Sunday, May 31, 2009

Playing and Training

I snapped this God-awful picture today on my phone of Buddy and Marge's short play session. I told them both to sit, and the picture WAS a cute one until they moved. But hey, what can you do, there's always next time. And at least it shows how handome Buddy is, even if Marge looks like a scary demon-dog behind him. They moved onto the grass a short bit after and played their usual games. Marge looks very "loose" around him so I think she's having a good time.

I took a walk over there before Rally, figuring he'd be outside. I hadn't really walked Marge all day, so the walk combined with the play was a nice one-two punch for her. I am so thankful that Buddy's owners let Marge into the yard. I think I'm going to write them a thank you note - these play sessions are so good for Marge and I am thrilled that she has had the opportunity to meet such a nice dog.

She also met the daughter of one of my paper customers as we were leaving. The brightside of it was that she was very happy to meet the girl, sniffing and curious. The flipside was that she practically dragged me up to her. We need some control! (But I'd still say the good outweighs the bad here.) She pet her a little bit, fed her a treat and we were on our way. Marge is more comfortable around respectful kids than anyone else, I think. It was a good encounter.

Afterwards was Rally class: I think it went well. We stayed off to the side like last time and utilized the cheese-filled Kong when we were just waiting around for our turn to navigate the course. Marge was a little nervous of the wind blowing things around outside, but she performed well. No problems with other dogs, either. She was not allowed to interact, but was in close quarters with some of them. I explained to a few people about her shyness and fear problems inside the building and that was why we were over on the side.

All of the 'front' work paid off this week as Marge performed a whole bunch of them with no problem tonight. We need to work on pace changes now, a lot.

There's rain in the forecast again forfor this week, so I'm going to hope and pray that we can get an agility class in on Tuesday. I miss it so much after two weeks, and I know she does, too!

Friday, May 29, 2009

In the Land of Children/Family Tree

Down by my house, I am fortunate in that we don't have too many young kids around.  It's not that I completely dislike them - but I'll be honest, I bet both Marge and I would get sick of their innocent antics in a hurry. 

To the right of my house is a big field with several sports areas in it (soccer, football, baseball, etc).  However, most of the time the field is deserted and we can walk as we please.  When children are there, they generally aren't along the perimeter, which is where we walk.

The houses immediately surrounding us don't have young children, either.  In fact, we have a lot of elderly neighbors, a few of which Marge has grown to like.

Down the block, however - and on some of the blocks we walk - there are literally herds of kids.  We do our best to avoid them, walking when they're in school or asleep, but sometimes, it is inevitable.

Today, we were walking in Miller Field, but a man had an offleash dog that I know is not all that friendly.  Deciding this was a bad situation, we walked down one of the neighboring blocks instead.
We walked about one-third of the way, until I realized many of the neighborhood kids were out.  We could have just stayed to one side of the street, but I didn't feel like dealing with "HII! CAN WE PET HER?!" or the potential threat of any of them running across the street to hug my dog against her will.  

So, we turned around.. which paid off, because Marge briefly said hello to Jack.  He's a big goofy Chocolate Lab much too bouncy and rough for offleash play with her, but perfectly suitable for behind-fence greetings.  We do this often; Jack pays little attention to Marge because he's excited to see me and get scritches, and Marge simultaneously reaches and sniffs his rear-end.  Works out well.  He, along with Buddy, are the only dogs we've been seeing at all lately outside of training classes (though, these Jack-in-a-fence days don't nearly stack up to the experiences that she has with the aforementioned Spaniel).

Aaanyway, we were heading home, and a bus stop pulls up behind us.  Out come some kids, and, sure enough, a girl comes barreling down the block toward us.  Thinking that an encounter-from-behind would be the worst way to experience what seemed like an inevitable thing, I pulled Marge over to the side and had her sit.  Sure enough, the girl comes up to us:

"Awwww, your dog is so cute!"

I stepped in front of Marge and politely told her that she is afraid of people and to not pet her.  Chatty as kids are, she starts telling me about how her own dog does not like bigger dogs.  She continued walking on next to me for about 20 or 30 feet - Marge at heel on my left, the girl on my right.  I told her she could give Marge a treat, which she did - and, of course, in typical kid fashion, snuck a pat on the head - and then was off.

I was very proud of Marge for her poise during that situation.  She generally likes kids - QUIET, RESPECTFUL KIDS - but this one was running up to her and I didn't take any chances.  Besides, we're trying to minimize as many walk encounters as possible, so at least the girl walked on with us for a bit before she actually interacted with Marge.  It was an iffy situation that turned out well.

Later on, I had to go drop something off to someone (someone who I knew would not scare Marge and/or bother with her) so I took Marge along for the walk.  Lo and behold, there's a swarm of children that I encounter on my way.  They were across the street from me, but bellowed across:

"AWWW, Your dog is so cute!  It looks like Misty!  Guys, let's run across and.."

"NO.  My dog does not want to be petted."

And we were off.  Sigh.  I know it's not the kids' fault, but my goodness, kids are so brazen!  Many children would run up to a dog they don't know without asking a parent and the dog's owner.  Parents really need to teach their children manners around strange dogs - not to mention, supervise their children when they're out playing in the street!


In keeping with the theme here of "offspring," I thought I'd post a couple of pictures of Marge's family tree.

I am lucky to have this picture of her mom, Nelly, who is currently living way down in Georgia.  She is a supposed Beagle/Terrier mix - a tiny little dog!

Also of note are her two siblings, Lisa and Bart (yes, the litter had a Simpson's theme), who I believe are somewhere in New Jersey:

Then there are Homer and Midnight, currently living somewhere on Staten Island together (not the best pics, they were taken at the shelter):

And last, her brother Fergus, pictured here with Marge back when we met up last October.

There is supposedly one more sibling out there, but we don't know who he is.  I think he's living in Georgia, too. 

Anyone have any guesses on the father's breed?  It's like a Doggy Paternity Mystery!

...Have a good weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Did You Say We're Going to See Buddy?"

Buddy the Spaniel Mix (not to be confused with any Buddys mentioned previously) is officially Marge's new best friend. Having served his street for the past three-ish years as their loyal Staten Island Advance carrier, I have known him a long time. He is an awesome little bugger. When he sees you coming, he wags his tail, and then when you get him real excited he comes flying up to the gate to be petted as if he hasn't seen you in 1,000 years. Yet, he's not boisterous, out-of-control or disobedient. He is a well-behaved dog, a social dog, and that's what I'm so happy Marge has gotten to know him.

I wish I had pictures. Since I don't live too far from him, I sometimes walk up past Buddy's house. On occasion, we have entered the yard and they knock themselves out running and pawing and play bowing to each other. With the uncertainties currently surrounding Marge's "fear-status," he is the only dog I will allow her to play with right now. (And, quite frankly, he is one of the only dogs who she even has an OPPORTUNITY to play with.) We've been staying away from stressful leash-greets and new encounters with strange dogs.

We've been in the yard three or four times before, with countless sniff-visits in between. We went back today and Marge was just in her glory. Buddy is the proud owner of a large and spacious yard, so the two of them really get a kick out of running around it together. They run laps around the flowering bush, with Buddy as close to the middle, his little legs unable to catch up to Marge.

Next time I'll try to bring my camera, as their encounters can only be fully appreciated when actually seen.

Other than that, we did some streetwalks, which went well. Didn't really encounter anyone. We did some training, which also went well. Marge is doing a little better with the Rally stuff, and I think going back and forth between "Front" and "Go Jump" is really helping her focus.

We had a Marge photo-shoot (treat torture session) in my yard (see above) after a nice run-in with the Curry Comb. Have I mentioned how much she is shedding right now.. and how much that thing helps? Best $8 I've ever spent!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Confessions of a Dog Owner

This is what we did all day today: lounged around. Couch, to the kitchen, to the couch again. Wherever I was, Marge followed me and slept. Agility was cancelled, unfortunately. It would have been nice to train at the field today, because it's extremely cool here and Marge would have enjoyed it (even if it meant getting sprinkled with rain).

I was a bad dog owner. I had all the time in the world today to devote to exercising and training my dog, and didn't do much of it. Instead, we both, well.. did nothing.

We did squeeze a short walk around the neighborhood into our lazy schedule, the first "street walking" endeavor in what feels like forever. It was a good day for it, because it seems the 50ish degree weather scared everyone back into their houses. We walked in peace. Marge passed a few people on the street - men - like a pro, and even someone's abandoned, downed umbrella.. which she didn't care very much about, thanks to chicken bones on the ground that I did not see. Ugh.. so I had to reach in and get out whatever I could. ("Drop it" is not Marge's forte, especially with foodstuffs. My fault.)

We had some short training sessions. I am trying to teach Marge the "front" position; she will come when called and sit in front from straightaway, but looks confused when I side step. She gets quickly discouraged and bored with it; that seems to be her new attitude towards anything other than Agility lately. We did have some progress with it today as I tried to lace Rally work in between the apparently more-fun Agility work.

One new thing Marge and I have mastered is the Schutzhund about-turn. I confess that I like calling it the Schutzhund about-turn - the "old timers'" name for it - because it makes me feel like I've taught her something advanced. In reality, we will never do Schutzhund (nor would I want to, though I do admire it) and all it is is a moving right finish. But I'll keep dreaming.

Oh, we also had another front door success. My sister's math tutor came over yesterday for a session. I held Marge's leash, let her nibble on Wellness Beef Jerky, and the woman entered without a problem. Marge gave a few big, swooping tail wags too. She likes this girl. The visitor list has now expanded. +1!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Headed the Right Way

Well, we're through Week 2 of Rally, so we're twenty-five percent done with the class.

Marge was good tonight. No incidents at all, and it seems like the class actually thinned out a little bit. (Hopefully it wasn't only due to Memorial Day Weekend - I think some people transferred to an Attention class.) We stayed primarily off to the side and I distracted Marge as best I could from all of the commotion.

The only "signs" I saw from her that I didn't like had to do with the door - which isn't surprising, since the door is a problem at my own house, too. But she didn't react and she was able to work today. We navigated two Rally courses and I think we did a pretty good job.

Sadly, the class wasn't completely positive, as Nature decided to dump a nice big thunderstorm on us during the last ten minutes of class. Marge would not do anything at all and got a little bit flighty, but she DID take hot dogs most of the time, so I think that's a pretty good sign. I'm hoping and wishing and praying that she does NOT start to associate the training hall with big scary booms. I guess we'll find out next week.

I'm happy, though. Aside from the storm, I think both of us had more fun than we did last week at Rally. We are going to really focus on our homework this week and see how far we get. I think Agility is always going to be our first love, but maybe we'll develop a fondness for playing Rally, too.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Back to Nature

I'm hoping that this is what Marge needed the most: trips back to the park, the places that helped her last year when she was at rock bottom in terms of fear.

We took a trip to the lovely and very-green Clove Lakes today and had a great time. There was just the right amount of traffic for Marge to feel comfortable and for me to train, too. A few dogs passed us (and some owners seemed to be oblivious to the fact that I was actively training and not seeking any leash greets - thankfully we escaped them) and Marge was fine. The ONLY time I found it hard to get her attention was with a small dog - maybe a Papillon mix - on a Flexi leash, bouncing all over out of puppy joy. She didn't look like she was getting ready to lunge.. in fact, I think she wanted to go over and sniff/play. But I, unfortunately for her, inhibited this greeting. No new dogs right now - and I'm making sure I stick to it.

She was fine with passing people, too. There was a large and obnoxious group of teenagers around, and while she did wonder what they heck they were doinga couple of times, she didn't outright panic. She was calm enough to sniff, eat or pee on things (depending on how edible the item was) and chase the ducks. She saw bikes, strollers, people on benches, fishermen and joggers, and seemed fine with all of them.

After some walking along the main paths, we took a trip up to the pathetic city version of the "mountains" - ie., the quietest part of the park. I figure she'd enjoy it, and I wouldn't have to worry about heeling and watch me's and we could all just RELAX. Well, she did enjoy it, and I think it was a great way to end the day.

What's the weekend have in store? Not really sure yet. I'm spending the day with Louie tomorrow, so if it's not too hot maybe Marge can use her puppy charm to entice him to go walking with us down by the beach. If not, it'll be another quiet day, with some Miller Field walks and backyard agility sessions. (Did I mention how unbelievably willing Marge was to work on agility today, despite the heat? She is doing GREAT with 2-jump sequences.)

Sunday is Rally Week 2. I have spoken with the instructor and we have basically formulated a plan for Marge. I will have my own little corner of the room, hopefully, where I can distract Marge and keep her away from other dogs. She will NOT interact and I will reward her for looking at other dogs calmly. I will NOT leave her with my mom or anyone else to go walk the practice course before hand; I think it's important I stay with her right now. If this week proves to be as bad as last even with all of these precautions, Marge might go on a bit of a hiatus from Rally and I will attend class alone. This way, it won't be a complete "waste" (bad word) of money and I won't be jeopardizing my dog's behavior training. The stuff is simple enough that I can train her myself at home.

I'm going to try not to worry, bring the yummiest treats on the planet (hot dogs and cheese) and see how it goes. Even if we get nothing done from an Obedience point of view, I will be happy if we get through the day bark/snark/growl free and with some level of comfort.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Doing Doggy-Dog Things

Our day was split in half between good and bad, I'd say.

Marge seemed stressed during the day. She was okay on our walks (mozzarella cheese every time we passed a person, dog, or anything exciting), but just that... okay. She wasn't 100% comfortable, though it may have had to do with the heat as well.

Later in the day we took a trip to my grandmother's house. My dad was supposed to pressure-wash the fence at my house, so I didn't want Marge to have to hear the noise. She was, again... okay. She explored the house as if she had never been there before, nose to the floor constantly. She went out and the backyard, rolled around and sniffed who knows what.

However, then my dad showed up to hose off THAT house. So Marge got to listen to the garage door rumble open under her feet before I had the chance to leash her up.

Oh, it was awful.. it reminded me of the way she fleed last summer. I took her up the block just to get her away, and she was totally unresponsive.. wide-eyed at the end of the leash not knowing what to do with herself.

We then walked back and just sat in the car, and I treat, treat, treated.

She briefly saw her two little friends, the Cavalier mixes. This was the only actual dog 'greeting' that she was a part of today. Again, it's on me to limit these encounters even more. I'm trying, I really am.

So, I went home, feeling discouraged and worried that Marge was seriously regressing.

I decided we needed a trip to somewhere calm and natural. We went down to the beach, the place we frequented all winter. She was happy to be there; sniffing, running, playing. It was great to see her tail way up in the air.

I was proud of myself, too, for protecting her; a woman came up with a Border Collie offleash, and I politely told her that my dog is not dog-social. She asked whether I "wanted to give it a shot", and I told her that because my dog is having a small fear issue, I am keeping things low-key. And we were off.

Marge didn't look particularly bothered by the dog; he looked to be an older, laid back dog, but we're not chancing any new encounters right now. Maybe if Marge realizes that I can handle things for her, she won't react.

We also had to dodge a woman who went up to Marge saying "aww! Puppy!" I was not as polite as before and simply walked away without looking at her, stating that my dog is fearful of people. Why must people be so forward?!

We then made our way to the wooded park next to the beach pictured above. I think Marge liked that most of all. Sniffing, unaware of the people going by, just enjoying herself. It was awesome. She was being a dog.

Hopefully we will continue to expand on the way that we left off tonight, and take similar trips. They helped Marge last summer, hopefully they'll help us now, too.

Before I finish, I will just mention that I spoke to my vet over the phone. He agrees with everyone I've spoken to thus far that this newfound fear is due to what has happened here in the neighborhood with the dogs. He told me to keep her away from "new things" and to call him back in 2 or 3 weeks to let him know how she is.

And, lastly, I would like to thank Rufus/Indie and Stella/Roo for their lovely "Pawsome" blog award for Marge and I. It is really impossible for me to choose anyone else to pass this on to, because I love ALL the blogs I read, but if you insist.. ;)

“This award is presented to those dog bloggers out there who know the meaning of GREATNESS. Their blogs are consistently interesting, funny, or informative. Their KINDNESS is extended to others without expectation of it’s return, and their FRIENDSHIP inspires others to do EXTRAORDINARY things. These are the blogs you can’t wait to read everyday.In short, they are AWE-INSPIRING, full of wonder, and simply PAWsome! Pass this award on to 4 others who you feel exemplify a “Paw”some Blog, and leave a note saying why you think they deserve the Pawsome Award!”

Marge and I bestow this award to:

Life With Dogs - for always keeping us laughing, even on the worst of days

Portuguese Water Blog - for beautiful pictures and great stories about their pack of Portis

Champion of My Heart - for knowing that we're not alone going through fear, and learning something new every time we open the page

Mountain Musings - for bird watching pictures we can only dream of, and their Golden Fridays, when we get to see Ellie and Lucy!

Hope to be back tomorrow with more good news.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

We had a mostly good day today.  We're slowing things down, taking a couple of steps back and just going with the flow.

I'm trying to keep walks so that there is little interaction between Marge and the outside world.  Miller Field is my haven; there are people around and we can work on attention, but no one is too close.  I made the mistake of walking this morning during garbage pickup in my neighborhood, but she got through it okay. Lots of treats were issued.  

Later on we did a joint Miller Field/street walking session which went well, thanks to a nice bagful of mozzarella cheese.  I stopped to chat with a couple of people who were sitting outside their house.  Marge knows them, but is timid.  We played the target game today with a lot of success.  I may eliminate these kinds of interactions altogether, but it's so hard to do.  Right now, I know we're on the right track in taking out the most stressful things - strange dogs and completely strange people.

We avoided some people we normally go around - most notably, Lord the GSD.  He can get a little studdy around Marge even though she's spayed, and I know she doesn't like it.  Also kept her away from two dogs passing by with a lot of success.  She totally ignored them.

While I was taking my Chem final, my dad took Marge for a walk.  She now responds by going and waiting by the door for him when he mentions 'going out' to her.  She's still timid of him, but I guess she likes her walks so much that she'll go even with him.  It may not be the best way to change Marge's association of him, but at least he's making an effort and she's not bugging out about it.  

I told him today about some of the problems that have been going on with her (mostly reactivity around other dogs, unsuredness around strangers and blatantly going nuts around the fence) and expressed to him the reasons I've speculated that it is happening.  Seemed like he understood it and even though he only walks her once in a blue moon, at least I know that I told him to keep her away from certain dogs/people/situations.

And, of course.. Agility.  There is a lot to report:

- Tunnels: Marge is going through them like a pro.  Fully extended and curved, too.  I'm beginning to be able to send her through them just like I do with jumps, rather than have to guide her.

- Chute: we worked on this a good amount and Marge was awesome.  A little hesitant, but we got her through it a few times with the chute completely out and collapsed.  Pretty good.

- Jumps: Did some '180 degree' work, where Marge takes one jump and then takes another before coming back to me.  She did smashingly with this.. even offleash a bit, too.  My teacher was impressed.  Did the tire jump, too, but that's a piece of cake.

- Teeter: A little unsure about this one.  The trainer first started by repeatedly banging the Teeter down while we fed our dogs treats like crazy.  Classical conditioning, yes - but come on, it can't happen over such a small period of time.  The LAST thing I need in this dog is a noise phobia.  Anyway, each dog then walked across the very low teeter while she held the tipping end from, well, tipping.  When each dog reached the end of the teeter, it was lowered slowly.  Marge wasn't terrified by it and did a decent job for a first time.  But the narrow contact obstacles have confirmed something - Marge lacks hind-end awareness.  She kept sliding her butt off of it.  Next week I hope to just take it slow and see how it goes.  I want her to like the teeter, not just barely get through it.

- A-Frame/Dogwalk:  Well, I didn't realize that we weren't supposed to be using the two big contact obstacles today, so we went ahead and did them.  (I saw other people doing them, so I thought it was okay.  But, anyway.  She has no fear of the dogwalk, but it's hard for her to keep her balance while following the treat.  Thankfully I was able to get her steadily across it more than once.  The A-Frame, however.. not so lucky.  While practicing it with the trainer, she did take a tumble from it.  We got her right back up and over it, though.  Hopefully no phobias present themselves with time.  I will be using the plastic planks again in my yard this week on the ground for Marge to walk across.

In terms of behavior, Marge was very focused for the majority of class.  We had one incident with a Dachshund and its handler.  Marge saw them from about 30' away and let out one bark.  Thankfully, she calmed down right away and I was able to regain her focus.  

I tried to keep dog interactions to a minimum.  During class, she only interacted with one dog - Rusty, the JRT.  She loves him.  After class, while talking to one of the board members of the club (who is in the Agility class with her own fearful poodle rescue) Marge did a little sniffing with a Standard Poodle and some small dog, not really sure what breed.  She was actually thrilled with both encounters, but since my original goal was to NOT have dog interactions, I kept them short and sweet.  Around the same time, she targeted a man coming up to us and accepted treats from another woman.  So, I guess we ended on a good note, if not a little busier than it should have been.

So, I'm going to just keep plugging along.  I'm glad she had fun.  Not sure what tomorrow will bring, but I'm going to try my hardest to keep to low-traffic areas and not push my limits with Marge.  We seem to be doing okay so far.

(BTW, we have started a Relaxation Protocol.  Day 1 was today.  Not sure how well it went, Marge was pretty excited afterwards.  I did it a couple of times, actually.  I think I caught some soft eye blinks.  I'm going to try my darndest to stick to it, we will see.  A big thank you to Roxanne at Champion Of My Heart for introducing this to us. Going to try to read more about it to ensure I'm doing things the right way.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Havin' a Rough Time of It

The last couple of days have shown the grim side of dog ownership, when behaviors pop up that you wish you could just send away instantly.

Rally class was.. stressful.  I wish I didn't even take it.  It's packed with 9 dogs in a training room that would be better suited for 6.  Marge carried on a lot in the beginning and it was impossible to keep her focus.  She snapped at another dog.  When she finally did calm down, she wasn't having fun like she does at agility.  She did welcome pets from two kids and had a GOOD social interaction with their Border Collie at the end.  But, overall, I don't think either of us liked it.

Hopefully it's better next week.  If not, maybe I'll just take the monetary loss and drop the class.  Maybe I'll go back to Beginner 2 at some point.  I can't have her stressed out like that.  Down $160 or not, it's not worth having my dog exhibit fear and reactivity.

It was funny, when we got home I went into the backyard and did some agility practice.  The life was restored to her.  She was exuberant, playful, and happy to be working.

Today I thought, okay, we'll start over.  Clean slate new day.  Nope - I'm sitting on the couch and she lets out a nice long growl at my dad, who she had just seen minutes before, as he enters the house.  I've been working so hard to keep door confrontations from happening, but I guess I overestimated her recent successes.

I hate to sound so down, but I really am.  She'd been making so much progress the past few months, peaking at a successful completion of the Canine Good Citizen.  Now, in just a couple of days, I'm seeing behaviors that I thought were gone or were never there in the first place.

Maybe I sprang too much on her too fast.  Maybe I'm forgetting the life she had before she came here and expecting too much too soon.  I thought she'd be ready for Rally - maybe she is - but I'm upset that she had to be in an environment last night that made her uncomfortable.

And, the whole dad issue - I thought it was on the upswing.   This one kills me.  To have two individuals living under the same roof who are not 100% compatible with each other is a daily struggle. 

 I can't imagine what it's like having a dog who is comfortable with everyone.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chiiiilled out.

So I had another post on here a short while ago, but after calming down and analyzing the situation, I thought it was better to scrap the whole entry and start over.

If you scroll back a couple of days, you'll see that Marge had an encounter with a Cane Corso near a neighbor's fence.  Well, the same thing happened again today with a couple people - not dogs, this time.  I wasn't with her this time - my sister was.

Anyway, I'm trying to piece together why all of this is going on.

What has basically happened since Tre moved in is the disturbance of the delicate balance of dogs on our block.  It was always Marge and Buddy, and Tre would be around sometimes, but not often.

Now, Marge is sandwiched in between these two dogs, who have known each other a long time.  Basically, my backyard is an island in an ocean otherwise comprised of Tre and Buddy's 'territory.'

Marge can't be around Tre when Buddy's around.  The three dogs can only see each other in pairs of twos.  It's a possession issue, without a doubt.  Marge is often at the receiving end of this aggression.  So, I think by barking at other dogs and people when she is near Tre's fence, she's turning the tables and barking at them before they, basically, can bark at her.

I can't say I really blame her for this response.  She's worried that a friend - who she cannot see very often due to the aforementioned "A+B, C your way out" kind of thing that's going on - is going to be taken away from her any time someone approaches.  She's guarding him by becoming reactive and letting everyone know that she isn't going anywhere.

Now, how to fix this?  I think it's going to be the careful combination of diligence and the clicker.  She can't be around the fence when the dogs are aggressing.  I'll avoid it completely.  Because I think it's THEIR behaviors that are, basically influencing her.

The second - desensitization.  I am not using the clicker enough.  (On a walk today, she was SO responsive to the clicker, and did not react towards any person or barking dog or object she saw.  Her attention is impeccable.)  I need to go out there, at a time when there's people going by but no dogs are out, and click, click, click, for silence and good behavior.  Which should be easy.

 Gosh.. I discounted myself so much earlier.. But I can do this.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Missing in Action

Sorry I haven't made my blog rounds this week. We should be back to normal now!

The week in review:

- I've been sick as a dog from Tuesday until today. I was able to get to agility before the worst of it set in on Wednesday, but unfortunately, my cameragirl sister was not so lucky. Alas, we have another week of no agility pictures. We've been one germ-filled household. Walks for Marge have been short and sparse. We're just getting back into the swing of things today, with a decent walk and backyard agility session. (The picture above was taken just after the session of an annoyed Marge, who didn't want the camera in her face after doing all that jumping and targeting.)

- Agility on Tuesday was a lot of fun. We practiced the tunnel alot and Marge is going through it even when it's slightly curved. Tried the chute a couple of times, too, but only with the collapsed part held open. She was a little bit afraid of it. Did the A-Frame a whole bunch of times and Marge absolutely loves it. Started weaving as well - very very tricky!

- Rally's starting Sunday. She, supposedly, should be ready for APDT Level 1 at the end of the 8 week session. I'm not holding my breath, but I think there's a trial coming up in July, on the last week of class. Who knows! I guess we'll see if she likes it and how she progresses. APDT is nice because you can treat your dog during non-moving exercises. I'm not looking for the whole Formal-O thing right now, so Rally should be nice for building attention and getting used to the ring.

And, that's really all I've got for now. With two classes next week, hopefully we'll have a lot to blog about!

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Strange Occurrence.

So I was outside just now, getting ready to take Marge for a walk. I stopped to talk to my neighbors. One of them just moved onto the block and has a Yorkshire/Rottweiler (yes, I know) mix that Marge really likes.

A Cane Corso walks by - a dog that Marge has known since he was a pup. She's timid around him because of his size, but doesn't really have any problems with him.

The Corso goes up to the fence where the Tre is. Marge went ballistic. Barking and hackles up like I've never seen her do before to another dog.

After a few seconds the poor Corso walked away, totally freaked out by Marge and the other dog barking at him, and I continued on my walk.

We crossed paths again on another block and Marge was alright. No reaction, really.

I kept walking a bit and took her into the field, where a man was walking his small, adorable Dobe/GSD mix. She went right up to him and liked him. Very loose body language, looked like she wanted to play.

So I think that Marge has some kind of thing either relating to big dogs or Tre's fence.. or maybe both. The only other time she showed any reactivity on a leash (and it was more like just one bellowing bark from my front stoop) was to Lord, the huge GSD.

Hmm. I hope this doesn't happen again. (Any of my blogging behavior experts care to weigh in?)


Yesterday with the company went alright - she gave a growl to one of my aunts who left the house and re-entered, but thankfully it was my most-dog-friendly aunt of the three that were here. I gave Marge TONS of breaks outside... walking, frozen yogurt stuffies, and all that kind of stuff. But, honestly, she seemed like she wanted to be with the people. Yet, I didn't want to grant her wish completely - you never know if someone will push her too far. So, she had her time inside (where she laid down in a room full of 11 people) and her time outside too.

Tomorrow, at long as there isn't some freakish weather, I will be back with Agility pictures. (And as long as my designated camera girl, my sister, can come with me.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Social Testing

Today, being Mother's Day, is bringing a rather large crowd to my house. I originally thought it was going to only be a couple of people - both grandmothers and two aunts. No problem.

That list, over the past couple of days, has extended to two grandmothers, three aunts, two cousins and possibly some significant others.

This is going to be the most people Marge has ever seen in this house. Last time I had a crowd of friends over - summer '08 - it was when we had first gotten Marge. She was overwhelmed as soon as the FIRST person entered the house, and we kept her downstairs with my sister for the remainder of the day. So, she never saw the half-dozen other people that came.

Fortunately, we've had some good visitor experiences lately. My friend stopped in to my house with me the other day. I walked through the door with her, and Marge was excited to see me, so it didn't matter. It doesn't hurt that Marge has already met this person, too.

Yesterday we discovered there are termite problems in our area (oh, the fun of living in the city), so my parents have decided to pay for preventative treatment to the perimeter of our house. A woman from the exterminating company came in. Not wanting to chance a door confrontation with a person Marge has never seen before, I took her outside and threw treats to her as the woman approached the house (Marge NEVER reacts in this situation, but I figured it would be super awesome to have her distracted completely). Went fine, and I let her offleash into the house. Wasn't really bothered by the woman's presence.

I'm banking on a couple of things to help today go right:

  • Yogurt. My sister and I had a yogurt party yesterday, stuffing a kong, twist-n-treat, and hollow cow shin bone all with yogurt. That's all currently in my freezer now, much to my mom's disliking. We have a bully stick for backup, if we need it.
  • Outside. Marge is going to stay outside for a lot of the day, if that's what she wants. Additionally, we're going to try to have some of the guests eat their meal outside (I will be one of them) such that the house isn't super cramped.

This should go alright, as long as I'm diligent and no one acts stupidly. Wish me luck.

Happy Mother's Day to all out there. Enjoy your special day!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Thundering Thursday

So, agility WAS cancelled Tuesday, much to our dismay(s?), which is why we never came back and updated earlier in the week.

doG must not want us to practice, because I set up some of my makeshift backyard agility course, only to be disturbed by bees, which scared me (I'm a sissy around bees) and intrigued Marge. She had no idea what the heck those things were doing buzzing in the air next to each other.

^^^ That was my best attempt at creating something wobbly, such that Marge will be less scared of the teeter when we finally do it. It took very few clicks to get her walking across these slats, which I think are back-ups for our fence. If only my father knew what good use they're being put to.

I would have went back out after the bees so rudely interrupted us, but then this started showing up:

So backyard agility was cut short. At least Marge got through the storm okay, thanks to my dad coming home and eating a nice big piece of steak. I was all set to start doling out treats to her when the thunder struck..I didn't really have to.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Doorway to Success

CLOUDY AND SHOWERS -- that seems to be the story of our lives right now. I feel like we haven't had a day of sun in weeks. Oh well. As long as agility class tomorrow isn't cancelled, I'll deal with it.

So, we had a good experience at the front door today. My sister is having a tutor come for Math Regents prep. This woman is soft spoken, very neutral in appearance, just really a regular person who will pet Marge a bit without being overwhelming. In other words, she fits the bill as a person Marge would like. (How creepy it sounds to say this kind of stuff. Oh well.. fearful dog owners everywhere can relate, I'm sure.) Rather than go through my usual routine - sit outside, wait for the person to come, let them go in, give many treats, et cetera. Instead, I took a gamble. She's already met the tutor once and likes her. I saw her car pull up, waited by the door with a fistful of treats, Marge on leash, and let the woman in as Marge chowed down.

Not an ounce of fear. Not really an ounce of care.

This seems like a great opportunity to slowly desensitize Marge to having this woman in the house - a brand new person to add to Marge's "List of People Who Can Get Through the Front Door." Maybe next week we'll try it leashless, just throwing treats to the ground, and then take it from there.

Don't want to jinx anything, but Marge has been okay with my dad and the door lately, too. Of course, we're taking lots of precautions and issuing lots of jackpots, but improvement is improvement. *knock on wood*

Tomorrow night I hope to be back here with pictures from Agility, which promises to be a soggy experience - I imagine the field is rather swamplike right now.

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