Saturday, November 5, 2011

Separation Anxiety: Day 6 of Slinky with Misha May

Slinky joined 3 other dogs, Shadow, Twinkle and Valentino, in having a great time in the snow. She seemed a little fragile at first, affected by the cold. But once she got running and playing and investigating, she loved it. Shadow, on the other hand, never enjoys the cold unless I am carrying him in my arms. He prefers to do what he has to, and then scurry back inside. He is always standing by the door waiting for everyone else.

It doesn’t seem to bother Slinky to be outside without me, even if the other dogs come in. She fixates on squirrels. She doesn’t bark or chase them as they are usually in the adjoining yard, but she stares. When the most courageous squirrels do run along the fence of our yard, she joins the other dogs in hot pursuit. For a little seventeen pound dog, she is really quite athletic and hearty.

I set up another crate today specifically to see if Slinky will take ownership of it. I transferred some of the bedding from the other crate into this one to make it seem familiar and friendly. This one is Great Dane size. I like using the largest crates possible, as long as there aren’t any house training issues. The spaciousness can be quite inviting and allows them to have their own little apartment where they can play or share, sleep or eat. I want her to be able to move from crate to crate and generalize that they are all good, whether wire or plastic, here or at her house. I had intended to put the crate in my living room where there is more space, but I realized if I put it in the office with the other ones, she might accept it more easily at first.

Slinky did go right into the new crate as the others were occupied. When I am here typing, 4 dogs are usually with me in crates. The doors are always open unless it is meal time, as two of them like eating in their own crates and not being disturbed. Slinky and Twinky (Twinkle) were in the large crate today resting as seen here.

Tara, my 11 year old black Lab mix has now joined Slinky and her buddies Valentino, Twinkle and Shadow in playing in the yard. Tara really loves the snow too. Slinky seems to understand that Tara is an older female and greets her with slower and more deferential movements. Her puppy respectfulness is quite endearing. Perhaps their play will be livelier when they have known each other longer. Tara can still run around the yard, chase balls and squirrels and throw an inviting play bow.

A milestone in crate training happened today. As I was retrieving office items from the bookshelf behind Slinky’s crate, I inadvertently gently bumped the door to the crate which adjusted its position. She had no response as it swung toward her to the closed position. This was really the first time that the crate had been manipulated with her inside. I had been walking near it and interacting with her while she was inside it, but I had not moved the door. I was very pleased to see that her comfort level is quite high and ever increasing.

Slinky accompanied me to the Arvada Understanding Dogs meeting for our dog trainer apprentices. She loved all of the attention from the trainers and was often off by herself exploring. This was good because she was acting independently in an unfamiliar place. What was not so good was that she chewed her leash and chomped on some of the toys – for children, not dogs – in the bins. Nothing drastic thank goodness.

Slinky met Liz’s dog Boo, an adult neutered male blond cocker spaniel. They didn’t play or interact much but tolerated each other nicely for the evening. Slinky also helped with a leash walking demonstration. Yukari had attended the national Association of Pet Dog Trainers conference in San Diego and was sharing some of the highlights with the rest of us. The technique has the handler and the dog on the move in a fluid dance-like motion. No jerking or sudden stops are involved. The dog learns that as long as she moves with her handler, treats and praise will be forthcoming. It seemed like a very pleasurable experience for both.

At the beginning of the demonstration, Slinky was not absolutely certain that she wanted to help Yukari. I got up and walked beside Slinky while Yukari continued to hold the leash. Soon, Slinky was invested in the exercise and didn’t need me as a transitional support anymore. I hadn’t said anything to her; I was with her and she knew it.

While I unloaded my teaching materials for the class, Slinky waited in the car. This was probably the longest time she had been left with me going out of sight into a building. I think I may have heard her cry a little, but she was calm when I returned. She is not as comfortable and relaxed waiting in a car as many other dogs I’ve known with separation anxiety. She rides in a car beautifully though. She is calm and gazes out the window.

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