BY the humans   Tue, 3 May 2011

It's been half a year since Kaiju went to see a behaviorist for his fearfulness. We have been in touch with her (who happens to be from Japan and very familiar with Shiba Inus) every few weeks to report back the progresses Kaiju made, or mostly lack of it. Kaiju has been put on medication since then, called Buspirone. He has also been completely free to roam around anywhere in the apartment even when we are not here. This was a big change. We used to put him in a small gated area whenever we left him alone at home. She told us to let him explore, make up his own mind, and the most awesome for Kaiju of all, be naughty.

Six months later, he is no longer afraid of paper bags that we bring home from grocery stores (he now sticks his head in them), or the random objects that are in foyer right outside of our door, such as UPS packages for other residents and newspapers. He now goes in to the bathroom to sniff around all on his own, whereas we couldn't even lure him into it with treats before. Outside, he no longer panics and flees when people come out of apartment buildings, and he can walk past trash bins without making big half-circles around them. He seems okay with strollers and rolling bags, too. These days, he sniffs around a lot while walking which he didn't do before because he was too nervous. He is often too nervous to take treats from us during walks, but these days, he is more frequently relaxed enough to not only take treats, but also look at us to ask for them. He even wags his tail a tiny bit once in a while while he is at it.

He is, however, still afraid of little things like printers, blue ray player disc drawer, and wii console. He goes back into his crate whenever we go near the media center to turn any of those on. He would not go out to the porch (totally enclosed and quiet) on his own even when the door is wide open and it's gorgeous outside. It takes a lot of encouragement before he decides to step out, then he wants to go back in right away. The daily walks are still pains in the butt. He always prefers to go home immediately after going potty, so for the first 10 minutes, it's a continuous stop-and-go. We tug, cheer, lure, and tug again. He still goes into a state of panic when he hears or sees garage doors, store doors, or windows open. He stops and won't budge when a car slows down or stops near him. We avoid restaurants, stores, construction sites, and parked trucks (because we never know what is going on around it) entirely during our daily walks. We stick to a few routes in quiet residential areas. Kaiju still frets, crouches down, and trembles if he finds himself in unfamiliar busy places.

The doctor told us his progress would be very slow, so we are not too disappointed. And, just as importantly, during the past 6 months, we have learned not to expect too much from Kaiju. We've stopped thinking that we will someday take him to an outdoor cafe with us for a nice relaxing coffee break. We've stopped taking him to any bustling places. Our focus has been on giving him as many fun and relaxing experiences outdoors as we can, and not on making him deal with the situations we wish he could handle (like pet shops, cafes, or friends' homes). As a result, we have discovered so many awesome parks in and around the city. So far, we have planned our vacations around him, too, and this led us to some amazing Kaiju-friendly accommodations in beutiful Vermont and Maine. Kaiju now gets excited whenever he senses that a car ride is coming up. Although he does not like the ride itself, he knows that if he endures loud noises and the shaky vehicle, if he keeps ducking to hide from buses, fences, and tunnels outside the car window, he eventually ends up in fun places.

We just made an appointment for the "re-check" visit with the behaviorist. The contract of services with her expired right at the 6th month, which was the end of April. In order for us to continue the conversation with her, we need to have a visit again, it seems. Although it will cost us some more $, we are excited to be able to discuss with her in person about those small progresses Kaiju's made. We can't help hoping that he will do a tiny bit better at this visit, too. Last time, he sat between us and froze for pretty much the entire time. We also hope that she will give us a new program for the issues he has outside of the house. Last time, we were given the "Reverse Dominance Program" whose focus was mostly on what happens at home.

We will report back after the visit in a few weeks.

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