I’ve never owned a skittish Labrador before. But I do now.
At first, I chalked it up to shyness, her moving to a new home, and her age, 15 weeks, when we bought her. I’ve never started with a puppy this old. And though the breeder did a good job of socializing her to people, I don’t think the pup ever made a trip out of the kennel grounds to places with noise – other than barking dogs.
No washers and dryers rumbling, or UPS and FedEx trucks bouncing up and down the street, or gardeners mowing lawns and blowing leaves.
There is some cowering, and a mild fear of me, at times. Not all the time. If I sit on the ground, she comes to me with licks and kisses and is happy. When I stand up, she’s weary. My tripping over the puppy gate twice and making a big racket didn’t promote a positive first impression.
She seems better with my wife and daughter, making me think she never had anything to do with men, or the men she met scared her. When my wife raises her hand to signal “sit,” the pup sits. When I raise my hand, her tail goes down and she is tentative.
The question is . . . is she the dog for our noisy family? It’s been weighing on my mind this week.
Our plan is not to give up on her. We’re being aggressive in helping her, but not in a bad way. We’re making sure we socialize the hell out of her every chance we get. She rides with us every where now, even to McDonald’s, where she made me proud by wagging her tail when I put the bagged McGriddle next to her. Got to love a dog that loves McGriddles (I suspect they all do, as I’ve never known a vegetarian dog).
We’re following the advice of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, who recommends socialization over parvo-shot quarantine. We won’t take Cali to a dog park, but we’re going to take her everywhere else – now. Otherwise, we’re afraid we’ll lose her.
Today, we saw some improvement. Her tail was up more and wagged – a good sign. She seemed happier. But she still had her fearful moments and was impossible to walk on the leash, planting her English lab bottom on the ground, refusing to move.
It’s baby steps with her. Success won’t come easily or overnight. I see the confidence in her at times, and sweetness all the time. I just need to figure out how to get both 100 percent of the time. Cross your fingers or your paws. And send suggestions if you think they’ll help.