a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Assorted Notes

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Assorted Notes

Rescuing dogs for show biz: URL passed along by a friend.

Work Deadlines: Well, that was a biggie. I've put in over 54 hours this week. It has been many years since I've done much more than 40, and not 40 often these days. Dogs have not been happy with me; I even skipped Jake's agility class this week trying to get something done that I had to get done that day.

Crazed animals: At least Tika got class this week. She seemed quite happy about that after three weeks off for holidays and rain. She even did sit-stays at the start line most of the time. Lifted her butt maybe twice but I believe put it back down without moving. And stood up or lay down once or twice to eat dirt. (It is *so* tasty after a good rain--all those years of dog goodie crumbs and sawdust add up to the yummiest between-run snack--) But when replaced each of those times, she stayed replaced. So there's hope.

Leaping dog: Tika is not a low-key dog. Remington used to get very excited about going for a walk, but he'd slam his butt to the floor to have the leash put on because he knew that that meant he'd get to go sooner. Tika leaps 10 feet in the air repeatedly, shrieking and running in circles between leaps, sometimes even dashing into the other room. If I wait, eventually she might sit on her own, but meanwhile the other dogs are sounding off and swirling around, too. As soon as Tika sits, so does everyone else, and all of a sudden there's peace--except for Tika's frequent under-the-breath whines and all indications that she's barely remaining seated and is ready to explode from her position with a moment's notice.

Dinner dog: She also leaps at dinner time after the bowls are full and as I'm heading back into the house from the deck where the food is stored. She leaps and leaps and throws herself at the doggie door sliding-door insert (which I have to squeeze past to get into the house). I did finally decide this year that having her stress and drool all around me while I filled the bowls was too much. I've been trying for a couple of years to get her to sit while I did it, but that never worked; I switched to lying down and she's much, MUCH better at that, although I do usually have to remind her. But the reminder is sometimes as simple as looking at her. Sometimes there are solutions for her problems and I just haven't stumbled on them yet. (Lying down instead of sitting, for example.)

Walking around other dogs: Or figuring out how to get her to behave when there are other dogs around while we're out for a walk. (This isn't an issue at agility trials or class, by the way--only *away* from dog activities.) Her usual behavior--I've griped about it before-- which is shriek and yowl and throw herself to the end of the leash and thrash and become totally and obsessively stressed, I have failed to thrwart by scolding, punishing, trying to get her to walk at my side and rewarding for that, making her lie down (doesn't get to go anywhere as punishment), trying to get her to do some tricks, and I'm not sure what else.

Today we went for a nice 3-mile walk along part of the Guadalupe River Trail and, by the end of it, Tika was actually sitting and staying as other dogs walked by. This was a major achievement after getting a chance to work with her for only 5 or 6 dogs walking by during the whole walk. This was the first time I tried working on her sit with clicker & goodie as they came by. I combined with verbal correction and close physical restraint when she leaped and shrieked, but I was quick with the clicker and the goodie when she sat, and then when she remained sitting, and then when she remained sitting and looked at me.

So this was quite successful. The challenges for me are (1) remember to take goodies and clicker with me *every* time we go for a walk, because although we hardly ever see dogs around here, we do see them often enough that all of the neighborhood dog owners think she's viscious, (2) what exactly to do when the dog is offleash and running up to us, (3) what exactly to do when the other dog is stationary. I've debating putting up a giant siren on the roof and sounding it whenever we go for a walk so that all the people in a half-mile radius can put their dogs into the house so they're not barking at the fence when we try to walk by.

But I'll come up with variants on the theme. Now that the inkling has finally gotten into her head that there's something to do other than overreact to the other dogs. I don't know why this works and other behaviors haven't, and this is only one day, but eventually--

Greeting people at the door: And there's still the greeting-people-at-the-door issue. Throwing her into the other room behind the gate is only a bandaid for the symptom, especially as she continues to shriek and leap and bark (note to self: get refill of mouthspray for punishing shrieking and barking). Sigh.

OK, now, don't everyone send me your solutions. I'll only get annoyed and start shrieking and leaping about.

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