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Working Like A Dog - Jessie T. Wolf
April 28th, 2007
08:41 pm

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Working Like A Dog
First off, thank you to everyone who offered advice to my last post – it has been a perplexing situation, indeed. O__o If I did not reply back to your comment, please don’t think that I dismissed it. I’ve been taking everyone’s advice into consideration, and I really appreciate the help that was offered!

As for Miss Zee, she has still been having her ups and downs, though the past two weeks have been mostly positive. I did cut out the crate, for the most part, because it was just making her way too stressed, and Tim and I were not getting very much sleep with her panting in her crate all night. She will eat her food in her crate with no problems at all now, but I decided that making her sleep in there as well just wasn’t worth it, and so I’ve been leaving her out on the floor in our bedroom at night when we’re asleep. For a good while Zena spent her nights sleeping on Tim’s side of the bed, which hurt my feelings just a bit. >__< Though my days as The Horrible Monster is starting to diminish!

I’ve been playing with her a lot more, getting her all worked up and excited. I’ve also asked Tim to take a more dominant role with her, and correct her verbally whenever she needs it. I’ve also asked him to tone down his playful interactions with her, because I want her to see me as the primary one who plays with her, feeds her, gives her toys and treats, and other positive associations. So far it’s been working pretty well, which is also good because Tim will be flying Rascal out within the next couple of weeks, and Zena will have to understand that Ras is Tim’s dog and he’ll be spending more time with Ras than with her anyway.

I do look VERY forward to when we have our own place, and Tim has all of his dogs back, and we can build a proper kennel, so that I don’t have to ever stick Zee in a crate again. I have a puppy pen locked away in storage that would be perfect for solving the whole crating problem. When I get all of my stuff back, I can just set it up in a room with either tile or linoleum. It’s wide enough that she should not feel as confined, and it has eight sides to it, so it can be adjusted in a number of different ways. Whatever works!

I had an incident with her this past Tuesday. Tim and I had to go out for a couple of hours, and I had no choice but to crate Zena. By the time we got back, I found her standing in her crate and panting as normal, drool up to her ankles, the side of the crate chewed to hell… and poop smeared all over the inside walls. X__x Oh, and all over the dog, too.

I opened the door, and tried to grab her before she could track crap all over the LIGHT colored carpet, but that didn’t go over too well. I managed to get her into our room’s bathroom, and closed the door, and then I did proceed with washing out the crate, and scrubbed the carpet with about three different kinds of soap, stain remover, and disinfectant.

Then it was bath time for the dog! My very worried-looking dog, who was covered in drool and poop, and did not want to get into the bathtub without a good dose of resistance first, and threatening to put up some sort of fight. I didn’t feel like chancing just how much damage she might do, so I strapped a nylon muzzle on her, and hefted her into the tub.

I was actually strangely calm for being as upset as I was. I guess Zee picked up on it, because she barely moved, or struggled the entire time I washed her. She just stood in the tub with this really sad and perplexed look on her face. I was even able to clip her nails after the bath!

When I was done, I took the muzzle off, toweled her as dry as I could, and then just pointed for her to get out of the bathroom, so that I could clean up the mess that was still left for me. She spent the rest of that day in the computer room by Tim.

Then Wednesday came! Zena’s first day of OBEDIENCE CLASS!!! I tried talking with a couple of behaviorists, but didn’t really get any great responses back, other than, “Well, if you shell out this many hundreds of dollars, we can try to help you, but there is no guarantee that it will even change anything.” I’ve read enough articles on fear-aggressive dog behavior to know that, in most cases, the unwanted behaviors can be toned down, but very rarely do they ever fully go away. So I simply decided to keep up with her general obedience.

I’ve got her in an intermediate group class now, that is six weeks long, and if she does well enough in that, then I will bump her up to advanced. Keeps her mind on things, other than worrying, (just as you said, cass_rising!) and honestly, she’s always enjoyed having something to do. Though since she really hasn’t had any contact with other dogs for the past two months, the sudden group class really threw her for a loop! Her classes back in Toronto where private ones, with the occasional dog distraction, and on maybe one or two occasions she was used as a distraction for another dog’s class.

This class has about eight dogs in it, and so for the first ten or fifteen minutes, Zena was seriously distracted by the other dogs and the owners all saying commands to their dogs at the same time. But after she figured out that they were all doing obedience stuff, she was like, “Ohhh… okay… I get it now.” She actually did VERY well for her first class! It was mostly just a refresher class, to see what people remembered from the basic class, (the following classes will start to get harder…) and since Zena has done advanced stuff already, it was a breeze for her. We did a few sit and down stays, for 3-5 minutes. Stays at a distance, and recalls at a distance, finishes, figure “8” and hand signals. Zena and I have to practice our hand signals, though.

I have to practice with her for 15 minutes, twice a day, each day, until next Wednesday’s class. We’ll be doing sit and down stays, while the owners are out of the room, which makes me a bit nervous, because while I know that Zena is good enough and will NOT get up at all, I don’t trust that none of the other dogs will get up and go over to her. There is a German Shepherd in that class who is always eyeing her, and has made a few quick motions to go see Zena, when the owner was off guard. I don’t think that dog is aggressive, but I also know how Zena handles approaching dogs that she doesn’t know. She seriously does not like strange dogs getting into her personal space, and will go straight for the face, snapping and screaming. She won’t start a fight - it’s just her way of telling other dogs to back off, but a lot of other owners get scared because it looks and sounds much more vicious than it actually is, but I’d rather not tempt ANY kind of defensive behavior from her, at all, if it can be helped!

I brought up my concern with the trainer, and she said that she will keep me right by the door, and also watch to make sure that none of the other dogs get up, and if they do she will go and correct any problems right away.

She also mentioned something that I hadn’t thought about before. After class, while people were beginning to leave, one of the other owners asked if he could pet Zena, and I said sure, as long as she went up to him. She did, was a suck, put her paw in his lap, and ate up the attention. The guy’s wife asked what the flecks of “dirt” on her face was, wondering if she had been in a park and gotten muddy. I told her that those were just her markings, as far as I knew. A lot of people have made the same comments about the white flecks on Zena’s face.

Then the trainer piped up and asked me what age I got Zena at, and I told her a little over a year old. She said that the white flecks on her face might be scars. I said, really? She said yeah, and that if Zena was a rescue, maybe she got into some sort of fight before I got her and her face may have been cut up, especially since she has no other white fleck-type markings anywhere else on her body. She said usually scarring will make the fur grow back white, and that she was surprised that a vet had not mentioned it to me already, since it’s apparently not an uncommon thing with rescued Pits (I never told her that Zena was part Bullie… some people see it in her, and some don’t, I guess…). She said it was just a theory, but if that were the case, it would certainly explain why Zena freaks out as much as she does, when other animals or people get too much in her face.

The trainer also recommended a possible solution to the crate problem, and that is to go ask a vet for a type of pheromone thing that you plug into the wall like one of those scented plug-ins. It’s supposed to calm the dog. She said she has a dog that’s had the same problem for nine years, and the difference the product made was night and day. So once Tim gets Ras out here, and we have to go to the vet, I will be looking into that.

So in the meantime, Zena and I will be doing a lot more work together, and more trust-building exercises. And naturally that involves a lot of playing. :) The play has been helping quite a bit, and Zee is actually beginning to become interested in the BALL!!! This is a dog that, until like six months ago, did not play. At all. Not with toys, (tug ropes, Kongs, balls, etc.) not with other dogs… the most she would do was chew on a Nylabone once in a while, but that was it. Now she gets all excited and wiggly, and DROOLS when you wave a tennis ball around! So she is now learning proper etiquette for playing fetch - like NOT jumping up and trying to grab the ball from my hand - and she is actually beginning to bring the ball back to me, instead of keeping it all protectively to herself.

Also, she totally surprised me a few nights ago, by deciding that she wanted to sleep on my side of the bed. ^__^

Current Mood: accomplished

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From:cass_rising
Date:April 29th, 2007 01:20 pm (UTC)
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I'm so glad to hear that things are going better. Many hugs and wags from this house :)
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From:wlfdog
Date:April 29th, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC)
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Actually, Zena does already have some protection training behind her, and she did fairly well. It was a 16-week course, but we only had 11 weeks to finish it in, before we had to move. Here's a You Tube video of her doing some alarm protection work, (no bite work though, since I've been working on teaching her NOT to bite, I don't want to confuse her) and she does a little round of obedience at the end of the clip.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzIy2U1zetY

She is extremely intelligent, and she does love to work. She gets all excited whenever we do our little practice sessions. If she does well enough in this class, and her next advanced class, I am thinking of putting her through agility, or tracking. I think she would really benefit from learning tracking - it requires a lot of concentration and strict direction.

She has so much potential in her, and I don't want to give up on her, even when she's had her hard times. She's come such a long way from when I first got her, I can't just throw in the towel because some days her fear gets the better of her.
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From:jaxxblackfox
Date:April 29th, 2007 06:48 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad to hear things are getting better. :)


All three of us miss you guys. <3
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