Have you ever been in a new situation where you simply didn’t know how to act or present yourself and are unfamiliar with the schedule or processes? Do you remember what it was like the first day you went to a new school? Or your first day at a new summer camp? How about your first day at a new job? As I recall, on my first day of my last job I was not told the specifics of the procedures (how to file the paper work correctly, how to fill it out, to whom to deliver it, what needs copied and saved etc)… I was told about parking, where the bathrooms were, the lunch room, introduced to the rest of the staff, given a chance to read the procedural manual, and other basic day-to-day information. Before I could do the skills part of my job, I really had to learn the “life skills” of the job so to speak.
I’ve really discovered the same goes for Dexter. He is not a dog accustomed to living in a house, living in an active house, having something to do and living with other animals. Although he’s an awesome dog, there are a lot of basic things he doesn’t understand about living the good life.
Yesterday I was feeling a little guilty about not having spent more time working on obedience with him. I mean, I think I worked on some basic obedience for maybe 2 or 3 days before stopped. Was I being a bad foster mom by not focusing on getting him some basic obedience? Was I failing him in some way?
Then I stopped and thought about it… no. While I wasn’t focusing on sit, down, stay, come, etc, I was working on housebreaking/marking issues, learning to settle in the house, working on car chasing, teaching him his name, learning some impulse control, learning to not hate the car, learning to be left alone crated–y’know the basics that will make him a good companion.
Dex has never had to learn how to lay down and relax in the house. He’ll stand, pace, search for a toy, or pester the other dogs. Using a grab-tab leash and some chicken he’s started laying down calmly on the floor pretty regularly now. But it’s taken daily work and he still needs reminded that laying on the floor calmly will earn him chicken. I hope to eventually get to the obedience training aspect (though he will reliably sit and is pretty decent on down and has surprisingly good leash manners when there aren’t cars around) but he really needs to learn how to be a companion dog. These life skills will be necessary for him to find a furever home and they are crucial to him being successful in a new home (his inability to relax or lay down would drive most people crazy). Obedience cues can come later… but life skills will make living with him easier for anyone who is interested.
So while we may not get any obedience awards (just yet)… I certainly get excited for the little victories… like laying down inside, tugging with me instead of chasing a car, waiting for me to tell him “okay” to get his dinner, not bowling me over to get what he wants, and getting in the car on his own!