Lyra is a border collie who lives with me and my family in Toronto, Canada. I am a writer and copy editor with no dog training background. In March, 2016, Lyra was diagnosed with a fear disorder. She is anxious around people, she can get over-aroused or shut down, and she has a phobia of traffic sounds (heavy engines). Since then, I have put her on four different anxiety medications (she is currently on fluoxetine) and tried counter-conditioning methods. Most of the time — with management — she is happy.

“Learning a Dog” is a play on words. The word “learn” used to mean “teach” (which is why some people still say “that’ll learn you”). I’m using it in both senses.

In order to train Lyra, I have to figure her out. The fact that we’re alike in some ways — keen to learn, restless, over-eager, hesitant, hyper-vigilant, curious, wary of close contact — makes it more of a challenge. Because, of course, Lyra is a dog; she is not actually me. She is not an easy dog to love, either (“wary of close contact”), but I love her — and this site is about our efforts to thrive, in spite of temperament, in a city.

Caveat: this site is meant to be a record of my experience with one dog — not a recommendation to anyone else whose dog is struggling. I have zero qualifications in animal behaviour beyond my own experience. I’ve relied heavily on a veterinary behaviourist, our regular vet, and professional dog trainers to help my dog. I believe such help, tailored to the individual, is essential for very fearful dogs — on top of loads of reading, online support groups, research, and patience.