It isn’t until we push the boundaries that we find out just exactly how far we have come.
Days like today absolutely force me to take notice to the amazing 180 turnaround Shayne has achieved over the last 4 years. It has been a labor of love to build up the confidence in my once fearful, timid, and food aggressive pound puppy.
This weekend, Shayne absolutely blew me away with her doggie socialization–or her version of doggie socialization–TWICE.
Saturday, we met up with a friend of mine and her two to dogs to go for a nice walk/hike in the snowy woods–one pup is a great dane/gsd mix and the other an aussie/spaniel. Shayne had never met either dog before (nor had I) and new dog ‘meetings’ are historically tense and precarious–these iffy reactions are more likely if the other dogs are insecure as well. I’m always very cautious with her because she is a bit unpredictable when encountering new dogs–she is a pretty classic case of approach avoidance and sends mixed signals.
We started out the walk at my precautionary distance of about 6-7 feet so none of the dogs could get terribly close but we were quickly funneled closer together at the head of the trail. It wasnt’ more than a 50yd walk before they were all right next to each other walking and sniffing things together. Over the course of the walk, they bumped into each other… were pretty much touching as they walked..casually sniffing each other and just hung out. At no time did shayne even appear TENSE let alone react to anything. We even stopped and stood around at different times and there were no problems just standing together. By the end both dogs were able to sniff shayne with out any issues.
While she has shown that she is good walking with other dogs regularly, she had never shown this level of relaxation with new dogs–and this was just the beginning of an amazing weekend.
Last week was Shayne’s final Rally-O class and our agility trainer (and friend) said we could use that time slot to run our personal dogs through some agility. So she brought her young aussie Kobi, her older border collie Potter, and her foster aussie Marley and I had Shayne and Rio. Shayne had met Potter about 2 years ago and they were pretty friendly but she hadn’t met kobi or marley.
After we practiced and ran our dogs, we stopped at our cars and stood and talked for a little bit. I put Rio in the car so shayne could ‘socialize’ with the aussies and Potter. Shayne was a small 2ft or so from the group of three dogs and she was SO relaxed. She was air scenting them but would turn her head, sniff the ground and offer me eye contact regularly. Marley, a young and bratty boy STRETCHED his nose to shayne’s and she sniffed him VERY nicely and then turned her head when I asked. She was so clearly relaxed it was beautiful. Maribeth loaded up two of the dogs into her van and brought Kobi back out for some one on one time.
Shayne never strained at the leash to him and casually walked next to him for like 20-30ft and when we stopped, she sniffed his face and his neck and his belly…. she was enamored by him and was SO calm and friendly saying hello to this new boy. I have honestly never seen her react this way to a new dog… it brought tears to my eyes. My Shayne, who has been known to freeze and snap/growl around other dogs was just so brilliant and given how she reacted to the five dogs in two days, I don’t think it was a fluke.
It has been 4 years in the making but I am pretty confident that we have FINALLY come to the point where Shayne is comfortable greeting neutral dogs after an initial moving greeting (walking as little as 20-30 ft). She is not yet comfortable with uber excited dogs but as this weekend has shown FIVE different times, if a dog is relaxed and not chomping at the bit to greet her, she is quite social.
I’m so proud of her. We have worked so hard and to see her succeed is just a beautiful thing. It’s DOUBLY beautiful because I can see how much she has enjoyed getting to meet these new dogs and with out all the hard work, she never would have had the comfort level to feel so good about her socialization.