Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Human Flaws

We just can't keep away from the beach. Here are a couple of shots from our pleasant romp there around noon.

The day started off well, but got a little rocky in the evening.

As many of you know, my father has not yet fully won Marge's approval, to put it mildly. She is leaps and bounds ahead of where she was when I first got her (though he'll never admit to that), but we do still have some problems. Her issues are mostly apparent when he comes home - I've been working extensively to get her to move away from the door when he is coming so that she'll not growl. That's been going well, but she does have her reservations about being too close to him, depending on the situation.

Food, however, changes the entire picture. If he has food, she'll (begrudgingly and anxiously) do anything that he asks. Tonight, he wanted her next to him as he sat on the couch. Despite my obvious disapproval, he chose to do what he wanted, and told Marge to lay down next to him while he intermittently fed her treats. That wouldn't have been terrible, if not for how much he petted her, asked for behaviors, etc. Marge, though not absolutely terror stricken, made it apparent that she was not wholly comfortable.

This, of course, got her hyped up, which, in turn, made her hyped up when my sister and her unassuming math tutor entered after finishing working in the adjacent room. Marge likes the tutor, but, due to the situation, got very nervous when she approached. Her hackles raised and she kept her distance; I did not worry because I know that the tutor never provokes her and mostly ignores her. My dad, on the other hand, ordered her to sit in one spot.


Don't get me wrong, my dad is great, BUT, BUT, BUT, he has the training all wrong with Marge and despite my nearly constant suggestions to him or criticism of his behavior, it has not changed. And, it likely will not change. He simply doesn't view Marge's issues the same way I do. I'm the person trying to change or manage these behaviors so my dog and I can go out and have fun. He's the person saying that Marge is Marge and her attitudes about various things cannot be altered. It's a different generation, a different mindset.

Later on, we headed out for a walk. I think it was doomed from the start. I should have known that I'd wind up analyzing every little behavioral response by Marge, linking it subconsciously to the prior dad/tutor/hackles situation, which was ultimately started by my dad, in my opinion, and deeming the day a massive failure.

It wasn't an awful walk - but I felt like Marge was reacting to tiny little things, turning her head to listen to various noises, and all that kind of stuff. As a result, I wound up walking longer than I originally anticipated, looking for that "perfect point" where Marge looked happy and engaged and 100% perfect - not just satisfactory or good, but perfect - to turn around for home. Though the tail end of the walk was actually pretty good, I know that I both walked too far and handled some situations incorrectly.

When we have these days where the cards just seem to continually come crashing down, even if it's just little things adding up, it's hard to think of everything in perspective. Yes, she started out at rock bottom and now is much better. But, when we encounter some bumps along the way, I begin to worry that we'll start crashing down again, for real, like we did over the summer. And that is my biggest flaw. Just like my dog, I can be a terrific worrier.

Fortunately, Marge and I went home and had the most super-positive happy and amazing agility/rally practice in the back yard. I think it was the best thing we could have done.

We'll start all over again tomorrow. What other choice do we have?


NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With Khattledog January 26, 2010 at 11:31 PM  

Your last line sums it up khwite well!

PeeEssWoo: That's how I have to approach with my khrazy mom ;-)

Diana January 27, 2010 at 6:02 AM  

It sounds like you are doing the best you can. Men, for some reason, want to control things. My husband always gets his feeling hurt, I think, when he throws a ball or toy and the dogs wont go get it. If I throw it, everyone goes tearing down the hall.
Maybe you need a different approach with your dad. Prasie the thing he is doing right. Ignore the things he is doing wrong. Or say "Dad can you help me with this? Im trying to teach Marge ....." Maybe your dad think Marge doesnt like him and he thinks this is the way to fix things.
I hate when walks dont go the way I think they should. I use them to relax but sometimes is not relaxing at all when all the dogs are trying to chase cars and bikes. Diana

Sara January 27, 2010 at 6:05 AM  

"Everyday is fresh with no mistakes in it."

Unfortunately, we can't always control how other people act around our dogs, and everyone is an "expert" when it comes to dog training.

We all have bad days, even dogs. Oreo has had days where he had complete meltdowns on the agility field. The next time I brought him out, he was a star. So, don't get too discouraged.

Cyndi and Stumpy January 27, 2010 at 7:07 AM  

crap happens. It's key that none of todays events are the kind that will scar. Looking at the day from another viewpoint, as you did, gives you a chance to see how far marge has come.

Our dogs don't live in a bubble so we will never NOT have to deal with unwanted behaviors from the surrounding humans or our dogs. I think it's awesome Marge will sit next to your dad. and all the tutor got was raised hackles? AMAZING!

Frankie Furter and Ernie January 27, 2010 at 8:41 AM  

I guess you need a nice sign.

If at first you don't succeed, try try again.
I'm just sayin'.

Jules January 27, 2010 at 9:21 AM  

It actually sounds like Marge did well considering your dad was pushing her buttons. The worst thing about any behavior mod program is getting everyone on the same page. It took a severe (IMO) reaction from Ike before my husband finally stepped up and joined the program.

I, too, am a worrier and I think in lots of instances worrying is necessary and useful - it can also be supremely UN-useful and an unnecessary waste of energy. ;-)

Here is a super quote I found in the book Painkillers by Jerry Stahl:

worrying is just praying for what you don't want

I love it! I hope today is a better day for you and Marge.

Jules January 27, 2010 at 9:28 AM  

Interestingly Patricia McConnell's post yesterday was "Why Dogs are More Afraid of Men" and it talks about the way scientists think men's gait appears to dogs.


BRUTUS January 27, 2010 at 9:30 AM  

Yep, every day is a new day! It does amaze me how things can be so bad one day - you feel like throwing in the towel - but then the next day you have a better one than ever.. You just never know which you're gonna get (al a Forrest Gump).
My husband is a little weird with the training discipline department with Brutus. At least he admits it though - he doesn't have a clue!! Oh, well...
Oh and to answer your weave pole question: Brutus learned channel weaves (the set we have is adjustable, if you look at the bases). He's not nearly as good of a weaver as Marge, though!! The good thing is he'll so them totally on his own, with me on either side. The bad news is that he does them in his own time - usually S-l-o-w!! The first time through each day is the fastest, after a few times through he's just walking through them!!


Fred January 27, 2010 at 10:40 AM  

Yes, tomorrow is another day. :) It sounds as if you and Marge are both doing a great job; setbacks happen occasionally! Beautiful pictures, by the way.

Golden Woofs! SUGAR January 27, 2010 at 10:52 AM  

Woof! Woof! Certainly ... Another NEW happy Fantastic Day. Great Photos. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

Princess January 27, 2010 at 11:14 AM  

Good luck with it and I hope it keeps getting better. Great pictures btw.

Natasha January 27, 2010 at 12:02 PM  

You've done an incredible job with Marge! Although there will always be barriers and people who don't agree or understand, what you're doing for Marge is more than most people could! I'm a huge worrier too, and I've had to convince myself many, many times that sometimes it seems like everything just comes crashing down...but what we had before can, and always does, come back.

I admire your determination. Keep it going :)

AC January 27, 2010 at 1:22 PM  

Sam, Oh the rollercoaster of behavior modification. I too, tend to be on edge anytime something negative happens with Kona. I often become fixated on things that I'd quickly move on from on a different day.

I've gotten better at letting go of those negative events partly from realizing that no one thing will make my dog backslide to square one. It seems like even if the hard times span months, not just days, when you've laid the foundation of trust, you will bounce back. . .even forward!

And thanks for visiting! It's great to connect with other people with 'special dogs.'

Kari in Alaska January 27, 2010 at 2:10 PM  

its always difficult to have "outsiders" no matter how close they are work with your dog and take instruction from you. Some people just feel that they know what they should do

kissa-bull January 27, 2010 at 2:55 PM  

that beach pic looks really pawsome
can we join you guys for a swim next time
can we?? can we ??
the houston pittie pack

Kathy Mocharnuk January 27, 2010 at 3:06 PM  

Sounds like an awefully frustrating evening....thankfully Marge is doing well and making pretty constant progress and unfortunately life happens and you are controlling all the things you can control-on the super bright side it sounds like Marge actually did very well considering-so I would say control what you can and trust Marge when you really do not have control. I think it is hard for people who have not read/worked with all the counter conditioning and all to not just think a dog should deal with it and suck it up, sigh.....then they watch shows like the dog whisperer and shows like that....where problems are fixed in a nanosecond...

KB January 27, 2010 at 4:48 PM  

There will be days like that in life. It's inevitable. The hard part is learning to leave an event behind and live in the present. E.g., learning to put the whole household-Marge situation out of your head while you go for a walk. For me, it's been one of the few things about getting older that I've liked - that I've learned to realize that I'm uselessly rehashing something rather than paying attention to the here and now.

I don't mean to leap to any conclusions about what was up with you and Marge on your walk. I'm just thinking about what I might have been experiencing in the same situation.

I'm so glad that you had some fun rally training after such a rough day. The light shines when you least expect it!

And, there's definitely a tendency toward a generational difference in attitudes towards dogs. We have relatives who I'm fairly certain think that our methods are completely nuts. They'd prefer to assert their authority as the alpha and be done with it...

Gus, Louie and Callie January 27, 2010 at 5:02 PM  

yepper do it over again...
Love the pictures..

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

Life With Dogs January 27, 2010 at 11:50 PM  

Maybe she read you and figured out just what you needed to feel confident again. :)

The Thundering Herd January 28, 2010 at 4:41 AM  

One way to look at it - part of dog training is getting the dog to be able to handle all situations. My most fearful dog - Kiska - is quite the project. But part of her rehabilitation is having her handle the attention we get when we are out in public. She looks to me for reassurance - and I monitor the situation very, very carefully and remove her from it if need be - but otherwise she has learned to deal with inappropriate human interaction appropriately - if that makes sense.

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Cheryl, Indiana, Shingo and Molly January 28, 2010 at 11:00 AM  

That beach certainly looks inviting! We wish we lived close to a beach!

Woofs and Kisses!

Martha January 28, 2010 at 2:09 PM  

A new day a new challenge! We love your beach pics and wish we lived nearer. It seems to be perfect place for the two of you to relax from all the trial and tribulations of life.
Sorry we are falling behind!
love and kisses
Martha & Bailey xx

The Army of Four January 28, 2010 at 2:59 PM  

Sigh. I wish we had a beach like that at the Kansas Ocean. Mom would take me there every DAY!
Play bows,

Chris and Ricky January 28, 2010 at 3:44 PM  

Hi Sam,

We've been reading your comments on lots of blogs and are sorry we have been so slow to come over and start reading your's. Sorry you had such a bad day - you're right - you just go on to the next day. From what we've read so far, you are doing an amazing job with Marge. Nothing goes in a straight line and there seem to always be some setbacks.

Mom doesn't enjoy the majority of our morning walks in our neighborhood because I go ballistic each time a car passes. Nothing she has tried has seemed to get through to me. She wants to teach me the Look at that game - do you have a blog post that describes how you taught that to Marge (if you did teach her)? We've read Control Unleashed but aren't sure how to learn the game and still be able to do morning walks (because I always end up over threshold).

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart January 28, 2010 at 7:12 PM  

Two things: First, stop with the water photos ... we're so jealous. The only water here is frozen (as in snow, ice, etc.)

Second, I promise you life gets better when you live in your own home. Your house, your rules.

Teal'c January 28, 2010 at 10:13 PM  

Hiya! I'm Teal'c from Sydney and me and my mom are just doing our "blog-clicking" as we call it :)
Even if the walk wasn't all good - your beaches look amazing!!!!!
Slobbers Teal'c

Muttsandaklutz January 29, 2010 at 6:25 PM  

"I wound up walking longer than I originally anticipated, looking for that "perfect point" where Marge looked happy and engaged and 100% perfect - not just satisfactory or good, but perfect - to turn around for home." I know exactly what you mean. A few years ago when I was working hard at improving Walter's dog-dog social skills there were many walks at the dog park when things just weren't going how I wanted them to and I kept holding out for the one perfect interaction that would mean we could end our walk on a great note. Even now every once in a while we'll have a walk like that and I have to remind myself that not every walk will go the way I want it to and if he's had enough, time to call it a day and head home.

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