My husband & I adopted Tilda from New Hope Pet Rescue. Part of our Adoption contract calls for us to share monthly Pupdates with them. I thought I’d share the notes from my training notebook here and perhaps these things would be helpful to others as well as supplying the Pupdate to the rescue organization. This is the chronicle of Tilda’s first month in our home. I apologize as you are seeing a lot of my stream of consciousness from our training notebook, so this is long winded, but I thought some of it might be helpful to others seeking help with a new rescue dog.
You probably get a lot of pupdates telling you everything is going great and their little darling is just perfect. Well, I thought I would send over a real update. 🙂 Things are progressing nicely with Tilda’s training and she is fitting into our family and I’ve fallen in love with her. However, there is still much work to be done. Here’s some updates on where we were on Day 1 and the progress and steps we’ve taken to assimilate Tilda into our family.
When Tilda came to us, she had not had consistently enforced boundaries or been asked to have a lot of self-control. This made for several really challenging days as she learned to get along with our family. We started by working on leash training and respecting the door.
At our meet & greet with Tilda, she was barely able to be leash walked and was pulling and rushing the door and bounding around like crazy. This made our older male dog, Chip, nervous and anxious and feeling like no one was in charge of this dog. That caused him to try to take charge of Tilda and lash out at her. I knew at the meet and greet that she was smart as a whip and would be able to take to training, but I also knew that it was going to take a lot of patience & consistency. Luckily, after the death of our female hound in the winter, I was ready to take on a project dog. We practice no touch, no talk when visitors come into our home and she is able to maintain her composure now even when new friends she hasn’t met come over.
After we got home, we immediately started (upon arrival at our house) on enforcing boundaries. Our training motto for Tilda is “Fun, Fair, Firm”. Tilda has to sit & show self control before a door opens (door in or out of the house, door to the crate, inside doors in the house, every door, every time). As she has advanced through this skill, she is required to show increasing amounts of self control (proven by her ability to sit and wait for the release command when the door is opened). The fair part comes in to play in that she gets rewarded and treated for each small improvement or each small step. When she shows a good behavior, we reward.
We also began playing training games with her. We play “Mine” where we block her from getting something she wants that she can’t have. In the past, we would have used a plate of food or something, but we decided to kill 2 birds with one stone and we play the “Mine” game with the cat sitting down the hallway. The goal of this game is to block her from passing through & getting the stimulus (in our scenario, the cat). Instead, she is to do something else, Sit and Look at me. We teach her “Good Look” with this game. A sit gets a treat as does a “good look”. In this way, we train her not to chase after the cat, that the cat is mine and we work on Sit, Good Look (connecting with handler, looking to me for guidance when she is uncertain) and more on self control.
We also play Sit for Your Supper – We have the food bowl and she has to sit before it is placed on the ground. After several weeks of playing, she can now sit and wait (and she’s so cute, she repeatedly looks back and forth from the bowl to the person) for a short period of time before we give her a release word and allow her to eat her meal. She is getting better at this and we are expanding the amount of time she has the self control to sit and wait while looking at the food bowl on the floor.
We do a lot of playing games with toys where we teach Leave It (also useful in Cat situations), Drop It, and Enough (which in our house means this game is done). We also teach “Off” to use when she wants to jump up.
We’ve also done a lot of work on leash manners. We are working on being able to walk in a nice heel with a loose leash. It is progressing. Tilda & I are having some miscommunications in the walk and the staff at her dog daycare is helping immensely with the leash walking & manners in general. We initially used a head halter to help her to be more engaged with us on the walk and looking at us more. We are mostly now walking her without the head halter and without too much pulling. This was a pretty major process and a lot of learning is still to be done in this area. She is now working on what to do when we stop and chat with a person (learning to sit and wait at the heel, again, takes self control) and also on how to properly greet another dog when on leash.
We are also teaching “Come” for recall and “Down” for lay Down.
These skills are still in their VERY early stages as she has only recently developed the self control to even be able to begin working on them. They will come with time though.
Tilda came to our home with good manners in her crate and housebroken. She only had 1 accident in our house the whole time and that was the day she came home. Having those skills in place, allowed us to really hone in on working on house and leash manners and basic obedience commands. She is still well behind where a 12 month old dog should be in terms of commands and obedience, but is much easier than a puppy in terms of housebreaking.
So, all of that great progress to say that we are seeing forward momentum and we see how smart and eager to please she is. But, it has taken quite a bit to get to this point. So, let me tell you some of the less pleasant aspects of taking on a rescue dog.
She completely destroyed my husband’s favorite hat and has chewed several shoes. So, we still have a lot of work to do on appropriate things to put her mouth on. She can destroy a hat within minutes of coming home (like while you are still setting your things down or maybe going to the bathroom. So fast!)She is VERY mouthy when she plays. She doesn’t have any aversion to feeling human skin and we are working hard on that. When she mouths my hand while playing, I scream out (even though she hasn’t really hurt me, I want her to immediately notice human skin and not want her mouth on it for good playing with children), have my hand go limp and we stop playing for 30 seconds. I turn away and just stop the game silently. After 30 seconds, I introduce the toy again and we play again so that she knows that playing toys is fine, but her teeth on human skin means all playing ends.
She is also VERY persistent and mouthy when trying to play with our older dog, Chip. For the first week or so, he gave her a total puppy pass and he would not stick up for himself at all. He just sat there (and started having seizures) while she would repeatedly play bite him on his ears, neck, head etc until we would remove either her or him. For a few days, I was really concerned this may be an insurmountable problem. She wasn’t getting along with either the resident dog or resident cat in her new home. So, we did a few things to help this with our older dog Chip. First, we got Tilda tired out before allowing them to play. I would take her on long walks and get her running around the yard and get her tired to the point of wanting to go in the house before allowing her and Chip to play together.
She would still relentlessly play bite him sometimes. He started giving it back to her some and telling her that she was hurting him with his voice (doing a loud yipe). We also tried to increase the good experiences they had together. We made sure they had ample time to wander around and smell stuff together which they both enjoy. Chip also wants someone to sack out on the couch with him and sleep pack style, so when Tilda is really tired, we encourage her to lay down by Chip and he enjoys that interaction. She also seems to like it and they have been steadily creeping closer to each other when they nap in the living room. Things are not perfect with the relationship between Chip & Tilda yet. Tilda is still pretty rough with him and can be relentless if she wants to play and he wants to nap, but we are seeing positive improvements which is helpful. Chip is quite interested in her and he wants to play with her, but he wants her to learn to play without biting him so hard on his lovely basset ears. He’s better now about telling her when it hurts and she seems to be learning that her biting hurts. We think she may have been separated from her litter mates too early to learn this skill in the way dogs normally do. I was a bit surprised at how much play biting she did of people and of other dogs and I think it is good that she was initially placed in a home without children. I hope to get her to a point where I fully trust her around young children though. She’s still in a bit of a puppy phase and we’ve seen enough improvement that I think it is possible. Currently, I do not trust her with small children because of the play biting.
Relations with the cat have seen more progress. Upon coming into our home, Tilda only had 2 choices for what to do with a cat around – Chase it, or stare at it and whine (if the cat was somewhere she couldn’t access it). We initially taught her “leave it” which gave her a 3rd option, to walk away from the cat and come interact with an owner instead. She never showed any real aggression towards the cat, so I felt comfortable working on this. She showed that she wanted to play with the cat, smell the cat, figure the cat out, but never acted as if she wanted to kill the cat or eat the cat. Our cat is very dog friendly and doesn’t run away to encourage the chase, but instead stands her ground. That helped her to learn also. At the end of the day, when Tilda is relaxed and lounging around with Chip & the rest of the family, if the cat comes out to sit on my lap, we can all be one big happy relaxed family without any issues now after working on this for several weeks. However, this is only possible right now when Tilda’s energy has all been expended and she has a lot of it!
Starting on 4/10/17 – We decided to begin taking her to Key-Lore Doggie Day Camp 4 days a week (M, T, W, F, I work at home on Th and keep her with me). At camp, we also pay extra for 3 training sessions per week with a top-notch dog trainer, Sharon Keillor. At home, we have been just doing positive reinforcement based training, following guidelines and techniques in a book I’ve used with all my dogs, “My Smart Puppy”. But, with Tilda being out of the puppy phase and needing to get an acceleration in her learning, we thought having the trainer and
bringing in her techniques would be helpful. It has been. They do positive, clicker training at Key-Lore. We’ve made the transition to the clicker at home as well, though my husband & I are still getting the knack of the clicker methods. We are hoping for a train the handler session with the trainer at Key-Lore soon. They’ve helped immensely with the leash work and building self control.
They also have cats there that help to desensitize her towards cats as well. At camp, she gets to run and play and be socialized around lots of other dogs and people. It has been great for helping her to burn off some of her energy and also work on social skills (learning to play with other dogs and not play-bite them all the time). It also gives us a well exercised dog at the end of the day after work so that we can work on bonding, training and other things at home instead of having to spend so much time after work on just exercising. With only so many hours in the day, having her exercised instead of being in the crate is really awesome. You can see Tilda in daily videos on the Key-Lore Facebook page (other than Thursdays when she is home with me). She absolutely loves to go there and readily and happily gets into the car and is excited to go see her friends when get there.
We keep working with Tilda and making improvements. She is really smart and she is growing to trust us and to see this house as her permanent home. We think we need to work on better containment options at home. We’ve been leash walking her around our perimeter of our property to teach her where she can go. We also use a tie out for quick potty breaks and we have an outdoor kennel we use if we are doing things outside like mowing, spring clean up, moving 2 feet of water out of our crawlspace (ugh!!) to allow her to be outside with us without holding the leash. However, one day, she pulled the leash during a walk and took off directly to the neighbor’s yard and was at their rabbit hutch by the time I caught up with her.
She just bee-lined right over there across the yard. We need to obviously work on recall more, that is a skill we just started working on, but it made us think that we may need to think about other containment options for this dog, than we have with our basset hounds. With the bassets, we never leave them out alone, but if we are with them, they walk along with us (after years of training) and stick around generally. We may never be able to achieve this with a more energetic, chase oriented dog. We are looking into either a physical fence in part of our backyard or possibly using an invisible fence. I don’t like fences, I’m into seeing all of the nature around me, we have a big yard and I feed birds and other critters and it would be a major change to look at a fence instead of my beautiful wooded yard. However, we also need to make sure that we have the best option for long term containment of Tilda and so we are considering options here while continuing to work with her on recall, self control, leash manners etc. Had she not pulled the leash from my hand, she wouldn’t have been able to run off. So, we have multiple options for how to deal with containment.
I wanted to send you an honest “Pup-Date” and tell you how things are going. Generally, I would say that things are going well and moving in the right direction. My husband who has had more of his things destroyed might tell you that he is struggling, but he will come around. By the time our other hounds were in this “toddler” phase, we’d already done months worth of training with them and had a lot more options of how to handle unruly year old dog behaviors. With Tilda it is more challenging because she only has the self control and command knowledge of a 12 week old puppy but has the behavior, energy, and attitude of a year old dog. However, the combination of patience, our Fun,Firm,Fair training program with the addition of the clicker training and the extra help we get from Key-Lore will make Tilda into a wonderful companion animal, I am confident in that. After the bassets, my husband wanted the experience of rescuing a dog and not starting training from the puppy phase. This has most assuredly been eye-opening for him on what that entails. But, he’s taking to the training well and bonding with Tilda as well. We work as a team and help each other.
Tilda’s favorite things to chew:
- Steve’s Hats
- A Himalayan Chew was a big hit
- Enzadent Chews & Pig Ears
- Deer Antler
- This little rope toy she found around here. She hauled it into her crate and it quickly became a favorite.
Tilda’s biggest milestones:
- Able to sit and wait for several minutes
- Able to be in the same room as the cat without freaking out
- Able to have a comfortable leash walk with little pulling
- Knows her name, responds positively to it
- TONS of socialization with other dogs at daycare & massive improvements in the way she plays.
What are we working on next month:
- Trying to stop nuisance barking when on the tie out or in the outdoor kennel. I like to put her on the tie out and enjoy morning coffee outside in the mornings when the weather is nice, but her incessant barking keeps the birds away. 🙁
- Continue to work on the walk. I know we can do better. Somehow she and I aren’t communicating properly. She has moments where she is great. But we have a lot of other moments where she isn’t matching my pace and either pulls the leash or makes me walk much faster than I want to/am able to.
- Continue to work on house manners. What’s appropriate to chew/play with.
- Teach her not to jump on people when they sit on the couch or in chair. Needs to be invited.
- Continue basic obedience including lots of work on Down/Stay/Come