Posts Tagged With: dog training

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.

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

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Out on walks.

 

 

 

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And in my parents garden.

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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.

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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.

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

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And of course he had to help tidy up.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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

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

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Couple of recall pics

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

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No bad dogs, only bad owners

If there is one phrase guaranteed to make me see red it’s the “no bad dogs, only bad owners” one.  Or anything that basically says that all a dogs problems are down to how it’s raised and if you’ve got an aggressive dog then it’s all your fault and you’re a terrible owner.  I hate it.  Absolutely hate it.  Just seeing it written down makes me angry.  Irrationally angry really.  For one, it simply is not true.  For another I can’t describe how it feels to have a dog with issues, to be working on those issues and managing the dog so both the dog and anyone around it is kept safe, only to have some sanctimonious little know it all (not my first choice of words but since my mum reads my blog I’ll keep it clean lol) smugly turn around and basically say it’s all your fault.  Do people have any idea how hurtful that comment is?  Any idea how close I came to showing them just how awful a person I was by giving in to the rage that rose up when those words spewed from their mouth?  Do they not realise how very unfair it is to be blamed for the issues your dog has when those issues have been caused by other people being unable or unwilling to control their own rude or aggressive dogs?  Or children.  Or themselves.  Whichever fits.  Dogs were the issue for Rupert so that’s what I tend to talk about.  Seriously, it is NOT always the owners fault that a dog is aggressive or fearful or doesn’t have good manners.

Let’s look at some of the things that can contribute to creating a dog who reacts badly to certain things shall we?

First, breeding.  There are dogs being bred who quite simply shouldn’t be bred.  Health reasons aside it is thought that traits such as anxiety and fearfulness may have a genetic component.  People simply throwing two dogs together to get puppies to sell to make money aren’t thinking of temperament.  Or health for that matter.  Sure, you can say it’s the owners fault for not going to a good breeder.  But what if the dog is a rescue?  Their own fault for choosing to rescue?

Incorrect socialisation.  Socialisation is a case of quality over quantity in some respects.  People seem to think that simply exposing a dog to things is socialising it.  It isn’t.  Having good experiences with those things is important.  Not going to try to go into the ins and outs of it here, there’s plenty of stuff out there on the internet about socialisation but here’s an article I like http://www.clickertraining.com/node/3953

Bad experiences.  In some cases all it takes is one bad experience to cause long lasting issues that require a lot of work.  Some dogs simply do not bounce back well from them even as adults.  Spencer will shake off an unpleasant incident with another dog, Rupert could not, it took him a good few days to calm back down and in that time he’d be far more on edge than normal.  Spencer seems able to go “yeah, yeah, whatever” at another dog raging at him from a few metres away, Rupert couldn’t.  And again, where Spen is over it almost before it’s happened, Rupert took ages to get over it.  It ruined the rest of his walk if not his entire day.  And bad experiences don’t have to involve aggression.  A young puppy being bounced all over by an over enthusiastic adolescent or mobbed by a group of people all wanting to fuss it at once is probably not having a good experience.  Nor does it need to “man up and deal with it” as many seem to believe.

Punishing the behaviour.  I think it’s perfectly natural for us to go “whoa, no, that is not acceptable behaviour!” and punish a dog whenever it shows aggression.  But doing so does nothing to change the dogs feelings towards whatever it is reacting badly to.  Punish a dog for growling at a child and you may well suppress the growl, stop the dog from doing it.  But that dog is still going to be just as uncomfortable about the child if not more so because it has been punished for showing its discomfort.  There seem to be a lot of people fall foul of bad trainers unfortunately.  It’s easy to know where to look to find a decent trainer if you already know, if you’re the average pet owner however you’re probably not going to have any idea that organisations such as the PPG exist and are probably going to use google or something to find a trainer near you and chances are it’s going to be one of those old school, punish the dog types.  Having done a quick google search myself a certain franchise features heavily in the UK.  As do many “whisperers” and “listeners” who promise very quick results.

There are probably plenty of other things that can contribute to a dog reacting badly to things but this is going to be long enough as it is.  Now yes, you could say that some of these are down to the way the owner has handled the dog.  But still, is it the owners fault?  If you don’t know the history of the dog you have absolutely no idea whether it is a rescue dog that came with those issues.  You don’t know that it has been punished for its behaviour.  You don’t know whether or not it has had bad experiences previously.  You don’t know whether the owner, realising they had problems, called in a supposed professional and knowing no better followed advice that made the problems worse.  Or perhaps they’ve had good advice and are working to rectify the problems they’re having.  It seems a hell of a lot easier to find advice that says hurt or frighten the dog than anything else unless you’re familiar with dog training terminology. Either way, they really do not need someone judging them, telling them it’s all their own fault, that they’re a terrible owner etc.  Your dog lunging and barking and snarling is embarrassing and unpleasant enough without someone who has no clue whatsoever about you and your dog spouting what is often complete and utter rubbish.

Are dogs who react badly to certain triggers bad dogs?  No, they’re not.  But that doesn’t mean that they have a bad owner either.  Please, just think a little before thoughtlessly quoting that awful phrase at them.  One day you may be the one having issues and that phrase may become the red rag to a bull that it is to me.

Apologies for the rant.  I seem to have seen this sentiment all over the place lately and as I say, it just makes me see red.

 

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Debunking the Stubborn Hound Myth

I’m sure we’ve all heard that some breeds are stupid, some breeds are highly intelligent, some breeds are highly trainable, others are too stubborn to be trained and various other things along those lines.  Well today I thought I’d post this fantastic video that proves that Beagles are not the untrainable, stubborn, stupid dogs I see so many people describing them as.  I have never met her owner but consider her to be a friend and she and Miss Tinker have made me see Beagles in a whole new light.  She has given permission for me to share the video, hopefully it will help to show people that when the right methods are used those “stubborn” hound dogs can certainly shine 🙂

Is Tink an anomaly?  I don’t think she is to be honest.  I think the fact she’s learned the behaviours she has and is so willing to do what is asked of her is because her owner has put in the time and effort to work out what makes her tick and how to bring out the best in her.  As a team they put me and Spendog to shame, they  really do, but I find them so inspiring, watching that video makes me want to teach Spen a bunch of tricks I can put together like that.  It’s brilliant!

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People have some odd ideas

A few days ago someone’s dog slipped its leash and came running up to say hello to Spencer.  His owner arrived in a real panic to retrieve her obviously friendly dog.  Turns out she’s been told to avoid me and the Spendog because he’s extremely aggressive!  Spencer is about as far from aggressive as you can get, he sees every strange dog as a potential new best buddy as far as I can tell.  I’m not sure whether this has been someone spreading a nasty rumour or whether it’s a case of a misunderstanding of some sort.  I did shout at a few people back when I had Rupert and they let their dogs run up to him so perhaps they recognise me as that nasty person who shouts and is aggressive rather than saying it’s Spen that’s aggressive lol.  Or perhaps there’s another yellow dog in the area who is aggressive and who I just haven’t encountered.

A while back someone else said something about worrying about their dog around Spen because of how dominant Spen is.  Dominant??  Even if I believed dogs had a rigid dominance hierarchy I would not describe Spencer as a dominant dog.  Okay, he’ll tell another dog off if they’re being rude and nobody steps in to stop it.  And if another dog starts on him he’ll have a go back.  But that doesn’t make a dominant dog surely?  As for someone being worried about their dog around him…well he has no interest at all in this particular dog.  He’ll have a brief mutual sniff if they meet while out but that’s as far as it’s ever gone.  He’s never so much as looked at him funny let alone given cause for concern!  Even if he were to tell him off (the dog in question is an adolescent male who has been known to push the boundaries) then at most it’d be an air snap and a roar sort of thing, not blood and guts and emergency vet treatment.

In a way I find all this a bit laughable, the thought of my Silly Spendog being this dominant, status seeking, aggressive dog is utterly bizarre.  But in another it annoys me.  I don’t want people avoiding us because of something someone’s said that simply isn’t true.  I certainly don’t want reporting to the authorities for having an aggressive dog when he’s anything but aggressive!

But on to happier things.  Been practising loose leash walking on the collar again and going for nice, relaxed if pully walks on the harness.  Last week we went to the woods through town again and he walked most of the way there and all the way back on a nice loose leash on his collar.  He really isn’t a fan of having to do that.  I think it’s the not being able to stop and sniff all the time that he hates.  He looks all sulky and grumpy about it lol.  I let him sniff where it’s appropriate but that’s not good enough, he wants to sniff it all.  We had a very nice walk in the woods though.  Stopped at the bottom of a hill because there was a large dog standing at the top staring down at us, very stiff and not friendly looking.  Owner leashed it and moved it on so we carried on.  Spen sat nicely and waited until we moved again.  A few minutes later we went round a corner and he was practically nose to nose with a Teckel.  Poor little thing cowered and wanted nothing to do with him.  Instead of jumping on it or anything Spen sat down and just whined a little until it passed.

We had a lot of RSPCA face from Spencer as we went along the river and I refused to let him swim.  It was a cold day and he was stuck on a leash and I had no towel or anything with me.  He was NOT impressed at there being water and him not able to go in.  A lovely lady I know online is sending him a coat her dogs have outgrown so in future he can go swimming to his hearts content and I won’t have to worry about him freezing on the walk home.  He doesn’t seem to notice the cold normally but if he’s soaked to the skin it’s likely going to be another matter.  Especially as it’s about a 40 minute walk home at least.  No doubt I’ll get all sorts of nasty comments about my Lab wearing a coat but oh well.  I got nasty comments last year as he was out in the snow naked, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t it seems lol.

And in other news, it seems we’ve finally had the light bulb moment with Spin!  It’s not a nice, tight spin at the moment, it’s more of a walk in a small circle but I can build on that.  We’ve also been playing Find The Treat I’ve Hidden Somewhere In The Room.  Ooooh boy is that one a hit!  I have ordered a book on scent work and hopefully will be able to start doing something along those lines with him.

And now I think we need pictures don’t we?  Let’s start off with the zoomies in the ditch of muddy water, love the 10 shot function on my camera.

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He seemed very pleased to be muddy again

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But I’m sure he’s made of teflon or something coz it never seems to stick to him long

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Poor Spendog, having to sit by the river and not go in!

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I think this place must be beautiful in summer.  Bet it’s busy though!

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And finally, another online friends Beagle has a thing about balancing on tree stumps and logs but Spen can’t possibly jump or climb onto one so we got a Dog By A Log pic instead of a Dog On A Log one.

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Picking My Battles

For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to work on stopping Spencer pulling on his harness.  Up to now our work on loose leash walking has been done on the collar and the harness used to get from A to B and when he can’t be off leash but I want to give him a bit of freedom.  Well it’s not been going so well.  Very, very little improvement on the harness and a hell of a lot of stress for both of us.  I realised yesterday that I’m marching along like grim death and my usually happy, relaxed Spendog is plodding along with his tail down and shooting me worried glances out of the corner of his eye when he’s not pulling.  Not a happy dog and not a happy owner.  So we’re ditching the loose leash walking on the harness and just going to put more effort in on the collar.  He’s really not too bad on his collar now, my main reason for wanting to stop the pulling on the harness is because I use it with a long line.  And 2 hours of pulling on a long line is NOT fun.  So I’m not sure where to go with that now.  Can’t use a head collar with a long line even if Spen would tolerate wearing one and I don’t think the front attachment harnesses are safe with them either.

Other than that though we’re having fun.  Recall is going great.  Still not tried it around approaching dogs but once he’s passed a dog he can go back off leash and not bother about it.  Also managed to increase the speed of his response so he’s not stopping to pee, detouring to sniff or going “yeah, just a minute” which is good.    We’ve also been practising Wait (stop and wait where you are) which is going quite well too.  And downs and hand touches while out on the fields are usually pretty damn quick now.  Sadly I’m sure other dog walkers must think I’m a bit of an idiot running around making lots of noise and waving toys around but oh well.  If it gets results I’m gonna use it lol.  It’s actually quite fun.  But shh, don’t want people thinking I’m nuts!

Trying to teach him Spin as a trick now.  I’m still not sure how well that’s going, we seem to have gotten stuck at “lean on human while staring over left shoulder” lol.  I think I’m going to have to use a lure for this one rather than shape it.  Been slacking on the trick training lately, really need to get back at it coz we both enjoy it.

And now for some pics.  We went on the nearby field a few days ago and the pond is back.  So of course Spendog had to go for a swim.  I’d taken his ball so we played some fetch in the water for a bit.

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Got a video of him swimming to get his ball too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6Vmj53rJ3s

And last week hubby came out with us.  Husky meet wasn’t on due to remembrance so instead he drove us up to the polo pitch in the afternoon and we had a walk around it while playing with Spen.  Well, hubby played with Spen, I watched.  Apparently I suck at throwing things lol.

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