trauma, us-learning, Camellia (VERY LONG!)
All good points being made here. I have some thoughts on this. That is, there are certain similarities between all domestic dogs. This is where the academics have come up with a lot of useful information about the domestic dog as a species. Many different researchers came up with similar results.
Then there are the hands-on people - breeders, trainers, behavior counselors, and even veterinary behaviorists. I've found stuff to disagree with among all these people - and stuff to agree with, too.
Some of those in the academic world work closely with dogs, many, with dogs of all ages, and many different breeds. And some of those people have excellent skills communicating with dogs. Others don't do as well, but many are better than just competent.
Turid Rugaas, with a colleague, videotaped dogs in many situations, often, running free, first, over a period of about two years - they had miles and miles of tape. They studied dog-communication using the tape to help. Wow; I tell ya; it helps SO much to be able to watch videotape, as many of you know! Because, we can see SOME (not all) of the environment, but if we were there for the taping, or if we make videos at home (or in other places), we have some idea of what the environment is for the dog (including puppies).
What we'll probably never know is EXACTLY what a dog is thinking. We just don't share the brains of dogs! But we can learn a heck of a lot from what the dogs do.
It's been amply shown that dogs are emotional creatures, much as we are. The emotional system in dogs is fairly similar to ours; they have brain-parts like ours, including the emotional-brain system. But since their bodies are different from ours (no hands, no thumbs), dogs are left with paws (not always as efficient as our hands; haha!) - and mouths - with which to test their worlds and learn about them.
One thing we can be quite sure of, which is that if we scare a dog enough, the dog will run away (flight) or shut down (freeze), or try to bite (fight).
Dogs who have been traumatized beyond their abilities to cope might learn to attack - to drive away the Scary Thing or Scary Creature. And if they think they've been successful in driving away the Scary Thing (or Creature), they can even try to do that pre-emptively - to avoid trouble before it starts. OUCH!
The easiest dogs are those who have never had a really bad experience.
A lot depends on what happens to the puppies from the time they are born, and even, to an extent, before they are born, so a breeder who takes great care of the dam is likely to come up with puppies who are magnificently healthy and competent. Provided, of course, that the breeder has selected the stud well, and that the dam raises the puppies well, which surely requires some assistance from the breeder, for instance, in providing the environment where that can happen.
These days, pups raised in homes, with careful, graduated exposure to The World Of Home (raised "underfoot," perhaps with a few children, maybe cats, other dogs), and later, to expanded parts of the world they are being raised to live in, can learn to cope with a whole big variety of experiences.
Of course we can't prevent a pup from having ANY bad experience, but the more good experiences they have, the more easily they can overcome a few bad experiences, especially if the bad experiences aren't completely traumatizing.
Genetics do play a big part, both in health and temperament, so there ARE dogs whose heritages are genetically weak (from our human point of view, looking for dogs who can live well with humans) - whose behaviors later in life remain difficult for us humans.
|I won't go into more than that for the moment; too early in the morning! For now, I'll just summarize what is pretty common in dogs:
Frightening experiences CAN traumatize dogs; the amount of fear makes a difference. Once traumatized, dogs remember that. It can take a very long time to overcome such trauma, and some dogs may never fully recover. Yet even previously-traumatized dogs can do well in a human world, providing the Human-Parents comprehend the trauma, and work around it.
Specifically with Camellia: Nobody seems to know just what caused her trauma, but we have a pretty good guess. She was spayed very late; at age 3 years and about six weeks.
Coming out of anaesthesia, she bit, and got punished by whoever was monitoring her. Keep in mind that recovery is a time when dogs are in pain, often, lots of it, appearing as the anaesthetic wears off, and that they are in a state of confusion. I gather the person hit Camellia when she bit.
The other trauma Camellia had was that she was bullied - constantly and daily - by other dogs. I don't know how that came about, but something must have been missing in managing the dogs. Apparently that happened after she was spayed, because I was told Camellia was fine before she was spayed.
The results I see are:
1) Camellia was afraid of any human or animal moving fast when she became my dog.
2) She feels she has to examine her entire environment, at great leisure, to make sure everything is okay, before she feels safe. (She still does a lot of that, and I allow it.)
3) She would back away, run away, if a human she wasn't closely bonded to approached her. (She's now doing a great deal better at this! - she can approach a strange human now, and begin to make friends, but if the human leans over her - looms over her - she will back away - but then, that's true of many dogs!) She's even overcoming that now, in some enviroments. Or with some humans!
4) She is terrified of all other dogs, and tries to drive them away.
This last becomes difficult for me, to say the least! BUT! sometimes I see chinks in this behavior. What's in the environment for Camellia is crucial. Also, the size of the dog matters. So does the dog's behavior. A dog who rushes at Camellia will bring on her efforts to drive it away.
When I took Camellia for her grooming Tuesday, my groomer, Kate, had just finished grooming a small dog of mixed-breed. The dog was totally charming. The owner had come to pick up the dog, and the dog was at her feet. Camellia managed to go nose-to-nose with this dog, who was considerably smaller than she is - without reacting other than to give a friendly sniff, nose-to-nose. THAT is a big chink, and it suggests to me how I might continue to work with Camellia and see if I can get some improvements in her behaviors toward other dogs.
I've found that the dozen years I've put in to studying and learning (and using) the canine calming signals have been my biggest aid in working with Camellia (along with previous experience with having difficult dogs).
Oddities: Camellia is not afraid of loud noises (!)
Nice things: Camellia is great at the vet's and with the groomer, standing up to three-hour grooming sessions with equanimity.
I hope to come back later today to report the training session I had with Camellia late yesterday afternoon; it was fascinating!
Finally - we can only learn, ourselves, from what happens as we go along. We just can't know it all and stop there!
Sat, 31 Mar 2012 06:55:55 (PDT)
Last edited by CarolWCamelo; 03-31-2012 at 09:02 AM.
Reason: fix some information