Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Howl-o-ween!

We had fun with hats this Howl-o-ween!  Sadie was a doll and stayed very still. 

Hurley tried to wiggle his way out of everything.

Maggie thought she could cuddle the hat off.

We had fun.

Then we got silly.

Happy Howl-o-ween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Really? Really??

As Hurley has and continues to grow, so do we.  While he is an incredibly smart and mostly well-behaved puppy, he has had issues we've had to work on.  First it was puppy temper tantrums, hating to be handled and bitey monster; then it was (and still is) impulse control issues related to counter surfing and garbage diving.  And then came frustration & attention barking at home & at the shop.  All of those things we identified, came up with a strategy & solution and moved forward.  While we are not 100% on most of those issues, he has made huge improvements in all areas.

But the latest & greatest issue we're facing is the hardest challenge for us so far.  At this point, I'm not entirely sure what the best path forward is.  To be honest, I've had a few "why me" moments in the past week since this issue came to a head and have had to go through my own process of acceptance, guilt, etc before I could even think about blogging about our issue and moving forward on a new training plan.

It's become clear to us that Hurley has some food-related aggressive behaviors forming.  These behaviors seem, at this point, to be related to my store. 

There were warning signs.  Part of the guilt I've been beating myself up over the last couple days is because I feel I should've seen the signs.  Getting over that guilt and moving forward has involved me being realistic about the situation.  Neither the Hubster nor I have any experience with resource guarding or food-based aggression.  This is new to us.

When we first got Hurley, he was OK with all dogs.  The most we ever saw was a little raised hair every now and then which would go away when he was able to get a little butt-sniffing in.  He was a perfect gentleman to dogs in the store and the street fairs we attended.  At about 5 months of age, the hair raising when meeting new dogs started happening more and more.

Then it progressed to barking at dogs.  First, it was barking at them if they ignored him in the shop.  Then it progressed to barking when some dogs came in the door of the store.  And then it was all dogs.  Because this was happening at the same time as his attention/frustration barking at me, I chalked it up as being for the same reasons.  We moved forward with having him work for his kibble throughout the day and employed the Kong Wobbler when customers came in the store.  While I've seen definite improvement in his behavior when a person comes in the store, his behavior towards the dogs that visit has been deteriorating.  And it culminated in the worst behavior yet earlier this week.

One of my regular customers came in with his puppy, who is about the same age as Hurley.  Though the two haven't seen each other in months, they did meet and play when they were both younger pups.  Hurley was in his kennel behind the counter enjoying a rawhide and I let him out to say hello.  He of course barked as usual but as he got closer to the other puppy, he bared his teeth, growled and snapped.  Shocked, I placed him back in his kennel (sans rawhide) and apologized.

In retrospect, I should never have interrupted Hurley's snack time.  But the same behavior occurred later in the day, when another regular customer of mine came in with her labradoodle.  This customer and I have discussed all of Hurley's training challenges over the past few months.  She always has great suggestions and tips.  So when I started explaining his barking behavior and that I was stumped as to what was causing it, she offered to bring Beulah into the store so we could test him out and see if she could help me identify the root cause (I seriously have the best customers ever!).

She stopped by later that same day and since I saw her coming, I brought Hurley towards the back of the store so that both dogs would have ample space.  When they first entered, Hurley was fine.  No barking even.  I made him look at me, treated and slowly moved towards the other dog.  He was fine until we got within leash distance of Beulah and then he exhibited the same behavior (though not as severe as earlier) - baring of teeth and snapping.  My customer took one look and said "It's gotta be the food.  He sees Beulah as coming between him and those treats." Over the next 10 minutes while the two of us chatted and brain-stormed, Hurley relaxed around Beulah and laid down quietly.  Of course, this was after I took all the treats out of my pocket and put them out of his reach. 

It clicked.  Between his impulse control issues, hard taking of treats, and food obsession, it makes sense.  He's fine with other dogs at the dog park; he's fine with the girls at home though they let him take whatever he wants, including food, so the lack of confrontation over food is more due to Maggie & Sadie being cool than his behavior being superb.  Our current theory is that he is possessive over the store environment only because this is where he receives the majority of training and is constantly being given treats, rawhides, bully sticks, etc.   What I have yet to figure out is whether the behavior is triggered as the other dog gets closer to the counter (the epicenter of all treat dispensing & where his kennel is & where he receives the Kong Wobbler), if it can be alleviated by eliminating the feeding of any rawhides, bullies, etc, reducing the overall amount of treats and making him work harder for the treats he does get, or if simply a food-rich environment like a pet store is just too much for him.  My hope against hope is that it's not that last one.  Honestly, I would be heart-broken if it turns out that this is an obstacle that Hurley cannot overcome; if it turns out that he's not a good candidate for shop dog.

I keep repeating to myself that I've always said my philosophy is to help my dogs become the best dogs they can be, not what my expectations for them were.  Not all dogs are suited to be in a retail environment day in and day out.  Hurley might be one of those dogs.   

And the hardest for me?  I already have two dogs with different fear-based aggression issues.  Hurley was supposed to be our easy dog.  Socializing him in the shop from such a young age, working so hard on basic training - I thought we were setting him up for success.  I thought I was doing everything right.  But sometimes, it's easy to miss the signs.  Sometimes "everything" is not enough.  While I'm thankful we've caught this early and hopeful that we can solve this issue, I also know that I must prepare to accept what might be the inevitable.  That Hurley isn't suited for life as a shop dog, at least not in a shop full of dog food.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Surprise Visit

Yesterday, I received a very special visit in the shop.  Ellie and her mama from Identity V + E stopped by to say hello, work on some training, and invite me to partake in a KPA training session next weekend (which I hope I can make happen!).  We had a wonderful visit.  I love when blog world and real world collide. 

Ellie was a joy to meet (as was Ximena!).  I love how she explored every inch of the store to find just the right spot to settle down while we chatted.  

Ellie making herself at home.
Who's that pretty dog in the window??
 Hope to see you guys again real soon!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Pervasiveness of Stereotypes

Love and a Six Foot Leash wrote a great post last week on the importance of words in advocating for pitbull type dogs.  How sometimes the well-intentioned can do harm with a poor choice of words or with assumptions and generalizations.  I believe we are all sometimes guilty of a poor choice of words, eliciting an unintended reaction.  It was a post that made me self-examine; to think about the challenge of advocating for a breed (or rather a group of dogs, many of whom are mixes, who are classified as pitbull type dogs - see I was listening!) without assigning positive or negative attributes based on appearance only.  To treat dogs as individuals; to describe them as individuals; and to recognize and constantly reinforce pit bull type dogs as a diverse group of canines.

I never thought her post would have such resonance in my own life.  This week, I received a little writeup from a blogger with the Oregonian.  He had stopped to inquire about a new business opening up across the street and stayed to discuss NoPo Paws with me - my background, why I opened the store, my pledge to donate 10% of my profits to animal rescue & welfare organizations, and my goals and plans for the future.  I spoke about all of my dogs, how working through their issues made me want to volunteer with our local Humane Society and how that translated into this passion to spend my life & career helping dogs. 

This was what he wrote:

"She got bit by the doggie bug four years ago when she adopted a pit bull mix named Sadie from the Oregon Humane Society. Fuller says the dog had “aggression issues,” and that prompted her to want to learn more about dog care and training."

It is the distillation of my comments on Sadie to "pit bull mix" and "aggression issues" that brought me back to Aleksandra's post.  While not an inaccurate way to describe the behavior problems Sadie had, fear was such a bigger part of the picture than the aggression.  As those who are familiar with fear-based aggression know, the difference is critically important.  In all fairness, someone who has no experience with fearful dogs or the various forms that aggression and reactivity can take, this distinction may seem completely unimportant.

But what strikes me even more about this choice of words is how stereotypical they are.  A pitbull mix with aggression issues.  That sentence could have been about my lab with aggression issues; it could've been about my pitbull mix with fear issues.  But it wasn't.  I know there was no ill intent, no desire to sensationalize and no awareness of the stereotype being used.  That's what makes it so dangerous. 

What affects me personally is the image I know is formed in many people's minds when they hear "pitbull" and "aggression" used in the same sentence, where they are consciously aware of that image or not.  And that image is so far from who my Sadie is, so far from who the overwhelming majority of pitbull type dogs are.  I wonder how I could've better communicated her issues.  And I regret that my dog, my precious Sadie, might just be another pitbull stereotype to a stranger reading this. 

Sadie is my pitbull mix.  We don't know for certain her breed heritage so pitbull/lab mix is a best guess.  We were told she was a lab mix.  But they didn't tell us about her behavior issues.  She was unsocialized and had fear issues.  She dealt with her fear by acting out - snapping, growling and otherwise warning people of her uncertainty and fear.  We trained, we encouraged, Maggie showed and we loved.  Through trial and error, tears and smiles, we made it through.  While she is not perfect, Sadie is now a happy and mostly well-adjusted dog.  Her favorite things are giving & receiving love and water.  She really digs water.  That is Sadie's story.  She is not a stereotype; she is an individual. 

Just to clarify, Maggie is the one adopted from Oregon Humane Society.  Sadie was rehomed by a family who couldn't keep her and were going to take her to the local county shelter if she didn't go home with us.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The One Thing Hurley Can't Reach

Nothing seems to be sacred in our house any more.  Hurley can and will reach all countertops, table tops and other surfaces that heretofore, we used to keep things out of his reach.  However, there is one place he hasn't figured out how to get up on yet:

My morning ritual is to make coffee, grab my laptop and head back to bed to catch up on all things interwebs.  Most times, I invite all the dogs up.  Hurley has not figured out how to jump up on the bed yet.  This from the puppy who figured out how to jump/plow over my garden fence at 3 months of age.  Sure the bed is higher but he's watched his big sisters jump up countless times.  And by big sisters, we are no longer talking 'bout size.  Hurley has surpassed Sadie in weight and Maggie in height; he's the big guy around the house now.  The big guy who can't figure out how to jump up on a bed. 

So every morning, Maggie & Sadie climb aboard while Hurley whines for a little bit, might put his front paws up, gives me his sad puppy dog eyes and then settles into his spot between the bed & dresser.

 I know he'll figure it out someday.  I just hope it's before he's too big to fit along with the 3 of us!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pittie Tales

In honor of National Pitbull Awareness day tomorrow, I wanted to share a few precious pittie encounters I had this past week.

Last Sunday, I was at the World Forestry Center's Doggie Palooza event representing NoPo Paws.  While I saw many pugs, chihuahua's and other adorable little dogs, it was the few and far in between pitties that stole my heart.  Just cause I love them so much, I made a point of stepping out from behind my table, oohing and aahing over them and asking if it was OK if I gave them some love.  In true pittie fashion, every single one of them gave me kisses once I got down on the floor and gave them a few pets.  This is why I love this breed so much!  No other breed there gave me kisses as willingly and enthusiastically as those few pitties.  I think it also meant something to their owners that I was so enthusiastic about their dogs and showed the entire crowd how wonderfully friendly and cuddly they are through my interactions with them.  My favorite was a little pocket pittie with front bowed legs (like a bull dog) and a beautiful silver coat.  As soon as I crouched down, it was raining kisses and then she flopped on to her back, wiggling and squealing kind of like a pig while I gave her a quick belly rub.  Not wanting to get her too excited, I kept it short & sweet but it was the highlight of my day.  Unfortunately, my camera was dead so I was unable to get pics. :( 

My other pittie encounter this week came close to home.  We have a house at the end of our block.  This house has a dog that is always outside.  The dog always barks when we pass on our walks.  It is a big black dog and that's all I've ever known about him.  I always use his house as a training opportunity for curbing leash reactivity.  One morning earlier this week, Hurley and I were doing our thing, walking past while I stopped him, had him look at me and gave him some treats. This particular morning, I failed to notice that the gate to this dog's yard was slightly ajar and as he barked and we started to walk on, he came out and down the steps.  Having had these types of encounters before, I quickly walked on turning back to see if he was following. 

There he was - a beautiful black tripod elderbull.  As much as I wanted to turn around and receive some of those famous pittie kisses, I also knew that it was smarter to walk on and not put Hurley at risk.  He barks ferociously but it's always more of an alert non-aggressive bark.  Still, it was smarter not to take my chances.  As we continued down the sidewalk and I continued looking back, he lifted his leg on his tree to let Hurley know whose property we had just passed and once he was sufficiently satisfied that we were on his way, he was back in his yard doing his thing.  After Hurley & I got home, I returned to safely latch his gate and he stayed on his comfy bed on his porch, offered me a bark and settled down. 

While I have been followed by loose dogs that aggressively bark at my dogs (who in turn just as aggressively bark back), this pittie was not one of those dogs.  He had no intention of doing us any harm; he just wanted to let us know it was his yard and make sure we were moving on quickly enough.  He knew his spot was on that bed on his porch and he had no desire to wander the neighborhood.  I love knowing there is such a cool dog just down the street and while I will continue to use that house as a training opportunity on our walks, I do so with a smile and a warmth in my heart for the tripod elderbull who lives there.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


First off,  this is post #100.  Woot!  Honestly, I never thought I'd get here.  I am an expert at half-finished projects - but blogging about our furry family is fulfilling in a way I never realized it could be.  And you peeps aren't that bad either!

But on to the actual post....

With three dogs, patience is not a virtue; it's a necessity.  And while each of us, furry or human, exhibits patience in our crazy household in our individual ways, no one excels at it more than dear Maggie.

From the get-go, Maggie has shown an outstanding amount of patience towards puppy Hurley.  She was the first to share her bed.

She ran interference during the crazy, bitey, temper-tantrum throwing early days.  Seriously, she would come running whenever he was too rough with me and take over - teaching him bite inhibition and giving this chewed up Mama a much needed break.

She is always game for bitey face, tug, or any other romping that Hurley feels must be done.  Even when he wakes her up from a dead sleep.  And let me tell you, he's not exactly Mr Manners when it comes to his playing needs.  But every single time, she is a willing participant.

I am so lucky to have Maggie - she's been a great big sister, baby-sitter and much needed stress relief.  Raising a puppy is hard work but with a partner like Maggie, anyone can make it through the ups and downs of puppyhood!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Building Trust

Slowly but surely, we are building trust here.  Three months ago I wouldn't have thought about turning my back with cooling cake and bubbling sauce on the stove.  Nowadays?  Let's have a photo shoot, why don't we?

 Hurley's totally bored with this photo shoot!

 Hurley's not the only one I torture with who loves photo shoots!

Matching drool.  Gross.
We had veggie lasagna and carrot cake for the Hubster's birthday and Hurley didn't screw it up by surfing the meal from the counters at any stage of the cooking process.  I'm not sure if I should categorize that as progress on his part or major leap of faith on mine!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How Sadie literally licked Hurley's Face Off

I noticed a bit of a bald spot around Hurley's eye about a week ago.  I noticed a couple days ago that it had grown and it seemed a little puffier than the other eye.  I also noticed Hurley pawing at it.  I promptly freaked out, called our vet and made an appointment for the following day.  As the Hubster and I examined his eye that night, he bet me that it was nothing.  I insisted upon keeping the appointment anyway.

The Hubster won his bet aka yes, he was right and I was wrong.  Most likely, it is nothing.  My favorite part of the vet visit came after we had done several tests with his eye involving black lights and droplets.  Our vet asked me "What do you think the chances are that he just bumped his head?"  I laughed.  Yup, sounds like Hurley. 

I had also remembered, as I was driving into the parking lot, that Sadie likes to groom Hurley.  Actually, she is obsessed with grooming him.  Every night, he gets a good once-over; some nights, she would lick his face, ears, etc for hours on end if we let her.  If I had remembered this before I was pulling into the vet's office, no appt would have been made. There is no question in my mind that she literally licked the fur off of his face.   And fur growing back is itchy, he scratched, I thought it was bothering him.  Bam! Vet visit.

Needless to say, it's a good thing my vet is the type that says "I'm not gonna charge you for that" when we do quick tests in the clinic that reinforce my likely over-reaction.  But I'm glad that my mind is at peace.  And just in case the Hubster is only temporarily right, I am going on the record that there is a slight chance that it could be ring worm or mites (aka Mange).  If it gets worse (after keeping Sadie's tongue far away from her bro), then we look into getting more tests done.  That's vet-speak for making the doggie mama feel better about wasting a visit.  He even called me after the visit to speak to me about demodectic mange and that it's on the list of what to be concerned about if it gets worse. 

In other news, it's started raining here in Portland.  Please look forward to plenty of muddy Hurley pics for the next 9 months.

Hurley Genius Puppy: Go Find It

We decided to have a little fun in the shop today instead of doing B-O-R-I-N-G training work like increasing our down stays and looks (Hurley's emphasis on the boring, folks).  I've long said that Hurley has quite the nose on him so today we began "Go Find It". 

We started out easy-peasy.  Sit > Stay > (Putting a treat on the shelf right in front of him) > Look > Go Find It!  Since he already had 3 of these four steps down and considering his obsession with treats, it wasn't surprising that it took him exactly 5 seconds to grab the treat.  And it was only 5 seconds because he hesitated and gave me that "Are you sure this isn't a trick Leave It?" look.  And then I lengthened the treat to a shelf 10 feet away. 

A crazy-eyed sniff

And then on the other side of the display.  This time, I used a lower value biscuit, which I guess is not as smelly as the dehydrated bison 'cause Hurley sniffed right past it, around it, over it - all in what I assume was a search for the far superior bison. to get Hurley to know the scent I want him to find?

Sniff sucks.  Chomp Rules!

So I added Sniff in between the Sit and Stay so it goes Sit > Sniff > Stay > (hiding the treat) > Look > Go Find It.  I admit, folks.  I had my doubts that I could get Hurley to reliably sniff at a treat in my hand without some serious chomping action.  What was I thinking waving a tasty treat in front of his snout and expecting him not to chomp my fingers off?  To my incredulity, he got the sniff concept on the 3rd time and found the crappy biscuit immediately.  To me, this is more impressive than him finding any number of treats in any number of hiding places. 

What?  I can sniff & lick at the same time.

We continued with new hiding places. On the other side of an obstacle in between us.  Then on the other side of the store under a table.  Then completely 100% out of his line of sight on the other side of the counter.  Several times he took a bit of time sniffing around; once I had to walk him to the general area of the treat.  But each time he got it and most times, he got it FAST.
I know it's around here somewhere

Got It!

Got It Again!

Then he spent the next hour sniffing around the store in hopes of finding a treat.

This is by far Hurley's favorite trick.  Not only did he discover his ability to drool profusely but he also enthusiastically showed off for the next 3 customers who came in.  They were all suitably impressed. 

For those of you who follow us on Facebook, we take Hurley to the vet in about an hour's time so we don't have an answer on his eye thing yet.  You can kind of see in the pictures but his right eye looks bald & slightly swollen around the inner corner of the eye.  It could be anything from a scratch near or on his eye that he's pawed at creating the bald spot, a skin or eye infection, allergies, or nothing to worry about at all. Or any number of other things I haven't imagined yet.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I'm sure we all try not to have favorites.  I do cherish my dogs for different reasons:  Sadie is my sweetheart, Maggie my athlete and Hurley my goof ball.  But at the end of the day, I try not to play favorites and I love them all.  I'm not sure that our dogs possess that same sense of fairness when it comes to distributing their love between the Hubster and I.

If the Hubster and I are in different rooms, Maggie is with him.  Every Sunday morning, you find Maggie laying next to the sofa while the Hubster watches football.  She may come running if she hears me letting the other dogs out or getting out some treats, and when it's time to make dinner she usually makes an appearance in the kitchen to see what I am doing.  But other than that, she's a daddy's girl through and through, preferring to spend her hours lazing by his side.  Maggie thrives under his eye - she is always better behaved outside of the home when he's got the other end of the leash.   And while I wish I had the same effect when we are on our walks, I truly treasure the moments she seeks affection from me as our special moments.  'Course, those always happen when the Hubster's not around. :)

Sadie & Hurley, on the other hand, can always be found in whatever room I am in.  Every movement of mine captures their eyes and when I move on to another room, they are on my heels.  Sadie has always been my girl; she in inherently more comfortable with women than men and between my love of giving affection and her love of receiving it, we have formed a special bond.  She loves affection so much that she happily thumps her tail not only when she's on the receiving end but whenever anyone else in the house is getting some love and affection.  That's one of my favorite things about her.

i wuv everyone

Hurley, on the other hand, is just now warming up to affection. But while he may not want Mom's hugs just yet, he is always by my side, under my feet or intently watching my every move.  At the store, his favorite spot is curled up close enough that some part of his body is touching my feet.  His "spot" with blanket and toys, 6" inches from my feet, is not close enough for him.  He is always, always underfoot and while there are times when that is inconvenient, it also warms my heart when he curls up at my feet and gazes up at me. 

Always under Mom's chair

The hubster and I were commenting on our dogs' "favorite" this weekend.  Hurley and Sadie had followed me down to our family room and were sitting in front of the couch, staring at me.  In the middle of the conversation the Hubster turns to Hurley and asks "Do you love your mama?"  And swear to God, Hurley made a cute little whimper and looked back at me with a somewhat worshipful expression on his face.  Yup, I think I might be his favorite.

Do your dogs have favorites?