Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Scarlett - First Four Days

We're about midway through our first week with foster dog Scarlett, and things are going pretty much as one might expect. Currently she's spending a lot of time in the crate, which I don't love (particularly as my crate is a bit too small for her), but until we get potty training handled, there's no good way around it.

The good news is that we're making solid progress on the potty training front. Either Scarlett was pretty much housebroken at her previous home, and she just had a temporary regression here, or she's a quick learner. In either case, we're quickly reaching an understanding that outside is for pottying and inside is not.

Less-good news is that Scarlett is prone to submissive urination. She pees a little whenever the other dogs are mean to her, and since Pongu is a giant bully dickhead to foster dogs, that means Scarlett invariably widdles on my floor within five minutes of coming inside, even if she pottied successfully on the walk, because it never takes more than five minutes for Pongu to start being a jerk to her.

So it would be a lie if I said that she hadn't had any accidents, but the only reason she has accidents is because Pongu makes a point of being mean to Scarlett until she pees herself (at which point she goes back in the box and Pongu gloats mightily at her woe), and I don't know if that counts. If you took out the "resident dog is a giant wiener" factor, Scarlett would have a pretty good track record.

She has a pretty good Sit-Stay even in outdoor environments with another dog nearby. It's very much a beginner Sit-Stay, but it's there, and I can't take any credit for that one because she already knew how to do it when she got here. Improving on that is just going to be a matter of practice and proofing -- Scarlett clearly has the basic concept down, she just needs work on distance, distractions, and duration.

She's also very good at walking on leash now. Not totally perfect, but easy enough that I can take all three dogs out for a walk, hold their leashes on one hand (one finger per leash!) if necessary, and it's sufficiently non-annoying that I can walk them around for an hour-plus and still be mostly sane at the end of it.

I think she's beginning to put on weight, but it's too early for me to feel sure about that yet.

When she got here, Scarlett was (and still is) visibly underweight. Her bones stuck out all over, she had bad flaky dandruff and patches of hair loss, she scratched herself constantly, and she had kennel cough. All in all I was pretty worried when I saw her, because she looked like a straight shelter pull, not a dog who'd been living in a home for two months. Her former owner had told me that Scarlett was eating 5 cups of kibble plus fish oil supplements every day, and it was hard for me to square that with the obviously undernourished dog I received.

That's more than twice what I feed my dogs (Pongu and Crooky came at 63 and 72 pounds at their last weigh-ins, and they get about 2 cups of kibble apiece per day), so I thought that if this puppy was eating that much and still looked so skinny, then she must have some metabolic disorder and possible food allergies. That could be a real problem -- allergies, in particular, can be an extremely expensive and troublesome proposition that could put off a lot of adopters. Dobermans are known to be prone to such problems, and Scarlett epitomizes poor breeding, so it wouldn't be a surprise at all if she turned out to have those issues. If she did, then I'd be faced with trying to place a special-needs dog, which could be a real headache.

The jury is still out as to whether Scarlett does in fact have allergies or disorders. But I've been giving her slightly over 2 cups of kibble per day, plus raw food supplements and treats, and in the few days that I've had her, it appears that her dandruff is getting better, she doesn't smell as strongly as she did on arrival, her energy level has gone up, and her weight seems (I think) to be increasing. Her kennel cough is also improving; she barely coughs at all anymore, except when we've been out on a long walk (we do a lot of long walks to improve her stamina and leash manners).

So it's possible -- fingers crossed! -- that either Scarlett's previous diet didn't agree with her, or her adopter's report wasn't entirely accurate, and we're not dealing with major food intolerance issues. But at this point that's just a possibility, I haven't seen enough to feel sure about anything yet.

(^ not the best picture I got from that attempt, but the one that makes me laugh the most. Pongu's forlorn eye roll that Scarlett can't hold a Sit on the stairs is hilarious to me.)

Aaaalso, this dog sings prison blues in her crate constantly. She isn't crying or whining to get out. She's just... grumbling, talking to herself, occasionally sighing in discontent, and otherwise offering a running commentary on the whole world from the box. It isn't especially loud (hardly any barking, at least so far) and it's generally pretty funny, but it is striking how completely quiet Scarlett is outside the crate, and how vocal she is when she's inside. So far, the talky/grumbly/jailhouse blues singing thing hasn't diminished at all, so I guess her prospective adopters should probably be prepared for a certain amount of crate commentary in their lives.


  1. Scarlett is a real beauty!
    From the pictures, she doesn't strike me as underweight. We have a 5 - 6 month old GSD mix and he's also pretty lanky.
    Did you rule out worms? Sometimes dogs cough because of internal parasites. They would also have dull coat.
    Glad that Scarlett is doing well in your home. Good luck with the adoption!

    1. Worms might be a possibility.

      Scarlett was dewormed before she came up to PA, and when she was adopted the first time, her adopter told me that she'd been diagnosed with and treated for giardia, so based on that, I figured parasites were pretty low on the possibility list.

      However, I still haven't seen her medicals (her adopter mislaid the ones that the adoption organization originally provided to her, and I haven't gotten copies of her vaccination records from the rescue yet), so I can't actually verify that for sure.

      I might take her to my vet and get a fecal screen just in case.

    2. Our puppy was deformed 5 times. The vet took two fecal samples to make sure there are no more parasites. I don't know, it's just a guess with Scarlett, I'm no expert. Our dog didn't show any signs of worms, without the fecal samples you could never tell.
      Good luck with resolving the mystery. It could be just stress, as you said.

  2. I have a 6 year old female fawn Dobie rescue and STILL having skin issues over the years I've had her but I suspected that would happen due to her colour. I found that adding a small splash of apple cider vinegar into her food did help with the 'doggie smell' quite a bit. She's over 80lbs (came from a BYB who is still pumping out 'rare' fawns for the $$$) and eats about 2 1/2 cups of grain-free high-end kibble plus raw tidbits. I'd go all raw if my husband wouldn't have a fit about it.

    I look forward to watching this girl blossom under your care!