Monthly Archives: January 2013

Hogan’s Heading to His First Agility Trial!

If all goes well, on February 24, Hogan will compete in his first agility trial! Our little terrier isn’t fast, but apparently he doesn’t have to be, so we’re going to bring him to a competition and see how he does. This first one will be a “Starter Jumper” course, and from it he can earn one of two “Qs” (qualifications) that he needs to move on to the next level of competition.

The Starter Jumper course consists of just jumps and tunnels. Neither of these obstacles are favourites of Hogan’s. Sometimes, he’ll come back out the tunnel entrance instead of running all the way through, and if he can get away with running around a jump, he’ll do so. I have to be right next to the jump to keep him on track and run right alongside the tunnel, talking to him, to keep him in it. It should be interesting doing this in a competition setting!

Hogan mid-jump on an outdoor course

Hogan mid-jump on an outdoor course (picture courtesy of Finlay’s mom, Justine)

However, as long as he completes every obstacle in order and doesn’t “refuse” any (that is, walk past one), he should earn a Q.

Our other major challenge will be my not having a treat in my hand. Hogan is very treat motivated, so I’m not sure how he’ll behave (well, if he’ll behave) without my having his reward at the ready.

This promises to be an interesting experiment! Stay tuned!

Playful Cora

I caught Cora in the play position but had to be at quite a distance to capture it with the camera, which makes her nervous.

I caught Cora in the play position but had to be at quite a distance to capture it with the camera, which makes her nervous.

As I mentioned in a recent post about Cora and her history, we’ve had her now for a year and nine months. In our first couple of months with Cora, we very rarely saw her get excited or playful. More often, we saw her cowering and afraid.

Now, at least four times a day (and sometimes more than that!), we see playful Cora come out: breakfast, snacktime, dinner, and bedtime (aka Greenie time). Seeing her like this, though, is still such a treat, and it brings me an incredible amount of joy every single time. (I must say Cora is the best antidepressant I’ve ever been on!) Right now, just writing about this, I get choked up because of my happiness at how far she has come.

I’ve told friends and family that Cora is the kookiest of our three dogs, but very few people have seen evidence of this. I’ve posted videos of excited Cora before, but every now and then, I feel compelled to capture a more recent one. She inspired me to this last night, so here is a new video of Cora being crazy!

A Cora Theory: Part II

A couple of weeks ago, I posted what we’ve come to learn about Cora and how we’ve developed theories about her past based on what we’ve learned.

Bashful Cora

Bashful Cora

Although we think that Cora wasn’t abused per se (i.e., not hit or kicked), it is a near certainty that she was neglected to an extent. One element of her neglect had to be a lack of socialization. She is just so timid around strangers that it seems that she hadn’t experienced many social situations before our adopting her a year, nine months, and two days ago.

We’ve also seen behaviours that suggest she was subjected to some fairly aggressive training techniques. When we had our last dog, our beautiful little Jack Russell, Roxie, we watched The Dog Whisperer almost faithfully. Having been attacked nearly to the point of death at the age of two—and reacting to that attack just as you’d expect a Jack Russell terrier to react—Roxie had some aggression issues. We tried a few of Cesar Millan’s techniques with her, but we never used them consistently (something I’m very glad about now). Really, as long as we avoided other dogs, we didn’t have any major issues with Roxie.

And then, shortly after adopting Cora, I watched an episode of The Dog Whisperer and had a revelation: This is how she was trained! She would never enter a doorway ahead of us; she would cower if we told her to sit; she (still) shows fear when even we make eye contact with her; and instead of walking confidently on a leash, she often keeps her shoulders low (slinking) and an eye to the person at the leash’s end as if to ensure she’s not about to get in trouble.

High five!

High five!

So all of these things together lead us to believe that

  • Cora was either not exposed to people much as a pup or had very negative experiences with people (to explain her fearfulness);
  • Cora was used for breeding (to explain her saggy belly), but likely not in a puppy mill because she seems to have been trained to walk on a leash, enter buildings in a certain way (i.e., after her master), and not vocalize, although these behaviours are the only signs of training;
  • Cora may have been used for hunting when she was younger (to explain her comfort with fireworks, thunder, and other such noises and her still-keen hunting instincts); and
  • Cora spent a lot of time in a crate (to explain the condition of her teeth and hind end).

I think that Cora’s previous owners may have been backyard breeders who bred and sold hunting dogs in Kentucky, and that Cora was a huntress herself. On the day of Cora’s home visit, within minutes of roaming around our backyard, she found a dead mouse and brought it to us, suggesting to me that she was rewarded for such behaviours in the past. (I like to think this also meant she wanted us to keep her!)

Cora definitely has no fear of being on the couch now! That's her happy place.

Cora definitely has no fear of being on the couch now! That’s her happy place.

Cora had definitely been trained to walk on a leash before coming to us, so although she was a dog with “jobs,” she was cared for, although in a different way than we define “caring for a dog.” And that she had been treated for erlichiosis suggests to me she was one of only a few breeders (if not the only one), rather than one of many. We know Cora spent a lot of time in a crate, though, so it’s possible she didn’t live in the house. In fact, when we first adopted her, she wanted to be outside all of the time. She was so much more nervous indoors than out, and she was terribly uncomfortable being put on furniture.

One day, I suspect, her owners decided one of the following:

  • She was too old for breeding and/or hunting.
  • The litter she was pregnant with wouldn’t be healthy, perhaps because of her age and breeding history.
  • The mammary tumours possibly becoming apparent at that time (we found them in June 2011) could result in high vet bills or Cora’s inability to nurse the pups she carried.

And so they took off her collar and either set her loose somewhere (which makes sense considering her magnetism toward garbage bags—but what an awful thing to do to a dog!) or anonymously—and heartlessly—dropped her at the shelter and left her to her fate, which, had TAGS not intervened, would not have been good. From what I’ve read, this is the sort of thing backyard breeders do when they stop making money from their “pets.”

She's pretty happy now!

Our happy girl!

So that’s our Cora theory. We’ll never know for sure what has made her the dog she is today, and she definitely has some baggage. But, as I’ve said before, watching Cora come into her own and take this journey toward becoming a confident dog has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Yes, it makes me sad to see her frightened and shy, and I’ll always wish I could give her a magic potion to take away her anxiety forever, but, honestly, for all the work and worry she’s caused, she has given me tenfold in joy and laughter.

For all the reasons anyone gives for not adopting a rescued dog, I bet I can give them ten more, just from Cora experiences, to convince them that a rescued dog is definitely the way to go.

What the Heck Is Dusty?

So Dusty has no basset hound nor dachshund in him. That was definitely not what we expected to hear! I even emailed DNA My Dog to confirm the results, and they kindly did a manual check for those specific breeds. Nada.

IMG_0057

What? No basset?

So where did his misshapen legs come from? I asked. And they sent me a picture of a “dwarf” beagle. Yep, that sure does look a lot like Dusty (see infographic below).

But beagle didn’t appear as a level 1 or even as a level 2 in his makeup. It was a level 3, meaning he is only 20-36% beagle. His predominant breed (37-74%) is—would you believe it?—American Eskimo! Those small to medium white fluffy dogs with the curly “plumey” tails that look like petite Samoyeds.

Well, while we cannot see any physical signs of American Eskimo in Dusty, in reading about the breed, I can see some of its other traits in Dusty. For instance, I learned that American Eskimos were widely used as circus dogs in the 1930s and 1940s. They are highly trainable, quite vocal (i.e., they love to bark, and they bark loud and long, like Dusty), very intelligent, and like to work. Check, CHECK!, check and check. Although generally healthy dogs, they are prone to allergies and hip dysplasia. Check and check. And Samoyeds, which are the closest related breed (and not in the DNA My Dog database, meaning Dusty may actually be Samoyed, not American Eskimo) are among the top-listed dogs predisposed to dwarfism (achondroplasia), so it’s possible Dusty’s dwarfism is not related to his beagleness at all. And his bark is definitely not a beagle bay, so perhaps he gets that from his American Eskimo kin (I don’t know that I’ve ever heard that bark).

Anyway, personality-wise, Dusty has a lot of the traits that suggest American Eskimo, but those traits, of course, aren’t unique to that breed.

And Dusty is far from all American Eskimo.

He also has Keeshond (like the American Eskimo, a Spitz), Ibizan hound, and border terrier in him. Here are some of the traits we think Dusty gets from those breeds:

Keeshond: outgoing, full of personality, likes to bark, prone to hip dysplasia and skin problems, sheds heavily, needs long walks to satisfy migration instinct.

Ibizan hound: “clowns” of the dog world, slender body, long snout, deep chest, sensitive, willful, needs long walks to satisfy migration instinct.

Border terrier: strong-willed, intelligent, eager to please.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

HUGE thank-you to the multi-talented Adrienn Tordai for the very cool infographic!

Today, for the first time since learning Dusty’s breeds, I was asked if he was a basset/beagle mix (we’re asked that a lot). And for the first time, I had to say he was an American Eskimo/beagle mix. How stupid did I feel? Yep, about as stupid as you imagine I felt. It’s tempting to continue the basset/beagle party-line. For one thing, it will make for a much shorter conversation!

And thanks to a “last kick at the can” as she called it, we have a winner for our Guess the Breed contest! In the wee hours of the morning, Roberta of Toronto (mom of dachshunds Blitz and Mercedes) submitted the guess of Keeshond! Roberta, I look forward to hearing your thought process behind that seemingly crazy theory that turned out to be right! Roberta can choose either a hand-knit doggy hoodie or a donation to an animal charity of her choice. Congratulations, Roberta! And thanks to everyone for playing along!

Stay tuned for Hogan’s “Guess the Breed” contest in the next few weeks!

P.S. If you want to test your dog’s DNA, you can order a DNA testing kit through The Animal Guardian Society (tagsinfo@animalguardian.org), and $10 of the cost will be donated to TAGS!

Cora’s Secondary Breed: The Reveal

Dog park 047Not nearly as many people participated in Cora’s contest as we had take part in Dusty’s, but two people guessed Cora’s secondary breed correctly. Yay! I was going to draw a name to determine one winner, but what the heck! Let’s have two winners! Congratulations to Lori of Mississauga and TAGS volunteer Andrée! I’ll be in touch.

Cora is 80%+ beagle, and her level 4 breed is poodle! Maybe it’s the little bit of poodle in her that has made her face so white. (I refuse to believe it’s just age. She can’t be that old!)

Thanks to everyone who submitted a guess!

And stay tuned to the blog later this week for our theory on Cora’s history. If you haven’t yet read what has led to our trying to formulate a theory about her life before us, click here.

P.S. If you want to test your dog’s DNA, you can order a DNA testing kit through The Animal Guardian Society (tagsinfo@animalguardian.org), and $10 of the cost will be donated to TAGS!