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Ever since we started living together The Wife™ wanted a dog, so when we closed on the house we decided we had the space and got one. The result was Kara, our leonburger/shepherd/keeshond cross, who’s been our dog for about two years now, and she’s enriched our lives in ways that I — never having owned a dog before — had no way of understanding back when we got her.

Kara, however, is a very social critter and needs the company of other dogs. We used to take her out to a Doggy Day-Care regularly in order to socialize her and get “the wiggles” out, but that facility closed earlier this year and Kara has been dying for more social time. We had a discussion about it in the spring and decided to start looking for a second dog… which we’ve been doing for a few months. It turns out finding a second dog is as much (or more) work as finding a solo dog.

Fortunately, however, we met Tyler at the local Humane Society shelter. Ty is a two-year-old husky/shepherd mix, and he’s a wonderfully well-mannered dog. He glommed right onto me as soon as he met me; he’s very affectionate and (I suspect) was a bit starved for human attention.

Yesterday, as the final part of the meet-the-dog process I arranged an extra-long lunch break and we took Kara to the shelter to meet him. She was a bit apprehensive at first, possibly due to the noisy environment (the local shelter is critically over-crowded at the moment) but once we got them off to a quiet corner of the yard they took right to each other. With that final test passed we adopted him on the spot, and he was as good as gold on the ride home.

Ty and Kara
From left to right, Ty and Kara

Ty was listed as a “stray” at the shelter, but given his easy temperament and the fact that he’s already crate- and housetrained, we assume he either wandered off from his home or was abandoned. He’s very clever and social — to be expected in a husky cross, I suppose — but he’s got some bad habits. Mostly, he likes to mouth (play nipping with his teeth) and jump up when he gets excited. He also doesn’t seem to understand that the counter is off-limits, and he’s got a tendency to get distracted and ignore us, although we’re hoping that last is just excitement about his new environment. Also, Ty’s already discovered an escape route out of the backyard, which is not good, but we’re taking steps to block it off today.

We will, however, be training him out of the bad behaviours as quickly as we can.

Fortunately, we’ve got the skills to do that. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, we spent the time and money to get a dog trainer who trained us, not the dog. It was expensive at the time, but now it’s paying off. We’ve got the know-how and confidence to give Ty the structure he needs.

And, as I said, he’s very clever. He’s been picking up contextual clues from how Kara reacts to our commands and has started emulating her. “Monkey see, monkey do” has become the byword at our place in under twenty-four hours. Right now the plan is to “tether” him for a couple of weeks — that is, he’ll spend his waking hours leashed to one or the other of us — as a method of reinforcing the need to pay attention to his people, and coincidentally keeping him out of the worst of any potential trouble. This was a technique we employed with Kara when we got her, and it’s good for both building focus and obedience as well as emotional bonding.

But he’s a good dog at heart. He displays no resource-hoarding behaviour at all; despite being very hungry the first night (I suspect the dogs at the Humane Society are on pretty strict rations since they depend heavily on donations to keep them fed) he made room for Kara at the doggie bowl when she got curious about what he was wolfing down; and when she offered him her favourite kong toy (like I said, she’s very social) and he played with it a bit, but relinquished it happily enough when she wanted it back… which is actually kind of amazing considering he’s spent the last couple of months in a shelter.

He’s curious about the cat, but knows enough to back the hell off when Max hisses at him. In addition, Ty doesn’t seem to have any fear of people, which is good; I don’t think he’s been mistreated at any point. I picked up a stick in the yard to throw it for him and was suddenly struck with the fear he would be apprehensive that I was threatening him with it but there was no fear reaction at all. (He didn’t have any interest in to fetching it, though.)

And so on. It’s exciting having a new dog… even if there’s going to be a lot of work to get him up to the standards of behaviour that we expect from our dogs. But at least he’s got Kara for an example. (Kara, for her part, is thrilled to have another dog around.)

To finish up, and while I don’t want to ascribe human motivations to canine behaviour — they do their own things for their own reasons — I have to tell this story: Last night, when we crated the dogs separately, Ty fought hard against falling asleep. He clearly didn’t want this marvellous day to end, even while his head nodded and his eyes fluttered. He’d also cry a bit when one of us left the bedroom, but he soon nodded off and slept the night through. When he woke up this morning he begged to be let out in the backyard (he’d gotten a very large dinner last night and clearly needed to go) and when he came back into the bedroom he carefully checked to make sure we were all there, tail wagging furiously.

I don’t know if dogs understand how the future works, but I hope Ty realizes that this is going to be his life from here on in.

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