Sunny is one of those fearful dogs that will likely never be totally comfortable with people. He spent the first year of his life in the company of dogs, not people. The mental and emotional development that occurs during that time of life for dogs is important for their ability to interact socially with whatever animals and humans they will deal with in the future. The damage from the lack of early socialization is often not repairable. But even all that said, Sunny continues to learn skills that make it easier for him to be around people.
Knowing when to ask Sunny to deal with more than he has in the past, or to let him find a safe and comfortable place to hang out away from people, remains a challenge but I like to believe that over the years Sunny has learned to trust my choices for him. Rather than digging in his heels and resisting, he follows my lead and I try not to step on his toes.
I was away during the New Year and 4 people stayed at our house caring for our dogs. Two of the people Sunny was familiar with, two he was not. By all their accounts, Sunny did great. He was able to go outside when offered the chance and come back in when called. He was his frisbee stealing self when games were played in the yard and though he wasn’t snuggling on the couch or snoozing in bed with people as the other dogs were, he was not aggressive, the biggest behavioral risk owners of fearful dogs need to be on guard for. But both Sunny and his caregivers knew the routines, averted glances, no petting, some hand targeting, so there was no need for Sunny to completely avoid all the action.
The dance is different for each dog. It takes practice and patience to learn the steps myself, but the results are fantastic to behold. I am honored and complimented when any dog chooses to join me when the band starts playing. Right now my dance card is full, and I’m loving the music.