Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Deal Breakers and Desires

In the week leading up to Pyg’s arrival, knowing that I was hoping to foster fail, I made a list of things I really hoped he had/was, as well as a list of things I just didn’t want. I’m really glad I did, because once he arrived, all those pesky hormones kicked in and decided I didn’t care what he was like. I wanted him.

Doggie Deal Breakers
First up: a list of things that would mean no way, no how. I had thought about this, but friend Sara encouraged me to be specific so I went back and redid my list. Then I asked my Facebook friends what would be on their list, which was a good idea. They said things that I hadn’t thought of, but that I didn’t want in a dog. They also listed a few things that, while I didn’t exactly want to deal with, I would be okay with.

Here’s my list:

Cat Aggression
My cat is 13 years old. He has arthritis, and has had some bladder stones and blockages. And, frankly, he was here first. Cat aggression is a no-go in my household. I decided that it was okay if the dog was interested in the cat, but he couldn’t be obsessed. In other words, I needed to be able to redirect him to something else. Cat chasing would not be tolerated. And while I expected that my cat might hide for a day or two, if he was still hiding after a week or two, that would be a deal breaker.

Maisy-Directed Aggression
You’ll notice this doesn’t say “dog aggression,” and for good reason: I’m actually okay with some dog aggression (ie, reactivity). Occasional snarks and disagreements are fine, but they should be mild and rare, and if Maisy is looking bothered by him, I should be able to redirect him. I am also not willing to crate and rotate. My dogs need to get along without excessive management. Some management, yes (eating in separate areas, for example), but not to the point that only one dog can be out at a time.

Human Aggression 
Again, a bit of reactivity is okay; growl to your heart’s content, little dog. But I do not want a dog that bites people unless seriously provoked. Teeth on skin while pissed off or scared is just not something I want to do. I also wrote that play biting, while not aggression, is acceptable as long as there is some decent bite inhibition with it.

Untreated, Chronic, or Expensive Medical Conditions
I just don’t have the money right now. Of course, emergencies can happen (see: September), making this about the dumbest time ever to adopt another dog, but… yeah. Trying to stack the deck in my favor, you know? I included clinical anxiety here because I just can’t afford to see a vet behaviorist right now. This also includes awful structure. I don’t need a conformation-worthy dog, but I do need one that’s going to be more-or-less sound. This kind of goes back to the “money is tight” thing. Maisy needs regular and ongoing chiropractic and massage to stay sound, and I just do not want to do that again. Plus, I want a hiking buddy, because I think Maisy’s backpacking trips may be limited…

Separation Anxiety
I work full-time. I live in a shared space. I just cannot accommodate a dog who can’t be alone. Not only is it unfair to a dog to be so anxious that he vocalizes all day, but it’s also unfair to my downstairs neighbors. I decided that I was okay with some mild separation distress as long as it improved within a week or two. I also decided the dog needed to be able to be confined (x-pen, bathroom, crate, whatever) without destroying things.

Desires and Dreams
I also made a list of things that I really hoped my new dog would have. Not that the foster dog would have to have any/all of these, but hey. It would sweeten the pot. This list is long, but not as detailed:

Has Easily Identified Motivators
Ideally, the dog would be willing to work for both food and toys, and specifically a tug toy.

Pre-Installed Off-Switch
HAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHHAHAHAHAAHAH. The foster dog I was waiting for was an adolescent terrier-mix. My friends and I had a good laugh at this one.

I wasn’t really sure what this meant, other than the fact that I wanted a dog with tons of personality and able to make me laugh.

No Reactivity
I could deal with it, but I’d prefer not to.

Should Be Friendly, But Not Obnoxiously So
Honestly, friendly with other people and dogs is fine, but not to the point of losing-his-damn-mind, you know?

Low Grooming Needs
A bath once in awhile, nail clipping, and brushing him once a month or so is fine. Daily grooming and/or needing to go to a professional groomer regularly is not. Yes, this means he will probably shed. Yes, I’m perfectly fine with this.

Okay in the Car
Excessive fear just makes it hard to take a dog somewhere. And I like to go places with my dog.

Some independence is okay and even desirable, but dangit, I want a dog who is interested in working with me (or at least, working me for my cookies). Maisy is insanely biddable and I love it.

Obviously Pyg passed the test, but I wasn’t sure he would at first… Soon I’ll tell you about who he is and how he measured up.


Lara said...

Really looking forward to hearing more about Pyg! A new dog is so exciting. I've had my little girl for about three months now, after losing both 14 year old dogs within ten days of one another. I had an idea of what I wanted in a dog, and Ruby *seemed* to be it for the first few weeks before she started showing some pretty severe reactivity. I'm committed now, and think she is going to teach me more than any dog I've known.

Unknown said...

so thoughtful, as usual..Enjoy your new addition.

Chris and Mike said...

LOL: Our list of MUSTS: 1) Good with kids (we don't have any, but all our friends do), 2) good with other dogs, 3) biddable, 4) spunky. Then "the hormones kicked in" at the shelter and we ended up with a severely reactive, neophobic, no-impulse-control girl who was NOT good with kids, NOT good with other dogs, and was NOT biddable for the first few months till we got her anxiety under control with the help of a behavioral vet, Prozac and lots of hard work. And, like Lara's experience, none of that was visible at the shelter. Habi was so shut down there that we wondered if she had the spunk we wanted. OMG yes, in spades - just directed very much in the wrong directions. However, she is the best teacher I've ever had, I am a far better person in so many ways than before she joined the family, and I'm totally besotted with her. AND she has now, five years on, blossomed into a wonderful girl - still not great with kids or other dogs, but we know how to manage around that. (Hang in there Lara!)

Can't wait to hear how Pyg (short for Pygmalion?) develops over the next few months and years, and what kind of relationship he develops with Maisy and Cat.

You'll all do fine together - you are so much more knowledgeable than we were when we adopted Habi, and you have great resources if any issues pop up. Enjoy the ride with your scruffy young terror! :-)