Last night Harlow and I went to our first one-on-one session with Gerilyn at Canine University. Our lesson was held in the same space where classes are taught, with lots of room, a concrete floor and very high ceilings. Harlow showed her approval by pooping in the middle of it.
“It’s OK” Gerilyn reassured me, “It’s really like a dog park in here”
Harlow wandered the space while Gerilyn and I talked, seated in plastic chairs in the middle of the space. There were lots of smells for Harlow to take in and she stayed very busy doing so. The whole time we were talking, Gerilyn was observing Harlow’s body language and behavior.
It was fascinating to hear what Gerilyn had to say. She clearly understands, very acutely, dog behavior. We talked about the incidences which lead me to seek an expert – going after a sheepdog at the park months ago when that dog wouldn’t play with her, lunging at a male neighbor while on a leash when he reached out to greet her, going after a dog at the park (like she would rip it’s throat out if she caught it) when it nipped at her . Fortunately there has been little beyond that, but I’d like to keep it that way.
I have learned that her body language, pulling and panting, actually means that she is completely freaking out with fear and discomfort when I walk her on a specific, busy street in my neighborhood. Thinking back on this I realize now how many times she was put in a situation where she was actually really uncomfortable. I know this now because I remember how at some times she wouldn’t even take treats from me. At the time, I thought it was strange, and now looking back, I realized she was afraid or amped up for one reason or another. Not excited and distracted as I had first thought.
I learned that while she understands how big she is, she needs to be calmed and made to feel more connected to her body. The backpack helps with that, and gives her a task of sorts, which I think is why she has seemed to take to wearing it so easily. A thunder shirt might be a good investment, because it could help her feel connected to her body, because, as Gerilyn told me, Harlow is not good at regulating her energy at all. And she needs to be taught how to calm down.
This inability to regulate showed at the dog park, where she would never stop running. Ever. Until I caught her and forced her to slow down. This inability to regulate shows when friends come over and she paces and paces. She simply doesn’t know how to stop. So, it’s time to teach her.
I asked G, “Why does Harlow approach someone who she’s afraid of and then freak out when they want to greet her? Why not just stay away from them?”
Basically Harlow makes bad choices, “She’s not good at determining how she feels about a person. So she’s curious and approaches, and then when she gets close and they reach for her, she panics when she realizes she doesn’t like them”
“Sounds like me in my romantic life” I joked.
“Well, they do mirror us!”
Gerilyn liked Harlow though. “She’s a very cool dog” she said, “she’s smart and you should really give yourself a pat on the back. A dog like her in someone else’s hands could be a reall disaster”
I suppose that could be said about any animal, but I’ll take it anyway.
I’m excited to learn more and figure out how to help Harlowand understand her more.