Help! I want a second dog but I don’t want to mess up.

(…just so this blog doesn’t get too wordy, I’ve thrown in some photos of Mr. Ru for good measure.)

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It’s true. I struggle with these conflicting feelings on a pretty consistent basis. The dog lover in me longs for a second companion, especially as I see Rufus grow older and slow down a little bit. We just moved to Colorado, so hiking is back in full swing. And while Rufus can still hike with the best of them, I know he’s going to require more TLC as the weather heats up. If I don’t have a dog to hike with, it’s a whole lot less exciting. The dog is like 80% of the fun!

But as soon as I get in full second dog mode, the doubts start creeping in.

What if she has separation anxiety or other behavioral issues? Even if we go through a foster-based rescue, those traits can sneak in very easily. I should know. I had many fosters with severe separation anxiety. And now that we live in a full-blown complex, the idea of a screeching pup stresses me the heck out! And let’s not even get into the idea of having another reactive dog to manage…

What if she’s too high energy? You know. The kind of dog who can’t settle. The pup who needs a job to do 24/7. I’m all for training and tricks and excitement, but we are a super chill family. Like…we need a pup who knows how to Netflix hard on Sundays just as much as they need to love the outdoors.

-What if Rufus feels betrayed? Ok, this isn’t a real fear. Despite his grumpy nature, Rufus is pretty easy to match up with the right dog. His type: mostly females (or submissive but confident males), a little feisty but not hyperactive, under 70 lbs, and not too fluffy. Yes that’s right. My dog hates super fluffy dogs. He’s the worst/best. So as much as I’d love to pick out our second dog, I know Rufus will get the last word.

-What if we don’t connect? I have had fosters that were perfectly fine pups but I never really connected with them. And while I didn’t hate my time with them, I was very happy to see them go to their forever homes. It turns out I’m just as picky as my dude, which is fine but also a little scary when going into finding a second dog.

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So…I guess what I’m realizing is that I should probably foster for a little while before diving into the “forever dog” territory just to see how it feels. I think that’s the best solution, right?

I would love to hear from those of you who have had similar struggles when adding a second (or third or fourth) dog into your home. What doubts did you have? How did you overcome detachment feelings if you had them? Am I just being an over-dramatic weirdo?  Seriously, guys. I want to hear it all!

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Help!

The Many Faces of Ru

Maybe this isn’t the most popular thing to say, but having a reactive dog often feels like a burden. With behavioral issues that even I don’t fully grasp sometimes and often seem like they come out of nowhere, Rufus is complex to say the least. Despite all of this , I love him with my whole heart.

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I think that those of us who have fallen hard for reactive dogs are drawn to the “virtual platform” of sharing because it’s our way of showcasing our complex pups in all of their glory. We get to share those moments of pure bliss when our dogs are 100% themselves. Nothing is making them tense. Nothing is making them unsure. They are just dogs. Wonderful, uncomplicated canines.

And sure – progress happens and there are even times when he just plain surprises me with his intuitiveness in certain situations, but I’m just being real about the bigger picture. Rufus is a tough cookie and he makes me reexamine our training techniques over and over again. For years now, guys! Years! Ugh…

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But then there are the moments when it’s just the two (or three) of us. And I remember why I adore this guy so much and why I’m so happy he came into my life. Screwball behavior and all.

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Cold Feet, Warm Hearts

Since arriving in Colorado in early February, the weather has been all over the place. One week it’s in the 70s and the next it’s back down in the 30s. But no matter what temp it is, it’s almost always sunny! This has been a very welcome change from the Pacific Northwest.

Little known fact? I absolutely adore the snow and (moderate) cold. Give me a sunny winter day and we can have a whole lotta fun!

A few weeks ago, we had our first snowfall since arriving and took Ru on an epic mini hike. Since he’s kind of an older guy now, I try to keep our hikes around the 4-6 mile range when it’s mild outside. And in the summer? Well he’s not a fan of the heat…so I’m guessing 2-3 miles will be his max. I will make sure to take it slowly and see how altitude affects him in the warmer weather. My poor old man.

Just a few photos from said hike two weeks ago:

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Ugh. I’ll never get over the view.

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And then he snoozed his happy little face off.

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Dogs I’ve Loved | Saying Goodbye to the PNW

As our time is wrapping up in Oregon, I am a little bit heartbroken. I have said goodbye to most of my clients, but I still have a few more appointments this week before we head out.

:gulp:

I’m mostly excited about the adventures that lie ahead, but I sure will miss these sweet faces. Like…a lot.

My two lemons. They were a handful, but totally worth it. I mean..look at those wrinkles!

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The sweet, shy girl took awhile to warm up to me but we became the best of friends. Her brother is also a big softie. ūüėČ

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The most fun duo! I couldn’t ask for a better pair of pups. Ugh…these two were some of my favorites ever.

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Oh, Cora. Rufus reluctantly let you into his life…and you were such a champ for putting up with his grumpy ‘tude! ¬†Even though we all know he kind of liked you. Kind of.

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Ru’s favorite gal, Abby. This one is going to be the hardest of all. I can’t wait to cuddle this goof a few more times this week. My heart is gonna feel this one.

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I like to think of this time as a “See You Later” moment. It’s been a whole lot of fun! We will return, you beautiful coast. Oh yes we will.¬†

My Cautious Canine #2 | Training on-the-go

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A lot of people with reactive dogs feel as though they have limited options when it comes to traveling with their furry friends.

-No busy cities or tourist spots

-No public stays such as hotels

-No way am I taking my dog on “vacation” when time away from home with them is anything but relaxing.

But the one thing I’ve been pretty diligent about¬†is making sure I include Rufus in as many activities as possible, which has included his fair share of trips and vacations.

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Over the weekend, we took Rufus out of town with us. I knew this would be a great opportunity to work on his reactivity. And with the right tools, it was pretty stress-free.

We stayed in a very pet-friendly hotel. And because they were so accommodating, we actually had a personal entrance so that we wouldn’t have to walk through the main lobby. However, we did run into other dog owners and I’m proud to report this dude did pretty well with all of our encounters.

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My two tools:

  1. Lots of treats
  2. Head halter/gentle leader

That’s it. It has been years since I’ve used the head collar on him and wow! I can’t believe how wonderfully it¬†worked this time around. Having control at that level made it so easy to get his attention and gently correct him when he was getting too excited. It was kind of like magic. Honestly, I feel silly that I waited so long to try this again. It’s a total game changer! He was calm, relaxed, and willing to work the entire weekend.

And at the end of every day, he was pooped. He wasn’t sweatin’ it.

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I know I’m lucky that Rufus is incredibly motivated by food. He will LITERALLY do anything for a nibble. It makes life and training so much easier.

And while we still have a long way to go, I have to say that I couldn’t have asked for more from this amazing dude. I love traveling with him and he made our trip so much more memorable. After all, he is my best friend.

Good boy, Rufus.

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The Cautious Canine | A Revisit #1

There are a lot of reasons why we as dog owners/parents/caretakers sometimes allow ourselves to slack on training.

Sometimes life gets hard or hectic.

Sometime we get lazy.

Sometimes we work with other dogs all day and we forget we have a project pup at home…:cough:¬†

Sometimes it’s easier to avoid our dog’s obstacles and triggers than it is to keep it up with¬†hard work and consistency.

For whatever reason, sometimes we mess up. And while that’s completely fine in some behavioral cases, it really isn’t for Rufus.

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I know he looks smug and confident, but he’s really a total wuss.

This dude thrives on repetition and positive association.

So after a few incidents¬†in which I found myself avoiding situations or completely shocked by Ru’s reaction to a trigger, I decided to dust off the old “dog behavior” book pile and strap on the treat pouch. Time to get back to work.

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The Cautious Canine outlines¬†the most straight-forward approach to correcting unwanted behaviors rooted in fear. And for the most part, Ru’s behavioral quirks (to put it nicely…) are all rooted in fear. It’s a subtle fear, but it’s definitely there…

Here are our baby steps:

  1. Keep him a safe distance from his triggers and reward him for being brave and calm in those situations. In this case, that means FEED HIM ALLLL THE TREATS!
  2. Be consistent.
  3. Slowly shorten the distance from said triggers while continuing to build up his confidence and reward him for his progress.
  4. Repeat, repeat, repeat. 

 

It doesn’t seem like much, but it works! I plan on making this a mini-series and keeping all of you out there up to date on Ru-man’s progress. I hope you like this kind of stuff as much as I do. Dog behavior nerds unite!

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Happy Healthy Dogs<3