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I may or may not have told the story about how Tom has trained--and trained well--two of the women that we see regularly on our respective dog walks to give him a treat whenever we meet. You should see how guilty they feel if they don't have something to give him. He goes into a very nice sit and looks up winningly at them. Sometimes he gives barks of encouragement if they're not quick enough to get the treat out.

Last night I picked him up at daycare. I came in at the same time as another client while a third client was already checking out. The person that came in at the same time as me had a covered tray of treats that she was bringing for the staff. Tom was the first to be released from behind the counter. Other woman was immediately taken with his looks. Tom was immediately taken with the smell of brownies and went into his very best sit in front of her. I explained to him that no matter how pretty of a sit he did, he wasn't going to get any brownies out of it. Other woman held for maybe 15 seconds before reaching to the counter for a little baggie of complimentary dog treats and feeding them to him one by one. I was explaining his skill at staring people down until he gets food and was amused to see one of staff people nodding along.

You'd think he never gets any food at home. Poor starving puppy. ;)

daffodils!

Mar. 25th, 2010 02:33 pm
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When several inches of snow fell Friday night and Saturday, I figured that was the end for the daffodil buds. But, by Monday morning the snow was gone. And by Monday afternoon the buds were noticeably bigger. They're a bit bedraggled, but they did bloom.


Yay, flowers )


Then, I had the iPhone and I had the dog, so I figured I might as well take a couple of pictures of him too.

Why, no, I'm not really interested in looking at that rectangular box-thing you've got in your hand. )



Mom, would ya just give me the treat already? )
"Mom, would ya just give me the treat already?"
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As threatened a few days ago, pictures of my doggie taken with the new camera are under the cut.

five pictures )
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so of course )



there are )



pictures )


He looks very contemplative in those last two, doesn't he? That was at the end of our walk this morning. I think he was a) avoiding looking directly at the camera/phone and b) eyeing a dog that was on the horizon and deciding whether or not he needed to say something about it.
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One of the banes of dog walking is that Tom tends to go nuts over motorcycles. Other vehicles occasionally too, but especially motorcycles. We're well into spring, so we're well into 'cycle weather.

I've been noticing lately that for the really quiet 'cylces, Tom has been reacting really well: just looking up at me and then going on. We had a nice test today when I went home for lunch to walk him. One of the noisier varieties of motorcycle passed us. As it approached, Tom went into stalker mode. As it came even to us, he took a couple of steps and I could tell he was ready to go. But then he jumped--and instead of jumping toward the motorcycle, he turned in midair and looked at me. He had is "laughing" face on. He didn't even bark. I don't think I even said anything or tugged on the leash. I may have clicked my tongue a little to try to draw his attention. Other than that, he made the decision not to go into a frenzy all on his own. Needless to say, he got a treat and lots and lots of praise for that!

I'm confident that there are plenty of episodes of nuttiness to come. But today's little episode makes me think that my puppy really is starting to turn into a dog.

(I bet that after all of this bragging, Tom's going to bark like a demon at every car he sees on our walk tonight.)

about pets

Apr. 30th, 2009 02:16 pm
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A neighbor adopted a dog about a month ago. She told me that I was her inspiration (the neighbors see me walking Tom a lot). He's a sweet Akita, about two years old, that she brought home from the shelter. We run into each other frequently and often stop to chat. Hutchie (her dog) is still making the adjustment and there some destructive separation anxiety issues that are at work. Yesterday, C asked me if I'd ever considered returning Tom. I admitted to her that I had. We talked about that a little bit and about how things do get better. I think C felt a little better, hopefully I gave her enough of a boost to get through the current rough patch.

The conversation got me to thinking, though, so I decided to just lay out some of the stuff that's been going through my mind.

the stuff )

7. The best thing about puppies is that they become dogs. Tom is a month shy of his second birthday. He's still, I think, more puppy than dog. But I see light at the end of the tunnel and I think within the next few months he's going to fully transition into dog. And I think he's going to be a splendid dog. Well, he's already splendid. He'll be splendider.

I'm thinking back to the conversation I had with C yesterday. I think it was a relief to her to hear that "yeah, there were a couple of times that I wanted to give up." I think a lot of times dog people give off the impression that training and living with a dog is a piece of cake. Just a few waves of the hand, say and do the right things, and you'll have a perfect dog. Easy as pie. (Where I've really seen that attitude is on listservs. Fortunately for me, I've mostly run into supportive people in my everyday and everyday online life.) But I think the know-it-alls often either consciously or unconsciously make owners who are inexperienced or having trouble feel like crap if they have a lot of difficulty. I think it's a lot more helpful to know that sometimes you're going to feel like a failure. Sometimes you're going to want to give up. Sometimes it's just really, really hard. But it gets better. And it's all worth it when it does.
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A neighbor adopted a dog about a month ago. She told me that I was her inspiration (the neighbors see me walking Tom a lot). He's a sweet Akita, about two years old, that she brought home from the shelter. We run into each other frequently and often stop to chat. Hutchie (her dog) is still making the adjustment and there some destructive separation anxiety issues that are at work. Yesterday, C asked me if I'd ever considered returning Tom. I admitted to her that I had. We talked about that a little bit and about how things do get better. I think C felt a little better, hopefully I gave her enough of a boost to get through the current rough patch.

The conversation got me to thinking, though, so I decided to just lay out some of the stuff that's been going through my mind.

the stuff )

7. The best thing about puppies is that they become dogs. Tom is a month shy of his second birthday. He's still, I think, more puppy than dog. But I see light at the end of the tunnel and I think within the next few months he's going to fully transition into dog. And I think he's going to be a splendid dog. Well, he's already splendid. He'll be splendider.

I'm thinking back to the conversation I had with C yesterday. I think it was a relief to her to hear that "yeah, there were a couple of times that I wanted to give up." I think a lot of times dog people give off the impression that training and living with a dog is a piece of cake. Just a few waves of the hand, say and do the right things, and you'll have a perfect dog. Easy as pie. (Where I've really seen that attitude is on listservs. Fortunately for me, I've mostly run into supportive people in my everyday and everyday online life.) But I think the know-it-alls often either consciously or unconsciously make owners who are inexperienced or having trouble feel like crap if they have a lot of difficulty. I think it's a lot more helpful to know that sometimes you're going to feel like a failure. Sometimes you're going to want to give up. Sometimes it's just really, really hard. But it gets better. And it's all worth it when it does.
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A couple of pictures of Tom that I took last night. I used my camera phone, so the quality isn't fantastic. But they'll do.


clearly the no dog on the furniture rule didn't really stick )




is this the face of a scoundrel? (yes) )
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I had been resolutely avoiding looking at my 403(b) and Roth accounts. This afternoon I broke down and took a look. I should have kept with my first instinct. Ouch! It's a good thing that I'm not close to retirement age.

In things making me happy:

*[livejournal.com profile] sg_betty has made another sg1 vid for me. You can see it here: Help. I think it's quite cute and fun.


* I'm really happy with the way things are going with Tom. Within the last month or so, it feels like we've really turned a corner with each other. I rediscovered my sense of humor about some things. He's starting to settle down ever so slightly (though the attendant at doggy daycare--I take him once a week--did wonder how many cups of coffee he drinks in the morning. hee!). He's always been a good dog, but, in the last few weeks, I feel like I'm really starting to see the dog that he's becoming. A little bit of a scoundrel, but a good, smart dog. This makes me feel a little teary with happiness sometimes. Which is far better than the tears of frustration that I had from time to time in the first couple of months.

* I have a new story almost ready to post. It's a story idea that I'm very excited about, but has also been a struggle to execute. I don't know if anyone other than me will like it, but I'm very pleased have accomplished this one.


[Heh. There may or may not be some irony in that fact that in the course of writing this post, I had to chase Tom away from the trash can at least five times. :D]
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Oh my goodness. Trying to get through an agility class with an energetic dog who didn't get his 2 mile after work walk? Even worse than I thought it would be. I did not enjoy that class.

I take some mild consolation in the other dogs being kind of squirrelly too. It was the last class of the session and I swear that all of the dogs were like thirteen-year olds on the last day of the school year.

But back to me, if had had any doubts that the long walks make a difference in handling Tom, last night would have cured that.

I'm actually thinking about trying to take up running again for our evening walks. It would be good for my own fitness, Tom would like that, I think, and, most important of all, it might aid in my quest to keep his energy levels contained.

Oh, in one bit of developing good news, Tom does seem to be getting better around children again. About two months ago or so, he decided that kids are Very Scary and do everything he could to get away from them. Which is sad, because a cute, fluffy dog is like catnip to kids. There are some really nice children that we see regularly in the course of our walks and I've been working on things by giving them treats to give to Tom. In the past couple of days, he's started to walk right up to a couple of the kids with little or no hesitation. *Knock on wood,* I'm hopeful that we're starting to turn the corner on that issue.
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I decided to try something different with my Saturday this weekend. Lately my Saturday activities have consisted of maybe doing a load of laundry and taking a nap between dog walks.

Today, I did a load of laundry. Then I dropped Tom off at doggie day care so he could have fun while I turned my attention to various chores.

I stopped at my parents' house to water the plants (they're out of town). And borrowed a handsaw.

I stopped by Earl May's and picked up a rose shrub, cedar mulch, and topsoil.

When I got home, I cut down and dug up the rose bush in my garden. I do feel a little guilty about digging up a healthy plant. But my garden isn't all that big and rose plant was starting to dominate. Gardening gets pretty uncomfortable when you have to keep dodging thorns and/or disentangle items of clothing from thorns. I pulled weeds--which hadn't been done in far too long. Then I planted the rose shrub that I picked up in the same spot that used to have the rose bush. The shrub's going to be smaller than the other. I think it'll work pretty well. I'm glad I listened to the voice that told me to buy the bag of topsoil. As it turned out, I didn't dig the hole quite as deep as I though. The topsoil came in handy to put around the plant. (It's like when I wrap gifts. Half the time I have about an inch less paper than I need for the package.) Then I laid down the cedar mulch and now the garden looks fairly nice and tidy. I repeat the thing I've said so many times already: I didn't know how much I liked gardening until I had a garden of my own.

I also cleared up the coffee table. This doesn't sound like much of an accomplishment, but there was a crapload of stuff that had piled up. It's looking a little better now. I vacuumed. I got a couple of lines written in the ficlet that I'm working on. (Though I imagine they'll be reworked before all is done.) I thought about doing the dishes, but decided I didn't want to.

Then I picked up Tom just before closing time. The attendant--laughing--told me a story about how Tom figured out how to get through a barrier between the smaller dog room and the big dog room. She looked up and all the sudden he was running around with all the big dogs. She decided to leave him there because he was doing well and the smaller dogs that were in for the day weren't as active. She figured he was having more fun with the big boys. And now he's sacked out on the living room floor. :) Tomorrow afternoon he has a playdate with a couple of Australian Shepherds that we've gotten to know on our walks. That should be fun.
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--Dog school that is.

Tom and I went to our first beginning agility class last night. It was lots of fun. We were introduced to the open tunnel, closed tunnel, A-frame, and low hurdles. It's a nice sized class--fewer than ten dogs. Most of the dogs are some variety of herding dogs or herding mixes. There's one or two "you pick the breeds" dogs, and Tom, a hunting dog.

The person who was near me for most of the class and I struck up an ongoing conversation. I thought she said her dog was a Malinois, but I think I misheard because to me he didn't look right for that breed. Anyway, we got started laughing, because at one point she was watching the way Tom did the tunnels and said "he's very independent, isn't he?" I laughed and agreed. She was commenting how that's so typical of a hunting dog--while all the herding dogs are all like "what do you want me to do next? is this okay?"

Tom caught on to the "over" with the little hurdle right quick. He wasn't so sure about the A-frame, but seemed to be more at ease with it after doing it a few times. Then there were the tunnels. He seemed a little unsure of them the first couple of times. But then he went through them fine. He took his time, though. And his attitude very much seemed to be "All right, hold your horses. There are all kinds of interesting smells here." This is what prompted the conversation with the classmate about the more independent nature of hunting breeds.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun and I think Tom had fun too. I don't know if I'm really going to be able to afford to get into this in a big way, but if nothing else, at least a round or two of classes should be fun.
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The puppy turns one today. So happy birthday Tom. He only singed his whiskers a little bit when he blew out the candle on his cake. (I kid. There were no candles. Or cakes.)

I had a conversation with him while we took our morning walk. I asked him if turning one meant he was a big boy now and he was ready to settle down. He agreed. Then barked and lunged after a passing truck. Yeah, I think that's going to be a work in progress for awhile yet.

Also, he's about 3/4 of the way through blowing his coat. If you've never had a double-coated dog, what that means is that once (or more) a year, the dog completely sheds out his undercoat. It's quite alarming the first time it happens because you pull out fur by the fistful while thinking "this can't be normal." And when they're done, it looks a lot like they've been shaved even though no razor has touched them. He's looking more sleek than fluffy these days.
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Well. On Sunday evening Tom discovered the ability to do something that I was afraid that he had the ability to do.

He's had a little fun over the past couple of days when he's feeling especially frisky doing a split second triple jump wherein he vaults from the coffee table (which he just touches fleetingly) to the sofa to the back of the sofa.

Just when I'm thinking that the above is going to be "fun" trait to discourage, he added a new skill last night. My dog, who at the shoulder comes to just below my knee, leaped onto the dining room table. He didn't even really take a run up. One minute he was on the floor next to where I was standing. The next second he landed with all four feet on the table. So I lifted him off, he, pleased with himself trotted across the room, flew onto the loveseat, then used the back to vault himself up and over.

This dog is definitely well-suited to agility. I think I'm going to have to invest the resources and time to doing that once he's at physical maturity. Provided he survives to maturity.

We have, at least, had some really excellent moments on our walks lately.
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Take heart dear flist of mine. Eventually Tom will stop being a puppy and I'll find other things to post about. In the meantime...

Yesterday I read through Patricia McConnell's little pamphlet on how to be a pack leader. I think it was all stuff that I'd heard or read in other places before, still it was very helpful. I think there are some visual cues/body language that I can work on that can help smooth things out a little. One thing that she talks a lot about is occupying space. That's something that I think I can do a much better job with and I'm already making a start. I also started in on her book The Other End of the Leash which deals with behavior and communication--especially with regard to the human half of the equation. I've only gotten a few pages in, but so far I think she's good and interesting writer. I'm really looking forward to reading more.

Small Victories:

Motorcycles are the bane of Tom's existence. (And by extension, mine.) When they go by, he barks and lunges and generally wants to go after them. He also frequently has that reaction to buses, trucks, and vehicles that are loud (or have that "motorcycle" sound). Well, some of the homework that we're working on for class is "quick sits." This is when the dog sits as soon as the human comes to a stop. Tom's doing quite well with this one. I've also been using it as a tool against provoking vehicles. If I see a motorcycle or vehicle that I think might be trouble on the horizon, I've been having Tom do a sit. Then I have "watch" me (well, the treat actually) or otherwise occupy him until the vehicle passes. It's been working pretty well--as long as I go into action quickly enough.

Today at noon when we went for our walk, as we turned down the street a motorcycle was approaching while we happened to be at a stop. (I was letting Tom do some sniffing.) Tom looked up and saw the motorcyle, looked up at me, and then he sat down. On his own. And stayed seated while it went by. Without me even asking him to. He got a treat and lots of praise for that one! Later he made sudden/unexpected lunge at a pickup truck that drove by. I restrained him (of course) and gave a sharp "no!" and then he turned back to me at sat down! I didn't treat him because he did lunge, but I praised him for the sit. :)

I think it helps that he's still feeling a little mellow from his day at day care yesterday. He's so much more manageable for the 18 or so hours after his day out. A tired dog is a good dog. Still, I was really, really pleased with his behavior for 99% of our walk. It's moments like that that let me think, "okay, maybe I can do this after all."
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1. The neat thing about Tom spending a day at doggie day care is that not only is he nice and mellow that night, but it carries over to the day after as well. He always walks especially well on leash the morning after he spent the day at ddc.

2. Actually he was restful last night that I was torn between being happy at having such a relaxing evening and being worried that he was sick. He was, I think, a little bit not himself because of:

3. I'm in the process of switching foods again. He's been eating Nutro, but I was feeling vaguely questioning about for reasons that I couldn't fully put my finger on. After raising a discussion on my doglist regarding some poop-related issues (I'll spare my flist the details unless someone really wants to know), I decided to make another change. I stopped in at our Natural Pet Food store thinking I would pick up some Wellness. After talking to the proprieter, I wound up walking out with a bag of Nature's Logic. I'm quite excited about the brand. All of the vitamins and minerals come from food sources--no synthetics. Apparently the owner of the company knows each of his suppliers personally. And Tom appears to like the kibble quite a bit. There has, however, been a little bit of digestive upset as I've made the switch. I may not have been as gradual as I should have been about phasing in the new food.

4. One of the things we started in this week's dog class is an automatic sit on our walks when I stop. We're making quite good progress on that. We'd be even further along if I had recognized that I should be rewarding that behavior all along. He had frequently done that on his own and I wish now that I had recognized that I could have been praising and otherwise treating/rewarding that behavior all along.

5. I have The Other End of the Leash on order and I'm quite looking forward to receiving and reading it. One of the people that I often run into on walks was talking enthusiastically about it.
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1. I had to be out of town for a couple of days this week. Tom boarded at the place that he already goes for daycare once a week. Boarders get to play with the other dogs that are there during the day. This means that he got two extra days this week of running and playing with other doggies all day long. I think he may have been a little disappointed when I picked him up on Friday.

2. The barking is getting a little better. I've cheated a little and gotten a sonic collar. I'm not sure if it's helped seal the deal or not, but the past week or two, when I crate him and leave, I haven't heard him barking when I get home. Often he doesn't even bark, or does so very minimally when I walk in the door. This is a huge relief. (Of course, for all I know, he's barking for 3 hours and 45 minutes and being quiet for the last 15 minutes that I'm gone. But I prefer to live in the land of optimism. And I haven't crossed paths lately with my neighbor to ask for a report.) When I'm home, collar or no collar, he still barks steadily when I crate him while I do something where I can't keep an eye on him.

3. 80% of the time, he walks really, really well on leash. The other 20% can be an adventure, but I mostly feel pretty good about it. He now knows that the treats are in my left pocket. There are are a lot of stretches where he walks beside me looking up saying "I'm being really good aren't I? Treat? Now? Now? Treat? Now?"

4. He's doing quite well with the "drop it" command. He's responding to it fairly reliably when we're out on walks and he picks up pine cones or paper or whatever that I don't want him to have. Then he gives me the "treat, now?" look. (He's a very food motivated dog.)

5. We did have a little bit of a rodeo yesterday evening. I opened the door to take some trash out to the dumpsters and he slipped past me. I hadn't realized he was so close. For a brief moment, I thought he was just going to stay on the steps and then come when called. Then he realized he had freedom, glorious freedom and the chase was on. With me trying not to too obviously chase him and turn it into a game. Fortunately he didn't go into the direction of any streets and he came up against something of a natural barrier so eventually I got him cornered. But that was a kind of scary few minutes. Little brat! Have now made not to self to be overly cautious when opening the front door if Tom is not in his crate.
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There are a couple of other people of other people with dogs in my complex area. Well, there are lots of dogs in the area, but Tom and I frequently run into Duncan and his mom and Edison and his dad in the late evening when we're out. Last night the three dogs were playing with each other. (This involves a lot of leash tangling and feeling like one is a maypole. None of us feel like our dogs are reliable off-leash, and sadly there's not a fenced in area on the grounds.)

Anyway, at one point Tom sort of disengaged from them. Then he went into an alert sit, looking at me while I scritched around his ears.

Edison's dad: "He really pays attention to you."
Me: "Sometimes."
Edison's dad: "No," [he points at the other dogs] "there are all these distractions and he's looking right at you."
Me: "Oh." [said with dawning realization]

What kind of idiot needs someone else to point out that their dog is bonding to them? Me. In the midst of my anxiety about barking issues, and feeling inadequate and not quite sure whether my dog and I are attaching as we should, it took a relative stranger to observe to me that Tom was looking at me in pretty much the way that we want our dogs to look at us. In all my self-flagellating over stuff that I might be doing wrong, I failed to notice a couple of cues/body language. I guess because my not-quite-ten-month-old dog isn't behaving perfectly after one month? Good grief. Clearly I need to step back and take a couple of breaths.

And just for the record (or myself) a couple of other notes about things going pretty well training-wise. He does extremely well with "sit." It's his most reliable command. He does pretty well with "down." He obeys "off" and "leave it" when it suits him. And much to my surprise, he's caught on to "stay" almost from the first time that I tried to teach it. I expected that to need to work with a partner to even get the concept across. I also met with someone this afternoon who showed me a technique for leash training that doesn't involve jerking-the-leash corrections. It'll require time, patience, and persistence, but it already seems very promising. So, I remind myself, in the midst of frustrations--and I'm sure there will be plenty to come--there are also things going right.
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Tom is a little bigger than my last dog. Big enough that he can rear up on his hind legs with his front paws on the counter or table. From there, he can nose around for anything edible/chewable within mouth's reach. This leads to many repetitions of the following exchange.

Me: "Tom, off!" *shoves dog away from table or counter*
Tom: "Okay." *not at all abashed*

30 seconds later

Me: "Tom! Off!"
Tom: "What? Still?"

30 seconds later

Me: "Tom! Off!
Tom: "All right. I wasn't really interested in that anyway."

Repeat scene a few hours later.

He was also being quite clever yesterday about nudging his bully stick beside the couch. He'd start out with the chewie, then cleverly switch to some part of the slipcover. I did wise up enough to spray some bitter stuff on the slipcover ties. That seemed to help reinforce the "no. leave it" instructions.

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