Saturday, January 28, 2012

The One Where Hurley Meets His Brother

We finally had our first meeting with Hurley's brother Max!  I was of two minds when I imagined how it would go.  Hurley would either go absolutely bonkers crazy seeing him or would be a bit timid.  The timidity theory came from our suspicion that Hurley was the runt and a little picked on by his littermates and from his behavior with dogs that are larger than him.  He tends to be a little shy in the butt sniffing arena when significantly outweighed by the dog he's meeting.  So which way did Hurley go?

Who's at the door, Hurley?

Both.  At first he was the usual butt shy.  I was beginning to get a little concerned, five minutes into the visit, when Hurley was still tuckin' tail every time Max tried to say hello.  Oh dear, I thought, these wonderful people drove an hour to come meet Hurley and he's not even interested in proper hellos! 

But never fear, Hurley is Hurley after all and even butt-shy fades away into my normal friendly playful pup when you give him enough time.  It was mirror image spontaneous play bows and they were off!

Well, as much as they could while still being on leash in the shop.  There was a bit of wrestling, more than a little bit of humping (Max is still working things out just havin' been neutered last week) and Hurley was as happy to receive the dominating play as he was to give it back.  There is only one dog that Hurley plays like that with (his good buddy Wilbur who visits the store) so I would say that there was some sibling recognition there. 

While Hurley and Max do look a lot alike, I was surprised by how much the two had changed as compared to virtually identical pictures of them just a few months ago.  Max's head is HUGE.  And his stance is WIDE.  I did enjoy how puppy-like Hurley appeared next to him (hey, anything to keep my puppy a puppy.  they really do grow up too fast!).  And it makes me think that Hurley still has a ton of growing left to do, primarily in the getting wider and more muscular area.  Maybe he will make it to 100 lbs after all.   A girl can hope, right?

Doesn't Max have the best smile?

The best part was seeing how loved Max is by his family.  He has two wonderful human siblings whom Hurley enjoyed meeting and showing off his High Five.  And Max gets to enjoy being a farm dog, "helping" on his family's orchard by catching gophers.  What a life!  

We're looking forward to a proper play date next time.  One where Hurley and Max can be off leash and free to romp (and hump) to their heart's content.  Thanks, Andrea, for the amazing visit!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Progress Report: Back up

Something Wagging This Way Comes

We are participating in Something Wagging's Train Your Dog Challenge.  Not just for the month of January though.  Hurley and I are going hard-core and training one new thing each month in 2012!

For January's challenge, we chose to work on the command "Back Up."  Here's where we are: 

Back up is coming along splendidly.  I know it's not the most glamorous of tricks - we'll get there - but it is a basic behavior that the Hurley I know needed.  I've used it to get his schnozzle out of the fridge, get out of my way when I'm moving bags of food and a couple other instances.  I'm loving how useful this one will be!

But I felt that the learning curve was pretty short for this challenge thing.  Too short for a new behavior that's supposed to take us 30 days to learn.  I know I started out easy peasy but he had it down pretty much as soon as I brought the clicker out on the 3rd day of training.  At the end of the first week, this was where we were at:

Training went so well with Smart Man Hurley-pants, I decided to include the girls in on the fun.  I've done a few sessions - all 3 dogs, just the girls, one on one and, while they seem to be getting the backup motion, they are no where near as far along as Hurley.  Maggie at first tried to hop back with front paws in the air and it took several training sessions for her to understand that I wanted all 4 paws on the ground but she's finally there.  Sadie just hops back. I cannot get her to stand in front of me without sitting (her default behavior).  And so she then does a cute little hop backwards into another sit.  Both of them will offer up every single thing they know in about 10 seconds flat as well before settling into understanding that we're working on backup.  And their energy level training?  Off the charts!  Neither of them have Backup down on either verbal or hand command yet so I still have to step towards them to elicit the step backward.  Sigh.  I've still got 5 days in the month left, right?

Wondering what's next on our training agenda?  Here's a sneak peek!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Perambulating Pup

Perambulate.  I love how that word rolls off the tongue.  Slow it down. 

It's a word that, I think, perfectly describes Hurley's walking style.   He goes at a slow pace, hips undulating as his 70 lb frame imitates that of a much, much larger dog.  Each step seems to be infused with purpose, or maybe it's just that each step reflects his laid-back attitude towards life. 

Even the synonyms at each perfectly describe what comes to mind when it's just me and Hurley walking about our neighborhood: saunter, amble, mosey, meander, ramble.  Yup.  That's my guy!

I'm beginning to realize that Hurley's gift to me might be teaching me the ability to take life in at a leisurely pace, to not sweat the small stuff, to stop and smell the roses (or the cat poo, as the case might be). 

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Yup.  It happened.  We got snow!  This after the weather idiots told us that nothing would, in fact, stick.  No, we didn't get socked like Seattle but we did get an inch or two, which began melting as soon as it started sticking and was gone by mid-day.  But hey, I'll take it! 

With white stuff actually on the ground, Hurley could no longer ignore snow.  So what did he do?  In true Hurley fashion and like his big sis, Maggie, he ate it.  Round and round the yard he walked, making sure not one corner of snow tasted differently than the other.

Snow, check.  Now on to Spring, right?  Sadie says yes please.  She's tired of having to poop inside when the weather outside is frightful (for her, that's anything under 45 degrees or any form of water falling from the sky).  Please, Spring, hurry up and get here!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Three Dog Walking

I did it folks.  For the first time ever, I walked all 3 dogs together.  I was a little concerned about how calm I could remain, how frustrated I would be by the time it was over but things have been going so well on our 2 dog walks, I figured it was time to up the ante.

For those who haven't been following this blog for long, our Maggie has a history of leash aggression and Sadie is leash reactive.  Hurley didn't get too many walks with them in the beginning so their bad behavior didn't rub off on him.  Meanwhile, we have been working hard on their issues and both were finally ready for 2 dog walks earlier this year. 

And it went very well.  Hurley was the worst with Maggie & Sadie virtually perfect.  How did I get here? 

1.  Our first 3 dog walk was today and it is cold, wet, snowy, slushy and just downright not fun walking weather.  I figured this would result in dogs that were less than thrilled to be out and about in it and therefore, a bit calmer.  Mission accomplished! 

2.  We've practiced loads of 2 dog walks in the past few months.  The Hubster has especially been great at getting them out together while I do at least one multi-dog walk per week with more individual walks throughout the week. 

3.  Perfecting single dog walks.  We've spent the majority of our time since we got Hurley working on everyone's individual walking behavior and only recently working on multi-dog walks.  Sadie & Maggie finally seem to understand that our expectations are the same whether it's just one of them or the whole lot of them.  They are finally understanding a lot of things that previously they struggled with - something I attribute to the addition of Hurley. 

4.  Our dogs "earn" each block they gain access to.  When we first started multi-dog walks, we just walked back and forth for a half hour on our block only.  And in the middle of the street.  If they were good, then we walked one block up and did the same back and forth.  It's amazing how quickly dogs start walking well on a leash when they get bored sniffing the same thing over and over and over...

5.  I don't have the same expectations in terms of 100% loose leash when I am walking all 3.  At this point.  So even though Hurley was not great, he wasn't terrible and that's about all I can ask on the first 3 dog walk (technically, the 2nd as the Hubster took them all 3 out once, which was a "disaster" as he called it).  This one is most important for me - the level of my frustration/anxiety directly corresponds to the crazy leash behavior.  The calmer and more laid-back I am, the better they all are.  The less I push them to be "perfect", the better they are in comparison to the last experience.  So I let go of any expectations that this walk would be a success, just decided to try it so I would know what we needed to work on and voila!  It was pretty darn great. 

6.  I carry a water bottle on our walks to spritz Hurley.  Because he thinks walking with another dog is a great time to play bitey face.  I only need to use it once, when we first start out and he's fine the rest of the walk.  My hope is that over the next month, I can phase out the use of the water bottle entirely.  I much prefer to use this than attempt any leash corrections (which I still don't get how to do them correctly and don't believe they are the best training method for achieving a dog happy to be on the other end of the leash, a critical attitude needed for working on leash reactivity).  And since bitey face is a result of Hurley getting amped up, I try not to use a lot of treats at the beginning of our walks as that just amps him up that much more. I wait until he is calmer about getting to walk with his sisters, then we pull out the treats for practicing "watch me"s and sitting nicely at corners.  Today,  I didn't try either of those though as I just wanted to get a feel for where they all three were at when it came to walking as a pack.

7.  I use front clip harnesses on all 3 of them.  They pull less and when they do pull, it's less jarring on my arm.  This results in me being able to react and control them better as opposed to just trying to keep my arm from being pulled off.

8.  I walk the dogs between 8 and 9:30am.  This seems to be the perfect time in our neighborhood for the least amount of encounters with people, dogs and cats.  All of these things puts the dogs into a tizzy so by walking at less busy times, we are able to achieve better walking behavior.  Once we are 100%, we will start upping the ante by walking through a local park, at busier times, etc but we're not there yet.

I was really happy about how Maggie & Sadie were content to walk side by side and didn't try to compete to be out front alongside Hurley.  When Hurley was walking between them, we had the best success and for a few precious minutes, all 3 were on very loose leashes, all walking side by side with no side trips to smell grass, no jostling for position.  Then we reached a puddle which Hurley had to jump over (Hurley doesn't do puddles) and the peace was broken but those few minutes showed me that we're not far away from entire walks that calm and peaceful.  

I have to say Thank You!  to 24 Paws of Love.  They posted today about the one behavior that they wished magically could be fixed.  Theirs was walking behavior as is mine.  Their post inspired me to just give the 3 dog walk a try.  It was only my uncertainty on how it would go that stopped me from getting to this point.  So I decided to wave my own magic wand, bite the bullet and just do it.  Sometimes, that's all it takes. I'm sure we're are going to have absolutely terrible, frustrating, awful 3 dog walks in our future.  But we started out pretty darn good and we're gonna keep going, no matter what. 

In other news, Hurley saw snowflakes for the very first time today and had no reaction.  Zero.  Zip. Nada.  It was disappointing because Maggie & Sadie love romping in the snow and I get giddy excited at the possibility of seeing any here in Portland.  Not only did the weather let us down by not snowing steadily for more than 2 minutes at a time, none of it stuck.  They say we may get more tonight but I'm not believing those deceitful weather people who toy with my emotions any longer.  And how could Hurley not even take notice of the white flakes falling on his nose?.  Not even notice!  Disappointed, dude, disappointed.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday the 13th Magic

My day started out like it was Friday the 13th.  Payment mixup with a utility company that I had to straighten out before our water got turned off, Hurley broke the hook I tether him to at the shop, my credit card processing wasn't working first thing and I had to make customers wait.  I shrugged and said "Bring it on."  Friday the 13th mojo can't bring me down.

And then I got the most amazing phone call.  I answer the phone at the shop and the voice on the other end says "Hi - I found you through your blog and I think I have Hurley's sibling."  I'm sure all of us dog owners know the fantasy that is meeting your dog's litter mates, right?  And it's coming true for me!  How cool is that??
Baby Max
Baby Hurley

As Andrea and I talked, we became more convinced that Hurley and Max are in fact brothers. 

Max shares Hurley's love of "helping" with the dishes.
 Born at the same time, same type of experience with the person who had the litter, given the same paperwork, same markings, same inexplicable short hair for a Golden/St Bernard mix, same suspicion that they might be more of a Mastiff mix, same laid-back disposition.  With one giant exception.  Apparently Max is already about double Hurley's size.  Yup, that about confirms that Hurley was the runt.

Can you guess which dog this is?

What about this one?
Awww....they even sit alike!
We're hoping that Hurley & Max can get together soon.  He lives about an hour away from Portland, in Hood River, one of our favorite spots on the Columbia Gorge.  He gets to spend his days romping about his family's orchard.  I would say that these two litter mates both hit the doggie jackpot with their families!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: A Miracle on Treat Street


Today, we were just practicing some impulse control - stays and leave its while I tossed treats around him.  He was doing so well that I decided to up the ante.  Look what happens when you just go with the flow!  Great job, Hurley man!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Great Muffin Heist of 2012

So I was in the shower this morning, minding my own business, when I begin to detect the unmistakable sounds of a dog getting into mischief.  I strain my ears, wondering what on Earth Hurley could be getting into this time.  All the bread is on top of the fridge, the kitchen is clean, house is spic and span and then I remember....the Muffins!

I have one day off per week.  On this day, I always have lots of chores and errands but I make time to do one thing for me.  Just one thing just for me.  This week, I made Pumpkin Apple Cranberry muffins.  I had one.

So this morning after I detected the unmistakable sounds of Hurley ruining my morning, I hurry to finish my shower and open the bathroom door.  He bounds in, still licking his chops.  If that wasn't evidence enough, I present the following:

The complete lack of crumbs, anywhere, indicate that this was a professional heist.

As is customary when a certain puppy is creating mischief, I found the other two hiding out in their room.

 Someone's tummy is bulging - maybe because 10 missing muffins are in there!

Are you kidding me?  HE WIPED HIS MOUTH ON MY BED.    

My great plans of having a quick, easy and delicious muffin for breakfast each morning this week have been dashed.  So I had toast.

Sad toast face.

Just remember this, buddy.  Payback is a bitch. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

January Training Challenge: Back Up

Back, Back, Back the truck up!

For our first 30-day training challenge of 2012, Hurley and I will be perfecting "Back up".  The practical uses for this are numerous.  He's in my face?  Back up.  Not in heel position?  Back up.  Too close to his food bowl?  Back up.  About to be sprayed by a skunk?  For doG's sake, BACK UP! 

I foresee this being used a lot.

The verbal command will be, duh, "Back up."  The hand signal will be my hand gesturing away from my body.  We will videotape this at some point so that you know what "my hand gesturing away from my body" looks like.  If I were talented at drawing or even using Adobe products (hell, Paint could probably do in a pinch), I could illustrate what this looks like but alas, I have no such talents so your imagination you must use. 

My goal is to get Hurley to back away from sit and stand positions, in front of me or beside me.  I'd love to add distance (he backs away even when he's not right by me) but am unsure if we'll get that far in 30 days.  Maybe someday we will spend an entire walk walking backwards.  That would drive him insane and therefore, makes me giggle thinking 'bout it.  I could totally be that crazy lady in the 'hood who walks her dog backwards!

To start out, I ask Hurley to sit in front of me.  Once he's in sit position, I step into him while extending my hand over his head (that's the "my hand gesturing away from my body") and I say "Back up" once he starts to move.  When he moves his back paws, he gets a good boy and a treat.  Two days in, we are still at this stage.  He is offering a backup each time though and not sidling to the side or offering a paw so he's beginning to understand.  While conventional wisdom dictates not adding a verbal command until the behavior is down, I find that Hurley and I work better when I start out with both hand gesture and verbal command.  It's not always appropriate, depending upon what we're training, but it's worked well for us heretofore so I'm sticking with our unconventional way of doing things.

Step 2 will be to remove me stepping forward from the sequence and simply use the hand gesture and vocal command.  To get there, I will be fake stepping forward towards the end of our training sessions over the next couple of days.  Fake stepping means I just lift my leg as if I'm about to step forward but not actually step into him.

After that, we will be working on from a standing position, on a taut leash to get back into heel position and from a distance. 

Wish us luck! 

And don't forget to comment with any tricks you would like to see Hurley learn this year.  We're still working on the list! 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2012 Training Challenges

Did you know that January is Train Your Dog month?  I didn't.  Not until Pamela over at Something Wagging mentioned it earlier this week. 

Someone also posted on Facebook the TED talk re 30 day challenges (if I were one to make New Years Resolutions, mine would be to watch more TED Talks). The concept is that 30 days is the perfect amount of time to try something new.  It's the perfect amount of time to develop new habits and the short length is not so daunting as to un-motivate.

Both of these got my lil ol' brain working overtime.  Hurley and I have reached a training plateau.  The basics are down and while we're working on repetition, increasing duration, distance and distractions, we really haven't been working on anything new.  I've also been feeling unmotivated to blog - mostly because of a lack of ideas of what to blog about.  What I'm saying is that I need some fodder, folks.

So I challenge myself (and Hurley) this year to a series of 30 day challenges.  Over the course of 2012, we will tackle one new command/behavior/trick every 30 days and spend the month focusing on training that one thing.  Sure, we will fail sometimes.  We will succeed others.  But most importantly, we will try.

And here's where the fun part comes in.  I haven't yet come up with the 12 things we will train so I'd love to hear about what YOU would like to see Hurley accomplish in 2012. 

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post talking about what we will be working on for January's training challenge!