anxiety training

Between the 8.5 hours in the office and 1-hour total commute, there are not a lot of hours left over in the 24-hour day. I feel trapped. I get up to go to work I come home I walk the dog I go to bed. I need to do more. Because the dog is left alone at home for so many hours, I am limited in what I can do before/after work.

By the time I get home in the evening the dog has been alone inside for almost 9 hours. He always seems so happy, like nbd. To his credit, the dog does not go into the garbage or counter surf or leave presents. I imagine he sleeps all day. In fact, when I get ready to leave in the morning, he knows I’m on my way out for the duration of the day, he does not follow me to the door or push to go outside with me. Instead, he lies down on his dog bed in the kitchen and watches as I go.

I’ve said it before, he is a good dog. Intelligent, loving, adorable floppy ears. But there are some red flags, his fear aggression being the biggest hurdle. We did not discover it when we first brought him home from the rescue, but in the days and weeks that followed, as he grew more comfortable in his new home and with us, he started to exhibit nervous signs when strangers approached. We have been working with a trainer, getting him to focus on us, not the stranger. This works for a bit, until someone moves about the room, then the staring, the absolute attention on the unknown, clicks back into gear in his brain. He stops panting when he locks into the stare, it’s hard to get him to look away. He loves to eat, but during some of his more intense staring moments he ignores the treats I put in front of his nose.

This dog is very quick to learn, he goes to his ‘place’ and will ‘stay.’ He will ‘walk’ beside you on a leash, he will come when called ‘here.’ There is an exception of course, he has disappeared into the woods after a deer. But we’re working on that. We started with electric collar training, small taps on the lowest level. We are almost to the point, if a deer emerges from the woods he will look at me if I ask him to.

So, what to do about the nervousness and the fear?

I can’t give up on this dog. Although sometimes I want to. I get tired, anxiety-ridden. Not being able to trust him around new people leaves me feeling isolated. Don’t want to invite people to the house, can’t bring him to work to play with the other dogs. He does not board well, he repeatedly slams up against his kennel door. “Barrier frustration” the trainer called it. She’s been working on it with him.

What am I going to do with this dog? Because it is just him and me, day after day after day, I am beginning to resent how much of my focus he requires. I don’t want to feel that way. I want him to succeed, I want us to succeed.

I started watching e-collar training videos on the web. One trainer made a point of saying, “The opposite of adrenaline is focus.” And, “The default position [for the nervous dog] is to worry about everything.”

Sounds like this dog. Sounds like this dog’s owner too.

More to follow.

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