Avoiding Fearful Tenancies
I had an opportunity to work more with Spencer and the "scary" see-through steps. It occurred to me as I was working with him that had Spencer been adopted by another owner he would have been prone to becoming a fearful dog. The pup is super smart. He does not miss a trick. He is always smelling, watching and listening. He yawns a lot which means he is either thinking, trying to work something out in his head or unsure. I believe it is a little of each. He is super cautious of new situations. He stares at new objects as if he is trying to figure them out.
For example, on one of our recent walks he spotted a couple of balloons tied to a mailbox. He perked up and he kept walking and heeling on the leash, but his eyes were fixed on those balloons. As we got closer he side-stepped as if he needed to give whatever the heck that was some space. His eyes never left the balloons. I walked him right up to the mailbox and let him smell the balloons. He was then satisfied and we walked on. He had looked so cute when he was fixed on the object he was unsure of. However, had I reached down to pet him, smile, laugh or talked sweet to him (which I had the urge to do when I say he looked cute—I mean he was adorable) but that would have been the entirely wrong moment to pet him or give him any type of affection as it would have been saying to him, "Good boy for being unsure about that strange thing up there." Instead in my head I tried to stay focused and strong.
The mistake people make with dogs is when the dog is scared they cuddle and pet it, trying to tell the dog in a human way that everything is OK. The problem is dogs do not think like that. When a dog is unsure or afraid and you give it affection you are saying to the dog "good dog for feeling how you feel at this moment" and that makes the dog even more afraid. What a dog needs when it is afraid is a being who is stronger minded than itself so they can feed off of how that person is feeling. Dogs see pity as a weakness and when they themselves are feeling weak and everyone else around them starts going weak on them it freaks them out. Humans often use human psychology on a dog instead of "dog psychology” and in return they create issues of all sorts.
It did not take much this time to get Spencer to go up the steps. At the bottom of the steps I took him by the collar and said in my mama bear tone, "come on...!" At first he didn't want to go, and I pulled him to the first step. This time Spencer started off up the steps after being led to only the first step; off he went. I let go of his collar because I could tell he was going to do it on his own. When he got to the top of the steps he wagged his tail and turned around to smell me. I was not exactly sure how he was feeling; a wagging tail is not always a sign of happiness so I played it safe and didn't pet or talk to him.