I am relieved to be able to say that we are now thinking we can keep Gandy after all. She has shown considerably better behavior in the past few days–not entirely free of snarky or otherwise obnoxious behavior, but stopping herself before things get out of hand. She has turned a corner (is turning at least) that is partly nurture and partly nature.
For our part, we have realized this dog (by breed and by her own personality) can’t be “broken” of the aggressive behavior in the same way a dog like a lab might be. We’ve done better NOT engaging her when she misbehaves, but ignoring her, the re-engaging with extra affection, and she is responding.
For her part, a lot that is changing for the better is likely the result of normal maturation of her nervous system. Early impulses are protective, quick, unchecked. In the wild, that is the way it must be: mistrust, self-protection, caution. Then, as the young animal ages, the “reaction” circuits are over-ridden increasingly (learned, with positive reinforcement) by the inhibitory circuits that raise, rather than lower the threshold of protective response. Gandy is learning to put the brakes on her innate tendency to strike out against possible threats. The stakes are higher now that she might lose attention and treats with inappropriate behavior. Â We were not sure she would ever care.
We are doing better at the NOTHING in LIfe is Free approach, though Ann’s tendency is to just give the dog things to “buy her off” rather than take a little more time and make the dog do something RIGHT to get food, treats, belly rubs, special toys and outside exercise.
We are supposed to start obedience training (hopefully tomorrow) that will not solve the snappiness but can go a long way especially to make Ann comfortable with the dog and to bring us all to sing (or bark) off the same page.
Yesterday, Gandy and I went back and forth between the pasture and the wood pile in the truck. She felt like quite the farm dog, you could tell. We had our first game of FETCH with a stick. She tires of such silliness pretty quickly and wants a REAL job. She is far more energetic than any lab we’ve ever had, and so we’re glad warmer weather is coming and she can help with gardening. I’m thinking we won’t need a tiller, hoe, or maddock if we have a GANDY in the garden!