Dog Training

Our house has been a whirlwind of excitement for the last 10 days or so. The first weekend of the month, we adopted a second dog from an excellent shelter here in our city. Just about 3 years ago, when my then elderly baby, lab-dachshund mix finally passed away at 14yo, I lasted in a dog-free house about 3 months before I had to find a new addition to the home. This was, of course, pre-pandemic so it was a more normal process. At this particular shelter, most of their adoptions happen on the weekend. They do not answer the phone; you have to show up and sign up on the day’s schedule to meet the dog of your choice, based on their profile posted on the shelter website. Most weeks, they get new dogs from Southern California or Texas or Mexico where they would otherwise be strays and they evaluate them for suitability for family life. Each dog’s profile indicates whether they can be in a home with children, other dogs or cats, whether they need a fenced backyard, whether they want a more or less active household or whether they would be better suited for country living. We were lucky to find Kona, our golden lab-whippet mix and she’s been the perfect new dog to make our house complete.

However, she has struggled a bit during the pandemic. Despite the fact we go for walks daily and get out of the house regularly, she has become a bit agoraphobic over the last two years. I’ve stopped taking her to the dog park because she found it more stressful than fun and our lives have really become more insular than we would like. So I had a thought that a second dog MIGHT just help Kona relieve some of her stress. With the right temperament and the right mix of breeds, we could provide a home to a second rescue dog and help Kona with her anxiety.

This idea has been simmering for quite a while. I was not willing to go to a different shelter or to settle for a dog that wouldn’t have a high likelihood of fitting in. So I was looking very closely for a 2yo (give or take a year) lab mix, in the 20-40lb range. Lo and behold, we found one! We brought Kona in to sign up for a visiting time to meet the little girl, advertised as an overweight 35lb 2yo lab-beagle-aussie shepherd mix. We had 45 minutes in a small room with the two dogs and the two of us and no bad interactions happened. It was a little spur of the moment, but we brought her home.

After we got back home, we walked right over to the neighborhood pet supply store to get a good fitting harness so we can adjust to her inevitable slim-down. On the way home, we settled on the name Pearl, after considering a number of Hawaii and/or brewery-related dog names (Maui, Kauai, Hilo, Hana, Ninkasi, Boneyard, (Fort) George). And the family grew by one.

I have never read a book on dog training; I guess it has come naturally to me. And when I say “training,” it’s a little tongue-in-cheek. My standards for what constitutes a “trained” dog are pretty low. Don’t pee or poop in the house and don’t steal food off humans’ plates is about it. The truth is, the rest seems to come naturally. I’ve never had a “problem” dog. I think lab mixes tend to be pretty excellent family dogs and generally want to please you, the pack leader. So far, Pearl has learned her name, comes when I call her at least half the time, walks well on a leash, has been doing better about charging at other dogs/cats/squirrels, and hasn’t eaten anything off our plates yet, though we have to be pretty vigilant about making sure we don’t give her any temptation.

If I was going to write a book about dog training, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to; I can’t really give instructions to save my life. But the dogs I adopt do tend to get with the program pretty seamlessly. Kona and Pearl aren’t quite two peas in a pod yet, but we are definitely making progress. I would give it another month before Kona really recognizes that we’re all gonna live here together for the foreseeable future. Neither has been too snippy with the other, though Pearl has growled at Kona when Kona got jealous and started invading her space.

Pearl is quite the gem, though. I think the breed combo is actually black lab/rat terrier because, personality-wise, she isn’t at all like a hound or a herding dog. She definitely has taken it upon herself to patrol the yard for any varmints who dare cross over, under or around the fence and, given how she plays with her favorite toys, I doubt if she actually caught a rat, it would live to see another day, or minute. She’s fierce! Natural pest control, for the win!

So to close out, I’ll just put my stamp of approval on the Family Dogs New Life shelter in Portland, OR and on the practice of adopting animals in general. The world’s best dogs are the ones who have known a hard life and have enough wherewithal to appreciate you for giving them a better one. With a lot of love and care, a dog can be a great addition to any family, and a second dog is sometimes even better. Here’s hoping Kona’s anxiety will wane enough to try out the dog park again this spring, with her new, bolder sister along to give her a safe place.

Back of the car on the way home.
I’m ready to go on the walk, mom!
Two dogs, one loveseat.

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