Hope has been with us again for another 30 days. Since her return, her kennel time has been spent in seclusion (just like she would be if she were an only dog in the family and the owners had to go to work). For the first week, there was some whining. She was corrected for that. Because the correction came early, it never escalated.
Additionally, Hope has been given quite a bit of freedom and affection just to see how that would affect her behavior when she is alone. Since our concern was separation anxiety, I wanted to give her ample opportunity to show that to us so that we could see what we needed to do to help her. We just have not seen any of the issues that her first trial family claimed to have. I certainly am not suggesting that they made anything up.
What I am thinking may have happened was that they just did not have enough information under their belt to address any issues that arose or recognize the possibility of escalation at the beginning. We met at a half way place (they live in Conway), so there was little time for training and teaching. This will not happen again. Any family that is interested in a Rescue to Rehab dog will have to come to me to pick up the dog and make time for a session. All of this being said, Hope is officially available for adoption again. I still 100% believe that she will be an excellent companion for somebody.
We thought we found a home for Hope. She had gone to a new home, and things were great, until they had to leave her alone for an extended amount of time while they worked. This is when some pretty ugly separation anxiety showed up. It was something I had never witnessed. She dug into the tray in the bottom of her crate, and tore up a little bit of the carpet below it. The following day, her new owners tried leaving her out of the crate. (They really didn’t have much of an option since she had messed the crate up badly enough that the door on it wouldn’t lock.) She took the opportunity to try to dig under the bedroom door, tearing up the carpet in the bedroom and some of the tile from the next room under the door. Of course, they can’t afford to the damage she may cause to the apartment, so she has come back to me.
So now I focus on Hope spending time alone. Separation anxiety happens when dogs rely on somebody or something else to help them cope with their insecurities. The reason I had never witnessed this is, because she stayed in the dog room with other dogs when she wasn’t in training or spending time with the family. When she wasn’t with us, she was able to rely on the other dogs. For the next few weeks, Hope will be spending increasingly more time alone in my office learning how to self-soothe. As soon as she masters that, we will begin the search for her forever home again.
We are fast approaching the end of the honeymoon period. After two weeks of watching me, and learning that there is structure and rules, Hope is now testing the boundaries of those. It is only natural that any dog, any child, any person would do the same at some point of being in any situation – and it’s a good thing.
I do not want a dog that is so fearful that it never learns what is the wrong thing to do. If a dog only learns what is right, it can never learn what discipline means or how to respond to that discipline. It’s something a dog must learn. When this testing is done in a controlled environment, it can be fair and consistent.
By testing structures and rules, Hope is also testing my leadership skills. Am I somebody she can trust to follow? She has watched as I have shown leadership to the other dogs she comes into contact with. She has witnessed my protection of her as I have demanded that the other dogs treat her fairly, and that they don’t push her beyond what she is comfortable with. She has also seen my loving and playful side. What she hasn’t seen yet is my punitive side. This is just beginning.
It is important to also be fair with discipline. When it comes to following a command, are you punishing for something the dog has not yet learned? This is why I say seeing my punitive side is something that is just now beginning. I want to make sure she has practiced each and every command hundreds of times and completely understands each one before punishing for noncompliance. (What if her noncompliance is actually confusion?) As we come to the end of learning each command, the corrections she receives are very light, and she is guided back to compliance so that she equates the proper response to obedience. Once the teaching period is over, her corrections will be stronger – what she needs so that repeated offences are extremely few.
By providing this type of structure, Hope will understand that there is a clear difference between yes and no. That clarity is something she can depend on – something a good leader provides.
This girl is going to make an amazing pet for somebody. I am truly doing my best not to fall head-over-heels in love with her. (As soon as I find her a home, I have room to help more dogs like her.) Every morning when I go to take her out of her crate for her first potty break, she gives me a smile. She loves pets and will try to push herself into your lap if she thinks you will allow it. I can see where her excitement levels could easily become an issue again, but with proper beginning with her new family, it wouldn’t be a problem.
Hope has been super cooperative through all of her training sessions. She is still somewhat nervous at times, but as she learns what is expected of her and as she is exposed to different situations and taught how to respond, her confidence will grow. She is already working on understanding the e-collar, and has taken to it quite readily. She is happy to work on duration work, which will go a long way towards calm becoming a habit. Another great side note – so far, Hope has done a fantastic job with every dog she has been introduced to.
I am looking forward to taking Hope to parks, and seeing how she does with children. I’ll keep you updated! If you aren’t already, follow more of her story on Facebook. You will find several videos of her training progress.
This is Hope, the doggo formally known as Africa 🙂 This super sweet girl came to me because between caring for her ill husband, two babies, 98 year old grandma, and her father with dementia, her previous owner just could not afford the time and attention Hope needed to be trained and held accountable.
Hope has spent the better part of the last year outdoors since she is such a high energy dog. One of her favorite past times is running into everybody – adult and child alike – with all the excitement and energy that is in her, and knocking them over. This became a real problem when her former owner was 8 months pregnant.
Since coming to me, she has shown quite a bit of nervousness and a reluctance to be pet. While some dogs just don’t like being pet, I really think her concern comes from being in a new environment around new dogs. She has only been around one other dog her entire life – a small rat terrior/dachshund mix. She has shown quite a bit of reluctance towards my larger personal dogs, but seems to warm up more quickly towards the smaller dogs that here for training and boarding.
Currently, Hope is a quiet calm pup. However, this is what I call the honeymoon period. Every dog goes through this for about two weeks. They are new the house, to the people, to other dogs, and they really don’t know what to expect from any of this. So they are on their best behavior…. Until. Until they become more comfortable. Until they have had time to really study each person and each dog and get a feel for what they can get away. This is where we are with Hope. So while she is still trying figure me out, I am putting down rather strict rules and structure.
I believe I will be able to begin looking for Hope’s forever home within the next three weeks, but we will have to see how things develop during her honeymoon period. How will she really be with other dogs? That is my biggest concern. The list of things we will be addressing as pretty standard and pretty basic:
Jumps on people
pulls on leash
darts out doors/gates
excessive attention seeking
threatening/growling at other animals
jumps on furniture
understands but will not obey
Watch Hope’s story, and be a part in helping her find her next home. If you know anybody who is looking for their next family member, mention Hope.