Monday, June 08, 2009

Under-Dog

You know those new parents who are so overwhelmed with the wonder that is their child, that they end up discussing things like the contents of his or her diaper in otherwise polite company? It's probably going to be like that around here for a while.

I came up with the title of this post the second day I had Oscar because he continued to hide under things. He switched to the kitchen/dining room table from the stools, and I still can't decide if that is because he decided he preferred more room, or because it's harder for me to reach him under there.

PAWS-JoAnne said that because he was with one owner up to this point, he hasn't detached from her and it's going to take him some time to attach to me. I'm trying to be patient, and I'm hopeful, because he seems to feel happier when I'm in the sort of vicinity, just not too close. But it is a little demoralising to say, "Oscar, come!" and have him run in the opposite direction. At least he sometimes seems conflicted by it, starting to approach before running away and whimpering.

The other thing that made him the "under" dog was his complete bafflement and timidity about stairs. I suspect he had never encountered them before. Going down the back steps to "go outside" was fairly problem-free after he stopped balking at the leash (which only took one afternoon), but going up was another story altogether. He would stick his head between the step he was on and the one above it and freak himself out as he looked at the ground. It was more or less hilarious, but it did mean hefting his 20 pounds up the steps myself. Which isn't that heavy, but sometimes he wasn't that amenable to being carried, either.

Today though? For the part when I've been home, he's spent most of his time lying sprawled on the dining room floor, not under the table, and when we went for our morning walk, he figured out how to climb the steps. Hooray for Oscar!
He's a quick learner, this dog. With only an afternoon of being totally resistant to the whole leash concept, now he trots along quite happily with it, always leaving some slack. He seems to like walks, though so far we've taken really short ones (with the exception of this morning), because he's little and because I'm not sure he wasn't previously treated in some ways, as the Milk Guy put it, "like a veal." He was terrified of the back steps for about two days, and for most of those he had to be carried up them because he kept sticking his head between the step he was on and the one above it and freaking himself out. But this morning he climbed them successfully all by himself. We were very proud.

He still likes to hide under things, though

3 comments:

Nicole said...

Yay for the stairs accomplishment! I had the same issue -- my new pup Meike wouldn't go near stairs at all. But, it turns out, her love of chicken was greater than her fear of stairs. Now she's jumping down the stairs four at a time -- and giving me a heart attack in the process.

Also, I wanted to send along some advice that a professional trainer told me. She said adopted dogs go through three behavioral stages. The first (which you're experiencing now), is the "following" stage. This is when the dog will follow you around the house -- starting to bond with you, but moreso trying to be a new member of the pack. Your pup will be on his best behavior during this time. After a few months, you'll start reaching the rebel phase. Testing your boundaries, trying to gain leader of the pack status. And, after that, you're home free. In about six months, you'll really see the real personality of your pup come through. So far, it seems to be true for me :).

Well, good luck with Oscar! We should have a puppy date soon!

Jenn said...

Thanks, Nicole--that's a good heads-up. And yes, we DEFINITELY need a doggy-date soon.

Joan said...

Jenn, Thought I'd leave this info here instead of on Facebook. Free advice, so take it how you will. It sounds to me like Oscar has either been neglected or mistreated at some point. He should be more trusting if he has been treated well in the past. Anyway, I found this info on Best Friends web site (they are a pretty famous rescue organization in Utah - They have a program on National Geographic channel called DogTown).

He may have missed out on being socialized, so our world is a pretty scary place for him. To build trust, here are some things you can try: Hand-feeding him can help build a closer relationship. Spend as much time as you can sharing a room with him. Even if he hides from you, he will become accustomed to your presence and movements. Offer a place for him to hide - a crate with the door held open, or a desk or table to go under. Try to give him a quiet life with a regular routine. In time, he may become more relaxed and comfortable with you.
As far as reading his body language, here are some signs of a fearful dog.
His ears will be flat if they normally stand up or will lay back against his head if they are normally floppy.
•His tail will be down low or tucked under his body, between his legs.
•He will hold his head down; he may try to avoid eye contact.
•His body will be tense and will sometimes tremble.
•He may urinate or defecate as you approach.
•He may try to hide or run away.
•He may exhibit excessive drooling, panting or yawning.

Lots of patience will be required with this guy.
Good Luck and bless you for adopting him.

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