Relationships are never static.
I think everyone who knows me knows how very tight the bond is between me and The Great Zookini. You may even remember the reason he’s even here is that he chose me when he was one of the visiting puppies, and his breeder/owner respected his decision and let him live with me forever after he finished a bench and field few titles.
He is *very* attached, like a remora, and that has never been a problem. I kinda suspected it might become one, but it never was, so I allowed it, because, well, I liked the attention. (Is that pathetic? I know it is!) But recently, I’d noticed a small slide into the “unhealthy” zone, with him just starting to think that maybe no other animal should be near me. People are A-OK, but other animals, from the Shelties to the goats to the pony, were getting a stiff posture and occasional rumble.
Yes, it’s classic “resource guarding”, and I have to note that’s not all bad. In fact, he has protected me from the occasional pushy horse or pony, and has grabbed the rooster once when I was examining a sick hen and Big Al decided to launch an attack to protect her. And there was that time he cut off and roared at a goat who had decided to head bump over some violation of the Caprine Code. All of that was fine, and he seemed to have good judgment.
But this has been different. It’s not, “I’m watching, and will protect you from harm” but rather “I really would prefer no one near you but me.”
Yeah, no, Zoo. You don’t get to decide.
A couple months ago, I started him on a Nothing In Life Is Free regimen, to re-align the chain of command, so to speak. And then, watching friend Miz’s incredible work with her amazing new GSD rescue boy, I started upping the game even more.
But Zooka takes my opinion very seriously, and I had to adjust.
The thing Zooka hates the most is having to do a down-stay *away* from me. He will now do a sit-stay on the other side of the room, but down-stays are very, very hard for him (there’s a reason for this, in the dog’s mind), so I backed up and started with baby steps. That way he doesn’t get much in the way of correction, just lots of praise. Which works for him because he gets very stressed and anxious if he thinks I am unhappy with him. (This is just a him and me thing: He’s pretty tough and resilient otherwise.)
Earlier, I took down-stay off the table for a while and worked on other things to build trust and confidence while still addressing the root isssue: Zooka’s decision that he was the “man of the house.”
This week, I started the down-stay again. This morning, three minutes in the kitchen, and this video is the end of the exercise. Interestingly enough, you can see his stress and anxiety. But it’s something to build on, and I was happy with it.
Baby-steps, and this was a good one this morning, even if we have to work on his enthusiasm for being released.
By the way, the water bottle is on the floor because whenever Bazooka feels as if has to apologize for something, he grabs whatever’s closest and brings it to me.