Friday, January 13, 2012

Major Finna Milestone but She's Still Crazy

If you've been following this blog you know we've added a crazy dog to our household. Half German Shepherd, half Corgi and all unsocialized or trained, Finna is a significant challenge. In most areas we've been making headway but one still remains an issue for concern and a serious problem. I'm referring, of course, to her predilection for charging my husband barking, growling and even snapping at him. The frustrating part is that she doesn't do this all the time and I haven't been able to figure out why sometimes "Dad" is ok and sometimes he has to be frightened away. I can't see that he's doing anything different sometimes than he is others. Still last night after I went to bed exhausted something great happened.

I was so tired I could barely see straight so I extracted a promise from the children to protect Dad from the Finna and went to bed. Dad and daughter sat down on the couch to watch a NOVA episode. Son was playing on the computer. Finna went to the couch, climbed up, walked across Dad to the empty space between him and our daughter, curled up and let them pet her! This was the first time my husband has been able to touch her since we adopted her November 4, 2011. After a few minutes she seemed to realize he was petting her and gave him a look that he interpreted as "stop, now" so he stopped at which point she growled softly and settled back down. A bit later she was wiggling and pushing and he interpreted that as her wanting a bit more room to stretch out so he moved over and she responded with frenzied barking. Then she got down and went away.

We may finally be on to something. If my hypothesis is right then Dad in motion is very scary and needs to be kept at bay but Dad not in motion is not a problem. It's not the full picture but maybe a corner piece in this puzzle that is Finna. At least with a hypothesis in place we can start looking for evidence to support or refute it. Next time she barks at him sitting on the couch he'll be able to take note of whether he just shifted his weight or something. I'm feeling much better about our ability to cope and rehabilitate with a hypothesis in place.

Having a real idea that feels like more than just a wild guess we're putting a management and treatment plan into action. Dad will spend more time sitting still and not walking around the house and when he does move around he'll be dropping a steady stream of kibbles and training treats. When he moves another "acceptable" family member will also move with him as often as we can. And whenever practical a ball will be tossed by Dad when he's moving around. I'm hoping that in a week or two I'll be able to report progress.

Sitting with Dad and letting him pet her is a major Finna milestone and the episode gave us more information about what sets her off where he is concerned. Finna is still a crazy scaredy dog but having a plan and a hypothesis is making me feel a lot better about our ability to rehabilitate her.

And because I don't have any new Finna photos here's simply one of my photos that I like.
It's a view of the Dale Chihuly Bridge of Glass in Tacoma, Washington. 


  1. That is a pretty picture!

    I'm glad there seems to be a little break-through in the mystery. Good luck! You and your husband are extremely patient people; I don't know if I would be that patient.

    Woody, our new cat, is calming down, partly with growing up a little and partly with being scolded and clapped at when he does something we don't like, like chew our toes or suddenly pounce on the older cat for no reason. We do let them have their play fights, if both seem to enjoy it and they are not hurting each other.

    1. Thanks FancyHorse, That bridge is an absolutely gorgeous art installation.

      And thanks for the compliment on our patience. I'm not sure it's patience so much as sheer stubbornness in my case. In my husband's case he's a saint. This is a man that didn't grow up with any pets but accepted that it was marry me marry my menagerie. It has been stressful but he's handling the insanity with grace.

      And finally, thanks for the reminder that time does make a difference. Sometimes it feels like we've been working with Finna forever for very little return. But it's been only 10 weeks and for that amount of invested time she's making remarkable improvement. It's just really hard to remember how short a time it has been while we're living it. The Great Catsby has lived with us a couple months longer than Finna and, like Woody, he's growing up and calming down because we've consistently explained what we expect from him (staying off the counters is the one area he's still got plenty of room for improvement). It helps to remember that Finna is still young and that she's not had all that long to get used to her new life.

  2. Congratulations on hopefully fitting the first puzzle pieces together!

    Would you ever consider pharmaceuticals for Finna, even temporarily? I wonder if that might take the edge off of her fear so that she can learn to regard moving Dad as not-scary. She would probably still have lots of other fears, but the Dad-one must be the hardest on the household.
    Pupper was on Clomicalm for the first two years we had her. She didn't have separation anxiety so bad that she went through a window or chewed up a door, but she drooled huge puddles, scratched up the door, barked so much the neighbors complained. Even on medication we did behavior mod, but I truly think that it would have taken much longer without it, and would have stressed us out tremendously.

    1. lookrkt, I don't have anything off the table when it comes to Finna (well, except for all the dominance crap that gets pedaled, and the shock collars and other punishment based techniques), so yes we might consider drugs. I'm reading about them but so far I'm not convinced that it's our best choice. We'll see as we go along but she's responding so well everywhere else at this point that I'm hopeful about her relationship with my husband now that we have an idea about what sets her off.