Monday, January 30, 2012

The Consequences of Fame

First things first: We have to send a big Thank You to Jessica Dolce and Boogie at Notes from a Dog Walker for reposting on the DINOS Facebook page the Dog People post I wrote after last week's class. People from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, Russia, Germany, Croatia, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the Philippines read about Brewster! It was a very exciting Sunday!

 Okay, it was exciting for me. Brewster spent his Sunday mostly sleeping and licking himself.

Moments after finding out he was about 7 minutes into his 15.
I was pretty excited about tonight's Reactive Dog Class, too. Brew accepted treats from the trainers right away. Although he's still not into being petted by them, one of our teachers started teaching Brewster to let him touch his collar. Turns out that this is a very important thing for all dogs to learn. When strays are brought into a shelter like the Kansas Humane Society, one of the first things the staff does to assess potential adoptability is touch the collar. A dog who shies away or snaps has an immediate black mark. The collar touch isn't the only deciding factor, of course, but it's important. A dog who accepts a collar touch has a much greater chance of staying alive long enough to be reunited with his or her owner or adopted into a new family. That's very important information to have for a dog like Brewster who has a history of being a stray. Although of course I have every intention of keeping Brewster safe, bad things happen. This is a way that I can help Brew be prepared.

Brewster also had a very good interaction, or rather noninteraction, with Gracie, our "fifth teacher." Gracie is a terrier mix a bit bigger than Brewster. She's very calm and under control so her job is to help fearful dogs accept another dog's presence, and Brewster did great! He completely ignored her and kept his focus on me, which was exactly what he was supposed to do. I mentioned to our teachers that my long-term goal is to find a sister for Brewster, and they both think he'd do just fine. I already knew that, of course. Brewster is good friends with Maddie, my mother's dog. It's just a matter of being able to introduce a new dog carefully and slowly.

We did have a bit of a problem when a big German Shepherd looked into our pod. Brew was sitting in my lap watching dogs pass by a bit of a gap, and I was really proud of him. He was keeping a watchful eye, but wasn't reacting and wasn't having any problem refocusing on me when I asked him to. But when that big Shepherd turned around and locked eyes with Brew, Brew let out a pretty serious challenge growl. I don't speak dog, but I'm guessing it was something along the lines of "Come on over here and let me rip your face off for you," and the Shepherd was none too pleased to hear it. But one of the many great things about a small dog is that it's really easy to intervene and change a situation. In this case, I just put my hand up in front of his face. As soon as the eye contact was broken, Brew relaxed again, and the Shepherd's human walked the Shepherd out of eyesight to prevent further problems. I doubt that Brewster will ever write love poems to big dogs, though.

So over the paparazzi.
We also worked a bit on "Leave It" tonight, which any dog owner can tell you is what you say to your dog when you're out on a walk and he finds some delicious poop he'd like to sample. I was a little trepidatious about trying this one indoors because Brewster's usual reaction when I won't let him eat a piece of poop is to turn around and pee on it. What would the teachers think of me if I said "Leave It!" and Brewster's response was to pee on the MilkBone he was supposed to be ignoring? We didn't have to find out since Brewster wasn't interested in any old MilkBone anyway. A nicely aged piece of poop would make a much more effective training tool. 

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