Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Does your dog have a doggie mentor?

Spending time with a dog who is more mature and knowledgeable about the dog world, the human world, and the interaction between, seems to help Ellie make a behavioral shift. As a rescue who came to our family with few social skills, I'm always open to whatever might help her make up for lost socialization time.

As an example, 'cousin' Katie came for a sleepover and a rugged day hike. Ellie, who lacks social skills with dogs and humans, was on the receiving end of several snaps, since she didn't recognize (or respond) to Katie's gently escalating calming signals, the lips, the yawn, the eye blink, the teeth, more teeth, more teeth, and then finally an air snap. Eventually, Ellie was able to self-control and lay down (for some minutes anyway) in Katie's presence without feeling a need to try and get Katie to play. We also did a night walk in the neighborhood with Katie and her person.

We've noticed that Ellie is able to spend more time in 'self-control' since Katie's visit. One big example of self-control was on her morning walk, where she did no lunging, and spent at least 80% of the walk on loose leash with check-ins.

When Ellie went to the dog park yesterday, her interactions with the other dogs, Franko and Rusty, were a bit more circumspect than previously. If I had to put a label on it, I'd say she was a little less puppyish.

We noticed a similar behavior shift after Ellie's outing with friend Sarah. Sarah, although supposedly chronologically younger, is more mature-acting than Ellie.

Does your dog need a doggie mentor? Does a friend or acquaintance of yours have a dog that exhibits self-confidence and self-control? Perhaps you can arrange a play-date (we go to the local dog park at off times) or arrange for a neighborhood walk with the dog mentor.

One day, maybe that mentor will be Ellie!

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