Still Walking The Same Road

A comment from tonight really got me thinking.  Is it ever a goal for an aggressive/reactive dog to play with other dogs?  

Co-exist, yes!
Tolerate, yes!
Ignore, yes!

But... play with?  No.

Did I ever expect Bailey to play with another dog?  Not really.  If you had asked me last year right before I left for camp in June, I would have given you a blank stare and asked if you were talking about my Bailey, the black and white English Springer Spaniel, born on January 24, 2000... had you asked me if she wanted to play with another dog.  Eat another dog, why, yes, she would love to... but play, you must be joking.

I trust Kristen a lot, maybe too much, but she hasn't given me reason to believe otherwise (yet), so when she told me to let Bailey loose with Griffin; I actually did without too much convincing.  I don't know that it can be called playing, but it was definitely happy and relaxed socializing with another creature of the canine variety.  They responded appropriately to each other and I relaxed, just a smidge.

Do you see that other dog standing close to her?  She was enjoying racing around the property with him.  They never played but this is the first dog she has done more than tolerate.  Griffin is a pretty special guy, to earn that award... and it's because he's most excellent at reading other dogs and reacting appropriately, really great!

The moral of this story is I have MORE pictures of Bailey playing with Fritz from Sunday.  THREE times they played.  One, she actually initiated, and the other two I started by running around with a rope toy.  Three times she acted more like a normal dog than I ever thought possible.  

What or who can I thank for this?  
Good training--thank you Karen Pryor above all
Medications--treating for a "low normal" thyroid and getting her into the "normal" range/utilizing a SSRI (fluoxetine) to help fill in the gaps in her brain
Friends--willing friends with wonderful dogs

(I soooo wish this was in focus!)

I can't get over how HAPPY she looks here.  This is the game of chase she initiated!

I have a couple more great photos from Sunday that need a bit of editing, so I'll work on getting those up but... I still can't believe she's playing with another dog.  Barking, arroooooing, and being well-playful!


Is my dog steady?

The short answer is no.  The answer I feel compelled to give is "yes" because we still have a 95% success rate.  Two days in a row I took Bailey to the lake to fetch bumpers.  She adores fetching bumpers, she lives to fetch bumpers, she would do it all day long if I let her.  She's also fabulous at problem solving.

My dog walks at heel, waiting for me to stop walking, she promptly sits at heel and plants herself.  She then stays sitting while I throw the bumper, with no cues from me (see how brilliant she is, moving dogs don't get throws, and moving dogs don't get released for the bumper).  

I had two breaks today, one on land, one on water.  (I still can't determine what makes her break, but we're working through it.)  Both times I called her back, she did NOT return to me on the water one, which is the first time that has happened in at least a year!  She did return to heel position when called for the land one.  They were interspersed, and the others in between were beyond solid.  No movement, she never lost her mark, and she flew out there when cued.

If I can find the right person to reintroduce guns to her, I'll be feeling better about hunt tests.

Then we came home and she got a bath...


Context C(l)ues.

When I got home for lunch today, Bailey and I worked on front vs heel position discrimination.  To say it went poorly in the beginning is an understatement.  She was not hitting either one of them.  Then I looked at how I was standing...

I've trained my dog to only go to heel position if I'm A) holding my left hand on my stomach, B) my head is turned towards her, and C) I say "get in."  If any of those components are missing, she goes to the general area, but does not line up straight.

I've trained my dog to only hit front position if I am A) looking directly at her, B) have both hands at my side, and C) I use her name first.

Someone please fix me, so I can fix my dog!  That's an issue... but when I do all of those things, she's STRAIGHT and PRETTY and GOOD.  Harumph!


A Harsh Top Coat

While in surgery today, I commented on Buzz's nice, harsh topcoat.  Can I throw dirt on my dog before we go in the ring next time?  After being outside and rolling around a. lot. the last few days--his top coat is very nice!  I'm only half kidding about showing a dirty dog.

In other news, Buzz had a lump removed from his foreleg today.  A "probable infected sebaceous cyst" that he chewed open.  He's my good boy and we only used a local anesthetic.  Nasty blood clot drainage earlier today, but it seems pretty good now.  He'll be a cone head for the next 10-14 days and he gets to come to work with me the rest of the week.  Hey, now I can train my dog!

I suppose a picture is in order... tomorrow.  Maybe.

Cone head Buzz.


Agitation and "Asking"

Today has been a weird day for the dogs.  We have a lot of weird days, but this one involved a lot of sleep, followed by a lot of unstructured outside time, followed by crate time, followed by people hauling large quantities of "stuff" into the house* (which resulted in dogs being outside again so they didn't escape).  Somewhere along the lines Bailey turned into Bailey... and got stressed.  We trained a little bit and as I was getting myself some food she clearly came over and "asked" to be put away.  She's never done that before, except at bedtime.  I saw her looking at Rasza grooming himself, I said her name softly and her eyes were almost pleading when she turned to me, it was quite sad.  She made eye contact and then headed for my room.  She wanted to be away from the cats, from everything, so I just shut the door to my room.  If I crate her and leave the door open, cats/Buzz are likely to walk in and frustrate her while she's in her crate, so I just shut the door.

This isn't the first time I've started to wonder if the Fluoxetine isn't working as well anymore.  She's clearly *thinking* now, and I have a much larger window between observing troublesome behaviors and her reacting, but she doesn't seem to be relaxing like she did when we initially started it.

Poor muppet.

*(I'm afraid to jinx it, because the papers haven't been signed but... the large quantities of "stuff" are ours, from another place that will hopefully not be ours anymore very, very soon.)


"Getting Away" with ... "Stuff"

I hear it a lot.  "My dog is getting away with (insert x, y, z)" so the owner feels compelled to correct the dog, rather than correct the training.  I definitely don't discount that a history of intentional and/or unintentional reinforcement makes changing the behavior difficult, but I also know that "allowing" an annoying behavior to happen once or twice impacts you, more than the dog.  

Last night I got home from work, packed up both dogs (along with an insane amount of "stuff") and we headed to a Nature Park about 20 minutes from our house.  I took Buzz walking there once, and it was beautifully large, secluded, and had a LOT of things for us to work through.  I laid Bailey's track, laid Buzz's track and then ran Buzz.  The past couple times I've taken him tracking, he hasn't offered the article indication I want to see.  He's been "taught" to pick up the article (since he won't sit or down reliably on wet/otherwise yucky grass... and I need a reliable indication), but just hasn't lately.  Sometimes I waited for the correct indication, but other times I just let him "get away with it" (said tongue in cheek) and we continued on.  At the UGSDA show this weekend, we worked on our article indication.  Yes--in the midst of a conformation show, I trained my dog for tracking.  *gasp*

1. Find suitable article
2. Get dog playing "101 things" with it
3. Reinforce the desired response
4. Reinforce some more
5. Take dog out tracking almost two weeks later and see that training the dog has a positive effect... whoda thunk?

I let Buzz "get away" with not indicating in previous tracking sessions and yet he... indicated (arguably) better?  Yes!

I also chose not to work on Bailey's LLW after we tracked.  LLW takes work (imagine THAT), so instead I put her x-back harness on, put my skijor belt on, and off we went.  She happily pulled ahead, I was happy to be pulled... and neither one of us was hurting ourselves.  Best invention and suggestion ever (the x-back and skijor belt with line that is).  I guess I let my dog "get away" with pulling then, and by that I mean I encouraged it! 


A New/Old Adventure!

Yesterday Buzz and I went out for (what was supposed to be) one last conformation hurrah!  He adored showing when he was younger, as my juniors partner, and to be truthful, I think he's put together better than a lot of the dogs out there today.  UKC developed their altered championship program, so off we went to give it a try.  I swear I practiced with my dog, but I guess I failed to remember he doesn't gait on a loose lead.  When we were in the ring for breed he was SLOW.  In the group ring I put tension on the lead and he moved a LOT better.  I love watching him move, when he actually moves!  In the end, we didn't get kicked out of the ring, and lost in the group ring to our friends Sam and Jack (the English Setter).  We both had a lot of fun, and he isn't shaved down yet, though that was the first thing I was going to do when I got home.  He just may stay hairy until after the next show... maybe!  Once he started moving and remembering what this is all about, he had a lot more fun.  We celebrated afterwards with a walk around Como Lake with Lauren, Elizabeth & Beckett!

I do have a surprise that will probably take a couple weeks to get here... I can't WAIT!