Progress Makes “Perfect”

I’ve really driven home on this blog the point that Otis can be a bit co-dependent. That’s what I remembered him being from over the summer, and what was confirmed by his last owner when I took him back. After an independent Baxter, I was wondering what it would be like to have a shadow dog again. I had visions of him whimpering outside the bathroom door while I showered, getting stuck under my feet at every step, and showing separation anxiety when left alone.

What I wasn’t accounting for was adjustment, relaxation, and a mind at ease. These ingredients have brought out an entire new side of Otis from when he came to me six weeks ago.  I was able to enjoy and appreciate progress with Baxter every day, but for some reason I’ve been totally blind to how far Otis has come.  So I want to take an entry to celebrate Otis’ victories like he deserves.

While Otis still loves to hang out with me, he no longer needs to be attached to my hip. A big milestone he recently started enjoying is relaxing in the living room by himself while everyone is in the kitchen. He’ll also leave my room and walk upstairs to hang out with my parents if I’m not doing something entertaining enough for him. He’ll be that companion dog who will follow you from room to room and keep you company, but who won’t let the whole neighborhood know when you’re separated from each other in the house.

In the same vein, another thing that makes him a great dog is how well he does when alone. He just stays on the couch the whole time he is by himself. No chewing, no whining, no destruction. Just calm and patience, waiting for our return. It’s so relieving! It is especially nice to know that he can stay home all day while I’m at work and not bug my parents. In fact, they barely even realize he is around.

Otis has also become a “normal” eater – he gobbles his meals down, he is enticed by treats, and sometimes he even comes over to have a sniff of what we’re eating. For the first while, Honey barely touched his food, let alone treats. I was worried about him, but he has proven to be just as eager as the rest of the food motivated pups out there. Along with the food motivation has come basic obedience. His butt is on the floor as soon as he sees a treat in my hand; a scene much like the photo below. “I did it, now where is my reward??”

Finally, one of the biggest things I realized when I stopped to reflect on Otie’s first month was that the jumping has almost completely stopped. It was always Otis’ go to –  he would get excited, then hop his front paws on whatever was in front of him: a human, a couch, a bed. He was always bopping around. Now it seems he doesn’t even think about jumping up (with a few exceptions of over excitement, of course).

So no, he is not perfect – but every day he is becoming more calm, comfortable, and happy – and what else can we ask for? So many dogs get bumped from home to home because they are not given the chance to settle in.  Otis, just like Baxter, is a prime example of a dog who needs a little time and TLC before he becomes the best that he can be. But once they come out of their shell and show you their goofy and loving personality, you’ll be so glad you gave them that chance.

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.


Food Motivaton, Positive Training, and Progress

Food motivation: the thing that can make training with your dog a piece of cake and help you feel like the best dog-human team there is, or the thing that can make obedience class one of the most frustrating activities you and your dog will do together.

Baxter was food motivated. He would do almost anything for food. Baxter came to me with pretty much zero obedience training, and in a matter of weeks learned sit, down, paw, and… okay, well that’s about it – but still! It was easy enough because he loved food. I didn’t even have to use treats with him; he would bend over backwards for just kibble. It was great!

Otis showed up as a non-food motivated dog, or so it seemed. The first few days he wouldn’t eat his kibble even for meals, and would turn up his nose at whatever I put in front of him.  Working on basic obedience was frustrating and discouraging because Otis would pay zero attention to me or the treat in my hand. Turns out though that all he needed was to settle in a little, and boom went the appetite (duh! earth to fostermom!).

Look at me being a good little student and staring intently at the treat.

This is making a very positive change in his attention during training work. He will still have trouble focusing if I don’t have a treat, but as soon as I get something yummy in my hand, it’s all eyes and ears on me (gee, can’t imagine why). The treat still has to be pretty high value, like deli ham or cheese (which we break it into baby bites to make sure he doesn’t get an unhealthy amount during our sessions), but now his focus is worlds better than it was three weeks ago.

I’ve been using a clicker with him to help build a positive relationship, especially because he is so sensitive. Honey would not do well with someone saying “NO!” to him all the time. He works best when he is encouraged for doing well, and, like most dogs, he shuts off when he doesn’t know what you’re asking. I’ve used clicker training to help work on eye contact and focus, as well as basic stuff like sit and wait. I’m excited because he has been making quick progress with sit-stay-come; something Baxter never exactly mastered.

To make sure Otie doesn’t get confused or discouraged, we keep training sessions short, sweet, and frequent. I’ll grab some treats when we wake up in the morning and work for five minutes before breakfast. Then we’ll do some simple commands after the workday. Then we’ll have a refresher course after a walk – and so on. It ensures that our experiences stay positive, and Otis keeps enjoying to learn. It is our goal to set him up for success now during his time with us and for when he is in his forever home.

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his adopt me page or email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.