Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dudes: Maybe Not So Scary

Awhile back, I described a "dude incident," in which Maisy rushed towards a man and circled his legs, nipping (but not making contact) at him while barking and growling. It scared the crap out of me because I don't want her to cross that line between putting on a big display and having a bite history. After talking it over with both my veterinary behaviorist and my dog trainer, we came to the conclusion that Maisy's medication had made her feel brave enough to face her fears.

Since then, I've spent a lot of time in pet stores, on walks, and hanging around outside so that I could counter-condition her to men (especially those wearing hats). Although it's probably too soon to declare complete success, she has come a long way in the last two months. Last weekend, we had another huge snowstorm, and in the aftermath, Maisy had two encounters with dudes. She did well both times.

Sunday night, I was out walking Maisy, trying to see how bad the roads were (and wondering if I'd be able to get to work the next day) when we ran across someone stuck in the road. The dude asked me to help him and I didn't want to say no (in Minnesota, you just don't want to risk that kind of bad karma). I tried, but we couldn't get his car to budge. It was stuck. Then, a nice snowplow driver stopped to help... and yes, the snowplow driver was also a dude. In a hat. Although I was a bit nervous, Maisy did just fine with both of them. She was relaxed and happy to hang out while we shoveled and pushed.

The next day, I took Maisy for another walk, and this time, we ran across our mail carrier who is, yes, a dude. And he was very bundled up, wearing a hat and scarf, carrying a huge bag full of mail, and just generally lumbering along. Again, I thought Maisy might be upset by the sight of him, but she wasn't. In fact, she was super excited, and had a full-on helicopter tail and was wuffing little excitement barks. She really wanted to meet him. Sadly, mail carriers do not feel as fondly about little spastic dogs.

I'm feeling very hopeful about these recent dude encounters. I knew that medication and behavior modification needed to go hand-in-hand, but even so, I'm impressed by how well the two work together. Maisy has made a lot of progress with each separately, but the combination is amazing. And I'm so happy, and so proud of her.


Joanna said...

Awww, yay! I just love reading happy posts like this. Adorable picture, too!

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

That is awesome news!! Very fast progress!

Anonymous said...

That's so wonderful! I love hearing that the combination of your hard work (behavior mod) and the medication is paying off. Mind if I ask who your vet. behaviorist is?

Ettel, Charlie Poodle, and Emma Pitty said...

Woohoo! There's nothing like a well-earned breakthrough after a lot of work. Congrats!

Urban canines said...

Very proud of Maizy doing so well!

Hop on over to our blog, you have been awared the Stylish Blogger Award!

Crystal said...

Thanks everyone! I am just thrilled with my little dog. I don't think we're completely out of the woods, but it's nice to see some progress.

Thelearningvet- Maisy's behaviorist is Dr. Duxbury at the University of Minnesota. She's FABULOUS. She's incredibly nice, has a great bedside manner (I've never felt like she was talking down to me, like some professionals do), she's really responsive to emails, and of course- her expertise! She chose an unusual medication for Maisy, but it was absolutely the best choice for her.

Ninso said...

Go Maisy!

Ashley Hiebing said...

Aw, yay for Maisy! I've spent a fair amount of time pondering why so many dogs are afraid of men. Obviously they can't ALL have been abused. Is it the deeper voice? The (usually) taller stature? A more assertive presence? But, of course, not all men are like this... so why do so many dogs generalize to ALL men?

Humphrey loves the majority of men far more than women. When he was my demo dog, we would have some off-leash time at the end of my puppy classes. Humphrey would go schmooze with everyone, but he really loved on the men, particularly the older, quiet types. Loud, boisterous men, especially if they're very tall, he is not so good with.

It's funny, when I went to visit the behaviorist, she had us do a little experiment with her super-tall (like, pushing 7') gardener that happened to be there at the time. We had Humphrey on-leash, at a safe distance, while the gardener did his thing in the backyard. While not outwardly showing any fear or aggression, Humphrey completely ignored this guy, very unusual for a people-lover. He sniffed around on the ground, peed on a bush, acted like this guy didn't exist. I didn't realize that was a way of expressing fear. Very educational moment.

Crystal said...

Ashley, Patricia McConnell wrote a blog post on this awhile ago:

She reported on a study that did gait analyses of men and women and found that men move differently. I think I saw videos of this somewhere else, but I can't remember where. Interesting stuff, though!

As for Maisy... I suspect she just wasn't socialized to men well. I mean, she didn't get socialized terribly well in the first place, but she was also raised around primarily women.