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Foster Diary #13- Facing New Challenges

Jeri Wagner, Dog Behavioral Therapist & Master Trainer with Bark Busters Home Dog Training chronicles her dog foster experience in the hopes of inspiring and helping others on their dog foster journey. Read along to follow Jamie’s progress!

It turns out Mondays are not Jamie’s favorite day – but really, who loves them anyway?! I typically use Monday to run general errands – the grocery store, post office, bank, etc. – so I am in and out throughout the day. Although Jamie has improved at home to the point she is mostly not crated if Jason or Craig are around while I am out, the inconsistency of the day tends to make her a bit more nervous… and if I’ve learned one thing over the past two-and-a-half months, it’s that Jamie’s nervousness tends to linger for a while. Unfortunately, Jason tends to bear the brunt of her anxious barking and growling, but Jamie recovers more quickly now and the episodes are shorter-lived.

Memorial Day is not only the beginning of summer, but also of season. Not surprisingly (given her aversion to loud, unfamiliar noises), Jamie does not like fireworks. She was startled from the first bang and began to growl while standing on the back of the couch, looking out the window.

I did a few things to help Jamie through the experience. First, I gave her a very small verbal correction – the same thing a mother dog will do with her puppies if she needs them to be quiet and relax. Second, I spoke a few reassuring words to her in a normal tone of voice, rather than the happy, high-pitched tones humans tend to use to try and soothe their dogs. High-pitched tones are often reserved for praise and, as a result, can reinforce undesirable behavior when used in the wrong circumstances. Last, I stayed very passive – the more attention I bring to the fireworks, the more Jamie is going to pay attention to them. I want her to learn that they can’t hurt her and she is safe, so she does not need to worry about them.

These tactics often get positive results, and after a few minutes, Jamie sat back down on her own as the bangs and bright lights continued. During the week we had a few more neighborhood fireworks nights and Jamie was much less stressed each time – a big win for her!

meeting my Father-in-law

Jamie has shown she is up for new challenges, so we pushed her more than ever this week. She met more people on our walks, including my father in-law and a few more neighbors – even one using a saw in his driveway – and handled each meeting wonderfully.

Before entering the car

We also worked to on Jamie’s comfort entering cars. This is definitely going to be a process – although she has improved immensely walking past parked cars or handling passing cars, getting into one is very stressful for her.

Getting used to being around a car

To start, I slowed down the process to lower her anxiety and used treats to encourage her that cars can be a good thing. I kept the car door open and walked her around the car. Then I sat in the car’s doorway, offering her treats until she comfortably took them from my hand. After a few repetitions, she was more relaxed and I helped her into my car. She laid down on the floor and although she wasn’t in her happy place, she was not exhibiting any fearful behaviors. I will continue this exercise with her until I can drive her to new, fun places without issues.

After two-and-a-half months, Jamie is coming into her quirky personality. She is noticeably more relaxed than when she came to live with us; she is entertaining herself more with her toys and she is not destroying the stuffed ones. I have noticed she is not shedding as much and showing less dander in her coat – both signs of stress – and she is excited to go on walks where she hesitated before. She has earned more freedom around the house when I can’t watch her, and I see improvement in small ways every day. I’m very proud of Jamie – she has progressed so much, and I’m more convinced than ever that her “furever” home is not far away!

Read Our entire Foster Diary here!

Jamie is available for adoption through To Love a Canine Rescue!

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