Saturday, March 28, 2009

Finn's Progress

Two nights ago, a friend’s dog bit Finn on the mouth. The dog was standing near Ryan and Finn went over to be closer to him and in the process leaned over to give the other dog a sniff and she growled, barred her teeth and bit him.

Finn let out a hurt puppy yelp, ran to the middle of the room and kind of stood there for a moment smacking his lips and processing what had just happened. I grabbed his leash (he always has it on when he’s out of his crate) and kind of steered him toward me to make sure he wasn’t hurt. After allaying my fears, I let him go and he wandered off to play with his toys.

It wasn’t a big deal but it made me realize how proud I am of Finn and of us. We thought Finn was going to be an aggressive, dominant dog. We thought he would be a struggle to train and a real handful to live with. Instead, Finn is loving and social and has trained incredibly well.

Finn never mouthed us-- he bit us. When we first played with him, before we bought him, Finn chewed on us. Ohh, he’s teething, the sellers chuckled. And we laughed along because look at the little furball trying to chew on Ryan’s shoe, Ryan’s finger, Ryan’s face. We brought him home and he wouldn’t play with us, he would bite us. It was the only way he expressed emotion. Finn was happy to see us so he would nip at our hands. Finn was frustrated by a toy so he would growl and attack our legs. Finn wanted to go back to his crate so he would try to take a chunk out of our nose.

It was awful and I resented him for it. The biting made it hard for me to bond with him. I am truly grateful for our trainer because he taught us how to handle Finn. We learned how to correct him and how to become the leader. All of our hard work and patience has paid off because he is a rather obedient puppy. He rarely bites us anymore and when he does it’s never with any force or intent.

We knew that we were successful when we witnessed Finn’s first encounters with other dogs. He was outgoing and confident but also submissive and quick to back down when other dogs were aggressive toward him.

The dog that bit him has never liked Finn. She is possessive and intolerant and quick to defend her space. No one has ever really told her that her hostile behavior is unacceptable and so she persists. Finn was a victim of that hostility but he did not take it as a challenge. He backed down and distracted himself with something else.

At one point we were afraid that Finn would be the biting dog. We worried that we would never be able to assert our dominance and position as leader. In the past two months we have all made great strides and I am loving the dog Finn is becoming. You never know how a puppy might change as they grow and gain experience but I hope that we are always willing to put in the work to make him the best dog he can be.

That being said…

Obviously, he’s not perfect; he still has things he needs to work on. Just today he put his paws up on the coffee table, knocked over an old mug of tea, soaked himself and then proceeded to jump up on the couch with tea soaked paws and shake off, spraying the couch, laptop…everything. It looked like a CSI scene.

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