It has become a bit of a habit, or tradition, for me to write about our foster dogs weekly. It reminds me of the progress they have made in that time and how much they have recovered. Hazel, being our third “sick” foster has come just as far as did Angie and Jenga in two weeks time and seems to have just as much potential to be a happy, well adjusted dog. Like the two before her, she has some quirks (don’t we all!) and twists of personality that are all her own. That really is one of the most fun parts of fostering, getting to know who a dog is. Rocco and Savannah have been with us for so long, that I sort of forgot that dogs can have so many individual personality traits. Not to shortchange them, because they, too, have funny things they do…like Savannah brings each person who comes in the house a toy…she hops from foot to foot when she is barking from excitement…Rocco makes himself a little nest when he takes a nap on the bed and likes to do his “Zen Dog” under the miniature maple tree outside. But, when a new dog comes in, it’s really cool to see them evolve, gain confidence and engage in behaviors that make them unique individuals. Angie suckled and kneaded blankets, Jenga liked to trail blankets with her and Hazel “caches”.
Caching is a left- over behavior…a piece of primitive genetic software that served wolves in the wild very well, but, most domestic dogs have no need for, and some just don’t seem to know it. Caching is the burying of items to protect them from scavengers and our Sugar used to do it with pretzels, and Hazel does it with hard treats. It’s really interesting to watch, except that the other day, she bloodied up her nose pretty good while doing it. Angie’s suckling and kneading is one of these left over behaviors, as well…as an adult, she obviously no longer needed to nurse, but did it often and it seemed to relax her. These behaviors are known as “fixed action patterns” and are instinctual and hard- wired and some dogs seem to have no idea that they serve no purpose any longer. Humping is also a common one and probably the one people get most upset about…they don’t understand why a spayed or neutered dog would hump, but, it’s just one of those pieces of software that dogs use, because it’s there, even if it serves no purpose (other than to feel good or relieve anxiety…humping is not about dominance, contrary to popular *mis*belief) Our cat, Trixie, attempts to nurse from Savannah and did the same with Sugar…more wonky software. Come to think of it, I guess we have a lot of that going on around here!
Anyway, back to Hazel….she has really proven herself to be a trooper! She made her first visit to Petsmart the other night and was bombarded with attention as soon as she walked in. She was nervous and as soon as it seemed too much, we moved on and she really enjoyed roaming the aisles and sat for a treat at checkout. We were so proud of her! She has earned open door privileges, having been treated for an upper respiratory infection and kennel cough and will probably move out into the living room this weekend. She is not at all bothered by the cats and we have seen no concern in her body language towards them…we will watch this closely, though. She and Savannah lay right on opposite sides of the gate with each other and Rocco seems to know the drill at this point….new dog = lots and lots of special yums. That’s not to say he is perfect about it, but, that’s why we take it so slow. It’s not fair to any dog to just expect them to roll with the changes and be fine with everything and this would be a major caution to new fosters and adopters: GO SLOW! Especially, if you’ve got pets of other species living in your home or dogs like Rocco, who are dog- selective.
Hazel has proven herself to be easily adaptable…she enjoys company, but, does fine on her own, too. She has done really well with training and is spooking less easily. She likes to do zoomies and likes to cuddle. She loves, loves, loves Nylabones like no other dog I have ever met. We are bringing her to the clinic today for a skin scrape and hoping she comes back negative for mange. If so, she’ll be scheduled for her spay surgery and we will start to market her more and take her to adoption events. If not, we’ll keep loving her and working with her and that’s fine, too 🙂
Hazel’s caching earned her a shout out in my webinar for “The Academy for Dog Trainers” the other night….her wonky software made her famous! I was such a proud momma! I had given her a Busy Bone while I cleaned..to keep her, well…busy and hoped to catch her in action and she didn’t disappoint! Watch the determination with which she hides that bone from the scavengers who are sure to show up at any second!
She was pretty proud when she heard her name and saw her picture during the webinar…said she knew that behavior would come in handy one day! 😉