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How did you become 'the' person to your dog?


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This is my first official post, though I've been reading this site for awhile now and picking up tons of useful information (so thank you!). I'm a long time admirer of the BC breed - the work ethic, the intelligence and capability, and also the devotion BCs tend to have to their 'person.'

 

My husband and I adopted our first BC a few weeks ago, a two year old rescue, and he is a really good boy. No behavior problems (except perhaps an aversion to some other dogs) and very gentle. I should explain he's really not your typical BC - Lucas is pretty mellow and has no ball/disc drive. He's not very interested in toys, though he does love to chew deer antlers, and he is not a velcro dog. He seems content to stare out the window and unconcerned about what I'm up to when I move around the house. But he has a wonderful natural recall and is very friendly when he does decide he wants attention. He seems like he is wants to please too and is pretty submissive. He loves walks and absolutely LOVES to chase squirrels in the yard. I think this is why he is VERY intent on watching out the window. The window to the backyard might be his favorite thing.

 

Anyway, Lucas seems like a pretty independent guy. And while he's a really good boy, he's been hard to bond with because I can't figure out what makes him tick. I'm interested in engaging him more and letting him see that I'm pretty fun too. We've been working on training, trying to keep it fun because he will sometimes just walk away in the middle of it (bored? confused? restless?) to go and lie down by himself. But he's not super treat motivated and not into toys so it makes rewarding difficult.

 

I've been hand feeding and taking him for long daily walks, sometimes twice daily because he seems to enjoy it (his energy level is actually pretty low). And when he seeks me out I speak gently to him and rub his shoulders, which I can tell he likes. I've tried a variety of toys (balls, treat dispensing, flirt pole) and nothing has been too interesting to him so far.

 

My past dogs have been much more interested in me, or I've been able to figure out what motivates them. But Lucas is an enigma so far. What makes him tick? I'm wondering how each of you bond with your dog or have had similar experiences? I was kind of expecting a needier, more velcro dog, and he's been a surprise!

 

Thanks :)

 

 

 

 

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You don't say where he came from (rescue or shelter) or if anything's known about his background, but there are 2, not necessarily independent, possibilities that come to mind. One is that it's just his nature to be laid back, and the other that he's a little overwhelmed by all the changes and just hasn't gotten comfortable or confident enough for his personality to shine through yet.

 

I adopted Bodhi when he was 1 1/2 - 2 years old. He'd been a stray and was picked up by animal control and taken to the shelter. Then he was pulled by a rescue (with a 14 hour transport, probably with multiple drivers) where he was vetted, neutered and had a trip to the groomer. 13 days later I adopted him, so all in all the length of time from (starving) stray to adoption was less than a month.

 

He was very reserved and wary when I met him. He'd already started exhibiting signs of shelter shock (shutting down) at the shelter and really wasn't with the rescue long enough to get acclimated into his foster home. He didn't know how to play with another dog, with toys or with a person, much less how to obey any instructions. He had to learn all of that.

 

Many adoption resources talk about a honeymoon period in which dogs seem to be on their best behavior while they're figuring out the lay of the land. Not necessarily shut down, but feeling their way through negotiating a new environment. Most sources will refer to it as 2 -3 weeks. An excellent trainer (actually now a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member who trains trainers) here who works with rescues says people should expect it to be more like 3 months. Bodhi was showing new behaviors and preferences for a full 6 months after I adopted him, and it took 3 1/2 years for him to figure out how to retrieve a ball (truth be told I wasn't working on it consistently that whole time).

 

It sounds to me like you're doing all the right things. Be patient and let him open up at his own pace. I suspect that once he becomes more comfortable and confident in his surroundings that he'll become more responsive to you, but it is possible that he's just a laid back and kind of reserved guy. If he is, you'll learn to cherish the moments he offers affection, but it doesn't mean he doesn't feel warmly towards you if he doesn't often. Just like people, dogs have different personalities.

 

But I'd really like to hear from you about what he's like in a few months. ;)

 

Good for you for adopting!

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Kudos to you for adopting a rescue. Lucas sounds like a wonderful dog.

 

Do you know his background? How long was he in rescue? That may give you a bit of a hint as to what is going on in his mind at the moment.

 

That said, I think you will certainly have a more interactive dog - just give it some time.

 

First thing I do with a rescue (I occasionally foster for a BC rescue) is to make sure they have a full health work-up. Sometimes the low energy can be attributed to health issues.

 

Second, I recommend that you purchase Patricia McConnell's book "Love Has No Age Limit" Very inexpensive book (~$10 from her website) that describes the most common issues associated with rescue dogs and provides introductory advice on how to deal with them. The book is less than 90 pages so you don't have to wade through hours of reading to learn some excellent advice.

 

Third, I think that Lucas isn't quite sure how he should act in his new environment. It is very common for a rescue dog not to open up for weeks or even months after going into a new home. It takes some dogs a very long time to relax. Also, don't forget that gaining his trust will not be a rapid process.

 

I think you are giving him a lot of good experiences, and he will eventually come out of his shell. Keep reading and researching about rescue dog behavior, positive reinforcement training, etc.

 

Note: just as I finished typing, I saw Gentle Lake's response. I agree with her - and my response may be a bit redundant, but we are on the same track.

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Hi GentleLake, gcv-border, and Sekah,

 

Thank you so much for your responses, encouragement and insight! A little more background about Lucas. He was originally from a reservation and was in rescue, in a home with quite a few other dogs, for around 2 months. He adjusted well there, but continued to be pretty laid back. His foster was really good, but because of a house full of dogs, I doubt he had the one on one interaction that he is getting with us.

 

Lucas has been fully vetted by the rescue and my vet also did an exam and announced him to be in perfect health! So thankfully we don't have a health issue contributing to his low energy.

 

Do you think it's too early to enroll in a class? I want to, but at the same time, I don't want to push it if it would be overwhelming for him. I love Patricia McConnell's "The Other End of the Leash" so I'll certainly have to check out the "No Age Limit" book as well.

 

It seems to me that most BCs (and really any dogs) really respond to the person that trains with them, feeds them, and just brings fun and fun experiences, so that's what I've been really trying to do. It's just a balance between pushing too hard, too fast and pushing enough I guess.

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Good job so far! Keep it up. One of these days he'll give more information: he prefers the Frisbee to the ball, or prefers butt scritches to tummy rubs. The info will come out in dribs and drabs, but every bit of it is him being more trusting of you and this new home.

 

If he was born and grew up on a reservation, he probably got very little one-to-one time with humans. He may continue to be reserved, he may blossom over time. He may be subtle with his affections even as he becomes more relaxed.

 

Sounds like everything is on the right track for you all.

 

Ruth and SuperGibbs

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About the class, I'd see if the instructor would allow the two of you to attend a couple classes, perhaps paying for each one individually, before you commit to 6 or 8 weeks. It might be perfect, or the newness might be too much for him right now. Feel it out.

 

Good luck!

 

Ruth and SuperGibbs

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The way I became 'the' person to my dog was by hugging her. I know, it sounds sappy and I definitely don't recommend it to everyone - not many dogs really like being squeezed - but it was a magic switch for Sugarfoot.

 

Sugar came from a so-called rescue. In retrospect I can see they were nothing more than small-time dog dealers. I paid a $200.00 adoption fee, was not screened (no questions were asked), the 16 week-old puppy in the picture (Petfinders) turned out to be a 7 month-old dog with a huge parasite-load, pneumonia, a full set of adult teeth, and a complete reproductive system. She was painfully thin and had concrete calluses on her elbows. I was told that she "got out of her pen" once and that they had "a helluva time catching her" and that "she had never had on a leash or collar."

 

I got her home and realized that she had some serious issues. She was essentially afraid of everything. She was grateful for two square meals a day, and I got her to the vet for worming, heartworm check and meds for the pneumonia, and shots. (She had had none.)

 

At home she was shy of everyone she met, and reserved with me. All noises alarmed her. But she got along with my Lurcher, Grace, and even played with her a little. The cat she liked from day one.

 

After about a week, I sat down on my futon with her. She came over and leaned on me. Without thinking, I put my arms around her and gave her a gentle squeeze. I immediately thought, "Oh... bad idea." But Sugarfoot leaned into me even harder. So I squeezed her again. More, harder leaning from her. So I squeezed her pretty hard and then let go.

 

She leaped up in the air and had the mad zoomies all over the room, grinning like a maniac and then she squashed herself up against me again, in the same position. So I squeezed her really hard and let go again. More insane zoomies and the most thorough face-washing I ever had from a dog. By this time I was in tears. My dog!

 

From then on she stuck close to me and her reserve (with me) vanished. Everything else took much, much longer. But she made it clear that she loved and trusted me from the moment she got that hug.

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Of all of my dogs, the one who was most difficult to bond with was Tessa. She was terrified of me. For about the first month she was with us, she tolerated me in my own home!!

 

We were able to bond because I gave her all the time she needed, and I respected who she was. I had a great deal of respect for her - she had survived on her own for at least three months. Her manner really did say, "I don't need you". So, I didn't try to convince her that she needed me. I just gave her space and let her do her thing.

 

She bonded with me because she chose to. And I would say that of all of my living dogs, she and I have the strongest bond. I am the only person in the world she trusts entirely. I consider that a privilege!!

 

We spent time together, we train, we have bonded a lot because of Agility. But mostly the bond came out of living together with mutual respect. Affection came later.

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At home she was shy of everyone she met, and reserved with me. All noises alarmed her. But she got along with my Lurcher, Grace, and even played with her a little. The cat she liked from day one.

 

After about a week, I sat down on my futon with her. She came over and leaned on me. Without thinking, I put my arms around her and gave her a gentle squeeze. I immediately thought, "Oh... bad idea." But Sugarfoot leaned into me even harder. So I squeezed her again. More, harder leaning from her. So I squeezed her pretty hard and then let go.

 

She leaped up in the air and had the mad zoomies all over the room, grinning like a maniac and then she squashed herself up against me again, in the same position. So I squeezed her really hard and let go again. More insane zoomies and the most thorough face-washing I ever had from a dog. By this time I was in tears. My dog!

 

From then on she stuck close to me and her reserve (with me) vanished. Everything else took much, much longer. But she made it clear that she loved and trusted me from the moment she got that hug.

Awesome story. It brought a big smile to my face, after I got over my surprise about the hugging - which would be a no-no for me with a rescue dog, BUT I believe in whatever works. There are generalizations, and there are exceptions. Sugarfoot is the exception. Good for her - and you.

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GentleLake, I keep re-reading your post about Bodhi, how you really had to teach him even just the basics of interacting with people and other dogs. It's really speaking to me and so awesome that you were able to do that. I'm sure an experience like that changed both of you for the better. The strange thing about Lucas is he seems to really like people for probably not having interacted with them much - he does not seem to be afraid, but instead approaches new people and sits patiently for pets! The calm and eager behavior might be fooling me into thinking he is more comfortable than he is?

 

Geonni, loved your story, very beautiful. Each dog is so unique. Lucas seems to enjoy affection on his terms, but the moment I stop petting him, he goes and lies alone, sometimes in another room. At first I thought it was depression-like behavior, but maybe he is just adjusting.

 

Root Beer, thank you for sharing. The bond you have with Tessa sounds very deep. I too am trying to respect Lucas for who he is. I wouldn't say he is terrified of us, just pretty indifferent. He wags his tail when we get ready for a walk (and he's really got that routine down) and sometimes jumps up on the couch for petting... but otherwise he just likes to lay by himself or look out the window. I want to interact with him, but don't want to come off as pushy or disrespecting time he wants alone.

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I can't take all the credit by any means. Bodhi has a good innate temperament, and that made it all possible. And my other dog, Tilly, was a gentle and patient teacher. I'll never forget the day I saw her teaching Bodhi how to play tug. I happened to see them in the bathroom mirror, and I'm sure if I'd gone into the room it would have ended right there. She was gently taking the toy and putting it to his mouth, then ever so softly encouraging him to tug it. It was fascinating to watch.

 

Yes, it was a transformative experience for me, and I hope it made his life better, as well. He's utterly devoted to me now. :wub: But he's a kind of needy dog by nature. It sounds like Lucas probably isn't so much.

 

It really sounds to me like Lucas just doesn't have a whole lot of experience with people thinking he's special and worth paying attention to. He may never be effusive, but I'll bet he'll start seeking more interaction from you in time, once he realizes just how great life with people who care for him can be.

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My old dog Buddy (the one in my avatar photo) was a street dog in Puerto Rico, rescued down there, and then brought to a shelter in Massachusetts. I don't know where he lived in PR; probably another shelter, but possibly a foster home, since for a few weeks after I brought him home, he would walk up to houses that had a specific kind of porch, and wait at the door, as if we were going home to the porch houses.

 

Anyway, he did horribly in the shelter, with the noise and chaos, and while he would let me pet him and comfort him in my home, he moved with fright through the world, always looking around as if waiting for something (a dog? a human?) to surprise him and cause him to defend himself. Walks were scary events, with tucked tail and panic. He was always happy to get back home.

 

BUT! After a couple weeks, I was walking him, and he did that thing dogs do when you're walking them: he looked back at me, as if checking that I was still there, and relaxed his ears and let his mouth smile a tiny bit - just as if to say, "Oh, you're still there! Excellent!"

 

I knew at that point that he was my dog.

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Trick training. Walks in new places. Games of any kind. Just going on little adventures together where you go to a new place or do a new thing, go on a picnic together and eat food out on the grass. Anything so long as both of you are doing it, though something that the dog has to pay attention to you for really helps. My vet had a few things to say about that, one of them was 'you get the dog you deserve.' what you can get out of any one dog, while limited by personality, is greatly influenced by things like how much time you spend interacting and training. Humans take a while to form their friendships, dogs often need the same. It took my dog what, 13 years to get this close to me? And every year we got closer, hence why old dogs are great. A few weeks is no time at all.

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Time. Really, it takes time. From his perspective he hardly knows you and he has a naturally reserved personality.

 

And get good at reading dogs.

 

A lot of other people's dogs like me, and sometimes their owners tell me they like me more than the owners. I think its because I can read dogs well...I notice when they like or don't like something and adjust my behavior accordingly. I become predictable to them, and they seem to appreciate that I am trying to communicate with them and try harder to interact with me.

 

Watch your dog, see what makes him freeze, relax, open up, seek reassurance. What kind of touch does he really like, vs tolerating? If he chases squirrels, but not balls, try a fuzzy floppy toy on a string. He will tell you what he likes, and when he sees you listening he will become more attached to you.

 

He may have kind of "given up" because he sees humans not bothering to read him before you got him. I have seen that in foster dogs.

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Two months ago we had four dogs from shelters/rescue, now we have 3 due to cancer. Our oldest, now 12, BC/springer was really a wild child when we got her when she was estimated 6 months. I was really concerned I was over my head. We went to training classes ( where she made me look like an idiot acting like the perfect dog). Took about 6 months to connect, from then on she is so attached to DH. You have never seen such a connected dog.

 

Cody, our BC, scared of the world when we got him from rescue. He was about two months before he knew he was with us forever. Now he is Mr diplomat...love everyone, every dog. Thinks his job is to keep track of me.

 

Grace Lou, the dog we just lost, she knew I was her person the day I drove her home from death row. I know it sounds stupid...but she instantaneously connected, we were her peeps and she was Velcro.

 

Boots- Great Pyrenees / BC...the 4th dog. Loves life but I swear she would go home with anyone. She is another dog that someone just dumped.

 

Thank you for going the rescue route. The more you know and understand your dog, the easier it will be for that connection to be formed. Good luck.

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It took about three months for Kieran to really come out of his shell. When I got him, he was friendly with everyone, didn't know how to play with toys, and quiet as a mouse. I remember one day it just changed. I was hanging out with him in my apartment and we made eye contact. Suddenly, he bounced up and then started zooming around like a nut. I completely freaked out lol. It's been two years. He's pretty reserved around strangers, loves to play with family and friends, and also isn't afraid to talk back to me (roo roos). I thought I would never be able to teach him "speak," but now it's more like I can't get him to be quiet.

 

So I agree that it mostly takes time. Trick training has been a really good way for Kieran and I to bond. I'm the only one who practices things with him and gives him real mental stimulation. My dad is his best buddy, but he's the most connected to me. I'm sure with time you'll start to see a lot of changes in a good way.

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For my three second hand dogs -

 

It took 3 days for Missy to be *my* dog.

 

With Kipp, it took a year at least. I mean, he seemed fond of me, but we didn't really click for a long time. Lots of training time spent together built the bond.

 

Kenzi, well, she is just happy, happy loves everyone.

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Dear Doggers,

 

We pay lip service to "each one's different" but few act if that's true. I've had Border Collies who adored me, constantly underfoot. A couple would have been devastated if I'd rehomed them. To others, I was the means to an end (work) and was replaceable by any other shepherd. I've had dogs that thought I was a (necessary) pain in the ass and one who thought I was the mildest calamity that she'd met in a life of calamities. My best dogs have sometimes preferred another -not-particularly-dog-savvy human to me. June, who got me on the World Trial team, would have gone off with young Rachael in a heartbeart.

 

You can build a working bond by training, adventures and consistency. One of those deep personal bonds some call "unconditional love"?

Depends on the Border Collie.

 

Donald McCaig

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Not all BCs but

Charlie was nobody's dog.

Ross was mine from day 1.

Hazel is nobody's dog.

Eddie is more or less mine as is Cedar.

Kye is my daughter's despite living with me because she trains him.

Risk is mine most of the time but is happy to desert me in favour of training with my daughter.

 

If I had to choose favourites it would be those that belong(ed) to no one by they all have their good points.

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It sounds as though you are doing all the right things with your new dog. Teaching him things with positive reinforcement is a good way to bond, as is taking him with you whenever you can.

 

Sometimes it just takes time with a rescue. some dogs who come from rescue are not eager to bond. I think it may be because they bonded with someone before, perhaps more than once, and then lost that person, and their "quick bond mechanism" is damaged or broken. Others never had a quick-bond type of personality. Jester took a lot of time to bond with me. He loved his foster person and saw me, I think, as the one who took him away from a home he enjoyed. He also is not really the cuddly type to begin with, but eventually he became definitely my dog. Kit, on the other hand, bonded with me instantly, the first night she was in my home, when I did not even know I was going to keep her. She wormed her way into my heart within 24 hours and I could not give her up.

 

I had one foster dog who couldn't have cared less about me, no matter what I did. I had him for about 6 weeks and tried everything to get him to come out of his emotional shut down state. He was not the least bit fearful, nor was he depressed; he even had a goofy side to him. He just didn't care about me or other people. He was very playful with the dogs and would fetch for me and play with me but did not want to be handled much.

 

Then along came a potential adoptive couple. He was polite to them but treated them the same as everyone else. They decided to adopt him. Here's the interesting part. When they came back a week later to pick him up, and I told him he was going with them, he got the crazy zoomies all around the yard for five minutes without pause. It was amazing, because he'd never acted remotely like that before. He jumped into their car with a big grin on his face and when I said good bye he gave me a face lick. The adoptive couple reported later that he was happy-go-lucky and goofy and loving. Go figure.

 

 

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I just wanted to thank each of you for your posts and sharing some of your stories.

 

I fell in love with dogs after realizing just what individuals each of them are and reading this simply reminds me of that. Rushdoggie, loved the advice about getting good at reading dogs. I too foster, and agree that it's key. Borasaurus, Kieran sounds like a dog who has a very deep bond with you. Amazing! I hope to get there with Lucas too. Time and patience. I think I already knew that, but it's helpful to hear it reinforced by your stories.

 

We're doing simple trick training. I keep it light and short, just to build his confidence. And I'm hoping I can transfer his love of squirrels into a flirt pole - but that's a harder task so far.

 

EDIT: D'Elle, just read your post. The indifferent foster made me laugh! I fostered a dog like that too. We had him for two months and when his family came to get him, he didn't even look back. He was too excited to leave us! Your post also reminded me of the first dog I ever adopted, Cooper. I remember getting home from his adoption and he just melted in my arms. It was such a beautiful, instantaneous connection. He was a shepherd mix, faithful and completely loyal from day one.

Clearly, Lucas does not so far have that 'quick bond' temperament. I could certainly see where he might perceive that I 'took' him from a very cool acreage with lots of other dogs and abruptly changed what he knew for two months.

 

Lucas does seek out affection, which is encouraging. But he is not a 'velcro' dog, which I thought was something very common to the BC breed. Right now, as I type this, I'm in my office, and he is downstairs - probably looking out the window. In fact, even in the house, he'll come if I call him, but otherwise, he would much rather watch the squirrels!

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Then along came a potential adoptive couple. He was polite to them but treated them the same as everyone else. They decided to adopt him. Here's the interesting part. When they came back a week later to pick him up, and I told him he was going with them, he got the crazy zoomies all around the yard for five minutes without pause. It was amazing, because he'd never acted remotely like that before. He jumped into their car with a big grin on his face and when I said good bye he gave me a face lick. The adoptive couple reported later that he was happy-go-lucky and goofy and loving. Go figure.

 

This brought back memories of when I first picked up Kieran. When we got to the foster home, they let me take him to the store to get supplies, and then we went back to their house to return their collar and leash. At Petco, he was friendly, but aloof at the same time. When we got back to the foster home, he wouldn't go back in the house! I had to drag him in and even then he just waited by the door and stared outside. It's weird how he knew. One of the foster parents said, "You know something's up, don't you?" When we finally left, he said that that's the best they'd ever seen him walk on a leash.

 

 

Lucas does seek out affection, which is encouraging. But he is not a 'velcro' dog, which I thought was something very common to the BC breed. Right now, as I type this, I'm in my office, and he is downstairs - probably looking out the window. In fact, even in the house, he'll come if I call him, but otherwise, he would much rather watch the squirrels!

 

I was upset when I first adopted Kieran because he always wanted to go outside on my balcony. Then he'd just stand out there with his head through the slats staring at everything going on below. I know he was just adjusting, but it made me feel like I wasn't satisfying all his needs. I had originally planned to adopt a small dog, and while Kieran is still small, he had a lot more drive than the dog I was expecting to get. He's a velcro dog now, though :)

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This brought back memories of when I first picked up Kieran. When we got to the foster home, they let me take him to the store to get supplies, and then we went back to their house to return their collar and leash. At Petco, he was friendly, but aloof at the same time. When we got back to the foster home, he wouldn't go back in the house! I had to drag him in and even then he just waited by the door and stared outside. It's weird how he knew. One of the foster parents said, "You know something's up, don't you?" When we finally left, he said that that's the best they'd ever seen him walk on a leash.

 

 

 

I was upset when I first adopted Kieran because he always wanted to go outside on my balcony. Then he'd just stand out there with his head through the slats staring at everything going on below. I know he was just adjusting, but it made me feel like I wasn't satisfying all his needs. I had originally planned to adopt a small dog, and while Kieran is still small, he had a lot more drive than the dog I was expecting to get. He's a velcro dog now, though :)

 

Borasaurus, that's EXACTLY how I feel. Like I'm not meeting all of his needs. He is absolutely obsessed with looking out the window because we have some baby rabbits in the yard. He'll come over and interact with me if I call him, but the moment we're done, he is right back to the staring outside. I can't shake the feeling that I need to be doing something more for him. But trick time, walks, and some treat dispensing toys only take up so much of the day (plus I don't want to overwhelm him). It's hard though, because I really feel like I'm not doing something right, which is why he'd rather look out the window!

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