Monday, January 6, 2014

Shakespeare - Day Three

Day Three and a few things are starting to come into focus about Shakespeare.

He is still very unsure about the city. Outside the condo, Shakespeare instantly goes into full-on pancake mode: tummy flattened against the ground, legs sprawled, total refusal to move. It's all just too much for him right now, and his response is to go completely catatonic. I have to drag him by his harness to get him to move, which is no fun for anybody -- he hates it, I hate it, and the sidewalks are a complete disaster of salt mud and melting poopsicles that make a filthy mess of his fur in zero seconds flat.

So we're not really doing leash walks right now. I take him outside and we sit on a bench and watch the city for a few minutes, and when he starts getting overloaded, we go back inside. That's it for now. Pottying on the streets is clearly an ordeal he's not ready to face, and because of that, I'll be looking for adopters who have their own yards where Shakespeare can do his business in peace -- or are willing to deal with a few weeks of frustration while they try to get him to go outside in sub-freezing temps. (But, honestly, I think both he and his future family would be infinitely happier if Shakespeare had a yard to potty in. I have not met many dogs who were as pronounced in this preference as he seems to be. And while I have full confidence that he'll get over it in time -- maybe only a little time -- it is still, trust me, a major aggravation to deal with even on a temporary basis.)

This is a sharp contrast to his behavior inside the condo, where he's relaxed into a playful, mischievious, snuggly little imp already. Shakespeare is happy to play with squeaky toys, happy to fling around flappy toys, happy to chew on bully sticks, just happy all around. He loves the big LL Bean dog bed and he likes playing with the other dogs and he loooooves snuggling with a person. He's an easy keeper in his crate, shows no signs of resource guarding against people or dogs, exhibits no separation anxiety, and is generally a delight to have around.

Shakespeare would do best with a person who is willing to provide gentle and encouraging guidance, I think, because as charming and clowny as this little guy is (and he is!), he also shows some minor tendencies to vent frustration via barking, jumping around crazily, and other not-generally-desirable behaviors. I wouldn't be surprised if he occasionally made attempts to steal and chew up leather objects, either; he mostly keeps to the approved dog toys, but he's tried for Pongu's show leads a couple of times. None of this is remotely serious or beyond the ability of a novice owner to handle, and he's always been very quick to settle down or redirect his energy when asked, but in the wrong home, those bad habits might inadvertently be encouraged. He will need some structure.

At the same time, Shakespeare is very soft -- a hard look or sharp word is crushing to him -- and I doubt he'd ever need more than a simple verbal "no" by way of correction. He would not do well with an owner who used heavy-handed training methods; at least right now, what he needs is someone who's going to help him regain his confidence and figure out how to navigate this strange new world in which he's landed. (I suspect this is a temporary phase, though. I really don't see any indication that Shakespeare is a fearful or particularly anxious dog, as opposed to one who just needs a little temporary hand-holding to get back on his feet.)

So pretty much he needs a supportive but flexible home with a positive-but-not-permissive owner who can teach him appropriate alternative behaviors, build up his confidence, and help him understand that politeness always gets the things he wants, but impatience never works. In other words, the same kind of home I look for all the foster dogs.

I think he'd benefit from having another stable dog in the household, too. I'm not so sure about kids -- Shakespeare would probably be fine with them, but so far he hasn't demonstrated the intense "pssh, the heck with you, there's a kid over there!" love for children that my best family-dog fosters have shown. Then again, it's only his third day here, and he's hardly seen any children since arriving, so that's really still an unknown.

Still no work on formal training yet. I'll give it another try tomorrow. Shakespeare isn't paying much attention to the treats at the moment; every time I set him up for a clicker loading session, he spends most of it trying to crawl into my lap.

Luckily for him, it's exactly that cuddly nature that most of my prospective adopters seem to be seeking.

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