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All About Cocoa

Posted October 10th, 2019 at 10:57 AM by CiCi

(Nicknames: Cocoa Puffs, Puffs, Puff-Puff, Pretty Girl, The Puff)

Cocoa is our rescue GSD mix. Her mother was a German Shepherd who had gotten out and bred with an unknown other dog, so no one is sure what else she is. With my own knowledge of dogs, I've surmised that her mother must've bred with a Husky, or at least a Husky mix.
Exact unknown, around 7-9
Medium to Large, 60 lbs, 22 inches at shoulder

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Cocoa is very attached and loves attention. So much so that attention and petting is what I use for training, rather than food since she isn't particularly food motivated. She's a loyal dog while retaining rambunctiousness and a free spirit.

Cocoa is trustworthy around teens and adults but needs to be watched around very young kids as she doesn't have much patience and doesn't like the heavy-handedness of children. The older and more understanding the child, the better off Cocoa is. She can be walked by my partner's cub scouts as she doesn't pull on the lead, and when the kids accidentally let her go, Cocoa stays by our side and doesn't stray. She can be let off-leash in our unfenced backyard and will always come back to the porch and never leave the yard.

She has mild separation anxiety which has gotten better over the years. It's been difficult to train her due to her wanting to be independent but she's learned a lot in the three years or so we've had her. She loves cashews and peanut butter and adores running and jumping. Vocal and hard-headed, she's been a lot of fun to figure out and is very silly when she gets excited.

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Showing off her attention getting behavior

As mentioned, Cocoa is not food motivated. She prefers attention and praise. With this in mind, I've trained her in a variety of tricks. She knows her basics as well, which I will list below and then the tricks underneath.

No (which means to stop whatever she's doing)
Okay (her release from "wait")
Off (as in off the couch or bed or what have you)
Out (as in out of the room)
Leave it
Bed (to go lay on bed)

High five (can do it from a Down, Sit, and by getting on her hind legs)
Sit pretty (otherwise known as 'beg', where upon the dog sits up; can be used in tandem with one high five or two "double" high fives)
Jump (to jump over obstacles)
Watch me
Go get it (aka fetch)
Find (to find food I've hidden)

On top of these, Cocoa has been trained to allow humans up and down the stairs first, out of doors first, not to jump on people, not to paw people (always a work in progress), and many different words such as outside, potty, peanut butter, ball, rope, mommy, daddy, walk, bye-byes in the car, bath (she hesitates but does get in the tub on her own now), etc. She's learned a lot in three and a half years and is continuing to learn all the time.

Background: Cocoa came from a house that loved her but couldn't care for her. The home had to get rid of several animals and eventually, after a divorce, the owner moved out with Cocoa and three cats to a home that had no power; she became scrawny due to lack of food. She was also never spayed but luckily never got out to have a litter. That owner was eventually taken to jail and Cocoa was left with my partner's grandmother.

Cocoa had to live outside then with no dog house for almost a year until my partner and I got her. She was trained with some basics but had no doggie manners (would jump and nip and bark like crazy) and wasn't socialized, making her fearful of big dogs. She's become more confident now but if a big dog aggresses or barks at her, she becomes scared and fear aggressive (typically while hiding behind me or my partner).

Other information:
She's a very fast learner but doesn't enjoy long training sessions. Due to her fluff, she's not much of a water dog, and watching her dolphin jump through waist-deep water is hilarious. The moment her paws are no longer on the shore, she immediately turns around with this dorky looking panic to swim awkwardly back to shore. She's often in her life jacket when we go to the water, though she rarely gets in past her ankles.

Cocoa is a great dog, a beautiful mixed breed with a lot of love to give (and take). People who meet her love her sweet disposition and calm, trained behavior. Her impulse control is impressive, which I attribute to being part GSD, and her prey drive is very low, meaning she can live with lots of different animals (and once lived with our late bunny, Blitz, with no problem).

Cocoa also loves her puzzle toys, which I prefer to just putting the food down. Most every day, she gets treated to a puzzle toy for dinner (and obedience training for her breakfast). The toys consist of DIY slow feeders from a cupcake tin, a dish that she has to tip to get food out, and a Kong that can be filled with her wet food. As mentioned above, I've taught her the 'Find' command to find food that I hide, typically in quite difficult places to force her to use her nose. I'd recommend everyone who owns a dog to find more creative ways to feed them so they can get the mental stimulation they need to be happy.

Cocoa also has been trained to get her teeth brushed and she gets them brushed at least 6 times a week.

She has her naughty streak and sometimes tears things up due to her anxiety but she is a very kind and calm dog who loves to give kisses. Here's to more years with our lovely Cocoa Puffs!

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