Monday, June 11, 2012

Scene 1

Murphy: "Haloooo ... halooooo ... where are you going?''

Scene 2

Billy: "Where is she going?"
Murphy: 'I don't know. But she won't go far.'
Billy: 'How do you know?'
Muprhy: 'She never goes far. She loves me.'

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Another step forward for Billy

Billy got to go off-leash on today's walk. He stayed right beside us even when Ginny and Murphy went exploring. A very good boy indeed!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Billy is a little dog (about 15 pounds) who is amazed at having regular meals and a warm bed. He's been busy learning his manners since he was rescued. Don't chase the cat. Don't pee in the house. Don't jump up. Not all dog noises mean it's time to fight. It's not your job to chase visiting humans away. Don't steal Murphy's chicken.

So far, he's doing well - only one accident in the house, and he seems to have learned with the first correction. He cried a bit the first night when I put him in the crate, but now he goes into the crate to sleep during the day. He loves his bed! I took it outside when I was gardening and he spent the afternoon in it.

Billy is a follower - as much as he behaves like a rough and tumble street kid, he's very dependent on human attention. Once he figures out that life is a safe place, he'll be a great little pal with tons of energy for ball chasing. And once he fattens up a tiny bit, he'll be easier to snuggle!

Accidentally on purpose ...

There was a pee accident in the house this morning. But only because it rained and Billy spent all his outside-time doing this (imagine his little legs traveling at almost the speed of light).

Monday, June 4, 2012

All the world's a toy ...

'What's that? A camera? What's a camera? Is it a toy? Will it fit in my mouth with this ball?'

Vigilant Billy

'I believe I heard a sound. Did you a hear a sound? Maybe it was my jaw creaking...'

Like the wind!

Billy can fetch the ball and return it to you at lightning speed, but he has a real conflict after that. His Billy-brain says, 'If I give up the ball, someone will throw it again. But that means I have to give up the ball.'


Billy has a passion for toys of all kinds. This is his second favorite. His first favorite toy is Murphy's chicken, which has been put away because he stole it right out of Murphy's mouth. After that, the two of them couldn't come to a civil agreement about who should have the chicken, so no one has the chicken.

Best in Show

Who would have thought you could get a show dog from a rescue organization? Okay, so he's not really a show dog. What's really going on here is that Billy heard a sound (any sound). His job, as he sees it, is to follow up on all sounds, smells and movement. So he is a very busy boy indeed!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

All About Shaggydog

Shaggy has been with us since May 17. He was supposed to go back to his regular foster on May 22, but SOMEONE fell in love with him. Either that or he was right in the middle of learning a new trick.  So he gets to stay with me until he finds his Very Own Human.

Shaggy doesn't yet know basic commands like sit, stay, lay down or wait. But he has learned that it's not okay to pee Just Anywhere, and we haven't had an accident for four days now. He comes immediately when called or not called. He will truly be your little shadow, and he can wake up from a sound sleep as fast as you can hatch the idea of getting up to fetch a cup of tea.

He will do well in any home - house, condo or apartment - because he's quiet and content, and doesn't bark at strangers or other dogs. He settled in immediately with our three-dog pack, and is calm and happy when he greets other dogs in the park. He will, however, leave your side to chase a cat - we're working on that one!

If you're looking for a quiet, loving little 10-pound companion with a great personality, don't pass up an opportunity to meet Shaggy. He's adorable!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Willow has been adopted!

Her Grumbleness is with me for a few days more because her new mom is travellng, but she has a new home. Hooray for Willow!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Willow pUpdate

Today was a big day for Willow. She got to run free at the dog park, and she was A Very Good Girl. At one point she was puttering along with a group of seven dogs, so I was very proud of her.

Willow has also met lots of new people without any fuss. She now seems to like men more than women, and is happy to accept pets from anyone!

Barking is the behavior we still have to work on - our house isn't the best for that problem. Ginny knows she's not supposed to bark, so she says, 'mff!' very quietly. But it's enough to get Murphy going, and that gets Willow going and you'd think the world was ending but actually a squirrel just ran up a tree in the yard.

Over all, Willow is just the sweetest little girl, and her confidence and manners are improving every day.

Willow Being Willow

Captain Simon

Simon loves all the dogs ... except Willow, who made the mistake of trying to chase him.

She has since decided that was a bad idea, but it's too late. This is from today - each time Willow tried to come out of her crate, Simon leaned over the edge and said 'ssssssssst!' I would have felt sorry for her except that ... well, she kind of asked for it.

The Exorcist

Maybe this explains Willow's behavior ...

But no. She was just scratching with great gusto!

Willow Doing Laundry

She does love her jackets (she has three now) but she likes them to smell like a REAL dog jacket - none of that sissy stuff!

Willow and the Baby Gate

We have the gates up when Baby Olivia comes to visit, and only Ginny can leap over them. I was calling Willow and she was bouncing on her back legs like a little circus dog. If I were more technologically advanced, there would be a video! But I'm not and there isn't, so you just have to imagine it.

Willow and Iggy: Looking for Bunny Poops

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What Murphy and Willow do all day...

... when they're not sleeping, eating, walking or (sometimes) fighting. Yes, alas, they do fight because Murphy is just as temperamental as Willow, and both of them:
1) like to hump.
2) don't like to be humped.

This puts a chink in the fun and games because sometimes one or the other humpee loses patience. No blood has been drawn and they both look puzzled when pried apart, as though they were just playing an innocent game of trucks.

Willow rarely growls at Ginny, Iggy, Simon and Alfie now and they've all worked out their relationships with her. From this foundation I'm hoping to break Willow's habit of exploding into Biff the Tasmanian Devil-Dog.

In the meantime, everyone is safe and happy because Biff is 98% noise and P. H. Don is holding up well.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Three's a Crowd

Willow: 'I think I'm going to get a snuggle!'

Willow: 'Sniff-sniff.'
Alfie: 'I'm having a bath. Go away.'

Willow: 'Sniff-sniff-sniff.'
Alfie: 'You're in my space.'

Alfie: 'You're in my space AND you're irritating. I'm going upstairs for a nap.'

Alfie: 'Okay, you can lay down there, Willow. Just don't touch my tail.'
Murphy: 'Do you ever get that feeling you're being used?'

Monday, January 2, 2012

How it Works

There's no magic to helping a dog like Willow, but there are some basic foundations that really come in handy:
1) a well-behaved existing pack that includes humans, dogs and at least one cat
2) a willingness to be bitten (and take other risks)
3) an open mind about training methods
4) lots of walks

At our house, we have:
1) Iggy the Keeshonden, who barks for help when small dogs or puppies come near him;
2) Ginny, the world's best foster mom, who knows instinctively how to respond to each foster;
3) Murphy the King Charles-Pekingese who is dense but loving; and
4) Alfie and Simon, cats who think dogs are just more toys.

It also helps that Patient Husband Don, as much as he complains about 'too many animals', is wonderful with them. Both of us work at home quite a bit so we rarely need to crate the fosters. We also have a collection of teenagers who come and go without making a fuss over the animals.

For dogs like Willow, I try to establish three understandings right off the bat; I love you, you can trust me, and I am in charge. I do give them more love than is recommended (okay, I baby them) but I also turf them off my lap the second they show a hint of aggression. For the first day or two, dogs like Willow are never off the leash unless they're in the crate, and the leash is attached to my belt loop. I don't invite them to come with me - I just do whatever I want to do and they have no choice but to follow. This also means they're always close by and can be corrected instantly.

I try to keep them tired - long walks, off-leash whenever possible. And then whatever brings out their bad behavior is what I expose them to. If they tend to run away, I drop the leash (a very long one so I can step on it or have someone else step on it). I reward them every time they come to me (but I don't try to 'catch' them) and soon they'll come each time I call. If they fight with dogs, I take them to the busiest dog park I can find and correct them each time they try to lunge. If they bite when being handled, I cut their toe-nails (or maybe just one) and as soon as I cut one without a bite they get a treat and then we're done until next time.

This is all much easier with small dogs, because you can physically control them and they can't kill you. Also, small dogs tend to become attached to a human very quickly and then they won't bite you no matter what and you're safe to interrupt any behavior.

I read a lot of dog-training books because every dog is unique. Sometimes I break the rules because I just feel like it's the right thing to do. Willow, for example, 'should' sleep in a crate on the floor or in another room because she has 'aggression' problems and should never feel like she's the boss. But she's so nervous that she barks if she hears a sound. So she sleeps borrowed into our blankets and if she hears a sound she says nothing at all because she's well hidden and right beside me. She has also bonded with Don (who she should be be afraid of) because she shares his den. I think that once Willow has more confidence and realizes she isn't in charge, she'll be able to sleep anywhere without a fuss.

Oh, I did take away Willow's 'babies' (little stuffed toys). It was cute to watch her, I admit - she carried both of them at a time and would curl up in her bed and tuck them in. But I think it also encouraged her sense of needing to protect something which is what I want to correct. Maybe I'll give them back at some point, I'm not sure yet.

And that's about it. I have no use for dog professionals who try to discredit other dog professionals. I believe everyone has something to teach. Short of cruelty, I will do whatever it takes to make a dog feel loved, happy, confident and Not the Boss.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Diamond in the ruff-ruff! Ruff! Grrrrrr! Barrarrrarrr!

So here is Willow, the foster dog that wasn't meant to be because I adopted Murphy, which meant (and I quote): 'This means absolutely no more fostering! None!' But poor little Willow was a very naughty girl and I couldn't resist her.

So now she is in a continuing education class called:

You are Not a Trained Assassin. You are a 12-pound Terrier Cross with Watery Eyes and an Under-Bite.

Day 1

When I picked Willow up, she launched herself at my legs and feet with great ferocity. But most telling and touching was her accuracy - not once did she make contact with skin; just shoes and pant legs, which tells me she really doesn't want to hurt anyone. She's just trying to scare things away. And after about 10 noisy minutes, shegave up and trotted out the door with me as though we were old pals.

Our first lesson was a walk with Ginny, Iggy and Murphy. She immediately dived at Ginny and Iggy, who gave her one of those 'Are you serious?' looks and trotted off. But she seemed indifferent to Murphy (perhaps because he is smaller and also likes to attack big dogs!) I dropped their leashes whenever there were no dogs around, and Willow stayed close to either me or Murphy all the time.

Day 2

Willow and Murphy had one very noisy battle over who was the Most Precious of Pets, but it was all noise. They have now learned to share a human lap with each other and both cats without incident, which is good for Murphy too!

And Willow is wonderful with cats - very respectful. They wander all around her and lean into her with no response except a bit of turning away. She is also very happy and friendly with girls and children, and I don't have any fear of her biting a child.

Day 3

Willow has met 11 new people so far, and still grrrs slightly when strange males (large) approach her. But even when she was at her most ferocious I could put my hand over her mouth and she wouldn't bite me. She seems to watch the other dogs and follow their lead (and they mostly just nap).

Last night, I let Willow burrow under the bed covers and sleep snuggled up beside me. You're not supposed to do this and I don't recommend it. But I have to test my theory that den-sharing helps fearful dogs bond with and develop confidence in their pack leaders.

Yeah ... that's it.

Given how far Willow has come in a short time, I think she will soon be ready for adoption. She will need a confident and loving pack leader so that she can just relax and be the happy little doggie she's meant to be. I wouldn't rule out other dogs either - she's quickly learning that it's fun to be part of a pack if you don't try to eat them. And anyway, there are a LOT of dogs in the world! Way too many for one little terrier to look after.

Willow and Murphy

Willow, Muprhy and Alfie