a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: December 2004

Monday, December 27, 2004

Quick Notes

My comment about the mammogram the other day: I went in for an ultrasound today and the technician said that the radiologist said that they didn't need to do any follow-up today. That's all I know. I think things are probably fine.

Christmas was pleasant other than the fact that I underslept and overate, making me pretty much a wreck by Christmas evening. I got dog toys, dog Christmas ornaments, and a gift certificate to PetCo, so I can go down there shortly and have a grand old time. Several more dragons also joined my household--but that's not dog-related.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Another Plaque for Jake

Jake's CPE Agility Trial Champion (CATCH) plaque arrived yesterday. It's a lovely thing. Something to hang on the wall to replace hundreds of ribbons.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Still More Miscellany

Elderly dog sleeps soundly: Jake always used to wake up quickly and easily. Now he sleeps deeply. When I get up in the middle of the night--as in last night, where I had a blooming headache and needed to go get a drink and some assorted lovely drugs--he sleeps through the light turning on, through me getting out of bed and getting my robe and slippers, through Tika getting rowdy on the bed and leaping off, through us both scampering downstairs (Tika more scampering, me more on the staggering side), through the sliding door opening and closing as Tike heads into the yard for a perimeter check.

Jake used to startle to his feet if one touched him while he was sleeping. Several times lately, when I've needed to wake him during the day (as in, "Wake up, Jake, it's time to go to bed"), I've had my hand solidly on his body, rocking him back and forth, without a response for quite some time. It's a very odd thing.

Elderly dog sometimes drags:The housemate & boyfriend took the dogs for a walk yesterday evening while I was out (yes! without the dogbeasts!), and reported that they had to quit a bit early because Jake seemed to be dragging and tired.

I had no such problem with him this morning.

I've mentioned this in previous posts--sometimes when out for a walk, he just slows down and looks like he really doesn't want to keep going. And then the next day he'll be fine.

In the middle of the night last night, he did eventually come downstairs and lay under the table while I nursed my drink and waited for the light and went without the meat and cursed the bread and all that. When it came time to return to my boudoir, he stopped at the bottom of the stairs, looked concerned, started to lift a foot and changed his mind, and just looked at me, tail drooped. So I picked him up and carried him up, depositing him right onto the bed, where he said, "Thanks, that's what I needed," and settled right in to sleep.

This is the second time in the last few weeks. He was never one to suffer being carried around like a lapdog. So this, too, is unusual.

And yet today he was a frisbee-chasing maniac who, in his nonfrisbee interims, gallumphed all over the parkland and hillside.

Eye goop: The last time I had him at the vet--I think because of all the goop that suddenly started appearing in his eyes all the time--the vet said he didn't really see anything but gave me some soothing ointment to apply in case the eyes were irritated. This was months ago. I regularly --daily or twice a day--clear wads of eye-goop the size of jello pudding cups from both eyes. The weather's different, the blooming plantlife is different, I dunno--I thought maybe it was something in the yard (like plunging into the mulch to pounce on a thrown toy) that was aggravating it, but in the one week we were out of town to AZ, his eyes never stopped gooping.

I'd like to know why, at 12.5, this has started happening. It worries me in a vague, I've-got-plenty-of-bigger-worries-like-the-technician's-reactions-to-my-mammo-last-week sort of way.

To The Big Park Today

Drove all 3 dogs to the big park with the hill and the huge grassy areas to play frisbee and to let them run free. Tika was very well behaved. Although she didn't come when called at one point when she got curious about another dog, she did come after a quick sniff and wag. This is the dog who goes ape-sh** on a leash when she sees another dog. There were about 4 other dogs there today at different times and places, and she showed only mild to moderate interest and had to go say a quick "Hi" to two of them.

She came when called almost every time (I was carrying junk food in a bag on my belt). Whenever she'd start to dash in a direction that I found undesireable and called "Tika, this way!", she came this way. Ohhhhhh, how different from 2 years ago!

We played a good game of frisbee (Casey will chase the frisbee and bring it most of the way back, but mostly he wants to hold it and then slam it against Tika when she starts running), then walked around the park. Temperature was in the upper 30s to lower 40s--frost bedecked some sheltered areas of grass--and my feet got thoroughly soaked and very cold. The things I do for a good time.

Then we played a good game of frisbee, discovered that the water fountain wasn't functioning, so the dogs spent a good deal of time munching the long grasses--I suspect primarily for the cool dewey water, then walked around the park. It was otherwise a beautiful sunny morning, just a little hazy. Lots more people there off and on than I'd have expected on a chilly Sunday morning starting at 8 or so.

Then we played a good game of frisbee and walked around the park. My pedometer registered 1.3 miles, but it seems to be registering low lately, so it might have been more--and some of it was up and over the hill, which would be good for my cardiovasculars.

Tika was clearly overheating again. When she's walking on her Gentle Leader, she often rubs her face on lawns. Today she never saw hide nor hair of the GL, but by this time she was rubbing her face and head in all of the dampest, longest grasses, then lying down in other patches. I surmise it was all an effort to cool down. Not that she ever runs out of energy; I'd make some comment to her and she'd put her ears back and leap up into the scootchy I'm-ready-to-play pose, then zoom off in some other direction.

Jake mostly kept an eye on me and kept swooping in for a free goodie. I was only too glad to oblige; as a hard-of-hearing dog, he's better off sticking closer and paying more attention. I practiced recalls with Casey and Tika constantly and relied on Jake watching them for his cues. Even so, once as I surmounted the tippy-top of the hill, where the sides fall away steeply and the dogs can't see me if they're not right with me, Tika and Casey came bounding into sight when I called them, but Jake had vanished. I had to backtrack a bit to see him bounding back around (rather than up) the hill, trying to figure out where I was. Fortunately he saw me bouncing and waving my arms--I was concerned that he'd head off down the hill full tilt thinking I had gone back the way we came.

Then we played a little more frisbee and, an hour or more having passed, I took the sopping wet dogs and the cold-footed mom home.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

About Crate Training

I just wrote all of this elsewhere in response to a comment from someone that he didn't like to lock his dogs up and that was probably why he didn't pursue crate training enough to be successful at it.

One challenge in getting people to crate train successfully is in getting over the idea that one is "locking up" one's dog. There are many reasons as to why it's a good idea to have a dog who is comfortable and relaxed in a crate. The thing to keep in mind is that almost all dogs are most relaxed in an enclosed place. My dogs prefer sleeping under a desk or a table--and if there's a long tablecloth over the table, all the better. The small dog in the house loves to crawl under the bookcase headboard of the bed rather than sleeping on the open floor. One dog liked sleeping in the closet. The psychological key for the human is to realize that one is simply training the dog to use a controlled crate rather than one of their own choosing, just as one trains them to sit, lie down, or stay under control rather than wandering around uncontrolled at all times with behavior of their own choosing. The crate should never be used as a harsh punishment. It should be a safe place for comfortable relaxing, and in that context can occasionally be used for a "time out" in training.

Let one converted dog owner tell her story. (That's me.) When I planned to go to my first dog agility event (not just training at the training facility), I discovered that it was not practical to have my dog on a leash on my wrist at all times. It was a long day, there were other dogs everywhere (and not all of them perfectly behaved), I had things that I needed to do without my dog and there were places where my dog was not allowed (e.g., walking the course ahead of time; cafeteria; restrooms...). Tying the dog up somewhere wasn't practical--other than there being nowhere to tie the dog, even a portable stick-in-the-ground post left the dog exposed to other dogs, other people, object flying in their direction (thrown toys, things blown by the wind, etc.). It just wasn't even an option, especially in crowded conditions with only a few feet of space for each person to set up in.

Plus, in trying to keep the dog with me, he never lay down, never relaxed, was always alert and on guard.

So with great reluctance, not wanting to "lock my dog up" in a crate, I purchased the largest metal exercise pen that I could find--I think about 4 feet by 4 feet. Here's what he did:

Stood up and leaned against the side closest to the door. All day. Sometimes he sat. Mostly he stood up, watching everything that was going on. Eventually I figured out that, if I draped a sheet over the top & sides of the pen, leaving only the front open, he would lie down--against one side of the pen--and sleep off and on.

Huh, so I was lugging around this heavy exercise pen and occupying 16 square feet for a dog who was occupying no more space than all of the other dogs comfortably resting in their crates. So after a year and a half I broke down and bought a crate and taught him what a fun place it was. So, when put into his crate (after his first run of the day, before which he NEVER relaxed), he'd immediately relax, lie down, get comfy, snooze, stretch his legs out.

I was converted.

Since then, I've found that crates are useful almost anywhere I go with my dogs; we've been invited to participate in a wide variety of events. Sometimes we're backstage, where there are 20 or 30 dogs in a space about 50 feet long. You have to have the dogs in crates in that situation. My assorted dogs have had to stay at the vet's for a variety of ailments over the years, and the vets always like them because they don't fight about going into the crates, they don't paw or bite endlessly at the doors, they wait for a release before barging out of the crate, and they relax once they're in there.

In the car, a strapped-in crate is probably the safest way to transport dogs. (Some of my dogs use harnesses instead, but I believe they'd be safer in an accident in a crate.)

At home, I acquired a dog who really does not like small children. After a few thousand good games of fetch, he goes right into his crate, where I can close him in and he can relax because he doesn't have to be on guard against the small children--and I can relax because he's not on guard against the small children.

I have an extremely energetic younger dog. When she can't manage enough self-control to be around guests, she can go into her crate. When she was much younger and I didn't know what she might pick up and chew up, I could put her into her crate while I worked at my desk and neither of us were stressed about life, the universe, and everything.

Most dogs sleep most of the day anyway--if you're home a lot and not active, just watch: I believe that 18 hours or more of a dog's day is spent snoozing. That's even for energetic, athletic dogs. They could just as easily be snoozing in a crate as under your feet at your desk.

Miscellaneous Ramblings Again

  • Casey loves to have something in his mouth. When I head for the back yard, he scoops up whatever luscious-looking toy is in the vicinity. This is promising. If it's a dumbell-style squeaky, we can easily play tug of war.
  • Casey seems to enjoy tug-of-war, and he runs like lightning through the tunnels and over the jumps, but as soon as I throw the toy afterwards, he scootches up onto the porch and hides so I can't make him exert himself again. I'm not sure whether it's the physical or mental activity that concerns him.
  • Jake snores. Not a lot, but he always has and he does more--and more often--as time goes on. And he's not overweight, either.
  • Before I started agility, I was amazed at dogs that would answer "the call of nature" on command. Now I realize that it's a necessity for most activities other than letting your dog have free run of the yard. And it wasn't that hard to teach. In fact, Jake can produce #1 or #2, even if in minute quantities, whenever he thinks he's supposed to. How come I can't train myself the same way?
  • Jake and Casey have had a couple of spats since we returned from the Nationals. Casey had the whole house and everyone in it (housemate and two guests, one of whom slept in my room) to himself for an entire week. He was deliriously happy to see Tika again, and quite dismayed that Jake came with the package. I found a fresh scab in Jake's ear the day after we got back. And Jake was very concerned, too. They both stalked around the house, trying to avoid or intimidate each other, for about 2 days, and Jake acted more like the intruder--stuck close to me and to my bedroom, as though conceding that, for the moment, Casey was the primary resident.