A new situation has shined a new light on our Nicki's inner thoughts. Her Dad was away on a business trip that lasted six days. At first she was totally fine. Dad hunts, so he's been away for a day or two before. This was different, and the certainty of her life became less solid. It showed.
When the Hubby is away, I use extra locks. For instance, I put the chain on the outer rear door. Of course the door can still be pulled open a bit, but it jerks to a stop with a loud noise and can't open any wider. Because I'm not used to using that chain that much, I tend to forget that it's hooked when I stumble to the door first thing in the morning. So, with only one eye open and Nicki clipped to her run lead, I pulled the door open. It abruptly stopped with a loud noise. Rather than scrambling away from the door, Nicki dropped to her belly and Marine-crawled her way through an opening that should have been too small for her! It didn't go smoothly. Nicki seemed desperate. She had to push her way through the barely-open door. I couldn't close the door to open it properly, because Nicki was wedged into the opening between the door and the frame. Eventually she squirmed through and ran off to the yard.
On the way back into the house, though, Nicki shoved herself past me and through a door I had only begun to open. Unlike the first time, this door wasn't stuck - but she pushed through anyway. Hmmm.
I forgot to unhook the chain one more time, and the same thing happened. It frightened me. The opening was so small - it looked like she could be hurting herself. Then I recognized this behavior for what it is: door-darting.
Nicki was a bit of a door-darter when she first came to us. Door darting is when a dog pushes past their humans to squeeze through a door as it's being opened. There are a ton of reasons for the behavior. Some dogs think it's a game. Some are over-excited to be outside. Some are actually trying to escape. I think Nicki's motivation is a combination of wanting to go outside in general and, in this instance, escape. The loud, jarring sound the door makes when yanked to a stop at the end of the door chain can be frightening to a reactive dog. Nicki has clearly been frightened in a number of ways - for a number of reasons. And, like many PTSD survivors, one trigger can send everything into reverse. That loud, jarring noise must have been a trigger for Nicki. She was in the area where the loud noise happened, and the only thought in her mind was to escape. Loud noises must have meant something really bad was about to happen, and she wanted no part of it.
So what do we do now? We start re-training against door darting. Nicki must sit with me between her and the door. Nicki must wait until the door is fully open. At each of those points, she gets a treat. Finally, when I give her the ok, she can go through the door. When she has done so, she gets another treat. While waiting for me to fully open the door, though, she cowers. She's uncertain about what's happening and why. I can't explain it to her. All I can do is patiently insist on the behaviors I need to see, and reward them when she complies.
That's why I say everybody/NOBODY should adopt a rescue dog. Having Nicki in our lives has taught me a huge amount about how dogs think and react, and how I must think and react in response. Raising a dog from puppyhood offers little of this insight. The dog grows up learning your languages; spoken, bodily, and otherwise. Little, if any, translation is needed. Every mindful dog lover would benefit from working with a rescued dog. The dogs have so much to teach us, and in so many ways.
Some dog owners, though, never really try to communicate with their dogs. These are the fools screaming "SHUT UP!" and "SIDDOWN!"at their hapless dogs. They haven't bothered to teach the dog anything, and yet they expect to command a behavior. They shouldn't adopt ANY dog - but they never recognize themselves. Instead they have tons of stories about their "stupid dog".
And finally, NOBODY should be able adopt a rescue dog, because in a perfect world, no dog would need rescue.