Monday, October 23, 2006

Fear Sets In

Last Friday I had a perfectly normal 18 week old puppy. Great temperament, playful and rowdy but capable of calming quickly. Interested in everything and everyone but not too forward. Liked pretty much everyone he met, people, dogs, cats - though I did see him pounce on a few spiders.

Saturday my pup woke up and was afraid of everything. People he knew and people he didn't, places he's been before and new places.
Things that were not where they belonged, such as a new bale of hay in the yard gave him a start.
I even scared him coming out of the shower wearing only a towel. (That could scare any sentient being though so maybe that one doesn't count!)

I fretted like I always do about anything out of my control that changes suddenly.
I got out all my books and read about the fear stages that dogs go through. I got on line and researched more. I called my friends who are also dog trainers and talked to everyone I could who has a dog young enough that they might remember this stage.

I fretted some more and then I realized that I had to do two things.
#1. I had to check my ego at the door. My once perfectly behaved dog who made me look like a dog trainer with magical skills was now making me look ...well, not so good. And while I care about what people think and I am hypersensitive to people's reactions around me, I care a whole lot more about my dog.
#2. I had to stop fretting and ask myself what would I tell a client in this same situation. The answer was right there, instantly.

I went out and purchased some Bach Flower Essences, Aspen and Mimulus, for fear of the known and the unknown. I put them in his water, his food, and on his body throughout the day.

I asked people to please ignore my little guy, and when they did he began to show interest in them. I gave everyone really good treats to feed him when he did come around.

I resisted the urge to coddle or baby him "Oh, it's ok pookey, it's just a bale of hay". I ignored his fearful behavior and we got on with our lives. Which is no easy task. He is such a little fellow and I want to pick him up and cuddle and kiss him, but that would work about as well as it would with a 12 year old human boy!

It's my job to get my little guy ready to live in the world with me (and sometimes without me) and good, gentle, benevolent leadership is the best example I can give him.

Don't think for a moment though that I let those opportunities when he is confidently and contentedly lying on the couch pass me by. I am right there at his side, petting and kissing and cuddling!

This fear will pass.


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