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.