Jeri Wagner, Dog Behavioral Therapist & Master Trainer with Bark Busters Home Dog Training chronicles her dog foster experience in the hopes of inspiring and helping others on their dog foster journey. Read along to follow Jamie’s progress!
We’ve been fostering Jamie for two full months! She has improved noticeably since she came to live with us, to the point that I am more comfortable than ever challenging her or trying new things. I decided to start giving her less melatonin over the weekend to see if she handled stress without it, but without the supplement she was more anxious by Monday than she had been in a few weeks – not to the levels she was when she first arrived, but definitely not as relaxed as she was last week.
Consequently, our Monday walk through the neighborhood was not very good – Jamie was reactive to noises, nervously walked past parked cars, and moved all over the place. Later that day she growled, barked, and charged at Jason. That was all the evidence I needed to put her back on her full amount of melatonin, which I supplemented with training exercises – leash work, sit/stay, and following through doorways – to get her brain moving back in the right direction.
By Monday evening she had relaxed somewhat, so I decided to test her by not putting up the gate to the front room when she and I went in there for our nightly hour of TV. It had been a few weeks since she had charged the gate when Craig or Jason walked past, and I was pleased to see that she continued to relax even without the gate up. Zoey joined us as well, so to avoid any conflict Jamie did not play with her interactive toy before bedtime. She slept well without the brain exercise before bed, so I decided to stop the late-night interactive toy the rest of the week. This also means she is now down to 2.25 cups of food per day.
The melatonin seemed to ease her anxieties somewhat, but Jamie charged, growled, and barked at Craig when he walked through the kitchen on Wednesday morning, which she hadn’t done in many weeks. Zoey had a lazy morning and was eating in the family room with the gate up when the incident occurred (instead of their typical shared mealtime, with Jamie in her crate), which meant this was Jamie’s food issue rearing its ugly head. I gave her a quick verbal correction along with a handclap, which stopped her in her tracks, and have been making sure Zoey gets up and eats at the same time we do to avoid any problems.
I continued our new, gateless evening routine through the week, and Jamie did well anytime Craig or Jason walked past. Every so often she would give a low growl when Jason walked upstairs, but she didn’t get up and she put her head down immediately when I gave a small verbal correction. Jamie continues to occasionally retreat to her crate when Jason is walking through the house – something she has been doing since our sixth week together. This is a much better decision on her part than growling, barking, and charging at him.
Jamie has earned more and more freedom, and this week she spent less time in her crate than ever. I am now comfortable leaving her out when I work out, get dressed, or do some house chores, though she tends to go into her crate on her own to nap if I am not in the room. The door stays open, however, and she can come and go as she pleases. I still crate Jamie when I leave the house, and I give her a stuffed Kong toy to use her brain energy while I am not home. After about 30 minutes, Craig will open the crate door with no issues. He can even take the empty Kong out of the crate, but Jamie will keep herself in the crate until I return. The fact that she is relaxed in her safe place and not hiding or cowering means I’m happy to let this continue.
Jamie progressed nicely after a rough start to the week – like most of her two months here, there were ups and downs, but there are more of the former than the latter these days. I’m very happy with her progress over two months, and I’m optimistic next week will be more of the same.
Read Our entire Foster Diary here!
Jamie is available for adoption through To Love a Canine Rescue!