If you follow The Zuzu Chronicles, you know that I work on getting Zuzu out to different places, meeting new people and seeing new things. I don’t get her out nearly as much as I should or would like. That’s one of the disadvantages of living in a rural area. But we do as much as we can. After all, some is always better than none!
The last time I took her to the Castle Rock Outlet Mall (great place to meet people!) she encountered something that frightened her. I’ll use that as an example of how to help a puppy (or new dog) work through something that frightens her. In this case, there were two men working on the roof, and one of them was just starting to climb down the ladder as we walked past. It startled Zuzu, and she tried to run away. I quickly sped up with her to move out of “harm’s way” even though we really were in no danger. But she did not know that.
We stopped just far enough away that she was still concerned but not overly frightened. Rather than just moving on, I wanted to give her a chance to observe and overcome this startle or fear response. She was curious, which is good! But not curious enough to go any closer just yet.
Once the man reached the ground, I asked him if we could come over and say hello so she could see that he was just a normal guy. Throughout this process, I was also feeding occasional treats to help add some additional positive associations with people coming down from the sky.
Once she got close enough to say hello, she was much more comfortable. I thanked the guy for allowing us a couple of minutes to work through her fears, and then we continued on with our walk.
We looped around and later made our way back past the ladder and the men again to see if she still needed a little extra help. We walked on the other side of the sidewalk so that she could again see the ladder and the men but without being directly under them. This pass-by, the men were back up on the roof and using power tools. Zuzu was cautious but not as startled as our first encounter.
If I had simply walked her away from the situation and not given her the opportunity to study it, investigate it and overcome the fear of something new and different, we might very well have a more difficult time the next time we encounter something similar.
By giving her the chance to work through it, we will be able to work through similar things more easily going forward. She will gain confidence and have better coping skills as she progresses.