Finding Balance

Lacey had a much better day yesterday.  We worked off and on all day: We did in-kennel/out-kennel training, we started working on the “heel” position, we practiced “sit” and “down”, and we learned “gentle” when approaching Glimmer and Violet. Glimmer and Violet are helping with this by allowing Lacey near them, by smelling her, and by letting her smell them. Lacey seems to be starting to understand that the interaction she wants with them can only occur if she is calm.

Nighttime is a bit challenging. Lacey does not like being kenneled at any time, but especially, at bedtime.  She can handle it for about an hour or two, but after that, she starts whining, yipping, and howling to be released.  She’s happy to sleep in one of the dog beds – and she does sleep through the night in those situations. But she does need to learn to accept being kenneled, because there are going to be times throughout her life when being left loose won’t be an option.

House-breaking is not going as well as it should. Lacey is being taken out regularly to do her business, but she is still going in the house, too.  And, she is not using the training pads, despite being encouraged to do so and despite being rewarded on the rare occasions that she does use them.  However, when she is with her family, she is not having in-house accidents at all.  I’m not sure what the difference is between our houses, but whatever it is, I know Lacey will eventually succeed and do her business outside every time, no matter where she is.

Lacey has challenges and issues, but I will not give up on helping her.  I will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to help her become balanced so that she can live her best life with her forever family.  I have never given up on a dog, nor will I.  Unless there is something medically wrong with them, no dog is so far gone that they cannot be helped to overcome their negative experiences and become happy.

Cat Attack

Yesterday, Lacey attacked Violet the cat – twice.  Violet was minding her own business, enjoying being outdoors, and before anyone could blink, Lacey was on top of Violet and biting at her. Violet fought back and I was able to get to her in time to prevent Lacey from doing any damage.  Lacey was removed from Violet and given a quick correction.  But, no sooner was Lacey back on her feet, than she went for Violet a second time – and the attack was much more intense, with Violet fighting, biting, and trying to scratch Lacey, and Lacey trying to bite into Violet’s belly.  The correction was to take Lacey by the scruff, get her off of Violet, and put her in the house.  Once she was inside, I immediately checked Violet to make sure she wasn’t injured.

Remaining calm in that situation was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  I did it, but it was difficult; when my animals are being attacked, it’s hard not to allow emotions to interfere with the corrections process.

Lacey is no longer allowed to freely interact with Violet and Glimmer.  Instead, she is now on a leash at all times, and she is only allowed to be near them when she is offering them respect and politeness.  The second she attempts to nip at or jump at them, she is given a gentle but firm tug on the leash and told “no”, and then she is prevented from getting close to them.  She can be in the same room with them, but unless she is exhibiting polite behavior, she is not allowed any contact with them.  When she shows the correct behavior, she is rewarded for that.

The more time I spend with this little pup and observe her behavior, the more convinced I become that she was separated from her siblings and her mother very early. Because, she has absolutely no understanding at all of correct social behavior.  Puppies learn etiquette and proper social interaction from their mother and siblings, but Lacey does not appear to have had that opportunity. At only 10 weeks of age, this little girl just seems to have no clue about anything.  Why else would she have attacked Violet?  Why else would she be jumping at Glimmer instead of using a play-bow to invite play? And why on earth would Lacey be so afraid of that play-bow position?

It infuriates me to no end that people allow their dogs to breed and then they sell off the puppies before they have a chance to learn important social skills.  When I asked the seller if he was going to have his dogs spayed and neutered, he shrugged and said, “Nope. If she gets pregnant, she gets pregnant.”  This kind of irresponsibility really frosts my cookies.  He isn’t running a puppy mill, exactly, but he also isn’t behaving responsibly and we feel very strongly that he should be reported to Animal Control Services.  Lacey was sick when she was purchased, and we suspect the other puppies were probably sick, too…

Proper social etiquette is critical for puppies to learn before they are adopted out.  Failing to allow them to learn these things from their siblings and their mother can lead to all kinds of behavioral problems as they get older and stronger.  The attack on Violet, yesterday, is just one example.  If this behavior is not corrected, Lacey’s chances of becoming a certified Support Dog will be lost. She will have to be treated as a possible red-zone case, instead – and that involves rehabilitation, not training.

At this point, only time will tell how Lacey is going to progress.  I will continue working with her, of course, but after yesterday, our work is going to be focused more on teaching her correct social behavior than on basic obedience.  It seems to me this is the only way to make progress.


Fear the Play-bow

Yesterday, the re-introduction process with the leash and the kennel was started. Lacey was on lead all day to help her adjust to the presence of the leash and learn how to work with it instead of against it. She also performed several exercises throughout the day being in the kennel and learning how to wait until invited to come out of it.  She did remarkably well, considering that she is very demanding and she strongly dislikes being confined for even a minute.  She doesn’t like being given boundaries, either – which the leash enforces – but she’s learning how to accept them and how to work within them in a calm, relaxed way.

Today, the leash and kennel training will continue.  We will also be continuing to work on recall, “sit”, and “down”.  Depending on how well she does with those things, I may introduce the “stay” command to her, as well.

Yesterday, I offered a play-bow to Lacey to invite her to play. To my surprise, instead of correctly interpreting that position, Lacey became afraid and ran away.  I tried everything I could think of to encourage her to come to me – including using a treat – but she absolutely refused.  She was genuinely afraid – and that concerns me. I’ve never encountered a dog who is fearful of the play-bow position. Lacey’s way of inviting play is to jump at the dog or human she wants to play with, but when she does that, she gets corrected.  This is very hard on her; she’s just a puppy, and she wants – and she needs – to play, but her invitations are not correct. She just isn’t understanding that what she believes is an invitation is, in fact, an unwanted behavior.

So, the challenge, here, is twofold: First, she has to be helped to overcome her fear of the play-bow position.  Second, she has to learn that the play-bow is the correct position to use when she wants to invite play.  How this is going to be achieved is anyone’s guess.  Having never met a dog who was fearful of a standard position like the play-bow, I’m not certain about how to address this very serious issue.  My creativity is definitely going to have to work over-time in order to help this little girl.

If anyone has any suggestions about how to help Lacey overcome her fear of the play-bow position, please comment.  Play is so crucial to a dog’s development and learning social behavior….