The hills I never noticed

Had a lovely walk with Spendog yesterday.  Mostly.  One of our usual walks, fairly quiet for the most part but there’s the river and wooded areas and loads of sniffs.  We saw a fox too, ran right across the path about 10 metres in front of us.  Spen of course wanted to play.  Took the pram yesterday as I’d hurt my shoulder and didn’t want to make it worse by carrying Jack for miles.  I think the sling may have been the better option though lol.  I honestly didn’t realise just how many hilly bits there are on that walk until yesterday.  They’re not big hills, far from it although one is fairly steep.  But when you’re hanging on to your dog with one hand, pushing a pram with the other and it’s muddy it’s one hell of a work out!  Don’t need gym membership that’s for sure!  Plus Jack doesn’t really sleep in the pram so he ended up cranky towards the end because he was tired.  But he’ll have to get used to it, don’t think a dog walk with the sling when it’s icy out and slippery under foot is going to be happening, it’s going to be the pram on those days.

Spen was pretty good.  Didn’t pull too much, didn’t go mad about seeing other dogs, was mostly happy to stay on one side of the pram.  He did insist on going swimming though.  Apparently it’s never too cold for a Labradork to swim.

IMG_6549 IMG_6551 IMG_6546 IMG_6544 IMG_6534

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On parenthood and dog ownership

Whew, it’s been a hell of a long time since I last posted anything here!  Sorry about that to any followers I still have, things got more than a bit hectic here.  My pregnancy did NOT go well at all.  At 11 weeks we were told there was around a 60% chance there was something seriously wrong and a good chance the baby wouldn’t survive.  A million and one scans and a giant needle stuck into my belly later we were finally given the all clear at 20 weeks.  I had really bad sciatica type pain through most of the pregnancy, was diagnosed with SPD later on, my blood pressure was up and down like a yo-yo and eventually I went in to have my blood pressure checked and was told “you’re having this baby this weekend, you’re at high risk of seizures”.  Well their faces when I reminded them I was epileptic lol.  A little over 2 hours later I was being prepped for an emergency c section and Jack was born weighing 7lbs 3oz.  A week later we finally came home.  And oh boy was Spens nose out of joint!

Having a baby and owning a dog stories always seem to go one of two ways when you ask people, either it’s a nightmare and the dog ends up rehomed or it’s absolute perfection from the start, dog loves baby and all that.  Well for us it’s been neither.  Poor Spen has been an absolute star the last 9 months or so.  His exercise went from long walks on a daily basis to perhaps one long walk a week because I could barely walk across my tiny living room.  Hell, I could barely get out of bed some days.  I felt terrible for him but he coped brilliantly.  He got shunted around family while I was in hospital.  Again, he coped.  Although he did keep my brother up all night the night he had him stay there and apparently made a nest out of all his clothes lol.  He was most put out when I finally came home and brought a horrendously noisy creature with me to disrupt his life.  And his life certainly has been disrupted by Jacks arrival.  But again, he’s coped so well.

Spencer mostly ignored Jack for the first couple of months which was fine by us, we didn’t want him obsessed with the baby.  We let him have a sniff when we first brought him home but he wasn’t overly interested.  He’d come and nudge me in the night when he heard Jack stirring but I’m not sure whether that was just so I’d shut the noisy thing up sooner lol.  He doesn’t like being in the room when Jack cries even now, I think he noise must be too loud for him.  Yet if he cries while we’re somewhere other than home he’s right there to make sure everything is okay.  Once he knows someone’s noticed (although how we couldn’t notice I don’t know!) he’ll happily wander off again.  So Spencer and Jack haven’t been a problem really.  The problem has been getting into some sort of routine.  We’re 13 weeks in now and just about have a very general routine going on.  Get up and feed Jack around 5am, go back to bed until 7ish, give him second breakfast, get him dressed and a bag packed for going out.  Offer him another feed, even if it’s just a top up.  Get Spens harness and leash on.  Get Jack wrapped or in his pram, whichever I’m using that day.  Go out for a walk.  We’re usually out and about somewhere between 8 and 9am now.  I’ve found that if I don’t walk Spen first thing then he generally doesn’t get a walk.  Which isn’t fair to him so I try to make sure we head out first thing.

Then there are the practicalities of walking a dog with a baby.  Take a pram and you often find yourself thwarted in your walking attempts by horrendous mud.  Or stairs.  Or gateways that are too narrow for the pram.  Or stiles.  So I looked at baby wearing and I absolutely love carrying Jack hands free.  But there are still downsides to it.  What if someones out of control dog jumps at me?  What if I’m knocked down from behind?  What if a dog grabs his dangling foot?  What if it’s icy out?  We’re tending to stick to the same 2 areas for walks.  Dogs are mostly off leash (Spen is on a flexi as I just can’t chase after him if I’ve got Jack with me) and meet and greet and move on for the most part.  Owners are generally pretty good at moving their dogs on or intervening if it’s needed.  And it’s rare we meet a dog who’s jumping all over everyone.  So I feel reasonably safe.  It’s also reasonably pram friendly as long as we stick to the tow path.

Now Spen hates walking with the pram so we’re working on that.  He’s okay in off leash areas when he’s got a bit more freedom with a longer lead (I use a walking belt with the pram so can’t use the flexi) but on the road walk part he’s clearly uncomfortable.  He’ll walk with it but he stays as far away as he can get.  And with the pram I have to stop and let other dogs pass on narrow paths, I can’t just walk past like I can with the sling.

So, how about some pictures!

Here’s Jack when he was first born

IMG_5799

Out on a walk with hubby

IMG_5983

First walk alone with the pram and Spen

IMG_6396 IMG_6406

Just Jack

IMG_6210

Being carried on a walk

IMG_6447

And a family photo

IMG_6230

We don’t have many pics of Spen and Jack together as we don’t force the issue.  Spen will come along and have a fuss while I’m feeding Jack or he’ll lick his hands or feet (Jack hates his feet being licked!) but he’s not that interested yet.  Things will likely change when he’s mobile and eating food lol.

And some Spendog pics

IMG_6186 IMG_6180 IMG_6163 IMG_5865 IMG_5702 IMG_5589

This one made me laugh.  I was preparing to bath Jack, put his changing mat on the floor with a towel so I could just turn and wrap him right up and someone decided it was a new dog bed.

rsz_img_6325

So yeah, it’s not been all sunshine and roses for us the way it seems to be for so many but we’re finally getting there with being parents and dog owners and getting into some sort of routine for walks and stuff.  We’ve had to stop going to class as they’ve moved location and it’s just too far for me to walk to.  Nor is there any bus that goes close enough for me to get there by bus.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A month of classes

We’ve been going to class for around a month now so time for an update I think.  Spen has been improving slowly.  Not so that anyone would really notice for the most part but I’ve seen the tiny steps in the right direction that keep me going back and working with him.  His recall when I’m with people has been awful for a while.  I think I’ve somehow taught him that he doesn’t need to pay attention to me when others are there so he just goes off and does his own thing.  He doesn’t run off, he keeps an eye on me and won’t go too far, he just doesn’t tend to come to me when called so I have to go and get him.

Today he came when called.  Not instantly, it wasn’t as easy as call him and have him turn and come sprinting back to me, I had to actually work to get his attention and then work to keep him coming to me once he did start to come back.  But a huge improvement.  He has decided that it’s now warm enough to go swimming at every opportunity but I don’t mind that, it’s not like he runs off to go swimming, the walk is along the river in places and he’s happy enough to have a splash around and come out.

He also ignored several other dogs today.  Not class ones, he ignores them completely for the most part anyway, one was a staffie who came looking for treats, we carried on training while it pestered other owners, then there was a collie who came up and sniffed his bum, he looked round and went back to the important business of reading his pee mail.  And then there was a Cav who we walked past on lead without a second glance.  He’s been a lot better with that in general lately.  I guess perhaps dogs aren’t such a novelty now so it’s much easier to just walk past them without greeting them.  He’s usually still keen to meet and greet if the other dog approaches but it’s so nice to be able to pass without any real issues.

Things aren’t going so well with the head collar though.  He’s no objection to it being put on, no objection to doing static work in it.  And half the time no objection to walking in it.  However, when he wants to sniff and is thwarted by it it’s a completely different matter.  Tantrum isn’t even in it.  And he is so adept at removing it very, very quickly that it’s becoming a major point of frustration for me which upsets him and makes him even more likely to object to it.  We’re going to switch to a front attaching harness instead in the hopes that will give me the control I need at the moment without the objections from him.

And some recent pics of him.  Coz how can I have a post about Spendog without photos?

I was sorting through some boxes and stopped for something to eat.  Went back to the bedroom to carry on and this had happened.  Apparently he must fit on the bed no matter how he has to curl up to do so.

IMG_5242

Sock monkey.  This was a present from his secret santa and we can’t go anywhere without it at the moment.

IMG_5234

 

Out on walks.

 

 

 

IMG_5266

IMG_5268

 

And in my parents garden.

IMG_5274

IMG_5257

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back in the UK

Well it’s been a long time since I posted anything here, time to pick it back up again I think!  We’ve had a few changes around here in the last few months.  We found out at the end of October that my husband was going to be medically discharged from the army.  End of November we were offered a flat in the UK to take over at the beginning of December.  Talk about rush much??  We also found out on the same day we were offered the flat that I’m pregnant.  So…things got a bit hectic lol.  I flew back to Manchester at the beginning of December leaving Spendog with Calvin in Germany.  They drove back together after he sorted the German end of things out.  We moved into our flat on the 23rd December.  Don’t ever move that close to Christmas, getting anything sorted out is a nightmare.

Calvin and Spen stopped off at his parents for a few days before travelling up to Manchester.  Spencer made himself right at home with Calvins family despite having never been there before and having never met any of them before.  The kids apparently loved him and he seemed to have fun playing with them and cuddling up.  Then they came here and we had Christmas with my family.  Spen did brilliantly.  Me and my brother took him for a good run before Christmas dinner so that he’d be tired and happy to settle.  Used to walk on this field with Shadow and Wolf pretty much daily.

IMG_5091 IMG_5102 IMG_5116 IMG_5135 IMG_5146

 

Then crackers were pulled which fascinated Spen and he kept stealing them.  Tried to get a picture of him carrying one but the best I could do was one that looked like it was levitating in his face.

IMG_5147

 

Moving in to our new home was fun.  Lots to investigate.

IMG_5061 IMG_5065

 

And of course he had to help tidy up.

IMG_5063

 

We’re fairly settled now though.  Spencer also started classes 2 weeks ago.  At the godawful hour of 9:30 on a Sunday morning.  It’s an outdoor class which is the sort I thought would benefit Spen more as he’s so well behaved at home and when it’s just me and him out and about but his behaviour falls apart a bit when we’re with anyone.  So this class seems perfect.  We go for a walk, we do some training, the dogs get some off leash time, we work on real life skills rather than just obedience skills.  So far I feel like we’ve only turned up to make everyone else look good lol.  But it’s early days yet, I’m sure we’ll get better.  And Spen is really good in the pub we call in at on the way home for a hot drink after class.

We’ve got some lovely walks around here although they’re quite busy with other dog walkers.  We’ve gone from seeing perhaps one or two dogs a week to seeing loads every time we go for a walk.  Which doesn’t do much for my anxiety about strange dogs.  But it’s done a lot for Spens ability to pass other dogs without a huge fuss.  We passed a Yorkie on a narrow pavement this afternoon with only a little whining and no real pulling to get to it.  At one point that would have been impossible without me pinning him up against the wall to let them pass.

Anyway, here’s some pictures from a couple of our local walks.

IMG_5159 IMG_5165 IMG_5168 IMG_5171 IMG_5177

And this is where we go to class.  This isn’t at class, we just went for a walk that way since its only 10 minutes up the road.

IMG_5183 IMG_5188 IMG_5191 IMG_5193 IMG_5198 IMG_5202

 

So yeah, that’s us back home🙂  Well done if you actually made it this far!  Will try to post more regularly now things have settled down a bit.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Risking others in the name of socialisation

Well, it’s been a while and here I am, back with a rant.  A rant about owners of dogs who aren’t really sociable with other dogs.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with dogs who don’t like other dogs and no problem with those who own and manage them responsibly.  I’ve been there myself after all.  It’s the irresponsible ones I have a problem with.  The owners who are in denial about their dogs behaviour.  The owners who continue to allow their dogs to practise anti-social behaviour towards other dogs.  The ones who make up excuses as to why their dog is the way it is and why they’re doing next to nothing about the problem.  Or paying lip service to what they’ve been advised to do while continuing to do what they’ve always done anyway.

I don’t care what you call the problem.  Aggression.  Reactivity.  Iffy with other dogs.  It doesn’t matter.   Nor do I care why your dog is that way, whether it’s down to a lack of early socialisation, a vicious attack, being bullied by other dogs and feeling defensive.  Again, it doesn’t matter.  Quite simply, if your dog is going to rush up to another dog and attack him, whether with intent or just rude bully boy type tactics, then keep him on the leash.  If your dog is going to attack another dog that comes up to him then you need to take measures to prevent other dogs coming up to him.  Whether that’s walking at odd hours to avoid other dogs, avoiding off leash areas, learning to body block other dogs and teaching yours to stay behind you while you deal with the approaching dog or whatever.  And no, I don’t believe simply sticking a yellow ribbon or vest on the dog is sufficient precaution.  Will it help?  I don’t know, a muzzle and a shouted warning never had much effect so I don’t see how a ribbon or vest will be that effective.  I actually found that saying my dog had a contagious disease worked best to convince others that they should come get their dog.  Made me look irresponsible but meant a hell of a lot less stress for me and my dog.

I’m sure that sounds very harsh and unfeeling to some.  And of course it matters to the owner why the dog behaves the way he does and in some respects it may mean a different approach is needed when it comes to training and expectations.  It just doesn’t change the fact that the dog needs to be managed so he isn’t causing problems for others.  It is not fair on my dog to have a random dog rush across a field to threaten him.  Or even worse, actually hurt him.  It’s not fair on me as his owner to have to deal with the potential fall out from that happening.  People seem to think that if their dog can’t or won’t physically injure another (and just a note, ALL dogs can cause physical harm, I don’t care how small they are or how much bigger their victim is) then it’s okay, there’s no harm done.  Well that’s simply not true.  Very often the physical injuries are the least of it.  It’s the psychological harm done that’s the biggest problem.  The physical injuries are healed up in a few weeks, the mental scars left can last a lifetime.

But, back to the real point of this rant.  I am sick to death of seeing and hearing about people using other peoples dogs as guinea pigs to try to figure out and work on their own dogs aggressive behaviour.  Especially when they’re doing it without the knowledge or consent of other dog owners and just letting their dog interact with random dogs they meet.  Especially when they know that if things don’t play out the way they hope that other dog is likely to get hurt.  Quite honestly, I would be absolutely raging if my dog got hurt by another dog who was allowed to approach him and I found out the dog had done it before.  Not just once but many times.  And that the owner still allowed it to approach other dogs because “sometimes he’s fine”.   Yes, sometimes he’s fine.  But what about all the times he isn’t fine?  The times he hurts or badly frightens the dog you’ve allowed him to approach?  What about the effect that has on the victim?  And on the owner of the victim?

But let’s say you don’t care about the effect your dogs behaviour may have on others, I’m quite sure many don’t.  Let’s focus on your dog.  How does allowing him to practise this supposedly unwanted behaviour help him?  Simple answer, it doesn’t.  The more a dog practises a behaviour the more he’s likely to show it.  So by allowing him to keep approaching and intimidating other dogs you’re simply increasing the chances of him doing it.  Which is supposedly not what you want.  There’s also a good chance that one day he will try it with the wrong dog (or owner!) and end up hurt himself.  Or perhaps you as his owner will end up hurt.  And I’m sure that’s not what you want.  Is it?  I have to wonder sometimes.  Especially with those who used to tell me that my aggressive dog biting theirs might “teach him a lesson”.  No, it wouldn’t have.  Well, it might have done but probably not the lesson they wanted their dog to learn.  And it would have been an expensive one too as Rupert didn’t mess around with all this noise and slobber business.  Hence the muzzle.  Which apparently was an act of cruelty on my part according to many people.  Apparently “such a lovely dog” didn’t need muzzling.  Another comment I got a lot was “oh but he doesn’t look vicious!”  What exactly does a “vicious” dog look like?  I’m sure if Rupert had been a Staffie or a Rottweiler nobody would have questioned the need for a muzzle.

But again, back to the point.  I’m good at wandering off on tangents lol.  Yes, Rupert was aggressive.  I’m not going to dance around describing him as reactive or any of the other words people use to sugar coat it.  Reactive seems an odd word to use anyway, all dogs react to things in one way or another so surely all dogs are reactive?  Rupert was, plain and simple, aggressive towards other dogs.  Yes, I could probably clarify that he was fear aggressive but what would that actually change?  Nothing really, he’d still behave the same way and need working with the same way.  I worked on his issues as best I could in a world where people think it’s just fine to allow their dog to rush up to others uninvited.  Even on the main road at rush hour.  We never purposely put other dogs at risk in order to work with him though.  He was kept on a leash.  He was muzzled.  He wasn’t allowed to go up to other dogs and I did my absolute best to keep other dogs from reaching him.  He learned to go behind me and stay there while I dealt with approaching dogs.  I learned to be more proactive in seeing off approaching dogs and insisting their owners retrieve them.  I also learned to accept that Rupert was who he was.  That much as I might want it he was never going to be a “dog park dog”, the sort of dog who could be taken places and meet all sorts of strange dogs without any issues.  That he needed managing to keep both himself and others safe.

I think perhaps that may be part the problem with so many owners.  They can’t accept that.  They don’t want to accept that.  They want to wave a magic wand and have their dog be exactly the sort of dog they want.   And they want it right now, they don’t want to have to put in months or years of hard work to achieve it.  Adding to that, they’re so often told simply that their dog needs “socialising” which is taken to mean that their dog needs to be interacting with other dogs.  I see a hell of a lot of posts on Facebook and the occasional forum post from people looking for “friendly” dogs to help socialise their adult dog who “can be a bit funny with other dogs” and, perhaps more worryingly, I see a lot of responses from people offering their dogs up as guinea pigs.  I can’t help but feel they’re setting their dogs up to be badly hurt or frightened.  It’s all very well an experienced professional using carefully selected dogs as stooge dogs in situations set up to ensure the chances of anyone being hurt or traumatised is minimal, it’s quite another to have your average dog owner just meeting up with someone and hoping for the best.  Or, as so many seem to do, simply hoping for the best with random dogs and their unsuspecting owners.

I’m sure that to some I’m coming across as a real bitch.  Like someone who thinks any dog who isn’t super friendly and willing to put up with anything and everything should be locked away from the public or put to sleep or something.  That honestly isn’t the case.  It’s the complete lack of concern for others so many seem to have when they have a dog who isn’t particularly friendly that makes me angry.   I have a lot of time for those who have a dog with issues and who are genuinely working to try to solve those problems.  I have next to no time for those who constantly ask for advice and help, see trainers and behaviourists who give them professional advice, and yet continue to put the general public at risk with how they go about it because that’s the easier, more convenient (and usually cheaper!) option than going about it safely.

As I say, I’ve been there with an aggressive dog.  I know how draining and lonely it can be.  How heart breaking it is to have all your progress undone by one thoughtless owner.  I know how it feels to get the sighs and tuts, the disapproving looks and snide comments about vicious dogs being out in public.  I have a lot of respect for anyone who is genuinely working with their dog on this sort of problem.  It’s not easy.  There is no magic wand, no quick fix.  It’s hard work and a hell of a lot of management.  Same for those whose dogs who are fearful but don’t show aggression, so many people don’t see a shut down, frightened dog for what it is that the lack of reaction brings its own problems.  That’s something else I have a problem with actually.  Those who feel their frightened dogs should just “man up and deal with it” and force them to face whatever it is that clearly terrifies them.  I’ve had more than a few try to convince their obviously frightened (usually toy breed) dogs to come up and say hello to my large, bouncy Labrador.  And their embarrassed owners tell me how stupid their poor dog is for being frightened of other dogs, that he needs to grow a pair or something similar.  Same with other fears.  It makes me feel sad for the dog.  Where is the compassion?  The concern for how the dog is feeling?

Anyway, I think I’ll end that there.  For now at least.    I hope I haven’t come across as someone who thinks all dogs should be like Lassie, that isn’t my view at all.  This was inspired by seeing so many posts by people knowingly putting random dogs, and in some cases random children, at risk in order to “socialise” their aggressive/fearful dog.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Long time no blog

Yeah, I kind of abandoned my blog for a few months.  Sorry.  Not very good at being consistent with it am I?

So, what’s been going on here?  Not a whole lot really.  We went back to the UK for a visit mid February.  Flight there was a disaster, should have flown into London but due to weather conditions ended up diverted to Liverpool.  Easy Jet told us we could get a taxi to London (at the cost of £400) and claim the cost back later.  Very kind of them because of course everyone has that sort of spare cash just lying around don’t they?  We ended up spending the night at the airport and in the morning getting the hire car booking changed so we could pick it up from Liverpool and we drove to my parents in Manchester to spend a few days there before going to visit hubbys family in Poole.  We didn’t get in to Liverpool until gone 1am so no way of getting anywhere until morning.  Had a good time once we finally got away from the airport though.  We got back, picked Spendog up from kennels and oh my god had they over fed him!  My Labrador was on the verge of becoming a Flabrador!  Thankfully normal rations and exercise soon had him back to his slim self though.

Our husky meets have sadly come to an end.  Demon and Willows owners have been posted away and since we were the only ones still going it’s meant an end to them.  Even more sadly the lovely Demon had to be put to sleep just before they left here.  It was very sudden and unexpected, one day he was fine and the next clearly not fine.  Think that makes it even harder really, at least if they’re old and sick you sort of expect it but when they’re still young and seemingly healthy and it comes out of the blue like that it’s a hell of a shock.  Demon was such a character, he convinced me that I never want a husky but I loved him and I’m sure he’s left a gaping hole in his families lives.

Spencer is currently on house arrest.  He cut his paw a couple of weeks ago on a walk, nothing major, it was a tiny little cut that I just cleaned and kept an eye on which is all I normally do with cut paw pads.  Especially one as minor as this.  I could barely even see the cut it was so small, it was only the fact he was limping that alerted me to it.  But unfortunately it hasn’t healed properly and he was left with a big chunk of dead tissue that he needed surgery to remove.  So he had it done on Saturday morning.  Today is his fifth day without a walk and he is climbing the walls.  We’ve had instructions to have him walking as little as possible which makes even mental stimulation difficult, he gets so enthusiastic about everything that he throws himself around, bounces, whacks things with his paws etc.  He’s also in a cone of shame which doesn’t seem to bother him much but is hell for us.  I wake up to find myself being smothered by the damn thing because he’s rested it on my head.  He tries to go through my legs while wearing it.  He tries to get in my face and give kisses and nearly slits my throat with it.  And nothing is safe from being knocked over.  He was back at the vets for a check yesterday and it’s looking good (he’s not on antibiotics, vet prefers only to give them where necessary which I’m happy about) and all being well he’ll get the stitches out on Friday.

This is mostly what my life has consisted of since Saturday afternoon

IMG_4048

Before his paw we were doing pretty well at getting some of his tricks on verbal cue.  We’ve got paw easily, now working on him giving the other one.  This injury may have set him back a bit on that as his paw is being messed with a lot due to having to leave it uncovered while home but covering it with a sock when he goes out to toilet.  We’ll see.  Spin we seem to be well on the way to getting.  He’s about 99% on a hand signal now and not far off on the verbal cue.  We’re working towards the Dog Trick Geek Awards but we still have a lot of work to put in before we can even get the lowest level one.  We entered a photo competition with them in April and won though.

Spendog posing with his rosette

rosette

 

We’re in the middle of leash season at the moment so it’s been a while since we’ve had any off leash walks but here’s some pics from before it started.

Elvis impersonation

IMG_2880

Our attempt at dog on a log, one day I may actually get him standing on one lol.

IMG_3756

Willow and Avalanche

IMG_3480

Tired puppy.  He fell asleep like this lol

IMG_2953

 

IMG_3723

IMG_3691 IMG_2644

And why I refuse to play with sticks.  Unfortunately Spen loves them and none of the substitutes compare.  So he gets ignored with them since he quickly loses interest then while if I try to stop him having them they become even more fun.

IMG_2818

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fairy dust and waving treats around

Something I seem to be seeing and hearing a lot of lately is the assumption that those of us who use positive reinforcement/force free/whatever you want to call them methods simply wave treats or toys in our dogs face no matter what they do.  Want the dog to recall from chasing that deer?  Wave a toy at him and all is sorted!  Dog is about to run into the road?  Offer him a piece of cheese and disaster averted.  I’m sure anyone who uses non aversive methods to train has seen or heard these sort of examples before, usually given as a reason for why “purely positive” can’t or won’t work or isn’t practical.  And I’m sure that like me you’ve often rolled your eyes, heaved a sigh and tried to explain that there’s a hell of a lot more to it than simply waving treats and toys around.  I thought I’d address some of the common misconceptions I hear about the methods I use.  An actual post about dog training rather than life with Spen, who’d have thunk it!

Firstly, no, I do not reward my dog for doing things I don’t want by giving him treats or playing a game with him.  That wouldn’t make any sense would it?  Nor do I simply ignore all unwanted behaviour.  Some behaviours do get ignored and die out because there is no reward from them.  Self rewarding behaviours I try to pre-empt and ask for an alternative behaviour instead.  So instead of letting Spen jump up when someone approaches and then punishing that I ask him to sit BEFORE he jumps up and then the sit is rewarded.  If I allowed him to get to the jumping up before asking for and rewarding the sit there’s a good chance he’d learn the chain of jump up, sit, get rewarded.  And no, if my dog were about to hurl himself under a car I wouldn’t wave a treat at him and hope for the best, I’d grab him however possible.  An emergency like that is not a training situation, let’s be sensible about things.

Secondly, no, I do not need to have treats on me for my dog to do as I ask.  If I’ve forgotten them or have run out then he’s not suddenly going to stop listening to me.  For one, I don’t only use food to reward Spencer.  There are a hell of a lot of things out there that can be used as a reward and food is only one of them.  Let’s look at what Spen finds rewarding while out and about just off the top of my head and in no particular order.

  • food
  • tug
  • fetch
  • a game of chase
  • sniffing
  • saying hello to person or dog (with their okay of course)
  • me being silly and engaging him

So looking at that list (which I’m sure I could expand upon if I really thought about it) there is always something available for me to use as a reward.  Which leads on to the whole “I don’t want to have to keep rewarding my dog” thing people seem to have going on.  I don’t understand this attitude, I really don’t.  Why do you not want to keep rewarding your dog for doing things for you?  Why do you think he should keep doing them just because you ask him to?  Would you keep on doing everything someone said just because they told you to?  I wouldn’t.  I’d start asking why.  Especially for more difficult or time consuming things.  Why should dogs not be paid for what they do?

Thirdly, the whole “positive is not permissive” saying is true.  My dog is not allowed to simply do as he pleases.  There are rules and boundaries and these are enforced.  Just not in ways that cause him pain or fear.  And again, let’s not be silly and mistake an emergency situation such as running out into the road (this is almost always the one brought up) for a training situation.  But then I suppose it depends on what you consider “permissive” really.   Spencer can still have a tendency to bark at other dogs in frustration if he can’t meet.  We’re working on self control and he is so, so much better than he was but there’s the occasional lapse.  I know some would punish him for it while I don’t as I don’t feel it would really help in the long run.  If I think he’s likely to react out of frustration I’ll either move him on or try to distract him with treats or working with me before he starts barking.  Nor was Rupert punished for his fearful reaction to other dogs as again, I don’t feel it would have helped.  So in that respect perhaps I could be seen as permissive by some.

Fourthly (I’m not even sure that’s a word but oh well), dogs do not need to be punished for getting it wrong to be reliable with the right behaviour.  Or at least not yelled at or physically punished anyway.  Some say that not getting a treat is punishment but if I start looking too in depth at it all I end up with a headache and feeling utterly baffled lol.  It’s the idea that dogs must be set up to get it wrong and then punished for getting it wrong for the behaviour to be reliable I disagree with.  Yes, my dog makes mistakes and those mistakes are not reinforced (hopefully!) but deliberately setting him up to fail so I can punish him does not sit right with me at all.  I much prefer to teach him what I do want him to do and give him reasons to do it than to have to make him not want to do the things I don’t like.

Now don’t get me wrong, Spencer is no angel, far from it in fact.  But I have a reasonably well mannered dog who I can enjoy taking out and about and who is mostly a pleasure to live with.  Nor am I a saint.  There have been occasions where I’ve reverted to the typical primate behaviours of jerking things around and yelling when I’m frustrated or angry.  But for the most part I train using methods that do not cause my dog any pain or fear.   No, I do not as a rule yell at my dog or hit him or yank on his neck or jab him or “show him who’s boss” or anything like that.  But at the same time it’s really not a matter of waving a magic wand, farting out some fairy dust and sparkles and suddenly it’s all rainbows and butterflies.  I’m getting a little tired of being accused of using “namby pamby” or “airy fairy” methods and ridiculed for them to be honest.  I’ve put in a lot of hard work with my dog to get to where we are now and to get there with him happy and confident rather than worried and shut down.  No, he’s not perfect but who is?

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Of snow, nail clippings and cuddles

Still very little of interest to report here really.  We’re off back to the UK for a visit next month so my beloved Spendog is going to go in kennels.  How am I supposed to survive 12 days with no dog??  The kennels we’ve used here are lovely though.  Nothing special, just the run and bed but the lady who runs them is fantastic so I’ve no real concerns leaving Spen there.  Well, none except for the fact I’m leaving him anyway lol.

Spencer has discovered the joys of the sofa in the last few weeks.  Here’s a very rare pic of me (I HATE pics of me, I’m a big fat blob at the moment!) with him cuddled up.  He doesn’t look too comfy, he’d much rather be sprawled across me than lying next to me.   Excuse the make shift computer desk made of boxes lol.

IMG_2140

When he can’t be cuddled up next to me or across me he lies at the other end of the sofa.  We’ve had to buy him his own fleece blanket because he’s been so intent on stealing mine to sleep on.

IMG_2142 IMG_2273

 

We’ve had snow here recently.  Up to now the winter has been really, really mild but last week saw snow and temperatures of around -13.  It’s warmed back up a bit now and today was a positively tropical zero apparently.  It started out as a light dusting that made it look like everything had been sprinkled with icing sugar.

IMG_2172 IMG_2168 IMG_2146

But then we got more of it.  Just in time for the husky meet.  Or the Spencer, Demon and Willow Show as it seems to be now.  We left a load of blood soaked snow behind this week, that’ll fuel the rumours of fights and mega serious injuries that seem to have sprung up about the meet.   I don’t know when these fights and injuries have been happening, I must be hiding under a rock while there because I’ve seen none. There wasn’t a fight or a serious injury this time either, Demon simply broke the end of his dew claw off and of course it bled massively.

IMG_2188 IMG_2245

 

Sadly Spendog has had to be kept on leash a hell of a lot in the snow because his nose goes into overdrive and his ears stop working.  I’m not sure exactly what the snow does to scents but it seems they’re more interesting in the snow and Spen gets a little carried away following them.  If he notices me calling him he’s happy to return to me but getting his attention is a work of art when it’s snowed.  So he’s been stuck on a Flexi except for the husky meet.  And todays walk was more like bambi on ice than a walk.  For both of us.  Slipping and sliding everywhere!  I think we may have to stick to street walks for a bit until it either snows again or it all melts.

Leash walking is coming on well on the way home from our walks though.  He’s anticipating it now and at my side without me saying a word or luring him.  He still wants to go off and sniff so he gets rewarded for a brief stretch of walking nicely by being told to go be a dog.  Then brought back in for more work.  I wish I could get a pic of him walking to heel looking all attentive and happy but all I get is a blur of leg and dog.  Still a work in progress on the way out a he’s so excited to be going out but the actual pulling seems to be a lot less most days.

We’ve practised recall in the snow despite the cloth ears.  Of course he had to do his village idiot impression didn’t he?

IMG_2153 IMG_2151

And we’ve started work on nail clipping again.  Spens nails are horrendously long and always have been.  The problem is that the quick is almost as long as the nail so I can only take a very tiny bit off without making them bleed.  Apparently if I do it regularly enough the quick will shrink though and I can get the nails shorter. So today we bought some better clippers coz I struggle terribly with the ones we have and I’m going to attempt to get them shorter.  They’re not curling under his foot long or anything but they’re longer than they should be.  Anyway, sat there on the sofa with his dinner in its bowl next to me tonight.  Clipped a nail, gave him a piece of food.  Clipped another nail, another piece of food.  He offered me his paw so I could clip another lol.  Unfortunately he only offers the left paw and I had to insist on the other one being given so I could do those nails.  But he was more than willing to have his nails cut.  I just have to get over my fear of doing them now.

And I shall leave you with this photo I took.  It’s so very rare to get a nice photo of Spen just standing, he’s usually got his nose to the ground, tail in the air and off after a scent.  Or if he is standing still he’s sniffing.  But I really like this one.

IMG_2195

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Belated happy new year

Well I’ve been slacking here again haven’t I?  I guess I should have made a new years resolution to update my blog more regularly.  But anyway, Happy New Year to everyone!  Hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year.  I managed to hurt my back some time between the two so spent the start of the year hobbling around and trying to entertain Spendog as I couldn’t walk him. Then just as my back was getting better and I was able to walk again I pulled it again!  Not the best start to the year lol.  But all’s well now.

One new years resolution I did make was to spend some time each day working on Spencers loose leash walking.  I’ve sort of let it slip after the disastrous attempt to really focus on it a few months ago that ended up with me stressed and annoyed and hating walks and him plodding along looking miserable.  So I said I’d spend around 10 minutes a day working  on it.  It’s not a huge stretch of time but I can do 10 minutes without getting angry or upset and he can easily focus for 10 minutes at a time so it seemed ideal.  Truth is, I’ve probably not even been doing 10 minutes a day on it.  I chose to walk on it on the way home from our walk each day.  It seems the best time to start off as he’s not excited about going out, he’s had a good run around to burn off excess energy and is generally in a pretty good frame of mind to do something that’s quite frankly not very exciting lol.  And I don’t think it usually takes us 10 minutes to get home from the field.

So, we’re two weeks in to our loose leash walking work now (first week of the year I did nothing due to the back injury) and I have to say we’ve made more progress in the last 2 weeks than we have in the last 2 years.  I think because I’m not stressing about it and because I’m being more clear about my expectations.  Not just aiming for not pulling but for him to actually be walking by my side for the short session.   Two weeks ago I started out using shameless bribery, waving a treat under his nose and luring him to take a step or two by my side with it before feeding and releasing him to go sniff.  Today we walked all the way home with him more or less by my side (not aiming for perfect heel work) with no bribe.  And when released to sniff he mostly decided he’d rather walk with me instead.  On the two occasions he did go sniff they were only brief sniffs before he returned to my side of his own accord.  The last few days we’ve even managed some very short stretches of it on the field itself.  It’s very difficult for him there as he so wants to be off sniffing but even a couple of steps is brilliant progress.

And he did absolutely wonderful one night last week.  I’d taken him out at that ridiculous time when it’s not quite light but not quite dark when I don’t really like walking for some reason.  Day time walks are fine, night time walks are fine, those murky half light times are not.  I don’t know why, just don’t like them.  Anyway, since there was nobody around I had him off leash and he’s way, way up ahead doing his sniffy stuff and I’m pottering along keeping one eye on him and trying not to fall flat on my face in the mud when suddenly a load of deer burst out of the trees and run across the path right in front of him.  He stopped and stood there watching them for a moment.  Then when I made a noise (didn’t dare try a recall coz I didn’t expect him to do it) he turned and came to me for a treat.  He got half the treat bag while I clipped his leash on and rambled on at him about how good he was for not chasing the deer.  Glad nobody was around to hear me really lol.

Other than that I have nothing really to report lol.  We’re just doing the same old things really.  He has discovered the sofa though and that he likes to sleep on it.

And now for pictures.  We’ve had a really mild winter so far, fair bit of rain but only one lot of snow and that didn’t last long.  As a result most of our walks look something like this.

IMG_2092

 

However, it appears my dog may be teflon coated as he ends most of them looking like this

IMG_2093

 

He does like to splash around in the puddles and the mud so god knows how he ends the walk so clean.

IMG_2090 IMG_2087

 

IMG_2007 IMG_2074

 

Couple of recall pics

IMG_2046 IMG_2062

 

And this is his “I know you’re going out so gimme my damn Kong and get gone!” look.

IMG_2139

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Christmas Day Walk.

Well Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate Christmas, happy holidays or whatever if you celebrate something else or nothing at all.  But enough of the political correct stuff lol.  I celebrate Christmas so todays walk was a Christmas Day one.  Sadly I remembered to take my camera but forgot to put the memory card in so no pics of todays walk I’m afraid.  Got hubby to drop me and the Spendog off in town this afternoon figuring we’d go through the woods for a peaceful, quiet, relaxing walk.  It’s Christmas Day after all right and people are going to be inside having eaten far too much turkey and chocolate and god only knows what else.  Well how wrong could I be,  I think the entire of Lower Saxony had descended on the park and woods this afternoon!  I have honestly never seen it so busy, it was practically crowded at times.  It seems Germans like to go for walks and bike rides on Christmas Day.

So yeah, not quite the relaxing, peaceful, stress free walk I anticipated but we had a nice walk anyway.  We saw god knows how many dogs and even more people.  Some on foot, some on bikes.  Spencer spent the entire walk on a Flexi leash which is something I’m not particularly keen on but my hands go so numb with a wet and cold long line that I just can’t keep a grip on it.  We had several dogs come up to him which got him ridiculously over excited in general and so we had to go back to sitting and waiting for other dogs to pass rather than just passing them.  But at least he was able to do that without too much difficulty.  One woman looked at me like dirt because he got a bit over enthusiastic about interacting with her dog (who had been allowed to run up to him from about 50m away!) but for the most part all the meet and greets he had were polite.  He didn’t manage to pluck up the courage to jump off the bank into the deeper part of the river, it takes him a few minutes to do that and today I just kept walking, but he did have a paddle in the shallower part which has a nice slope down to it.  As we were coming out of the woods to go home I spotted a family with an unclipped, immaculately groomed and clean cocker spaniel coming towards us.  So I put my big, muddy,wet lump of a Labradork into a sit and asked him to wait figuring they’re not going to want their dog interacting with an obvious lout like Spen.  But to my surprise they asked if it was okay for theirs to say hello, at least that’s what I think they were asking, my German and their English were equally good lol.  Cocker seemed a little timid at first but Spen held a sit nicely and then she (I assume a female because of Spens interest, he tends to be uninterested in most males after a hello) invited him to play.  So they had a few minutes playing together much to the delight of the children.  Very polite and gentle play it was too.

It was another walk that made me realise just how much things have changed.  12 months ago I’d have likely been frustrated, angry and ready to cry half way through.  Today there were a few “oh for gods sake Spen!” moments but nothing major and I actually enjoyed the walk overall.  As I say, sadly no pictures as the memory card stayed home in the computer.  Not that I think I’d have taken many anyway with how busy it was.

Last Sundays husky meet started off as just Spen, Demon and Willow as seems to be usual at the moment.  Not sure why everyone seems to have suddenly stopped going, there’s been talk of “incidents” and “drama” but I honestly haven’t a clue what’s gone on and I’ve been at almost all the meets in the last year.  But anyway, about half an hour in we saw someone come onto the field with 2 dogs so leashed ours up not trusting them not to go over and introduce themselves.  Stood watching and was sure I recognised one of the dogs so took a wander over to see and it was Spendogs bestest buddy Khan the Rottie with his owner and their new dog.  So they joined us for a bit.  Spencer was over the moon to see Khan and completely abandoned poor Willow in order to have mutual humping sessions and the occasional bout of wrestling with him.  Wasn’t so keen on poor Bolt though!  He really is not keen on dogs he’s never met before being ill mannered and/or over exuberant.  How quickly he’s forgotten that just 12 months ago he was lacking in the manners department and thought bouncing on other dogs heads was perfectly acceptable!

I do have pics from Sunday so since I didn’t get any today I’ll post those ones instead lol.

IMG_1937 IMG_1963 IMG_1972

In other news, we did a Secret Santa with a bunch of other people.  Spencer got to open his on Sunday after the meet.  Well, I had to open it for him, unlike Rupert he had absolutely no idea what to do when handed a wrapped up box.  He got lots of nice goodies as you can see

IMG_1989

That leash is lovely.  Really soft and squidgy and comfortable to hold even when he’s over excited and pulling like a steam train.  But his favourite present is the hedgehog.  As soon as I opened the box he grabbed the hedgehog and ran off with it and has been carrying it around ever since.  It’s come out for a pee with him several times, it’s come down to do the laundry, it’s gone to bed with him, it’s been tucked into the corner behind the curtain and has even gone into his crate with him when we’re going out.

IMG_1991 IMG_1992

And the training dummy has been put to use as a scent work toy.  It’s one you can open and put things inside so it’s had a catnip scented toy in it and been scented itself and we took it out on the field for the first time yesterday.  I got all disheartened about how badly Spen did out there then came home, watched the videos I’d taken of him playing find it (I won’t call it scent work because at this stage I don’t think he was using his nose so much as spotting the dummy) and wondered why the hell I’d thought he’d done so terribly.  No, he wasn’t brilliant and insanely focused like he is in the flat but I shouldn’t expect that for his first time in a high distraction environment.  He did really, really well and I need a kick for being disheartened.

Here’s the video, it’s not a long one.  I was basically just dropping the toy while he was up ahead sniffing and then sending him back to find it.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.