Sunday, June 25, 2017

This weekend there was a regional agility championship held in my city.  I knew a few people running; a friend, some former shelter staff/volunteers, former instructors, former classmates, and even a shelter dog who I worked with briefly years ago.

After my friend finished running her dog, as I pulled out of the parking lot, a bunch of things hit me all at once.  How awful it is to explain to people that you can't play the game that you love because your dog can't leave your home.  How everyone I know is progressing so well and I'm stranded behind them by myself.  How, even if I get a puppy, it will still be years before we actually get to play (and then what if the new puppy can't play either?  Then what?)  How unfair it is that I have this great, fun, smart little dog and no one else gets to see how amazing and smart she is.

I'm just throwing myself a pity party, but I had to get it out.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

I took my first Fenzi Dog Sports Academy class last August.  At the time, I didn't realize what an amazing community was behind the online dog training center, but with additional classes, I discovered the support and encouragement of other people embarking on the same training journey to improve the lives of their dogs (and themselves).  I have online, R+ dog-friends from other corners of the internet, but something about the people in FDSA has been incredibly inspiring and uplifting to me.  Reading others' stories and successes with their own dogs - some with very similar issues as Ida - has been been very encouraging for me and I am incredibly grateful everyday for having found a community that focuses on using R+ as much on its people members as on its canine ones.

But there has been something else that I didn't expect from joining such a large online community.  Even though there are thousands of people, it is quite tight knit, and the increase in support and motivation and encouragement has also come with heartache, as people who I previously had no connection with say goodbye to dogs that have taught them so much about themselves and the way they view the world.

Sometimes it feels like I've known the dog personally.  They've become fixtures in my online world, seemingly infinite and ageless, even as I see the numeral marking their years increase in online posts. Others I have never read about until their owner posts a heartfelt goodbye that reminds me how little time we get with our dogs.  It doesn't matter if it's one year or ten, it's never enough.

Monday, May 29, 2017

I failed my dog today.

But she did great anyway.

Patrick and I took Snowball for his morning walk. Ida was VERY insistent that she come with us. I don't know if its because she wants to be outside, or if it's just because she wants to be with us, but she does this thing where she howls at us when we're leashing up Snowball, and then she stands at the front door, pointing out, like she's ready to go.... I caved, and harnessed her up.

It was pretty early still (about 7am) so not much traffic on our residential streets... but I forgot to check the bus schedule - Ida's nemesis! Sure enough, a city bus roared right past us to pick up passengers at the stop only 50 m from where our cul-de-sac opens onto the main street.

And you know what babydog did? My baby girl - who used to panic and try to run as far away from the bus as possible and continue to freak out for several minutes after - came over to me when I called her. She ate the cheese that I furiously shovelling into into her facehole as fast as I could. And once the bus was gone, she continued trotting along, tail up, checking out the new smells on the boulevard ahead of us, for all intents and purposes looking like a normal dog out for a normal walk

<3 <3 <3

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Monthly Assessment - May

How she is in the home: Ida has been getting into even fewer things this past month.  She is very eager to play ball fetch outside.  She also runs to the front door, tail wagging, any time I put a collar (she's normally naked in the house) or harness on her.  When my husband was a way for a few days, she was very mopey for the first day or so, but settled down.  She clearly loves him the most. :p

How she is with meals: Still ambivalent about meals.  She'll finish most of it if she starts eating before the house empties, but she frequently ignores her food dispenser if there's no one home. Better about working for kibble than she has been the last couple of months.

How she is outside (of the yard): Still eager to go outside.  She walks along the street without retreating from loud cars going past.  The last walk we took, she mostly ignored the traffic and easily took cheese when cars went past.  We're still only doing short walks; she pulls more as we approach home and visibly relaxes when we walk into the cul-de-sac.

How she is during training sessions: Eager to work.

How she is with the car: Started working on the driveway with the car running (radio on) last night.  At first, hesitant to approach car.  Relaxed when I remembered to incorporate personal play; much more eager to hop into car although still showing some hesitation.  Instead of launching all four feet into the car at once, she was more frequently sticking her nose over the seat, then putting two paws up before jumping all the way in.  (Although she was jumping into the car within 1-2 seconds of putting her paws up, I need to reward more for putting her nose in and for putting two paws up.)

Ida has a vet appointment next week, so we'll see how the drive there goes.  I'm nervous that it will wreck all of our progress.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Small brags from last night.

Ida was pushing me to get into the car.  Not hard, but she was pushing.  Using some personal play for rewards/breaks, and as soon as the play stopped she was heading to the open car door.  May not seem big, but its nice to have an indication that we're moving in the right direction.

Later, we went for a short walk.  We went a bit earlier than normal (8pm instead of 8:30-9pm).  As a result, two things happened: there was a pretty constant stream of traffic on the road that our cul de sac is on, and we encountered a dog.  The traffic barely phased her; there was only one very loud truck to which she showed any kind of aversion.  For all intents and purposes, the other cars didn't appear to exist to her.

When she saw the dog, Ida was well beyond threshold and reacted, which was expected.  I also handled it poorly; I should've turned around as soon as I saw the other dog, instead of waiting for it to come into Ida's line of sight.  She kept barking as we backpedaled, but as soon as the dog was out of sight she was easy to interrupt using food alone and focused on me right away.

That would never have happened pre-medications.  Before, she would've ignored the cheese and remained hyper-focused on the spot where the dog disappeared until well after we kept moving again, and likely would've ignored the cheese for the rest of the walk.

In other news, my college roommate asked me to dog sit while her family went out of town for the weekend.  She got along well enough with both of the dogs (I knew she would), no major issues, but I was surprised at how disinterested she was in Ida's invitations to play.  Molly's not the first dog to be disinterested, but I don't have a huge sample size either; I wish I knew whether it were the visiting dogs or if it's something about Ida's invitations that makes them not want to play.

Ida also got a new bed (which I bought originally for Snowball but of course, he hates it).  Ida is loving it.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Awesome Training Habits Pre-Challenge Challenge

1) Picture your ideal outcome with your dog(s). What do you envision? If you had a magic wand, what would you make happen for the two of you? What are you wanting from your relationship with your dog?

Ideally, Ida would be happy and excited to ride in the car, looks forward to car rides and is pushing me to let her into the car so we can go places instead of running from the car.  In an ideal world, we'll compete in sports like Rally-O, Agility, and Nosework.

I want to see her happy and able to enjoy things that I know she likes without being afraid. I want a partner to do fun things with.  I would love to be able to do those fun things outside of our home, but I am never again going to put Ida in any position that causes her to shut down if it is just for fun. 

2) Make a list of at least 10 things that you have accomplished towards this above vision.

- Started implementing cooperative care protocols to build trust
- Along with that, giving both of my dogs more autonomy in things where it's reasonable.
- Stopped unnecessary/uncontrolled exposure to triggers
- Started building positive association with "outing" gear
- We're now doing once-a-week BMod walks.  They are short, and full of lots of treats, and at times of day where there are few other dogs out in our neighborhood.
- Started working on titles that we can do completely at home, like DMWYD trick titles, and Fenzi TEAM Titles.
- Trying to improve my communication skills, such as using different marker words consistently for different things.
- Rewarding for the behaviours that I want, even outside of formal training sessions.  The intention is to reduce ambiguity about what to do.
- Started taking measures to help her develop coping mechanisms.  For example, she gets worked up when Snowball runs to the back door when I get home from work, and used to chased/bite/jump on him when they were let outside.  I started restraining her when I let Snowball out to prevent her from racing outside after him; she could do whatever she wanted at the door for 15-20 seconds, until she was able to offer a focused hand-target, and then she is let outside.  We now have this ritual where everyone races to the back door, I open it and Snowball races outside, and Ida waits patiently inside for me to crouch down so she can give me a "hug" and shower me with kisses. She still races him to the back door, but she doesn't body slam or jump on him, and she waits patiently inside when I open the door to let him out.
- Started anti-anxiety medications to help level out her mental state to improve her resilience.


This question really stumped me, because I feel like I haven't done enough.  But I'm glad I had to think through it.

3) Make a list of five key challenges you still face.

1. Overcoming her fear/anxiety of travelling in the car.
2. Creating a calming ritual for when I take Snowball out the front door (for walks, to go to class, etc.).
3. Nervous/hesitant in new places.
4. Nervous/hesitant around new dogs, especially at a distance.
5. Poor engagement in places outside of the house and back yard.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Three Steps To Raising A Living Being from Baby to Adult

1. Supervise and manage their environment to prevent them from doing things that you do not want them to build into habit.

2. Teach them the things that you do want them to learn how to do.  Attempting to teach them not to do an unwanted behaviour doesn't usually work very well; teaching them what to do instead works much better.

3. When you're in public, have a plan to get out of Dodge in case their behaviour starts to deteriorate. Small beings may not be able to tell you when their environment becomes too hard for them to deal with; you either need to be on top of that shit, or accept that sometimes you'll miss the signs and it'll be better for the both of you to leave ASAP.