My Time with Ryder

There’s a new dog in my life and his name is Ryder. Although he is not a foster, he is the focus of my free time and volunteering, and I love him.
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Since we foster failed last time and Sarge became a permanent member of our family, our fostering days are over for now. But I still wanted to help dogs in need. I have also wanted to find an organization here in Maine that doesn’t import more dogs into the state, but that helps dogs who need homes here. Luckily, I came across Buddy Up Animal Society whose mission is to help last chance dogs in shelters right here in the state. I contacted them and then met Ryder.

Ryder, like so many other ‘rescue’ dogs, has had a rough beginning to his life. I will spare you the details, but he has had some issues with other dogs, which has made a foster arrangement difficult. He has been in shelters/rescue for over two years. Right now, he is in boarding at a local daycare facility. He loves people so much that being kept in a kennel for most of the day is not ideal for him.
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Because of his lack of a consistent schedule and owner, Ryder really needed a brush up on some of his manners. That is where I came in. He and I enrolled in a six week obedience class geared towards bully breeds, called “Good Bully.” Every Friday night I picked up the handsome boy and we drove down to Finish Forward Dogs, a training studio that is extremely generous in helping train rescue dogs.
ryder class 2

The first night was a little bumpy. He was figuring me out and I was trying to understand him. I could see he had major potential and an eagerness to please, he just has had no rules and boundaries to live by. It was clear that he craves attention from people…and chicken treats! As the weeks went by Ryder’s personality and intelligence shined. He already had a solid sit, but we worked on down, down stays, leave it, place, and leash manners. I really looked forward to our time together each week. It felt like a partnership, and we were progressing together. He was learning manners, and I was learning how to teach manners, both with an end goal of finding him a forever family.Ryder class 5

By the end of the six weeks we had really bonded. I could tell he was happy to see me when I picked him up from boarding. Over the weeks I learned that he could get a little worked up in the car when he’s been in the kennel all day, so bully sticks became a weekly treat for the ride. He really loves food, treats and toys and I was happy to find any excuse to give him some!

To ‘graduate’ from the class Ryder had to pass several tests that included:
Leash Walking– Check, he followed me like a pro!
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15 foot Recall– Check, that boy will follow his people anywhere!
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Sit with no food– Check, he is a pro at this!
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Down with no food– Check, we worked hard on this one!
Stay while another dog walks by– Check, again, as long as you are in sight, he will do whatever you want!

He passed with flying colors and REALLY enjoyed picking out his stuffie at the end! Watch the video, it’s super cute!
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Ryder is really a wonderful dog. He charms everyone he meets, and the staff at the daycare and the trainers at Finish Forward have only great things to say about him. He’s snuggly and affectionate and so very handsome! Although in his past he’s had some issues with other dogs, he’s been improving and I don’t think he absolutely has to be the only dog in a household. Just look at him hanging out with other pups before class:
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It is all about finding the right home with the right dogs that will be the right fit for him. But, boy does he deserve it. He is such a love and has been homeless for way too long. He has so many less ‘issues’ than several of my previous fosters (ahem, Anna) so I can’t figure out why he is still without a family.

He and I are scheduled to take the next installment of the bully manners class, “Better Bully” this month. He is such a good boy and this next class will surely help him improve even more. After another six weeks of training I can only imagine how prepared and ready he will be to find his forever home!

Here is Ryder’s petfinder profile. If you know of anyone looking for an amazing dog to add to their family, please share Mr. Ryder. For more information, contact Buddy Up at info@buddyupanimalsociety.org.

Look What the Cat Dragged In!

It’s been a long time since my last post. There’s really no one reason, just a million little ones. I recently heard somewhere (and by somewhere, I mean on one of those addicting “Real Housewives” shows on Bravo), “The longer you are away from something, the easier it gets to live without it.” I don’t want to live without the blog, because I love it, it’s just so easy to find other things to do with my free time. This also means that I have been very bad at my blog reading. I apologize for any of you who think I have been snubbing you. It’s not that at all! I miss reading all ‘my’ blogs as much as I do writing this one! But, alas, I am back and have a TON of things to write about (and a TON to catch up on from all of you!).

I’ll try to get you up to speed quickly and then get back on track with regular postings.

Things with Sarge are going well. The “Ottoman Empire” has fallen, and he is officially sleeping in our bed. After his five day streak when we first introduced the ottoman, he started to try to climb on the bed and we spent all night trying to prevent him from climbing up. We could have been more strict, I guess, but honestly, for me the more dogs in the bed the better. Nola protested at first, and would jump down every time Sarge came near her on the bed, but now she settles on one side of me and stay as long as he is not touching her. Recently, she has even allowed his paw to ever so slightly touch her leg.
snuggleWe haven’t received any applications or even inquiries about Sarge. It’s so frustrating because I know the only reason that he is being overlooked is his age. He is such an easy and wonderful dog, I wish I could get people to look past the number on his profile. He did great at the book signing with Ken Foster, and although we didn’t get any applications for him, BURN contacted me and said someone made a donation to the rescue in his name after meeting him.
sarge curled upNola is taking an advanced Noseworks class, which introduces her to searching for a specific odor. I am excited to give her some alone time doing something she loves! The class also allows me to work with her on some mat training. It is my goal this summer to teach her that when her purple (of course!) mat is out, it means she needs to lay down and chill on it. At class she is usually too interested in the other dogs taking their turns and will not sit or lay down. Now, she is doing much better and now settles in quickly when it is not her turn. I hope to be able to translate this to other places where I need her to just ‘chill.’
nola odor classSo that’s pretty much it. The Mr. and I have been doing lots of traveling, not together unfortunately, so there hasn’t been a whole lot going on other than the normal schedule of working, dog walking and everyday life. It’s also been unusually hot and humid for June in Maine, so we’ve had to spend a lot of time inside in the air conditioning.
couch insideI have a few days off coming up because of the 4th of July holiday, so I promise to be better at posting. Hope you all have a wonderful Independence Day!

Squishy, Tuggy and Flirty

No, those aren’t the names of three more dwarfs. These are the words that describe our new found love of Squishy Face Studio’s Flirt Pole and Super Tug toy. We won the Flirt Pole and Super Tug bundle a couple months ago during And Foster Makes Five’s giveaway. Since this winter has been particularly snowy, even for Maine, we haven’t had a chance to use our prizes until now!
DSC_0611And the verdict is, Nola loves them! I wish we could use the flirt pole to have Nola jump more vertically, but since her ACL injury we have to keep the jumping to a minimum. Even so, she loves chasing things, so just going around the back yard tires her out.
DSC_0631 DSC_0628Nola has ‘drop it’ down to a science, so playing this game with her is so much fun. She has to sit before she can chase and then I let her catch it and she drops it. Occasionally she keeps her foot on the fleece part, just to prove to me that she got it.

DSC_0625It took her a bit longer to get the feel for the Super Tug toy. I had to demonstrate what to do and then entice her to grab the end. But once she got the hang of it, she loved it too!
DSC_0664 DSC_0660 DSC_0651 DSC_0643The way she sticks her little bum up in the air and wags her nubby tail as she pulls makes me giggle every time.
DSC_0654(I tried to play with Sarge too, but he wasn’t interested. He tends to leave the chasing and tugging to the youngin’ while he enjoys eating his bully stick.)
DSC_0488Squishy Face Studio’s toys are super durable and great quality. The flirt pols is one million times better than anything I could make on my own! I love that it has a bungee cord instead of a rope. It helps prevent the feeling of a sudden snap when Nola grabbed the fleece. The handle is nicely lined with a non slip grip that was easy to hold on to. Nola liked chasing the braided Fleece Toss lure because it had floppy ends, but they also have the option of getting one with Zanies Bungee Gecko with squeakers, or you can even use your dog’s favorite toy!
flirtThe ‘marine grade’ bungee cord and metal fasteners on the Super Tug toy seem like they will hold up against even the strongest pullers (man, if only I had found about these toys when we had Anna!) It was easy to install and the strap was plenty big enough to fit around the trees in our yard.
tugNola and I love both of these products and would highly recommend them to anyone who’s dog loves to chase and/or play tug! They are a great option to change up your dog’s exercise routine and keep them mentally and physically stimulated (and exhausted).
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Sarge and the Ottoman Empire

The biggest problem most problematic quirk that we have found with Sargent is he needs to sleep with someone at all times. Not in the same room, but actually physically next to you. We originally tried setting up the crate at the end of our bed, so he could still be with us and see us while he is sleeping. This is the set up we’ve used for all of our past fosters because we allow Nola to sleep in our bed with us and want her to have her own space. But, after hours of crying and whining we felt bad and gave up.
DSC_0531Our temporary solution was to have the Mr. sleep with him downstairs in the finished basement on the couch. But, due to a lot of ‘what else can we do?’ and ‘I have to get up early, let’s just do what works’ our temporary solution turned into two weeks of all of us sleeping separately. When this past weekend rolled around and the Mr. didn’t have to work at all, we decided now was the time for a better fix for the sleeping arrangements.

Our first plan was to try a tie down. We would buy Sarge a big comfy bed, put it right next to our bed, but hook him up to a tie down so he couldn’t go anywhere. Obviously we would do some training with him during the day, putting him there for short periods of time, and give him yummy treats like bully sticks and kongs while he is on his bed. But, after we bought all the supplies at Home Depot we got cold feet. Sarge is just so old, we want to make him happy and can’t stand hearing him in distress.

So we brainstormed some more. We knew that Sarge likes to be near us, and he likes to be on furniture, so what could we do to accomplish these two things? Then it came to me: an ottoman. We should try and put a big ottoman right next to the bed. He would be up off the floor and be close enough to us that it would ALMOST be like sleeping in the actual bed. We went to ‘The Pit’ (the place where they sell all the mismatched furniture at a discount) at Bob’s Discount Furniture and picked up a big brown leather ottoman for $90. It’s a bit expensive, especially with their policy of no returns, if it doesn’t work, but we figured it would cost us at least that much for another dog bed anyway. DSC_0527I decided on one that has storage underneath for blankets and pillows. (Hey, if we have to add another piece of furniture to our tiny bedroom at least make it functional, right?)
DSC_0548We brought it home and set it up. We put his ‘baby’ (the penguin we gave to him the first night with us, that he sleeps with), a pillow and blanket on it to make it extra comfy. We asked him to jump up and gave him cookies while he was on it.
DSC_0544DSC_0539During the afternoon I folded laundry on the bed while he snoozed on his ottoman. We gave him lots of praise and lots of cookies when he was laying there and told him ‘no’ when he would try to go on the bed.
DSC_0540He seemed to be getting it, but the real test was later that night. He climbed right up when we were all ready for bed (which was at 8pm just in case it took a while for him to settle). We kept the light on and watched TV for a bit while he settled in. A couple hours later he was snoozing away and we shut off the lights. He did really well! He got up a few times, and tried to walk around to my side and get up, but we said ‘no’ and he went back to his ottoman. It’s been 4 more nights since that first night and he’s slept all the way through!
DSC_0537We’re still keeping our fingers crossed, but it seems as though Sarge has conquered the Ottoman Empire and we all get to sleep as a family again!

Nola Muffin Monday: How I Spent Easter

Hey Everyone! Mom hasn’t let me blog in a long time. She says she’s been busy, and if busy means not being home very much than she has been VERY busy. But, she was home this weekend because it was Easter. I’m not really sure why we celebrate Easter, but I got to do some fun things anyway. First, and not very much fun, Mom made me pose with stupid rabbit ears on. They were heavy and I didn’t like them much, but I got lots of treats if I sat there, so I did.
DSC_0165DSC_0191 DSC_0201Then when I decided we were done, I took the ears and ran around all silly in the backyard. THAT was fun!
DSC_0199 DSC_0204 DSC_0205 DSC_0206 DSC_0211We also got to go to the beach. I wish there was still snow there, I love running in the dunes with the snow. Mom seemed to be happy it was warm and she didn’t have to put her boots on. The water was really low so I had LOTS of beach to play on.
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Really?! I have to sit and pose again?

Really?! I have to sit and pose again?

I also explored the little pools of water. I saw this little creature moving all funny so I went to check it out. Mom started yelling “Leave it!” just when I got close enough to sniff it. I don’t know what the big deal was, but she gave me a treat for being a good dog and listening to her and not touching it.
IMG_3850Then, later in the afternoon we played ‘find it’! ‘Find it’ is my FAVORITE game. Usually we play it with Teri in the big blue room or in our basement, but today we played outside. Mom filled these round things with chicken and put them in the yard for me to find. She said she stole borrowed the idea from Athena’s mom at Pitlandia. (Hi Athena! Thanks for having such a smart mom so mine can get ideas from her!)
DSC_0218 DSC_0216 DSC_0230DSC_0252At first I wasn’t sure how to get the chicken out. Then I realized if I used my paw enough it broke and out popped the yummies!
DSC_0258 DSC_0250 DSC_0242 DSC_0223 DSC_0227DSC_0266Easter must be really special because on top of all that other fun stuff, Mom and Dad  made ham and I got to have a few bites! (But only when I sat nicely on my mat.) So, to recap: I got treats, went to the beach, played ‘find it,’ ate chicken, then ate ham. Best.day.ever.

DSC_0159Hope you all enjoyed Easter as much as I did!

The Nose Knows

We’ve done several training classes with Nola over the past few years. We even tried agility with her, which she loved, until she tore her ACL. We decided after her CGC certification that we would do a class just for fun. We needed a class that wasn’t too physical, since the vet recommend she avoid jumping. We didn’t want to do another obedience class right away. And, we wanted to do something that was F-U-N for Nola Muffin. Since she seems to be a pro at sniffing out all the poop buried under the snow in our yard, finding chicken bones on the side of the road, and all digging up all sorts of gross things at the beach, we figured Nose Work seemed like the perfect fit!

Nola getting psyched for class.

Nola getting psyched for class.

Last week was our first class. I find the first class of any training session to be a bit stressful, probably because I am a worrier and have anxiety about unknown situations, and this on proved to be no different. It had been recommended to us by Teri, the trainer, to bring a crate for Nola. Because the dogs work off leash it is important to keep the other dogs contained. Well, it’s been well over a year since Nola has even stepped foot in a crate. We worked on it a bit at home before class, but apparently not enough. She hated being in there and would only be calm if we were feeding her treats. Otherwise she was whining and pawing at the door. Look at the pathetic face she gave us:

"Can I PLEASE come out now?"

“Can I PLEASE come out now?”

DSC_0738Next week we are going to try a bigger crate and see if that helps a bit. (This one was the smaller of the two we own, because it’s easier to transport, but she was hitting her head on the top.) We also tried just keeping her behind a partition, but she was too interested in what was going on, and she’s tall enough to see over it!

Inspecting her treats.

Inspecting her treats.

After we set up our holding area for Nola, the class begun. Each dog got to go three rounds, with three turns to sniff each round. During the first round Nola got to watch as Teri took the treat, put it in a box and placed it on the floor amongst just a few other boxes. DSC_0733DSC_0729Then, the Mr. let her lead him around as she sniffed to find the box with the treat in it. It’s important to use high value, stinky treats in this class. Nola had a combination of chicken and hotdogs to find.DSC_0731 Once Nola found the box with the treat we were supposed to ‘jackpot’ reward her by throwing another handful of treats in the box and praising her like she had just become the first dog President of the United States. Nola was a pro at this round!

The second round got a little harder. This time, Nola was still allowed to see Teri put the treat in the box, but now there were even more empty boxes added to the mix. She was also allowed to search off leash on her own this time. Nola still did excellent, finding the box with the treat almost right away.

Watching Teri place the box.

Watching Teri place the box.

"I'm ready! Let me find it!"

“I’m ready! Let me find it!”

DSC_0744The third round was the ‘blind’ hide. Nola went behind a barrier as Teri hid the treat in a box. Then, she was allowed to search off leash for the box. Nola had a harder time with this one. She wanted to go to Teri and give her the ‘do you have something for me?’ look. We had to tap the boxes a bit to get her back on track. By the last turn she was doing great!
DSC_0739 DSC_0750Overall the class was really fun. Nola seemed to enjoy it, and came home pretty tired. There were five other dogs there, and one of them, a sweet older lady named Birdie, just so happens to be owned by one of my blog idols- Jessica from Notes from a Dog Walker and the creator of DINOS (Dogs in Need of Space). Although I was a bit to self-conscious/paranoid/embarrassed by Nola making a scene in her crate/star struck to actually introduce myself to Jessica (insert palm to forehead!), it was nice to see Birdie go from having her tail tucked and very unsure of the boxes, to wagging and easily finding those delicious morsels Teri hid! (I promised myself that next time I will go over and introduce myself.) That’s the best part of this type of class, it is good for all sorts of dogs- shy dogs, old dogs, dogs that don’t like other dogs, young dogs, dogs that need more mental stimulation, etc. We hope Nola will like it even more next week!

(Not So) Worldess Wednesday: Canine Good Citizen!

Monday night was Nola’s final CGC prep class and the night of the actual test. As you probably already saw from Facebook, she passed! It was close, for some reason or another she did not want to give me a sit or a down, so we had to go back and do that at the end, but she rocked all the other parts! From now on she will officially be known as Nola Muffin Beaudoin, CGC.

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Nola inspects her official paperwork.

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Posing with her class participation certificate.

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We are so proud of our Muffin!

Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog in Training

For the past 5 weeks Nola has been taking a Canine Good Citizen prep class. According to the American Kennel Club, “the CGC Program is designed to reward dogs who have good manners at home and in the community. The Canine Good Citizen Program is a two-part program that stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and basic good manners for dogs.” I have been wanting to get Nola certified for a while, as a way to work on some of our training, and also to be able to say that she is a good dog with a certification to back it up!  When I received an email from our agility trainer Teri at Canine Kinship saying she had spots open in her class, I decided now was the time!

There are 10 parts to the CGC test:
Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger
Test 2: Sitting politely for petting
Test 3: Appearance and grooming
Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
Test 5: Walking through a crowd
Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place
Test 7: Coming when called
Test 8: Reaction to another dog
Test 9: Reaction to distraction
Test 10: Supervised separation

I knew going in that there would be certain things that Nola would need more practice at. But, there is only one other dog in the class with Nola, a mini-Sheltie name Milo, so we have been getting a lot of practice and one on one time with Teri. It is interesting that Nola and Milo both have such different things to work on. Nola’s biggest problem is that she is TOO social. The second test, sitting politely for petting, is VERY difficult for her. She wants to go right up to the person coming toward her and give kisses and greet them with her wiggle but. Also, test 8, reaction to another dog, is tough because she wants to sniff and check out the dog when they are that close to her. Here we are practicing paying attention to me, and not Milo:

cgc1The thing with the CGC test is that you can use verbal commands, but no treats! This fact has really shown us that we have become a little too dependent on using treats to get Nola to do something. Don’t get me wrong, she has sit, down, come, stay and even shake and high five down to a science without treats. It’s the ‘pay attention to me’ and ‘don’t pull on the leash while walking’ that we need to work on getting her to do without a treat, using praise as a reward instead.

Last week was the last class before the actual test. So, in order to practice in a higher distraction environment as well as letting us see what the next step might be after getting her CGC, we went on a field trip to a nursing home. The Mr. and I were nervous about how Nola was going to do. Like I said before, Nola is very social, and likes to see, meet and kiss everyone. I didn’t want her to be too rough, get too excited and jump, or just get too overwhelmed. She is pretty easy going in new situations, but sometimes strange objects make her nervous and she gets a bit growly. We quickly found out that Nola was a natural.   nursinghome9 nursinghome8She wasn’t nervous around wheelchairs, walkers, dinner carts or any other new things that came down the halls as we trained. In fact she did a very nice down stay right next to a wheelchair. She took treats nicely from people’s hands, and even gave them gentle, sweet kisses.

nursinghome6 nursinghome4 nursinghome2nursinghome1We practiced sitting in a variety of different places, asking people to only pet her once her butt was on the ground. As we walked down the halls, the nurses and patients ‘ooed’ and ‘ahhhed’ at the dogs going by. Milo got most of the attention, which is only natural since he is a ten pound fluff ball who is so easy going. Nola was a second thought for most people, but it didn’t seem to hurt her feelings too much (my mommy pride was hurt a bit, but it’s ok, I still think she is the cutest dog ever!). nursinghome7 nursinghome3One lady called us into her room, but once she got a better look at Nola her tone of voice shifted and she said to us nervously, “Is that a pit bull?” Immediately followed by backing up in her chair and asking “Is she friendly?” The Mr. had Nola at the time, as I stood back with Teri and watched. He kept his cool, even though I could tell he was a little taken aback, and just told the lady she was very friendly and she is actually a boxer mix. Things went smoothly after that, she gave Nola a few pats and showed us pictures of her dog. It was just a bit of a shock to us that this came up, but I guess Nola does have a blocky head and jowls and is routinely mistaken for a pit bull. This just showed us that stereotypes are very deep in our society, even in the nursing home community.

nursinghome10After about 40 minutes of greeting people and walking the halls, we could tell the dogs were getting a little overwhelmed so we decided to take them back down to the lobby to decompress. Teri said Nola did a fantastic job and if we wanted to pursue this, she would get certified as a therapy dog easily. She said she looks for the dog to be engaged with people, not overly excited, and calm in the environment, all of which she saw Nola doing. The Mr. and I were so proud of our Muffin. She did awesome!
nursinghome11Our last class is Monday and it’s test day. I am still a little unsure if Nola will pass on her first try, but even if she doesn’t, I will be proud of her and we will keep working on all of these things with her! Wish us luck on Monday, we’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!

(All photos courtesy of Teri at Canine Kinship)

Back to Basics

As sweet and wonderful as Anna’s personality is, it is clear that she has never been taught how to be a ‘house dog.’ She was found as a stray when she was brought to a shelter in Mississippi, so no one really knows what her story is. In order to help her more easily find her perfect forever home, the Mr. and I decided to enroll her in a basic obedience class ASAP.

While we are well equipped to handled teaching things like sit and down, it is the more complex behavioral habits Anna has accumulated throughout her life that we need to learn how to correct. For instance, any time we go near the front door Anna bolts to go out. We’ve taught her to sit before we open the door, but she has a harder time learning to wait while we open the door. She also gets SUPER worked up any time we grab her harness and leash to go for a walk. So much so that she is almost uncontrollable. And the other major thing we are working on is walking nicely. She is getting better, but just the sight of a cat or another dog sets her off into a whining, jumping, barking tornado of excitement.

The rescue organization recommended Shannan from Finish Forward Dogs, a trainer who has an obedience class, Good Bully!, specifically for bully breeds. I was so excited to read the class description and to find a teacher who knows the breed traits and characteristics and could help with some of the more ‘pushy’ aspects of her bully heritage. However, the class was full. So, we had to settle with a basic obedience. After speaking more with Shannan, she said I could come sit in on the Good Bully! class and that she would be happy to work with us and Anna.

So, last Friday I went to the Obedience I orientation. My first impression of Shannan was fantastic. She has three pitties of her own so I was so happy to hear she had the same problems with her dogs at some point. And, I loved the facility. I love that there are partitions between each dog and there are even hard walls that can be inserted if a dog needs a bit more privacy (like Anna).

After the hour long orientation, I sat in on the Bully Obedience class and LOVED it. I could see things that Anna does in every single one of those dogs. I also met an AHR adoptable, Atticus and his foster dad. Atticus was brought up from a shelter in the South and has had some issues around other dogs. He LOVES people, but has a hard time when other dogs are around. His foster dad was doing great playing the ‘name game’ and teaching Atticus to pay attention to him, not the other dogs.

Handsome boy Atticus watching his foster dad for directions.

I learned a lot from these two hours with Shannan and was re-energized to start training Anna with some professional help. Her first formal class was this past Friday. It went OK, but like the case with Atticus, most of it was spent trying to get her to pay attention to us, not the other dogs. We had to partition her off so she couldn’t see the other pups and we focused on mat work to get her to relax on her mat. It was a good to see how she does in a controlled environment with a professional. We haven’t taken her out and about as much as we normally do with our foster dogs because we don’t want to overwhelm her. Shannan is also coming to our house tonight to see first hand how Anna is at home and to give us some more tips about how to shape her behaviors into what we deem ‘acceptable household behavior.’ I will let you know how it goes!

If you are interested in helping sweet Anna Banana become a well trained member of the family, fill out an application with Almost Home Rescue.