Monthly Archives: November 2008

Bad parenting moment

Oy – had a bad parenting moment. I vacc’d her on Wednesday and sent her to daycare on Thursday. Probably not the best choice. But then followed that on Friday with ANOTHER change in her diet. (She wasn’t loving the boys’ kibble, so I decided to try Solid Gold’s large breed puppy food.) I didn’t even THINK about what that would do to her system. We went to bed last night, and she started crying – very unusual. Then she sat up and threw up. Then she had diarrhea off and on the rest of the night.

POOR BABY. You could hear her little gut gurgling. She was soooo good though. She told me clearly every time she had to go, so there was never a mistake in the crate. (She also almost convinced me to let her sleep on the bed with me, but I resisted.) She still had the last dregs of the issue this morning, but she ate and drank normally, and her energy is up. Bad mama!! Bad, bad!!

Jay had his own bad parenting moment. Sweet man picked up new toys for the Pflouffer…. Two new toys. In a house with three dogs. This did not go well. Poor Aslan was HEARTBROKEN. I felt terribly guilty letting Pax and Pflouff play with them in the basement, but I needed the distraction.

We need to do something special with Aslan. He has been really good and trying really hard. Everyone mixes off and on (like when Pflouff goes out to potty), and he has been great. The one thing I can’t let him do, though, is sleep in the bedroom. There’s just too much coming and going, and that sets off his guarding issues. I feel horrible gating him out, even though I know it’s the right choice. (He isn’t suffering, mind you. He sleeps on the guest bed when he’s not in our room. He has more room than ANY of us!)

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Daycare report

Pflouffer spent the day at Great Dog Daycare in Seattle yesterday. It was an evaluation day for her, so she got lots of one-on-one attention. They give a fun little written summary at the end of the evaluation day. Hers says that she:

  • played with other dogs, especially Luigi, Zoe, Misty, and Booker,
  • played with people, especially Kristin and Catlin Jo,
  • played with toys,
  • snuggled on the couch,
  • had lunch (ate most, and threw the rest around her crate),
  • drank water,
  • took a nap,
  • went potty, and
  • was reserved.

The latter surprised me. They said that she “kept close to humans at first. As the day went on, her confidence grew, and she made some new dog friends too.”

At first I chalked it up to being dropped off at a strange place, but then I remembered that she had gotten vaccs the day before. She may simply have not been feeling all that well in the morning. If I had a brain, I wouldn’t have gotten her shots the day before daycare — especially her first day of daycare. It’s way too common for dogs to feel crappy the day after they get their vaccinations.

Other behaviors they noted during the days were:

  • Cautious
  • Observer
  • Interested in other dogs
  • Good play skills

They have a scale from 1 – 10 to rate how much she enjoyed the experience. 1 means she didn’t like it. 10 means she loved every minute of it. They said she started at a 7 and increased through the day.

Final comment: “She’s a very sweet girl, and all the staff LOVE her! She’s do wonderfully here! Towards the end of the day and after she had her afternoon nap, she really got into playing. She is SO cute to watch!”

Jay picked her up and bought a ton of new stuff, including a fuschia colored collar and leash. (She’s stylin’!) She crashed hard on the way home, and was over-tired and therefore totally wild when she got home. It was 9:00 before she was ready to cash it in for the night, but when she did, she was out like a light.

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Making a plan

I pulled out the list of foundation behaviors I want to teach…

  • Targeting with nose
  • Targeting with paw
  • Recall
  • Sit
  • Down
  • Conformation stack
  • Walk at my side
  • Name recognition/Attention
  • Retrieve
  • Grooming / Nail clipping / Husbandry
  • Crate training
  • Stay on a mat
  • Scent work

I compared those to Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels. Her first level behaviors, except for Zen, and a great number of her second level behaviors are on my list. Since I want to train the Levels, I added Zen to my list.

I also decided that I needed a low-level goal for each behavior to get me focused and give me something concrete to focus on. Again, Training levels to the rescue! With a few adjustments, I used her initial goals for each behavior as my initial goals for each behavior. “Sit” I modified a bit, because I want a competition-quality sit. She doesn’t have paw targeting at this level, so I modified her nose target goal. Finally, I combined the conformation stacking with husbandry behaviors for this first level, because I’m going to start with a hand stack, not a free stack.

My list with initial goals:

Targeting with nose — The dog must deliberately touch the handler’s hand with his nose on only one voice cue. The hand in position is, naturally, a second, allowable cue.

Targeting with paw — The dog must deliberately touch the target with his paw on only one voice cue. The target in position is, naturally, a second, allowable cue.

Recall — The dog must play the Come Game between the handler and a friend or stranger standing 20’ apart.

Sit — The dog will do a tucked, on-the-haunches Sit from standing position on one cue only (may be a voice OR a hand cue, but not both, and no extra body language from the handler). The handler may use the dog’s name to get his attention before starting.

Down — The dog must Down from a Sit or Stand with no more than two cues – hand and voice, voice and body language, two voice cues, etc. It is not necessary for the dog to stay in the Down position, simply to lie down.

Walk at my side — Handler stands in one spot while the dog keeps the leash loose for one minute with one distraction. Handler may use cues but may NOT cue the dog to Watch or to Heel, or to Sit, Down, or Stand or Stay. The intent of the exercise is that the dog’s default behaviour for one minute is to keep the leash loose. The dog is NOT required to watch the handler.

Name recognition/Attention — Dog’s head swivels immediately toward handler when handler says name.

Retrieve — The dog nose-targets four different objects including a dumbell, on one cue each.

Grooming / Nail clipping / Husbandry and Conformation Stack — The dog allows the handler to handle his ears, tail, and feet. This may be done on a table or on the floor. There must be minimal struggling.

Crate training — Dog enters crate with no more than two cues (vocal, body language, or hand signals), remains in crate while handler closes/opens door, no vocalizing or pawing.

Stay on a mat — Dog goes to, gets on a mat, dog bed, hammock, or pause table from 5’ away, 2 cues only – two voice cues, or a voice cue and body language, etc.

Scent work — The dog finds a treat hidden under a cup or piece of cloth. There should be a cue to Find It.

Zen — The dog must stay away from a treat in the handler’s hand for 5 seconds. There can be only one voice cue which will be given before the hand is presented.

I won’t work on every behavior every day. Just don’t have that kind of time! But hopefully I can work on a few behaviors each day.

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Deep breath… breathe

Yesterday was tough. Nothing actually went wrong, but it was one of those really long days where it was run, run, run from one thing to another. TenTen had to spend quite a bit of time in her crate in the afternoon as I ran from appointment to appointment, and she was really tired of it by the end. I gave her chewies, but they weren’t enough to satisfy all that puppy energy.

I worked all morning, ran to appointments all afternoon, and finally got home about five thirty. Everybody’s dinner was late, and trying to get everyone pottied and fed without letting Pax and Aslan interact was stressful. Again, nothing actually went WRONG — which I’m grateful for — but I was stressed and exhausted by the time it was over.

I didn’t get a chance to eat until I was done with all that either. My first meal of the day was at 6. Heck, I hadn’t even had anything to DRINK before that yesterday.

Jay and I were supposed to work in the barn yesterday evening, but I was too wiped out. I asked him to stay in the den and help me entertain TenTen. She deserved some serious attention after being such a trouper all day.

Work has really cut into my time with her. I’ve really not even had a chance to start training her! Heck, if every day were like yesterday, this would be the least trained dog on the planet. She barely even knows her name!

Speaking of, I’ve got to give up this “TenTen” or “Tennyson” pretext. Yes, that’s the name on forms I fill out, and I certainly intended it to be her name, but her name is Floofer. Or, as I spell it, Pflouffer. (My friend Debi thinks it should be Pflouxffer.) Even Jay is calling her Pflouff now.

So Miss Pflouffer is at daycare for the first time today. I consider one-day-a-week in doggie daycare to be a survival necessity — for me! It’s Mother’s Day Out. Granted, I’m just working as usual, but it’s a chance for me to destress, rest, eat regular meals, and get some things done.

It’s a chance for Pax and Aslan to destress too. They’ve been in “General Population” — meaning they’re not separated from one another — all day, and things are going fine. They’re mostly choosing to ignore one another. I’ll go back to separating them when Pflouff comes home tonight, because I don’t want Aslan to get over-stressed.

I need to use today to make a training plan for Miss Pflouff. It’s clear that I’m going to have a busy schedule, so I’m going to have to have an easily-followed game plan.

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I knew when I decided to get a puppy that doing so would add a significant level of stress to the household for a while, and that would likely create issues with Aslan. When Aslan is stressed, he redirects his stress onto Pax. I’ve worked pretty hard to minimize this problem since it began about three years ago, and at this point, both because he rarely gets to “practice” acting out and because he has matured, we rarely have an issue.

When we do, the issue is potentially serious. The last real fight we had was last February, but that one resulted in trips to the vet for both dogs. More than that, it created tension between the two dogs which lasted for several weeks. During that time, they had to be separated, and their reintroduction was phased and carefully monitored.

Since we brought TenTen home, I’ve watched Aslan carefully, particularly when Pax is around. He has been great with the pup herself, but there have been moments where he growled at Pax. Until yesterday afternoon I’d had enough time/space to redirect and jolly Aslan out of his reaction, or to remove him so he could calm down. I could, however, see that his stress level was building — which is predictable and expected. I’m surprised he was able to be “in the general population” this long!

Yesterday afternoon, I was playing with the pup on the stairs to the basement. Aslan was at the head of the stairs. I think Pax ran into the middle. Aslan growled, but Pax was RIGHT THERE in a small space. Aslan jumped him, and I reacted by standing and reaching out to separate them.
Aslan nailed me at least three times. To be honest, I don’t remember exactly how many times he bit me. I know I was darn thankful that I was wearing a heavy long-sleeve fleece. Great Pyrs have a very hard, crushing bite — he’s a livestock guardian breed used for predator control. His bite style was developed to be used against animals that were going to fight back and try to kill him.

I got hold of their collars and managed to separate them. Aslan didn’t bite me “accidentally.” Dogs know EXACTLY where their mouths are and what they’re doing with them. He was telling me to get out of his way because he was going after Pax. I was able to get them apart though, and neither redirected their aggression to me. (That’s really important. Had he redirected to me in that situation, not only would I have been injured far worse, I would be truly frightened of him and the situation. Our problem would be much, much more serious.)

Adrenaline or endorphins kept the bites from hurting much. I was actually surprised he broke the skin, but he did. He got the side of my hand at an angle, so there’s a groove, rather than a puncture. I went down to my doctor’s office and got it cleaned up. He wanted to put in a couple of stitches, but I opted for the tape stuff. I’m not worried about a scar, and I want it to be able to drain.

It bled a fair amount initially. I still had Aslan’s collar, so my white dog had blood all over him. I told Jay on the phone not to be worried by the blood on Aslan — it was mine, not his. Somehow, that didn’t reassure him.

Anyway, I’m not terribly concerned. I’d hoped to avoid an actual fighting incident, but I stopped it quickly. Now the big dogs are separated. Aslan is very stressed, and we’ll work on that. It will take some time for the household to return to normal — it’s stressful on everyone when a new one comes home — but it will happen. I just need to take steps to minimize stress and prevent incidents until then.

I suppose the worst of it, from my perspective is that I got nothing accomplished yesterday. I worked until 3, and then almost immediately got bitten and lost the rest of the afternoon dealing with it. By evening, I was mostly concerned with keeping the puppy awake, so we’d all get some sleep last night.

Guess what? It worked! TenTen and I went to bed at 8. She slept without needing to potty until Jay came up at 2:30. He took her out, and she slept until 5:30. I took her out, and then took a chance on putting her back to bed. She slept again until 7!

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