Saturday, March 20, 2010

the dog

In case you couldn't guess based on the previous posting... there's now a dog here. Let me tell you the story:

After deciding not too long ago that it felt like time to consider a new dog, Mom and I both started looking around at various options. Shelters, Craigslist, newspaper, etc. I pulled up a website for a local rescue group, and pretty much went head over heels for this sad face (this is from the rescue website):

Seriously, that's hard to resist. His name was Hank. And his description sounded very promising. Of course, they tell you on the application that are aren't signing up to adopt a particular dog, because pre-approved adopters get the first chance every time a new list comes out, the one you want might be already gone, etc. But it looked like a good group and I like the idea of the dogs being somewhat screened, so we applied. And yeah, by the time we were approved Hank had already been adopted. I was sad. But it was okay, there were new dogs every week. Made a few calls, none were quite right... no problem.

And then, suddenly, Hank was back! I'd seen it posted on their facebook page! I about leapt out of the chair! I'd so had my heart set on that dog! I immediately contacted the rescue and asked to be put in touch with the foster. He sounded promising, so Mom and I went to look at him Thursday evening.

Hank had been returned because of barking nervously/excitedly when the kids would wrestle, and growling when toys/treats were taken away.

Long story short, Hank is now named Angus, and is here!

He's huge. 90 pounds. 5-ish years old. He's definitely a mix, likely a Rott mix. His tail is docked (hey, it's actually kind of okay! No shin-bruising!). He's all black. He's VERY mellow. He's shown no food or possession aggression at all, and of course this household is pretty calm with no wrestling... He's good with the cats face to face when everyone's calm, but he does chase when they run, and this needs some serious work. He's nonchalant about the birds, but I certainly won't be letting any out around him for a good long time. He's house-trained. In fact he's very well mannered. He doesn't pick stuff up, he barely even is interested in toys. He takes treats very gently. He knows sit and down, and seems to understand "leave it." This boy was obviously somebody's special pup before he ended up stray. His leash training needs some work.

I went into this with the mindset that these rescue and shelter dogs may be kind of like used cars... they all have some issues and need a little work. Indeed that's the case. Though for the most part Angus is doing very well, there are some things that need work.

1) He doesn't come when he's called. I think this has a lot to do with not knowing his name. Don't blame me, he doesn't respond to Hank either. Or anything, I've thrown all sorts of names at him.

2) Related to that, when he gets out he's gone. Let me explain. The entire property is fenced with 5' fences, it's dog-proof. The inner yard area has a 3' fence. So even if he gets out of the yard, he can't leave the property, but the outer part has access to things like mud and horse poop, and I'd rather not have those things come in the house (yeah, he sleeps inside, and is in a lot during the day). He's pretty insecure, and he's most honed in on me instead of Mom, probably because he's spent more time with me. If I leave the yard and go to the barn, Angus has demonstrated that he can pop over that 3' fence no problemo. Yikes. And once he's out, he doesn't respond to me, I just have to catch up to him and grab him. That's a problem.

How do I get him to respond to his name and come when called?
How to I keep him from jumping the fence?

Tonight a guest was leaving the house and stood in the front doorway just a moment too long. Angus bolted out front. Thankfully he made a beeline for the neighbor's house and the grabbed him, knowing we got a new dog and hearing lots of yelling out front. If they hadn't grabbed him, cripes. I don't know how to fix this!

3) The cat situation needs work. Face to face, he's very good. He wants to sniff. Homer will tolerate this and even rub on Angus. Olin hisses and smacks him. I've been telling him "leave it" with the cats, I want him to basically ignore them. I know the cats are part of the problem here, they need to get used to him and not run, that doesn't help. I got so spoiled with Jessie and Nellie for all those years, I trusted them 100% with the birds and cats. Anyway, since Angus and the cats can be very close to each other in the house and be very calm, him relaxed, cats purring, I have to think he's not projecting any sort of "I eat kitties" vibe at them, but just that he goes into play mode when they run. So I'm just trying to be super careful, be aware of the cats' whereabouts before letting Angus out in the yard, etc. I hope they all just chill the heck out.

I tend to try to figure the problems out from the mindset of "how would I train a horse not to do that" but I don't think that necessarily translates into dog training!

I want him to be okay with him staying in the yard while I'm in the barn, not chase the cats (or birds), not bolt out the door, not run off and ignore me (hmm, maybe this is how he ended up stray), come when called, and be good enough on a leash that my mom can safely and comfortably walk him.

I hope I didn't just make him sound like a beast. He's not. Overall he's REALLY good, and I know he'll improve as he settles in and gets used to the place. I mean, he's had 6 homes and at least 3 names in the last month or so, poor guy must be pretty mixed up. But there are some issues that need work, I'm just not sure how to proceed.

Oh, I'll take more pics. He's pretty cute with his droopy face and stumpy tail.


dougzilla said...

He's a cutie! (Did you say how old he was, btw?). The runnning away bit reminds me a bit of Duke (remember Duke?) - he used to turn up miles away... Well, good luck training! :-)

Katherine Plumer said...

I just edited that into it! He's 5-ish years old. Yes, I remember Duke! Jessie would run off too before the fences here were dog-tight. Actually, Jessie would sneak away, Angus bolts!

Jan Blawat said...

Sure sounds like a "new dog" problem, though Labradors do follow their noses. I'll bet with the first-class accommodations he'll be fitting in after a while. It's got to be hard on a dog to be moved around so much.

Nancy K. said...

I vote just love him until he learns that this is his 'real' home and he learns to trust and love you...

I read somewhere that black dogs are the least likely to be adopted. Lucky Angus!

Anonymous said...

We had lots of rescues and we used a shock collar to prevent fence jumping. We had a 6 foot fence that one got could get over. I had to sit there for a couple hours one day and train him to not even look at the fence that way (as though he was going to jump). I was out of sight of course so that he would not associate me with the correction. It did not take much to correct the problem. -BMc.

Granny Annie said...

Angus is one lucky dog. Once he realizes it, you'll have a friend for life.