It’s Been a Year Since I Adopted Mufaasa, Time to Take a Look at How Far We’ve Come

 

Mufaasa wearing his new badass and manly collar, now with 100% less flowers (PS: impulse buying is bad for your dog’s sense of self-worth)

As of February 19 it’s been one full year since I adopted Mufaasa, and I thought it’d be a good time to look back and see how far we’ve come and maybe list where I hope to be one year from now. Sunday was of course spent cuddling my dog and giving him lots of treats, a new tug and a new collar, all of which was made a lot easier since it was the same day as the Halifax Dog Expo, a yearly event in support of Greyhound Pets of Atlantic Canada. There’s lots of vendors, dogs are welcome, and lets just say I spent a lot more money than I originally intended. Aside from the tug that Mufaasa has already partially ruined I’d say it was all worth it. So, without further ado, lets look at what we’ve accomplished:

  • Basic obedience

    • Sit, down, stay, leave it and come were all words without meaning for this crazy little pup when he first arrived (you’d think at nine months he’d of heard of a few of those, but I’ve already written that rant). His recall is ok, but could use some work. At the very least I don’t worry about him rushing out the door, and I can usually call him off even if he’s playing with another dog. He might not be about to win any obedience championships but he’s got a good start on all the important life skills.
  • Socialization

    • When I first got Mufaasa the moment he spotted another dog in the distance he would start yowling like it was the most significant event of his life. Now he’s a great doggie citizen with a happy ability to interact with a lot of dogs that don’t ordinarily get along with anybody. He adores every human, horse and donkey he meets (we’ve yet to test him on cats), and is surprisingly gentle with children. It certainly makes life easier.
  • Calmness

    • Everywhere I take him people remark on how calm he is. I even got it a lot at the Expo where we were in a large room with easily fifty other dogs and their people. For our first few months together he didn’t seem to know how to settle down. Once I had access to a nearby off-leash park I could give him about two hours of wrestling and retrieving a day, after which he started to even out. Now he gets an hour in the morning, at least a half hour on leash walk in the evening, and a few short bursts of training throughout the day and he’s pretty good. He can certainly do more, but at least I no longer have to run him into exhaustion in order to keep myself from resort to murdering him later when he spends the evening stealing socks, shoes, books off the self, and anything else he can get his grubby little paws on.
  • Agility Awesomeness

    • Agility was something I really wanted to get into (since it is, as I often call it, “the poor man’s show jumping”), and it was something I kept in mind when I was looking for a new dog. Mufaasa breed seemed to be the right pick, and he is a quick learner. Even before we finished our basic obedience class our teacher was already encouraging us to start on agility, and it was one of the best decisions I could have made. Part of the calmness I mentioned above is in large part because of the mental stimulation he gets from this training. I know it’s increased our communication, which is the first and most important step to having a happy relationship with your pooch. He’s showing a real aptitude for it (especially when I don’t screw us up by not giving him enough credit), and I think if I stick with it we’ll have a lot of fun.

With all that having been said, he’s far from perfect, but than, neither am I. He’s an incredible dog, and I’ve always said he’s fully capable of learning anything I’m competent enough to teach him, and then some. So, I’m going to lay out what I think we need to work on and how I currently plan on doing it.

  • Obediance

    • I mentioned above that his recall isn’t perfect, and I’d really like it to be as close to perfect as a dog can get. Susan Garret does a recalling seminar online, and the next one she has I’m going to sign up for. I also have to remind myself that he’s not yet two years old (his birthday’s three months away), which means we’re right in the middle of his adolescent stage. It’s like have a four-legged teenager at times. Sometimes I’ll call him and he just gives me this look like, “You can’t tell me what to do!” right before he scampers off. He also tends to lose his usually kick-ass retrieving skills when we’re in the middle of a training session, which certainly makes life harder. Mid-workshop I’ll throw a toy for him and he runs around the arena for five minutes before I either catch him or he runs into his crate (at least he’s got lots of value for his crate!).
      • Fix: he’s disengaging from me, and in the case of running off in the middle of training, I think it’s just a matter of keeping everything light, fun, and something he wants to do. If it’s boring, he doesn’t come back, so I just have to find ways to keep it fun. Same thing with a simple recall when we’re out at the park, I just have to keep doing what I’ve been doing, just reinforcing the recalls and doing my best to set him up to succeed. The other part is to make sure he gets enough freedom to relax without any training or pressure. With the winter weather, we sometimes don’t get out, or it’s too icy to go off leash safely, and any dog will rebel eventually if they’re never allowed to blow off a little steam. We all need our “me” time.

    • Jumping on people. He doesn’t do it to me, and he doesn’t do it to people who come through the door, or who visit the office, or who pass us in the street. It’s usually when someone pulls out a treat that he jumps, and it’s something he learned at the dog park. I’m not impressed, he was awesome about it until one person just chucked the treat at him when he jumped in excitement, and then proceeded to do it every time she saw him even when I asked her not to. Seriously, people, if the dog jumps on you (and isn’t attacking you), don’t give them the damn treat because they’ll just keep doing it. Simple equation!
      • Fix: I’ve been pretty firm that if people are going to give him a treat, his bum has to be on the ground, and if he doesn’t do that, he doesn’t get a treat. There’s been some head-way, I just have to keep an eye out for anyone who might encourage that bad behaviour.

  • Socialization

    • He still pulls a bit when we approach another dog (not enough to pull me off my feet, but enough that I’d rather he didn’t). He’s also developed two weird habits that are going to get us in trouble some day. The first is when we pass a dog and the other owner purposely steers clear or restrains their dog, he starts to growl. If he winds up coming in contact with the other dog he doesn’t start a fight, but if I don’t let him go check the dog out he makes a bit of a scene. I’m sure he’s just responding to the other dog’s tense body language, but his growling and jumping aren’t going to help. The second thing he does is what I like to call his “bear baiting routine”. If he wants to play with a dog at the park and that dog growls and snaps at him (usually because Mufaasa is in it’s space and it doesn’t want to play) Mufaasa will react by barking and jumping around until the other dog is so irritated it chases him. It’s the perfect self-rewarding behaviour. I’ve had to go and rescue him because Mufaasa thinks he’s having a fun game of tag and the other dog is agitated enough that it could possibly do some damage.
      • Fix: For the first problem, I recently got a martingale collar that makes it easier to get a hold of him. I switch him to the opposite side of my body and walk briskly past the other dog, thus not giving him time to get agitated and my body acts as sort of a safety barrier which hopefully makes him feel a bit more secure. I’ve also been putting him in a sit stay and body blocking him when I see a dog coming that he might react to. I think it’s working, but it’s hard to tell so early out. For the second problem every time I see him engaging in his little routine I call him over and give him a time-out until he calms down. After two or three reps he chills out and stops bothering the other dog. I think this problem has seemed worse lately since we haven’t been getting to the off-leash park as much, and he’s just that much more excited when he sees another dog. So, my commitment to get my ass to the park more is something I’m going to have to hold myself to.

  • Calmness

    • Not much to work on there. Occasionally in the morning before we leave he starts getting into stuff (like grabbing the pillow off of my bed and proudly displaying it since he knows it drives me nuts), but that could easily be solved by me not being such a princess and taking a half an hour to fight with my hair before giving up and sticking it in a bun.
      • Fix: Seeing as he’s a boarder collie mix, I think I’m just living with this one and counting my blessings he didn’t think of something worse to obsess over.
  • Agility

    • Basically just repeat everything I already stated for his recall, since it really ruins your rhythm when your dog screws off for ten minutes in the middle of a training session. Otherwise he’s progressing steadily in everything we’re working on, though he’s not ready for a real competition yet (though I’d like to get him to a fun show to do a jumpers class in the near future). The only obstacle I don’t think he has enough drive for is the tunnel—he tends to not want to go through them if he can’t see the light at the end—but that’s not a serious issue, we just haven’t worked on them outside of class.
      • Fix: Keep my sessions short and change them up. We’ve been doing weaves twice a day for a couple of months now, and unsurprisingly I think he’s board. Start working jumps and other obstacles into a sequence, and maybe divide the reps so he thinks there’s an end in sight (I’m sure my trainers will have something to say about this one). I need to get a whiteboard up so I can keep a training schedule, and then, you know, stick to it (as much as his progress will allow) so I can keep track of what I’ve worked on and when. Otherwise, since he’s making good progress I plan on staying the course, and work on our recall and other basics (like circle work), and anything that enhances my connection to my dog. Also, buy a damn tunnel.

Alright, now for the part of this which is possibly complete fantasy, but here’s where I’d like to be in a year (listed roughly in order of importance:

  • Excellent recall and retrieve (second one more likely than the first, first one more desirable than the second)

  • Don’t get bogged down worrying if my dog is learning everything correctly, just make sure he’s still enjoying it (and me too!)

  • Make progress on his social faux pas

  • Have solid 2o2o contacts and be doing 12 (correct!) weave polls

  • Compete in a few fun matches, and hopefully at least a trial in a few months to see where we’re at

  • Enjoy sharing my life with my dog (this one actually belongs on top)

Ok, I think I’m done for now. There’s all kinds of other minor, nitpicky things I could list but that’s all the big, important stuff that I can think of. I’d love to get people’s opinions, whether you think I’m off the mark on what should be my priority or if you have better ideas on how to address any of the problems I listed. In the meantime I’m gonna hug my little champion like, um, a champion and try not to feed him the entire bag of peanut butter biscuits at once.

2 Replies to “It’s Been a Year Since I Adopted Mufaasa, Time to Take a Look at How Far We’ve Come”

  1. Hi Ms ScruffyKitty,
    Just a couple of thoughts. Always work on the recall and lots of reinforcement for it. As Susan Garrett says, you need to put lots of depots in the bank especially if you make a withdrawal. Anyways, before I got a tunnel, i would set up chairs or other things and drape blankets over it and slowly changed the configuration from a straightaway to a curved macaroni. Positive of this is you can drop end of blanket slowly so Mufassa pushes through which is similar to chute. I think all your goals are reachable and you will have lots of fun meeting them. You should always be on the learning journey and having fun-
    Celtie's mom

    1. Hi Celtie's mom!
      I like the idea of the chairs, though it might be hard to pull off inside since I'm limited on space, but getting to introduce the chute would be really good since I don't think we've done one yet (aside from me occasionally throwing a blanket on him just for the sake of keeping him occupied for a few minutes finding his way out).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: