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Cabal, overcoming fear.
Cabal has a weird, recently-developed fear of walking on bridges, even dinky little ones on playgrounds where we work on his agility training. As a puppy, this was never an issue, probably because being right at my heels was his biggest concern. Now, he’s becoming more independent, and, while still supremely concerned with sticking close, is also starting to notice apparent dangers on his own.
It’s a problem, since we often go on hikes in places where crossing bridges is a mandatory part of getting from point A to point B. Usually, I just cross the bridge, let him throw a tantrum, and then give him the option of either crossing or staying put. He always chooses the former.
Getting him to finally cross the bridge is actually not the problem, but his increased fear of doing so, along with the tantrums beforehand is. And the tantrums are growing increasingly wild as he gets bigger and bigger. I’m worried that, at some point, he’ll become so stressed that he’ll do something to hurt himself or someone else on accident.
After meditating on the situation and reading up on it a bit (I really couldn’t find much about how to help a dog who’s afraid of bridges), I realized that the answer was pretty simple: Cabal needed to boost his own confidence by walking on a bridge for an extended period of time.
So today, I had him walk the old Lake Oswego pipeline. In case you’re wondering what that is, it’s kind of hard to explain. As far as I can tell, it’s an above-ground wooden water mane that filters water from the Lake and dumps it into the River. It’s plenty wide enough, but is made from wooden slats like a bridge and is elevated above the ground on the side of a cliff of sorts (Below is the actual pipeline I’m talking about, though the image source is not mine; it can instead be found HERE).
Cabal’s biggest issue was simply getting up onto it. When I lifted him (and he weighs 50 pounds), he refused to leave my arms, realizing what was going on. So I put him back down, found a wooden board, and made a ramp. Which he initially refused to walk across.
I’ve said before that Cabal screams. And when I say that, I literally mean it. It’s an unearthly sound. So he sat there, watching me as I stood on the pipeline, and screamed his head off because he couldn’t get to me. I waited for the worse to pass, then pointed him onto the board. When his front feet were on it, I rewarded him and pointed him across. He got his back feet up on it - then paused, then tensed like a coil, then hunkered down like a stalking cat, then whined again, and finally did a running tip-toe dash right across the board onto the pipe.
I whooped in joy and offered a bigger reward, but he didn’t take it. He wanted to stick his head between my legs with his ears sagging, and have me pet him. That’s his go-to move when he’s either trying to be a total sap, or when he’s scared and wants some reassurance. So we sat there for a while, until his confidence was built up again, and then began the long walk from one end of the pipeline to the other.
At first, Cabal was reluctant to move much, and slunk along with his belly to the wood. But he quickly realized that he was better off just walking normally, and I could see his confidence bloom the longer we were on the pipe. He’d never been on a bridge anywhere close to this long before, so here, he was forced to either buck up and get used to it or watch me walk away - which he simply cannot stand.
By the time we reached the end of the pipe, Cabal even had a bit of a bounce in his step, and it was uplifting to see how confident he was. He jumped down after he saw me do it first (getting down was a lot easier than getting up!) and we traversed the creek flats back to civilization.
I’m thinking of making this a regular part of our walks from now on until he doesn’t even feel the need to throw a fit before crossing the board onto the pipe. I’ll bring my camera tomorrow and photograph/film it if the weather holds up!
GSDs in Danger?
Following an incident at our local PO involving some idiot who drove his truck straight through the side of the building, I had to take Cabal and several packages to the downtown office the other day. While there, Cabal made a few new friends with the staff, who allow dogs into the building provided that they’re leashed and friendly.
As I was finishing up the postage labels, a guy saw Cabal and said, “OH WOW! That is a beautiful German shepherd. I used to have one just like it, but he was shot in our yard.”
I looked at the guy with what I can only guess to be a look of confusion and horror, because he quickly added, “Oh, we told the police. They said someone may have been scoping out our house for a robbery…Never did find out who shot our boy, though.”
The guy then went on to ask for Cabal’s breeder’s info, which I didn’t have on me. But I did give him my business card and told him to email me so that I could pass on her number to him.
Not ten minutes later, as I had finished up my work and was leaving the building with an antsy Cabal in tow, a woman stopped to pet him and told me that she, too, had an old GSD who’d recently passed away.
“Was is health problems?” I ventured. She had said her dog was ‘old’ after all. But what she told me in response sent chills down my spine.
“No, actually, he was poisoned. Someone tossed a stake laced with something toxic on it into the yard and he died at the vet a few hours later.” After a pause, during which time I thought she may tear up, she added, “You look after this little one, you hear?” And I promised I would.
Both of the incidents happened locally since both owners were at the same PO. The woman whose dog was poisoned had said it had happened in the last few months - I didn’t ask the guy how long ago his dog was killed, but I assumed that that too was a somewhat recent occurrence, having taken place in the last year or so, if he was ready to get a new puppy.
The big concern here is that someone IS trying to kill dogs in the area, and is apparently targeting German shepherds or guard-dog-type dogs. I live in a town that is considered to be quite wealth and the result is that local homes are a prime target for robbers looking to score big.