Week Two and this little guy is starting to really settle. He makes me laugh out loud on a regular basis and I'm consistently blown away by his resilience. Walks are a lot of fun in this gorgeous weather as we explore the neighbourhood and meet some of the friendly dogs who live near us. There's a lot of exploring and grasshopper-hunting.
He is still spooked by so much, but he recovers well (with a little chicken) and some distance. He approaches dogs very cautiously and if he's nervous, he tucks tail and hides behind me. When he does that, I comfort him and he seems to bounce back quickly and usually ends up feeling comfortable enough to interact. If he's not, we just have a piece or two of chicken and we move on our way. No pressure!
He's gotten very good at ignoring dogs and people while on leash - we sit and let them pass. Other times, if it's a friendly dog or person, we ask permission and then we say hello. Cautiously, but with a loose leash and lots of gentle praise. He comes back to me intermittently and always gets rewarded for that check-in - I love that.
We spend more time every day at the park with his 30 foot lead attached and he chases the ball, sometimes brings it back, or wrestles with his girlfriend. He loves the one-on-one play. That's more his speed and style. We take long walks and hang out in the baseball diamond near the school so we can watch all the kids on recess, playing, running, squealing. He gets a LOT of chicken for that. He isn't totally comfortable so I let him choose his distance and he stays back about 100ft. I don't need him to get closer right now. It's on his watch, not mine.
My family visits frequently and he still hasn't put together that the knock precedes the door opening and is surprised every time. He loves my family. He's a little wary of my 4-year old nephew who is so calm and patient with him...but after he throws Sal a few treats, Sal thinks he's the bee's knees. We monitor the interactions very carefully to make sure both of them are 100% comfortable or separated.
We visit my parents and he loves the car ride. He curls up and sleeps within 30 seconds of pulling out of the driveway. When we arrive, I walk him around (on leash) so that he can get accustomed to the space without the zoomies and so that I can prevent him from jumping on furniture right off the bat. I set up his travel crate and I start to help my mum pack up the kitchen for an upcoming renovation. I walk away briefly and then return to treat-bomb his crate and I repeat this over the course of 5-10 minutes. He now refuses to leave the crate. (It makes food, don't you know?) We pop out into the yard where he runs like a maniac and inspects the perimeter. Typical Shepherd. He is ecstatic about this level of freedom. As am I. He is a perfect guest and lovely to have around, however it does take a lot of work and management on my part!
He finds an ant-trap and brings it to me, dropping it at my feet. I praise him and reward him with some tasty treats. He does it again. I reward again and then I go around tossing out all the ant-traps. I realize how grateful I am to have worked so hard on trading off items and rewarding "drop it" so handsomely. He now thinks that bringing me "lost items" will get him paid. He's right. It does. Everytime.
He finally fits into Parker's harness and I realize how quickly he's growing. His teeth look tiny and feel razor-sharp. He's starting to mouth a little bit now but has a soft mouth when doing so and also when taking treats.
I find ways to enrich his environment and he "kills" the boxes I give him, stuffed with treats and toys. He loves to destroy boxes and ingests very little if any at all. I want him to be creative and willing to try. I want him to problem-solve as much as he can so that I don't have to be constantly telling him what to do. I want him to figure it out!
He's a snuggler. He's a bum-wiggler. He loves humans so much that it makes me dream of therapy work in the future. He makes me so proud. He is everything I ever dreamed of in a dog.