written by Deborah Miller
This time a year ago our 14 year-old Zeke was doing just fine. Six months ago we had started looking for a dog after Zeke's death due to kidney failure just before Christmas. Just shy of three months ago we drove an hour away to a Thruway stop to pick up 16 month-old 'Harry', a rescue Airedale from Ohio. We had filled out forms, had a home visit and convinced people we were responsible, really wanted an Airedale, and knew about both adoption (our children are adopted) and dogs.
We renamed him Hawthorne Stumpwiggle. This 50 pound toddler had first to learn two things to make him secure: we were his family and would not send him away, and he was at the bottom of the family pack. He came to us very insecure, rough, ignorant, scared, and with a hurt heart. I wore so many bruises the first six weeks! When we finally followed our intuition about what he needed, rather than "by the book", he progressed nicely. Persons with Airedales seem to think they are very different from other dogs-- we have found that in general Hawthorne needs training similar to any other dog, but there are different nuances. The mouthiness, for instance. A big turning point was taking him on a trip to visit the family farm; he was worried we were 'dropping him off' and it was apparent he 'got it' that he was ours upon our return home. His anxiety level dropped significantly after that when we left him for a few hours.
Daily handling helped bond him to us; at first only at night when he was exhausted. As the weeks wore on drying his paws when he came in, petting, combing and brushing, nail clipping -- anything to interact with him physically in a non-threatening, loving way. But only in the past ten days has being touched and petted been something Hawthorne would initiate. It is an indication his heart is healing. He does not actively dislike being handled anymore. I trimmed his chest this week with electric clippers and he stood nicely for me--no fear of the clippers. Last week he had a bath outdoors given by me and two girls and he only tried to escape twice.
Food is a big motivator for him: his motto is "Will work for food". From early on, he wanted to help clean plates and dishes. He loves being in the kitchen with me when I cook. From the beginning he would learn tricks or listen if treats were involved. At our home treats are usually real meat, bones and cheese. But this week we have learned Hawthorne is a fruit dog! He really likes strawberry, cherry and peach pieces. Food is the easiest positive motivator of good behavior for Hawthorne.
He went with us to a high school graduation party Sunday for about 40 minutes. It was his first big social gathering. There were almost 100 people. I had a baggie of treats (small pieces of venison steak, cheese and dog food) clipped to the top of my skirt. It held his attention and his obedience. He did very well. No jumping on people, little barking; an almost perfect gentleman. He got lots of nice comments on his looks and behavior.
This week on the Airedale listserve group there was a thread about using lime juice to stop the mouthy biting that is also a Hawthorne problem. Yesterday I used it four times while teaching him the 'NOBITE' command. The rest of the day just showing him the spray bottle and letting him touch his nose to the tip was enough for him to remember. When it is in his best interest he is a very quick learner.
Hawthorne is becoming a pleasure to have around rather than a perpetual chore. There are still significant changes happening coming into the three-month mark. Hawthorne recognizes himself as part of the family. He prefers being inside with us rather than outside alone as was the case early on. He (mostly) readily submits to orders from above, indicating he knows his place. He has started playing more freely: growling while tugging is new just this week. He is mischievous and will do what he knows is wrong to get attention.
Adoption is a long term commitment. We expect many more good subtle changes as the weeks and months progress. His feisty, spunky character will be moderated through acceptable social behavior enabling his good and loving nature to be more apparent.
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