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.
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!