As promised here is the rest of the story with this weekends reactive journey.
In Truth I Think I am The Reactive One
I must start with the admission that I am a reactive person. Go ahead laugh, but it’s so true! I am a chronic, anxiety addicted, over thinker. Because of my tendency towards feeling constantly alarmed it wouldn’t surprise me a bit that Maizey learned that from me.
I only bring it up because I think that one of the biggest challenges to teaching Maizey not to react to everything she sees like it is a big scary monster that she is going to out scare is teaching myself that. Or at least acting it convincingly enough that she is reassured.
My Then and Now Reaction to Maizey Reacting
Based on my own reactive personality, what is my instinctual reaction? Well picture her jumping out of her skin, lunging and barking. Then picture it in human form: me jumping, lunging and barking- at her! Not helpful to say the least!
Thus the 4legged lesson she is teaching me? When she reacts I don’t. And I mean literally DON’T, at all. For every symptom she shows my goal is to show the opposite. I think in the psychology world they call this “modeling the correct behavior.” I think in the real world we call it “fake it ’till you make it.”
So it used to look like this: she jumps and lunges, I would jump and lunge to grab her and keep her safe, or tighten the leash or whatever other startled physical reaction possessed my body. Now I stand still. Unless I need to move to keep her safe like backing away from a dangerous dog.
It used to be she barks and alarms go off in my head and my instinct is to bark at her, “MAIZEY! blahdy blah blah.” Or what ever. She can’t hear me over the alarms going off in her head so it doesn’t matter what words come out. It’s the tone, which is never one of anger, but surprise and alarm that gives her the message, “OH NO! Even my crazymomlady is alarmed so I better be bigger, badder and meaner to get this scary thing away from me!”
Honestly time will tell the total effect on her, but I can tell you the effect on me is huge. I feel more in control because I am, or at least look to her, more in control.
(Although I must admit to people not in the “reactive know” tend to look at you like, “Why are you not waving your arms and screaming at your dog to stop throwing that god awful fit!?!” I just try to let that one go as judgmental ignorance not worth my energy.)
Another benefit I feel this is having is I feel like a refuge from the storm that Maizey is trapped in and I think that has contributed to her being able to return and reorient to me better.
The Anecdotal Evidence
This weekend provided a great chance to see all of this in action. We traveled south for a fall getaway and encountered many things that Maizey has seen before and not reacted to at all. The aforementioned cows, horses and goats.
This time was a different story. These pictures are presented with time stamp in the form of hour:minutes:seconds. You’ll notice it takes only seconds for things to change.
1:34:22 Immediately when arriving at the goat and cow pens she showed no reactivity to them, although the tail position indicates perhaps slight hyper-alertness.
1:34:56 34 seconds later she got startled by something only she knows and lunged over to the cows.
1:35:05 She really didn’t like those cows!
I immediately knelt down, and gave a quiet “Maizey, leave it” it took her a few more seconds then she came to me. Looking back I should have left the area right then. She appeared to calm and move on, but I still should have left at that point. Lesson learned. Again. Sigh. . .
1:38:08 and 1:38:09 She startled again and this time to both cows and goats.
1:38:09 This is a whiplash turn where she tried to come to me, but literally in the SAME SECOND her fear overrode her sensibility and she went back to reacting.
I was so scared she would just charge right in with the cows and get trampled I basically herded her back from that and worked on her reorienting to me, which she did okay with.
At that point that my friends mom, who ranks as one of the most wonderful women in my world, quietly made a statemtnt that will be my reactive episode mantra from now on, “Let’s move on to the next thing.” So we did and hopefully will continue to do.
For now, as you give me the benefit of your thoughts and insights I will work on the next chapter of this reactive maymay novel: Maizey and Relaxation Protocol.