Monday, December 27, 2010

Kiko continues to do good with heeling and sitting! Except for when she totally forgets that she's heeling and gets caught on an about turn, but it's infrequent, I am especially pleased with her sitting every time we stop before I can place her. I suppose that's to be expected when she's been placed upwards of a hundred times, but gosh I am still amazed every time at how effectively they learn it. Though she is a creature of comfort and those sits aren't quite as relaxed or long on the wet pavement as they are indoors, but who can blame her?

Chewy and I did out of sight sit stays and down stays for the first time today: pretty funny how after only a few moments he thinks: well, she's not here, I'm gonna go hang out on the couch. My house has a good set up for spying on him from around the corner through the reflection on the windows, he held his second stay both times after realizing that just because he can't see me doesn't mean he isn't obligated to hold his stay. He did a lot better on his straight sit in front on his recall, in the past being in the house he has felt more relaxed and has gone around in a finish or gone to sit next to one leg etc. Also recalling off the couch: good dog!

I had Chewy on a stay and I told him "Chewy, free!" and he cocked his head to one side (I'd never given him a free from a sit stay before) and I said it again and he cocked his head to the other side. My heart melted at his work ethic/commitment to the stay, Catfish took every time I said "Okay!" to mean that I was talking to HIM and came bounding over, which is why I changed the command to free, as I have a tendency to say "Okay" in the same tone of voice to people as I do to dogs.

Recently reading about some really awful instances of abuse of prong collars, I forget that most people calling themselves dog trainers don't understand how dogs learn and use prong collars instead of training the dog. It makes me so upset to think about the poor dogs not understanding what they did wrong, and the humans not understanding why the dog doesn't understand what's right and what's wrong. Education! If the trainers and owners knew that the dog wouldn't understand and that it wouldn't solve the problem, I doubt they'd use it. But instead both dog and human are left confused and frustrated at their inability to communicate, often to the severe detriment of the dog. I am reminded of Alex the African Grey, who learned an incredible amount of skills because humans had a greater understanding of how animals learn, and changed their teaching style. It was not that African Greys got smarter; it was that we began to communicate with them more effectively. It's our responsibility to care for our pets, which includes keeping them safe, which means basic manners and obedience for our dogs. They rely on us to teach them what our society expects from them. Kiko has no idea that it's wrong to kill cats. Even with the lunge work we've done, all she knows right now is that when she hard stares at a cat, I turn and walk away, so she's got to pay attention to what I'm doing and not the cat. Eventually I'll teach her that the hard stare is not acceptable. But she has no idea until I tell her in a way that she can understand.

This is what happens when you're sleep deprived, you start waxing poetic over dog training, wishing you were Vicki Hearne.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Chewy is doing great with the light line/off leash work, FINALLY not lagging anymore! I always feel silly and relieved to find a simple fix for something: Kali told me a few weeks ago to do this, and we actually did it at our lesson with Randall, and whaddya know, almost immediately he stopped lagging. Little guy just needed to know that running is not always a correction for lagging, sometimes it's just FUN! I want to get a video of him working sometime soon, as proof of how horrible and cruel Koehler training is, and how it breaks a dog's spirit: his ears perked up and prancing next to me, adorable little curly tail wagging when I praise him for a perfect recall, and most of all for his okay release, how he immediately jumps up in the air as soon as I say "Free!" Broken, ruined dog, that is. Hates working.

Kiko is doing GREAT with the heeling, I am really pleased. AKA, she's heeling as good as a normal day two dog! It'll be interesting to see how she does with the sit once it's a command rather than a placement, how quickly she grasps the concept. Sometime I'll post pictures of them, I have some good ones of Chewy leaping into the air to chase a toy, and Kiko cozied up beneath many blankets. It's hard to get out of bed in the morning when there is always a cute puppy face to kiss, both of them are such good snugglers.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Kiko is really interesting because she isn't used to communicating with humans, with listening to them, with thinking before she acts. Totally oblivious from her first 3(?) years having very little human contact, chained on a vacant lot. Which has also very much hardwired her to go after small creatures, since it was hit or miss whether or not she would be fed. This will be veeery interesting.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day Six, Week Two

Realized yesterday that I'd been doing the sit placement wrong all week...whoops. "Chewy" as the right foot stops, "sit" as the left foot stops. Not "Chewy, sit" while we're stopped and I'm standing there looking at him like an idiot. If I was watching somebody else do it, it would've been obvious, so much easier to notice what's going on physically when you are the observer. He also wasn't making the connection between collar pressure and sitting down, probably due to my being heavy handed on the sit placements and putting more emphasis on my hand on his butt than my hand applying collar pressure. But, thank goodness, he got it pretty quickly once my trainer helped me out. It's very different training an adult dog rather than a puppy, especially a puppy that is possibly even more dog-oriented due to being the only pup in his litter and so is very ramped up about dogs/doesn't have an off switch with them. One right turn and run when Chewy goes wide to investigate Pagan, and he's no longer interested. Wow! Catfish took plenty of passes before calming down and committing himself to heeling. Also, Catfish was never one for lagging, whereas Chewy is lagging to one degree or another most of the time. I am so, so thankful to have the guidance and help of my two trainers! It'd be so much harder to learn how to do it right without them.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Week Two, Day Two

Doing very well except for the jack-in-the-box sits: standing up immediately after he sits, although I am mostly crediting it to the fact that the ground is soaked, and most of the time he sat for a few solid moments before standing again. It does my heart good to see a dog look at a distraction and then immediately look at the handler - you can see the wheels turning! Surprised at how on the ball he is on only day two of heeling, I suppose that's the method for you. Already was beating me to the sit, and stopping with his shoulder more or less by my left foot. Smarty pants or just not a distractable 9 month old puppy? Also, it's been four months since I did this exercise, I sure wish I had kept a journal when I had Catfish so I could compare, but too late now. I did inadvertently say "Catfish, Heel" at one point, Chewy didn't seem to mind. I am reminded of Tony with Sparky doing a heeling pattern, demonstrating that the context of the command means far more than the word itself: "Sparky, Banana! (heel) Apple! (sit)"

Chewy sleeps under the covers, I guess he gets just enough air from the gap my head sticking out from under the covers makes, because when I got out of bed this morning and left him sleeping, I came back to see him with just his nose sticking out from under the covers.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day Four

Chewy seems to be mostly leash responsive with his dog aggression, we came out of the car and he approached Pagan and Sparky tail wagging in the unmistakable quick happy manner, sniffed them, was a little confused and disinterested since they were on sit stays. Just wants to tell other dogs what he thinks of them when he is pulling at the end of a leash. He did very well, at the end of the lesson was passing by his very tempting distracters (he made a bee line for them whenever they said "cute", he seems to know that's him, ha!) without a second glance. He was however immediately discontented by my friend with M.S., barking and stretching out as far as he could to sniff her in that cautious way. He's a good boy and doesn't bark much but we'll address it when he's on a leash rather than a lunge line. My housemates are quite fond of him, he's a huge change from the ever excitable Catfish. Catfish is really a dog lover's dog in his puppyhood of wanting all 50 pounds of him in your lap, a 20 lb lap warming terrier is more amenable to most. Sleeping next to me as I write this, he blends in with the sofa rather well. Good dog!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day Two

I got what I wanted - a dog aggressive dog to train. Huzzah! Not sure to what extent, but today there was a LWD (Little White Dog) that he stood watching, and as soon as the LWD saw him it started pulling frantically to come see him, Chewy ran at him growling, hit the end of the line and then decided it was a better idea to walk with me. Didn't go after any other dogs (we saw several) but he did watch them pretty closely, and none of the other dogs noticed him/tried to approach him (thank God, there were two off leash dogs that luckily did not notice us)

He needs to be reminded not to barge through open doors, but remembers pretty quick, and it IS only day two. Good little dog, slept all through the night at my feet.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day One

Chewy is a scruffy little cream colored terrier, head placed on the sofa, looking as loyal as possible at me and my bowl of steamed purple carrots, of which he has already been offered a sample and declined. Why do they continue to look at you pleadingly? Can they not smell that there is only more of the same in the bowl? Ah, well.

Point to point walking was mostly uneventful, minus the occasional tiny barely audible "erp!" as he hit the end of the line when bolting after a squirrel. He really likes squirrels and birds, and maybe dogs? We stood at one point while a pair of Italian Greyhounds passed, it seemed like they were going to pass safely until one of the dogs changed his mind and went back to approach Chewy (on a retractable lead) and Chewy went straight for him, but I caught the leash and moved off before he made contact. I prefer Catfish's puppy-minded openness about his intentions, plenty of body language and whining about wanting to greet a dog vs hard stare stiff posture and then rocketing towards them (to greet? I think not) I felt a little disappointed to be training a little dog (not to mention the very real pain in the ass of having to reach that far down for placing them) but it looks like he'll give me plenty to think about. A big change around the house, first day here and he is calmly curled up on the sofa with me vs Catfish constantly going from person to person asking for pets, whining, being a puppy, being a goofball. Though make no mistake, I love Catfish dearly and miss his enthusiasm for life, silly happy face, pride in his work. I feel almost awkward around Chewy, bringing him home and first thing giving him a bath: do we know each other well enough for me to take such liberties? I guess it's different because he is a mature adult dog, insecure in his new surroundings, whereas Catfish was just excited to explore a new place and play with new people. It's a completely different relationship to treat dogs as equals and with respect rather than patronize them, adds more depth.

Friday, March 19, 2010

BSL is a failure in the UK

This raises some really good questions. A dog bite that was severe enough to require hospitalization was reported to the police, and no action was taken. They're responding to calls about someone's neighbor owning a pit bull, seizing and destroying it, but a dog that actually bites someone gets no attention? Why was the gang member's other dog granted exemption? On a side note, I seriously doubt it was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier/Bull Mastiff cross, there is a size difference between those breeds of about 100 pounds. Otherwise a well written report that is unbiased and focuses on the owner's vicious behavior and mentions breed only because one of the dogs involved was an illegal breed. A perfect illustration of the enormous impact the owner has on the temperament of their dog. It's hard to blame it on the dog when the owner was yelling "Get' Em!", obviously in an incredibly aggressive state of mind, and stabbing someone to death. I think even Colleen Lynn might be able to agree that that upbringing and those conditions would cause even the "sweetest" Golden Retriever to attack.

"Jon Eachus, of the RSPCA, said: "The whole dangerous dogs situation, irresponsibility with dogs, has increased 10-fold in the last couple of years.

"It has just been blown all out of context. It is just too easy to acquire them, it has become the in thing to have these dogs. A couple of years ago we did not have this sort of problem."

Another really excellent article. Even with a breed ban in place, "It is just too easy to acquire them". It talks about the entire issue, "We are getting more children's play areas ripped apart and generally more antisocial behaviour.", not isolating it to breed of dog, but putting the proper emphasis on human behavior. Did bull breeds suddenly become incredibly aggressive in the past few years? No, even if aggression was genetically determined (which John Paul Scott has shown us through research that it is not) it is not possible to have such a drastically different animal in the time span of a single generation. Now if they can just the connect the banned status of the dog to the desirability for that breed by criminals.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Perfect example of how it's the owner's negligence that causes dog bites. These dogs went after a moving object (as dogs are wont to do) and were INCREDIBLY easily redirected: all it took was their victim saying "go get your ball!" to cause them to let go. The photographs of her bite wounds show they are in no way serious, not to say that I wouldn't mind having them, but obviously the dogs were not motivated to injure her. It looks more like they bit once to stop her movement and released when she spoke to them. It sounds like all these dogs needs is basic obedience and a fence. I'm relieved that they didn't call them vicious dogs or talk about how "vicious" pit bulls are, there is some sanity...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dog Aggression or Prey Drive?

Just a short "food for thought" comment:
I wonder how many dogs labeled as 'dog aggressive' are really just acting on their prey drive? With so many attacks from dogs 10x the size of their victim, I have to question if they recognize it as a dog. If I was a German Shepherd, I don't think I would recognize a 3 pound yorkie as a dog rather than some kind of varmint that it was my duty as a good dog to exterminate.

It reminds me of the section in Temple Grandin's "Animals Make Us Human" where she talks about 'killer dogs': people line breeding pit bulls with dogs naturally distrustful of strangers to create strong dogs more easily shaped towards indiscriminate aggression. She says there was a litter of these line bred 'killer dogs' that was adopted out by a rescue group and they were all eventually returned for killing cats. And this is supposed to be a strike against them? I know I would be furious if a dog killed my cat, but I would never blame it on the dog. That's what they DO: chase and kill smaller animals. It takes intentional socialization and training to keep this hundreds of thousands of years old trait under control. I have met MANY dog owners who have dogs that would kill a cat if they ever got a hold of one because their owners don't have cats so it's not an issue for them. And somehow pit bulls get the blame for this very natural dog behavior? As is often the case, certain breeds are talked about as if every dog trait that could possibly be construed as negative is unique to that breed labeled 'dangerous dogs' for acting on instincts that have worked for the last several hundred thousand years. Well, some of us weren't born yesterday and have touched more than the very tip of the iceberg on understanding the complexity of dog behavior, so don't expect us to buy it.

"This is a working breed and has a lot of energy and drive," Cline wrote. "It does them no good to be confined to an apartment with little to do. They get bored and frustrated, and with no outlet, this alone can lead to undesirable behavior."

...and that somehow doesn't apply to pit bulls? Never in a million years do I imagine I would see this in an article about a pit bull bite, not do I imagine a pit bull would have been given a second chance. Thank God the right people were able to save this dog whose only crime was not having her needs met.

My apologies for this sloppy post, much steam to blow off and little sleep :)