Fall is settling in here in Milwaukee—it hasn’t gotten out of the 60s in a week. We have put the big comforter back on the bed, which has led to more night time Daisy Snuggles. (She likes the comforter even more than we do. It is soft, and she can dig in it.)
You may remember that we hired a trainer, Steve Terwilliger of Rogue Dog Training, to help with Daisy’s reactivity with strangers. He had us practice “Leave It” and work with Daisy on how to get away from the door when people were coming into and going out of the house. The good news: It’s Working!
First, herself is much better behaved on walks. We can even get by squirrels and bunnies now without her doing more than looking at them. (Fine, about 80% of the time. She’s still a dog.) She can also ignore other dogs while on her walk, sometimes even if they’re carrying on and lunging at her. (She is much more apt to react when said other dog is giving off a lot of play signals. Positively, but it’s still hard to move her along.) Buses aren’t even a thing anymore. Yesterday, a city bus stopped right next to us to discharge some passengers and she stayed right next to me at the corner. Walks are so much easier, over all.
Second, we’ve had lots of visitors over the summer. Friends and family mostly, but she’s been cool with it. She demands attention, and wakes them up in the morning if the fools leave their doors open, but that’s on them. We even had some people fixing the furnace, and while she was not happy about her confinement to the upstairs bedroom, she wasn’t losing her mind at the sound of strange voices.
There are some tricks to this other than “Leave It.” We put her behind a barrier when people enter so that she can see that we want them in the house, but she’s not being restrained. We also have new people give her a cool new toy to play with to distract her. By the time she settles down, the new people are friends and she has a squeaker to kill. Killing squeakers > Biting strangers. It’s good math.
We need to do some brushing up. Her response to the command is fading a little bit. Going from a complete jump away from whatever caused her to react to a turn of the head, or a twitch of the ears. We need to build the dramatic response back in, so that she can’t try to ignore it. We also need to have more strangers over to condition her to be cool with anyone we want entering.
But for the most part, we’re happy with her progress. As the weather gets cooler, she gets even more chilled out, content to snuggle into some blankets or lay in her sunny window. I already have plans to put something soft for her to lay on up there when the snow flies. We’ve come a long way from not allowing her near the windows for fear of causing an unstoppable reaction, so a reward is in order.