"What was that?" "What was that?" I've got a scaredy chicken on my hands; not so scaredy during the day but when the sun goes down she is sure that the monsters come out to play. Ever on guard after the sun sets, Elsa is a chicken. Being a HIGHLY alert sort of gal she doesn't miss a thing; she is extremely aware of movement. Whether it is a plane high in the sky, a rustle in the bushes or a reflection; she is constantly aware during the dark hours. The dark has her spooked but she is worried about scary things during the day as well. If she is outside barking at noises and then Luke joins to bark; she runs for the hills assuming there must be something seriously scary out there if the man of the house barks.
So what do you do with such a chicken? As I always say, each and every dog is an individual and as such need a personalized attack strategy when dealing with behavior issues. For Elsa I am sure that age will help her; she seems to have a high priority on self preservation, not a bad thing at all. But age can definitely help with the "monster" issue. I have tried the ignoring tactic; going about my business and showing her by example that it, whatever it may be is nothing. This was not enough of an impact message for Elsa so we have gone to "Yay........check it out, fun." Yesterday she was quite worried about the neighbor dog who was non stop barking at us outside. I picked up her ball and we had a long game of retrieve which is one of her favorite things to do.
Out for a social walk yesterday we were hitting a few of the strip malls hoping to meet some people and things. One gentleman who was very elderly was heading our way; I knew in an instant that this was what we (as in trainers, we) look for. He was quite small, shrunken over, with a cane, a leaning stride and a hat, perfect. I kept my pace the same and as we approached him, Elsa's head slung down, he reached out to touch her. She immediately started barking which I had already anticipated and kicked into action. Her bark is not menacing, more a "hey I'm little and a bit scared" type bark.
"Who's this, yay a nice man to meet" I chirped in a very happy upbeat tone. She immediately stopped barking and wagged like mad to meet the man. He adored her, he was quite clearly smitten by her beauty and told me a very long story about a dog he had long ago who had puppies etc. etc. We said our goodbyes and he kept his eye on her, stating at the last minute as we walked away "what a beautiful dog." We had a great experience, those are the ones that puppies need to experience. I clearly remember Luke meeting a man who was similar as this gentleman and his reaction was not as cute. Luke was in the car at the time and the man was walking to his car which was beside ours; Luke considered him a threat and sounded the alarm.
Things can be scary in life, especially when you are little; how you deal with your dogs reaction has the most lasting impact. Ignoring is the best reaction from me when Luke is frightened, same with Tilley, Elsa needs the YAYYYYY routine. It's all about difference.