Yesterday as I worked away on my computer Elsa sat watching, watching out her window. I have a patio door in the room where she loves to sit and watch the world go by. She is learning to watch and only watch without barking. Depending on what is going by can make the no barking rule a tough one. As she lay watching the neighborhood comings and goings I saw her ears go up, then her body, and the very low barking started. I could see that she was watching something, I assumed it was the local cat. Nope, it was a bag.
Having had many dogs over the years it has been interesting to see how they deal with things in their own way. Describing all the traits of a dog can take a while, like I always say "they are very simple, yet complicated." Elsa is a very confident dog, but she has a tiny bit of fear regarding monsters. Fear of the unknown lets say. So when this grocery bag was caught up in the wind and rolling towards our house it was by her description, a monster. What was this thing slowly creeping up on our house?
I told her that it was a bag using my best no big deal voice but she wasn't buying it. She charged downstairs as it came across the front lawn. I decided to show her what the monster was as she continued to do her low level barking in a panic. I grabbed her collar and we walked out the front door to the bag. She did a couple of "there it is" barks until she realized what she was barking at. I figured good, lesson learned..........just a bag.
Back up to the office and on with work when it started again. Looking out the window I saw another bag, really? The exact same scenario was playing out again and Elsa was no wiser with the second go round. She barked and charged downstairs. I opted to let this one go and ignore the whole issue. It blew up onto he lawn and out of view. She calmed quickly. She is an amazing guard dog, as I have said before she misses nothing. Not even the empty bark bag that I tossed to the side of the yard after redoing one of my gardens. I heard the low barking again and looked to see her as she cautiously approached it. This one was not quite as scary as she recognized it more quickly.
Tilley and Jessie were my most unflappable dogs. Even though Tilley was somewhat a fearful girl at the start she remained rock solid as far as new objects or environments. Jessie was the same, she would see something new in the yard and know what it was immediately. Luke is sort of in between, depending on what the item is.
The best thing to do when you have an alarmist is to remain calm, leading by example. Not all dogs look to their owners for assistance but for the ones that do remaining calm in a scary situation is the best that we can offer. Stepping up and taking control of situations is a good way to become the owner that your dog needs. The one who will be there through all the scary times. Being the boss means just that, the one that is unflappable in flappable situations. Walking past your dog who is frozen staring at the strange thing and confronting the object head on.
Making items that cause a frantic behavior in your dog "nothing" is so very important. It is all a lesson in being as calm as you possibly can. Picking up the item as if it were merely a fleck of dust, not giving the thing an ounce of consideration. Our dogs pick up on this very confident, no stress behavior and learn. It is the same for anything that causes a frenzied behavior, the best action is the 'we don't care about those things,' attitude.