A True Companion: Part II

PART II

As I left off yesterday, lately it’s been a struggle with my dog, Coda. But in order for me to help you understand I need to explain life with this true companion.

Coda is extremely anxious. Separation anxiety would be a mild term. Anxiety tends to run in the Shorthair lineage but I think it’s safe to say Coda’s could tip the scale. When we first brought her home we discovered she would get into things when we left so we decided to buy a kennel. The first was a very nice metal bar kennel. The kind that dogs can see out of so they don’t feel enclosed. We tested it out by putting her in it and stepping outside the front door to see how she would do. She barked. And barked. And barked. Five minutes turned into ten, turned into twenty; even with a few greetings and scratches from us in an attempt to calm her. We finally relented. We backed off completely and slowly progressed the time upwards so she could tolerate short spurts at a time. She was getting better but the barking never stopped completely. Then, one day we returned home to find her out of the kennel but the kennel fully intact. Our first thought was that someone had broken into the apartment. How else would she have gotten out? We looked around for missing belongings. After careful examination of the kennel itself we discovered that she had some how Houdini-ed her way out of the corner panels where the sides attach to each other. You know, the ones that have three hooks evenly spaced down the edge. Normal, right?

IMG_8897We trudged to the store and bought another kennel. This one was a thick heavy plastic with a sturdy lock for entry and exit. No bars to break through. After only a few days she managed to claw and chew her way through the kennel. You know, where the side meets the base and there’s a seam. Her claws were bloody and her back developed a sore along her spine where she arched as she attempted to claw her way out. Normal, right?

She had also taken on a very annoying habit of assuming “dead dog” position whenever it was time for us to leave. At the first mention of going to the kennel she would run to the back room and drop to the floor, a complete dead weight. We had resorted to dragging her down the hall to get her in. We toiled over whether putting her in the kennel was the right thing to do. She hated it so much and we felt awful putting her in. But it truly was the safest place for her to be. She couldn’t get into anything there. But what were we to do?

Off to the store again. Another kennel arrived home. This time with no metal bars or seams. This one was a “top/bottom” type kennel which bolted two thick surfaces of plastic together on the outside of the kennel. Finally, she could not get out of this one. Over the months, she eventually calmed down enough to tolerate it and we didn’t come home to a nervous panting dog. But she always hated it.

You might be wondering what were these “things she got into.” Just for fun I’ve made a list of everything I can think of.

  • 2 kennels, as you already know.
  • Pulled books off the shelf and chewed on them.
  • Gnawed on a hand mirror.
  • Loaves of bread, no idea how many.
  • Trash, too many times to count.
  • Sticks of butter, not sure how many.
  • Bars of soap, x2.
  • Bottle of lotion.
  • Half a lasagna, at parents house for Christmas.
  • Half a pizza.
  • Two boxes of See’s truffles.
  • Box of chocolate covered peppermints, at parents house for Christmas.
  • Container of Dove chocolates, at a friend’s house.
  • Container of vitamins, at a friend’s house. She got her stomach pumped for this one.
  • 10 lb bag of grapes from a friends vineyard. Another stomach pumping.
  • Chews on the door jamb anytime we leave with suitcases in our hands. Don’t worry, a friend is always scheduled to come get her.
  • Chewed through the bottom half of a door and ripped up 6×6 ft of carpeting trying to get out of a room. (One of our attempts of trying to not use the kennel.)
  • Ate an entire pear cake; a fancy Christmas dessert that was consumed off a cake pedestal while we were upstairs in the house.
  • 5 lb bag of sugar, ripped open and strewn across the carpet, then licked up so that the crystals crusted into the carpet.

And in the time that I started writing this post to now,

  • Another box of fancy chocolates, a wrapped present under the tree for Christmas.
  • Salt dough ornament of Simon’s handprint. Torn off the tree from about half way up. Grrrr.

That’s what I can remember, at least. One would start to think that we as pet owners don’t take the proper precautions to prevent these issues. Most of them have happened when we’re visiting family or friends are dog sitting but I’m certainly not saying we are innocent. We do our best and over the years have figured out what needs to be done to keep her out of trouble. (For those of you who are concerned about her kennel difficulties: she has free range but all doors are closed and counters are clean before leaving. She rests peacefully on her blanket on the couch.)

Alas, we love our 65 pounds of volcanic anxiety. But when a baby entered this household, tension bubbled over Coda’s needs.

Stay tuned for Part III…

What struggles have you had with your pets? What did you do to help the pet/yourself?

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6 thoughts on “A True Companion: Part II

  1. I don’t know how ordinary pet owners can do it! We raise guide dog puppies, each for about 15 months. They go off for further training and we begin again. Each one’s different, but kennel training (the plastic kind) begins at 10 weeks. They usually stop whining within a week and regard it for ever after as a zone of safety. The puppies are never off leash or a tie-down at first except when we bathe or do their nails. Good behavior (i.e. calmness, no barking, no mouthing etc.) is rewarded with single bits of kibble and lavish praise. They sleep in their kennels, and are taught to lay down on the rear seat floor in cars. They earn the right to be free in the house or yard through good behavior. By about six months old, they know many commands (come, stay, wait, go to bed, down, kennel, enough) and they pee and poo on order (“do your business”). From there you keep exposing them to new environments, noises, other animals, and they learn to be calm in every situation if they are in their jackets.

    I don’t know how you could get Coda back on track exactly, but she obviously wants your approval and attention. Can you learn to withhold that when she does the wrong thing, and reinforce her positively only when she behaves correctly? Most dogs love learning the game of “doing it right”, and kibble or whatever treat she prefers, combined with praise, can be a tremendous motivator. I worked for about an hour a day with a pal’s two hundred-pounders, a lab and a pit/mastiff mix who had been free-range farm dogs. After a month, they were able to be walked without pulling at the leash, and were much calmer around the house. I guess you celebrate whatever progress you can get. Good luck!

    • Hi Mikey,
      First let me say thank you for training guide dogs. What a wonderful thing you are doing for others. I work in rehabilitation and have seen them in action. They can change lives.
      Thanks for the advice and tips. Coda is definitely a dog that wants to please and we’ve had good luck with basic training. We’ve always wondered if the kennel problem had to do with being in the humane society. Who knows. And in the big picture, Coda really has come a long way from some of her behaviors in the beginning.
      Best of luck in continued training!

  2. I can totally relate-Harvey and Scout have eaten numerous food and nonfood items-sometimes requiring charcoal or induced vomiting at the vet. Scout is a Houdini with crates. We finally resorted to meds after they destroyed the carpet and we were contemplating finding new homes for them. It really helped and once we stopped the cycle of destruction, I weened them off it.

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