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Sydney adjusts to her new home

Bringing her home

I cannot imagine what it would feel like to give up your beloved pet.  I guess the part of Sydney’s story that makes it less sad is that her owners knew (or hoped) that she was going somewhere that was better for her.  Witnessing her owners say goodbye was difficult and made me very grateful for the relationship I have with Trooper.  I’m very appreciative of him and thankful to have him in my life.  I am looking forward to adding Sydney to our bunch and know I will come to love her just as much.

Trooper and Sydney at the back door, trying to determine what I'm looking at.

When we drove into the driveway Sunday afternoon, Sydney went bananas!  She started barking and whining like the car was on fire.  It was so loud!  I jumped out of the car and went inside really quick to make sure everything was ready for her.  When I got back to the car 15 seconds later, she had climbed onto the top of the back seats, like a cat!  She was balanced on the seats, in a space only 1 foot high from the top of the seats to the roof, whining hysterically.  It was quite the sight to see and was a good thing to witness in terms of understanding what causes her to panic and how her panic manifests.

A few important tidbits her owners told me before we adopted her:

*She is not good on a leash
*She does not like being in a crate
*She barks like crazy when she gets excited
*She has an unreliable response to ‘come’ or other recalls
*She is great with kids
*She loves to play frisbee and can catch things out of the air that you throw for her
*She is domineering in certain situations
*She loves to play with dogs that she likes

Because Trooper is this phenomenal anomaly of an Aussie, a true model of excellence, I always think that owners with ‘problem’ dogs must be overreacting.  Ha!  Now I know better.  Or rather, I can see how a dog who does not receive full-time attention like Trooper gets, might be less conditioned to be responsive and calm.

The first night went really well.  We did an introduction to the electric fence, had more relaxed time in the living room, left her in the crate to go to the grocery store and crated her in our bedroom while we slept.  Trooper has a bed on the ground near our bed, but he usually sleeps along our bed wherever he feels like.  We wanted to Sydney to be in our room with us so we could bond but did not want to risk an aggressive episode.  It worked great!  She did some very expressive heavy panting at first, intermixed with some whining, but after being told ‘no’ very gently, with a low and firm tone, she calmed down.

What I have learned about Sydney

Sydney likes to push the envelope, but not maliciously.  It appears that she is used to getting her way but not because she is acting like the polite, sweet girl that she is, but because she harasses her people into doing her bidding.  When we are about to go out for a walk, she barks like crazy, right into your face while making eye contact.  If you ask her to wait, she just keeps barking.  I’m talking serious barking!  Like, it makes you want to yell, or slap her or run away or just get her away from you.  Considering how sweet she is with people, the last two options are likely the response she is used to getting.  When she barks at us, we turn our backs or walk away.  She only gets what she wants when she is sitting nicely and being quiet.

Once on the leash, walking down the road, she pulls like the person is a wagon and barks her head off.  When not barking, she works herself up into an anxious pant, panting so heavily it is as if she just ran a marathon.  It really amps up the anxiety in the air to have a dog panting like they are jacked on adrenaline and about to explode into barking.

She does calm down at times, but not easily.  Mornings can be busy and I often change rooms many times before I leave for the day.  Trooper, calmly and patiently, follows me around and slumps down to rest if I stay long enough to facilitate it.  Sydney does a similar routine, but every room change presents the opportunity to get pumped up on enthusiasm or nerves about what is coming next.  Trooper is mostly ignoring this behavior and just wants to sit with me, as per his usual.

Sydney has gotten pushy about Trooper’s connection to me.  She blocks him when he tries to approach, tries to steal his bed and does not respond to him when he puppy bows to her.  He, who used to embarrass me by mounting every dog in the dog park, appears to be submitting to her by not engaging.  However, it is causing him to become very nervous, especially when he cannot get to me.  I can tell that he wants to assert himself but he is not sure about Sydney and what she’ll do.  It’s challenging right now because we cannot let them have at it in the yard.  Sydney has to be on a leash at all times, which prevents them from playing and again determining that they are equals (like they did on play date number one).

After the first 24 hours, I have added more to my knowledge bank about Sydney:

*When you don’t give into her, she doesn’t win.  I don’t let her do anything she wants when she acts pushy and she eventually asks nicely.

*She walks just fine on a leash after she calms down.  By walking around and around our circular driveway, she is learning that I give her loads of praise during her behaved spells.  Her ears are starting to respond when I talk and she is even looking at me every now and then to check what I might be thinking or doing.

*She would make an excellent herding dog!  She attempts to steer me during walks and herds Trooper away from us.  She is also insanely fast.

*She does fine in a crate, as long as she is not rewarded for bad behavior by being released.  Once she calms down, she is smart enough to know that there is no danger or cause for alarm and she gives up.

Sydney is a tad overweight right now and could really benefit from losing at least 5 pounds.

*She is fat (not PHAT).  She is fat in the way that Trooper used to be fat before he started getting regular exercise – no defined waist, body shaped like a barrel.  She is still incredibly fast, but perhaps her panting routine is partially due to her being overweight and uncomfortable.  As soon as I determine the right cut of meat to give her, I’m going to switch her to the RMB diet.  She probably needs to lose a minimum of 5 pounds, but I’ll check with my vet to verify.

*She pees really frequently.  Trooper will hold his bladder all day until I get home; not because no one is here to let him out, but because he just seems to forget he needs to and then has a really long pee when I get back.  Sydney pees every time we go outside.  Maybe from excessive water drinking from the weight issue and eating dry kibble?

Sydney was calm during the whole time I wrote this so I think we are already making a lot of progress.  I am excited to see where we are in a week, after maintaining a healthy and attention-filled routine.

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