(Click on links for better resolution images)
I meant to send you all a "birthday" update when we had Yatsu (formerly Sid/Flash) for one year, and I can't remember if I ever did it. Anyway, this week Yatsu impressed me so much with a new "Damn those dogs are smart" trick that I just had to tell (brag?) everyone about it. Twice now, Yatsu has managed to open a jar of jerky treats. You know, the ones that come in strips in a plastic jar with a screw top. He does it without deforming the jar or breaking the lid. We used to keep the jerky treats handy on the countertop so we could reward good behavior quickly, but now we have to keep them in the cupboard when we're not at home, because our dog can unscrew jars.
So anyway- the update. We are no longer able to remember what we did all day before we got a dog. Yatsu goes to the dog park every single day. He still has no interest in playing with other dogs. He just retrieves his tennis ball for 35 minutes and goes home. We are trying to switch him over to the soft balls, but he resists change. On weekends we go to the good park and Yatsu goes swimming.
We bought a house, and Yatsu adjusted to the move really well. In fact, I think he relaxed a little in the new place. Our old cat who looks like a sheep has finally begun to forgive us for introducing the wolf, and will now slink past the dog to get to another room. We got a new cat, Oscar, who Yatsu found very interesting the first day, and very scary the second. Now they will tentatively sniff noses, but mostly Yatsu gives Oscar a wide berth.
Obedience wise, he's done really well. He can do sit, down, wait, come, shake, go pee, backyard, go to bed, up, get daddy/mommy, release (to my hand), drop (on the ground), go up/down stairs, kiss, go over there and off reliably. Roll over, leave it, and walking on leash without pulling usually work, depending on the motivators and distractions present. We took one WSOTC class, but Yatsu always looked like a little kid going to piano class so we didn't go on to the advanced class. Because of his fear aggression, we met with a trainer who recommended Jean Donaldson's book Culture Clash. I've read it three times, and given as many copies to friends, and would recommend it over any of the other 8 dog books on my shelf. If any of you haven't read it, please do. I think every dog should come with a free copy.
After learning his warning signs and body language, we instituted a management plan for dealing with Yatsu's um, issues with intimacy. We basically tried to eliminate any situation that made him uncomfortable, while trying to maximize his exposure to other people within his comfort zone. So he greets everyone at the door, gets a treat and one pat on the head from everyone who comes to the house, gets to stay in the room on his bed when 4 or fewer people come over. He gets put in his room with the baby gate up when we have parties, or guests + food, doesn't get petted by strangers on walks and never gets closer than 10 feet from children. When we have overnight guests, they feed him whatever they want. (We NEVER give him human food, but my mom practically feeds him her dinner when she comes up from Arizona. She's afraid of dogs, and that combined with appalling quantities of free treats has endeared her to him.) Any progress he makes with other human beings occurs at the speed of glacial melt, but our friends and family who only see him every few months assure us that he is not the same dog they saw the last time. This may be true. In recent months, some of our more trusted friends have begun to take two pats on the head when they feed him his bribe, I mean treat, for letting them in the house. And twice, new people have given him the normal type of greeting that you give a dog when you go to someone's house before we had a chance to intervene, and he responded like a normal dog both times. Not that we have any intention of further pushing our luck on the uncontrolled greeting front.... Also, he mostly only uses his toys for tug games now, and hardly ever chews anything but his stuffed Kong. He used to neurotically dissect tennis balls, and that's just disappeared. We gave him a Buster Cube once, but he managed to get the key out the first day, and destroyed it. So we're back to the regular treat ball.
We've never left him home alone overnight. When we go skiing, we take him with. He loves playing catch on the snow-covered driving range at Whistler. Tennis balls or snow, they're both good. We are anxious about how he will react to having one of us gone for a long time though. So far, we've only had one or the other parent gone for 2 weeks at a time. But next winter I will do a quarter study abroad in India. Chris will be a single parent for 3 months. Hopefully Yatsu won't backslide too much in his confidence. I don't envy Chris the amount of pent up dog energy he's going to have to deal with releasing all by himself. We'll let you know how it goes.
Well, that's probably more than you needed to know. Thanks again for helping us find our perfect little boy. :)