Saturday, September 12, 2009

Six month trap-aversary!

Six months ago yesterday, I brought Darlin’ home! During my search about trapping dogs I came upon There I read stories from people who had lost their own dogs and met Lisa and Brandon. Trap-aversary is the term Lisa used when I emailed her asking about the trap that was used to catch Brandon, a rescue dog that had been transported cross country and got lost after running from his new owner. It was his two year trap-aversary that day. You can learn more about Lisa and Brandon here.

Darlin’ is doing well. She’s walking around the house, not afraid to come in the kitchen even when my family is putting away groceries. She’s getting much better around noise such as when I take pots out of the cabinet or drop something, however she shot out of the kitchen like a bullet when I tore some foil off last night. She use to hide when I vacuumed, now she’ll run back and forth from room to room. That shows me she’s more curious.

Darlin’ does not like to be alone. She usually lies under my chair or near me under the table at dinnertime. She follows me wherever I go in the house, including when I go downstairs, she’s right behind me. She lays at my feet when I’m watching a movie in my recliner downstairs. I always cover up with a blanket so many times she’ll crawl under the blanket at my feet or she’ll scoot under the foot rest of my recliner when it’s extended. She sure makes it hard to get up from my chair! Upstairs she’s usually on the couch next to me. When I fix the dogs bowls for dinner, she’ll sit right next to my feet the entire time. Toby will sometimes go over to her bowl and stick his noise in for her gravy; she’ll eat out of the same bowl with him or walk over to his and eat. From a distance her appearance may appear normal, but she’s still fearful – that’s why she’s usually under my chair. She does the same thing outside if I’m sitting with my children. She’ll scoot on her belly under my chair. She seems relatively calm during those times with no heavy breathing or panting from anxiety.

She is very normal during the day. What is normal? I have to ask myself that after watching some dogs with real issues on animal shows recently. Her fear issues are minor now compared to what some people go through with their dogs.

Darlin’ runs through the house, tail up high, alert and playful looking when we are alone. She goes out with the other dogs and it takes very little coaxing to move her from room to room. I say, “Let’s go” and she is at my heels. At night she’ll sometimes go to her bed in my room as I’m turning out the lights! She usually sleeps in her dog bed, but sometimes she’ll sleep under a piece of furniture or stretched out in the floor. She’s so cute now when I pass out treats. Darlin’ is the tallest dog here so sometimes she’ll stretch her head across the other dogs to get their treat. I look at her and tell her to sit and she does. She gets a little excited and forgets her manors, but once I say sit, she’s on that butt. Oh, she usually backs up to sit or she’ll go to the rug in front of the stove where she learned to sit! Like she doesn’t realize she can sit anywhere! She brings me a lot of joy.

She still won’t go down to the yard without me. Yes, she’ll go out with the dogs, but if I don’t follow she’ll stay upstairs. Sometimes I’ll sit down in a chair on the deck and she’ll go down to potty, but she’s fast and comes right back up. If I let her out with the other dogs and I close the door, then she’ll stand at the back door waiting for me. This is something I hope will change soon because these ole’ knees of mine can’t take another six months of running up and down those back steps. I’m hoping as the weather cools off soon and the flies die down that I can leave the back door wide open and it will give her a sense of freedom to come and go. This house means everything to her and she still watches the doors when she’s in the yard.

One day I went shopping and left her home with my husband who was working on his computer. He said she stood up on her hind legs after I walked out and looked through the glass. Then she sat on the rug at the front door looking up as though she was looking out of the glass then entire time until I returned home. She still whimpers, yelps, and whistles through her nose when I come home after leaving her. All of my dogs are excited to see me; sometimes she’s the first dog I meet when I enter the house. She hasn’t done anything destructive, but I do check the door because I’ve heard her scratch after I walked out.

When I leave home and my kids are home with Darlin’ they say she walks back and forth from room to room through the house. That she doesn’t bark or show signs stress. When I am home she behaves differently.

She is very attached to me, too attached at this point. Her demeanor changes when my son walks in from school or when my husband comes in from work. She’s barking now, in the house and outside when my family comes around. She has a loud deep bark too and you can hear the hound in it.

Her head on my leg.

I’m not sure how to correct her barking. It’s so strange because she was so quiet and submissive, however now that she’s not afraid to go where I go in the house, she behaves territorial. Maybe it’s an expression of her anxiety and fear, certainly it’s related to her insecurity. She barks when my family comes in the house and as they approach she’ll bark louder and sometimes low growl. No one has any fear that she will bite. Sometimes they approach her sideways and sit next to her and pet her. She’ll stop barking, but it starts all over when my husband comes home. She’s worse with him. I asked him to walk naturally as though she doesn’t bother him because he was walking slow and guarded which I think may have been more intimidating to her. I’ll sometimes give him cheese to pass out which calms her down, but she still shakes during those times. If he offers her cheese at night when we are sitting on the couch she is calm and doesn’t seem stressed at all. However it could be because she’s sitting right next to me. If my dogs bark when the kids come home (I have two noise barkers) then Darlin’ will jump up and bark too, but she makes sure she’s close to me. If anyone walks outside when we are there, she’ll immediately alert me by barking. I do think it’s territorial and I’ve been reading about how to correct this behavior. I don’t want her barking at my family or guests in the future.

When this started a few weeks ago I would tell her to hush, but she didn’t. I read to remove myself from the situation because she is so attached me. So I would leave the kitchen if it started with her sitting next to my feet while I’m cooking (her favorite place). That didn’t help. I stopped telling her to hush because I didn’t want to condition the behavior, such as I bark, Mom speaks to me. However this last week was so bad that I ended up poking her to get her attention and telling her “enough” or “knock it off”. I ask my husband or kids to ignore her and come on in the kitchen to get what they need. The barking doesn’t last long, but it’s something I have to correct. My next step is to get her to hush and immediately offer her cheese, her favorite treat. That’s going to take some work too because she ignores food when she is nervous or anxious.

Remember the post where I told about Darlin’ slipping her collar when we were out walking? Well, Victoria Stillwell mentioned on one of her shows that the best way to get a dog to come to you is to get them to chase you. I actually did that the night she got loose, I started running for our house, but Darlin’ took off between the houses. Occasionally she’ll give me a play bow in the yard and I play with her, but I have chased her so last week I changed it up. She was in a playful mood and started running in circles around the yard so I ran and she chased me! We did it about three times and it works! That was all I could do before I was out of breath. Why couldn’t I have had 5 dogs when I was in my 20’s or 30’s when I had the energy! Oh well, everything in its own time.

Other than her barking at my family and going outside without me, Darlin is doing exceptionally well. If it takes six more months then so be it. She is a joy to watch when she’s comfortable in her surroundings. It’s been extremely rewarding for me to look at her in a dog bed or standing in the kitchen eating dinner knowing that her life has completely changed for the better. Words cannot express the joy I feel for her and her new life.