Tuesday, December 08, 2009

New Dog Update

As of last night, both dogs have now passed from level 1 to level 2 in obedience training. The big question I have is "Why didn't we do this sooner with Gambit?" I know the answer. We weren't allowed to have Gambit around other dogs for the first few months we had him home as a foster because the vet was worried his immune system was compromised by whatever he had been through before he was found with his littermates as a puppy during and after Hurricane Katrina. Shortly after we got him home, he developed kennel cough and was also having diarrhea from Coccidia. Once we'd had him home for about 5 months and he was fully recovered, we had him neutered and, boom! a week later, one of his kidney's failed because of a birth defect. After the first year, I was working at the shelter and another job and putting in long hours. Then I was only working at the shelter and putting in long hours. The last thing I wanted to do was come back to work for class after a long day. Kachina and her issues forced us into training and it was the best thing we could have done. Most of level 1 (and probably 2, too) is about training the owners on how to work with the dogs although you think you are training the dog. The dog responds so quickly once he knows what you want--the harder part is learning how to communicate that. The positive reinforcement method we're using is remarkably fast and effective.

The Gentle Leader is also making a huge difference. We were already walking Gambit with one and had gotten Kachina one for walks, too. Now, we're using it at home, too, when we're here, for the times she starts to get out of control. With her high energy level, she sometimes gets so excited that she almost loses control and does things like repeatedly jumping at our faces or over the couch or onto the bed. The calming effect it has on her is amazing. After coming home to find the results of destructive chewing, we've got her crated now when we're gone. We'd done that with Gambit as a puppy but somehow thought we wouldn't need it with Kachina who is 1 year old. We should have done it from the beginning! It gives her a safe place to go when she's stressed, gives Gambit a break from her for while and keeps our furniture, shoes and other items safe.

One not so good development is that Kachina's started to show some aggression with Gambit around food and treats. For the first couple weeks, the dogs would switch off between toys and treats without any problems. They'd eat side by side from different bowls and then check out the other's empty bowl without any problems. Suddenly, Kachina was lunging at Gambit and chasing him away from treats (sometimes--sometimes he would fight back.) One of the training staff asked me what had changed from the prior week. We realized that it coincided with a barking complaint from our nasty neighbor who threatened to call the police on us. That's a whole other story! We'd been afraid to just let the dogs out to play on their own and make their normal tussling, play noise. Amber, the trainer recommended the dog park. I'd been waiting to visit the dog park until I was more sure of Kachina. I took the two dogs this morning (alone!) and it went very well. Kachina played freely but came back to check in with me and came when I called her. Both dogs played very gently with the smaller (and larger) dogs we met in the park. They ran and chased to their hearts content. We're hoping frequent visits will help. In the meantime, treats are limited to when Kachina is kenneled and we are feeding them separately.

1 comment:

Celia said...

Our Rottie was crated when we were out of the house. When we were mad at her, and yelled, she'd slink guiltily into the kitchen, paw the crate open, and ground herself (I suspect she preferred to be crated than risk getting sent outside where we might forget about her, or she might miss food that got dropped on the floor.) After a while of her doing that, we could just say "I'm very disappointed in you. Go to your room!" and she'd crate herself until she felt she'd learned her lesson.

She was a really awesome dog in so many ways.