Monday, December 2, 2013

Ashling's Adventures, Day Two

In which I continue assessing Ashling's responses to different environments and make another picture dump post.

Last night I took Ashling out to Cianfrani Park, a "pocket park" in our neighborhood that is routinely used as a potty ground by so many dogs that the grass, despite the best efforts of the park's volunteer maintenance cadre, is pretty much perma-dead. Out of pity for said grass, I hardly ever go to this park... except when I have a new foster dog and really need to encourage it to potty outside. The park ground is so inundated with potty smells that it's basically lit up in neon to dog noses: "THIS IS A BATHROOM. GO POTTY HERE."

Ashling hadn't pottied since her arrival that morning, and while this is not unusual -- the majority of my fosters are shy about going to the bathroom for their first few days -- I wanted to give her a little more encouragement, so off to Cianfrani we went.

She did not potty outside. Instead I just tethered her to the park's big holiday light display and took a picture, both because I thought it looked neat and because I wanted to see what Ashling would do. Being tethered in an unfamiliar environment with other dogs wandering around (within 30'-40', so a generally safe distance, but still visible) and a big ol' light display right next to her is fairly stressful, and Ashling was clearly uncomfortable with it (as you can see in the picture), but she handled it well and did not freak out.

I take that as a reassuring sign. If she's going to live with kids, particularly small kids, then a certain amount of chaos just goes with the game, and so I like to expose my prospective family-dog fosters to some stress so that I can see how they do with it. A dog who freaks out mightily (like, oh, Pongu...) is not a good candidate for living with small children or a busy household. But Ashling handled it appropriately, which I interpret as promising.

This morning we went out to the same park and the same decoration in daylight. This time Ashling pottied. She still hasn't peed in my house yet. I've been crating her for a few hours between potty breaks and whenever I can't directly supervise, so she hasn't had many opportunities to mess up, but so far it seems like she should be pretty easy to housebreak if she isn't potty trained already.

We also took some pictures in front of one of the Magic Garden murals. I picked this one because I thought the fallen gingko leaves added an interesting splash of color. What I failed to notice, until I was back at home editing the pictures, is that there's a giant pink mosaic butt behind Pongu's head. Oops. Oh well.

Both of the dogs are looking at a big, noisy city maintenance vehicle on the street to the right of this picture. There were a lot of construction vehicles going around today, plus some street repair work, so LOTS of extremely loud, jarring noises and unpleasant smells -- but Ashling was less troubled by them than either Pongu or Crookytail, and she hasn't even been in the city for two days.

So, again, I take this as a good sign of her nerve strength and stability. She's still easily distracted and her manners need considerable work, but her underlying temperament is very promising for a family dog. The other stuff is relatively superficial and can be trained in; courage is born in the dog, and you either have it or you don't. Ashling does.

However, despite her relatively bombproof response to environmental noises, she is also what you'd call a "soft" dog. She quails at any sign of displeasure and responds eagerly to any sign that you're pleased with her (maybe a little TOO eagerly, since her current response is to pop up like a wire-haired Jack-in-the-Box and jump on your knees). I think Ashling's original owner may have hit her, because she ducks away from sudden gestures and cowers if your hand passes over her head. But I don't know for sure. What I do know is that anything beyond a simple "no" would be too harsh for this dog. She'll do her level best to do what you want, if she can only figure out what it is. All you have to do is ask (and if you happen to have a cookie, bonus!).

Bombling around the condo:

(She's reluctant to go in my office for the moment because Pongu yells at her and bites her in the face when she tries. So for now she's just hanging out in the hallway there.)

Also today, Pongu stole Ashling's bully stick (I gave her a new one to replace it) and while I was not thrilled with Pongu's reliably terrible hospitality, I was pleased that Ashling didn't respond except to wag her tail uncertainly and look at me for cues. No signs of resource guarding here -- another thing that would be important for a family dog living with children.

Later today we'll try a bath. I meant to do it yesterday but was too tired by the end of the day. Hopefully this evening I'll be able to get around to that. Poor girl needs one.

Finally, as an unrelated coda, Pongu's ribbons from Saturday's Rally trial up in Washington NJ:

Not one of our best performances overall -- these runs pointed up a number of trouble spots we need to work on -- but we picked up another QQ toward ARCHEX and a couple of decent scores (207/first place in Level 3 [lost 3 points on a three-step forward creep during the Stand-Stay/Down/Sit/Recall]; 207/second place in Level 2 [lost 3 points on a repeated cue]), and finished Pongu's RL3X level championship. And overall his heelwork was pretty good, and his Right turns have improved substantially (although the Left turns, particularly the Left 360, are wider and bumpier than I'd like), so... there were some good things mixed in with the "meh."

Next weekend is our insane three-day run at capping off Pongu's ARCHEX this year. Three days! Five trials! Fifteen runs! Harrisburg to NYC to Exton PA! Woooo it's gonna be crazy. But we only need two more QQs so I think we can do it. GO PONGU GO.

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