Whisky slowly got into the routine of the days, breakfast at about 7.15am, a walk and poop shortly afterwards then a learning period (for both of us) for somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour depending on how long she put up with it. We’d have some more learning periods during the day then dinner at about 6pm. A final walk about 9.30 then bedtime. This is the routine with my other dogs and I wanted Whisky to feel as though she was being treated just the same, whether dogs notice or care about that sort of thing I don’t know but it makes it easier for me anyway.
The calming signals started to have an effect and I learned to spot them in all the dogs, little things that I had thought were just habits or quirks but turn out to be messages that they were sending to me and each other. Things like a quick lick of their nose when you walk towards them, apparently they prefer to be approached in a curving path rather than straight towards them. Another is yawning, this is a signal to indicate feeling uncomfortable at your actions, if you yawn back it means “ok I see you are uncomfortable and I’ll back off a bit”. Most of the signals vary in intensity of message, short quick signals means the feeling is mild, prolonged signals that the feeling is more intense. If the dog turns it’s head away from you or even turns round and sits facing the other it means they don’t want anything to do with you at the moment. I was getting a lot of head turning in these early days.
One day I let her off her lead to see how she would react, she headed to the top end of the garden and found a hole under the fence through which she promptly disappeared! Trying not to appear as though I was chasing her I climbed over the fence and walked around the bushes at the back of my house to where she was and then just stayed fairly near to her. Sometimes she came close and then she’d disappear behind another bush. I really wanted to catch her but at the same time I tried to appear quite nonchalant about the whole thing, I sat down and just watched her, was I fooling her? I don’t know but eventually she came out from under a bush in easy reach and I just hooked a finger into her collar and slipped on the lead again, no fuss. I made a mental note to fix the fence too.
Whisky was feeling more and more at home with me and would come within reach for a short petting session, she still wasn’t too sure though. Walking up the drive she sometimes would walk alongside me and keep the lead slack so that was a major step forward. In the garden too, if I sat down she usually came closer to me, not quite within reach most of the time but now and then close enough for me to stroke her three or four times.
I was still reading lots of website advice, don’t suppose that will stop anytime soon. I still had to put her her food bowl inside her “tent” before she would eat anything although she would stick her head and front paws out to reach her water bowl. I didn’t want to put that in with her because it would have been upset and wet the bedding but we had plenty of problems with it anyway. She would upset it regularly when making a rush to hide, didn’t seem to matter where I put it and of course the other dogs knocked it over now and then too.
One big leap forward happened one evening towards the end of the second week while I was watching TV. She jumped up on the settee next to me and sat there pretending to ignore my presence keeping her eyes on the screen. Eventually she lay down and closed her eyes too.