“Thank you, Maia!
“Some of you may remember that a few weeks ago, I wrote about how we found out what is behind most of Maia’s insecurities, that she was mostly a fearful dog. Well, this insight turned out to be an important one, because since then, it’s like floodgates have burst open and everything clicks into place.
“I’ll be absolutely honest here. Maia is a reactive dog, she does not get along well with other dogs and lunges and barks when she sees one. We’ve been wondering a few times if we did the right thing to get a new dog so soon after we had to let Jack go. (For new readers: Jack was our dog before Maia, he was four years old and got hit by a car. After much struggle and consulting with several vets and friends, we let him go. We still blame ourselves, and sometimes, the pain and memory come back with a vengeance. We did get Maia out of the shelter very soon after Jack’s death because we think this is, in a way, Jack’s legacy, there are so many poor dogs in shelters, we can at least give one a better life.) Maia did settle in, but she was stressed, and so were we. Giving her up again never was an option, we were prepared for difficulties, but that didn’t stop us from worrying and questioning our actions.
“After we understood the fear issue, we acted accordingly and focused on the fear. This was the best decision we could make. Where she seemed to act somewhat in a daze, uninterested in learning, playing… she now is alert, smart, learns quickly, and turns out to be hilariously funny and mischievous. Where, if at all, she earlier only played alone, she now initiates play, squeaks, grunts, and has a good time. She loves pizza crust, and whenever we have pizza, she jumps with all fours and grins from ear to ear. She learned to catch treats in a few minutes (Jack and Spot never learned that), she loves to learn new tricks, she reacts to hand signals and body movements as if we’d never done anything else. We use a clicker, but outside, I mostly use my voice and Maia got used to my singing of ‘good gurrl’– I can singsong this in a happy voice in most situations, so this works well, too.
“Recently there has been a lot of new and interesting research about dogs and their behaviour. Researchers have found that dogs can read human facial expressions. I’ve made a point to smile at Maia often, and she is very alert and watches our expressions. We still are a bit slack with ‘formal’ training and let her get away with things like jumping up, there’s time for that later, we want her to have more trust and self esteem first.
“The lungeing and barking got better, too. She’s still very reactive when we get surprised by a dog off leash, or come too close to another dog unexpectedly. But mostly, especially with smaller dogs, she looks, then looks at me, gets a treat, we do a bit of a ‘watch me’, and that’s it. I’m so proud of her, I could burst.
“So, ask me again: Did we do the right thing? Absolutely. We do compare her to Jack and Spot at times, and remember them always, but that’s not a bad thing. We know, and knew, that no dog can replace another dog, just as no person can replace another person. But the void can be filled, Maia has such a unique, sweet personality, and now she feels happy enough to let that show. She seldom looks tense these days, and mostly smiles and grins. She’s really at home now.
“And now back to Maia.”
Woof. I have nothing to add.