Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Anica Goes Home and Becomes Sassafras!

So this actually happened almost a month(!) ago, but I've been slacking on updating the blog so welp.

Anica got adopted! She ended up in a lovely home with lovely owners and I could not be happier about her good luck in finding such a wonderful place to go. It truly was a stroke of luck, too, as is so often the case with these little dogs: we were walking down the street and just happened to cross paths with a lady who just happened to be drawn toward scruffy terrier-mutts, and who just happened to be considering whether she might be ready to bring home another dog.

By the time all the paperwork was finalized and the adopters felt totally ready to bring her home, Anica had gotten tentative interest from a couple of other homes as well, but I always hoped that she'd end up where she did. She clearly liked this family best of all the ones she interacted with (and there were actually a couple of other families she didn't like, which surprised me -- I'd thought Anica was a dog who just loved everybody, but in fact there were a small handful of people she didn't get on with; in her defense, they were all people who were not good at handling dogs and tended to grab her in pushy and probably uncomfortable ways), so I was thrilled when they said that yes, they would like to bring her home.

There were a couple of small bumps in the beginning. One, because I hadn't been given a copy of Anica's medicals, I hadn't realized that she was lapsed on her heartworm preventative and flea/tick topical treatment, which I regret and will definitely be making an effort to ensure doesn't happen again in the future. But for Anica there was a lapse in protection, which mattered because she was exposed to fleas at the previous week's adoption event and it turned out that she had a flea bite allergy. So she went home with some itchy bumps and irritated skin that took a little detective work (and a vet visit) to resolve.

Two, there was a little bit of a transition period with getting her used to the resident dogs and vice versa, although it sounds like everybody managed to get over the grumps after a couple of weeks (which is usually how it goes, but is nevertheless always a relief to hear).

And so it seems like this little dog's story has come to a happy ending. Her name is Sassafras now, and she has a loving home and great owners.

She even got to go apple picking this fall!

Have a happy life, little dog. I'm happy I was able to help you get there. :)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Anica: Week Four

We're going to head out to an adoption event in a little more than an hour, so (fingers crossed!) this may be the last Anica update before she gets adopted (I HOPE I HOPE I HOPE), but here's what we have to report over the past week:

UTI is now completely resolved and antibiotics have been completed. Anica is now able to go 7 or 8 hours at a stretch without needing to potty (or, if I'm being totally honest, even 9 hours overnight, although I recognize that is less than optimal for a puppy of her age. But I've done it and she's been okay, which is a great kindness and feat of endurance on her part). It's been several days with no signs of recurrence or discomfort, so I think this problem is safely behind us.

Training is going pretty well. Due to various life/work developments over the past week, I have once again been a giant slacker failure in getting Anica as well trained as I'd like, but despite that she's coming along nicely. She walks well on leash (other than persistently trying to get at old pizza boxes and this one incredibly disgusting, partially mummified roadkilled rat which has been on the street for 3 days right next to her favorite potty spot) and has a pretty good auto-Sit when I stop, if she isn't distracted. If she is distracted then that goes out the window immediately, but she just needs more practice and rewards when she's focused; she's making excellent progress overall.

(Incidentally, brief soapbox: you know what I hate? Seeing people collar pop dogs for not Sitting when distracted, especially auto-Sits at stoplights. There's one dog walker in our neighborhood who used to do this ALL THE TIME and it drove me crazy because (a) hello, lousy training; (b) I knew that the dog's actual owner did not expect, request, or reinforce that behavior, so the dog was effectively being punished for failing to do a thing that it wasn't ordinarily asked to do; and (c) this particular dog walker was especially bad about doing that whenever she knew I was watching, I guess to show that she, too, was capable of training her dogs in public. Except not so much, and also: who does that? Collar popping somebody else's dogs to make a point to a stranger? Triple gross.)


I've also been playing various food/toy games with Anica, partly to burn off puppy energy, partly to build up motivators, partly just because it's a dumb idle thing to amuse myself. She's especially fond of the "chase" reward (as simple as it sounds: I throw a cookie along the floor so she can chase it down instead of just eating a static cookie from my hand) and the "find it" reward (also as simple as it sounds: the cookie is nominally hidden so she has to sniff it out instead of just seeing it in plain sight). Anica loves both chasing things and sniffing things, so she is very easily entertained by these games.

Here's a brief session of Sit practice. You can see that I haven't gotten that latency period down too much, due mostly to inadequate practice (but also she'd already been working for several minutes before I taped this clip, so she was getting a little tired and there was a dog barking outside the window that was a bit of a distraction). Also you can see that I'm rewarding with mini versions of "chase" -- not long throws because I didn't want this clip to be overlong, but still useful to reset her between repetitions.

I forgot to mark the last Sit with a "yes." WHOOPS.

And that is pretty much that. With luck, Anica will find a home this afternoon. But if not, that's fine. She's an easy houseguest and we're finally starting to get to the part where training is actually fun. Whee!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Anica: Week Three

Whoops, I've gone longer than I meant to without posting an Anica update.

Partly that's because we haven't had a whole lot to update about. At the beginning of this week, Anica came down with a UTI, so she's spent most of the past few days on restrictive crate confinement until the antibiotics kicked in and she had enough bladder control to come out again. We only really got to that threshold today, so the updates for the past few days would pretty much just have been "yep, the foster dog's still living in the box."

There's not a whole lot to say about the UTI. It was a very straightforward diagnosis: Anica had been doing very well with her potty training and hadn't had any accidents in about a week. Then all of a sudden she started urinating frequently and in small amounts, and no longer had enough control to even keep from soiling her crate (which is something she had always been 100% reliable on previously), and on top of that her urine had a strong unpleasant odor that wasn't there before, so that was pretty much a textbook UTI presentation.

I put her on antibiotics and added some apple cider vinegar to her drinking water, and within about three days it cleared up. She's still on antibiotics until she finishes the full 10-day course to make sure the bugs are totally out of her system, but she's doing fine and now has full potty control again.

BUT this means that for the past week we haven't really been able to work on anything else, so Anica hasn't had a chance to progress with her formal training. I'll resume work on that shortly and continue for as long as I've got her, but no new news on that front yet.

Despite the training delay, I think Anica's about ready to start looking in earnest for a permanent home. She's decompressed enough for me to feel like I have a good sense of who she is and what kind of home environment would likely suit her, so it's time to start hocking the foster dog for real.

I took her out to an adoption event this afternoon. It was a small event, and turnout was pretty low because of the holiday weekend, but Anica still met several families who seemed to like her, and she seemed to like them in turn. I'm hopeful that at least one of them will follow up, but even if none of those prospects pans out, I now know that Anica shows well at events and is comfortable enough to behave appropriately when meeting new people, so I can't imagine it'll take long for her to find a home. She's very good at charming new friends.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Anica - Going Into Week Two

Heading into week two and I'm starting to think my concerns about placing Anica in a home with cats may have been overblown. She does have terrier instincts (loves to chase balls, goes after the bunny fur tug, etc.), but she's also really gentle and easy to dissuade, so probably even a novice owner wouldn't have much trouble getting her to live safely with cats. I still wouldn't recommend her for an extremely skittish cat, but any normal feline should be fine.

Here are a couple of videos of her playing with Dog Mob on top of our parking garage. This is a fair representation of her play style, which shows a good degree of social skills and adaptability: she'll play chase as either the chaser or the chasee, she initiates play with both dogs and responds to their social cues, she's able to break off play in the second clip after Crooky rolls her roughly on the concrete around 0:19-0:21 instead of getting overaroused or responding with snaps/barks (which I read as a good sign, since it indicates to me that Anica is likely to respond to accidental rough treatment by trying to move away and get some breathing space -- a promising sign for placement with kids, provided the parents know how to read and respect her space-seeking behavior).

After a while they found a cicada. Pongu promptly dismissed it as pointless, Crookytail was initially fascinated but then sad because he thought he killed it with a paw swipe (he didn't, but he has a long and celebrated history of accidentally going Lenny on his little bug friends, so this was not an unreasonable assumption on his part), and Anica did... well, Anica did this:

Eventually she moved into Terrier-and-Rattlesnake Mode and started darting in to bite at the cicada, and after about another two-three minutes she finally killed the poor buzzy bug. (RIP parking garage cicada; you spent years as a blind buried larva dreaming of the sky, only to wind up as a dog toy for those clowns. Truly, life is filled with tragedy.)

Anyway what's interesting about Anica's behavior with the cicada was that she's obviously interested in it, but (I didn't tape this part, it was what happened after the video clip) she was perfectly capable of focusing on me and doing Sits even with the bug buzzing around behind her, and after she already knew that it was a Fascinating Plaything. If I had wanted her to leave the cicada alone, it would have taken no more than a couple of mild verbal "nopes" and redirection to another activity (playing with Crooky, working with me, even just walking away). Since I am a cruel and heartless person and didn't care if she ate the cicada, I let her have it, but it was heartening to see how easily she could be convinced to leave it alone.

So, again, based on that I'm thinking that she should be fine living in most households with most cats.

Other than that her training is going fine. Anica is shameless about mugging random people on the street for attention (she really wants to find a home), and I let her do that to a certain extent because who knows, maybe one of those people will happen to be looking for a dog (it's happened before!), but mostly I try to discourage that behavior because it's impolite and sometimes people encourage Anica to jump on them, which I very much don't want her to develop as a habit.

No potty accidents since last week. She's holding it through most of a workday at this point and is reliably pottying outside. Anica had a little bit of diarrhea yesterday (probably my fault for letting her join in the deck-grilling hamburger festival with Dog Mob) and was consistent about telling us via persistent squeaking when she needed to go outside, so that's a good development.

I'll post a training session with the next update. We're still reinforcing Sits on verbal cues (behavior is consistent but response time is slow, so I want to build up her confidence and reduce that delay before moving on to a new behavior) and working on introducing gradual distractions. I haven't done as much clicker shaping work as I'd hoped to, since potty training took priority last week and I've been too busy to do a whole lot beyond that, but it's next up on the list once we get those Sits a little more solid.

Friday, August 21, 2015

First Week With Anica

It's been almost a week since Anica came to stay with us, and she's beginning to relax into showing us a little more of her personality. We've started foundational clicker training, she's making good progress on a default Sit, and potty training is going quite nicely. Anica had one accident a day for each of her first three days here -- although she did make it a little closer to the door each time (to be fair, she never actually peed inside my house; all three accidents were in the condo foyer or stairwell on her way outside) -- and since the third day she's had no accidents at all.

This is a really, really nice little dog who will make a wonderful pet for some lucky owner.

At this point I feel safe saying that Anica has no major behavioral issues. She did cry a little in her crate on days 3-5 when I left to go to work or took the rest of Dog Mob out for a walk and left Anica alone in her crate, but it wasn't particularly intense (lasted maybe a couple of minutes, didn't escalate beyond whines and whimpers) and it's vanished now that she's gotten more comfortable in the house routine and confident that I'll be back eventually, so I would not categorize her as having separation anxiety or isolation distress. She's just a normal dog who worries a little when she's left alone in a semi-strange place without her semi-familiar person around. Once she gets settled in, I wouldn't expect her eventual adopter to have any real trouble with this.

She doesn't resource guard anything (food, toys, attention) from either people or other dogs. She does like to pick up random bits of garbage while out on walks, but she always drops them when given a gentle "no," and she's happy to trade her garbage treasures for cookies. My expectation is that if her adopter is consistent about not letting Anica keep her garbage treasures, this behavior will diminish and eventually disappear within a few weeks. I might have time to do that while she's here for fostering, and I might not; it mostly just depends how long it takes her to find a real home.

Anica's easily motivated by food, toys, praise, and personal play -- she likes playing the clicker game and she's willing to take rewards across the board, which makes for fun and effortless training sessions. She picked up Sit almost instantly and has it on a verbal cue already.

I'm doing a little clicker shaping instead of moving straight to Down and Stay, because that's more fun for me, but also because I'm hoping that Anica's adopters will continue to do tricks or recreational sport training with her, and in that case they'll probably be better served with a dog who's had some experience with shaping, rather than just lure-reward learning. So we'll see how that goes. Right now Anica doesn't quite seem to have grasped the concept, but she's got a good attention span and is willing to try as long as I'll let her.

Outside, Anica is playful and energetic. Inside, she's perfectly happy to sack out with a favorite toy on the dog bed. She has a great on/off switch, which is always nice to see and makes it much more likely that she'll do well in a pet home.

She continues to display excellent social skills with Dog Mob. I'd be comfortable placing her in a home with just about any kind of reasonably social resident dog. Anica is very easygoing when it comes to other dogs.

I'm a little less confident about cats or small pets, because Anica is a terrier and she does have a strong hardwired chase instinct. She'll go after squirrels and cats that she encounters on walks. However, she's also pretty easy to redirect and quick to shift her attention back to her person, so I think she could learn to live with a resident indoor cat as long as her owner was comfortable with doing a carefully supervised introductory period and the cat wasn't too skittish (a stable/confident cat should do just fine, but I don't think it would be fair to subject an extremely skittish cat to that stress). What I've seen so far is enough to keep me from making a blithe blanket statement that "oh she'll be fine with all cats ever," but I honestly don't see any reason that Anica couldn't live harmoniously with most cats, given a reasonably savvy owner and appropriate support during the adjustment phase.

All in all, so far Anica seems like a near-perfect dog. She sheds very little (I wouldn't say she's no-shed, but she doesn't drop much hair at all), she's not a barker, she's extremely affectionate and loves to cuddle, and she's happy and playful and likes lots of games. She's just an easy, fun little girl.

I'll post some videos of our training and play sessions next time.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Introducing Anica!

Yesterday we picked up Temporary Dog #28: a six-month-old female Border Terrier mix named Anica. Currently she's about 20 pounds, which means her adult weight is likely to come in at somewhere in the 25-27 pound range once she fills out and develops a little more muscle. At the moment she's a bit underweight, probably from shelter stress.

Anica landed in a North Carolina shelter when her previous owner, who had acquired her as a puppy, decided that he didn't have the time or energy for a dog. He dropped her off at the shelter, where she was pulled by our rescue partners and slated for transport up to PA. After a couple of weeks with our rescue partners, she made her way up here.

She's only been here for a little over 24 hours, so it's premature for me to try making any detailed evaluations at this point. So far, however, Anica seems to be a great little dog: affectionate, snuggly, gentle, and very very sweet. She's been sociable and polite with Dog Mob -- even though, as usual, Pongu's not making that easy for her. (Last night Pongu decided to rush up to Anica's crate and yell at her every single time he heard a noise he didn't like, whether or not it came from her. Pongu yelled at her for scratching, whining, and shifting position in her sleep, but he also yelled at her because there was a truck with squeaky brakes outside, or because Peter opened the bedroom door to use the bathroom, or because Pongu was having a bad dream and clearly that was all Anica's fault.)

The first order of business, as usual, has been potty training, crate training, and leash walking. I can't tell whether Anica has had any formal training on any of these points or if she's just a naturally easygoing dog; either way, she seems to be catching on pretty quickly. We did have a potty accident last night, but so far it's only been the one, and she's pottied outside pretty consistently since then. She's been mostly quiet in the crate apart from occasional sighs and complaints when she gets bored.

Anica has been fairly easy on leash -- I've just been walking her on a flat collar, no need for a front-clip harness so far -- and seems to be rapidly getting used to walks in the city, although she has shown a tendency to snap up dropped food on the sidewalks and I suspect she's going to be pretty interested in squirrels once she's a little more comfortable. But no big problems on that front, at least not in the first day.

My very broad preliminary assessment is that she's a sweet and easy dog with no major issues. Anica would be a good choice for a novice owner or for a family looking for a child-friendly pet. I think she could do well as either a second dog or an only pet; she's dog-social and enjoys playing with other dogs, but she doesn't seem to be overly needy. I haven't seen any signs of separation anxiety or resource guarding at this time (although SA sometimes needs a little longer to manifest; this early, she's not bonded to me and therefore doesn't get too worried when I'm not around).

So that's the first look at Anica. We'll start foundational training either tonight or tomorrow, and hopefully we'll be able to find a nice home for this little dog before too long.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Summer Vacation 2015

We're (probably) getting a new foster dog in a couple of days, so time to dust off the old dog blog! I haven't updated in a while because Pongu's no longer actively trialing (we took the year off Rally and our agility plans crashed and burned when I got sidetracked doing book stuff earlier this spring; we haven't really recovered from that setback, training-wise).

But everyone's still here and doing well otherwise. Here are some pictures from Dog Mob's summer vacation. We got back from Nantucket a couple of weeks ago. As ever, they had a great time and we can't wait to go back.