Introducing Raafael.

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, I’ve been a bit busy. Like, randomly got a puppy busy.

Look. At. Those. Ears.

Well, now, I saw randomly, but that’s not quite the case. I did want to adopt another puppy. In fact, I’d say I’ve had a serious case of puppy fever since before I got Mufaasa. Before I adopted him I’d decided I wanted a very young puppy, since Naala was already six months old when I got her and I wanted the chance to start a dog off right from the start. But then Mu’s picture showed up on Petfinder, bright and grinning, and I decided nine months was young enough. But that didn’t fix my puppy fever. Not at all.

I held off for a while. Partly because I wasn’t sure I could get away with having two dogs at work if one of them was a puppy (answer, understandably, is no, you can’t), and because I wasn’t sure I could afford it. So I held off, but in the meantime I thought about what kind of dog I wanted. I trolled Petfinder, various adoption groups, local breeders, and even kijiji every day (sometimes more than that) and I imagined what it would be like. We very occasionally had a doggie house guest at work or at home, and each time Mufaasa was in bliss. I knew he’d love to have a little brother or sister, and I also knew he would make a fantastic big brother with his excellent disposition and extreme dog-savvy-ness.

In the meantime I thought about what kind of dog I wanted. Before Mufaasa I wanted an aussie. I also thought about getting a border collie, if only because I’m madly in love with agility and my main frustration with Mufaasa in the past has largely been routed in his lack of enthusiasm for work. But I always managed to come back to the German Shepherd. Every one that I’d ever gotten to know I fell in love with. I’d see one in the street and I’d swoon. Family members owned them and I’d want to hang out with them more than the family member who owned them. Naala was half shepherd and most of her best traits I attributed to being a shepherd. I knew that they were “my” kind of dog.

However, there were some things that made my want to reconsider. My reservations with getting a GSD were two fold. First, confirmation: I abhor the “modern-style” German Shepherd. The kind with the ridiculously sloped back. The kind that has been inbred to the point where no self-respecting vet would consider them sound. I recall a friend telling me about a local dog show where the judge was so disgusted with the confirmation of the GSDs in the ring that they refused to award any of them any points or ribbons (which makes me want to go find this judge and hug them. The world of dog breeders needs more judges like this). I want my dogs to live long lives where they aren’t made uncomfortable due to an extreme interpretation of a breed standard written a hundred years ago. Secondly, they can have bad dispositions–once again I would link it to bad breeding, but a lot of it is just from people not understanding the breed. They are an intense, working dog that bonds deeply with it’s person, is naturally protective of its family (no GSD ever had to be “taught” to be a guard dog), but are extremely sensitive. They’re an easy dog to screw up. However, if you train them right they will take a bullet for you (and have a history of doing just that).

With those points in mind I started looking into getting a Belgium Shepherd. They had the look of the German Shepherd but they had a hind-end that looked like it might still be in working order after a few years of life. Now, living in Nova Scotia, the likelihood of a Belgium Shepherd showing up in rescue was pretty remote. I was looking at local breeders but I also knew that I would far prefer to adopt, but the nearest Belgian Shepherd rescue was in the US. I sort of stayed stuck at that point for a while. I knew it would make money tight if I got another dog anyway so I was content to wait and plan with my imaginary perfect dog in mind. And then my trainer posted this image on my facebook page:

That was pretty much the end of my resistance. That picture appeared and about 10 minutes later I’d submitted an application on him. About a week later I picked him up and christened him Raafael.

We do know a bit about where he came from, but long story short he had quite a rough start to life which has resulted in him being under-socialized and with him developing some resource guarding issues. Thank goodness Mufaasa’s nick name is “Ghandi” or this whole process of raising him would be a nightmare. And I won’t lie, the first couple of days were trying, especially since he still had his puppy teeth (he was 4 months old when I got him, about 5 months old now). The puppy teeth have come out and he’s come a long way with his resource guarding. I’ll post a video of our feeding routine later, I think anyone who has a guarder might find it interesting.

He and Mufaasa have actually been getting along great so far. There were a few spats in the first couple of days, but now that Raafi is figuring out that he lives in the land of plenty those incidents have all but dissapeared. There’s even been a lessening in the intensity of their wrestle matches–they were still playing but they were getting over stimulated and it was either going to turn into a fight or someone was going to put their eye out on my coffee table (ps: anyone want to trade a coffee table for an ottoman?). Now it’s downright sedate, and he’s at the point where I can leave him out of his crate at night (however, my bed is getting super crowed with puppies and toys….well, there are worse things in life). Even when Raafi tries to get growly with his toys Mufaasa just licks him until he gets over it. Seriously, it’s like a porno in here sometimes (doesn’t help that Mufaasa’s a bit gay for Raafi, but hey, who am I to get in the way of true love):

As near as we can tell he’s mostly shepherd with a bit of husky. I always told myself I would never get a husky (as beautiful as they are they are notoriously difficult to train, and tend to be more independent with a penchant for wandering) but fortunately his only husky trait at the moment seems to be his hind end (which I far prefer over the GSD hind end anyway) and….um, let’s say a certain talkativeness:

(I won’t lie, I replay that video just to get him to howl some more). Also, he harmonizes with whatever sound he decides to howl to. Like when Mufaasa whines when I leave him alone (which is happily stopped by me filling a kong with kibble for each of them to occupy themselves with while I make my exit), or even a fire truck siren as it goes by (he even made a little warbly noise when the tone of the siren changed). To. Freaking. Cute.

Mu and Raafi on their first day. Raafi decided his safe spot was my entryway, which made figuring out when he had to pee kind of difficult. But after a few days of patience (and short burst of cuddling, whenever he was happy to receive it) he started coming out of his shell. Cone is due to getting neutered (that’s right dog, not only have you moved to several different homes in the last three weeks, but we took away your manhood, too. Can’t imagine why you’re feeling so insecure).

The best part so far? He’s got the German Shepherd brain. I mean, this dog is SMART. Like, thank goodness I have some idea what I’m doing smart, because otherwise he would be running this household by now. We’ve been doing puppy classes and there’s a bunch of stuff (like teaching him to go to his mat and lie down, or leave treats I’ve just dropped on the floor) that he’s learned just from practicing in class, sometimes just in one session. How many dogs go from you luring them to a “down” with a treat in your hand pointing at the floor to doing a down with your hand pointing at the sky in three days? I’m working on shaping his skills more than luring, and when we start a new session he easily picks up right where we left off the last time. He pretty much did perfect circle work from the start (seriously, I don’t think he’s ass-passed me once). Shaped him going over a jump in two sessions, etc etc. Heck, he even walks on leash better than Mufaasa already (with an easy walk on, I love those things!). I can recall him about 90% of the time, even when there are other dogs and people around/awesome smelling stuff on the ground. I’m going to get spoiled if this keeps up.

Also, one week after I got him I had an agility show with Mu (more on that later) and Raafi came with us. Considering how important socialization is for Shepherds, I figure the sooner I can get him into a trial environment the better. Well, aside from some whining when we went for a walk, he settled beautifully, was respectful of every dog and person he met, and pretty much made everyone fall in love with him. I got a real gem on my hand folks, to the point where I don’t even give a shit about the resource guarding anymore (even if it freaked me out for the first couple of days).

We still have lots to work on (promise to get some videos of us actually training or doing something soon. He really is a stunning dog) but he’s such a pleasure to train that I’m sure we’ll go far. Of course, I’m counting the days until his adolescent stage hits, so I’m trying to put as much money in bank now as I can. I’m really, really excited to see how this little guy turns out, because I think he’s going to be worth the effort.

PS: Guess I’m going to have to rename my blog. Oops.

  1 comment for “Introducing Raafael.

  1. Jenn
    March 30, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Your blog can stay the same name. Our journey dogs – those that bring everything that follows – are worth a bit of tribute!

    Raaf looks lovely. Those EARS! Can’t wait to see where his journey takes you~

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