We got a dog!
Benny is eight months old, and was rescued from the streets in Romania with his mum and two siblings. We went to meet him and his brother who were in the same foster home, and Benny was easily the more confident and intelligent dog. For a couple of weeks we just visited him at the foster home or had him come to us for the afternoon, and went along to his training classes and fenced-in runabouts, so that when he arrived to live with us last Monday it was a really easy transition.
We’re both amazed by how fast he is learning and gaining in confidence. Unfortunately during his time in the foster home he was attacked by two off-lead mastiffs in the park, and although he wasn’t injured (the foster mum threw herself over him and got bitten instead of him) it really shook his trust in new dogs. Fortunately my dad and Gill came to visit with their lovely labradoodle Tunny, who is the friendliest and most laid-back dog I’ve ever met, and they spent a happy five days running around together meeting lots of dogs and people. Benny wasn’t too sure about going in the sea but he loved running on the beach and has even started playing with his rubber ball since Tunny showed him how.
Naomi has more experience of training dogs than I do, and Benny seems to have bonded with her as his “primary person”. I’m trying not to be too envious – when Naomi starts her course I’ll have lots of opportunity to bond with the puppy and it’s good that he listens to someone, most of the time at least! We started dog training classes locally on his fourth day here and he’s already been our gateway into lots of friendly acquaintanceships.
Unsurprisingly, Paige was none too impressed by this large, loud, smelly, bouncy dog-creature coming into her home and was even less impressed when Benny decided the best response to a mysterious small furry animal he’d never encountered before was to bark loudly and try to chase her. We’re generally keeping them apart and will keep slowly introducing them to each other while Benny is in his crate and I’m holding Paige.
Small progress has already happened: Paige no longer puffs up to twice her size and hisses when she sees him, but just sits looking dejected and trying to fold her ears shut until I let her run away. Benny now sometimes stops barking for a few seconds, at which point he’s praised repeatedly and given treats for “no barking, quiet dog!” It’ll take a while, I suspect, but my biggest fear, that Paige would simply move out entirely once she realised Benny was staying, hasn’t materialised yet.
We’re amazed at how fast Benny is learning. I’ve been training him to walk to heel by holding tiny bits of his favourite treat in my right hand while holding his lead with my left, and giving him them at increasingly wide intervals for as long as he’s trotting near me. Obviously it’s the smell of the liver that’s keeping him close, but he’s starting to walk close even if I’ve not got a treat, and he’ll come back when called most of the time.
Naomi is teaching Benny to come round her wheelchair back to the left side (we’re training him to walk in between us, to my right and her left) but it’s trickier to get him to walk to heel, or indeed wheel, as she needs her hands to propel the chair and can’t really hold treats in them. We have a lead that clips onto a belt around Naomi’s waist and the dog trainer suggested training him to touch a target attached to the wheel axle of the chair, and then giving him treats when he touches the target. We’ll see how it goes.