Nemo's Great Day

I didn’t think it was possible to introduce Nemo to a new dog.  However, the opportunity arose this weekend to see how far our training had come.  You see, Nemo is my “problem dog.”  He has had a habit of barking and jumping around in a frenzied flurry of anxiety when he meets new people or sees other dogs.  I have been slowly making progress, and he had been doing very well with visitors to my home.  So when my veterinarian called to ask for my help in placing a dog who had been dropped of by animal control (her time was up), I decided to evaluate Nemo, while checking out this “too-sweet” 6-year-old shar pei girl, who we’ve decided to call Emma. 

We arrived around 9:30 on Saturday morning.  The animal hospital is closed to appointments on Saturday, so the only activity is the occasional client picking up medication.  Emma was outside in a run, basking in the sunshine on a fine, almost-autumn morning.  I went into the kennel area and said hello to her with my 4-year-old son, Christian.  The Dr. was right, she was very sweet.  My husband, Matt walked Nemo around the parking lot.  He was whining and barking at me!  After a while, I went out to take Nemo’s leash, and he immediately settled down and focused on the tasks I assigned to him (sit, down, sit, touch, heel, sit, heel, down, etc).  We gradually made our way over to the kennel area, and the two dogs sniffed each other through the chain link.  Nemo tensed up for a moment and let out about a half-second growl (or grunt, I’m not even sure).  I responded with cheese.  He relaxed.  He sniffed around and each time he looked at Emma, a piece of cheese appeared in front of him.  He then stretched himself into a bow!  I was stunned. 

Still not convinced, I walked him away and distracted him while Matt walked Emma outside of the kennel and to an open area.  I then approached cautiously, but carefully aware not to tighten my grip on Nemo’s leash.  He looked at her, and then at me and then at her.  Once close enough, he politely (gasp!) greeted Emma, with his head down and tail relaxed.  They sniffed each other and together walked around checking out all of the other interesting smells.  I was amazed!

Next, a client arrived to pick up medication, and let her 100 lb, male rottie jump out of her car and trot over to the two dogs to say hello.  I asked her to collect him, but Nemo was already greeting him, again relaxed and perfectly appropriate!  I was speechless!

We took Nemo for a hot dog on the way home, and while we ate under a tree, people walked by and he didn’t react…at all!

My lesson in all of this is that perhaps I have been the one who is hyper-sensitive; and if that is the case, I am not training him to be a better dog, I am instead allowing him to be a project.  So, maybe if once in a while, I allow my “problem dog” to just be a dog, he might have a chance of being “normal.”  I need to think more about this, but it was just such an exciting day that I couldn't wait to share the story.

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