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. :)