Thursday, January 20, 2011

Yippy, Skippy!

Last time I posted Skipper was just starting to learn some basic commands and learning to focus on his humans a little more. Listening is still not his strong point but the "look at me" command has really helped me get his attention when he's getting excited about something. The result? Well Skipper is getting to spend time with the rest of the pack now.

Although he still doesn't quite understand that it's impolite to stare into another dogs eyes, he's really trying and has come a long way when interacting with the pack.

First we would take all the dogs except Skipper to the top floor of our tri-level and shut them in a bedroom. Then Skipper would get to spend time alone on the main floor (aka - the dog level) and get used to it enough so that it didn't get him overstimulated. It doesn't take much to get Skipper excited. Here's my interpretation of Skipper coming upstairs and checking out the dog toy basket: "OMG - HERE'S A FUZZY TENNIS BALL THAT SQUEAKS! And right next to it is ANOTHER FUZZY TENNIS BALL THAT DOESN'T SQUEAK!!! And OH MY GOD!!!!!! THIS TENNIS BALL DOESN'T HAVE ANY FUZZ BUT IT SQUEAKS LIKE THE FIRST ONE!!!! IT'S TOOOOO MUCH FOR ME. OMG!! OMG!! OMG!!!!!! ARROOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!"

Get the picture? Skipper has a full appreciation for the little things in life. However, after about a minute of taking in everything in the room at full speed, he levels out and kicks back with one of the toys to chew on it. So once he's reached the calm level we started letting Frodo into the room. After a couple successful tries we let Frodo be in the room when Skipper first came upstairs. Since Skippy's been up here quite a bit now it's not quite so over the top exciting for him so we thought he was ready, and sure enough, it went great. Frodo mostly sat on the back of the couch looking worried and constantly trying to catch my eye as if to ask, "you realize there's a giant crazy dog in the room, right?"

So it was a big night for Skippy. He hung out, chewing on various antlers and squeakie balls for about 20 minutes before I took him back down to the rec room for some chill time. I see great things in this guy's future. He is so loving and goofy and fun and at just 7 1/2 years old he's got a lot of years left to give to some lucky human.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Skipper's journey

A lot has gone on in the last few months of Skipper's life that could upset a dog. He lost his owner who he'd lived with his entire life of nearly 8 years. He was then driven from his known home in Iowa to Chicago and the next day boarded on a plane and flown to Seattle, WA. He then spent some time with a family full of kids and pets and had trouble fitting in thanks to him not really understanding how to hang out with big dogs.

Add to all of this his Jack Russell genetics and you could have a mess on your hands. However, in spite of a few rough patches he is doing amazingly well. I've been watching him closely the short time he's been with us and one thing that I've noticed is that he gets overly excited in new situations and zones out his humans. He's so focused on whatever it is that has engaged him (barking dog upstairs, sound in the garage, bird outside the window...) that it's like he can't even hear me. Add to that the fact that he doesn't seem to have had much training beyond the "sit" command and you have a dog who isn't used to looking to humans for info.

When a dog gets overly worked up, even if it's a happy/nervous excitement like Skipper's, it can often lead to reactiveness. The dog is so fired up that what could just be a "hey, give me some space" bark from another dog can be interpreted as a "bring it on buddy, I wanna kick your butt!" Not a good thing.

My plan for Skipper is to start working on basic commands with him so it becomes an ingrained habit for him to look to humans for info on how to behave. I want him to be tuned into me enough so that if we are in a new environment I'll be able to talk with him and get him to focus on me and connect with me before he gets worked up. It's not that he's hyper or crazy, he's just easily overstimulated. I have to say, this guy was probably quite a handful at age 1 or 2 or even three, but at 7 he's just ready for fun and eager to please and interact with his humans.

So we've started with a "sit-stay" and he's worked from just a 1 second stay (I did say he was distractable) up to a full 10 seconds and that's with the dogs barking upstairs. He quickly learned "lay" from a sit position but that will need work for him to fully understand it without leading him into it. Most important, today we started doing a "look at me" exercise and a "touch it" exercise. Since I don't want to overload him with a bunch of new stuff I think we'll continue to work on the stay and the "look at me" commands since they are so important. The guy is so dang smart that he picks something up almost immediately and he's really praise motivated so we don't even need to use treats much - a good thing since he needs to lose a little weight.

Overall this is an amazing dog - house trained, loves kids, loves people, playful and great on leash. The skills he's learning now will help him be more comfortable in new situations and more in tune with the lucky human who welcomes him to their home.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

WA's New Rattitude dogs on Facebook

New Rattitude has had it's own Facebook community for quite awhile, however, starting this week we decided to try something more locally focused. A community called New Rattitude - Washington State was created so we can try to network with local folks and spread the word about the dogs available and the adoption events that happen here in WA state for New Rattitude.

Come "like" our page and get updates on how current fosters are doing, new rescues arriving in our foster homes, and events that we'll be participating in with our dogs. We'll also try to tell you about local pet business that we love for being so rescue friendly.

So thanks in advance for spreading the word amongst your Facebook friends about our new page and helping us get the word out about some of the greatest dogs in the state!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome Skipper!

Skipper was at another foster home but developed a pack order issue with one of the resident dogs, a lab, which was causing problems with the 3 dogs at the home. So as of yesterday he joined our pack of fostered terriers and is proving to be a great dog.

This guy was on New Rattitude's urgent list as a Jack-Rat mix but when he was rescued and his paperwork was looked at we discovered he is actually a purebred Jack Russell Terrier. Now, I'll admit that typically I'm not especially fond of the JRT breed. To me they are a bit like rat terriers on crack cocaine - SOOOOO intense! And while Skippy is intense, he's also 7 years old so he's moved past his insane stage and mellowed out to an energetic and athletic, loveable guy.

So many pluses about this boy: extremely well house-trained, absolutely adores kids and every human that he's met, loves to play, walks well on a leash, and amazingly for his breed, he's not a barker.

Down sides: He loves cats and thinks they taste like chicken, and he has that combo of distractability and hyper-prey drive that is common in Jacks.

He loves snuggling and is doing well with his gradual introduction to our pack. So far he and Tilly and Madeline have met and all are tolerating each other well. Skippy would love to play with him but they are kind of overwhelmed by his size and excitement about playing. Frodo and he had a short intro tonight in the back yard that was positive so we'll keep working on getting them together. He does enjoy other small dogs, however his intense style of play can be a little much for them.

The fact is that at 7 years old this guy is acting and looking like a youngster. He weighs 28 pounds but could stand to lose about 3-4 pounds to get to a healthy weight. We are starting to get him out on daily walks and have cut his kibble back a bit so he's headed in the right direction. This would be the perfect hiking partner for someone (as long as he was kept on leash) or a great jogging/walking partner as well. If you know anyone who would love a Jack Russell but isn't up to those early years of Jack-style mayhem, then this smart, goofy, beautiful dog may be just the right guy for them.

The Prayer of St. Francis, This Year, Save One, Foster One, Rescue One Dog