Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Downhill Slide Begins

Poor Sydney, her mom (that being me) did not realize that one incident that *seemed* to be a minor blip on the radar was monumental to the confidence of a young puppy. I still regret a thousand things I could have done to avoid Syd's tail being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Through the rest of the weekend in Wisconsin, Syd acted OK off of the show grounds. A group of Vallhund exhibitors were all staying at a friend's home, and we had several youngsters all playing and running together. Syd played happily with the Vallhund puppies and adults, even though I did notice that she hung back just a bit from the main flurry of activity.

We travelled home from Wisconsin, and went back to the normal day to day activities. Syd's "Aunt Julie" has a Rough Collie, and I called her and said that I needed to get Syd over to play with Jackson the Collie, because Syd had a little 'episode' with a Collie, and I wanted her not to be afraid of Collies. After our first Collie 'playdate' it was obvious that Syd did NOT have a problem with Collies. My friend labelled the Corgi and the Collie outing as a total love affair, the two dogs could not play enough. WHEW, I was breathing a sigh of relief, thank goodness this isolated incident was over, and my dog was normal, no worries at all, right? I kept taking Syd to some classes, and all appeared to be just fine.

In September, we went to another dog show, and Sydney was very good the first day, as long as stranger dogs did not get right in her face. She was happy to let dogs go about their business from a distance. I thought all was well. Then the second day, my little girl came unglued. A hairy border collie walked by about 15 feet away from us, and this sweet, angelic Cardigan erupted with barking and posturing, as if she were defending herself from an attack. Uh, the dog wasn't even looking at Sydney, but that didn't seem to matter to Syd. Well, I couldn't get my girl out of that situation fast enough, and I spent the better part of the afternoon crying because somehow I failed my dog, and wondering if I could manage this dog who definitely now has a problem. What had I ever done to make her act this way? Where did she forget that she could trust me, that I wouldn't let anything happen to her? Well, Syd wasn't answering, and I'll never know the answers, or what the basis for this new reactivity is. All I know is this is the dog I have now, and it's up to me to try and fix the situation.

I will admit that this was a horrible feeling, unlike any of my experiences with rescue dogs who come to me with unknown baggage. I knew this puppy was raised in my house, with lots of socializing and she had a good start in life. Two months ago she was the ideal puppy, happily going to dog shows, not stressing out about any situation. I wasn't sure exactly how to fix the situation, but I did know that for the time being, Sydney would not be going to dog shows, as the stress level was more than my little girl could handle.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Summer of Change

Fast forward to July 31, 2007. The day things changed for the worse. I was in Waukesha, Wisconsin for a dog show. I travelled there to show Hawk in conformation. I opted to take Sydney with me so that the two dogs would be company for each other. Earlier in July, Syd and Hawk travelled to Houston, TX with me for dog shows, and they both had a great time. On this particular day in Wisconsin, the air was hot and muggy. The dog show was outside. I entered Sydney for two days, just to get her some practice, and also so that she could experience an outdoor show. At just 7 months old, she was still pretty well carefree and up for any new adventure. Sydney showed very well, and she won Winners Bitch and Best of Winners. Her first points in the show ring. I opted to wait to have her photo taken with the judge. That was the biggest mistake EVER.

The judge was behind schedule, so we had to wait through Rough and Smooth Collies to have our photo done. There was very little air inside the tent, and I had Sydney laying down under the steward table, licking on some ice cubes to keep her occupied. I think we waited nearly 45 minutes, and Syd's puppy restlessness started to get the best of her. I finally got her to lay back down and watch the other dogs in the ring. At one point, she was laying quietly, concentrating on the dogs she could see out in front of her, just watching them all go by. In an instant, a tri-color Rough Collie walked behind us, and inadvertently stepped on the very tip end of Sydney's tail as it peeked out from under the table. There was no malicious intent from the Collie, he never even knew he did anything to upset my little Cardigan. And to me, it was just a minor little thing, nothing to get upset about.

Sydney had another take on the situation, though. Because this was a surprise to her, and she did not see the big, hairy Collie approach her, when she felt her tail get stepped on, she wheeled around to see what was going on. The big dog so close to her really startled her, and she nearly flew to the opposite end of her leash, taking me by surprise. She squealed and carried on as if someone had just pinched her. People nearby wondered what happened.

Syd recovered from that event, and I put it out of my mind. No big deal, right? Well, that's what I thought. She's fine, no harm done, it was just a silly puppy overreacting. Unfortunately, I learned that this one tiny little event seemed to play a major role in how Sydney perceives other dogs and escalated at the next dog show we attended...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Where did my sweet pupster go?

That's a question I ask myself after every "ugly" episode. I'm referring to my adorable, sweet, good-natured Cardigan Sydney. She turns a year old on December 28, 2007 and she's lived with me since she was just over three weeks old. Momma and the littermates came to stay at my house and the puppies grew up in my kitchen.

So, I certainly can't lay blame for Sydney's insecurities on anyone else, and I'll say that I think I did every possible thing to socialize and create a safe and secure environment for my girl. From Day 3, the puppies were raised using the SuperDog method to help raise even-tempered, healthy puppies.

I guess the trouble started at about six months old. Sydney and her sister Breezy always got along just fine, never a cross word between them. They had only limited time to play together, as I wanted each of the girls to have her "own life" separate from her sister. Once the girls were six months old, I noticed a few squabbles, and started supervising all playtime, and not letting them run together outside, only in the house, where I could monitor and separate them if needed. By eight months old, Sydney was less and less tolerant, and I stopped letting the girls play together. They always have been and still are crated next to each other. And if one is in an Xpen, they will both play together through the wires, each very happy and enjoying their time together. But take away the barrier, and the fun is over...

Strangely enough, Sydney has had recent opportunities to meet up with two of her littermates again. And after a separation of several months, Syd can get along with most any Cardigan, but somehow, she can pick out one of her littermates in a crowd, and she hates them. I don't know how to explain it, or how she knows, but she does, and it's not a pretty sight.

The key players at our home include Breezy, the Red Cardigan, Sydney, the Brindle Cardigan, and Savannah, the senior Weimaraner.

OK, so it's evident that Syd has a problem with her littermates, something that is very common among corgi girls, but she has never exhibited any ugliness at other Cardigans or other dogs. Until July of 2007...