Improvement Is Relative

Meme from Never A Ruff Day

I posted this meme on Facebook earlier and it got me thinking. You know what’s coming. I was thinking about Zekie and our struggles. I have had pretty good results with modifying behaviors in other dogs, both our own and foster dogs. Not so with Zekie.

He’s been with us almost three years. As my husband said, “Of course you kept Zekie because he’s crazy and you must have a crazy dog at all times.” I can’t say that’s not an accurate statement. I love a dog that worships and needs me.

That being said, Zekie has shown improvement over the past three years. But he is still so far from being a normal or average dog that I have given up hope that he ever will be. I have not, however, given up hope that his behavior will continue to improve.

Zekie has many trying behaviors that are similar to that of my heart dog Duncan. Duncan did not become a dog that I could rely on and trust his behavior until he was about 7 or 8 years old. Zekie is now 7. Here are a few behaviors that both dogs exhibited at some time:

  • Waiting at the door or window for me to return, whether I have gone outside to the mailbox, or to the grocery store. Time is irrelevant.
  • Following me from room to room. To be fair, many of our dogs do this. I have not gone to the bathroom alone in over 35 years. Lol…
  • Taking and eating or chewing things from the kitchen counter. i.e. wooden spoons, plastic containers, mugs, and also actual food. This is why we have swinging doors on our kitchen that can be bungeed shut.
  • Opening the doors under the kitchen sink to get into the garbage can. This results in a wooden spoon between the cabinet door handles so they are barricaded.
  • Leash reactivity-Lunging and barking at passersby on walks. With Duncan, the problem was just bicycles and we overcame this. With Zekie, it is bicyclists, joggers, and especially other dogs. After 3 years of training he has learned to be ok with human walkers most of the time, especially if they are friendly and greet us. The Covid masks have set this back a little.
  • Opening the dog food can which contains a 40 lb. bag of food and eating said contents. This resulted in us keeping a bungee cord across the top of the can.
  • Stealing trash out of all cans. This results in the cans in every room of our home having lids. Duncan learned to operate the ones with levers or pedals in short order. We had to keep them up high. Grandma would put hers on top of the refrigerator when we visited. This not only applies to cans with food, but all trash cans. Kleenex, food wrappers, and other items seem to have equal appeal.
  • Barking at cars that drive by, especially when out in the fenced pasture. They always go away so it works, right?
  • Trying to chew or claw through doors and walls to get to where I am.
  • Excessive barking at unwarranted sounds. I suppose what is an acceptable sound is in the eye of the beholder.
  • The need to sleep in a crate in our bedroom so as not to bark endlessly because I am too far away. The crate is needed to keep them out of trouble during the night.

I’m sure there are many other similarities. Duncan was easier to deal with because he could be crated so that I could have a time out or go away. He did well in a crate and was content to chew a bone or nap.

Zekie does not do well in a crate. He chews out of wire crates and Vari-Kennels in short order. He drools so much that his body is drenched in saliva and it pools in the bottom of the crate. This causes him to drink for minutes when he is released resulting in his frantic need to go out and pee a little while later. We tried prescription drugs, homeopathic medicines and herbs, and behavioral modification. None helped. Some made it worse. He has broken off all four canine teeth and some molars in his attempts to get out of the crates.

Now Zekie has a crate made of aircraft quality steel and marine grade butterfly latches. He must be crated when we go away for his own safety and the safety of our house. It is entirely possibly that he would go throw a window, or worse, to look for us. We try not to go away often if Zekie can’t stay with us or one of us can’t stay at home.

Still Zekie has shown improvement in the years he has been here. This is the boy I love.

Zekie, the boy I love.