A look back…

After yesterday’s post, I got to thinking about just how far Shayne has come over the years. I can certainly see the changes she’s made even recently but I sometimes overlook just how far she has come since day one. It absolutely leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy inside when I think of her and how far she has come. If only for MY pleasure, I want to just take a look back at “Lulu” (Shayne’s name at the shelter) and compare her to the Shayne of today–I suspect that she would be completely unrecognizable to those who knew her back then.

“Lulu” spent 15 minutes walking the perimeter of the meet-n-greet room, doing everything in her power to be small and to avoid my attention–she wanted nothing to do with me and she couldn’t get herself small enough to avoid drawing my attention. I just sat on the floor in the middle of the room quietly and let her do her thing. She didn’t ever really let me pet her extensively…but she curled up in my lap and fell asleep…sold!

I don’t think I’ve seen Shayne try to get small or do everything in her power to avoid attention in years… except while at the vet…but even then, it’s just trying to stay in the corner and not really any getting small. She approaches most new situations with curiosity if not total confidence. She has become a super snuggly dog that really does seek out attention from people she knows–she’ll greet strangers and lets them get in a quick pet but with people she knows she is a total attention seeking cuddle monster.

Lulu was 8lbs underweight (after a week of being fed at the humane society to gain weight) and was quite the food guarder. If a human passed within 3ft of her with her bowl, she’d stiffen, hover over the bowl, antagonistically lick (an outward lip lick), stare, whale-eye, and growl a very deep chesty growl. If the person got closer or touched her bowl, she’d snap and lunge.

Shayne doesn’t LOVE me getting in her face with her food but there is no freezing, no growling, no grumbling, just the occasional, “mom, get that camera out of my face” look, if I’m within inches of her while she eats. She doesn’t even bother about anyone moving around in her space while she eats–we can bump into her and nothing changes. She will “out” anything from raw meaty bones to critters and will “leave it” a bowl of food she was eating (so I can add additional bits). If I were to walk up and snatch her bowl of kibble she’d look at me funny but no biggie, if I were to walk up and snatch a 5lb roast she’d give me a freeze and a grumble before letting me take it away–not perfect but since she readily “outs” the roasts, it’s not an issue.

Lulu was extremely fearful of strangers and was fear aggressive toward men (the shelter didn’t see the aggression–it wasn’t until her weight was up did I see anything). She would hide from new people and would bark/lunge at men.

I don’t know the last time she barked at a man while out and about or shied away from a stranger. She will actually happily approach most anyone–she doesn’t love being pet but she’ll sniff them, let them give a pet and then go about her business. Except, of course, the vet. She has built some amazing bonds with my friends and once she gets to know people is ridiculously friendly and snuggly.

Lulu was so lacking in confidence that even the most mundane “new” situation had her frozen in fear. Stairs, doors, and even toys were all scary things to her initially. Uneven or wobbly surfaces were absolutely terrifying and she wouldn’t try walking or climbing on new surfaces/objects like rocks, stumps, chairs, or wooden decks. New situations, like going to new places, caused her to shut down (going to pet store, going to a new park, going to a friend’s home).

Shayne is now pretty brave about life. She’ll jump on (or try) almost anything, she confidently goes over all the agility obstacles (I didn’t really do training on any of them initially, just over time she got more confident), she used to walk up and down our fire escape steps from our apartment (iron, see-through, and very steep), and can go into new situations with great confidence. She can readily go to busy outdoor shopping malls and be a model citizen in the public venue. She used to go to very busy outdoor concerts with kids running around other dogs all over the place and all sorts of craziness. The only place (other than the vet) that she is still not terribly confident is at the shelter where I got her from–while she can work in the training rooms upstairs (where I now teach most of my classes), she is considerably more nervous.

Lulu was in a group run with a basset hound who was bullying her. She was hiding in the back of the kennel trying to keep the dog away from her. Once out of the shelter and up to weight, she started showing some reactivity and space issues. If a dog was 30ft away she’d stare, pull, and lunge at the dog silently (but could not take food at this point). If the dog broke her ‘large’ space bubble of about 10ft or tried to greet her she would growl, lunge, snap, and bark in a big aggressively display. If she got in a situation her response was always to act aggressively to get the other dog away. She did not like other dogs (except Bandit) and was a “fight” dog rather than a “flight” dog.

Shayne can now walk by other dogs and be under threshold easily… she may be interested in them but she doesn’t stare, pull, or lunge like she once did. She is also learning to be confident in interacting with other dogs. She has about 10 close canine friends (other than fosters and family dogs) that she is comfortable hanging out with and is confident in interacting with peacefully. She has shown herself to be extremely tolerant of foster puppies when introduced properly–they seem to latch on to her because she plays hard to get. While she’ll grumble at them occasionally, the reality is they can bite, tackle, hump, and harass her and she is so tolerant of them. While I do my best to not allow strange dogs to rush her while on leash, she is getting better and better with stranger dogs getting in her space unexpectedly.

Lulu was a dog I wasn’t sure would ever be ‘normal’ and I wasn’t really sure a CGC was even a possibility. Shayne is a dog who passed her CGC with flying colors and is largely a normal dog nowadays. I couldn’t be any prouder of her… she’s amazing.

  1. Yay! She really has come so far. It’s amazing what a lot of patience and time can do. She was so lucky you walked into the shelter that day. Just think of how different her life may have turned out if someone else had taken her home. That bottom photo really says it all. Congratulations on all your hard work. You and Shayne are an inspiration for us all.

  2. What a lovely tribute to the power of positive dog training. She’s a lucky girl to have landed with you.

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