With the winter weather fading away soon (though I think we’re supposed to have one more bout of polar vortex coming through the DC area) methinks it’s time to wake up and start trying to write once again. The boys and I have been busy, which is why there’s been some radio silence here on the FTFP airwaves.
As you may know from an earlier post, we had a foster pup in our care for a few weeks after the new year. Dash has since been adopted, and is doing quite well with his new family so far. Out in one of the further out DC suburbs, Dash (who got to keep his namesake with his new adopters) is now the youngest of four boys. His three human brothers adore him, and he is sharing affection in abundance with them and his new mom. Here he is on adoption day, and snoozing soundly in his new abode.
We miss his snuggles and smooches, but Ollie and Balton were ready to bid a fond farewell to their energetic foster brother and get back to their regularly scheduled programming.
The holiday season came and went like a flash, and involved a trip out to Ohio over Thanksgiving and a trip out to New Jersey out over Christmas. This was also actually the first Christmas Balton spent with us, because last year he spent it with an LDAR boarding partner. Based on the drips and drabs we know of Balton’s life before life as a Lucky Dog, I would venture to guess it was also his first Christmas. In both instances, we applied our learned skills for helping him be more comfortable at his grandparents’ house, and a lot of careful management. He wasn’t off leash if there were people in the home other than Nick and me, and we kept him basket muzzled. We rarely had him out and about for more than 10-20 minutes at a time, depending on what he could handle, and he had a safe zone away from all the action at both grandparents’ houses. Overall, he was a rock star. Here he is resting on his mat (and on a tiedown) by the fire over Thanksgiving.
Despite his best efforts this year, Balton managed to earn a spot on the nice list (Santa seems to have a soft spot for fearful dogs, even the misbehaven ones). He brought him one new soccer ball for outside, and one for inside. The indoor one has been great for accompanying the polar vortexes, freezing rains, and recent snowstorms (speaking of snowstorms, Balton got featured on the Muzzle Up Project Blog last week for his arctic puppy playtime when DC got its big snow of the season two weeks ago – safe management for the win!).
After the new year, the boys and I have been busy with our educational pursuits. Mine at community college are much less interactive than the ones at All About Dogs, and provide no snacks. Sometimes seeing Balton’s progress as a Rowdy Rover is sometimes equivalent to watching paint dry, but when I look back on this last year and see how far he’s come (and how far his trainers have noted he’s come) it makes me really proud and brings me more joy than I can say. We can see a clear and consistent improvement in his confidence in class, and although we still have a ways to go in keeping good Rowdy Rover behavior out in the real world, we’re seeing changes for the better there too.
Ollie is now going through the All About Dogs Levels Program, which allows dogs to progress through different skill classes at their own pace. We’ve been in the program for a month and will continue through to the end of June, then see if he needs to re-enroll when we get there. If I’m being honest, I sort of expected Ollie to breeze through his basic skills class (attention, sit, down, and sit-by-side, or heel are the ones to know in order to advance). But my dogs are always full of surprises and unexpected challenges. The trainers had seen Ollie had the skills needed to move up a few weeks ago, but he was definitely a bit stressed out at school and I was told he work on his confidence in order to move up. I found myself having to find some solutions to working through Ollie’s car anxiety and classroom nervousness (while silently having a “oh no, not you, too!” moment about the prospect of having a second worrier on my hands).
Fortunately, Ollie’s nervousness was much more isolated and far less severe, so with a little creativity, a little extra positive reinforcement, and complementary management methods like keeping a bed in the car and wearing a Thundershirt, we’re doing much better and having a much better time. If nothing else, troubleshooting for Balton definitely has made “calming your nervous dog” one of my new ingrained skill sets, and Ollie responds so well to just a little extra support and motivation.
This weekend, Ollie showed he had the chops to move up from Level 1 to Level 2, so while I’ve been hibernating, he’s well on his way to earning his doggie PhD. Or so he says…talk about a confidence boost.