Loki has come along tremendously in the last few months. When we left for Hawaii in December, I was terrified of leaving him alone with a stranger (Bill, our house/dogsitter is possibly the most dog-friendly person EVER). Loki had never gotten comfortable with anyone besides David and myself. Sure enough, he didn’t come out from under the bed and make friends with Bill until 5 days into our trip. (Yes, I called almost every day. Yes, I know I was on my honeymoon. I’m just crazy that way.) Eventually he decided that Bill was okay, but he would hop up with him on the couch at night to sleep and shiver for the first ten minutes. That’s m’boy.
But after we got back, he seemed to have made some steps forward. He tolerated my parents’ presence in the house for several days, and was more outgoing with visitors. We decided it was time for him to have a companion, and got Persephone. Backsliding commenced.
Loki seemed terribly hurt whenever we gave Persephone affection, and was more twitchy than ever. Lots of shaking, and when we had to correct Persephone for being a crazy terrier puppy, he was more traumatized than she was. So we hired a trainer.
At the same time I started reading Caesar Milan’s book and watching his tv show. Blending the lessons from our trainer with Caesar’s dog psychology approach, we realized that part of Loki’s fearfulness was our over-nurturing behavior and lack of strong leadership. It took a while to change our habits, but we took his philosophy to heart and instituted stronger boundaries and rules, and more exercise for both of the dogs.
Today, Loki is almost a different creature. When we left town for our reception, we had a new dogsitter. I called after we got to California, dreading that Loki was cowering under the bed again. Brett said he’d taken about ten minutes to warm up. Both dogs slept with him every night. Loki has made friends with our trainer (dubbed FoodMan), is downright affectionate with my friend Emily, and totally loves playing with other dogs.
The clincher was this weekend. Usually I put off taking Loki to Petsmart for a nail trim because of the total carnage that ensues. He refuses to walk, barfs in the car, and struggles madly. It takes two groomers to clip his nails. This weekend there was no car barfing, I didn’t have to carry him through the store, and the groomer practically berated me for warning him that Loki would struggle. He was a total lamb. David and I were both amazed. He didn’t even sulk afterwards!
I used to think that you could love the trauma out of pets (and people), but really, that makes little sense. A toddler needs strong, clear boundaries to be healthy and safe, and so do dogs. If you don’t dwell on their issues, neither do they. Go figure!