I am so glad that I’ve been working on socializing Vegas; it made introducing him to Lucca (D’s new puppy) much easier. Puppies, by nature, are pesty, wild and all over the place. Anti-social dogs have a hard time getting along with puppies. Lucca was everything a puppy was supposed to be, and Vegas put up with it for about 30 seconds. Then he gave her a quick growl and said something in dog lingo that must have mean, “Back off junior.” Lucca kept her distance after that but followed him everywhere he went and barked at him non-stop. After about an hour they were actually pretty good together. She wasn’t attacking him and he wasn’t protesting to her being too close. Truthfully, they did better that I thought. They had a chance to hang out again today and it was obvious that Lucca was nowhere near as ready to give Vegas his space…and Vegas didn’t really seem to mind. He and I went to D’s to visit with them briefly before meeting up with a group of small dog owners and taking a walk in Clark Lake Park. Vegas does better and better each time I take him to something like this. And Lucca – wow – she did great! She was even off leash for the last half of the walk. She’s a little over 3 months old and is well on her way to being a great little dog. If I have any advice to give people it’s to expose your puppies to as much as possible as soon as possible. I believe it’s much easier to expose a puppy to new things and make those new things fun than it is to try and teach a dog that is already scared (like Vegas) that new experiences are fun and safe. Please know, I’m not saying people shouldn’t adopt shelter or rescue dogs. I love seeing the results of the rehabilitation work that I’ve done with Vegas. Honestly, it’s very rewarding and I’m glad I was able to be a good home to a dog that had a tough start in life. That being said, it’s also a lot of work….worth it, but a lot of work.
This is my least favorite outing with Vegas – the yearly vaccines. I was really not looking forward to it this year because he’s recently gotten so bad around other dogs. My vet has a small and very busy waiting area that can make even the most social dog feel a bit overwhelmed. Instead of just bringing him to the vet, I decided to try and wear him out a bit prior to maybe help his attitude. We started with a fast paced 45 minute walk on The Green River Trail. I’d hoped that he would be better with meeting new dogs if he was out of his usual surroundings; normally we walk around the neighborhood and I think he’s decided that it’s *his* neighborhood. We encountered quite a few dogs on the trail and, unfortunately, he wasn’t very good. He was better than when we walk in the neighborhood, but he still barked and acted like a typical annoying little dog. We still had all kinds of time to kill after getting back to the car, so I decided to take him to Petsmart. I needed to pick up a few things and Petsmart is a great place for that and for some controlled encounters with other dogs. Much to my surprise, he did okay. We passed a couple small terriers and he was silent, no barking or growling. Sweet! Then we saw a Red Heeler that was about twice his size…friendly looking dog, but still twice the size of Vegas. The first time we saw them, Vegas hid behind me but didn’t bark or growl. The second time we saw them, we walked right past them and there was even some brief eye contact…still no barking. And then it happened…we saw them a third time and (after telling the owner that Vegas has issues) we let the dogs meet. They touched noses, wagged tails and had a very nice little moment. I was stoked! By now it was time to get to the vet. As usual, the place was full of all kinds of animals…cats, dogs, birds and a lizard. Vegas was silent! He even went right up to a little Pomeranian, touched noses and sort of hung out with him. There was a big dog across the room and I thought about taking him over there, but decided to not push my luck. Vegas did well with the Pomeranian and with several other small dogs. He even did well with getting his vaccines and his nails trimmed. I have to say…I have a great vet. She took her time and let Vegas get a little more comfortable before she asked to hold him. She held him and talked to me for a few minutes, until he stopped shaking, and then slowly started giving him an exam – holding him the whole time. He did so well with that approach; he almost seemed like a normal dog…almost. When it came time to pay, he got a little cranky; I admit, I get cranky when I see the bills too. He had a bit of an outburst when two puppies came at him. He didn’t hurt them, but definitely gave them a message that he didn’t want to play. Over all – I’m thrilled with the progress. A couple months ago Petsmart and the vet’s office would have been chaos. The next step is back to dog school. Granted, he can use more work in obedience but mostly he needs the socialization. He’s also going to start making the rounds at the wineries. Stay tuned!