And two steps back.
The good news is Robin is making tremendous progress outside the house with her Stranger Danger. LAT games have been a raging success-- she even initiates the game now when she sees people. We can take a walk at the park and step off the path to let people pass with no incident; she's not growling and barking at kids. Today a little boy, maybe 5 or 6 years old, got about 2 feet away from her wanting to pet her. I told him no, and it turned out I knew his father, but Robin was able to sit and take treats with the kid that close without getting nervous. That's HUGE.
I'm still not letting kids pet her out in public, no way, but it's noticeable progress.
Unfortunately, we've concentrated too heavily on OUTSIDE the house, and not enough INSIDE. We don't really have a lot of people over. My step-daughter is 13 and goes to school in another town, so her friends don't come over here. One of the few people I know with kids has so many that it's easier to go to her house all the time.
Anyway, today my step-daughter let her mother, step-father and 2 little sisters (11 and 7) in without us right at the door.
Trust me-- I will be talking to her about that and it won't happen again. So Robin flipped out-- barking and running circles in the living room. The step-father is a friend of ours, who's come over before and makes her nervous (he's tall and stares), and the littlest girl is scared of dogs. Robin took a couple of treats from various members of the group, but she couldn't calm down. It was just a bad situation, so we let Robin out into the yard.
Robin's met the mom and the middle sister before without incident, and that sister wanted to see Robin again. So she and I let Robin into the mudroom for pets. The little girl got on her knees, Robin sniffed her, ears back, but calm, and everything was ok until the girl stood up to go. I think the sudden movement freaked her out-- she growls when I move under the covers at night, growls in play, growls in happy excitement and in nervousness, she's a very vocal dog-- so she growled for a split second and then everyone (thankfully) left.
So. I see now that we've let in-home socialization lapse. Big Time. My current plan is a combination of management and counter-conditioning/desensitization and I wanted to see if I'm missing something or if anyone has any suggestions.
When people she knows come over, I've been asking her to go to her room and sit until folks can get in the door, and then I release her to greet. That's been going well. When people she doesn't know come over, I think I'll keep her on a 4ft leash or drag line and she and I can play LAT games with the guest safely across the room until it's 100% clear that everyone's comfortable; this is basically what I've been doing, but with the addition of a leash.
As for kids, a friend of mine has 7 ranging in age from 15 to 1. She's offered to start introducing the kids one at a time and working with them so that our dogs can be introduced and play together. I'm thinking I'll ask her if she'll come by with one kid at a time, starting with the oldest, and let me do some LAT games with the kids. I'll keep Robin on a leash and probably not let the kids pet her the first time or two, again until it's 100% clear that it's all good. Maybe have the kids start tossing treats to Robin. The kids are a handful all together, but individually, they're well-behaved and I think would be excited to help if I tell them what we're doing. We'll get comfy with each kid before moving to the next one.
Suggestions? I want to keep everyone safe and still introduce Robin to kids and strangers in the home. LAT has been so successful outside the home, that I have pretty high hopes for this working inside. But, I've dealt with a fear biter before, and I know that a nervous dog is management forever. I'm just seeing such progress with Robin's issues; hopefully, she'll get more confident.
(We're hopefully starting basic obedience in January or February-- one of the only clicker-trainers in the area is opening a facility and we've been waiting for that. She specializes in fearful and "aggressive" dogs, so I think she'll be perfect for Robin and will be offering reactive dogs classes if we need that.)
"In these bodies, we will live; in these bodies we will die.
Where you invest your love, you invest your life." --Marcus Mumford