Thursday, March 26, 2009

A mission of mayhem, Pt II

Tuesday Finley had his heartworm test. I took him in to have one done right after I got him (in October), but the vet said that if he'd been infected over the summer, the test wouldn't come up positive for a few months, and recommended that we wait until springtime. I guess in the back of my mind I've spent all these months worrying that he would come up positive on the test, but fortunately, he is heartworm-free, yay.

He was a total nutcase at the vet's office. He was okay when there were only two dogs there. Then a third dog came in and he was like, "WTF! THREE DOGS! I HAVE TAKEN LEAVE OF MY SENSES." (Finley, honey? Just so you know, you live in a house with six dogs. Three is three less than status quo.) It really did not help that this was the first time in weeks that he got out of the house to go anywhere except the back yard, since we have all been laid up with The Plague for more or less all of March. The past few weeks are a feverish blur. In fact, there has not been a single day since my brother and his family moved in that we have spent healthy. I think they should slap a "Condemned" sticker on our front door, cordon off the block, and drop food packages in by helicopter.

Anyway, he was crazy. He was barking! He was pulling! He was acting like a doofus! Boy, I can't believe that I somehow missed enrolling in obedience classes this session. I kept looking in my inbox, waiting for the emails that said registration was open, and I never saw them, despite the fact that they were clearly labeled and SITTING RIGHT THERE. I blame the permafog of sickness. It's clouding my ability to think.

Once we got into the exam room, he was clearly scared. He didn't want to walk on the tile floor, and he panted and climbed on me and shed dandruff everywhere. I had to lift all 58.7 lbs of him onto the exam table, after which the vet drew the blood and we left.

On the way out, the waiting room was packed with dogs. Not even the hint of a reaction from him. He instead stuck his head in the trash can, looking for food-scented paper items. On our way out, we walked right past the two who were sitting by the door, and he completely ignored them. Go figure.

I also bought some lysine for my herpes-having foster kitty, who has had a permanant URI since he was a month old. Yesterday Mr Two Year Old and I went in to their bedroom, to dose up Snotty Pedro with the lysine. Of course, as soon as I opened the door, the cats ran out and Finley ran in. Cats, roaming the house! Finley, snacking on the contents of the litter pans! Empty food and water bowls! What to do? I left Fin to his own devices while I filled the bowls, thinking that the cats would come back as soon as they got food and water.

The cats came back, and I put Finley out of the bedroom, but only after he had managed to depoopify three or four litter pans. Ewwwww. But that is not the bad part, oh noooooooo. The bad part is that a few hours later, he came down to the living room and vomited up his stomach contents all over the living room carpet. Cat poop, bits of clay, bile, grass, wheat cereal that the kid fed him, and whatever it was he was eating out in the back yard, all mixed into an unpleasant lumpy paste and deposited on the carpet.

I have never in my life been so glad to have The Plague, because my nose is so stuffy that I couldn't smell any of it. I didn't even want to put the carpet shampooer over something so disgusting.

It's bad enough that they feel like they have to eat poop, but puking it all over our living room, that's just taking it too far.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

People. *sigh*

My mom brought her best friend over to see our house the other day. (We've been here for almost a year! I guess we just don't have many guests.) Tuni had been crated all morning, and I didn't feel like listening to the frustrated screaming of a dog who seriously wanted to greet some guests, so I switched up the dogs: Polly in, Tuni out. Tuni and Finley chased each other around joyfully, then hopped all over the place when my mom and her friend came in.

My mom's friend claimed that all of my dogs were scary. The little shepherd mix: terrifying! The big black earless pit thing! Oh, yeah, he's a killer (if you're a stuffed toy or a rubber-handled toddler spoon, anyway. I had to buy yet another utensil set for the kid yesterday). Polly, in the crate: surely would have bitten her, except for the bars in the way. And why did we keep Polly in the crate 24/7, anyway? That's not fair! Uh, I have a whole bank of crates set up in my kitchen. A veritable wall of crates. Why would you assume that one dog gets crated 24/7?

It makes me so sad that people get so caught up in my dogs' breed mixes that they aren't able to see them for lovely dogs that they truly are. Finley kept following her around and plopping his big butt right in front of her and look up at her, hopefully, desiring greatly that she would scratch his head right around his nubs just like he likes, and she squealed that he was going to bite her and eat the cats and eat the baby and blah blah blah blah blah. Hello! Look at the dog in front of you! What is it doing?!? Is it growling, snarling, snapping, or damaging you IN ANY WAY?!?!?!?

Dude, Fin ain't interested in biting anything except leftovers, tender green shoots from the grass that is poking up out back, toddler spoons, and USB cables. Mom'sBFF flesh, not on the menu.

Now that spring is rolling around, it's biking weather. I'm looking forward to biking with Finley; he loves it. I'll get one of those toddler seat things for my bike, and a dog leash attachment, and we can all go riding through the park together. Doesn't that sound nice?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Evil twins

Here are the Evil Wonder Twins. I'd like to pretend that this photo is the result of extensive training, but really, the amount of dog training going on in my house has been pretty minimal. I saw my brother doing something to the porch roof, opened the back door to see what was going on, and Finley rushed the door with his big fat head and ran out. They were surprised and made roaring noises at first, but then spent about 45 minutes running in circles and taking turns humping each other. Good times, good times.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Dogs on a mission -- A MISSION OF MAYHEM!!!

Read the title in an 80s lite metal squeal, please. Imagine wild guitars screaming behind it.

Yesterday, despite the frigid cold, I decided to take the little people for a walk around the neighborhood. We're going stir-crazy here. Some of the people in my neighborhood seem to have no idea how to shovel their walks properly. Take the shovel. Remove the snow. ALL of it. Apply salt. Ta-da. Safe sidewalks. It seems so straightforward, right? Yet it looks like some people went out there with a broom and lightly swept the sidewalk. Really, people? I don't want to take the kids out to walk in that, slip on a patch of hard-packed snow and ice, and come home with broken limbs.

However. Take one two year old and one six year old who has been out of school for over a week, throw them into a big house with tons of dogs, and shake. Stir-crazy.

We suited up and went out, walked halfway down the block, and decided it was too cold and we needed warmer hats. We came back. Ms Six wore my big puffy white faux fur hat, and Mr Almost-Two screamed and tore off a scarf and threw his angora knitted hat and doggy mittens on the floor. I gave up on the scarf and shoved his hands back in the mittens and the hat in my pocket, and we tried to go out again.

Only, Mr Almost-Two got to the door first, and opened it himself. Finley, who was standing right next to the door, shouted, "WHEEEEE!" and rushed onto the porch. I tried to grab him, and he looked at me with a hurt expression and then pranced further away. Polly, who is not one to miss out on a party, bumrushed Ms Six and zoomed out the door, off the porch, across the street, and down to the park, closely followed by Finley. Snow! Fresh air! FREEDOM! Generally their recall is pretty fantastic, but in this case? I doubt they even heard me.


I shoved the children back into the house, grabbed my keys and a leash, and went out into the freezing cold calling my dogs, who were nowhere to be seen. I walked all the way to the park and didn't see them anywhere. We're right near two busy roads and lots of bus traffic, I-95, train tracks, a big stretch of semi-wild forested parkland, and the river. They could be anywhere. They could be dead. I walked back up towards the house, and saw the young autistic man who spends a lot of time outside, in front of his house. I thought maybe he had seen them run past. I don't think he did, but it was difficult to tell. He mentioned dogs, but I think he was responding to my carrying a leash, not to having seen my dogs. While I was trying to ask him about the dogs, they came barrelling up to me from the next street over, looking utterly THRILLED with themselves.

Polly ran right over to me when I called her, and Finley followed suit. Geeze, was I happy to see them! I am so glad that they ran in a big circle, that they stuck together, and that they came back. Now, how do I prevent this from happening again?!?

Oh, and after all that, the little ones did not get to go on their walk. But the autistic guy's mom thought my dogs were "charming." I think she was happy because I helped her son arrange the trash can in the proper spot. He's very particular about the placement of his trash can. :)

The crate and rotate routine continues to suck the joy out of the dogs' lives. Tuni screams (a horrifying sound which pierces through closed windows and brick walls, and which I can hear from half a block away), Polly shakes and shivers, but Finley peacefully sleeps on his blanket and eats the peanut butter out of his Kong toy. At least someone is happy.

Tuni is anxious, guardy, and obsessive about status right now. I'm not sure why, but she has been really, really unhappy this past week. She won't even sleep on the bed anymore -- she hides underneath it instead. More room for my feet, but it hurts me to see her so unhappy. I am afraid that I did something to make her so miserable, or that I did not do something to stop her being miserable.

I think I need to spend more one-on-one time with each dog, but the only one-on-one time I ever have available is when Mr Almost-Two is napping, and I can't leave him alone in the house while I take them out on long walks.

Crate and rotate. Boo hiss. Dogs who can't deal with each other. Boo hiss. Dogs who can easily clear high baby gates, or dogs who can knock down baby gates with their big hard heads, boo hiss.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Warm and comfy, on an icy day

Don't they look warm and happy and peaceful? Don't you want to be under the blankets, too?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

These paws are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do

I woke up at 8 AM, and the house was silent. No one was barking. No one was awake. "I will just check my email," I thought, "and then take Polly and Finley for a walk while Screamy McScreamyDog is sleeping up in the bedroom."

And then the cat peed in the corner of the dining room. And I was annoyed, but that's just how that little jerk is. And then the the kid woke up, and I heard crying from the bedroom, and ScreamyDog came downstairs, and I abandoned my plans of walking the dogs unnoticed. And then the cat had diarrhea in the corner of the dining room. ALL OVER THE PLACE. WHILE I WAS PICKING HIM UP.

Well, so much for my peaceful morning.

But then Mr HusbandDude cleaned up the poop (I am a horrible person to make him do this, yes, but I was too upset with the cat to do it myself) and my brother made me some coffee (awwwwww), and we took Polly and Finley out for a walk around the neighborhood.

I bought a Halti the other day. My husband has bugging me to get one for years, but I have an irrational prejudice against them. I haven't used them, I don't know anything about them, really, but I don't want to use one. Bro's dog uses a Halti and they love it, and Mr HusbandDude took Finley out on it and he loved it too. They were on sale so I finally gave in and bought one, to give it an honest try.

Eh. Maybe I was just looking for confirmation for my prejudices, but I don't care for it much. Finley can pull, and he can pull hard, and he needs constant reminding not to dash off hither and thither -- but when you reward him for remaining in the right position, he is incredibly reliable about it. If you don't reward often enough, he starts drifting away. It's frustrating when you just want to go out for a walk, and you don't want to have your arm yanked out by a dog or to deal with training the whole time. However, unless we work on loose-leash walking and training, he pulls on the Halti as hard as he pulls on his buckle or martingale collars. (Mr HusbandDude was very disappointed and noted, "He's learned to pull on the Halti." Then he made a sad face.) Fin clearly finds it annoying to have webbing on his face, but the presence of the Halti doesn't give him an idea of what I want him to do instead of pulling, so he just keeps pullling. It's not a training shortcut that works for him, so what's the point of bugging him with it?

Plus, people think it's a muzzle, and that doesn't send the right message.

In other news, we passed another dog on the road. Finley was like, "OMG! There's another dog over there! I have to go check it out!" and he got mildly reactive and agitated. Polly, the dog who when I first got her couldn't see other dogs a block away without flipping out, looked at it, shrugged her shoulders, and kept on walking. Same thing happened when we walked past a yard with three or four barking dogs in it. Finley wanted to go check it out, and Polly didn't care at all. Hooray for the Look at That game! Hooray for training class!

(Can I take a moment to plug this book again? Because it is FANTASTIC. Wish it had been out 5.5 years ago when I found Pol. )

I don't really know how to end this entry. I am trying to think of a neat and clever summation, but nothing is coming, so I guess I'll just stop typing. Rather abrupt, lacking in style. I give this conclusion a D-.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More thoughts of little consequence

The other day, Finley ran into the kitchen and bounced from the floor to the top of the kitchen table. I made him get back down on the floor, but secretly, I thought it was really funny. I mean, he went *boing!* and there he was, on the table.

After we did our introductions out in the yard, Finley and Loki seemed a lot calmer about each other's presence. They even went nose to nose through the baby gate, with nothing but mild, polite curiosity about each other.

My bro bought a clicker and I've been showing him some basics: hand targeting, watch me, orienting exercises, that kind of thing. His dog is a good dog, but my bro falls into the trap that many of us do (I am certainly guilty of it more often than I'd like to admit!) of waiting until the dog reacts and then attempting to squelch the misbehavior, rather than teaching him how to think through his arousal levels or interrupting a sequence BEFORE Loki turns into a reactive freakdog.

In other news, Finley slept in bed with us last night. He is such a bed hog. He prefers to be right up between us, on top of the pillows, but if he has to, he'll stay on the outside edge of the bed. Still on top of the pillows, please.

I think there is only one thing in this life that he loves more than food, and that is snuggling in bed with me. I am not flattering myself. He likes the bed okay, but he could take it or leave it. The bed + me, though, is some kind of doggy heaven. I don't know why I am so appealing. Sean could be standing at the bedroom door waving a pizza around, and Finley would look at him, sigh, and then curl right back up next to me and refuse to move. He did not budge from his pillow spot even once, all night long.

Finley? He's a good dog, he's a damn good dog.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Better than expected

Well, that went okay! Their pit is a medium-sized, relatively undersocialized two year old intact male. My pit is a medium-sized, relatively undersocialized 1-2 year old neutered male. If it had gone wrong, it could have gone very, very wrong. They are each other's evil twins.

I waited on the porch and played obedience games with Fin. Eventually my brother came out with Loki, and Fin flipped his lid. Barking, lunging, hackles (even on the base of his tail), everything. We clicked and treated for everything, playing a modified version of Leslie McDevitt's wonderful "Look at That" game (McDevitt would not allow dogs who were doing LAT to interact -- strictly speaking, LAT is supposed to be for situations where you will never interact, which takes the social pressure off the anxious dog) and kept getting closer. They both calmed down a lot. Eventually I felt like it would be okay to drop the leash, while we kept on working. After a while, we let them interact on their own terms.

There was some posturing, and some stiffness, and there were some corrections, but also more relaxed play. It was a balancing act, and we weren't always sure whether it would tip one way or the other. Finley was the one claiming the dominant status between the two of them, and Loki was mostly alright with that. Fin has the home field advantage against the intruder male, I guess. Loki can't help himself when it comes to mounting other dogs, but Fin wouldn't stand for it, so Loki was humping the air two feet away from him.

I think that with more work on both dogs, and with a lot of cooldown and break time built into their sessions, they'll be able to interact safely. They have to figure out what their relationship is, and that's something that we're going to need to guide and supervise a lot. I don't intend to leave them out in the house together. The goal is not for them to share a sofa or to be best buddies for life. I just want them to be able to interact under supervision without fighting and see each other through crates or gates without freaking out. I think that's a pretty attainable goal.

So, let's hope for continued success.

One good thing that can come out of this is that my brother has been trying to figure out how to manage his dog's issues for a while. Maybe now that we have so much time together, we can work on training together, and I can pass along some of the tips and tricks which have been so helpful with my own wild dogs. That would be great, huh?

Real life. Blech.

I ordered a new USB cable for my camera, so I should soon be able to post amusing pictures of my amusing dogs. Yay!

In the meantime, here is an oldie. I love how happy Mr Fin looks in this pic. Isn't his face squishable and kissable?

Due to somewhat extraordinary circumstances, we are now living with an absurd number of dogs and cats. (Because, um, the three dogs and fourteen cats wasn't enough for us, I guess.) My brother's dogs (and my brother, actually) (and a few other people, for that matter) (and some more cats) are in my [finished] basement, and my dogs are upstairs. We are having Bitch Issues, so they're being crated and separated for the foreseeable future, and possibly forever. With all of the turmoil and upheaval, none of the dogs have been getting the structure or stability or attention or exercise they require on a daily basis. All my dogs are crazy with stress. I've been doing what I can, but it's not nearly enough, and we all need to sit down together and figure out a better way to exercise and train them all and make life better for everyone.

Poor Polly is the one who has to spend the most time in the crate, because Tuni screams incessantly whenever she's in there, and it's truly an unbearable sound. Polly is a social butterfly who adores being with people, so this must feel like a terrible, terrible punishment to her. Finley isn't getting enough hard exercise, and he's turning into a wild beast. When he plays with Tuni, he's a spinning, leaping machine. She's not too happy about it, for the record. He knows he's not allowed to get too close to her or bounce all over her, so instead he just runs up and then spins and spins.

Yesterday, he spent all afternoon following my six year old niece and attempting to mount her. I don't buy the standard line that it's dominance behavior, not from him. He's majorly overstimulated and frustrated. We went out to the back yard and had a great zoomie session, and he felt a lot better after that.

The most concerning is his reaction to the other dogs, who occasionally have to walk past his crate. He is having massive amounts of barrier frustration, and barking enough to bounce his crate around like one of those old-style cartoon dogs in a doghouse. I am hesistant to rush introductions between Fin and my brother's pit, who is kind of a jerky, undersocialized adolescent, but I am worried that if I don't introduce them, the barking and hyperarousal will become a conditioned response, and his frustration will escalate into aggression. I am also concerned that the frustration will generalize to all his interactions with strange dogs.

I think that if we do intros out in the yard or on a walk and if we do some click&treating, he'll calm down. I sure hope I'm right, because otherwise, uh... having not one but TWO sets of dogs who can't interact would kinda suck.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Canine Genius

Yesterday, I was down in the basement working out on my treadmill, while my husband puttered around with a play kitchen he's been making for our son. (It's almost done, and it is so, so awesome, for the record.) Tuni was downstairs with us, and Finley was upstairs, alone, for about an hour.

(Finley has, as of late -- by which I mean in the past two days -- induced a cat-chasing riot, chewed the USB cable for my camera, chewed my favorite hat, and chewed a plastic pitcher. And when I say "chew," I don't mean "put some dents in." I mean, "unrecognizable bits of plastic here and there." I would have kept him in the basement with us, but he kept trying to bite the treadmill while I was running.)

My little dude was ready for his nap, so I stopped running and we all came upstairs. Lo and behold, when we got to the bedroom, our son's potty was sitting in the middle of the floor, filled with pee. Dog pee. Because Finley, when he had to go and we weren't around to let him out, went up to the bedroom and peed in the potty.


In the words of the great Dave Barry, I am not making this up. I'd have taken a picture to show you all, but since someone chowed down on the USB cable, you'll just have to trust me. :)