We have a houseguest with us this weekend, an old friend of my gf's, who is very sweet and great to have around. So yesterday afternoon involved a mad dash to clean up the house -- we really ought to have guests more often, so as to keep everything in tip top shape. I was cleaning the bathroom, Roomba was vacuuming the family room, the washing machine was going, and my gf was cleaning her car and carting things off to the recycling drop-off. All this activity plus an unseasonably warm afternoon put our younger dog into a panic. G. tends to be a bit nervous anyway, especially in new places or around strangers. But she hasn't had a panic attack at home in over a year--shaking, panting, basically just like a human in panic. So I had to shut off the appliances, sing to her, stroke her with an ice cube, and play dogmommy for a while (if I put my chin over her neck the way a superior dog does, she calms down, remembering that I'll take care of her). She recovered, and today even deigned to sit on the couch next to our guest, which is a big brave step for her.
Roomba hasn't bothered her before this. I think it was the combination of all the noise factors -- especially, perhaps, my gf going in and out of the house with stuff in her arms. She knew something was really up, but didn't know what it would be.
I know many people have preconceived ideas about certain dog breeds, or certain training methods, and how "labs are friendly" or "poodles are smart." But no matter what your dog's heritage, she will also have her own learning style and personality. Plus, since G was a street puppy when we found her, her past experiences have definitely shaped her attitudes about bicycles, teenagers, and various other potential aggressors. (Krista Cantrell's Catch Your Dog Doing Something Right is an excellent training book that offers advice on how to figure out what your dog's learning style is and how to motivate her appropriately.)
For all sorts of reasons, it doesn't bother me at all that we have a sensitive dog -- I'm glad both G and W are cautious around strangers rather than goofily friendly -- no one can walk into our yard or down the alley without our knowing about it, which in our neighborhood is a good thing. G's anxieties are just part of who she is and I love her as she is. I kind of share her sensitivity to loud noises, and I completely understand her dislike of new situations, although my response is far less visible. Her panic yesterday was a good reminder that maybe we didn't need to spaz out quite so much with the cleaning.
(Do my dogs need pseudonyms on this blog? I've outed them before, and only recently started to wonder if I should alter that practice. Though you'd have to be a pretty smart searcher to (1) know my dogs' names and (2) imagine that if I had a blog, I'd write about them (well, maybe that's not too tough to figure out) and then (3) search the web for them. Something to decide another day.)