Fiona Update

28 Jan

Adopting an adult dog is always a challenge because you really have no idea how that dog was raised and trained. I’ve known Wally since birth so I know exactly how he behaves in almost any situation, but Fiona is a mystery. That can be surprising in good ways and bad ways.

Fiona isn't exactly ladylike

Fiona isn’t exactly ladylike

The good: she has a stunning recall. Seriously, this dog will come blasting across a field when I yell “Fiona, come!” This is really refreshing since Wally’s recall is only so-so on a good day, and basically non-existent in the face of distractions (which is all my fault). She also knows “sit” and has a basic understanding of “leave it” and “off”.

There are some less than awesome behaviors that I inherited, however. First is how Fiona plays with Wally, which is very predatory and rough. Second is her reactivity to new dogs – she isn’t aggressive but she is defensive. It’s as though she’s afraid she’ll be roughed up, so she warns them to leave her alone by vocalizing in a less-than-friendly way. Once she has been introduced to them properly she’s absolutely fine, thankfully.

And lastly, she’s not 100% potty trained. We did extensive testing at the vet and the conclusion was that this is behavioral, not physical. It’s seriously disappointing to have an adult dog who still potties in the house, but she has improved significantly over the last few months so I’m not overly concerned.

All that being said, each of these issues is improving with training. The wonderful thing about dogs is that they can always learn new behaviors; someone just has to want to take the time and teach them! So she’s learning to grab a toy instead of Wally’s neck, look at me instead of squawking at new dogs, and tell me when she needs to go out.  

I’ve also discovered that she has food allergies. I believe her old owner fed her Kirkland brand, which isn’t the worst but doesn’t cut it in my book. When I got Fiona I immediately put her on a grain-free formula, which helped but didn’t solve all the itching. A friend recommended Nature’s Variety Limited Ingredient Diets and since I switched her to that she’s had no itching, woohoo! Based on my research it’s probably not worth doing a blood test or skin scratch test to determine the exact allergen, but at some point I might try the NutriScan test. In the meantime I’ll stick to the LID and rotate proteins.

One thing that I’m super excited about is the dramatically improved quality of Fiona’s coat. When I first got her she was in need of a good stripping, which revealed that she had no undercoat. She also had a profuse amount of downy fuzz on her rear and belly (which is the result of scissoring or clipping the hair instead of stripping it out). That grooming session ended with her being embarrassingly naked – literally bald in some spots. The good news is that I stripped her again last week and not only does she have an actual undercoat, it looks awesome! And all that horrible fuzz has grown back as real hair, too, so she looks like a dog instead of an Ewok/monkey. I think we might actually be able to get into the showring by March at this rate!

Fiona after her second stripping -- we've got coat!

Fiona after her second stripping — we’ve got coat!


Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Fiona


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3 responses to “Fiona Update

  1. Emma

    February 4, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    Poor Wally! He is a sensitive man like Miles!

    A dog that does not like FISH??!?!??! That is amazing.

  2. Cassafrass

    February 1, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    Thanks Emma! The food I have them on is a turkey protein, although I did try duck as well. Wally hates fish, unfortunately, so feeding a fish-based food would just be too inconvenient! That’s so interesting how Miles was teaching the puppy to play. Initially Wally would approach her as he does any other dog, but after experiencing Fiona’s brand of play he initiates play less often. When he’s tired of her or thinks she’s being a jerk he just turns his nose up and turns away (basically throwing calming signals at her). Between that and me telling her “off”, Fiona is picking up on it slowly. She’s definitely MUCH improved over just the last month!

  3. milesandemma

    January 28, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Fiona is so lovely. And her coat is really coming along! How lucky that you have salvaged her rear & belly areas! That is fantastic. Miles would be rolling his eyes if he heard me though — he loves being stripped. Except ears belly bum…

    Your description of her, behaviourally, sounds so much like a 5-month old bitch I puppy-sat recently for two weeks. She was also a very rough player, and very suspicious of other dogs. Perhaps the higher prey-drive, and protective instinct are slightly based on gender?

    Miles’ response to play issue was fascinating to me. He worked very hard to be patient with her (far more than his half-brother who visited us — who basically couldn’t be near the intense puppy — understandably so, she was biting his face obsessively!), and, worked hard at teaching her how HE liked to play. It was incredible to watch. She’d bite his face, and he’d say “GRR NO that hurts. Okay look! Body slam! Body slam is fun!” I visited my parents with them, and my whole family enjoyed watching Miles teaching the girl. So cute. How does Wally handle it? I bet he’s working on training Fiona too!

    You didn’t mention what the source of protein in her food is. I have found (as have others I have talked to) that fish-based foods are amazing for terriers in general, and, especially ones that are prone to allergies. I like the fish-based foods that utilize low-mercury high-nutrition species of fish. Miles eats this:

    The difference in his coat just from switching from food that contained larger species of fish, to a smaller species (herring) was amazing alone! While I wouldn’t want to eat herring every day.. Miles loves it :)

    I am sure with your wonderful training she’ll be peeing outside and being less excitable with other dogs in no time. You rock Cassie!

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