my new project

Every time life gets busy and my schedule gets cluttered I’m presented with an entirely new project I simply can’t resist.

I’ve always had a soft spot for aussies, for shelter dogs, and for 3-legged dogs.  Imagine how my heart stopped beating, how I held my breath, when I received an e-mail from a local shelter asking “what breed do you think this is?”

There were pictures attached to the e-mail as well as a paragraph describing how this little black-tri aussie ended up at the shelter.  The message went, “Aussie is a 1-year-old Australian Shepherd or Border Collie, found injured 1 month ago. She had a dislocated hip and break in her leg (near the elbow) which went untreated for the past month, the finders couldn’t affort vet treatment. CPS reported the dog to us and the finders signed her over yesterday. Dr. C__ said there was no way to repair the leg and he is removing it today. She will be back at the shelter by Thursday.”

After I identified the pictured dog as an aussie, watched 7-second video clip 2-3 times, I wrote back that I’d welcome the opportunity to foster this little girl for the shelter while she recovers from this major surgery.

Who could resist this girl?  A three-legged aussie who came to the shelter as a result of being seized from a neglectful home??  Right up my alley.

So, here I sit, blogging on my laptop while keeping a watchful eye on a little girl who is recovering from major surgery — not only did she get an amputation but the shelter had her spayed while she was under anesthesia. If a human being had this surgery done they’d be in the hospital for weeks and in rehab for months.

She’s walking, a little. She’s still trying to figure out how to place that remaining back leg so that it supports her rear end. The bad leg stuck out to the side a little, and she used it like a crutch. Now she’s crutch-less and needs a few days’ experience before she learns to walk on 3 legs.

However, she LOVES people, especially men. And she has pooped (in her crate in my truck, after barking at me “hey lady, I need to take a dump!”) so the plumbing probably still works.

I’ve dribbled about 10 pieces of dog kibble in her ex-pen and, after an hour, she’s decided to stretch forward and have a little snack. Typical aussie, she doesn’t care whether she eats the Nutro Senior or the Taste-of-the-Wild smoked salmon, so long as it’s food and it’s there.

I always say, “if my dogs turn their noses up at food they’re either dying, or they’re already dead and have just shown up for a meal out of habit.” Not very funny but I’m a bit irreverant, frankly.

Helping Mercy recover from surgery is the secondary task, frankly.  Whenever I get out of sight, Mercy howls and fusses, so the much bigger task is probably going to be dealing with separation anxiety.

If you’re reading this blog you may already know I train in 2-minute increments, so here’s how the 2-minute trainer deals with separation anxiety.

We begin with the dog in a crate or ex-pen, some sort of comfortable confinement, and we move out of sight just a few feet away. If she fusses we do NOT return. Instead we wait for a one-to-two-second quiet period and then return with words of comfort and praise.

If, as we return to her, she fusses and whines, we move back to our hiding place. Rule One is simple — we move toward her with words of praise and encouragement IF she is quiet and settled. Rule Two follows along the same lines — we never move towards her with words of encouragement IF she is fussing, pacing, clawing, howling, etc.

It may take a few days to help her understand that howling and fussing earns her alone-time, quiet and settled earn her words of encouragement and human companionship.

Whether I  foster her for some nice family, foster her for my sister and brother-in-law, or adopt and keep her, this training will be invaluable. There’s just no place in my life for a dog who constantly nags me from inside a crate. That’s just annoying, frankly.

Readers — wish me luck!  Now I just have to figure out how to squeeze all the necessary dog-care moments into a day filled with swimming at the YMCA, preparing for camp, teaching Sunday workshops, getting campers into cottages, teaching lunch-break workshops, fixing campers’ dinner, helping with private lessons, etc.  Wheeeeeee !!! 

I’m perpetually grateful that, after my divorce, I met Bud Houston.  He’s my beloved husband but he’s also the provider of an opportunity to train dogs for a living. If I were working at my 9-to-5 I wouldn’t be available for such projects.

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3 Responses to “my new project”

  1. Dawn Says:

    Love your blog. Just found Bud’s website and all your great materials. Starting reading your blog and decided I needed to start at the beginning.

    I have a dog with absolutely no separation anxiety at home. However, away from home, she has a great deal of separation anxiety. This makes it difficult when I visit my parents and take her with me. Also we are beginning to do agility and she doesn’t want to be crated away from home. Would you deal with this the same way? She can howl, whine and cry for ever!

    • 2mindogtrainer Says:

      I’m becoming a believer in the idea that most negative canine behavior has “lack of confidence” as a root problem.

      It sounds like she’s confident at home, but lacks confidence away from home. I would take her lots of places and play games where she wins (like tug, or “find it,” whatever) to build her confidence in herself away from home.

  2. Dawn Says:

    Thanks. I’ll give that a try.

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