Am I failing Abby? AKA as behaviour mod vs management
Sorry for the long post, but I need some advice and perspective on this issue and I know a lot of Chazzers have a truckload of experience in this area.
Abby is my nearly 5 1/2 year old Chi x (^ avatar girl).
She is reactive to strangers - both human and canine.
I struggle with our relationship for the first couple of years because of our issues, my anxieties, my lack of confidence, my guilt blah, blah. As you can see, I am really the problem here not Abby. We attended a few training schools that simply could not cater for us, so I turned to a behaviourist.
We saw a behaviourist that provided us with a plan that we stuck to and our training relationship blossomed. It was a hard slog to do any behaviour modification work because I lacked volunteers, the imagination and the confidence to set up my environment in a way conducive to this kind of training. My behaviourist lives 4 hours away, so distance was a factor in me not getting the hands on help I needed.
When I had some success, I was disheartened by setbacks such as off lead dogs running up and setting us back etc, etc.
I ended up throwing in the towel with behaviour modification and stuck with management. For me this means:
- keeping Abby safe - I'm always one step ahead and very aware of my environment. I deliberately choose places to go that are not crowded or difficult to see oncoming traffic.
- keep others safe from Abby - always being responsible and not putting her in a position to bite another person or dog. She hasn't actually bitten anyone yet and I'd like to keep it that way. I crate when visitors are over that have no desire to get to know her or listen to my instructions (fair enough... I have had great success with her warming up to friends and visitors who are keen to take the process slowly), she is never allowed near children, she is never off lead in public places.
- I compensate our lack of off lead exercise by playing lots of games. Luckily we have a big yard and I have a friend with lovely fenced property which is a godsend. We go walking in as many different places as possible and we do a lot of training/shaping to keep her mind stimulated.
I was happy doing this, but now my outlook is slowly changing. I would love to just go for a walk around our streets sometimes using different routes and stopping off at interesting parks. But she finds suburbia freaky. Dogs barking behind fences, children, people walking by etc. Especially the dogs barking and people behind us. I virtually have to turn off or stop and wait for the person to pass because she is so freaked out.
Her ears pin back and she will even strain on the leash to get further away (usually she has a nice loose lead walk), her weight is shifted forward and she has a lot of nervous energy.
When we go to our nice quiet places together, she is fine and happy and enjoys herself. But I feel like I am failing her by not addressing these issues.
Is it ok to avoid certain situations or am I really doing her a disservice?
Lately I have felt more positive and confident and we haven't been a approached by an off lead dog in a looong time. Coincidence? Or can a lot be said for positive energy bringing positive outcomes?
At home she is a lovely, easy dog and wonderful with her family/pack. Somewhat challenging to train, but that's my challenge to continuing finding what works for her. We have some wonderful sessions and some woeful sessions, but overall it's a lot of fun.