Daisy, our oldest dog, playing with Runa in the house this morning. Daisy is enjoying having a puppy around (she has had pups herself). The morning dog play lets Runa use up her play energy before going out with the goats, and possibly roughing up the yearlings.
So, Runa is now 26 pounds and I swear her legs are longer too. She is getting my favorite premium dog food and supplements. Growing steadily, yet not getting too fat or too thin.
We’ve had a couple learning experiences recently. Remember my post about learning to stay back at the door? Well, the first few times I was putting the other dogs out and insisted that she stay back by pushing her back with my foot, she growled at me and bit my leg. Instant alpha roll. I asked her again. Another growl, but no bite. Another immediate alpha roll. Third time – another growl, and another roll. And after that she accepted the request, and has not growled about being held back since. It only took the one session, and today she still remembers and accepts when I need to move her back from something. I think the long-term solution to this one may be to teach her Wait first. Once she has Wait down, then we can do Wait at the doorway. Then add Wait with the other dogs going out. Chunk it down. I do know that every single time Runa and I go through any gate or door, I MUST go through first, no matter how tired, or busy, or distracted I am. No exceptions. The leader always goes through the door first. And I have slipped on that one.
Then there was the feeding lesson. Runa suddenly got food protective and growled at my hand when it came near her bowl. Instant alpha roll. Another try, another growl and her teeth on my hand, another alpha roll. And that was it. On my third attempt, she tolerated my hand. As a longer-term solution, rather than dump all her food in the bowl at once, I now add it to the bowl 1 handful at a time, leaving my closed fist in the bowl until she stops holding her breath, then I open my hand and let her eat from my hand. Or I put the handful in the bowl, then reach in with another handful and add to the food already there. Basically showing in many ways that when my hand is in her bowl, she gets good eats. So far it’s working, and she has not growled or tensed again.
So, a couple thoughts on alpha rolling. This is a controversial subject, and honestly, a technique I’m not happy about using. I have figured out a positive way to overcome the food guarding, so no need to do any more alpha rolls over that one. I’m sure that there is a positive way to set Runa up for success at the door also, so that she WANTS to stay back, and I can do away with any conflict there as well. At the times I rolled her, I had to make a very quick decision how to handle a growl & bite, from a puppy that is bred to be stubborn and independent and intelligent, and who will be VERY big someday. With hindsight, I should have seen that she was tensing/holding her breath, side-stepped the entire issue, and then figured out a different way to approach the situation. And that IS how I will handle it next time. I am sharing honestly here about how I handled it, in hopes that it someday helps someone else facing the same dilemma. I have worked with other breeds before – retrievers, collies, huskies, labradors, a border collie. Runa is my first Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD), deliberately bred to think independently and defy her humans if she thinks it’s in the best interest of her livestock. So learning to handle that genetic defiance is a whole new process for me. This blog had some interesting thoughts on the different dog training methods, especially Caesar Millan and Tamar Geller. http://adogblog-kinipella.blogspot.com/2011/08/contrasting-theories.html
Her house manners continue to improve. She has mostly learned to tell the difference between her chew toys and our possessions. She tells me when she needs to go out to go to the bathroom, and I’ve learned to anticipate the timing now. She slept through the night for the first time last night. She had been waking up once to drink and go out.
And her off-leash time is great! She stays right with me, comes when I call her, and so far is respectful of the cats and chickens. Of course, off-leash is closely supervised, as a treat, and at a time when I know she has been missing me and is eager to stay close. Setting her up for success!
Yesterday she ducked under the electric fence and got loose. She stayed right in the barnyard with her animals, and was waiting for me when I got out there. Which is very good news, as she could have gone wandering, or could have left her animals to come up to the house. So that tells me she is recognizing the boundaries, and has instincts for staying with her animals.
So many good lessons for us both!
And, of course, something new to learn about… This morning when I fed Runa, the does came over to investigate her food and Runa growled, barked, then nipped when some got their noses in there. Not sure if this is a good behavior or not. Time to do more research.
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA or AVMA, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your veterinarian about any changes to your animal’s health program.