Many of us with fearful dogs focus on the shortfall: e.g., the things we can’t do with our dogs. For instance, I can’t take Lyra on a bus (which rules out many activities); she is nervous with most strangers; we are stuck at home on Fridays (garbage truck collection); I can’t leave her in the care of most people. It’s like someone saying “can’t” with the word all stretched out across the yard.

And yet … today we played ball in the snow. We lay on the office floor and I scratched her ribs (which she loves). She chased me around the house. And we did a “paw touching” game — an idea I got from Jean Donaldson (though I don’t think she calls it a game. I tend to call most things with Lyra a game, to cheer us up). In this game, Lyra sits or stands. I touch parts of her leg, for 1,3,5, then 8 seconds, working closer to her paw. Each touch gets a click and treat, and I only move up (or down!) the chart if she’s comfortable with each step. Today, I was able to hold each paw for 8 seconds (we’ve been playing this game all week). Lyra was delighted. She’s begun to “ask” for training. I.e., she stares at the shelf with the clicker, then at me. And if I reach for it, she runs down to the basement (our new training pad), looking over her shoulder to check that I’m coming.

So, I’ve decided to start a Twitter hashtag: thingsyoucandowithafearfuldog. Obviously, each dog is different (from others, and over time). But every dog can do something.

It’s not a lost cause.

Lyra’s face when she wants me to play with her — in a snow flurry. I call this her “C’mon!” look.

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