Following the troubles of last week we seem to be slipping into a deeper well. On lead Cauta is more volatile than usual, more explosive toward *some other dogs, and *some men and *some scooters carrying children. Although this is never consistent it begins to be an ever increasing blot on the landscape.
We have many, ‘we need to talk about Cauta’ discussions. We think about triggers, context, environment, and contemplate a hefty dollop of fear around whether this will escalate. Worry and anxiety descends. The days of low key walks seem a distant memory.
We wonder about the season, the wind unpredictably moving leaves, twigs, even newspapers. The light fading and casting flickering shadows. This seems to increase Cauta’s fear, his flinching at ‘what is behind me?’ We change tack, try and lower the risk, have strategies and plans for every time we step out the door.
This brings it home how important it is to have a support network, whether in the form of online groups (which can be double edged), fellow dog carers at the park, behaviourists, and friends who have walked this path before. It feels crucial to help contain anxiety and combat the isolation, which can slowly but surely grow in a bubble of worry.
For instance, finding out from the gold mine that is Lisa Tenzin-Dolma that it’s common for Romanian street dogs to have a spike in reactivity around 6 months after being homed. This timeline fits with Cauta’s pattern and helps put his behaviour in the context of something that others have experienced and can be worked with. Rather than the panic of ‘oh ~!# he has developed reactivity, what have we done and what do we do now?!’
Meanwhile each walk is back to being planned with military precision, scanning the horizon for any possible triggers, planning escapes and distractions, whilst also trying to foster a sense of security, in order to see how far he might be able to overcome these fears, or how we learn how to manage them long term.
It is exhausting and all too easy to sink into a well of despair. Just when we thought we were getting somewhere with recall, this, potentially more serious issue rears its head. We try not to be pessimistic and keep hope alive, but are also painfully aware of our limitations.
We concoct a game plan, in a Chirag Patel type way we think about all the things in his environment that could be spooking him and working against him making calm choices. Now the dark is creeping in, agility in the evening maybe tipping an already fragile balance. We change to a daytime group.
His distress signals at daycare intensify so we step up the hunt for a different environment. Although long term we hope he might feel safe enough to overcome his fears, in the short term practising his behaviours is not going to help.
An alternative to a domestic environment could be a lady that takes a dog group out for extended adventures in the countryside, away from streets and scooters and children. We make enquiries.
Although changing may cause distress in its self, perhaps this is our wake-up call that Cauta needs something different…
At his most elegant ….