To explain it, I shall tell (or remind) you about Az. Az was picked up as a stray about ten years ago, running in panic along a motorway, having been beaten and dumped. He went to a good home where he lived for around three years, but when one of them started working slightly longer hours as a dog warden (so coming home with lots of doggy smells), Az was not able to cope. I adopted him because as I work from home, he didn't need to be left for very long here - and as it turned out, being in a quiet place with little traffic helped too.
Az brought a lot of fears with him when he came to live with us. Houses, loud noises, road noise, car parks, built up areas, being left alone, getting lost, cafes and pubs, lorries, tractors, groups of people, unfamiliar people, children, raised voices, people carrying sticks or anything long... For a long time we had to be very careful about playing Rock Band, because Az assumed that we were going to beat him with the plastic guitars.
All these many fears have been gradually improving as time goes by, one after another, they have slowly worn away and vanished. On Saturday, for example, we went to a cafe and sat outside with the dogs, and Az was not just not-terrified - he was really relaxed and happy. He had ham sandwiches.
(Yogi is not woeful in this photo, do not worry - she has merely put her nose down for a minute before making another attempt to steal my panini. )
Yesterday, I was doing some tidying up in the garden, and had to move a lot of long hazel sticks that we had chopped out of the hedge. Brythen was alarmed. It looks like Brythen also has bad associations with people carrying sticks, though he's nothing like as worried by them as Az was. This is so sad : I think a 'normal' dog seeing owner with stick would be hoping owner was going to throw the stick to be fetched, but Brythen was definitely worried I was going to hit him with it. Brythen is barely an adult yet. It is horrible to think someone may have beaten my big soft puppy.
So Brythen went and made himself very small so he could hide behind Az (he has to scrunch up small as he is quite a bit taller than Az). And Az stood on the top step, looking at me carrying a big stick, and he wagged his tail and foofled Brythen's ear to say 'it's all right Big Puppy, don't worry, all is well!' This made me very happy indeed.