dog training

Slowly But Surely

I’m kind of torn between wanting to update this frequently, and not wanting to post nothing but dog training. Currently I am working with the puppy (now named Rowan) every day, but have not been working much on the RV, so I feel like that’s all I’d be doing. The puppy is learning and doing better. Not reacting as much, but still has obvious issues. She wants to eat the cats, has not learned the art of “Quiet” very well yet, and does still react to my roommate and one of his friends (although that also seems to be improving). I don’t think I mentioned this, but she did nip my roommate’s friend a couple weeks ago. He was one of the people she tried to bite when she was new here. She’s taken quite a while to get over her issues with my roommate, and she’s still not there 100%, so I figure it’s going to take quite a while for her to get over her issues with this friend, because she doesn’t see him as often. He had been over to visit, and it was the first time she’d seen him since the day he kept trying to pet her after she’d warned him to leave her alone and she snapped at him. So this time, she ran up to him, and he reached down quickly to cover himself, and it spooked her. She jumped back away from him, then jumped back in and nipped his pant leg. It was closed-mouthed, and she just pinched a tiny bit of the jeans, but it was still very upsetting for me. I am not sure if she went in with the intent to bite in the first place, or if she only decided to bite once she got spooked. It happened too quickly. So I’ve been wary of letting her near him ever since. She needs to get over her issue with him, because he comes over frequently, and I’d rather not play interference. He is very sad that she doesn’t like him because he loves dogs, and wants to be her friend. She’s seen him twice since the nip, and did not try to bite him either time, although she was not comfortable with him either time. The second time she saw him was today, when I was outside working on my RV. He was carrying a computer, and she barked and barked at him as he walked through the yard, then circled him, sniffing the air around him, and then turned her attention to my roommate, who was leaving the house behind his friend. I thought it was pretty ballsy of the friend to walk through the yard with her loose out there. I don’t know why he didn’t tell me he was coming so I could grab her, but I was relieved that she didn’t try to attack him.

On our walks, she has been pretty good. Definitely needs improvement in just about everything, but she isn’t reacting to cyclists, runners, skateboarders, or strangers with insanity anymore. Some people she is wary of, and will cross behind me to walk on the opposite side as they pass, then she wants to sniff the air behind them. Most people she walks calmly past and (mostly) ignores though. She gets treated for all good behavior around strangers. People she’s met before and had good interactions with, she is a crazy excited puppy toward when we run across them again. Lots of new people passing seem to see her and want to make friends, since she still looks like a puppy. Most of them she is shy with, stepping back from their outstretched hands, then she steps back in and licks them or lets them pet her, and then instantly turns away from them (if they are someone she is unsure of), to direct her attention back to me, because I give her tons of praise and treats for good interactions with strangers, or she jumps all over the place like a complete lunatic 6-month-old puppy (if they are someone she’s decided she really digs).

I’ve been trying to only have good interactions with dogs as well, but they’re such wild cards. You never know what you’re going to get as people are approaching you. Yesterday I was walking my usual route when suddenly there was a loose dog on the sidewalk. A little Pit-Hound looking mix. The owners saw me coming, their dog was off leash, and they acted like everything was fine. And then the dog approached Kedric with all raised hair, passed him by to get to Rowan, and then proceeded to growl at her and try to jump on her (twice). WTH? Why would you let your dog approach strange dogs if he has aggression issues? NOT the experiences I’m looking for with a fearful pup! We have had some good experiences with larger dogs, but for the most part, she’s pretty scared around them, until they get to know each other well… And who has times to sit and let dogs get to know each other as you’re passing someone on a walk? But little dogs she LOVES. She goes all crazy for them, and wants to play, and I have to hold her back, because I don’t want her to jump on them and hurt them. She likes to play tag with Stella, the little Chi-something that lives in our apartments, and she REALLY wants to play with Sam, the Jack/Rat mix, but he’s an old man, so he doesn’t put up with her shenanigans for long. So at least I know, for my own references, that she needs more exposure to good-natured, well-trained larger dogs.

So basically, I’ve been doing nothing but eat, sleep, shower, work, and dog training for the last month. My brain is tired. I need a serious vacation from work, some kind of recovery period. It also sucks because I can never let my guard down with this pup. Today, as I was leaving the back yard, she slipped out before I could grab her, and was intent on not being caught. Scary moments, for sure. When she’s in the house, the only place she can be off-leash is in my room. The door has to be closed because she flies over the large baby gate like a Grand Prix horse… Or should I say she used to, until she crashed the gate trying to get to one of the cats, and broke it in half. Until she is trustworthy with the cats, the roommate, and recalls, she cannot be let off leash outside of my room though. So I’m pretty much thinking she’ll probably be on leash in the rest of the house until we move into the RV. Which is a pain in the ass. When I take a shower, she has to go in her kennel, because I can’t trust her to not chew shit up, and I can’t leave her outside in the yard, because I view her as a liability (and don’t trust people to keep the gate closed). I’m just getting to the point where I will SOMETIMES leave her out of the kennel for a couple hours in the morning, after she’s went out to potty, and before I’m ready to get out of bed, but I can’t sleep well then, because I’m constantly checking to see what she’s into. She is the BIGGEST pain in the ass.

So I’ve been looking into trainers with different philosophies online. Basically, I am an eclectic kind of girl, and I like trainers who are the same way. There are a whole lot of training methods I look at as either evil, or completely unrealistic. I need to find a happy medium. I just ordered some Michael Ellis DVD’s. Expensive as hell, but I really dig him. The more I see of him, the more I like him. He makes sense. He has great energy, and gives the dogs the benefit of the doubt, treating every one as an individual. Highly skilled marker trainer, but also believes that it’s okay to tell your dog when they’re doing something wrong, rather than ignoring it and hoping your dog figures out the right way. Let’s be honest, folks. I don’t have 20 years for my dog to decide that she’d rather not do the things I don’t want her doing. I may be wrong (I’m not), but I’m pretty sure that Border Collies are considered the smartest breed in the world. So I’m pretty sure my dog understands when I say, “Hey, I don’t like that behavior,” and she isn’t going to be in mortal fear of me the rest of her life. I can disagree with behaviors without the relationship that I have with my dog bursting into flames. Really, who thinks this shit up? (Maybe they just have ultra-sensitive dogs that they’ve over-corrected?)

I despise clicker training. Don’t get me wrong – I think marker training is AMAZING. But the clicker itself drives me nuts. I could NOT listen to that damn thing all day. Maybe my hearing is just sensitive, but clickers seem SO loud to me, and who has the extra hand for that? I have a bag of treats on one hand, and a crazy, reactive dog in the other. I am not an octopus.  I can hear people using a clicker a block away from my house. Dogs have amazing hearing. Who designed these things to be so damn loud?? So I love marker training philosophy, and will stick with it, because it is undeniably the best training method out there, but until I start to go deaf, you will never see me using a clicker. I will also continue to tell my dog, “Nope, that’s not right”, and I roll my eyes at the people who say that is a terrible mistake. Maybe they’ve never owned a dog with such a high-functioning brain?

Anywho, yeah. So this is my brain lately… Dog training, dog issues, dog reactivity, what we need to work on next, what skills need improved on, what tools I need to have for the next step, etc. It gets pretty boring, believe me. There are days I’d rather just sleep all day, and maybe read a book later. But time is critical. Rowan just turned 6 months, and I feel like the closer she gets to adulthood, the harder it’s going to be to change her innate reactions, and fear-based behaviors. So for now, my brain is in doggie overdrive, and dammit, I’m tired.

The winter is supposed to be officially rolling in… oh, 36 minutes ago. We’re supposed to have a day-and-a-half-long snowstorm to kick things off. So I got the dogs walked this morning, then finished sealing almost every seam I had left on the RV (there are like 3 things that need redone, but nothing that some rain or snow could hurt), then put the tarp on top. I still haven’t gotten around to resealing the roof. I need a skinny person to hop around up there for me for that project, and all the skinny people I know have been busy, so it will probably just have to wait until spring. But the tarp is on, so I’m not so concerned about that.

When Em was here last, we tried to figure out what the deal with the washer fluid was. All the tubes seem to be in decent shape, and there is some suction in the tubes… just not enough to generate fluid spraying onto the windshield. Rather than bother with tearing shit apart that I know nothing about, I’m probably just going to take it in and have it fixed. Maybe the motor is dying. Or maybe there is a pinched or cracked line somewhere down in the engine compartment. I don’t know.

So I have to get the washer fluid fixed, get it inspected/licensed/registered, and I’m considering reupholstering the cushions to make them a color I like (and because the top bunk upholstery is falling apart in the center, where people have slid off the bed). Then a tune-up and oil change and whatever other basics I need, and she’ll be good to go.

I have a list of the things I am going to need while on the road that has been on my computer for years, and I am just now starting to go through it and color code everything, so that I will know what I have, what I need more of, and what I don’t have at all. It’s pretty exciting. 🙂 I brought in my emergency bags tonight so that I could go through them and make lists of what was in them, so I will know what I need to add into them… I do like to be prepared. 🙂 (Girl Scout for life!!) (Yes, I’m a nerd.) 😀

I tried to get a happy family picture the other day when I was raking leaves in the back yard… Here’s how that turned out. (Kedric’s face says it all).

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And here’s Flash with the tarp on, ready for winter!

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And until I can really get on the ball with my exercise program, I’m not even going to bore you with the details. Been so busy with this crackhead puppy that my exercise routine has been put on the backburner. But that’s temporary, I swear! 🙂

Hope everyone’s having a great night.

Categories: dog training, dogs, goals, RV maintenance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Intermission

Whoa, okay. So that absence was unexpected. The lowdown of the hoedown is…

I can’t even remember what I was doing the first week of my absence here, but I’m SURE it was something amazing (okay, maybe not). I then got sick because… well, germs. And inconsiderate people. And then I got a puppy.

I couldn’t find what I was wanting through rescue. Every dog I seemed to like had aggression issues. And I have a roommate, and he has two cats. So bringing home a dog with aggression issues didn’t feel like something I could take on, while being a considerate roommate. I considered waiting another 6 months for a puppy from a breeder who would be having a litter I really wanted a pup from, but that would then be a full year of Kedric being alone. And honestly, at this point, getting a puppy was mostly for him, because he’s been so lonely. I figured we could get over the annoying stuff now, so he could enjoy his retirement with a well-trained companion.

So there was a breeder nearby whose dogs I really like. Her males are all eye tested, and she’s working on getting all her breeding stock hip tested, which is more than I can say for the majority of the breeders out there… And she had a pup that I’d been checking out since she was little, but was never sure about… She also had a pup last year that I really loved, but didn’t go get because it was a boy and I knew I’d be wanting a girl next. And I saw how gorgeous that dog turned out, and I feel like I missed out on a good thing there. So rather than waiting until this pup had been picked up by someone else, or until she was a year old and I was kicking myself, I decided to go for it.

I went out a week ago, and we talked, and I decided that I was for sure taking the pup home, so money and paperwork changed hands, and I had myself a new dog. She was a dream the whole (very long) car ride home, and was fine that night in her crate… And then the next day came. And my adorable puppy turned into a lunatic. She had lived the first 4 1/2 months of her life in the country. Not much happens out there. She had no exposure to skateboards, bicycles, runners, traffic – nothing. The breeder suggested I just let her chill and get used to me, but I couldn’t just leave this high-drive puppy locked in a kennel for 8 hours while I was at work without burning off some of her energy, so I started taking her on walks in the morning. She is super reactive and fearful. Within a couple days, she had tried to bite my coworker, my roommate (twice), and his best friend. Everything was freaking her out. Strangers and children were not on her happy list. Pretty much everything was triggering her. I figured it was basically just sensory overload. Over-stimulation triggering just extreme fight or flight reactions.

I was a wreck the first few days, thinking that I’d finally made a decision to bring this dog home, thinking it was the best thing for all of us, and I’d bought a psychopathic biting machine instead. So I did what I do best, and got online to research things. Fearful dogs. Reactive behavior. Fear aggression. On and on… Hours of videos and papers about training. Some articles said that since she was older than 3 months, she would never be “normal” again. Some articles talked about how BAT had turned their own nutjobs into normal, sane dogs. I was just frustrated that I could have picked up an aggressive rescue for a fraction of the price, and instead I paid more for an aggressive puppy from a breeder. Of course, she was sane when I picked her up, because she was in her own familiar environment. So to me, the problem was twofold: that she’d never been socialized, and that she was being exposed to everything at once. But I can’t pick and choose what she is exposed to in the city. I never know when I will run into a longboarder or a sprinter. It’s the luck of the draw. I am not going to the park. We are walking on quiet streets. But everything is still so new to her.

So I started doing some modified BAT with her. I can’t turn and walk the other way every time someone approaches or we would never get our walks completed. So I step off the sidewalk, far enough away that she isn’t feeling too triggered, and she gets rewarded when she breaks contact with the trigger and checks in with me. I’m allowing her to check out the things that scare her, rather than continuing to make her walk with me, because I feel like in order for her to stop reacting when she sees things, she needs to have come to a conclusion about whether or not they are scary in the past. It seems to be working. I let her investigate the scary things (some things I have to approach myself, and then lure her to them with a treat), and then she’s like, “Oh, just kidding… It was only a garbage can,” or whatever. And then the next scary thing we run into, she is like, “Oh, yep, seen that before.” Within 3 days, she was no longer reacting to scary Halloween decorations in yards along our route because I’d let her check them out, and then praise her when she looked relaxed and satisfied that they weren’t as scary as she first thought.

She has a remarkable memory, but she reminds me so much of Shannon in how she does things. She doesn’t care a WHOLE lot about treats. I mean, all puppies like treats, but they are not her driving force. She wants to see things. That’s what Border Collies do, they look at the world around them. There are commands that she already knows, that she will just brush me off on, because she just doesn’t give a shit that I’ve asked it of her. Just a hard-headed little shit. But when you have a treat and she wants the treat, the behavior you ask for is done in milliseconds. Within 3 days of moving in, she knew No, Let’s Go, Off, and Leave It. I taught her Sit in about 15 seconds. 24 hours later, after not having repeated Sit a single time in that many hours, she gave me the behavior the first time I asked for it. She’s smart as a whip, this one. Today we started on With Me. It’s more of a mouthful than Here, but I just really dislike how closely Here and Heel sound to each other. All my Borders have been able to tell the difference just fine, but I really want something that sounds different, so I’ll be phasing out Here (although I still let it slip from time to time, since it was Kedric’s command).

So I’ve really got my work cut out for me with this one. She has that typical headstrong bitch personality that Shannon had. I see it and it makes me smile at the same time I want to give her a shake for giving me the finger. What drove Shannon was not food, nor was it toys. It was love, and drive. The day after coming home, this puppy challenged Andy’s dog because it approached me for some pets, so I know she’s becoming attached already. It’s only a matter of time before I can turn that into something constructive, I think.

She hasn’t tried to bite anyone in the last 2 days, and she actually had positive interactions with two strangers today – women who she decided just out of the blue that she wanted to be buddies with. She also met and had good interactions with two dogs she did not know. She then had a not-so-positive interaction with Andy’s new dog, who comes from the same breeder. He was very excited to see her and wanted to sniff her girly region, and then play with her while she was rolling around on the lawn. She was not having either interaction, so she got reprimanded for her bad reactions. I don’t mind a lip curl or something to tell another dog she is not pleased with their actions, but snarling and trying to bite are both big no-nos. A snarl at the wrong dog can land her in the doggie ER, so she’s gotta learn to keep that attitude in check.

But with all good things come the bad… On Friday, she chewed up my phone charger cable. So I am without a phone until the new one arrives. Then the next day, she chewed my internet cable in half. $40 and two days later, the internet was up and going again. Then this morning she chewed the new cable in half. Rather than spend another $40 on a new cable, I spent the morning splicing cables and connecting each itty bitty wire in the CAT-5 line together one by one, and patching it all with a generous supply of electrical tape. I was beyond delighted when it actually worked. *lol* I knew that degree wasn’t worthless! 😛

So yeah, my mind is kind of exploding with puppy training crap. I can’t have a biter or a lunatic, so we’re working on lots of stuff, and my poor brain is spinning. But I was totally stoked today when she had the good interactions with the strange people and dogs. She even offered up the sit after a few go-rounds of me stepping off the path of strangers. “This is what you want, right? Hand me the hot dog!”

I have toys shredded all over my room. It looks like a plastic and stuffed animal massacre. I am beyond tired. It is like having an infant, needing out at crazy times of the night. I have already thrown at least 6 mangled toys away this week.

At the same time, I am trying to get back on the exercise wagon after being sick for like 2 weeks and doing nothing during that time. I also still have not finished the outside of the RV, and I want that done before the snow season hits (it has already snowed a few times, but not for long). I plan to finish the caulking tomorrow, and try to get the windshield washer fluid issue figured out. Then my friend Emily is coming out next week, and she is going to help me finish the roof. Once the roof is done, I have a tarp I want to put on it for the winter. It won’t cover the sides, just the roof, so I can continue to go in and out of it, working on random things throughout the winter – like getting the cushions reupholstered, and doing some basic cleaning. I was going to work on it this morning, but I ended up spending the morning on that cable, and then I had a City & Colour concert to go to tonight.

Wish the phone wasn’t dead, so I could share some pix or videos from the concert, but it is, so a few pictures of the new pup will have to do.

Here’s one the breeder took of her… Her eyes are two different colors currently, but look like they’re changing. Her right eye is currently gold on the top, and brown on the bottom. Her left eye is gold and has some green hazely thing going on.

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Here she is, walking with Kedric. Their markings are kind of cool, I think. They have the same white shoulder, but their hips are opposites. She has a spot on her left hip, and a white streak up the right – he has a spot on his right and a streak up the left.

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And here’s what she looks like when she’s being good: 😛

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So there’s that.

And since it’s Monday, I suppose I’ll include this, to help get the ball rolling…

Starting weight: 272
Lost this week: Who knows?
Total lost: 20.6
Currently: 251.4

Starting BMI: 43.9
Lost this week: ?
Total lost: 3.3
Currently: 40.6

Hope everyone’s having a great week. 🙂

Categories: dog training, dogs, goals, lifestyle change, RV maintenance, weight loss | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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