Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Indy solicited a game of tug!! From LUCKY!

This is a huge development in the curly dog household!

Indy is very... individualized when playing with toys.  She will chase after a thrown toy but she won't bring it back to you - she'll go to another spot to chew/squeak it.  When I'm playing a game of tug with Lucky or if Lucky is fetching a toy, she'll bust in, grab the toy and tug it away from him and then run away - and it's not to solicit a game of chase.

Lucky tries to solicit games of tug from her, the same way he teaches little puppies, but she doesn't understand what he's doing.  So he's very confused and stressed when she yanks the toy away from him and goes off by herself.  And also I think he remembers her resource guarding from when we first brought her home, so he doesn't pursue her to try and force the issue.

They play wrassle and chase together but if you add a toy into the mix it's not playing for Indy - it's competition.  And she's determined to win.  It's never sat well with me that Indy refused to engage in normal canine social play.  It is a rather large red flag.  Ironically, Patricia McConnell recently wrote a very similar post on this topic between her two dogs, Will and Hope, with much the same set of worries.  Because Lucky is such a rock-solid dog in terms of temperament, unlike Will, I've never worried it would become a source of serious conflict but it IS a source of stress for Lucky, which I think has manifested itself in a few episodes over the past year (one this past July and one in April).  That's a problem.

Well, last night Indy was squeaking on her new dead fox toy and Lucky was clearly in the mood to play with her.  She was receptive to the idea of a good round of wrassling but also really wanted to play with her fox toy.  After a few false starts where she would squeak the toy and then go dive at Lucky to jaw with him, then run back to squeak the toy, she carried the fox over and dangled it in front of him.  Lucky was hesitant at first but after a few test attempts at grabbing the other end, he grabbed the fox and they began to play tug.

I was so excited I cheered and started clapping.  Which made Indy stop and look at me.  Lucky gave his head a little toss, making the fox shake, and she grabbed at it again and they tugged a bit more.  I toned down and started quietly saying "Goooooood girl!" while she kept playing.  It didn't last long because they switched to chase zoomies (sans toy) but it was there - she solicited the interaction and treated it as a game, not some attempt at pulling rank.

It's taken a year to get to this point.  I don't think we're thru the woods by any stretch, but this is very encouraging.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Baby prep in an unanticipated quarter

A lot of people scoff at the idea of prepping a dog for a baby.  If the dog is well-trained it shouldn't be a problem, right?

Not really.

When you think about what a fundamental shift a new infant is for just the parents, who definitely have forewarning that this little tyrant is about to completely reorganize the running of the household, it should be no surprise that perhaps the dogs might need some time to get used to the idea as well.  Prepping a dog for a baby isn't just about making sure the dog doesn't eat Junior, it's about making sure the dog is comfortable and able to adjust to all these changes with the least amount of stress possible.  Also, every dog reacts differently to stress when they're overwhelmed by change.

Case in point - we purchased a new car.  We knew that once Junior made his arrival we wouldn't be able to transport two dogs and an infant in either of our small cars.  So we've been researching and shopping around for months now.  We settled on a 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe as an excellent car for our needs.  The idea is the dogs would ride in the far back, leaving the back seat for car seat and baby gear.

Both dogs have ridden in SUVs before with no problems but I know a new car means new smells and that's a party for a dog.  So for the first trip I let the dogs take their time, sniff the exterior of the car, check out the interior, get comfy, etc.  Once it seemed like they were relaxed in the back, I closed the tailgate and hopped in the front.

I got maybe a mile or two away before I had to pull over.  Lucky - my rock solid, never met a car he didn't like, dog - was having a full-blown freak out, crying and scrabbling at the floor.  He was a hot mess.  I was the only person in the car, so I loaded them into the back seat and he was fine.

Next ride out The Spouse was driving.  I put the dogs in the back and then I sat in the back seat with a pouch full of super-delicious treats.  Lucky was taking cookies while the car was still, no problem. The Spouse started driving and Lucky tucked tail and refused to eat even dehydrated chicken breast.  But this time I could see the problem - the back, even though it's carpeted, is too slick for him to get a grip on.  He's the sort of dog that lies down and goes to sleep in the car and, without purchase, he was sliding all over the place.  And it was stressful enough that he was completely shut down, refusing food.  For any dog that's a bad sign.  For an Addison's dog that's a recipe for disaster.

And this was a problem I hadn't anticipated.  Certainly not from Lucky, who has never so much as whimpered in the car before.  Not even the day we drove him home from the breeder's!  Fortunately we have 4 months to address the problem and fix it and, in the interim, I have the option of driving with them in the back seat if I need to get them somewhere.  It would be an absolute nightmare to try and address this if I had an infant to juggle, was sleep deprived, and no options.

This is what I'm talking about when I say "Yes, you absolutely should prep your dog for the baby."  They may have a problem, they may not.  But it's better to figure that out beforehand.