researched and questioned and practiced, yet I still have a dog that is scared and I feel as though I have done so little to help him.  I know that I've requested a magic wand for several circumstances in my life, but this is one that I really want one for...because it's not just for me.  I would like this wand to help my dog live a happy, fulfilling life...not one filled with fear and anxiety.  *sigh*

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