Slow and Steady

Ben has been making slow but steady progress. Yesterday was the first day in which there were no fights between him and Violet. He was able to be with the whole pack (me, my husband, Glimmer, and Violet) yesterday without exhibiting any targeting behavior towards Violet, and he even started trying to play. It shocked me to realize that Ben does not know how to play…

Meal times are still really dicey with Ben. He becomes so highly agitated that he has to be forcibly restrained while food is being put down. If I don’t restrain him, he’ll attack and eat both Glimmer’s and Violet’s food. This behavior really concerns me, because it’s indicative of having been starved or under-fed at some point – and Ben is unusually thin for his size…

Because of his panic behavior with food, I’ve been making food a bigger part of his rehabilitation. I’ve been working to teach him that he will get the food, but he must be calm, he must wait for permission to have it, and he must take it gently when it’s offered to him. He’s actually doing pretty good with this exercise; he’s going into a sit position without me asking him, he’s focusing on me more, and he’s starting to wait for permission instead of just diving into his food.

While Ben is making good progress in some areas, he’s still in need of a lot of work in other areas – specifically, with the cat.  He’s still targeting, but we’re working on that. Violet has been helping a great deal; she’s been giving him trust by presenting her back to him. In turn, he’s been working really hard to acknowledge her but not attack her. It helps both Ben and Violet that I have Ben on the lead and I keep him a safe distance away from her so they can sort things out without fighting.

Other areas which need work – but which are not priorities at this time – are basic commands. Ben does okay with the “sit” command – and he’s really good with recall – but he doesn’t know “down”, he doesn’t abide by the “stay” command, and he only holds a “sit” position if he feels like it. He’s improving with the leash, as well, but he still pulls a bit, and he still jumps and tries to chew it when he’s not getting his own way. He’s making the decisions about what he will and won’t do, so I’m working him in a way that makes it fun and interesting for him. I’ve used the clicker with him, and he does respond, but because food is such an issue for him, I decided to go with that as the reward instead. It’s very important that he learns to associate food with calmness and relaxation.

Ben is still on lead during the day. He’s showing some improvement around Violet, but he’s not ready to be trusted to maintain that good behavior without a leash. As a compromise, I have him on the long line. This allows me to control the amount of freedom he gets, depending on his behavior, and it ensures Violet’s safety while he’s exploring his boundaries.

The weather today is supposed to be really nice, so I’m going to attempt to walk both Ben and Glimmer together. I have a coupling tether specifically designed to walk two dogs on one lead. I used it when I fostered Lacey, and when I introduced Glimmer and Ben, I used it. They did pretty good with it in the main yard, so I want to use it again to help teach Ben how to walk nicely, and how to walk with another dog. When the time is right, I will bring Lacey into the group, and create an actual pack walk that Ben will have no choice but to follow.

Have a great day, and remember to stay calm and lead on…

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