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We have had Rusty for 10 months now. I got him from a shelter...he was running with a blue merle border collie puppy and a blue heeler/cattle dog puppy. He is a beautiful red and white split-face with a very laid-back personality. Piecing behaviors together, I can guess that he was never in a house, was probably kept in a cage most of the time, and did not have a lot of interaction with other dogs. He lacks social skills with dogs....he is ok with dogs, but he has no manners. He is wonderful with people and loves nothing more than to be petted. One of our biggest concerns was that he does not know how to play....with dogs or toys or people. The closest he comes to playing is to "work" Kylie when she is retrieving a ball, which is something we discourage. Kylie will try to instigate playing with him by pawing him and whining...he usually turns his head to avoid eye-contact in what appears to be a survival mode.


I began trying to teach him to play ball a few months after we got him by putting treats in a "screw" ball and throwing it, then giving him a treat for bringing it back. That has worked; he retrieves the ball but he is not playing...he has been conditioned to do it. I don't work on it daily....just every so often. I felt that when the time was right for him to play (if ever), it would present itself -- and it did.


Came home from Walmart today with a new squeaky toy...sort of a hedge-hog. Kylie LOVES squeaky toys and will run around squeaking them until you think you will lose your mind. So we had a quick game of retrieve going in the family room -- but this time we noticed that instead of focusing on Kylie, Rusty started focusing on the toy. I threw the new toy his way, and he ran and picked it up; breezed past Kylie (who was stunned that he had gotten HER toy); and plopped down and started mouthing and squeaking the toy!!!! The light bulb had gone off....he finally understands.


Well, you'd have thought we'd won the lottery....we were all jumping up and down and hootin' and hollerin'. And it wasn't a fluke...he repeated the behavior over and over. It is so wonderful to watch these dogs blossom!


So to those of you who are out there in a similar situation with your new rescue....yes, it can happen!! :D

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