Ah, Murphy. Still a handful at times, and always reminding me that he's still a work in progress, but he is getting better.
He's finally consistently alerting to people approaching the house. And there's no doubt that he takes personal offense when anyone approaches "his" deck. He barks, he snaps through the rails...he's not playing in the least and I'm starting to worry that eventually he's going to figure out that the plastic baby gate keeping him up on the deck is just...well...a plastic baby gate.
He's protective of my SUV when he's in it now, too. People are allowed to walk past it, but anyone who gets too close or makes prolonged eye contact with him gets seriously warned off fast. It's obvious that he considers the deck and the truck to be "his" property now and he's not shy when it comes to defending either of them.
He's obeying better, too. Yesterday he got out of the house when I left my back door ajar. As expected, he went over to the crazy cat neighbors' house and chased their multitude of feral cats around for a few minutes. (This would include the two kittens that the cat woman captured last week, took to the vet and dropped $300 dollars on, and then re-released them behind her house and mine instead of trying to find them real homes.)
He chased them for a few minutes, and then when I went out with his leash to try to corral him, he actually came to me when I called him and let me leash him up. I was shocked. This is the first time that he's actually turned himself in and didn't make me trick him or corner him.
And then there was today. Today I took him swimming because it was so hot outside. This first few times, he was apprehensive and had to be dragged into the water on his training lead before he's swim. This time though, as soon as I walked into the water, he followed me in, and then swam past me and paddled around like he'd been doing it all his life. This time I actually needed his training lead on him to keep him from swimming away, he was having so much fun. But every time I called him, he'd turn and swim right to me.
This also is new behavior.
I found a piece of floating plastic and started throwing it out into the river for him, and he'd go right after it, grab it and bring it back. As with any toy that he fetches, he doesn't want to give it up yet, but at least he's fetching, and that too is new.
And he did so well that the last fed throws were off the training lead. I finally got to the point where I suspected that he'd come back to me instead of running off. And he proved me right. Good dog.
The only worrisome part was when a man parked his truck nearby, opened the door and asked me if the dog bites. "Yes he does," I replied. Murphy is still not good with strangers and I prefer people to keep their distance unless I can devote full time and attention to them interacting with him, which I didn't care to do right that moment. But the guy immediately walked right down to where I was sitting on the edge of the dock with Murphy. Murphy looked at him, gave him a low, serious growl, and climbed up on the dock to place himself between this man and me. He was suddenly in pure "protect" mode. His eyes were locked on this man and he was literally shaking as I reached up and grabbed his collar firmly.
"What's the matter dog?" the man asked. "You cold?"
"That's adrenaline," I told him. "You need to step back from him right now." I knew that Murphy was getting ready to go for this guy and I was hoping that I could keep a grip on him when he did, but when I told him that it was ok and stroked his neck with my other hand, he relaxed a bit. He never took his eyes off the man, who finally figured out that he was not exactly safe and backed off, but he listened to me and calmed down. Murphy hasn't had a problem with older men like this walking up to him before, but it was clear that he wasn't going to let that man walk up to me while I was sitting on the dock edge.
It's little things like these, happening more and more, that indicate that Murphy now trusts me and looks at me as his Alpha. He's doing more of what I want him to do and less of what he wants to do, and he's definitely willing to step up and fight when he thinks that I or my property are being threatened. He's really changing from being "the dog that lives in my house" to "my dog".MY dog. It's taken a while, but he's almost there.