Friday, May 9, 2014

A Nova Update

"I am blossoming into a beautiful flower, and using your plants as beds."

The other night I was at a fundraiser for one of my favorite local organizations Incred-A-Bull and I ran into a lot of people who I had not seen in a while and asked how Nova was doing.  Actually most of them asked about "tire store chihuahua" as she is more commonly known.  If you are a new reader you might want to check out some of my old posts about Nova, but to sum it all up she was a totally feral dog living behind a tire store until she was trapped and I got her.  It is hard to really say how she is doing in a few words of casual conversation, but what I came up with is this.  

"She is very comfortable around the house, very smart and she has taught me a lot."

All that is true, but it is so much more complicated than that.  Nova has come so far in the last year that I can barely believe it but many things are still a big challenge for her.  She has brought challenges to me as a trainer that I had never seen before and more than that she opened my mind to a lot of new ways of doing thing, and proved that what I before would have said "works every time if you do it right" I now realize is just a great place to start.  If nothing else at least every dog that enters my life from this time forward will benefit from the things I learned from Nova and the partnership we have (it truly is a partnership) in navigating the scarey world.

As far as day to day life, Nova is nearly a normal dog around the house with only a few accommodations.  She is potty trained 100% but because she will not ask Ben to open the door we have pee pads inside that she uses if he is the only one home.  She participates in barking that Kerrigan starts, but she is not an excessive barker at the outside world.  When people come over she does hop around nervously and will do some aggressive barking if she feels trapped in a room or needs to get past them for food but mostly is not at hassle to visitors.  She will take food from people, and even sit or touch for food from strangers and visitors.  She has never gone after a person aggressively, and it is obvious she is acting out of fear, but I always lock her up when kids visit.  She has proven that if she is actually cornered and grabbed she rolls over and goes to a submissive scared place, but I don't think I will ever trust that she would never go to an aggressive place.  Because of that I am never going to let her near children loose in the house.

She does do a lot better out in the world.  We have a regular walking route we take and she happily does that with me and Kerrigan.  If people approach us she sits by me as Kerrigan is petted and while on a leash generally looks to me for guidance.  Any change to our route however is a reason for panic the first time or two, then she goes with it like she is an old pro.

A few weeks ago we "graduated" basic obedience class.  She did not participate in everything at class, but was actually excited to go and I did not try to push her too far.  She LOVES her clicker and with it's help she accomplished a lot of things at class.  She walked around with other bigger dogs very close to her, she walked for a short while with someone else (our instructor) holding the leash and she did a lot of her clicker tricks in public.  Also on one day she tried to instigate play with another tiny little dog at class.  The owner was kind enough to let them go for a minute then moved on.  I am so proud of how well she did and I plan to take the class again.  Nova is a very smart dog and while nervous at parts I think she appreciated the challenge of class.

Speaking if smart, Nova has learned a LOT of clicker tricks and is enjoying going through Kyra Sundance's book 101 Dog Tricks and learning even more!  She really gets the idea of the clicker and it is so easy to shape behaviors with her this way.  The unfortunate thing is she will not "perform" for anyone but me!  I am thinking I should get a tripod and video camera then make her a you tube star.  I was thinking of getting her to act out an entire Shakespearean drama or something like that.  I say thinking about it because the odds of me having enough time in my life to actually do that is rather slim, but we can dream.

So in conclusion, Nova is very comfortable around the house, very smart and she has taught me a lot.  She continues to improve in her relations with people every day, she loves Kerrigan and Copley and she is just a joy to clicker train.  Nova may never be a totally normal dog, she certainly is not ever going to run up to strangers like Kerri does but every day she gets a little less scared and figures out a little something more about living with people.  She is a lot of work, and I can't say I recommend adopting a feral dog but for me she has been a joy.

There is a Nova update for everyone!

1 comment:

  1. Nova has come a long way indeed and that is because you make a great partnership. We are pleased for both of you and onwards and upwards we say. Have a super Saturday.
    Best wishes Molly