Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Happy 1st Gotcha Day to Alice!


HOLY CRAP! I can't believe Alice has been here a whole year. 

Happy Gotcha Day, Teacup! 

It was about a year ago that I was starting to watch Zoe and Phoenix turn grey and feeling 100% terrified that I might end up dogless again. My dogs, my reason for getting up in the morning are getting old. The older they got, the more fearful I became. I remember what it was like to live in a mostly empty apartment. No jiggling collars, no happy dances when you got home from work. No matter how much I love my other pets, there's nothing like having a best canine friend in the house. A dog is the only animal on earth that will love you more than they love themselves. A dog is the only being on earth that will love you unconditionally and I need a dog in my house. I had been thinking about getting a third dog since we got Phoenix. I knew she wasn't going to be our last dog but our circumstances didn't allow for another animal for a while. As soon as our circumstances did change, though, I started to annoy my husband endlessly with photos of available dogs.

"Indigo"
I had been specifically looking at puppies because I thought that a baby would be more accepted by our older dogs, even though I prefer adult dogs. One day on a whim, I changed Petfinder to show me "puppies" and "young adults". As I was searching the dogs, a young adult dog named "Indigo" showed up in my feed. That was it! I knew immediately that I wanted Indigo and she was all I thought about for days. The rescue takes their dogs to adoption events on the weekends and they don't adopt out if your whole family isn't present. My husband works weekends. My chances of getting her were slim to none. In Portland, young dogs and puppies are usually adopted immediately. So after discussing it with my husband, I decided that if Indigo wasn't adopted over the weekend, we would go meet her when he was off work on Tuesday. I almost went to the adoption event by myself to meet her but I didn't want to break my own heart when she was taken from me, so I didn't go. I decided that if she was still there by Tuesday and she liked us then it was meant to be and if she wasn't then it wasn't. Luckily for us, it was meant to be!


I barely survived the weekend. I refreshed her profile over and over to see if she was gone. I cleaned my house from top to bottom on Monday and puppy proofed the whole thing, just in case. I rearranged my bedroom to fit an extra crate. I just had a good feeling about her. Finally Tuesday came and it was freaking SNOWING. The rescue is located over an hour from our house. We would have to drive through Portland traffic, over icy bridges, in the snow (something you just don't do here unless it's an emergency) to see this dog. I know this probably sounds silly to anyone who regularly lives in the snow, I grew up in the snow, too but unfortunately the city of Portland is never prepared for snow and neither are the people who live here. I called the rescue before we headed out to make sure she was still there and luckily she was!



The rescue employee brought "Indigo" out to see us, she ran right past me and jumped into my husband's arms and that was it for him, he was sold. Once she was done with him, we had a wonderful moment together that my husband caught on film. We had an instant connection and she was everything I hoped she'd be. She is the friendliest dog I've ever met in my life and I couldn't believe she wasn't adopted over the weekend. She was even their "kissing booth dog". Hindsight a year later and I think she may have been passed over by regular humans (non dog trainers) because she comes across as "too hyper" when meeting new people, as my neighbor has said about her. As a dog trainer, I like/want that energy and can channel it into training games, so I didn't mind that she was "hyper".

We brought her home and Indigo Jones became "Wonderland's Thee Alice of Legend" (from the SciFi movie with Caterina Scorsone "Alice") and boy did this little dog fall down a rabbit hole of training! I have done so much work over the year. Sometimes I look back on it and feel like I haven't taught her anything but I think it's because I'm taking such a different approach to raising Alice than I did with the other two. The other two dogs felt like a race to me, to teach them the most amount of tricks I could, to show off how great of a trainer I was, to build Phoenix's confidence up from her trauma. With Alice, she's got a lot of confidence already and I'm taking things day by day with her, focusing on being a good house dog and companion first and a fun training partner second.


It's been a whole year. The year of Alice. 

She did come home with some issues, as most dogs do and we've been working on so many things!

The main issues we've been dealing with are:
  • Potty Training! (She had zero understanding of what to do when she goes outside and gets distracted by literally everything, sometimes taking over an hour to just pee)
  • Dog/Dog Reactivity (barking and lunging at dogs while on leash)
  • Over Greeting Strangers (lunging and jumping on every stranger she passes/finds)
  • Pica (eating everything including dangerous items, especially when stressed)
  • Hyperactivity (She only slept exactly 8 hours at night and was up all day)
  • Resource Guarding (Object guarding from the other dogs and cats, not people)
  • Touch Sensitivity/Handling Issues (Biting humans for touching body parts, including ears and paws)
  • Playing too roughly with Phoenix
  • Chasing and stomping on cats

We also had to deal with Zoe hating her for several months, too. I'm so relieved that's over. Zoe has fully accepted Alice as a member of our family at this point. They play every day and Zoe does enjoy her company. We don't keep Zoe muzzled anymore and we don't keep them separated at all.

I was also worried about ever letting her off leash because she's so friendly that she would take off with any stranger she found, so teaching her a solid recall was extremely important to me and I work on it every chance I get.


Potty training is still on going, I won't go too much into it here since I did a whole post about it and you can find that here: Potty Training the Impossible. At the time of this writing, I'm still working with her on pottying quickly when we go outside. She is a bit of a diva about pottying in the same spot twice but she's gotten so much better than she was a year ago. It can still be frustrating at times for me when Alice gets distracted and forgets what we're outside to do but it's better.

Her dog/dog reactivity has been something we spent the most time working on. I wouldn't say she's 100% cured but she's great with all of our regular neighborhood dogs and has even made a few dog friends that she likes. The general rule with Alice is if the other dog is "cool" then she's "cool". She is also doing better when the other dog is not cool and is barking and lunging at her. She did really well when we were waiting in line to meet Santa and there were tons of dogs running around and barking. We still have a harder time on narrow trails. I'm trying to teach her to ignore the passing dogs and stay on her side but if the trail gets too narrow and we don't have enough space to pass without them going nose to nose, then we just pick her up and carry her past. I don't think she'd nip a dog just in passing but you never know what another dog will do and I don't want her to have a bad experience and I really don't like doing on leash greetings with dogs we don't know.

Over greeting people is still a thing and I don't really mind it that much. She's small, she's not going to knock anyone over. We are still working on ignoring strangers that are not interested in saying hello to her. Then with strangers who do want to say hi, I let her say hi and be as crazy as she wants to be. No one has ever been offended by her cheerfulness.

The pica is getting better, too. I believe it's due to stress. So if she's upset and stressed out she will eat non-food items. We carefully manage that and make sure she doesn't have access to dangerous items.

Hyperactivity has gotten WAY better. When we first got her, she reminded me of a child on crack (sugar high) at Disney Land. From the moment she woke up until the moment it was time to go to bed she wanted to play and run around and rough house and tear stuff up. She was also making herself overly tired and was having something similar to what a child would do, have a tantrum. For a couple of months, she was like this and I had to crate her and force her to take breaks and naps for both of us to stay sane. A year later and she has learned it's okay to take breaks, relax and nap during the day.

The resource guarding has gotten so much better as she's gotten more confident in our house. Guarding doesn't really bother me that much, it's a completely normal behavior that animals display. Alice's resource guarding was directly related to the other animals in the house approaching high value items in her possession. The rule here is if a dog has something, then it's theirs (unless that object is dangerous). Nobody is allowed to mess with another dog's stuff. They have all learned to have chewy bones near each other without stress. Alice still struggles with a bit of guarding towards the cats. My cats are pretty dumb and even though they've lived with dogs for years, they still want to go up to them when there's a new bone or something to smell the thing. They don't want it, they just want to see what it is. So Alice has struggled with realizing they won't take the thing from her. This is still a work in progress but I'm sure that as she gains more confidence it will go away.

I've been working really hard with Alice for her to allow handling. I don't really believe in owning dogs who won't allow you to handle their body parts and take care of their husbandry needs, so this was a top priority. I haven't been doing as much cooperative care with Alice as I would like to be doing but that will come with time. I've been handling her paws, ears and brushing her. She gets lots of treats for allowing me to touch her body and I really want her to have a positive association with it. She gets her teeth brushed every day and she loves that.

She does not like baths but it isn't a big deal and they are non-negotiable, it's the price she pays for sleeping in the bed with me. I don't really plan on working on it too much because I've never really had a dog who truly loved baths and they are really quick events. Not everything in life can always be fun. Alice also doesn't like ear cleaner put into her ears but if I go slowly and show her what I'm doing she does better. We dremel her nails at least once a week and while she doesn't like it that much, she's learned to tolerate it because she gets peanut butter or cream cheese in exchange for letting me do it. I haven't tried eye drops yet but I definitely will be working on that eventually, too. These husbandry things we will be working on forever, body handling is so important. You never know when your dog will need medical attention. Having a cooperative patient is so much easier and less stressful for everyone.

Playing too roughly with Phoenix is something we work on a lot. Alice is very much a terrier when she plays, there's a lot of growling, snarling, chasing and grabbing. Phoenix is a bit of a wheeny with other dogs and ends up backed into a corner, just getting beat up on. Phoenix loves to play but she's not always into how Alice wants to play with her. Terriers just want to play rough and they get frustrated when they can't do what they want, which escalates their behaviors and sometimes it can look like aggression when it's not. She's "big" and "loud" and it sounds so awful, lol! So for that we are doing a lot of impulse control work, recalling dogs out of play, proofing our stationing behaviors (go to a place and stay) and I will redirect Alice on to a toy and play with me if I know Phoenix is over it.


Chasing Cats is still a work in progress, too. For that I try to keep in mind that Alice has needs that have to be met. If I meet Alice's needs, by exercising her brain and body appropriately, if I give her outlets to chase things like a flirt pole, she doesn't need to display these behaviors on my cats. So I make sure she gets enough exercise every day and I keep her tethered or crated (management) in the evenings when the cats are more active.


We've done a lot of fun stuff this year, it's not just been all work and no play. We've gone on many hiking trips, we've gone to the beach a bunch of times. She really enjoyed the beach, there were so many smells and things to do there. We did two major road trips to visit my in-laws, which Alice absolutely loved. Towards the end of last year, Alice was even able to go hiking off leash a few times and she was so good! I was really proud of her. She came every single time I called her and stayed with me.


  Alice has been learning some fun behaviors:
bow
wave
back up
sit pretty
spin (both ways)
bang you're dead
shake (both paws)
jump into my arms

We've also started more advanced training:
    heel work
    back stall
    jumping through my arms
    leg weaves
    retrieves
    disc dog
    nosework


    One of the most important things I taught her this year is what I'm calling "flawless door manners", meaning Alice will not exit my house until cued, even if you pull on the leash. Door dashing is a dangerous behavior and it's not something I will ever tolerate in my dogs. Our backyard is not fenced and even though we live on a pretty quiet street I never want her darting out the door without permission. So that was one we've been working on since day one.

    Alice is doing really well with all the training we're working on. She's super fun to work with and I really enjoy training her! She is a bit slower to learn things than what I'm used to but once she has a foundation of whatever I'm teaching, it's much easier to build on it and it's more fun for both of us. She really enjoys putting her own spin (pun intended) on behaviors and it's cute watching her come up with stuff! Alice sometimes finds learning new things a bit stressful and in the coming year, I'd really like to work on that.

    Another thing that stresses Alice out is if any human in the house picks up an object she has not seen before or formed a positive association with. I believe this superstitious behavior popped up over the Yule holiday, my husband received some noisy musical things from my in-laws, and I also got a nerf gun. Phoenix loves to bark at us when we are doing something she determines to be weird. Weird musical instruments and weird guns that pop when they shoot foam darts are weird. I think Alice got scared when Phoenix was barking and generalized it to us picking up random things. We will be working hard on fixing that over the next year and making sure she doesn't continue to have negative associations with household objects. 


    A couple of months ago, I started allowing Alice to sleep in bed with me. She is the first dog I've ever had that wasn't worried when I have a nightmare and unfortunately as someone who was diagnosed with PTSD, I have regular ones. Alice has been really good at interrupting my nightmares and waking me up. This is not something I taught her, she's been doing it all on her own. She is such a comforting presence. She is just so affectionate. She will lay on my chest and when I pet her, I calm down.

    Then and Now

    Alice has brought everyone at our house so much joy. She has re-energized my old dogs. They are always playing and running around together. At one point my husband asked me what Phoenix ever did without a little sister. They are just the best of buddies and it's so cute! Alice is funny and has so much spirit in her. We've really enjoyed getting to know her over the year and I'm looking forward to many more adventures!

    1 comment:

    1. Happy Gotcha Day, young Alice! Sounds like you've kept your family on their toes this past year. Ah, the joys of adolescence! Glad you've sorted things out with Zoe and Phoenix, and you'll figure out those silly cats, too.

      Lauren - Alice is so fortunate to have landed in your lap! Keep those updates coming!

      Cheers,
      Chris from Boise

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