Jinjja’s transition from a dog destined for the butcher block to a trusting family pet continues to slowly but steadily move ahead — sometimes, so gradually that major breakthroughs probably go unnoticed, even by an observer as astute as I.
(“Stop observing me so astutely,” he’d probably say if he could talk. “And check that grammar. You’re nowhere near as astute as you think you are.”)
But gradually (like everything else with this dog) he is coming to frolic with other dogs in the park, to approach a select few people and sometimes (with females of the human species) even let them pet him.
And last week, for the first time, he went a little farther than chasing and running with other dogs. He full on played with one, with hardly any of the growliness, with actual body contact, as in nearly wrestling, for at least a full minute.
With dogs smaller than he, Jinjja exhibits none of the growly behavior. And with Moro, for some reason, he was enamored — enamored like he is with any new dog entering the park. But this time, it lasted a while. He followed her everywhere she went.
In addition to being the right size, Moro was the right temperament for him. She didn’t charge in and get in his face, didn’t attempt immediate wrestling. Instead she scurried under the bench for humans and observed what was going on, coming out after she felt comfortable, and taking her time getting to know other dogs.
She’s also soft and fluffy as a powder puff, and sweet smelling, though I’m guessing neither of those things matter to Jinjja.
In any event, it was the first time I’d seen him go into a play stance while off the leash — and proceed to play.
I’d have to say the dog park may be responsible for the biggest strides he has made in terms of socialization since he was rescued from a farm in South Korea where he was being raised as a farm animal to be slaughtered for his meat.
We go nearly every day now.
Jinjja, while he has grown totally comfortable with me, remains skittish around most people. Maybe upon a third meeting, maybe after you’d given him a treat or two, he’ll let you pet him, but he generally avoids the touch of humans until he gets to know them.
Moro’s owner was an exception to that rule. She seems to hold a special appeal to Jinjja. He’ll approach her far quicker than any other human in the park, and make it clear he wants to be petted. Maybe it’s because he has met her three times now, or because she smells like Moro, or because she smells like other dogs from working at a doggie day care. Or maybe she just has a way with dogs.
Connections like that — new dogs, new humans — go a long way in helping Jinjja with his transition.
His stay with another family during my hospitalization and recovery also led to improvements in his sociability. After living for two months with three other humans and two other dogs, I noticed a big change in him he came back home.
Last week there was a second breakthrough as well: Jinjja let my brother, who has known him for almost a year now, reach out and pet him, which is generally followed by “please, scratch away, especially right here in the butt region, which I will now shove toward you.”
He has never growled at humans, but he does generally growl, and raise his hackles, when a new dog, or even a large familiar one, attempts to play with him.
I’m not sure of the best way, training-wise, to address that, and I guess it’s more a matter of more time with more company. We hope to get back into the training class we had to drop out of due to illness.
But overall, his growliness has gone way down. (Unlike mine, which remains about the same.)
A few days ago, Jinjja even met another Korean dog at the park — or at least one whose owner suspects he came from there. Toby, who he got from a shelter, appears to be a Sapsaree, a breed produced primarily if not exclusively in South Korea. (And yes, though he was way bigger, with waaaaay more hair, they got along fine.)
With Jinjja, the biggest factor of all, I suspect, has been simple time —
time spent being treated like a normal dog, as opposed to crated or chained as he was at the farm in Korea.
It’s all about earning his trust, and sometimes he makes you work very hard for it.
So we’re spending lots more dog park time, and more me getting on the floor time (arduous task though it is) for that is when he really warms up.
And, dare I say it, he is, if not on the verge, at least getting very close to being a regular old happy go lucky dog.
(Photos: By John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)