We got a new rescue dog – Welcome to the family, Ivy!
I’ve been there. I’ve walked a mile in your shoes! With furry friend (who sometimes felt like a foe) alongside. I too have been THAT owner with THAT problem dog. The devil puppy finally did turn into an angelic dog. I did my best raising kids and dogs and all survived! I’ve had dogs from the different breed groups – hounds, terriers, herding, sporting, working dogs and even a toy breed. I’ve had puppies from breeders and rescue dogs from shelters. With my own dogs I’ve worked through different types of aggression, biting, barking, reactivity, fear, anxiety, chasing, guarding and more. And now…
… here I go again! A new rescue dog and a new journey. We welcomed Ivy into our home and lives last week. She is a border collie X terrier who barely knew sit but seemed to have a sweet personality. As well as a keen eye and ear for anything on wheels that moved fast! Or cats. And the LOUD bark!!! But where to start?
- No bike chasing
- Good cat relations
- Be relaxed when left alone
- Prevent dog/dog leash reactivity
- Tone down the barking
- Come when called
Most important was to make sure that she didn’t get a chance to practice or get inadvertently reinforced for any undesirable behaviour. Not even one chance to chase, unless it was after a ball that I threw. Not even one chance to feel the thrill of excitement, unless it was something appropriate I allowed. Every moment had to be management or training for the next little while until we built our partnership.
In the house the doors were bolted, and curtains drawn. No free access to deck or windows. When I had time to focus on her, we had a training session or play session. If we went out onto the deck or outside on a leash there were plenty of high value treats and toys at the ready. The moment she even noticed anything that might illicit a bark or chase, I danced around with something better. Ivy has a keen eye for things in the distance and we live next to a trail, so this will be part of our routine for months and maybe even years to come.
Fast moving things with wheels can turn Ivy from a sweet dog to a crazed creature in the blink of an eye! I witnessed it first hand at the facility when I met her. She spotted a wheel chair outside and rushed the window at rocket speed with engines barking! I did also see that she was easily redirected, so I took the chance and adopted her. I’m guessing that she had many successful chases before being surrendered to the shelter in Idaho. No more. I will only take her to areas where I can see in the distance far enough to handle her. I will show her that there are better alternatives than bike chasing. In fact, bike chasing option will simply no longer be an option. No relaxed walks for me for a while but I know that I can engage her with other exciting, stimulating activities. Work in progress. She is good on leash and I’m good on a bike. The last couple of days I’ve started her walking alongside my own bicycle. I may actually see a mountain biking buddy in my future!
The rescue organization listed her as not good with cats and they were at first hesitant to adopt to me. Luckily our feline duo Ferris and Cameron have been raised around dogs. (We fostered their mom and the litter for the SPCA) They are good judges of a dog and when to hang around. The most important factor in dog and cat relations is that the cat has to feel safe. Having fast moving, hard eying, barking, black and white dog running up to them would likely cause them to run. The cats got special treats and canned food up high. Ivy was on leash and only got to see the cats when they were already calm. Ivy got lots of really good treats when cats moved or came close. There were a few excited moments, piercing barks and a couple of excited snaps but the cats soon learned that they actually ruled the roost. No more leash needed in the house now. I still have a close eye at those times of day when creatures are feeling especially spunky but it actually seems to be turning into play sometimes!
Having a dog that is content when left alone and able to be left in a crate is important to me. All three of my dogs have crates, upstairs and downstairs in my home. Yes, six crates in total. Whenever Ivy was tired she was lured with a treat into the crate. I worked around the house and stayed close enough that she wasn’t stressed. When it was time for a stuffed Kong, chewy treat or a meal she ate it in her crate. Throughout the day surprise treats magically appeared in the crate too! Imagine that!
Leash reactivity could easily have become a problem! Ivy can be very excitable. She loves to greet other dogs and doesn’t always see value in responding to me yet. Holding her back on a leash would cause frustration. Excited greetings between two unfamiliar dogs on leash rarely leads to good interactions. I made sure to find enough dog encounters where she could greet on a loose leash or off leash in a safe area. If there were dogs that we couldn’t meet, I kept enough distance so that she could engage with me and not feel like she missed out. Two weeks in now and we seem to be on the right track. Now to stay on it…
Learning is always taking place. For both dogs and owners! My daily routine has changed in many ways. If I want to change Ivy’s behaviour I have to change mine. I have to plan what she experiences and not leave it up to chance.
Prevention was the focus of the first few weeks. Next I will start focusing on specific skills so that we can enjoy our adventures in life together to the fullest potential!
Side by side and Paw in Hand.
And Ivy ?