So, I got a new addition to my family over winter break. Since I live in a house off campus, I’ve been wanting to get a dog for a while now. I have a big backyard, and I just love dogs. I was on a list to adopt a military working dog from Fort Hood, but something else happened to come up before that. By a strange string of happenings, the neighbors who once lived beside my family, and who my mom was still friends with on Facebook, had a dog they were having trouble taking care of. My mom jumped at the opportunity to adopt the two-year-old German shepherd, a breed she has a fondness for, named Ziva. Trouble being, Ziva lived in Indiana, and I was in Colorado for Christmas and was planning to drive home with my grandparents and my cat. So how was I going to pick up this German shepherd and get it home? The solution was combine all of the above. We met the family halfway, a sort of triangulation between Colorado, Texas, and Indiana, We picked her up in the morning and drove ten hours with a curious German shepherd constantly attempting to climb in the front seat in investigate the cat who wanted nothing to do with the new, large animal. It was a bit of a challenge, but Ziva arrived here safe and sound—although she did take off within the first hour of being in my house while we were unpacking. Having the dog has certainly been an adventure, especially when, thus far, the cat and dog don’t get along. But I have enjoyed her just the same. She had her spay done at the small animal hospital, which was a very interesting experience, considering I plan to work there in the future. She loves to run in my fenced-in backyard, still needs some leash training, and barks when in the crate when she knows I haven’t left the house yet, but for only having her a month, I think she’s doing wonderfully. I’ve implemented clicker training, which proves to be a very effective method, and have enrolled her in an obedience class that will hopefully help with control issues and get her exposure to other dogs.
Having never owned a large dog before now, I ran into a few surprises here and there and realized how important training is, especially with an animal that is not easily controlled due to size. I had Ziva start to drag me once when she saw a squirrel and went wild to go after it. (The thing had the gall to climb out of the tree right in front of her nose and run across the street; how could she possibly resist?) Despite the fact that she was not quiet two when I received her, she was very responsive to training. She can sit, stay, drop it, and leave it with the best of them. She is extremely athletic and very eager to learn. I hope that, in the future, I will be able to train her in agility, which would certainly be a learning experience for the both of us.
As much as she has learned from me, I have learned just as much, if not more from her. Did you know some dogs communicate by snapping the air with their teeth, even having a different number of snaps referring to different wants, such as food or going outside? I didn’t, and I still haven’t quiet figured out the code, but it’s a nice alternative to barking. Training is a constant process that cannot be rushed and must be done gradually. I can’t expect miracles after a short training session and a few treats, but will instead see slow improvements, such as going to her crate on her own when she sees me making my last preparations to leave. Ziva is a wonderful dog who has been through four homes now, but I plan to be her person for a very long time.