Archive for the ‘dog training’ Tag

There’s hope!   5 comments

Welcome to my world

(Rocky is not allowed on top of the chair like that, by the way. It’s a never-ending power play between Rocky and Mommy. And yes, that high-pitched yip you hear in the background is Selena, from her favorite guarding bench in another room)

This is Mommy’s day. All day. Every day. How have they not lost their voices by now?

But there’s hope. Trainer stopped by for another lesson today.

Hope #1: Both dogs quickly settled in their sofas after Trainer arrived. It only took two tries for him to be able to enter the house without being bombarded with dogs.

Hope #2: Rocky did not try to bite Trainer at all. Not once!

Hope #3: Today’s lesson included a refresher for Mommy on “When dogs attack!”. Some of the warning signs are obvious, but others Mommy did not know about.

Hope #4: We will be starting reactivity training at next week’s lesson. Hopefully Miss D’s old pal, Nettie the Scottie, will be our willing “calm dog approaching” so Trainer can teach Mommy what she needs to do. Then later we’ll start attending regular group lessons with other dogs, many of whom Trainer tells us are much worse than these two. I believe it. After all, we have first-hand experience with “much worse” thanks to Miss D.

Hope #5: Trainer and Mommy practiced a few rounds of “Who’s at the door?” That’s where Trainer exits the house, pretends to leave, then comes up and knocks or rings the doorbell, Mommy greets and lets him in. Both dogs did as they were told, just as we’ve been training them to do. There was some initial excitement from Selena (actually, Selena maintained a moderate level of excitement throughout the visit) but they calmed quickly to the point where Trainer could enter and even pet them.

Conclusion:

Training is going well, all things considered. Rocky & Selena both are smart schnauzers and eager to please, if somewhat anxious/reactive to strangers (dogs and humans alike). We’ll get there!

 

Oh and one interesting development. Selena was so anxious/excited when Trainer first arrived that she pooped in her chair. When Mommy sent her back to her chair, Selena ate the poop before settling in. Never seen that happen before. Is that normal?

Sigh   4 comments

What a rotten weekend we had! Well, Rocky & Selena might not think so, but Mommy was very stressed. See, it all started when Rocky bit the neighbor.

Yep, BIT the Neighbor! Who was doing nothing but minding his own business in his own yard, when Rocky went nuts. So to calm him down, the neighbor held his hand up to the fence for Rocky to sniff. Unfortunately, Rocky decided to taste instead. Luckily, the neighbor has dogs of his own and understood the context of the situation and said it was okay. Of course, Mommy thinks it is not okay and has already talked to Trainer about stepping up the lessons to take care of this bad behavior now. After all, what if we’re out walking and a child decides she wants to “pet the doggie”? We could land in serious trouble.

THEN…

Mommy was out walking with Selena, training to “heel” and enjoying a pleasant Sunday afternoon when we encountered a laid-back golden retriever and his owners. Mommy could see this encounter was stressful to Selena, so we tried to move off the sidewalk, create some distance between us and them, until the danger passed. But Selena, thinking this was not enough and the dog must be warned off her sidewalk, decided to slip out of her collar and give chase!

Poor retriever had no idea what was going on! Why is this tiny animal attacking me? It was like a fly or a bee was buzzing around him. It might have been amusing, if not for the sheer terror of possibilities, like Selena running into the street or actually catching the bigger dog. Who knows what she might have done? She certainly had murder in her eyes.

Anyway… the humans were finally able to catch Selena. Mommy promptly tightened her collar and practically dragged her home. This encounter has also been mentioned to Trainer as another example of why learning to “heel” and “come” and “stay” are all well and good, but perhaps we can learn to “not bite” and “not give chase” and “play nice” at the same time. Please.

Needless to say, both Rocky and Selena are grounded. No more walks. We’re continuing our lessons on “heel” indoors. Outside time is limited to going in the backyard, on leash. They don’t even get freedom there to run the fence and bark at the neighbor dogs. Nope. Mommy’s right there with them, holding those leashes, forcing them to stay within a certain radius of her; which radius does not include the mud pit nor the fence.

On the bright side, neither dog reacted when the doorbell rang unexpectedly (twice!) this evening. Mommy has been working on desensitizing them to

  1. the door opening,
  2. the screen door opening,
  3. the doorbell ringing, and
  4. knocking.

At least this aspect of their training is going well! The next step in this desensitization is Mommy exiting through the door and standing right outside, talking to the visitor. AND the biggest step of all, allowing a visitor to enter through the door without attacking. Right now, the dogs take Mommy exiting as their cue to panic and arooo! and run to the door and bark their little heads off. Oh, and Rocky attacks the pants and ankles of any visitor within his reach. Obviously unacceptable.

Still… I think back to Miss D’s first year. Mommy’s long list of “encounters” where Miss D would initially go into bat-$h!t crazy attack mode but she eventually learned how to cope with most of them. Rocky & Selena are further along in their lessons than Miss D was when she first came home. … Or Ever.

I hope that one day I’ll feel confident enough to send these two to doggie day camp. Checkers used to love doggie day camp and would go every week. Miss D never had the opportunity. Mommy simply could not figure out if Miss D even wanted the company of other dogs. Based on the other dogs’ behavior around Miss D, Mommy figured they certainly didn’t want to be in the company of Miss D. It was a lonely existence and one Mommy will always regret.

So I’m drawing up another list of “encounters” for Rocky & Selena.

  1. dogs on leashes
  2. humans encroaching on their personal space
  3. dogs encroaching on their personal space
  4. humans approaching the house
  5. humans entering the house
  6. dogs in play

We’ll see where the year takes us!

Water water everywhere   7 comments

Today’s WTF moment provided by… water.

Miss D has a new water bowl. I believe I mentioned this in the last post. Between the Cushing’s diagnosis and the oncoming of summer, Miss D’s water consumption has increased. I’d fill her bowl to the brim before I left for work and when I came home I would find it bone dry.

Now, I had previously thought I had this issue solved. A few years ago, I bought her one of those bottled water bowls. You know, like the proverbial water cooler at work, but with a bowl. The problem… Miss D is afraid of it. Of course she is!

Won’t go near it. Every time she drinks from the bowl, the water in the bottle would gurgle. Weird unexpected noise. Miss D freaked. WTF!

This time, I have high hopes. For the first couple of days, I left both her regular water bowl and the new one next to each other while I was out but left only the new bowl when I was home. Took two days to convince her the new bowl also contains water and is meant to be used. sighMiss D!

But finally she decided this New Thing was not out to get her and she freely drinks from the dish. So now it’s time to plug it in.

Wait. What? Plug it in? WTF?

It’s a water fountain. I noticed how Miss D loves to drink from the tub faucet at bath time. And she loves to drink the water flowing from the pitcher when I refill her dish. et voila … fountain! Like the bottled water, the fountain holds a reserve of water, so Mommy won’t obsess over whether Miss D has enough water. Unlike the bottled water, the fountain won’t gurgle unexpectedly, because it is a constant flow of water.

photo

So I’m once again desensitizing Miss D slowly. The fountain remains unplugged, or a simple water bowl, most of the day. I’m turning it on for about an hour a day, right around breakfast and dinner times. Hopefully Miss D will decide the flowing water is still just water and is safe to drink. Eventually, the fountain will remain on 24/7.

That’s the plan anyway.

P.S. Day One and Miss D drank from the fountain while it was plugged in. Her stance was one of anxiety, but she drank anyway. …

And she just took another drink! TWO! This time her stance was more confident, but something startled her because she jumped away quickly. BUT she’s still standing near it and eating her food. So I’ll let this play out and see what happens.

 

P.P.S. three days in and Miss D has a new approach. First, she lies down under the dining room table, near the water fountain and watches it. Then she sneaks up on the water and surreptitiously drinks from the side of the fountain.  

 

Full of Wonder   Leave a comment

Today’s WTF moment…

Miss D proves to be a wonder to me. We did not meet up with any dogs this evening, thank Dawg! However, on our nightly patrol we were passed by several cyclists, both in the proper bike lane and on our sidewalk. No problem. A little excited panting, but no “Alert!” or “Suspicious!” stance. (Yes! Treat.) We were also passed by walkers and this is where it gets interesting.

A single person passing, either from behind or coming toward us, was watched with suspicion, but from a seated position, well out of their path. (Yes! Treat.)  Couples walking together silently were also watched with suspicion, a little more intently and with a definite unfriendly stance. Still, no “Alert!” or threatening behavior, so I’d say it was a soft B-/C+. But couples walking and talking, or groups of three or more, were found to be very threatening. We had to cross the street before they got too close.

Large groups of strangers coming toward us, OK. I kind of understand why she would feel threatened. But why the couple talking? Is it simply the noise of talking that made them different than the silent couple? It’s not as if they were arguing or talking excitedly. It was simple chit-chat. Two gals catching up on the week’s events. What is so threatening about that? WTF?

Gratuitous display of cuteness

Gratuitous display of cuteness

Exhausted Part 2   1 comment

Sometimes I forget whether these night patrols are meant to exercise Miss D or me. It’s exhausting! We only walk a mile, but it’s filled with obstacles: the bicyclist zipping past, the neighbor passing by who “snuck up” on us while we were distracted by the Westie across the street. Miss D has begun to take her training to heart. She gets excited, starts breathing heavy and leaning forward in excitement, then stops, sits down, and waits for her cookie. That’s good, right?

Except it’s difficult to get moving again. If Miss D thinks she wasn’t rewarded enough, or is still excited, she’ll just keep sitting there, turning to watch the dog or bike or whatever disappear in the distance. While what I really want to do is pull her up and move already, there’s a little voice telling me to be patient, don’t send her mixed signals, and wait for her to focus on me again, then give her the release signal and be on our way.

As you can imagine, this makes our walks infinitely longer, frustrating, and well, exhausting for me. Add in my rather debilitating seasonal allergies and the rampant, out of control pollen count this spring, my patience wears thin. Fifteen minutes into our walk we’ve barely gone a block, my eyes are itchy, my nose is running, and I just want to turn around and lock myself in the house with the air conditioning on full blast. But I can’t, because Miss D is just sitting there! MOVE you miserable mutt sweet little dog!

“Crate”   1 comment

Recently, I was inspired to reread a helpful booklet, The Cautious Canine – How to Help Dogs Conquer Their FearsIt provides excellent instruction on how to desensitize your pooch to new and frightening things and is my main resource for training Miss D on our walks. And I decided it was time to refresh our crate training.

My ultimate goal in refreshing this course is to be able to send Miss D to her crate when someone comes to the door. That is, when the front door is opened from the inside by me, or there’s a knock on the door, or the doorbell rings, or someone is seen approaching the front door, I want to be able to say, “Crate,” and see Miss D scurry to her crate (and away from the door) rather than barking furiously and forcing me to step outside and close the door in order to conduct my business.

This is a tremendous undertaking with a miniature schnauzer. This breed has extremely acute hearing, making them excellent early warning systems. In fact, they are sometimes paired with German shepherds to guard sheep. The schnauzer would hear something and alert the bigger dog to its approach. So barking furiously when a stranger approaches is in Deita’s nature. Add in her natural trepidation for New Things or Movement and you see my dilemma. It’s a wonder anyone visits me at all!

To get things started, I wrote down my ultimate goal and then broke it into smaller training steps. Miss D has already learned the command “Crate” means go and get into your crate. However, she has yet to learn to follow the command unless mom is standing next to or near the crate itself.

1. Learn the command, “Crate”. Check.

2. Learn the command and hand signal for “Crate.” I’m using the ASL sign for “bed”.

3. Follow the command from elsewhere in the house (mom standing at a distance from crate)

4. Follow the command when mom is standing by the front door.

5. follow command after

  • door opens
  • knock on door
  • doorbell rings
  • see someone approaching door

Obviously, this is going to take awhile.

 

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