I just can’t seem to help myself. No matter where I go I meet wonderful, clever dogs. My latest little Fuzzy Buddy was Tini (pronounced “Teenie”), a Costa Rican stray rescued by Isa and Milton. Isa and Milton travelled to a beach town with visiting family for three days and left Tini with my amiga (friend) Patsy who I’m staying with at Finca Las Alturas. When I mentioned to Isa that I’ve been doing some training she asked if I would teach Tini to sit. In German.
As a recently rescued street dog, Tini is shy with strangers and flinches at quick movements even with those she has come to trust. The slightest shift in body language can send her scurrying away or worse, cowering as if she’s about to be struck. Since she visits regularly I had a few opportunities to get started before she came for a brief stay.
Tini has been a quick study, offering lots of behaviours which allowed me to wait for the one I wanted–Sitz–and reward her for it. In a very short time she is sitting reliably not just for me, but for others who ask her to as well. She sometimes thinks it through before she responds, which is good. It allows me to show her that I’m patient and trustworthy.
The first time Tini sat on command I got a little excited with my “Yes!” and she almost took off running. She now knows enthusiastic praise is a good thing and I swear she beams. Sometimes Tini forgets herself and turns back into the pogo stick jumping dog she was when I first offered her a treat, but I’d rather have a little enthusiasm to channel than the fear she is still prone to exhibit.
The beauty of spending a little time with Tini is in how our relationship has developed. Where previously she stayed out of arm’s reach, she now not only greets me with kisses (sometimes), she will climb into my lap and have a good snooze. The first time she offered me a play bow, a chin lick (I got down to her level), and rolled on her back for a belly rub was a breakthrough.
I wish I could say it’s only been uphill from there, but just this morning some unintentional and unconscious shift in my body language sent her scurrying behind a chair and the tasty treat I had in my hand wouldn’t convince her to come back out.
Tini does best with a quiet, indirect first approach and probably will for a while, but she’s a sweet girl, willing to learn and trying to please. She went home today, but I’ll likely see her again a few times before I head home too, which will give me a chance to reinforce both our bond and the training we’ve accomplished.
I kinda miss my Fuzzy Buddy already…