Sunday, June 29, 2014

Paws and Noses

Training sessions have continued in our house. I have to say that I am proud of myself for sticking to it. I don't know why, but in the past I would start off strong and eventually just stop. I know that consistency is the key to success and I've preached it many times to other dog owners, but I have not been very good at following my own advice. However, this time I'm doing much better.
I think part of it is because I've sat down and thought out what I really want to teach my dogs and why. I've done a lot of research too; watching videos, reading articles and talking with other people training their pet and working dogs. I've even joined a working dog forum to keep me motivated and to learn as much as I can about various working dogs.
Our first task was learning to nose target. Everyone except Hermione picked up on it really easily. I think Nala already knew it and Otis is already inclined to nose bump your hand anyway. So, those two were easy. They both have it down pat. Roscoe surprised me on how quickly he picked it up. I know a few years ago I had started teaching him to do it and so maybe he remembered it?
Hermione has been a bit harder to get to target with her nose. part of it is how quickly she likes to tap my palm. Sometimes I can't get the click off quick enough and so it's been harder to reinforce with her. I think she's starting to get it though. Since she seems a bit hesitant to target with her nose I tried a game this morning to see if she likes paw targeting better. Everything I had read said that for most dogs, nose targeting is easier so that is what I had started with. Hermione being Hermione though, she seems to take to the paw targeting better.
In training sit, down, stay and touch I was also teaching her a release cue. Once she had performed a stay of some sort I would bounce a kibble across the floor away from her and say "off you go." It was her favourite part. She would hunt that kibble down and pounce on it. Me not being able to see, it took me a while to figure out that she was using her paws so much. I finally realised what she was doing when she stopped a kibble with a whack of her paw and her claws clicked on the floor. Her claws are usually trimmed shorter and her furry paws make it hard to hear her claws. This also let me know she needs her claws trimmed, but it also provided me with some useful information. She was already paw targeting of a sorts when she stopped the kibble with her paws. Her little Spaniel hunting instincts kicked in and she was pouncing for the kibble kill.
Hermione likes using paws.
So, this morning during our breakfast training session I started hiding kibble under my hand and running it around on the floor. The instant her paw came anywhere near my hand I clicked. She got a few good whacks in and I clicked those too. I think we'll have to play the game a few more times for her to realise that I want her to hit my hand with her paw, but we had more progress in this game than we have had in nose targeting.
That said, she always does things that catch me off guard and makes me wonder how I could shape them to my benefit. Once we started the "attack Mama's hand" game, she got really excited. She began running super fast zoomies from me to the front door and back. Suddenly, she decided that small span of hallway wasn't long enough and she leapt over my bent knees and hurdled into the living room. Her zoomies continued with her running from the back patio door, hopping over the small step up of the bottom of the baby gate, a leap over my legs, to the front door and back again. I waited for her to run herself out, mostly because I was laughing so hard. This also told me that she had reached her thresh hold for training that day. So, I let her eat the rest of her breakfast from her bowl. What a crazy girl.
I'll keep working on her nose targeting, but I think the paw will progress much faster and come more naturally to her.
As for Otis, I've started using his solid nose targeting to improve his recall. His recall is okay, but it's not instantaneous. He usually takes his time coming back. He's pretty good coming back to the whistle, but I tried incorporating his "touch" into his recall and it's done wonders. I took him out to the little park by our place on an extenda leash and practised recall with a touch and it was almost perfect. His reliability decreased with the arrival of two dogs he knows and so I stopped asking him to do it. I didn't want him to think he could do it just whenever he wanted. To "proof" the cue with him, I started calling him out of play with my own dogs in the house and having him touch. He's pretty reliable now and so we'll try again in a more distracting environment.
All in all, I think we're all doing well. I'm being consistent, the dogs are learning and most importantly we're all having fun.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Lifeguard Nala

The last  couple of mornings have been busy ones for Nala and .. We've started walking early in the mornings to avoid the heat and have found some really cool walking spots; thanks to Kim and another of our friends. Our other friend has a young Lab puppy too, around the same age as Kayla and it's been a lot of fun to have the dogs around. This morning Kim unfortunately couldn't join us so my friend, her Lab puppy, me and Nala all headed out for an early morning walk.
We started on a multi-purpose path that we walked the other afternoon. Kim and I had tried to walk it yesterday, but were told to turn around by a cyclist because there was a bear.
I live in a city where you have to worry about bears being in your backyard. :)
This morning we decided to try the path again since it has a great hill to help build fitness. I think even the dogs are breathing hard by the time we reach the top. This morning was no different. However, on the way down, we decided to let Nala and the Lab puppy off to have some free run time. It's been difficult to find appropriate places to let Nala off to leash free run and so I am afraid she doesn't get as much free running as she should. I'm not worried about her. She's friendly, well behaved and has one killer recall. It's other people's dogs. Well, more the people than the dogs.
It can't be all work and no play; especially for a young dog.
I had Nala sit and stay while I rummaged my various "free running" equipment out of my bag. I was impressed that she sat, leash off, while I dug out her treats and my recall whistle. Once released though she was off like a shot. I warned my friend that if there was mud to be found that Nala would find it. Unsurprisingly, there was mud and even more unsurprisingly, Nala found it. She also taught the puppy the joys of mud too. Both dogs were covered and smelled horrible.
As we neared the car we weighed our clean-up options.
1. Take the dogs to the "pet wash" which cost five bucks an animal.
2. Take them to the river and let them swim.
3. Take them home and hose them off.
4. Take them home and wash them in our own bath tubs.
We opted for option number 2, but not before we stopped to grab a coffee to go.
Initially, we were going to take the dogs to the area of the park where people let their dogs run free all of the time. It's on the river, but a few things changed our minds.
1. We're really not supposed to be there with leash free dogs. Sure, everyone else does it, but it's a point of contention between dog owners and the city.
2. Roscoe has been attacked there. And, when he was attacked we were the ones to leash up our dogs and leave...not the a***ho** whose dog attacked Roscoe. I've been uneasy about the place ever since.
So, my friend suggested we try the sailing club. We wouldn't have to walk in, past who knows how many off leash dogs and try to carry our hot coffee while trying to keep the dogs under control. Plus, there shouldn't be anyone at the sailing club.
When we arrived there was a man setting up his fishing rod. We were concerned that we'd disturb him, but upon getting out of the car and judging his reaction to the dogs, we knew we'd be fine.
My friend went out on to the dock, thinking that there was a ramp in to the water, but there wasn't. It was at that exact moment that her puppy decided that he was Jesus and could walk on water.
Well, he's not Jesus and he surely can't walk on water.
The pup is about 9 months old, but hasn't had any exposure to deep water because of how bad our winter was this year. He was swimming, but he started to panic, his little doggie paws coming up out of the water. I'm not entirely sure how the events completely unfolded because there was a lot of commotion going on. Suddenly, though, I realised that Nala was in the water too. I couldn't tell you if she jumped in or walked in off the shore, but she was swimming out to her friend.
I've never seen Nala swim before and judging by how she too was trying to swim over the water instead of through it, I don't think she's done it before either. But, she kept going. She got to her friend and looked at him as if to say
"come with me" and turned and swam back to the shore. She got herself out and came hurtling to me.
"I tried, Mama. I really did."
Her friend was too concerned about his predicament to realise what she was trying to show him and it took his person grabbing him by the scruff and hauling him out.
It took me a while to realise what Nala had really done. Actually, it's only now that I really realise just how intuitive she is. She really is one in a million. It's like her guiding training kicked in even in the water for her doggie friend. I wonder what she'll think of me going into the lake this summer; once the lakes warm up a bit.
We finished our coffee, enjoying the sunshine and watching the two dogs run about like maniacs. They both went back in again, but didn't have any troubles getting out. Their swimming skills left a bit to be desired. There was much splashing and whacking of the water with front paws. Nala might be a lifeguard, but she really needs some technique lessons.
My girl never ceases to amaze me. I'm one lucky human to have such a fantastic dog in my life.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Don't Forget the Cat

Rufio our Siberian Forest cat is a huge member of our family. He actually has better recall than the dogs sometimes. He's a talkative guy who likes human and dog company and you can always be sure that he's close by if you're awake. This morning was no different.
I had fed everyone, including Rufio, and had just finished taking all of the dogs out for their respective relieve times. Once everyone was back in I did a small "self control" exercise where I had all dogs sit and wait while I dug out some of the newly dehydrated liver I had made yesterday. The big dogs were better at sit/staying and waiting for me to get the treats to them, but Otis and Hermione are getting better. I then proceeded into the living room to finish my coffee, but it wasn't to be.
As soon as my butt hit the couch I heard a very soft and polite meowing coming from the kitchen. I couldn't understand why Rufio was talking: he had fresh water, I had fed him and the door to the basement-his domain-was open. I got up and checked the door just incase, but it was most certainly open. As I turned around to go back into the living room the persistent yet polite meowing started up again. It seriously sounded like he was very nicely asking for something.
"Please, sir, can I have some more?"
He certainly isn't an Oliver Twist, but Rufio definitely wanted something. As I slowly turned back to the baby gate separating the living room from the rest of the house, it dawned on me. He was sitting on the counter right below the cupboard holding the liver treats.
He wanted one too.
I found one of the bigger pieces for him and handed it over. He didn't have to sit or wait, but he did have to take it gently. he is, after all, a cat and not a dog. That said, I'm pretty sure I could clicker train him.
Just as I suspected, the liver was what he wanted. He promptly, and gently, took the coveted prize from my fingers and trotted off into the basement.
I haven't heard from him since.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Thank You Grand Lassie

For some people it wouldn't be a big deal. They don't really understand, and, really how can I expect them to? For most people, walking into an unknown building and acting like you are capable and know where you are going isn't an act. You pull up, see that there stairs up, a door, more stairs and the counter you need is not only straight ahead, but to your right and facing a different direction. You wouldn't give it two thoughts, or two glances for that matter. You just go right up to the counter and hand in your job application and walk back out. For me, conquering an unknown building in order to hand in a job application is half the battle. If I have any dream of getting that job, I better appear to have everything under control. Part of that is getting to where I need to be without assistance or as little interference from the people around me as possible. Trying to explain how impressed and grateful I was for Nala today doesn't seem to quite hit the mark. However, for me, her work today is the exact reason why I call her my "super star" or my "little worker bee.
The whole exchange probably took under seven minutes from leaving my mom's SUV to our return, but it was a crucial seven minutes. I had no idea where I was going. Neither Nala nor I had ever been to the building before. So, she had no idea where she was going either.
"Is the counter right inside?" I asked Mom as I harnessed Nala up. She confirmed my suspicions. There really wasn't much more time to convey anymore of the layout of the building. We were already trotting up the sidewalk to the front of the building. Plus, I'm sure Mom really didn't know what exactly it looked like inside either. I could hear us nearing the building, my footsteps echoing back to me from the nearing walls.
"Find the door." I told Nala, repeating the cue a few times before she stopped dead. I know her well enough now and stuck my foot out only to have it hit the bottom of some cement stairs.
"Good. Forward." I told her. She enthusiastically moved up the stairs and stopped dead again. She had found the doors.
What amazed me about this whole exchange was that I told her to find a door which she did, but she knew to find and stop at the stairs first. She didn't just plough up them to the object I had asked her to find initially.
We went through our first set of doors and she paused at another. Mom verbally warned me that there were more stairs as I pushed through the doors, but I don't think I would have needed the notification. Nala was all over it. No sooner had we stepped through the doors and she had stopped again; more stairs up. Another "forward" from me and we were moving up them. As my foot hit the second step I heard a woman greet another. I knew I was there to find the reception desk and assumed that I needed to go where the voices were.
"Right." I told Nala as we hit the top of the stairs. Originally, I had thought the counter was straight ahead, but the voices told me differently.
She swung right.
"straight on, find the counter." I told her, not realising that the counter would end up parallel to us instead of straight in front. The conversation stopped and I berated them in my head. If they had kept talking, locating the desk would have been a cake walk. Now that they had stopped, I'd have to figure out where it was by myself. Then again, I wasn't by myself. Not knowing exactly which direction the desk was facing I asked Nala to find the counter again. She side stepped, gracefully moving me perfectly in front of the desk. Thankfully at that point one of the women piped up that Nala was beautiful and that gave me the cue that I needed.
"Good girl." I told Nala. She had done what I had asked, despite the counter being on a strange angle. The woman's voice was all I needed to confirm my location. I felt a lot of tension leave my body. We had made it.
I handed in the application package, had a few short words about how Nala was great and that she shed a lot. Then, I stepped back and told Nala "right." She went without hesitation.
"Find the stairs." I chimed as she trotted forward.
Dead stop and I knew we were there. Praise, move down stairs and we were through the doors. I don't think I breathed completely until we were outside and down the sidewalk. Nala's exit had been as flawless as her entry. This is even more impressive. Sometimes when you ask a guide dog to retrace its steps, the dog becomes confused and it takes some coaxing to get them going. She never once faltered. She just did her job, doing what I asked. Regardless of how short the trip was, it makes you feel like you and your beasty can take on the world.
and, maybe just maybe  you'll get that job too.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Got It Down

It amazes me how easy it is to train a dog in something that they already have a propensity for. Training the Dachshunds, Kyo and now Hermione and Otis to sit/down/stay was all good fun, but it took a lot of work, consistency and repetition. Otis still doesn't "down" very well, but part of that is because I haven't pushed it with him. His sit is reliable and with how short his legs are and how heavy his head is the regular "down" position is a bit difficult. He usually ends up in a froggie stance, front paws with elbows bent and back legs kicked straight out behind him. As for Hermione, she finally did a "down" for Mr. K for the first time ever just the other day. I was pleasantly surprised. So, knowing how much work these obedience tasks have been, I was absolutely floored when all it took was two, good solid clicks on my behalf and Hermione now "digs" her bowl for water instead of barking. I don't even have to click anymore.
She begins her frantic diggy diggy, front paws assaulting the bowl and as soon as I say "thank you" or get up off of my butt she instantly stops. She waits patiently while i fill the bowl and there is no excited yipping or yelling while she waits. She's absolutely quiet. It's great.
Part of me wishes I could see sometimes. I think if I could see her I would pick up on other behaviours that I could shape into wanted (quiet) responses instead of her noisy barky ones. I know she's noisy partly because I'm blind. I think being a Spaniel she has the natural tendency to be noisy and so that is the route she chose. Otis, on the other hand, uses his paws a lot to let me know he needs/wants things, but his breed seems to be just quieter than the Spaniel. That brings us back to the propensity for things.
As for learning targeting...Hermione is sort of getting it. Otis definitely gets it, but Otis is naturally more likely to use his nose or paws to get what he wants. He ploughs boldly into my palm when I offer it to him, but Hermione daintily taps it. That means it's been harder for me to catch her "touch" than his. I've used the "close fingers over something tasty" method longer with her just because it gives me more of a chance to click for her. Otis really didn't even need that in the beginning at all. Part of me wonders if I should try training targeting with an object other than my hand for Hermione. I think she would be more inclined to "touch" something else. My only concern is that I won't feel the touch and won't click at the right time.
Decisions, decisions.
I'm going to continue on the targeting work with both dogs, but I'm also going to hang the bells at the back door just to see what happens. If I hear any noise, whether it is bell ringing or cloth rustling, clicking will be happening. Hermione is naturally curious and so I am thinking that if I put the bells back there she will investigate on her own, giving me the opportunity to reinforce the behaviour; and hopefully decreasing the need for vocalising.
It's not exactly the learn step 1 to move to step 2 in order to reach goal, but she's never really learned that way. Otis is very much a systematic learner, but I don't think Hermione is. She might be too much of an independent thinker.
either way, I'm glad I've managed to control her barking in one arena. Now, it's just figuring out how to manage it in other situations. I think it's going to take some creative thinking on my part, but we'll get there.

Monday, June 16, 2014

This Isn't Me: I Swear!

I struggled with whether to write about this or not. I haven't completely decided if I'm going to hit the "publish" button or not, but if you are reading this, then it means I did. It's something that's a bit personal and not dog training related. However, it's something I've decided to write about because I need some kind of outlet as well as, if I do publish it, I hope that someone else who has experienced this will get some comfort from it.
I'd say that this is a post for women, but really it's not. If you are a woman, or a man who's partner, has used the Implanon form of birth control then what I have to say may be useful to you.
Let me just start by saying that my experience is not everyone's experience. I know people who have used Implanon and it has been wonderful for them. However, my experience has not been good and I wish I had someone tell me about the negative consequences instead of telling me that there weren't any. It's my fault for not researching beforehand, but it's also my doctor's fault for not telling me either.
So, if you are still reading: here is my story about why Implanon may not be a good choice.
Mr. K and I decided even before we got married that human children were probably not going to be a part of our family. We decided that if children were ever to be a part that they would be adopted. There were many reasons for this decision. So, wen living in the UK I had Implanon implanted under the skin on my arm. The doctor did her best telling me why it is the best form of birth control and outlined all of the benefits, but she really didn't tell me much about the problems that can be associated with it. Unfortunately for me, I experienced most of the problems which eventually drove me to have it removed. I thought once it was gone that everything would go back to normal...whatever that is, but I was very much mistaken. I had it removed about two months ago and it's only been in the last two days or so that I've started to put two and two together. It has been so bad that I spent a good portion of two hours today researching Implanon, its benefits/risks and what people are saying about it once it's removed.
I've been moody, cranky,anti-social, unmotivated, angry, overly sensitive, argumentative and just generally not myself. Did I mention cranky and angry? My sleeping habits have been horrible. I've never had problems sleeping before and ever since the implant came out, my sleeping schedule has been all over the place. A lack of sleep is not helping the whole mood problem. I'm not generally a cranky person and I'm NOT an angry person, but I have experienced these two moods more in the last two months than I have in my entire life. My fuse is so short that it even surprises me when I blow a gasket. I'm in this place of perpetual anger and I don't understand. I'm really NOT an angry person. And, I love being social. I love going out and doing things, whether it's just out for coffee, a movie or a hike. I haven't wanted to do any of these things. Sometimes I can force myself because I know logically that I should and that it will ultimately make me feel better, but sometimes I just can't. The random sleeping and then always wanting to sleep has almost trumped the terribleness of the continuously grumpy/angry/irritated Jess.
So, what do I do about it?
That, I don't know.
What's made me feel better was finding forums where other women have expressed the same things I am feeling. I thought I was losing my mind, but reading that others are and have experienced the same things and are just as confused as I am, has helped. A solution would be nice and maybe an end date too, but at least I know I'm not alone. One woman said it took about six months before she was back to herself; another wrote that it was like she was pregnant again; someone else said her sleep was so bad that she was having nightmares. I think it's really easy for society to ignore the impact hormones has on people because it's not something we can see. It's not quantifiable or tangible and so therefore, for some, it really can't be that influential. I would disagree. I'm not saying hormone imbalance is an excuse, but it's a reason. Hormones are chemicals and any kind of chemical imbalance in the body can have consequences. Anything from Diabetes to growth problems in children. Studies have even shown that totally blind people struggle with sleep patterns due to lack of light synthesis. Without the processing of light, the chemicals (AKA hormones) in the body become all out of whack and sleeping becomes difficult. Hormones are much more powerful than we think.
That's why I've written this. Just in case someone else out there has just had the Implanon implant removed and are having drastic mood swings and are experiencing sleepless nights, fatigue and lack of motivation. Despite what some of the medical websites will have you believe, anecdotal accounts state that there are indeed side effects once the Implanon is removed. Having had an extensive academic career, I have a strong appreciation for empirical research, however, it is also important to investigate who is funding the research studies and whether they may gain or lose something from the results. My own research hasn't taken me that far, but I think in this case, the the forums addressing these symptoms may be a bit more accurate than the official Implanon website. In fact, the Implanon website does not have a section addressing removal at all. Removal is mentioned in passing with the insertion of the implant and it is only to warn the reader of how quickly they could become pregnant once the implant is removed.
As I've said above, not everyone experiences these symptoms. I know two women who have had great success with Implanon. So, it all comes down to your own body's response. My basic point here is to express my own experience and hopefully reassure at least one other person that they are not in fact losing their mind.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Capturing the Moment

That's what they say the whole point of the clicker is. It's to be the marker for your beasty to let him/her know that what they just did is exactly what you want.
I have to admit, when I first heard of clicker training, I was a skeptic. I thought, what I'm sure most newcomers to clicker training think, "why can't I just use my voice?" "But I don't want to carry that thing around with me all of the time for the rest of my dog's life." "But I want my dog to do what I want without treats/rewards Etc." ...and on and on.
The turning point for me was taking a basic obedience class with Aria, our miniature Dachshund. I had been doing some reading before we went and wanted to give this clicker thing an honest try. I have to tell you, the first time your dog has her "ahah!" moment after you've clicked, you will never go back.
And just a side note: you don't carry the clicker/treats/rewards around for the rest of your dog's life...unless you are so keen on training that you never stop. The clicker is a training tool. When you come home from work you don't bring the tools of your trade with you, do you? Well, okay. Perhaps that was a poor example, but you know what I mean.
Anyway, my point is: I have been trying to re-train Hermione. She has learned that her high pitched "woo wooing" is an effective way to communicate and get what she wants/needs. A few days ago I started her on targeting. This is going well and with the suggestions of some very brilliant puppy raisers (thank you), things are going much more smoothly in that department.
As for teaching her not to bark when she wants water...well, that's been another matter. Not because she hasn't given me the opportunity to train, but mostly because I'm human and I make mistakes too.
When Hermione is thirsty she has two ways of letting us know.
1. She squawks until we get off our butts and give her water. If she refuses the water it means she wants something else. Usually you know it's water because she goes to the baby gate that blocks the living room off from the rest of the house.
2. If there is a doggie bowl about, she'll dig in it.
I prefer method number two. And, since I am trying to teach Hermione to use her voice less, I thought this was a better, already existing, behaviour I could teach her. That said, this has been a learning curve for me too.
The first day I tried to implement this new training regiment I thought I was all ready. I had my handy dandy clicker strapped to my wrist via a stretchy wrist band thingy Kim gave me and I had the water bowl on the side of the gate Hermione could actually get to. Unfortunately, no click was forth coming. It wasn't because she didn't dig, because she did. It was because when she started to go clackedy clackedy in her bowl, my hands were covered in chicken wing sauce and I couldn't click. I verbally praised her and got the water as quickly as possible, but I don't think the association was made.
Day two wasn't successful either. Again, due to human error. This time I thought that the water bowl was accessible, but it wasn't. The worst part was because I thought she could get to it, when she squawked insistently at the baby gate I ignored her for like 20 minutes hoping she'd get frustrated and dig. Finally, I gave in because it's water, a necessary thing for life, and I discovered that I had in fact forgotten the water bowl on the other side of the gate. Bad human.
Big fail.
Day three came with new opportunities. Remembering my own mistake the day before and unfortunate timing the day before that, I sat poised all morning. At lunch time she was wandering about and I heard her go near the water bowl. I had the sense to actually put my food down this time and sat with my thumb hovering over the little clicker pushy bit. She visited the bowl three times before I heard the whack, whack, whack of little paws. I got the click off and she stopped dead.
I'm not entirely sure she knows yet what it means, but I certainly got her attention. I got up from the table and filled her water bowl; her reward for giving me the behaviour I so much prefer over high pitched, persistent woo wooing.
My three day wait for one click was so worth it. I don't know if it was an "ahah" moment for her yet, but she certainly paid attention. I could feel her pausing and thinking; probably wondering what the heck's gotten into her mama.  I know we need a few more successful clicks before it will sink in and hopefully replace the barking-as long as I remember to keep a water bowl within reach of her little feet-but it was such a cool moment to have her stop so instantaneously. I actually managed to capture the moment exactly.
How cool is that?

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Training Logistics

There is a small problem at the K residence and it is in the form of a wee Spaniel who likes to bark. I understand barking is a natural thing for dogs, but this is excessive barking. It is a problem.
Somehow, I have to find a way to get it under control In an attempt to figure out how to control the barking, I began thinking of ways to change the behaviours that are associated with the racket. Some of it I can't change, but some of it I can and so I am going to try. Try and hope that by changing some of it, the rest will follow or at least become more manageable.
Part of the reason why Hermione barks is because I can't see her or really hear her, moving around because she's so small. Unless, of course, she's vocalising. She's learned that if she squawks, squeaks, yips, barks Etc, I will hear her and come to figure out what she wants. It's gotten ridiculous. Two of the things she barks for is needing a drink of water and to go outside. Both of these behaviours have alternative noisy ways to let me know what she wants.
The water, for example, is solved by encouraging one of her natural behaviours. When she's thirsty and an empty bowl is around, she digs in it. I can handle this over barking. As for going out, I've started training targeting with her so that I can teach her to ring a bell to go out. I've always thought the bell ringing was a novel idea and thought it would be fun to train, but now it's moved from the realm of "fun and neat" to "necessary."
The only problem I'm having is managing a multi-dog home during training.
In the past, I have left the dogs not being trained in the living room and taken the one I am working with to a different location in the house. The ones in the living room get upset. They tap dance, whine, sometimes bark, whack the baby gate with paws. I'm really not sure what to do with them. This has been my biggest problem in training and honestly, it's sort of turned me off of training. I haven't done nearly as much as I should because of this problem.
I have signed up to be a part of a working dog forum and posed my question to the other forum members. I've only had one response so far and it was half unhelpful, a quarter scary and a quarter sort of helpful.
The person suggested that I kennel the other dogs, train in a completely separate location (not feasible when you can't drive), "teach the other dogs to chill the *f* out" (their words, not mine), or use muzzles/Ecollars.
I probably don't have to talk about my problems with muzzles or Ecollars. I'm not even sure what a muzzle would do for a dog who is hitting/jumping over a baby gate.
The chilling out part would be good-minus the F-but they didn't tell me how to teach that.
The other dogs are just excited because I'm off with other poochie, clicking like a mad woman and dispensing kibble. They all know what that click means.
So, what do I do?
I could train outside, but that is an incredibly distracting environment. That is not the place to start training a cue.
One solution I've come up with for now is training Hermione targeting while everyone's eating breakfast/supper. I've always fed her last and so this morning I used her breakfast to get her to start targeting. I'll do the same tonight at supper time. The other dogs were too invested in their meals to notice. I actually think locking them behind the baby gate causes even more of the excitement.
Has anyone trained four dogs at once?
I could use the time to work with Nala and Roscoe on sit/down stays and train the other two?
Oh dear...I am sure chaos will ensue. Then again, they have to listen to me when they are all together anyway: why not try it this way?
Everything I've read says that one on one training is the best and all dogs need the one on one attention. The breakfast/supper with Hermione could be her one on one training time. Nala gets one on one time when we go out and work. So, it would just be Otis I'd have to work with.
I guess I'm just going to have to get creative.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Congratuluations To "Team Kasey!"

Not that I ever got to meet him, but Kim's first Leader Dog puppy Kasey has been matched with, what she calls, his "forever person."
Kim knew about a week and a half back that he was matched, but today is the big day that she gets to meet Kasey's "forever person." She calls them "Team Kasey" since she doesn't know anything about the new handler.
However, I've taken "Team Kasey" to mean the new person as well as the people who came before and got him to be a full fledged Leader Dog.
So, to Kim, and everyone who helped her, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!

Monday, June 02, 2014

Jess's Doggie Salon

The last couple of days I've been slowly working my way through grooming necessities for each dog. We started with brushing, a relatively easy and safe task. Nala, Roscoe, Jetta and Otis are easy with their short coats. A zoom groom and a comb to finish them off and they are good to go. Hermione obviously is a bit more of a challenge. With her long Spaniel feathers and flowing ears, I have to check her over carefully for mats/tangles/burs/twigs Etc. Quite often, despite my best efforts, I always manage to miss at least one knot. Just this morning I found one under her chin and I swear I checked under there thoroughly.
After brushing we moved on to ears. No one likes getting their ears cleaned. Otis is probably the most tolerant and the easiest with his big sticky-up ears. However, I have to make sure all dogs are secured in the living room before I get the ear cleaning products out because as soon as they see the bottle and tissues/cotton pads they are all heading for hiding places; except Otis. Maybe he can't see as well as the others or maybe he just doesn't care as much, but I can usually coax him over with a kibble, clean each ear and send him on his merry way with another treat. He sits nicely for me, waiting for me to finish. I don't even have to hold on to his collar or him.
Nala will hide, but will come to me, albeit reluctantly. But, the point is she does come. She can't help it. Her sense of duty is too strong and that means that she will brave the ear cleaning solution to make me happy. Of course her good recall is rewarded with a kibble and she too is sent on her way with a small treat.
Hermione's ears are a bit more difficult to clean because they are so furry. When we were researching her breed I read somewhere that Cavaliers are easy to groom.
Compared to what?
I would have given Cavaliers more of a medium grooming indication. She's pretty good about her ears being cleaned as well and will hold still for me to dump solution into her ears.
As for Roscoe and Jetta, I have to hunt them down which is particularly trying since Jetta is currently having her ears cleaned twice a day in order to combat her ear infections. Yesterday I managed to catch her off guard by climbing over the baby gate with the dreaded ear cleaning products hidden behind my back, but she's too smart-I don't think she'll fall for that again. I also have to hold her and Roscoe still while cleaning. I'm really trying to make this a positive experience for them though so every time I do anything to their ears, they get a kibble.
Grasp collar to keep dog from taking off, administer kibble. Wipe with tissue, kibble. Put solution in one ear, kibble.
Aside from ear cleaning the next most dreaded thing in the grooming regiment is nail trimming. Otis and Hermione we've had since they were babies and so Mr. K and I both handled their paws as much as we could. We also tried trimming their claws from a young age to get them used to it. In all honesty, I would recommend this to any new puppy owner, however be warned: it's still a struggle for most people and their dogs. It's just not as much of a struggle.
There is method to my madness when I trim the dogs' claws as well.
Hermione is the princess, we all know that, and in being the princess she requires special treatment. Well, at least she thinks it's special treatment. I call it "distraction and entrapment." When it's her turn, I put her up on the kitchen counter on a towel with her coveted treat across the kitchen on the other counter. She can see the treat, but she can't have it until I trim one claw. For every clip, banana/chicken heart/cheese/kibbles are handed over. She knows that and doesn't struggle too badly. If she can't see the prized treat on the counter, you can forget trimming her claws. With her treat in sight and her standing high up on the cupboard, she is secured for nail trimming; hence "distraction and entrapment."
Otis and Jetta are two who require very, very valuable distractions. If the trimmers are touching a claw, someone better be shoving something tasty into their mouths or no trimming is happening. You can call it "bribing," "distraction," "spoiling..." you can call it whatever you want, but I call it "getting the job done." And getting it done without fear, pain and as little stress as possible. This method requires two people: one to trim and one to stuff food stuffs into doggie mouths.
Nala and Roscoe are both pretty good for nail trimming. They obviously don't like it, but they will sit for it. They don't need entrapment or distraction as much as the others, but I do reward their good behaviour; otherwise, they may not be as well behaved the next time. I also reward them because sometimes mishaps happen and along with those mishaps comes a more difficult trimming claws in the future.
Take yesterday for example.
It was Roscoe's turn to have his claws trimmed and so I set to work, front paws first and then back ones. He was being pretty good, but his claws were longer than I'd like and so I was trying to take as much off as possible without hitting the "quick:" a blood vessel/nerve bundle that is in a dog's claw to keep it alive. I was doing great until the last claw. It was a back paw, outside claw that didn't seem to have worn down very well from is walking around. Sometimes I can feel the difference between the part where the quick is and the "dead" part of the nail. This one I was struggling with and probably should have left it alone, but it was long. There are so many reasons not to leave a dog's nails too long, the main one being that it can hurt them when they are walking with long claws. So, I went for it.
He didn't say anything, but he jerked and I knew I had hit the quick. I didn't know how bad it was, but my instant reaction was to elevate the paw to try to stop some of the bleeding. As I sat there with his paw raised blood started trickling down my hand. This was a bad one. There was a small throw blanket on the couch I had made and I wrapped his paw up in it and ran to the kitchen. I should have had stuff ready just in case this happened, but I didn't. As I stood in my kitchen, completely panicking, I realised that I didn't know which container house the baking soda which can be used to stop a dog's claw from bleeding. I grabbed two containers and ran back to the living room and started shaking powdery substances over his claw. It wouldn't clot. Either I had the wrong stuff or it had been a deep cut. I remembered reading somewhere that you could use corn starch. I raced back to the kitchen, and grabbed a bag of corn starch from the cupboard. I knew which package the corn starch was in because I had bought it from the Bulk Barn to use as icing for my dog cookies.
Screw cookies.
I opened the bag and thrust Roscoe's entire paw into the bag. I would keep this for later emergencies-I'd have to buy new corn starch. I elevated the paw again, still stuffed into the bag and waited. When I pulled his paw out a few minutes later, the bleeding had stopped. Since it had been so deep, I made him stay still for 30 minutes, but the excitement of breakfast being served popped the blood clot and he started spotting blood again. At least it wasn't gushing this time. Worried about infection, I cleaned the claw, packed it with corn starch again and put his paw in a sock, wrapped that in a plastic poop bag and tied it to his paw. He was none too pleased, but he left it alone.
With all of that drama, I put the rest of grooming on hold for the day. I really wasn't ready to clip anyone else's claws. That said, as one of my friends pointed out, at least I trim my dogs' nails and don't let them get over grown and curly. I also do it blind and since this bleeding bit is rare, I'm doing all right. With four dogs in the household and nail trimming costing anywhere between $5 and $10 a pop, I'd rather do it myself. Not to mention, I've heard some horror stories about SOME groomers. (Notice I said "some." Not all).
I  know the next time I have to trim Roscoe's claws he'll be a bit wary and I may have to use the "distraction" technique initially. I may be even a bit wary myself, but it will have to be done. I'll just make sure to have the corn starch on hand and hope that I won't have to use it.