That isn't at all the truth. Truth is, Garmin is SUPER smart, trainable, eager and quick to learn. He loves to train, is the reason I learned clicker training and shaping. You guys have seen him in videos--he is a sharp dude. He also can relax without issue in my house and is the sweetest, most snuggly boy.
But, deep down, he is an anxious mess.
The truth of the matter is that I don't bring Garmin to class because he couldn't handle it. It would be too much for him and he would be frantic and then he would shut down. And since I talk often about advocating for your dogs, it would be unfair of me to place him into a situation that he would feel uncomfortable in.
Does he love people? Oh, yes. He will launch himself at you, grinning all the while. Does he like dogs? Meh--he's indifferent. He really ignores dogs if we go swimming or are in any situation where he may be off leash. On leash, he is different. He does not like dogs on leash. We have worked on it and he is better, but he needs space, so I give it to him. The only dog he can't live without is Gracie, so I am fortunate in that regard.
Garmin has a near perfect heel/loose leash walk in my house. He has a flawless loosh leash walk in my driveway. But, take him somewhere off my property and suddenly the world is scary. He hates the car. Every leaf, bird, voice, dog barking, car engine--something to potentially be worried about. He is hyper alert all the time when we are off my property. He forgets all he knows about leash walking. Not because he is being defiant, dominant (laugh) or stubborn. But because his brain literally won't let him do it.
He and I have been on a very long journey. Three years long--all in hopes that one day we can take a walk like a normal team. In a neighborhood with dogs and people and kids on bikes. And we are getting there, but it is slow. Do I sometimes get frustrated? Of course I do. Could I force him to do it? Sure--I could flood him and force him to get over it, but at what price? He trusts me. And in a world where he thinks most things are scary, that is a precious thing and if I force him into a situation where he feels unsafe, I may lose that and I am not willing to take that chance.
If you find yourself the owner of an anxious dog, just remember that your dog will not progress like every other dog. Your dog will not be as quick to rebound as other dogs. Your dog may never be the social butterfly you had hoped he would be. But he is your dog and you are his person--listen to him. Learn from him and remember that your dog determines how fast you get to go. He isn't on your schedule--you need to be on his.
Patience is your friend when you have an anxious dog. Garmin is on his way to being more relaxed--he has come so far already. There are days when it is hard for me to see that because I think "he should get this by now," but then I remember we aren't on my schedule. We are on his.
I know there are plenty of people out there who disagree and say that we should push these anxious dogs so that they can "get over it" faster, but, in the grand scheme of your relationship, what price are you willing to pay?