Friday, October 19, 2012

Ziggy Goes to School

Several posts ago I wrote about our new rescue dog, Ziggy, and our mutual adjustments. As most of you dog lovers know and have experienced, a rescue can be a challenge. Ziggy is high maintenance -- everything he does is, well, zigified, meaning he hits the extremes. When he loves it's all out; when he gets stressed, it's all out. There is no mellow middle.
Ziggy packing his school supplies 

Wednesday Ziggy had his first day at dog obedience school.  I've trained many dogs so training wasn't the issue. He picks up commands quickly and remembers them well unless OMG THERE'S A RABBIT but that is ignore-able dog behavior as far as I am concerned. Dogs should be dogs. But he also falls apart whenever we see or meet other dogs. He becomes a mixture of fearful yet aggressive and his behavior can ruin a fun walk (we go on MANY walks.) So off to school we went for socialization.

Ziggy practicing the 'sit' command 

The instructor is no-nonsense. Our first class was just for the humans. There are fourteen of us plus fourteen dogs which makes for a crowded group, so she wanted to lay out the rules, find out what each dog needed and check medical records. Basically we would spend the first 'dog' session getting to know each other (nose to butt) and two commands at most. I liked the socialization part -- this is exactly what Ziggy needed.

I wish I had photos of that first class, but as you can imagine, my hands were full of Zigginess.  He did well after he realized that a) I wasn't leaving him b) the other dogs couldn't approach unless he was willing and c) treats were involved.  The photos I wanted actually would have been of the other owners and dogs. Two wouldn't go up the steps, four were totally out-of-control, one never ventured from between her owner's legs, one pulled her owner around the room, two were grouchy and mean. And two older pups were so chewy and floppy and  wiggly they made Ziggy seem Zen. That left Ziggy and one quiet Cocker Spaniel who, the owner said, jumped on guests.

Chihuahua princess demanded a photo of HER be added to this post! 
So we passed the first class with flying colors and Ziggy got to smell many butts and even managed to greet a few of the quieter dogs without falling apart. Next week is 'down', which will be more of a challenge. But really my goal isn't commands as much as having Ziggy finish the six weeks with more confidence around other dogs. I'll let you know how it goes!

I'd love to hear your dog stories. Horse lovers are plain old animal lovers, and I know there are plenty of tales to share.


Linda Benson said...

Ha Ha. I had to laugh at your picture of Ziggy practicing the "Sit" command. I never had trouble getting a dog to behave until our incorrigable border collie, who I also took to dog class, for similar socialization. It was good for her, but she ultimately was not the right dog for us, despite our best efforts. So we found her a wonderful home, and I now have another rescue dog named Jessie.

Adopting a shelter dog, you never know what their previous life has been like. But Jessie is at least learning things easily, and I absolutely love her to pieces. Goood luck with your dog class. At least it makes you feel better when you see the problems other people are having with their dogs. LOL. Go Ziggy! Go to the head of the class!

Martine said...

We've never said "let's get another dog, we'll see what's at the local shelter," but lost and troubled little souls just turn up at our gate. Last year's stray was Cookie, who seems to be a whippet/jack russell cross and has all of the least attractive characteristics of both breeds, a hyperactive, fixated wannabe cat-murderer, with the attention span of a gnat and the fearfulness and neediness associated with being abandoned. Sigh. We love her and we do our best for her...
This year's offering was Dylan, a handsome Doberman/German Shepherd cross, more confident than Cookie but just as needy. He had to be rehomed because we were moving to France, but we were very lucky and found a lovely forever family for him.
I could never picture myself without a dog, though, no matter how much trouble they are.

Alison said...

Laura, I knew you had rescue dogs and of course, WALKING THE DOG, your new book (shameless promotion for you here) and SIX DEGREES all featured rescues. Was your border collie the cat chaser? That's a deal-breaker for me, since I love cats. Fortunately, after a few chases, Chuck our cat realized Ziggy was more funny than terrifying.

Martine -- what a story about Cookie! I hope she has stopped murdering cats and I'd love to see a photo--I can't picture that mix! And I am glad Dylan found a good home since that Dobie/Shepard cross is so smart and usually trainable.

Often you can see why the dogs that show up are strays -- they demand and need attention but were probably tied up in someone's yard all day.

TBDancer said...

I have only ever had rescues, and the puppy pre-school classes at the local PetsMart have been on my list for every dog. I will say with some pride that my rescues have been "teacher's pets"--the dog to model the behavior being taught. Had a Rott female whose favorite positions were "sit, down, and stay" because she was basically a lazy soul--and she was a good students ;o)

I took the dogs to the pre-school for the socialization, and we met some very ditzy doggies but every one of them became a better citizen after the six or eight-week classes. You're doing a good deed for Ziggy and he will be the better man for it.

Laura Crum said...

Alison--Thanks for the update on Ziggy. What a great job you are doing. And he and your "princess" are both very cute.

My little dog, Star, is my first rescue, and she is more fearful than my previous dogs. But she has absolutely no aggression in her. There's a lot of yapping as she hides behind you, that's all. I've not taken her to classes--not my thing--but I have taken her for walks on the beach and to gatherings where others bring dogs and to the local cafe that allows dogs on the terrace, and she did fine. A little shy and prone to stay next to me and maybe a few barks, but in the end she played happily with friendly dogs out in the open, and greeted dogs at the cafe politely, while lying quietly under my chair the rest of the time. So I'm pretty happy with how she's doing.

Star actually plays and wrestles with our cats as if she were a cat--she chases them, but its all good fun, and the cats set her straight whenever they feel like it. But I certainly hear you about rescue dogs being more challenging than dogs that came from a stable happy background.

Alison said...

Laura and TBDancer -- thanks for the stories of your rescues. Kudos to all of us who do get dogs from the shelter -- most turn into great pets. Some though . . .