The jury is in and it's what I expected.
The trainer's and I agreed that he is a high-anxiety (fearful) dog and always will be. That's not something that ever goes away. It's a matter of managing it within the dogs comfort zone.
Blue has not progressed enough in the last 18 months to even get through the beginner's class, which is simply having the dog stay calm and relaxed. Blue can't do it for more than a few minutes. After that, he gets overwhelmed and pushy.
He has a very small threshold of calmness and has a hair trigger. Once it becomes too much for him, he "checks out" and begins to panic. That's what we've called his tantrums, but they really are his version of a panic attack.
Once it hits, there's nothing I can do except physically pull him away from it and wait for him to calm down. He starts pulling at the leash, his eyes dilate and it is impossible to stop. It's one of the few times I will purposely raise my voice at him. It's my way of trying to snap him out of it. These attacks last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute. If you've ever been around a dog who is panicking, a minute is an incredibly long time.
You see that look in his eyes in the picture? This is common for Blue. He has a sweet and gentle nature about him. He is loving, affectionate and a huge cuddle bug, but the reality is this: the world is a big and scary place for him and he worries all...the...time. He never feels secure. Not really. He was left alone and neglected for too long. The damage was done and cannot be undone.
He's never shown any aggression and its not something that I've worried about. But I know people and I know dogs and the fact is, anyone or anything that is scared will not always react appropriately. Fearful people and fearful dogs cannot be trusted. They react and don't analyze. There's no logic in many of their reactions.
At first, I was sad when I realized the true state of his condition. I was sad for him. I was sad that I'd never be able to haul him with me anytime I wanted. I was sad that he had been hurt so badly. I was sad that I would always have to run strict control on everything around him, even the cats, who he adores.
And then I realized that I love him, no matter what. I've had difficult dogs before and I always worked around it. I always did what was best for them.
I have a dog because I love them. I love what they bring to my life and I've learned so much from them.
Blue has the biggest heart and yet is afraid. When I brought out the ironing board and it squeaked, he ran into the bedroom and wouldn't come out until I put it away. He won't walk past the broom if he sees it. Often times, he bolts on our walk if he hears a strange noise. When he meets people, his head is down, his ears are down, and his tail is tucked in between his legs. Yesterday morning, for no reason that I know of, he was afraid to eat. I don't know why but I could see it. I coaxed him as best as I could, but something had kicked in, something that is bigger than him, so I took the food bowl away and told him it was fine.
He will always be like this and it's fine with me. I've learned to accept it as I love him just the way he is. I will work around all that I can.
If my dog can give me unconditional love, the least I can do is give it back to him.