The Retraining of Cora

In the first few weeks after we adopted Dusty and Cora, our niece Sara (by the way, she makes really cool cards!) and her husband, Daniel, came for a visit because they were excited to meet the dogs. Cora was shy and nervous, as we’d come to expect, but succumbed to petting and seemed to want just as much attention as Dusty was getting.

Cora at my mom's. She felt uncertain of the unfamiliar surroundings, although she'd visited a few times before.

A few weeks ago, when Sara and Daniel were here again (they’ve also babysat the dogs on a couple of occasions), they reminded me of that first visit: Cora was actually more social (although equally as nervous) when we first got her! It bothers me to think that we’ve done something that has created more fear in her. I wonder if we’ve been overprotective to the point of making her more nervous. It’s the only thing I can think of.

Distressed and uncertain about what to do, I purchased Debbie Jacobs’s little book, A Guide to Living with & Training a Fearful Dog, and had some email and Twitter conversations with Debbie. Her book is really excellent, and so we’re taking her advice and starting over with Cora. When people come to the house, we ask them not to talk to Cora or even look her way. On a couple of occasions since we began this a couple of weeks ago, Cora has come out of her safe spot to join us and our guests. I give her treats when she does this. I think we’re making progress. But Cora nevertheless feels anxious when other people are in our house—and being familiar with how uncomfortable a feeling anxiety is, I want to ease Cora’s.

This is a posture we see Cora in often: sitting with her front paw raised, which is a sign of trying to appease.

The vet has suggested that the supplement we’re giving Cora for her hypothyroidism—which in the beginning gave her new life—may be contributing to her nervousness and anxiety, so he’s recommended that we take her off the supplement for a few days to see if we notice a difference. He believes if it is the factor affecting her behaviour, we’ll see a less nervous dog that quickly. So starting yesterday, we’ve taken away her L-Tyrosine. We do have a Plan B in waiting (a DAP diffuser), which we’ll start on Monday depending on the effects of the L-Tyrosine removal. And so Project Cora continues….


2 Responses to The Retraining of Cora

  • Ashley says:

    Oh thats too bad to hear about Cora,
    Hopefully the new “retraining” helps her!
    Will be at the dog park tomorrow from 9 – 10 with Mulligan, Patches, and his sister Addy.
    Hope to see you there!

    • Cathy says:

      I so want to meet Mulligan–and Patches and Addy too, but especially Mulligan! We probably won’t be at the park that early though. Class doesn’t start until 11:00, and we don’t want Hogan to get his fill of dogs too early. We WILL someday meet, though!

      As for Cora, she’s much better in many respects–just not when it comes to strangers in our house. But she is becoming a lot more playful than she was when we got her. I have a new video of her playing to post soon! 🙂

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