Have I gone crazy!?

I live downtown in an itty-bitty apartment with not just one, but THREE children all under the age of 5 and my hubby. We have a cat. I work as a receptionist at a vet clinic seeing lots of puppies and kittens every day. You'd think I have my fix, right? WRONG! We end up opening our heart and our home to 2 rescues... and that's it! I must be dog-gone mad!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Training Pepper

Nervous little yappy dogs are so much more difficult to train.

I have to say at least I don't need worry about her chewing... She has no desire to tear up my shoes or the kids toys.

But everything makes her so nervous!

Step one, I'm working on the housebreaking. She is the typical little dog that will hide and try to poop in a different room from where you are at. So we are working on crate training. There's only one problem: She will pee and poop in her crate. If you ask all the experts they will say that dogs don't eliminate in their kennel if it's small enough, it's their den and they will hold it. Not Pepper! She will go and then whine her head off for you to let her out and clean it up. Then comes the question of walking her? Outside? Litter box? Potty pads? Potty pads it is... at least to teach her to go outside her kennel. So we've set up an exercise pen around her crate, giving her just enough room outside of her kennel but directly on a potty pad. I don't know how long it will take or how it will work out. Just as long as its somewhere consistent and I don't have to look all over the apartment in the morning to make sure we don't step on something.

Step two, we're doing obedience training. We want her to learn "sit" and "stay", "down", "heel", but really... if she could just go out in public and sniff other dogs without growling or having a pee fit of fear, that would be great! The "sit" is coming along much better. "stay" seems like an impossibility. She's such a spaz! It's frustrating because I know she's smart enough and definitely wants to please. I think she would do great! But getting her past that insecurity and fear is going to take a lot of work.

Some people recommended agility training. They say that rat terriers are really good for it. But I don't even know where to start.

I read an excerpt from one of Cesar Millan's books and he says that an exercised dog (which is tired and released energy) is too relaxed to be anxious or phobic. Maybe that's where I start - going for long walks every day. She hates the traffic around our apartment, but she's going to have to work past that fear someday.

It's a bit harder when the chihuahua in her wants nothing more than to just cuddle on your lap. But for now we have to make her work for it. She doesn't need to be encouraged in her insecurities, she needs a firm hand of leadership to work past all these issues so that she knows it will be ok!

Monday, April 4, 2011

What I Needed...

When I dreamed of what kind of dog I would have, I always pictured a labrador. Big dog. Smart, trainable, loyal to the end. Old Yeller kinda' pet.

Then they drop off Pepper for me to foster - a 6 lb rat terrier/chihuahua mix.... I get this text on my phone, "u may want to keep the kids away from her for tonite".

Uh-oh. Sure enough all you hear is this growl from her travel crate.

I put her in the huge husky-sized kennel, still inside the travel crate. I open the door to the travel crate but close the kennel. She peeps out of the crate, to growl at us, and then goes back inside. A few hours later she has not come out.

Well, I don't deal with kennel shy dogs very well. So I use the force of gravity and completely dump her out of the travel crate, then leave her in the kennel. She spends all night pacing the bigger kennel and growling.

I lecture the kids - don't touch her, don't look at her, don't put stuff through the kennel, and above all, don't open that door!

The next evening I'm at work and I call home to check on the family. I ask the husband how the dog is doing and he replies, "She's doing great! She has given us all kisses and she's on my lap." (Are we talking about Pepper here? The same foster that we got originally?)

I come home and I'm greeted by the biggest pair of brown bug eyes, matched with ears completely back against her head, skippy little front feet, and a tail wagging a mile a minute. I sit down and upon the invitation for her to join me, I get kisses and all cuddles.

I never wanted a small dog. I don't like nervous, yappy little dogs. I can't really stand how they squeak at everything and everything is so scary! It doesn't fit with our personality and our family lifestyle. I can't have a dog that has me worried because one day the baby will fling his arms in front of her and the dog will bite. I don't want to have the demon little dog that no one else can pet or visit. I definitely can't have a dog that won't do well on walks, dog training, or out with the kids.

Minus the biting part, this is EXACTLY what Pepper is! So what's my response? I adopt her.

She decided we were her family. She peed all over the perimeter of our home. Would bark at anyone who came in that wasn't Paul, the kids, or me. Plenty of kissies to the kids. Plenty of kissies to me. Something about her complete turn around, her decision to love us and be a part of our family just melted my heart. Her day to day progress as she makes serious efforts to trust me and be a good dog is inspiring.

Walking her is a challenge at times. She hates traffic. Doesn't like strangers coming up to pet her. Really wasn't fond of other dogs. But as long as I have treats, she will lick and greet every stranger and dog she comes across - at least for a few minutes before we're on our way. She's doing so much better on walks that it's less of a "training" session and more of an enjoyable experience.

At doggie school... well... she flunked her first lesson. She can't sit worth a lick (why is it that all little dogs have "butt-monsters"?) A week into training at home she kinda' sits... after rolling on the floor, peeing on her self, licking her self, jumping in the air, rolling onto her back, and circling the floor. She's starting to figure out she doesn't get any lap time unless she's sitting on the floor first.

But its not that big of a deal when she's finally on my lap, has her head under my neck, and I'm petting her. All the stress of the day melts away. Her company and her cuddling is sooooo... maintenance free? It's like... I'm just loved for who I am all the time. There's never degrees of love and desire to please based on whether I was good, or she feels good, or the weather is right, or the house is clean... It's refreshing (and sometimes necessary) to just experience maintenance free, unconditional love with no fine print.

She definitely wasn't at all what we wanted, but for me, she seems to be exactly what I needed.