Friday night, with our daughter at her first slumber party, my wife and I sat on opposite ends of the kitchen floor and discussed the skittish pup. We were tired from a stressful workweek and at wit’s end with Cali California. Though we’d once trained a headstrong dog, and built up the confidence of our late fearful, unpredictable chow mix, and considered ourselves knowledgeable about training dogs, Cali had us stumped.
We questioned our ability to train and pick pups, as we didn’t see the skittish tendencies when we chose her. And we wondered if we kept working hard with her, and put the time in, would she improve – could she improve?
Despite both of us staying home the entire week, we’d made no progress, and, one might observe, gone backwards. And we sat there defeated, disheartened by the 32-pound sleeping pup.
How are we going to fix her? Us?
Rule #1: Never blame the dog.
Cystic fibrosis and hospitalizations entered the conversation, of course. What if this happens? What if that happens? How can we get through these situations with this pup?
How did the dream go south from a week ago? What did we do wrong?
And then Saturday came. And with it a transformation. Using treats, we got Cali around the block twice. And after spending an hour in the backyard with her, she calmed down and didn’t bolt at the sound of a car door shutting or a distant bark.
I hung out with her at night on the patio.
Calm, everyone’s calm, Cali. You can be calm, too. It’s all good. We’re just hanging. You’re safe.
Then Cali gained some confidence playing with our other dog. And her tail wagged more. And she blossomed into a happier, playful member of our pack. And our stress melted a bit.
We have a trainer coming tonight to give us some tips about shy dogs. We are not taking any chances with Cali. We don’t want to make any training mistakes and have her regress or keep her fearful ways. The progress she made was the thin sliver of sunshine we needed to regain hope that better days are ahead, and the black dog we thought we’d discovered at the breeder was the one sleeping on our kitchen floor.
Now we just have to be patient and let Cali come to us.