I've been posting on social media about my life and animals at home and at the shed, and repeatedly been asked to start a blog. So here I begin.
Viv is the newest addition to our family. She's an 11 month old Siberian Husky who's had a bad start in life. Passed around a few homes, mistreated, misunderstood and malnourished. She came to me from a behaviour client who couldn't cope with her any longer as a result of her biting, peeing and pooing in the house, howling, food and bedroom aggression, and fighting with her older dog. There'd been a similar story from her home before this, which had resulted in Viv (formerly Sasha/Zara) being left in an outbuilding. The owners had become too afraid to approach her let alone put on a harness or lead.
She's now been in our home for 3 weeks, rechristened Vivacity Bennett, and is asking to go to the garden when she needs the toilet, allows me to attach her harness, albeit with a sad face, responds with joy to her name, plays with and shares toys, enters her crate willingly, and sleeps soundly through the night (she howled the first few nights).
The biggest challenge so far is her aggression towards dogs when food is present. I wouldn't call it resource guarding as she doesn't necessarily have to have an item or be trying to claim an item. Her trigger seems to be "dog with food" and her response has been immediate, loud, ninja moves and teeth, although, as far as I'm aware, she's never caused a dog physical injury. I suspect she has lived with a food guarding dog that has attacked her when he/she had food. We've been working on the issue gently and daily, while Viv is safely in a crate. Moby is offered a treat and as he takes it she hears her name then gets a treat too. Then Moby leaves the room and the scenario is ended. The HUGE breakthrough today is that a Nature Diet food tray that mysteriously ended up on the kitchen floor instead of the bin, was picked up by Moby, Viv saw and paused! This hesitation allowed me to leap into action with praise, send Moby to his safe-space, the armchair, grab dried sprats and feed both dogs at a distance from each other whilst removing the tray. No fall out! Whew! That's a big deal for Viv. As an aside, it's been a week now since Viv stopped freezing, growling, snarling, snatching, or legging it off with items she thought I'd want. She likes me to come and look what she's got, and half the time lets it go for treats or an extra toy, and allows me to touch or take/swap it. With toys she likes to let go to make me throw or offer tug. So when I easily removed the tray today that was also a great achievement.
When we describe aggression in a dog it's easy to get stuck thinking about that dog in terms of their potential or actual unpleasant displays, rather than seeing them as a complete individual. I need to let you know that Viv is a sweetheart. She is loving, cuddly, playful and bright. I didn't anticipate keeping her for more than the few weeks necessary to pass her to a specialist rescue centre, but she stole my heart. I'd have laughed in your face if you'd said to me one day I'd own a Siberian Husky (biddability, hair, exercise requirements...) but life wouldn't be complete anymore without her in our home.
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Happy training! Lucy x