Since I didn't post anything about this in progress, I'll recap it a bit here. I didn't share this with anyone up until this point because, frankly I was keeping this to be a personal piece because I just love dogs and knew the concept was going to be strange and would get people caught up on it before I get to animating. Thanks again to James and Aurora for helping me arrive to this idea.
I've come to the conclusion that thumbnailing isn't the best for me to work out a shot. I wrote down the beats I wanted to happen, then did a quick pass. I'm still in the mode of working in spline for the sake of planning and timing. But to try and keep my poses solid I was working as much as I could with the style of copied pairs, focusing on a pose and just letting things slide around between each pose.
Unfortunately I forgot to do a set all key on each pose, so as I progressed into what I call tying down my shot, things would get a bit wonky as I work straight ahead through everything. It worked to keep things organic but it failed in keeping strong poses.
My next step was doing a bit of polish, lip sync and facial animation. At the suggestion of a friend I changed a bit of the head action at the beginning. I felt that contact shadows were going to be really important, so I did a simple, quick software render.
In the end, my spline shows in the lack of strong poses and texture of timing. The next time I approach a shot like this, I will probably use a more of a backward hybrid technique I've used at work a number of times. Do the first pass with spline/copied pairs and all that jazz, but then switch everything into stepped at that point because by then I'll have my timing and motion generally worked out, then going into stepped to focus more on sculpting great poses throughout and not living in the computer splines so much :\