I haven’t finished the post about last weekend’s activities yet (everything is good! just busy this week!), so instead here’s a quick shout-out to three items for which I have been very grateful this week:
1) Healthy Paws pet insurance. This is the company I have both pups insured by; I chose them because of friends’ good experiences and because at the time that I signed Lilo up, they were the only pet insurance company that would cover a second torn CCL. She’s had no issues, knock wood! But she’s an active pit bull of unknown origins and it wasn’t a gamble that I wanted to take. The claim for Lilo’s recent hospitalization was my first use of her policy. But the premium for our high-deductible, high-reimbursement policy fits my budget well, the peace of mind has been handy over the years, and they were super easy to work with when I did file the claim, including review of her medical records and approval of rembursement less than 24 hours after I sent those records in. Thanks, Healthy Paws, for making a hard time that little bit easier.
2) Smart, kind, helpful, and non-judgmental friends. I ended up reaching out to my circle this week to brainstorm about some Titus challenges. He’s doing really well overall and levelling up in some super-exciting ways, but he’s more routine- and schedule-oriented than Lilo or my previous dogs (and non-dog critters) and he’s been struggling a bit with the transition from weekend back to weekday. He gets better as the week goes on – Wednesday through Sunday are honestly really smooth sailing, which I did not necessarily expect to happen this quickly when I brought him home! – which is the opposite of what I’d expect if it were lack of exercise, attention, mental stimulation, etc., but Mondays are hard for the little guy (I know how he feels!) and I needed some fresh ideas.
But admitting a need for help can be tough and I can get really cranky about generic advice. That’s totally my personal failing and I intellectually appreciate that people want to be helpful, but it makes me want to crawl out of my skin. So I ended up putting my question out to my circle along with a request for specific, concrete advice and people really, really delivered. The validation that he is a (completely wonderful but) challenging dog was more useful than I expected and I got some shared stories and some suggestions that I’m in the process of implementing and that I think will make a lot of bang-for-buck difference in everyone’s comfort level. Thanks, friends!
3) Impulse control and relaxation training. This was a game-changer for Lilo, with her shyness and reactivity, and it’s fascinating to watch it work for Titus, who has a really different baseline temperament. (I think it’s also been really useful in helping Lilo adjust to having him around, both in obvious ways and also because she has a model for and faith in, “My person will reward my wonderfulness a bit later on.”)
We’re still only scratching the surface in terms of his training: building a little duration (and speed) into his sit, starting whiplash turns (but hey, I’m pretty sure he knows his name now!), some Zen (in different positions and contexts and he definitely has the idea, although I haven’t named it yet), a lot of relaxation in general and settling on a mat in particular, and this week we’ve gotten serious about a nose-to-hand target. With this dog, I’m thinking much more concretely about how to build impulse control into everything we do. That target started out quite sharky, for example, and it’s been fascinating to watch his overall behavior even outside of training sessions shift as he’s begun to grok the idea of nose touches and gentle licks paying off while toothiness does not.
But the big shift has been that in the last couple of days, he’s starting to put himself on his mat, either to chew on a toy or just to curl up and relax, when he’s not sure what else to do. We’ve had good progress in the structured-settling department: I was able to lay on the couch with Lilo and read a chapter of War for the Oaks while periodically reinforcing him for a nice settle on the floor beside me, for example, which felt like a huge victory! But I was starting to think that self-soothing would be a much longer-term project than anticipated. (Which would have been and will be fine!) It’s really delightful and gratifying to see him figure out that he can make those choices for himself and I think he likes it, too (and I know Lilo does!). Maybe soon I can read two chapters (after hiking him a couple of miles and before a shaping session – ha!)? Thanks, impulse control!