Tuesday, April 28, 2009


A play off the name of the book I should be reading right now for my NYC Seminar class, Ragtime.

But, it really is time for a bit of a brag, as Marge was totally fantabulous tonight in agility class.

We started with the handing stuff - turns, paw targeting, etc. Then we went on to the tunnel - Marge went through it without much hesitation! All it took was some roast beef.

She was even better on the dog walk - her problem there was that she was so excited she couldn't keep herself on it!

We did some jumps, too, but that's nothing new to Marge. The instructor actually had me take her over a jump to demonstrate how we do it to someone else. We'll be doing some more backyard agility to work on my handling in that area, as it definitely needs improvement. I think it's just that everything is harder when you have a leash to hold.

I snuck her through the tire while other people were practicing the dog walk and such, and she went through without much hesitation.

That leaves only a few obstacles. I know the teeter is going to scare the crap out of her. Not sure about the A-Frame. Pause table is no big deal, she's done that before. Weaves won't bother her, but from what I hear it takes a long time to get 'em right.

I'm glad she's having fun with this. She really seems in her element in the class. She's quite social (thanks largely in part to the treats flying all over, I'm sure) and really seems enthusiastic about the whole thing. Hopefully next week I will have pictures from the class.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

jump jump jump

^^^ Some "backyard agility" from earlier in the month. Happily, we have been able to move on from stacking flowerpots and now are getting to practice over actual uprights.

Agility class started last night. Can you say.. FUN? We mostly did foundation stuff, like all kinds of turns that I'll do a terrible job of explaining on here, but we did get to practice with actual jumps (though the poles were on the ground).

We started paw targeting for the contact zones, though she emphasized that we will work on getting the dogs to go over the A-Frame first just to desensitize them to it.

I personally can't wait to start work with the obstacles, and it looks like our instructor is going to to a little bit of both in the class. I would love it if Marge is introduced to another piece of equipment next Tuesday. It remains to be seen, but in the meantime we've got (fun) homework to do.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Little Dog That Could

It's over. It's finally over. After months of hard work, I can finally stick those three lettters where I always knew they'd eventually belong:


Marge totally outperformed herself tonight. I really don't think it could have been much more perfect. A dog that, just months ago, growled and ran away when someone approached her, was able to stand nicely for petting. I think that is what all fearful dog owners strive for as one of the ultimate goals in their dog's rehabilitation.

We started out with sits and downs, went fine. THEN we progressed to tests 1, 2, and 3. Marge was perfect for accepting a friendly stranger. She was a little timid for the petting, but tried her hardest to stand in place. She accepted brushing just fine, but it did take a bit to get through the paw exam. I thought that was going to do us in - I just couldn't get her to stand still. The evaluator touched and held her paws a bit and then that was it.

Staying and coming were fine, as they always are for Marge. Walking on a loose leash was fine, though I thought our left turn was a bit sloppy. Walking through a crowd was PHENOMENAL. I mean, super loose leash, paying no attention to anyone else, totally focused on me and where I was going. Reaction to distractions, too, was perfect.

Reaction to another dog - she didn't give a hoot about Tanner - and that says alot, because she's always liked playing with that little bugger.

And then, that was it - time for supervised separation. Handed my leash over to Fred's (now also a CGC) mom, had Marge in a down stay and walked into the office. Sure enough, I heard a dog crying, thought it was Marge. But someone peeked out the window blinds where the dogs couldn't see and saw just what was going on..

..Marge was cool as a cucumber, remaining in her down-stay for the full three minutes. Barely moved a muscle when I came back, too.

I know that to many people who have been training and competing for years and years, the CGC is no big deal and nothing really to get crazy over. But, being Marge is my first (and shy) dog, she is very special to me, and this milestone that we reached tonight really means a ton.

My mom had tears in her eyes at the end of the test when the evaluator came up to me and said "Congratulations," and I'm not ashamed to admit that I did, too.

I have never felt closer to Marge and I feel like this is just the beginning of a long and loving relationship between the two of us. Now, it's on to bigger and better things. Agility starts Tuesday night and I hope Marge has a blast, because she deserves it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pictures, as Promised

So we really did have a nice time at the park today.  (Thanks, Taco.)  Marge made some fuzzy friends and some people friends as well.  One woman was in awe of Marge when I told her that she'd be taking a "test" (for lack of a better word) on Sunday.  Another little girl was nice enough to give Marge a treat.  However, not ALL children were so mannerly, as one boy who walked in close proximity to Marge decided to reach out and pat her on the head without any hesitation.  She wasn't particularly scared by it, just moved her head away as if to say, "Yick! Little boy germs!"

So, no further ado.. here is a small sampling of the exploring we did today.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The One Friend Marge Never Got to Meet

So I decided I'd try to get all of my tears over with tonight, on the eve of the two-year anniversary of Taco's death, rather than waste a beautiful sunny day being upset about it tomorrow.

Just a few years ago, that guy was my life.  No words can convey how much that horse meant to me.. and still DOES mean to me.  My entire teen-hood saw long Saturdays cleaning that old boy up, taking him for walks down the road, and sitting with him for hours on end in a state of perfect serenity.

He was taken away from me after six years of our friendship on a horrible, rainy April weekend in 2007.  The painful look in his eyes that last time I ever saw him will never, ever leave me.  

He was around forty when he went, impressive for a horse.  He lived most of  his life not being used for much, which was strikingly apparent when I took notice of him.  I gave Taco a dignified end to his life, as the most faithful companion I probably will ever have, and that is what means most to me.

Sometimes it really feels like yesterday.  

I've taken comfort in Marge and Layla, because although Taco taught me so many lessons during my time with him, perhaps the most important one was to appreciate what you've got while you've got it.  Layla's sitting in my lap, purring.. she always knows when I'm upset.  Marge has popped by a couple of times, too, with a tail wag and a face lick.  I gave them both hugs and let them split a treat .. yeah, my cat LOVES Nature's Recipe dog training treats.

All I can hope for is that Taco is in a better place, free of the pain he felt at the end of his life, and that someday the two of us will be reunited, some way, some how, and we'll get to spend those weekends with each other again.

The sun always seems to shine on April 16th.  I used to find it cruelly coincidental, since that weekend in 2007 was so rainy and dreary, but maybe it's Taco's way of telling me to get out and have fun with my life.  Last year, I was prepared to mope around, but then decided that volunteering at the shelter would be a better use of my time.  This year, I hope to go to the park and have a great day with Marge.  (Be prepared for pictures and an upbeat post tomorrow.) 

All the while he'll be on my mind, as I think to myself how lucky I am to have ever had such an extraordinary bond with that old boy.

For more information about Taco, visit his memorial.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thinking POSITIVE.

So I've been less than impressed with the behavior of some dogs and some owners in my area.  In fact, there are some things I'm outright unhappy about and totally not looking forward to.  But there's no point in ranting about the things that all of you responsible dog owners know well enough firsthand....

...So, instead, I will post about some things positive - hey, if we use positive methods with our dogs, it makes sense for us ourselves to keep the positive in mind, too.

Our trip to the boardwalk last night was a much-needed long walk on a nice day. We walked about 2 1/2 miles, practicing walking on a loose leash, ignoring distractions. We met-and-greeted some old friends, including Heidi, the most lovable Saint Bernard ever. We haven't seen her since the fall - Marge is a little timid of such a big girl, but sure wasn't afraid of the treats being offered to her by Heidi's mom.

She let the Heidi crew pet her - two guys and one woman - and offered her paw to the latter as well. All of this stuff is such a great improvement over where Marge was even six months ago. And that's what I have to keep telling myself. That no matter the setbacks we have or the areas we need to improve in, Marge has shown her ability to bounce back after a bad start.

We've got just a few more days until the Canine Good Citizen. I've done the loose leash pattern that my club uses for the "Out For a Walk" test so many times that Marge looks like she's ready to yell at me out of boredom when I start it. I do need to work on the out-of-sight stuff still, but it was hard to today with all of the rain.

The petting tests should be alright. All of my trainers said that some degree of timidity is permissible. And, since all three evaluators are women, two of which Marge knows and likes, I'm thinking it should be okay.

Honestly, she's as ready as she can be. I can practice a bit more, but if she's destined to get her certificate, then that's that.  I'm feeling hopeful, confident.. but no matter what, my Marge is a star.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Purple

I think Marge just absolutely dapper in her brand spankin' new collar.

Tying up some loose ends...

- Agility isn't starting this week; it was pushed back to the 21st. Oh well, at least I actually heard something about the class. Although, I still haven't received official confirmation that I'm in it.

- Got another week to practice for the CGC. Marge has been alright lately; I feel like we haven't come across that many social situations, though I have been trying to scout them out a bit.

- The door reactivity theory got thrown out the widnow today when Marge let out a nice growl at my dad when I WASN'T home. I'd almost rather it only happen when I'm around, because then at least I can deal with it.

- Trying to look for playdate opportunities for Marge, too. A reunion of her and her three brothers has been in talks since forever ago, but never came to fruition.

Forgive me for all the less-than-good-news - at least the collar's nice!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A New Observation.

Marge is, what I call, "door reactive."  If the doorbell rings, she goes into ready-mode and may or may not bark/growl.  When the door actually opens and she sees that it is someone she doesn't know (or is still fearful of, such as my father), the growling almost always begins.

Tonight, while I was out with a friend, I was informed that a neighbor stopped in - a neighbor Marge knows and is fond of.  While she didn't bark or growl, from what I heard, she did exhibit some blatant signs of fear and would not even go over to sniff.

At the same time, whenever I'm home seems to be the times that Marge is most likely to growl at my father, which has led to me scrambling to jackpot her as soon as she hears the door, before she enters that state of no return.  It works when she knows it's my dad, but I'm not sure how she'd react if she saw it was a total stranger standing in the doorway.

Any of these problems correct themselves when Marge meets the person OUTSIDE the door and proceeds to watch them go in. But that is something I've known for a long time, and have used it to me advantage.  Not too long ago I had a few people over who Marge warmed up to very quickly.  If she would have met them inside the house, maybe it wouldn't have been so quick.

What I'm realizing now is that my presence (or lack of presence) does change Marge's behavior.  I instill confidence in her in certain situations, but it seems she is also more reactive when I'm around at the same time.  (I use "reactive" in the most watered down meaning of the word, as a low fear growl is nothing in comparison to other dogs.)  I've toyed with the idea that this may be a guarding behavior, but I'm not sure.. I'm thinking it may be something I, specifically, am doing (or have done in the past so as to condition these types of behaviors unconsciously).

I do think that she'd probably initially growl at a brand new person regardless of if I was there or not, but either way, there is a definite difference in her level of "reactivity" and her level of "fear" when I am there.  Usually, when I'm around, it's a double edged sword - she WILL growl, her hackles MIGHT go up.. but after the affirms that the person is not a threat, she's usually almost perfect around them.

I'm trying to think of ways to combat this.  Marge does not suffer from separation anxiety, but she is considerably happier when I am around as opposed to some other people.

If only people knew what goes into rehabbing behavioral issues.  People think dog ownership is much more simplistic than it is.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Backyard Bliss

That picture was taken yesterday, when the weather was actually nice. Today poured, again. Much to our dismay.

Now that Spring Break's coming up I'd like to get back into the swing of things with Marge. We haven't been to any parks other than the beach in what feels like months (and might actually BE months) and we need to schedule a trip to Petsmart for some treats and socializing. Agility is supposed to be starting a week from tomorrow, but I haven't heard anything yet. Maybe I'll shoot an e-mail tonight.

We're Finished!

Last night was week 8 of Obedience 2, so the next time we'll be at the training hall is for the Canine Good Citizen.

She was fine for parts 1, 2, and 3. Petting isn't much of an issue anymore. The paws/brush MIGHT be a little sticky during the actual test, but I'm hoping that the evaluator will be one of the trainers she already knows. As long as nothing weird happens, she should be able to pass those portions without a problem.

Heeling was fine. Reaction to another dog was fine. Reaction to distractions was PHENOMENAL. Sit/Down/Stay/Come were all perfect. Crowd won't be a problem either.

The crux of our training, now, will be supervised separation. I did NOT realize how not-privvy Marge was to me leaving. All the other times we practiced, I went into the bathroom of the training hall. This time, I went out the front door.. and oh God, did she whine. She pulled toward the door, and then stopped when Susan told her to sit. But she was not happy about it.

We tried it a second time and I stayed outside for a shorter time, came back and jackpotted her. That went much better. I wish we would have had more time to practice it at the actual hall. But I'll get inventive and find other suitable places.

So we've got a lucky 13 days left. I am really going to work to get her OK for Test #10. She can do this!

Saturday, April 4, 2009


I'm so happy that Marge finally got to have a playdate with Buddy. They ALWAYS see each other on leash, but our schedules never seem to coincide for actual offleash play in the backyard. Thursday, it finally happened. Buddy likes to play hard to get and wanted nothing to do with Marge's playbows and paw swats, but once I got her running in typical go-Marge-go fashion, they sprinted lap after lap around the pool. Out came the sighthound. They make an interesting couple. Both of them were exhausted afterwards.

I wish there were more people and dogs available in the area to have play dates with. Marge loves it. And since she loves it, I love it.

Week 8 tomorrow of Beginner 2. Can't believe we're done with it. We'll be moving outside to the Agility Field in just a couple of weeks, hopefully.. and the CGC is two weeks from tomorrow.

I guess I've slackened a bit on the CGC stuff. I've been practicing the heeling pattern every day, and some out of sight stays to aid with the supervised separation. She's been pretty good about letting new people pet her, but I haven't been actively seeking such situations as much as I have been before. I *think* she'll be okay. I really just want to get it over with. I feel like I've been waiting forever!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Weathering the Storm

So we had a short thunderstorm here today.

Ever since July 4th last year (which was a nightmare), Marge has been afraid of extremely loud BOOMlike noises - fireworks and thunder, to be exact.

So when the forecast called for thunderstorms this PM in the 1 o'clock hour, I knew I'd have to spring into action. A mild storm isn't enough to send Marge into that state-of-no-return of panic, so it made sense to actually try to make it a positive experience.

I turned up the radio, broke out the clicker and repeatedly asked Marge for a kiss.  I think that's one of her favorite things to do.  

So, we got through it.  But I'd be happy if we never had another thunderstorm again.

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