Monday, September 3, 2012

April Starts Boot Camp

We're nearing the end of April's first week here, and so far she's doing pretty well.

I started formal training "boot camp" yesterday (as opposed to informal-but-still-important stuff like "plz don't freak out on leash every time a car goes by" and "plz don't jump on me and bite my hands when you want a treat") and she has, as predicted, proven to be a quick study. In two days she's begun responding to her name and has mostly gotten Sit on a verbal cue (she gives the correct response about 75% right now, so the basic idea is there, we just need to work on reliability and speed).

It is, admittedly, kind of a bummer that this dog was in foster care for six or seven months before getting transferred here and apparently didn't learn anything in all that time, but there's no use bemoaning that now. You work with the dog you have.

And the dog that I have -- now that Crookytail's broken through the shell of her depression and coaxed her real personality out -- is a sweet, smiley, affectionate little dog who is just delighted when she figures out a correct response in the training game. She doesn't bark much, she takes correction easily (maybe too easily; more on that later), and she's thrilled with the concept of dog beds, if also somewhat confused about the distinction between "dog bed" and "chew toy." For a border collie mix, she's got very moderate exercise needs: an hour's brisk walk and another hour of wrassling with Dog Mob, and she's pretty much good for the day.

The one and only real issue we've run across so far is that April is not housetrained and is not proving particularly easy to housetrain.

In large part, this is because she only potties once a day. I don't know why. I suspect it's tied to anxiety in a new environment, but she doesn't seem anxious on walks anymore -- she trots along beside me with her tail loose and wagging and a big smile on her face -- so I don't know if that's really the reason. Whatever it is, she only goes once a day. All the other times, I take her out to the potty spot and wait... and wait... and wait some more... and she does nothing, unless it's that one magic moment when she does do something.

This does not, obviously, give me many opportunities to reinforce her for making Good Life Decisions. I get one shot per day, and that is pretty much it.

It's not helping my sanity that it's not easy to predict when that magic moment will come. Yesterday I took her out for a 40-minute walk (punctuated with many long, pointed stops at the potty spot), brought her back inside, and started a short, closely supervised training session in the kitchen. After two repetitions of Sit, April suddenly squatted and let loose with a big ol' flood right in the middle of the kitchen floor. aaaargh.

It's also not helping my sanity that April has a tendency toward submissive urination (although not, thankfully, half as bad as Tulip's was). If she's scolded in too stern a tone of voice, on go the sprinklers. If I'm too brusque with clipping her leash on or hustling her down the stairs to potty, the waterworks come on again. It's not always easy to strike a balance between getting her outside expeditiously and having anything to get outside. This is definitely one of those situations where my life would be a billion times easier if I had a yard.

But apart from that one issue (which, I keep telling myself, will surely go away once April feels more comfortable in her temporary home...), she's been a very easy houseguest. And as I get to know her better, I'm more and more confident that she'll make a great pet.

Here she is being hypnotized by the squirrels at Washington Square Park: