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I rarely write about reactive Summer, and mostly brag about her adorable trick repertoire.. But I finally felt inspired enough to share a bit about our journey, just in case any one else with a reactive dog happens to be searching this site for help!

Normal puppyhood, happy dog...

Nov-Dec 2010: Summer was 10 months old, due to circumstances we were forced to move in with my grandma for a month. She went from sleeping in our living room in a pen, to being forced outdoors all day and all night.

Started barking at people going by, entering the house. Lots of anxiety, frantic every morning when I went out to be with her. Shocked me when on a walk, neighbour moved to pet her and she jumped back, growling. Snapped at a cousin who wanted to touch her.

Dec-March 2011: Finally moved back home. Summer continued to get worse, growling at almost everything - noises in the street, doors opening and closing within the house, family moving around. Whenever family would poke their head in my room to talk, she would jump up from her resting position and bark crazily. On walks, she would cower and growl at strangers, even across the street.

Started looking for help, learning about dog body language and realized that my dog was VERY VERY fearful and anxious all the time. She held her ears back, mouth closed and could not relax. Spoke to some professionals, decided to start using classical conditioning with food to change her perception of things around her.

Carried food on walks, feeding EVERY single time we passed by a person. Carried food around the house, feeding EVERY single time she looked worried or growled or barked. We sat on the street and watched the world go by, feeding for people passing. Worked on exercises to desensitize her to noises like door knocking, door opening, dropping objects.

Managed her by keeping her in my bedroom (furthest from the front door) at all times, preventing outbursts at the front door. When visitors were over, strictly no contact as she got stressed over it.

March-July 2011: Seeing marginal improvements only. Still scared of people, still reactive to the door and other sounds. She seemed to be relaxing a little more around the house. Stopped growling and barking at people on walks, but still exhibited anxious behaviour.

Continued feeding EVERY time we passed people. Continued training sessions to desensitize around every day sounds. Realized that she really liked people with dogs, even allowing them to pet her. Took her on outings to the park and outdoor mall. Same principle - feed feed feed everytime we passed by a stimulus.

Avoided letting people pet her. Embarrassingly she would bark if people looked at her or looked like they were moving to pet her. I noticed she was particularly afraid of tall men.

Did an online clicker tricks class - learnt more than 20 tricks and built lots of confidence. The tricks were not only good for her, but great for me. It is frustrating working with a reactive dog all the time, and our success together in tricks class was motivation and refreshment enough for me to hang in there...

July 2011: We could walk without any outbursts! She could pass people on the pavement without looking worried. Progress! Our walks became more enjoyable.

She started to feel comfortable around a few more people outside home - her vet, some of the kids who work at the pet store near home and some neighbours.

Continued to venture to the outdoor mall, petstore and park. On one outing, a stranger moved to pet her faster than I could stop her. Summer did not react or cower!! Just stood there and got stroked. We threw a party and she probably ate half the treats in my pocket :D From then on she could tolerate pets from people, but not by choice and not from tall men..

August 2011: REAL progress!! Summer asks for pets from strangers! We are at an average of ZERO barks, growls and cowers every outing.

Summer attends a concert in the park! Hundreds of people, and she was on her best behaviour :)

One night we dined at an outdoor place and Summer lay under the table. Everyone who passed by wanted to pet her and, my girl, she just sat nicely and wagged her tail!! People were telling me how friendly and well-behaved she was, and I wanted to say... if only you knew what this took..

Continue management, and feeding when passing strangers on walks. Feed while being pet by strangers too, or immediately after.

September 2011: Last night... Usual Friday night outing - SUMMER SPENT THE EVENING SOLICITING PETS FROM PEOPLE!! Her ears would actually perk up (happily) and she approached strangers tail wagging.

Much to my embarrassment, she even jumped up and licked a MAN on the hand, asking for a pet. NOT perfect greeting behaviour but I was over the moon for my shy dog!! It was just amazing.. I felt like I have a true golden, finally :)

So... 9 months, probably 100 shredded chicken breasts, 20 slices of bread later... my shy, anxious, fearful, reactive dog comes into her own!!!

I don't think its possible to imagine how frustrating and saddening it is to own a dog with so many fears... But if you've been there or are there now, there's hope!

My.. that was wayyy too long. SORRY!

PM me if you want to know more or details :)
 

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I read it Cheryl and I had no idea that you an Summer were going through all of this. You are a wonderful, great and patient fur mom!
 
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I read your entire post. I've been impressed with all the time you spend with Summer and all the training you have done, especially the tricks up to now. Now I'm super impressed. Summer is one lucky girl to have such a loving, caring and patient mom. You will be an inspiration to those going through the same issue. I hope they use you as a resource.
 

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I read it fully. It is terrific information and I think can be used on varying levels of fear and apprehension.
Great Job!!!
 

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What a wonderful story about Summer overcoming her fears with your help. It can take a long time and lots of patience but success can be so rewarding. Over the past year I have worked with Roxy on her fear aggression with unfamiliar dogs approaching her. Off-leash play classes twice a month with our trainer have helped very much.
 
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I read through the entire thing, and I just have to say you are amazing, sticking it out and continuing to work with her as hard and as long as it took is a testament to your love and concern for her.

BRAVO BOTH OF YOU!!!!
 

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Kristy
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Honey, Thank you for opening up here, I read the entire post.

You are my hero! I am so inspired by you and your committment to your beautiful girl. Congratulations on getting such wonderful results from so much hard work and all the patience for the frustrating hours you spent. That is just so terrific to hear. More photos!
 

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I too read your entire post-what a wonderful loving mom you are not to have given up on Summer. She's beautiful and I'm glad to hear the progress you have made with her. I know it's been a long journey for you both, frustrating and very trying at times. your hard work, love and dedication have paid off not only for you but for Summer.

I have a former abused puppy mill momma-she has come a very long way in the 4. 5 years since I adopted her, she will always be a work in progress-I have a very good idea what you've gone through.
 

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It was a terrific read. I have worked with re-active dogs and I know what you have gone through. I say BRAVO to you for giving your all to Summer. You are a great owner and Summer is one lucky dog to have you. :D Cheers
 

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Your post is so inspiring and while I don't have the same issues it is still a great reminder that love, patience and hard work will help my puppy become an amazing companion like your Summer is. Thank you for taking the time to tell your story.
 

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Remy's Mom!
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Summer's mom - I too have a fearful pup and was wondering what online clicker class you took?
 
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Charlotte
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What an amazing story. Your love and patience has paid off . Give yourself and Summer a big pat on the back!
 
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