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Mouche Makes Progress

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Mouche, to my delight is coming along so well.  Most of the time, she behaves as a normal, happy, engaged young dog.  She is just the right balance of affectionate without being needy or constantly at my heels.   She gets super psyched for our long walks, yet she has an off switch. She is content in her crate and handles alone time in the yard or behind the baby gate but leaps and dances and wags in greeting me.  She’ll sometimes squawk half-heartedly in brief protest, but settles soon after.  She occasionally enjoys toys at her whim, and roots around in the dog toy box, or wrestles with the soccer ball in the yard, but is not obsessively driven. Her confidence has improved to the point where situations that had proved alarming for her in the recent past (e.g. the ball made a loud noise when it bounced against the closet door as she was chasing it) she’ll now turn to check in with me. When she sees my reaction --meh-no big deal, she concurs and proceeds in due course.

 With regard to training, Mouche came to me a blank slate so we’re starting from scratch. Unlike nearly all dogs I’ve worked with previously, she didn’t naturally lure with a treat and my body position into a sit.  I dug out my clicker and with a brief session of shaping reinforcement she learned “sit” in no time. “Lie down” came as an easily grasped extension of that. She is reasonably reliable with these commands even out on our walks as long as there is a minimum of serious, up-close distraction which for the present I avoid whenever possible.

A few days after I brought her home in Feb, she developed persistent diarreah.  The shelter provided me with a baggie of her kibble so I was gradually changing over her food.  I added canned pumpkin and a bit of pepto and she improved some but not entirely. She presented no worrisome symptoms-activity, brightness, appetite, hydration, gums etc all appeared normal.  She went on the boiled chicken and rice diet with some pumpkin added. Then a few days later she threw up a couple of nights in a row.  I dreaded having to wrangle her into the car-- no uh-huh I’m not getting back in there! – was her reaction when I first casually tried to drive her to a trailhead for a hike. A vet appt where she would likely be super-stressed and require a heavy hand for an exam was likely to set her back. She was still in a fragile state of mind. So I began muzzle training her in anticipation of the inevitable, just to be safe.  I smeared a small amount of peanut butter inside the basket muzzle and she eagerly put her nose in.  How’s this for irony…when I removed it she snapped at me.  The next time, I had something at hand to “trade up” when removing it and problem solved, and hasn’t re-surfaced. She hasn’t demonstrated any similar guarding behavior, but I always try to anticipate problems before they develop so she and Bing are fed in separate areas and I take up their bowls after. They do steal toys and nylabones from each other with no adverse consequences so far. There are plenty to go around. For a situation involving high value item, they are separated.  Then I had the forehead slap moment. I realized her symptoms were consistent with giardia.  A week of meds and she was good as new.

Our latest project is working on getting comfortable with car travel. We had our first session a couple of days ago. I knew based on the first attempt I’d need to lift her into the cargo area of my car, so the muzzle went on for this task and was removed for the remainder of the ride.  I drove a very short distance to a local nature trail that meanders through gravel, tree-lined paths and climbs among giant boulders.  She has yet to be around many people, other than those few individuals we pass and briefly greet on our walks, which she takes in stride now.   Unfortunately, immediately upon arrival at the nature trail (she exited freely from the car) there were several groups of voluble school children exiting the gate, which was overwhelming to her and sent her into panic mode.  We moved a safer distance until they all passed, but her stress level, now well over threshold prevented her from taking in the new sights and smells.  We stuck with it until she started expressing interest in her surroundings, sniffing and moving furtively along the trails at first, my arm stretched from its shoulder socket. We stayed long enough for her to gather herself to the point where her surroundings now piqued her interest rather than her terror. I employed some wisdom that always stuck with me from a horse trainer I formerly worked with. He related that whenever he mounts a colt for the first time, he only stays on his back for a few moments before dismounting “so the colt doesn’t come to think he’s going to take up residence up there on his back”.  So whenever I approach something new and potentially scary with an insecure animal, I take just the time it takes to achieve an improved attitude, a little progress— and then quit on that high note.

Another area that requires attention is her delight in pouncing on Bing to induce him to play, especially when we’re out in the yard.  I have not taught her the dog door yet, so Bing escapes inside when he’s had enough of her antics.  Inside the house I strive to use as little correction as possible, but as much as is necessary to discourage and re-direct her, always followed by praise when she makes the right decision.  Other than a now and again foster dog, I haven’t done any hands on work with a new dog for nearly a decade.  Many things are coming back to me. But one that is most priceless is that rewarding feeling that comes with seeing a shut-down dog emerge tentatively at first, and then enthusiastically from their shell. Mouche is a joy!

First pic-Mouche initial muzzle training


mouche porch1.png

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Congratulations to you and Mouche. So much wonderful progress in such a short time. I really can not think of any improvements. Keep up the great work.

(As I was reading about her diarrhea, I kept saying to myself - giardia, giardia. I am glad you thought of it.)

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