Saturday, November 8, 2014

End of Week One with Silver

We're coming to the end of our first week with Silver.

Training is going well. She's pretty good on a loose leash (she's started pulling toward other dogs, but this is normal and is typically just a phase that lasts until she realizes that it never works and only good behavior ever gets anything), potty training is progressing nicely (we're now down to approx. 10 minutes of walking around outside before she potties, and there have been zero accidents since that first rainy day), and she's beginning to do a default Sit at the door to go outside instead of trying to jump up and scratch at it to get me to open the door. Her "Sit" is starting to transition to a pure verbal cue without any hand gestures.

She still cries in the crate a little when she's bored, but this has been steadily diminishing for the past several days and I'm pretty sure it will vanish altogether by the end of next week. Crate crying is a behavior that has a high chance of regressing when she moves to a new environment, though, so her adopters should probably be prepared to start all over again on that one. As far as I can tell, it's just run-of-the-mill "I'm bored/lonely/have to potty and I want to get out" crying, not indicative of separation anxiety. Silver has shown no separation anxiety while I've had her, and by this point I would have expected it to start showing up at least a little bit if she had that issue.

One important caveat there is that I can't tell if she has isolation distress. I don't think she does (I haven't seen any signs of it), but I can't make a 100% guarantee about that one.

(Footnote explanation: These terms are often used interchangeably, especially in quick-and-dirty "training 101" materials on the Internet, but they actually refer to two slightly different things. Separation anxiety refers to a dog who becomes distressed upon being separated from a specific person or creature. The presence of a different person or creature does not console the dog. Pongu might be considered to have separation anxiety, because he only cares if I'm around; he does not care if anybody else is around. The presence of any other person or animal, even if it's Peter the Spousal Unit or Crookytail, does nothing to make him feel better. If I'm not there, he gets panicky. That's classic separation anxiety.

Isolation distress refers to an animal who becomes distress upon being isolated from all other people or creatures. The animal is not attached to one (or two) specific person(s) or animal(s), and can therefore be consoled by having another familiar creature around. Crookytail used to be like this when we first got him: if he was left alone, he would panic. If he had another person or dog around -- even if the other dog was Pongu, who was just a complete jerk to him back then [not that this has changed] -- then he was okay. Because Crooky is not actually a crazy dog, he got over this on his own within a couple of months as he became more comfortable in our home and more accustomed to our routines, but we did have a few months there where he really didn't like to be left totally alone and would very carefully wreck one thing every time he was isolated for more than a few minutes.)

The reason I can't be 100% sure about Silver and isolation distress is because, at least so far, she's never been totally alone while I've had her. Either Peter or one of the other dogs has always been around. I honestly do not think this is an issue for her, but I'll note it in the interest of full disclosure: that's a potential blind spot in my evaluation.

Everything I can evaluate, however, leads me to believe that she's an awesome little pet dog. She really hits that balance of playful and mellow that everybody asks for, she's picking up good manners at a quick clip, and she's appropriately sociable with everyone and everything I've introduced her to so far (by which I mean: she doesn't mug people for attention but she doesn't cringe or snap either. Friendly neutrality and occasional curiosity seems to be her default attitude, which is exactly what I think makes for the easiest dogs).

As to whether she'd be suited for dog sports... eh, I think it's still too early to tell on that front.

I did introduce her to Lotus Balls a few days ago. This is her first attempt:

...and then we started doing some suuuuper basic introductions to a bar jump. This is her third session overall, second one where the bar wasn't just flat on the ground (it's raised about 3 inches in this clip).

Silver has a good, quick recovery from being startled by the noise when she crashes into the bar and knocks it off the cups, and she's easy to motivate with food, either indoors or outdoors. She has pretty decent interest in toys (both chase and tug toys) but I haven't really attempted to use toys as motivators or built up her play skills in any serious fashion. I don't imagine it would be difficult, I just haven't put the time in to do that.

Her attention span is increasing noticeably even over the course of this first week and our training sessions are beginning to get a little more structured, which is nice.

So that's pretty much where we are at the end of this first week. Silver has meetings with two sets of prospective adopters this weekend. Both seem like very nice homes and I'm hopeful that she'll hit it off with one or both.

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