I’ve had my dog Bya for just over 2.5 years. She is a 4-year-old German Shepherd+husky+malamute and was rescued from a deplorable animal sanctuary. Her previous owner was forced to surrender her because she was abusing and neglecting Bya. As a pup she was sold to make money, and bought to make money. Bya had a litter of pups before she was a year of age. She was clearly never socialized or loved. Fortunately, she was fostered from the sanctuary, spayed and vetted as her foster sought a suitable home for her. We know the foster and my husband decided to adopt Bya. We flew down south, stayed a few days to get acquainted with Bya, rented a car and drove back (34 hours with stops). I’ve had a fearful dog before, but not one as severe as Bya. It was clear before we drove back that I had myself a dog. My husband hasn’t the capacity to deal with her idiosyncrasies. She wasn’t fearful of specific things, but everything. She detested being pet/touched, and she still does. When off our property, or if someone new came by, she would constantly pace. She had to be in constant motion.
Anything I do with Bya requires time, thought, and patience. Initially even clipping a lead to her collar was a process. She was never properly crate trained (2019 goal!) and would become highly anxious if in one. When home without people she would bust through baby gates and screen doors. When I was home, but out of sight she would destroy things. Her stool would have blood in it with no apparent physical cause. The vet and I decided to put her on a daily dose of alprazolam to help take the edge off her anxiety. It worked well. Bya stopped destroying things, she was more relaxed, and no longer had blood in her stool. She still experienced anxiety, but at least it was no longer a barrier to changing her behaviours.
Everything I do with Bya requires thought and awareness of our environment in order to prevent her from becoming scared and creating new behaviors. For example: she loves to sniff. If she is engaged in sniffing and it’s time to move along, I will not break her at the moment a kid is riding by on his bike, or a noisy automobile is passing by because she will associate being scared with that very location and will have to avoid it. Bya clearly never experienced slip resistant crosswalks. She refused to step foot on them. To accommodate her I made it clear I would not force her over them, earning her trust. I would cross the streets away from the crosswalks, getting closer to them each time. At the point I felt was right, Bya was in good spirits, we were walking at a fast pace and I walked her right over them effortlessly and continue to do so. The crosswalks are no longer “a thing”. Some situations I hold her lead close to me and power past the issue, other times I may stop walking while holding her lead close to me. These are the modes by which I deal with her fears. I know how far I can push her, and when she needs extra support
I took Bya to a dog trainer for private lessons as she’s not Obedience Class material. I wanted to boost her confidence, get some training tips to help manage her, and get her off the alprazolam. She did well and within a couple months of finishing her classes, she was completely off her med. She has been off it for about 1.5 years.
As of now, I can easily leash and harness her (goals met) both inside or outside. Bya can never be off lead in an unfenced area since she quickly goes into fright or flight. Her first response is flight. I am diligent in ensuring she doesn’t feel she has to cross the threshold and start biting.
Bya loves walks, we go every day. In town I use a 50’ long lead as my manual Flexilead. In fields I use a 100’ long lead. This is as close to off lead as I can offer her. She has 2 dog siblings that she adores, plays with, and sleeps near. It is a bit of a job to bathe her and a huge ordeal to clip her nails. Food has no value to her when she is stressed.
Bya knew no commands when I adopted her. We incidentally taught her “sit” and “come”. I mark anything I do regularly with marker words, treats, and verbal praise so she is clear about my expectations thus reducing her anxiety. We communicate through my verbal commands, hand gestures, and our direct eye contact.
I attempted box feeding as I heard on The Canine Paradigm. Initially she refused to stick her head in the box, my husband was able to coax her. She would never finish a meal, popping her head out after a mouthful. I found that she was eating quickly because she knew once her head was out she was done. She did not care if she missed meals, she’s experienced worse and survived. I ceased my attempts. I had dreams of Bya keeping her head in the empty box, and even bringing it to the vets so we could easily get her on the scale. It’s nice to dream.
I would love a more user-friendly dog. One I could put in my kayak, take to stores, a dog that wants to be pet and even spoon with me. That’s not even close to my reality. In reality, who in their right mind wants a dog that takes so much yet gives so little.
I am pleased with her constant evolution. Life owes Bya a fair shake. It is my passion to see that she is content and joyfully living a full life. I spoil her. She is on a raw diet, enjoys essential oil aromatherapy, has organic lavender buds sprinkled on her leather loveseat, and enjoys classical music. I have her back and she knows it. I love Bya and I wouldn’t trade her for the most perfect dog in the world.