Friday, July 17, 2009


I have a weird dog.

Somebody (I forget who--maybe a few of you) recently said, "All dogs are weird."

I know, but listen, okay? My dog is very shy. He's just starting to actually approach people at work, instead of waiting for them to approach him. And his approach is always very halting and cautious, even if he ends up kissing their hands--never bouncing and enthusiastic like you would expect from a small dog. (He does, however, continue to greet me with bouncing and tail-wagging, which is gratifying.)

He is afraid of loud noises, low noises, and anything that might possibly be construed as a "bang." Unlike some animals (and maybe people), when he gets scared, it stops up his digestive tract entirely. On the Fourth of July when I took him outside for his nightly "business," he dragged me around the entire block in terror and never did get said business done. In the car on the way to work, he will hyperventilate through the entire commute if I drive with the windows open or if enough motorcycles pass us.

All this, and yet he loves the vacuum cleaner. Today I vacuumed and he followed me from room to room with a smile on his face, watching the lighted attachment go back and forth over the floor. He didn't let it get too close . . . but he didn't let it get too far, either. Maybe he thinks its some strange sort of dog--although he didn't attempt to sniff its hindquarters, so maybe not.

Anyway, I like my strange little backwards doggy. But I wish I had a better idea what was going on in his head.

1 comment:

Joan said...

It's hard to say what little Oscar might have been exposed to, or not exposed to, in his life. Clearly he has had fearful experiences with many things, however, the vacuum cleaner isn't one of them. Startling sounds and noises are not all the same to a dog, so you can't assume that ALL strange/loud noises will frighten him. It's great that he is starting to be less fearful with people. Make sure that Oscar is always the one that does the approaching (don't let people approach him until he is really comfortable with them). Give people treats to give him when he comes up to them. If he gets frightened by something, act like it's no big deal, give him a reward when he is calm around loud noises. One trainer I worked with said that we should 'throw a party' when our dog is frightened or apprehensive - i.e. make happy, fun sounds. One of the things that people do (that is natural for us nurturing humans) is to comfort or coddle our frightened pet. This attention just reinforces their fear - "I acted frightened and I got lots of nice attention". Also, never force him towards something he's afraid of - this also just makes it worse and damages his trust in you. You can coax him with rewards for taking a step or two closer, etc. Progress will be made in baby steps with him. If you want to email me your address, I have a couple of pretty good articles on the subject from dog training publications that I have. It sounds like you've made lots of good progress between he and you - that will be a solid foundation for everything else going forward :-)