Lyra 4.75 months
Lyra is the wierdest puppy I've ever raised. Certainly she is helping me understand what is meant by a "fear period," because her ups and downs are much more pronounced than what I've seen in my other dogs.
In a two week span, she's gone from being highly social, to worried about people, to social - most of the time. Every fifth person still causes her concern for absolutely no reason that I can detect. She's not having a meltdown but definitely showing some glitches in her self confidence. I see the same with places and things; the world is no longer her oyster. My best guess is that Lyra looked around and realized that there could be threats out there. Night exacerbates the issue, but even in bright daylight she can have weird moments. I don't "do" anything about these moments except make sure she's not overwhelmed. If she vocalized in any way, I'd remove her from the situation, but mostly she just flattens her ears and skulks around. I give her time to adjust, and if she doesn't become comfortable with the object of concern in a short period of time (30 seconds or so) then I try to move her a little further away or just leave the area altogether. The people worries are much more pronounced than the environmental ones.
Yesterday I took her out for some work in the neighborhood, and she was terrific! Happy and engaged; curious about the environment but very comfortable working for me too. Then today I took her to a public garden. She was happy to explore, but her ears weren't consistently up, and her ears are a pretty good barometer of happiness. She did lead the way through the garden, and after walking on the paths for five or ten minutes, we left. We'll see if she's better next time. Needless to say, any plans I may have had for attention work were wiped out. Some days she cannot do anything in public; I'm happy just to get her ears up and her tail wagging.
In direct contradiction to her unsureness with random people, places and things, she's starting to show me some hardness at home, which is very much welcome. Today when I asked her to give a toy back, she said "no". It wasn't a loud no, but she knew what I wanted and she didn't give it up. I'm thrilled! Someday I'll have her full cooperation, but I want to earn that cooperation, not recieve it because she doesn't have the personal strength to argue with me. It's hard to have a true teammate unless you are very close to each other in power. I want 51% of the power and 49% in Lyra; this is what I have with Cisu, Juno and Raika, and it is a joy to work any of them. Right now I have too much power with Lyra ( to be expected with a puppy), so I'm glad to see her developing more core strength. I happen to like a dog that has opinions and gives me a little grief, because I think it makes for a much stronger competition dog in the long run. It's good if I have to earn Lyra's cooperation instead of getting it because she is emotionally weak inside. It's also an absolute necessity in a good Schutzhund dog, and who knows if we'll pursue that. I'd like it to be an option anyway.
I adore her. I find her ups and downs fascinating, and trying to find the right combination of motivators is a challenge. Right now I'm working on getting her to run to her platform (as opposed to trotting), so we'll see what it takes to get her there.
I’d be quite surprised if her worries didn’t work themselves out in the next few months. Her issues are too mild and non specific to make me think there is more going on, and she was a calm and stable puppy. My experience is that normal puppies turn into normal adults unless they have true fears, and she does not exhibit fear as much as concern and attention. I see her more as a preschooler. First few times in a new place or with strangers can be scary. Lots of toddlers hide behind their parents for a year or so. By the time they are in kindergarten they are well past it.
One thing I cannot predict is how social she’ll be with strangers. I doubt she’ll be afraid of them, but she could well end up neutral.
“I happen to like a dog that has opinions and gives me a little grief, because I think it makes for a much stronger competition dog in the long run. "
I too, like a dog with strong opinions and who will say to me “don’t DO that again” so I can find a way to make it a partnership. I’m so very not good with the softer temperament.
I have rescued quite a few dogs and some of them had fears about new people, places, noises, and other “environmental” things. I have found that these dogs need to get out to as many different types of places as possible, meet as many people as possible, and so forth. I have also found that this type of temperament in a dog can’t be “fixed”, but it can be managed.
Just from my personal observation, this type of thing is independent of other personality factors. For instance, I have a dog who is bossy and pushy, but she has some fears about certain places and noises and so forth. While she’s a great performer and has always been a great dog for competitions like agility, rally, and obedience, I have never been able to show her in large buildings. Also, at any time, upsetting noises can partially shut her down at a competition. She’ll keep doing the exercises (or the obstacles when I was doing agility), but she’ll lower her head and flatten her ears, and kind of start skulking around. The performance doesn’t stop, but it goes way, way, down. It’s not her fault. She can’t help it and she never stops trying.
Like I noted above, with her, the best “cure” was as much exposure to all things as I could manage.
The most frustrating part of the above hasn’t been my dog. I love and accept her how she is. Competition is secondary to rescue for me. It’s been how competition people have always tried to blame me for her temperament. That IS very annoying! Then they see me with one of my other dogs who don’t have anything of this nature going on and then they go, “Oh, I guess it isn’t you afterall.”
For my own education, I will be very interested to read more about how you work with this type of temperament in a dog! I’ll be checking in to see how things are going and what you will be doing.
Happy New Year!