obsessed with dogs

Finding opportunities for dog training (Or, looking on the brightside instead of losing my mind)

A week or so ago, construction started in the field across from our house. For as long as we’ve lived here, it’s been a lovely, open field where deer frolic and coyotes scream their faces off at night. Well, it was sold to a developer, so they’re putting a road through the middle and houses along that road. They started with the road, which has given us ample (AMPLE) opportunity to work on Cooper’s “alarm barking.”

This is what it looked like out my bedroom window when I woke up this morning. BEFORE 8 am. Sigh.

Construction

All day long (even on the weekend), there are workers coming and going, city utility trucks parking on the road, tons of heavy machinery running nonstop, and dump trucks. Oh, the dump trucks. Bringing loads of rock and whatever materials it takes to build a road. It’s loud. It’s really loud. And it’s all day long. Which, whatever, that’s the reality of it. I get that. But Cooper’s barking… whooo, boy. Also all day long. Also really loud.

Cooper and Newt watch the construction

Watching.

 

In my attempt to look at the brightside of this situation, I’ve decided to use the commotion across the way as an ongoing training opportunity. We’ve ignored Cooper’s barking for a long time – until we can’t take it anymore and snap, “Cooper! Shut UP!” So, with this situation, we’re going to be productive!

I started training an “enough” command a long while ago, but we haven’t been consistent. At all. So I’m starting that up again. Basically, when he gets going and I say, “Copper, enough,” that’s his cue to run over to me, sit, and collect his treat. However, since we’re in the early stages, that only works if I can catch him before he completely loses himself. If I miss that moment, I’m going back to the “face-full of treats” method where I toss a whole face-full of treats in his general direction to break him out of that blacked-out barking frenzy. Once he snaps out of it, I call him to me and ask for a “sit” or “touch” or something easy to keep him calm.

Ideally, I’ll be able to phase out the “face-full” bit and rely solely on “enough.”

I was reading some articles about this yesterday, and I came across this one. It’s more about barking at the door, but it’s the same set of skills. This sentence really hit home for me:

Choose a verbal cue like “That’s enough” or “No bark”. Use a firm voice rather than a loud one. Eileen uses a simple, “Thank you, good dog.” That says to the dog, “Stand down while I check the threat level.” He then knows the two of you are working as a team and the responsibility is not all on him.

I do think that’s how he thinks of it. He is taking on that responsibility (even if it’s invented in his head). But, you know, back to that brightside, we now have about a year’s worth of distractions right in front of our house to keep working on and reinforcing these skills!

Do you have a barker? Have you tips or techniques worked for you? 

Emmett visits a Buddhist temple and receives a blessing

Here’s something unique: About two miles from our front door is the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, which was founded by the Dalai Lama’s brother. This past Saturday, the monks at the temple held The Blessing of the Creatures, so John and I took Emmett, and we met up with Em’s “colleague” from his therapy dog days, Romeo.

The Blessing of the Creatures

There were a handful of other dogs there and even a cat. The monks chanted, then blessed each of the pets individually, and gave them a protection string to wear.

Emmett started to doze off during the chanting…

Emmett watches the chanting

The he received his blessing….

Emmett gets blessed by the Tibetan monks

And his amulet…

Emmett's protection string

Afterwards, the monks led a clockwise procession around the Kalachakra, which is a temple-like place that represents the enlightened mind.

Also called a Stupa

The procession was three laps around, during which the monks took turns walking the individual dogs. When it was Emmett’s turn, I handed the leash to the monk – just as Emmett decided to tear off in the opposite direction because this little Scottie dog had just peed off to the side and Emmett had to get there. Luckily, I hadn’t fully dropped the leash yet and was able to snag it before Emmett toppled the monk.

Emmett walks with the monk

When the ceremony was over, we walked Emmett and Romeo around the grounds, which are beautiful and peaceful. It was so hot, though, that the dogs couldn’t keep going for too long.

We’re definitely going to plan some walks there in the future – the monks allow anyone to wander the grounds during daylight hours, and you can even attend their meditations and events. It was a unique experience, and I’m thrilled Emmett was able to take part in the Buddhist blessing!

Peeing on a tree with a temple in the background

He’s been wearing his amulet proudly (though we moved it to the back of his collar instead of the front so Newt wouldn’t mess with it).

We hope you had a wonderful weekend! Any fun pup-friendly activities?

 

Dear Molly

Dear Molly,

You probably don’t know this, but I like to write letters to the boys on their birthday to reflect on the past year. You, kiddo, aren’t going to hit a year with us. So here is your letter, after only eight months, on the day you go to your forever home.

We sure are going to miss you.

The day John picked up Molly on the bayou

Although, to be totally honest, you’ve been a bit of a pain in the ass, sister.

At first, you guarded everything from the boys. They couldn’t touch a toy, treat, or spot on the couch without you erupting. Thankfully, that waned and nearly disappeared over the past eight months. Clearly you needed to learn to share! Maybe you didn’t have enough resources before you came to us? But you and Cooper play tug ever-so-nicely these days. It warms my heart to see the progress you made!

Molly's yucky eye

It was tough those first few weeks. Our vet couldn’t figure out what the heck was wrong with your eye, so we had to keep you quarantined. Balancing work with shifting you around to different rooms of the house and your crate while keeping the boys separate, plus the daily flea baths, and lots of walks to help you figure out where to potty… it was exhausting! We had hoped that you’d find a home right away, but that clearly wasn’t your plan!

Molly has an epic twisty-head

Once we got to put you with the boys, everything was much easier. Well, mostly. You and Newt have never gotten along. She really dislikes you, Molly, and you like to “poke the bear.” Which is fine, except Cooper defends Newt fiercely, so you and Coop have scuffled more than once over Newt…

But, all those things aside, you really are the sweetest, happiest puppy I’ve ever met. Your tail literally does not stop wagging. Ever. Everyone you meet comments on that wag, “It’s like she’s wagging her whole body!” You befriend strangers instantly – even though you don’t want them picking you up! But that’s ok with me and with your new family! Carrying you around is a trust that has to be earned.

Molly CAN relax... she just doesn't very often!

When John picked you up off the bayou and brought you home, you had no clue. You had no hesitation about jumping up on the kitchen table or counters to get a better view out the window. You’d watch a tennis ball bounce past and wag, like, “Hey, that was cool!” But all those things came. You’ve learned very nice manners, and you love, love, love to chase toys. Love. Until my arm falls off. Going for a walk is the greatest thing in your world, and if I even glance at your leash, well, we better get going because you’ll bounce around like a ping-pong ball until we do!

Molly and Lucas out for a walk

And now, my dear, your family has found you. I think all those false starts, all those people who were interested in adopting you, then changed their minds – most without ever meeting you – led you to this moment, to this family. You’re going to have a sweet sister, Bella, who you play with beautifully. You’re getting a great big yard with lots of squirrels for you to chase.

Also, Molly, I’m sending you on your way with TONS of goodies! I’ve been saving lots of things that have come in the mail for you. You’re taking AvoDerm dog food and Nylabone toys and dental bones, ropes, stuffies, plus lots of chew toys and treats! I’ve been calling it “Molly’s Dowry,” and it’s taken up a huge corner of our closet. Tomorrow, seeing that space empty will make me very sad. But I’m thrilled to be able to provide you and Bella lots and lots of fun dog stuff to get you settled.

We’re going to miss you, kittycatpuppy (we call you that because you were so small!). We’re going to miss your energy, your playfulness, and your dear, sweet snuggles.

Molly is definitely a lap dog

We’re going to miss taking you for walks and tucking you into bed at night, but we know that this is the perfect outcome for you. You deserve a forever family, and I’m thrilled we finally found them for you!

I’m honored, Molly, truly honored that I got to be your caretaker for the past eight months. It wasn’t always easy, but every single second that I got to take care of you was a blessing.

Tonight, when you go to bed in your new crate in your new home with your new – forever – family, know that we’re thinking of you and missing you, but we’re equally as happy for you to have found your place.

We love you, Molly, and we’ll be here for you if you ever need us!

Kisses, kittycatpuppy.

Love,

your grateful foster family

Cooper things: birthday, allergies, and training

So, it was sort of a weird coincidence that I posted a collection of Cooper pics yesterday because then this conversation happened:

Convo

Well. Dangit.

Four years of having my boy’s birthday wrong.

So, last night we pulled out some puppy ice cream and celebrated Cooper’s fourth birthday!

Cooper's fourth birthday, August 20

And followed it up with a trip to the vet today…

Some of you guys noticed that he’s been back in his cone. He got some kind of sting or bite on his back leg, which was making him loony. But he’s been itchy head to tail, scratching open a rash in his armpit. And his eyes are faucets.

We’ve tried a bunch of different things and monitor his food so closely that I was sure it had to be seasonal. According to the vet today, there’s a real issue right now with tree pollen.

I really wanted to get him on Apoquel, but our clinic is on a waiting list and won’t get any until January. Rats. We’re trying another anti-histamine for the next two weeks and making (yet another) tweak to his diet. Overall, though, she was really happy with how his skin is looking (I attribute that to the addition of coconut oil to his diet – thanks, Sof!) and isn’t too worried about his runny eyes at this point because the goop is mostly clear.

Of course, as we were driving home I realized that scheduling his appointment for today was, perhaps, an error on my part. It was a hugely stressful event, as usual, and the poor guy has reactive dog training tonight. Ooops. Hope I can make the rest of his afternoon fun and stress-free to create a separation between two intensely stressful events!

Cross your fingers… :)

Hope your day and week are going swimmingly! 

UPDATED to add: He’s opted to sleep off the stress of the visit…

Sleepy Cooper

Coop’s week on Instagram: All about the snuggles

 

 

 

Molly found her forever home!

Do you guys remember, just before the start of the year, John found a little puppy wandering down the bayou? She was skinny, covered in fleas, and her right eye was sealed almost entirely shut from a combination of mange and infection.

Molly at the vet, January 2014

 

We got her fixed up, and after a vet-mandated two-week quarantine, introduced her to the boys. Since January, they’ve played and tussled, while Molly learned how to live inside a home. She had NO clue in the beginning… “Might as well stand on the kitchen table to get a better look out the window!”

Molly out for a walk

This sweet little girl loves to curl up your lap as much as she loves to chase a ball. She has an unending supply of energy, but she’s also a bottomless well of affection.

Molly has two quirks: She dislikes being handled by strangers and will growl a warning when someone she doesn’t know well tries to pick her up or restrain her – and if they push it, she’ll snap her teeth (though, having seen that happen twice, she doesn’t actually attempt to bite – just warn). That quirk actually cost her a home with a family in Louisiana because they were unwilling to give her the time she needed to feel comfortable with them picking her up. She has found a couple here in town who are accepting of that quirk (and I have that feeling that the woman will be picking Molly up for snuggles in no time at all… the two of them seem to have a good connection).

Her second quirk is that she resource-guards her food. This new family of Molly’s has a gorgeous dog, Bella, but they’re willing to feed them separately, which is what we’ve been doing here.

Molly and Cooper snuggles

Because of those quirks, though, we want to set them up for success, so we’ve offered to waive the adoption fee in exchange for them taking a training class with a trainer we know here in town.

But, regardless, they are excited to bring Molly home! And Molly and her new sister get along famously! Here are two short cell phone videos her new lady sent after their trial day on Sunday:

Molly and Bella 1 from Maggie Marton on Vimeo.

 

Molly and Bella 2 from Maggie Marton on Vimeo.

Isn’t it funny how much alike they look?! In person, they’re practically twins, though Bella is nearly three times her size!

We’re still working out the final details, but Molly will go home with her new family this week. I will miss having the little sprite around here, of course, but I’m thrilled she’s found her family! (And I’ll make sure they send us pics and updates to pass along!!)

He wasn’t always like this: Cooper’s second reactive dog training class

Last night was Cooper’s second (of four) reactive dog training classes. He did really well, overall. He had a short reaction that we were able to redirect when the trainer walked in carrying a tiny dog, and he did a defensive lunge at the dog in the cubby next to us when she was having a big reaction. Otherwise? He was fine… if by “fine” I mean trembling like a leaf with his tail tucked. The poor dear.

But today I’m not writing about the specifics of the class – it was the same as last week, but outside. Instead, I want to think a bit about what causes reactivity in dogs. Specifically, I need to confess: I caused Cooper’s reactivity.

Bear with me, here.

Backing up a bit, it helps to juxtapose, I think. Lucas is reactive to other dogs on leash. Seven years ago, it was horrific. Today, it’s manageable. He actually loves to play with other dogs – off leash. We suspect (of course, there’s no way to know) that he had zero socialization for the first six months of his life, since he was a street dog. He never learned how to give or read appropriate cues, so situations that should have been a breeze for most dogs were confusing and frightening to him. Our training with Lucas was more about making him feel safe in situations he didn’t understand.

Lucas lounging

“Who? Me?”

On the other hand, we got Cooper when he was only seven or eight weeks old. He had tons of positive experiences as a puppy and was doing phenomenally well. Heck, I was even taking him to the occasional therapy dog training class.

But we also know that Cooper has some wonky genetics. The boy’s health issues fill up an entire binder, for one thing. For another, we know that two dogs from his litter (of, I think, 11) have been put down for aggression. Their litter did not come from a stable gene pool, that’s for sure.

We also know that dogs go through several “fear periods,” though we most often focus on puppy stages. There’s another big one that, depending on breed, happens at the same time as maturity, usually between one-and-a-half to three. (I snapped this pic last night just because I thought it was funny, but it weirdly fits this post…)

Reactive dog training class 2 with Coop

Which was when I had cancer. And was in bed and sick and exhausted and not really walking/socializing/training with the dogs much. At all.

I suspect that where we are now with Cooper is because during that developmental fear period, he actually was afraid.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you might recall that Cooper was my defender during that time. When I’d come home from an infusion, he’d lay on my legs, keeping me warm, and keeping everyone away (he even growled at my dad). Cooper spent nearly a year protecting me, and it was during that year that he hit maturity.

I’m not saying this in an “OMG, I effed up my dog” kind of way, but we’ve been analyzing this situation closely, and that seems like a likely, logical explanation.

Especially when we compare it to how he “was.” I was having dinner with a dear friend recently, and she expressed surprise that we’re going through this with Cooper. “He wasn’t like that before,” she said.

Then John said something like, “Remember when I used to walk Cooper to Petco to get his nails trimmed?” Which we both gaped at for a minute because he did used to walk him the two-ish miles to the store, down a busy road, into the store, and into the grooming salon. Now? No way.

Of course, all this is theory. But. Still.

His reactivity is 100% “stranger danger.” The class is helping because it’s reminding me that he LOVES to work. He loves training. Having put a lot of thought (an obsessive amount?) into this, my goal is to keep up with classes – probably take reactive dog training 2 and perhaps agility with a different instructor – and to spend a little time each week sitting on a bench in the far corner of the park rewarding him like crazy for staying calm as people walk by.

So, that’s week two under our belts. I know many of you are working with fearful and reactive dogs. Have you spent much time theorizing about causes and treatments? Or are you more dog-like and able to focus on what’s going on in the moment?

My Writing Process: This is embarrassing

This post is part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour.

I was thrilled when Jodi at Kol’s Notes tagged me to take part because I adore her blog and loved reading about her process. In fact, I’ve enjoyed reading the writing process of all the bloggers who have taken part in this tour. It’s been inspiring!

Until I think about my writing process… whoo, boy…

Let me preface this by saying that I make my living as a writer. Not by writing this blog, but this blog has caused massive shifts in the type of work I receive for my freelance business. Which has brought me to a crossroads in my career. Which I’m still trying to navigate.

For this tour, I have three questions to answer, so I’m going to answer them specifically for the blog, not my crazy “work” writing process. Here we go!

Question #1: What are you working on?

I have a bunch of stuff in the queue. Some product reviews, a training post about dogs who dislike being handled (Molly), and I’m really striving to give Newt some “Caturday” posts. I actually have a notebook filled with ideas, but – as you’ll see from question three – I so rarely get to those ideas! And I just realized this answer doesn’t really answer the question. In short: nothing. I have nothing started. I’m all about fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants blogging, apparently. Which is SO not my personality and is, thus, stressful.

Question #2: Why do you write what you do?

When OMD! began, I needed a creative outlet for my writing because I was only working on corporate communications stuff for clients. I felt drained and wanted something fun to write. So, I started a blog. And it failed because I couldn’t sustain the mash of topics I was trying to cover. I thought, “What can I possibly write about, just for fun, that I’ll never run out of things to say?” The answers were sleeping in a dog bed in the corner of my office: Emmett and Lucas. This was long before Cooper, long before therapy dog training, long before moving and Newt and Molly… And in all that time, I’ve never run out of things to say about dogs!

Question #3: How does your writing process work?

I have the aforementioned list of ideas, and I also have an editorial calendar specifically for the blog printed out in my planner. How my writing process should work is like this: I file those ideas into the calendar, then write the posts a couple days in advance so that I can edit them and add lovely photos before scheduling them to publish in advance.

Here’s how it really works: Wake up. Pour a huge mug of coffee. Login to WordPress, and start to write about whatever topic I’m currently thinking about. I pull pictures off my phone, save, publish. It’s been working okay, I suppose, but also not really. Because days like Tuesday happen, where I woke up, looked at my email and had a drop-everything-and-help client emergency. So I did, of course, because that’s the work that pays the bills, but then a post didn’t happen that day. I’m striving to write more like the “should” scenario rather than the “what really happens” one. It’s too stressful, and it’s unsustainable. But I love this space, and I love, love, love the community of dog lovers who have joined up here to share stories and experiences with our little furry loves. So I’m committed to figuring it out! (In fact, I just finished a time management course that I’ll be writing about in a blog hop in a couple weeks… maybe I should get started now to work ahead!)

So, that’s that. I’m embarrassed to put that out there, especially since Jodi accused me of having it all together in her post! All I can say is that… I’m working on it. I love this blog. I love everyone who reads and comments and emails and connects on social media. Dog People are the best people, and even if I’m flying by the seat of my pants… it’s the best part of my day!

Okay! Now I get to pass this fun on… I’ve chosen three bloggers who I adore. From what I understand of the rules, they each have two weeks to answer the same three questions, and I honestly can’t wait to read their responses!

No Dog About It. If you guys aren’t reading this blog, you must! Seriously, go subscribe or add it to your reader. I’ll wait… The photography is gorgeous, but the writing is what gets me. Mel is insightful and brilliant. I’m constantly amazed at her astute observations about dogs and dog training.

I Still Want More Puppies. I don’t know how she does it. AJ mixes the funny with the sentimental so perfectly that you hang on her words. Every post makes you laugh or cry or, oftentimes, both. I was SO happy to get to hang out with her in person, and she’s absolutely lovely. I can’t wait to read her process. (AJ, divulge: HOW do you come up with all the puns??)

Peace-a-bull Assembly. Ray and Julius, the dog stars of this blog, are so stinkin’ cute. She could just post a photo of them a day, and I’d be so excited to see the daily updates. But Deb also writes about volunteering, and she shares pics of adoptable dogs along with her wisdom about working in rescue. And she lives in Indiana, and we WILL get together for coffee!

The herd tries a water fountain

Disclaimer: Please excuse the un-vacuumed doormat.

We have a weird water situation in our kitchen, so we always give the herd filtered water. We got this PetSafe water fountain, but we’re always cognizant of the potential for a fear reaction. Here’s how it went down:

 

The herd tries a water fountain from Maggie Marton on Vimeo.

Lucas, by the way, avoided it completely for two or three whole days, then out of nowhere started drinking from it. Newt is still disinterested.

Have you tried a water fountain like this? Do you think your pets would be excited and curious, like Emmett? Or wary like Newt?

Fall daydreams

Last fall, we didn’t get a fall! It’s my favorite time of year in Indiana, and there really isn’t a distinct season change in Louisiana. Now that kids are heading back to school, I’m daydreaming about my favorite fall things, all of which include the dogs, of course!

  • Making s’mores in the backyard fire pit (the pups get bits of marshmallow!)
  • Lucas crunching through raked-up piles of leaves
  • Visiting the pumpkin patch and sipping apple cider

Emmett at the pumpkin patch

  • Hiking without all the bugs
  • Dogs wearing sweaters
    Coop in his cable-knit sweater
  • And, obviously, Halloween! (Hmm… wonder what they’ll be this year??)

Halloween 2013

Are you daydreaming about fall? Or loving the last throes of summer? What are your favorite pup-friendly fall activities?