Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Thus Far: Counting our Blessings and Things to Overcome

I've had Delilah for a couple of months now.  We've had our ups and downs.  She has her problems, but also good qualities.  Just to catch you guys up before our first training class tonight, this post will be a list of these things- things we're working on, problems we've had, but also "counting our blessings" with the good things too.

By the way, I'm really super excited for this class we're taking- it's called Good Manners and it's through a local positive reinforcement based training facility called Show Me the Biscuit that has an agility program I want to get into with Delilah.  I don't have any personal experience with them but I've heard good things and they also do a lot of demos at local dog events so I've seen them around.  Really stoked.  My boyfriend and I have had this conversation pretty much every night for the past couple of weeks:

Me: Aren't you so excited for Delilah's class to start?
BF: Yeah, kind of, I guess.  I'm excited for her to be trained.
Me: Yeah, I'm so excited, I'm really really excited.  I can't wait!
BF: ... I know -__-

Delilah's pretty excited too.

Anyways, I will start with the bad things because when you get a new dog, these are the things that tend to stand out at first until you can start appreciating the dog you have rather than longing for the dog you wanted.

Low Points:

1) Bonding:  The scariest problem I faced after adopting Delilah is that we didn't seem to bond right away.  In fact, I kind of resented her.  It's really common for people to get the "puppy blues" after adopting a new dog or puppy, but I thought I was prepared.  The second day we had her I had to work a nine hour shift and she had spent the whole day with my boyfriend.  They were lying on the bed and I walked in the house and she started yapping and snarling at me.  I was so scared she liked him more than me and she wouldn't bond with me.  She also had/has some other behavioral issues which made it harder to deal with the change of bringing home a dog.  I had been excited for my whippet puppy and I was starting to regret adopting Delilah.  But I spoke to other owners on the dog forum I go on (Dog Forum) and they were all really helpful and supportive.  It was reassuring to talk to other owners that didn't bond with their dogs right away, and some of them had dogs with behavioral issues too.  They also linked me to some great articles like this one by Patricia McConnell about adjusting to a new dog and the new dog adjusting to its new life as well.  Another member told me that as she gets more confident in her new home her behavioral problems will get worse because she's still insecure but not so insecure to suppress them.  And then when she becomes even more confident and comfortable they will get better.  That's pretty much what happened- her problems are better than they were, but we're still working on them.  I'm glad to say we have bonded now and I like having her around.

2) Yapping/Fear/Reactivity:  One behavioral problem that really came out was her being fear reactive towards people.  On leash, off leash, in the apartment- when she feels too much social pressure or when people move or act strangely.  She yaps, snarls, and occasionally darts in like she's going to bite.  This has been getting much better on leash but she still reacts to people who make her nervous- generally men and children- including my dad. :(  This has been hard to train because a lot of people don't take her seriously- there have been a number of people who will come up and try to pet her from behind (without either of us knowing they're even there), who tease her, who think that she's cute or funny because she "thinks she's tough" (she doesn't, she's SCARED!), or who don't listen to me when I tell them how to interact with her.  Because of this, I'm not really letting anyone interact with her anymore unless they are a close friend or family member that she's going to have to get used to anyways, or I know that they understand dog behavior and will listen to my instructions.  Trying some counter-conditioning but I think I'll probably have to do a behavioral consultation in the future if I don't see an improvement on my own.  I feel a lot of pressure to have a really well behaved dog because everyone who knows me says I'm really great with dogs and they all expect me to have a well behaved one.  Also, she's a rescue and a tiny dog so I don't want to have a stereotypical yappy little dog or a rescue dog with issues- I want to break those stereotypes and show people that they can be great pets.  But Delilah's not ready for that and I need to get my ego out of this.

3) Screaming:  Delilah SCREAMS when she is excited or frustrated.  It's terrible, it really is.  I can't take her to work until it's colder out and we're not using the hose, because when we're trying to hose off the yard she screams bloody murder and makes a target of herself.  Of course the other dogs are going to want to "play with" the tiny, screaming animal.  I took Delilah and Mia hiking a couple of weeks ago and I was giving Mia a bath in the driveway with the hose.  I had tied Delilah to my car so she wouldn't try to attack the water during Mia's bath.  She screamed so badly that my mom ran out thinking she had gotten hit by a car or attacked or something.  We're working on impulse control right now and it's working with her toys (she screams at some of those too) but water is too much for her at the moment.  This video shows only mild excitement, it's worse with hoses:

Good Things:

1) She is relatively healthy:  No heartworm (thank God).  During her first checkup a couple of days after I got her, the vet noticed one of her knees was a little loose and we weren't sure whether it was luxating patella or if it would stabilize with growth and development.  About a month later we went back and it was much less loose so it looks like it will go away or at least get better as her joints finish developing.  The only thing is she still has a lot of her baby teeth (they won't come out on their own) and it's crowding her mouth and making her breath STINK so we're going to have to get those removed down the road.

2) High Drive:  She is very food, toy, and praise motivated and she LOVES to play.  This has made it pretty easy to train her and will be great for agility.  It's made me really excited about training her for agility, and I'm also considering terrier racing (UKC Drag Racing) if I can find an active enough community in Vermont.  She loves to tug, chase, run, jump.  She is also very intelligent.

No need for a flirt pole, she's small enough for a cat toy!

3) Pretty good in the house and her crate:  She's had a few accidents and she's not 100% house trained but she's been really good as long as she's supervised.  She's even started asking to go out.  She's okay in her crate too.  Sometimes she will make awful noises that sound like a mix between screaming and yodeling if she doesn't want to be in there but she always settles down within a few minutes, and loves her new crate we just got her.  It's bigger and has a comfy pillow in it, so she'll even hang out in there on her own when it's open.  Also, no separation anxiety!  That's a big one!

4) Good with other animals:  She's a bit of a jerk- she'll steal things that other dogs have even if she didn't want that thing in the first place.  She just wants to take it for herself if another dog thinks it's valuable.  But other than that she is very friendly and playful towards new dogs and gets along great with Mia (although Mia's a little scared of her).  She's also been great with my rabbit, Sophie, from the start.  Fairly playful and respectful towards her.

Playing with Sophie bunny.

Well, that's it for now- so excited for our first class later tonight.  I'll try to write about it later tonight or tomorrow and let you know how it goes!

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