Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leaping Ahead

You know that road to hell?  Yup, I made great progress on paving it this past month.  My good intentions fell by the wayside as I got both discouraged and lazy in the latter half of the month. 

Wanna know exactly how many training sessions I did with Maggie & Sadie after the last post on training roll over?  Zero. Zip. Nada.  (hangs head)

I don't wanna say that I gave up but that's sorta what happened.  Maggie got as far as I expected, which was to willingly lay on her side and lift a foot in the air.  For her, this is great progress.  A rolling over dog, she is not.

And then there's Sadie.  I love her to bits & pieces but totally don't understand how she can get something one day and look at me like I've never ever worked on it with her the next day.   The good news is that once we moved on to roll over, she seemed to start to understand January's training challenge Back Up.  So maybe once we start March's challenge, she might magically start offering a roll over?  A girl can wish. 

At least there's Hurley.  The genius makes me feel like I'm the World's Best Trainer.  It's a great ego boost!  He's a roll over god. 

So on this leap day, we leap forward to March, leaving roll over in the dust.  Good riddance, roll over! Hello, twirl!  Why twirl?  Because I truly believe this one should be easy for Maggie and after the last 2 months, girl needs a break.

2012 Training Challenge Standings

January "Back Up"
Hurley: Stellar
Sadie: Getting There
Maggie:  Oh you want me to hop?  I can do that!

February "Roll Over"
Hurley: I roll like nobody's business.
Sadie:  If there's carpet, a lure and a tent, you got a 1 in 10 shot at me doing that crazy roll over thing.
Maggie:  Good girls don't roll over.  It's uncouth!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sometimes It Just Takes a Mom's Touch

Last night, I turned in early.  As in, "I'm going to read a bit" turns into me sound asleep by the time the Hubster joins me at our normal bed time.

The Hubster followed Hurley's bed time routine - let dogs out for a potty break, inside for a sip of water then all 3 settle on their beds and the door to our spare bedroom the dog's room is shut. 

Hurley started whining.  And whining.  And whining.  When Hurley whines, it usually is that he is thirsty, hungry or needs to go out.  Or wants attention.  Or misses his mom.  Or Maggie & Sadie aren't sleeping in the same room with him.  

Last night the Hubster got up to settle him down.  A "go lay down and be quiet" later, we got a 5 second reprieve from the whining.  After another 5 minutes of constant whining, I got up.  I performed the exact same routine as the Hubster - I let him outside and allowed him a quick sip of water.  He immediately settled down on his bed without a whine and I shut the door.  Silence, blessed silence.

I guess the little bugger just wanted his mom to tuck him in!

Does your dog have any bedtime routines?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Hurley has been doing fantastic in the shop lately.  So long as I keep bully sticks, rawhides and treat dispensing toys at home, he rarely has any reaction to the dogs who come visit us in the store.  With one giant, devastating exception.  Hurley does not like pitties.  Specifically of the pocket-sized variety. 

What?!? He LIVES with a pit-mix.  He's been exposed to most every size, shape, age, temperament and color of dog possible.  He is super socialized and overall an incredibly friendly pup to both human & canine visitors.  His mom also happens to love pitties most of all doggies.

Yet without fail, if a compact (30-40lb) pittie waltzes in the door, they are greeted with a bit of a growl and maybe a bark.  He settles down quickly, especially after I scold him, and is calm the rest of the visit. He has even enjoyed some good ol' butt sniffing with one of our pittie visitors after having a not so great initial reaction. 

The path forward is fairly obvious - counter conditioning via praise, slow intro's and treats whenever he meets any more pitties.  I'm not concerned with our ability to overcome this.  It's just another behavioral issue we will conquer, like every other one we've tackled with him so far.

But WHERE does it come from?  The only theory I've been able to come up with is that, for whatever reason, pint-sized pitbulls intimidate him.  I know he gets vocal when intimidated by other dogs, which used to be the giant breeds only.  This behavior is him figuratively beating his chest to show the other dog that he's a big, tough dog (he's not a big, tough dog by the way - wimp comes running and hides between our legs any time there is a hint of an altercation at the dog park).  I vaguely remember a small pitbull type dog who wasn't friendly towards other dogs visiting the store months and months ago.  There was no altercation; her owner just told us that she didn't like other dogs so we gave them tons of space.  He didn't even get a sniff.  Every other pittie has been wonderfully behaved and social since then.  Could he really be harboring a reaction from that one non-encounter???

I'm so ashamed.  Please don't judge me by my dog's behavior!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Therapy Dog in Training?

Hurley has a very special friend, Chris, who comes to visit him every day.

Chris is developmentally and physically disabled and a sweet guy who loves his visits with Hurley.

Hurley loves those visits too.  Once he sees Chris parking his bicycle outside our window, Hurley goes into full-body wag and promptly abandons anyone who may be giving him attention and/or treats at that moment to say hello to his favorite person.

Chris is the first person for whom Hurley will obey a new command.  He and Chris practice his tricks every day.  I think the most recent addition, roll over, really cemented their love for each other.  Hurley won't do a roll over on the verbal cue only with me yet...but he will for Chris.

I might actually have a future therapy dog on my hands.  While everyone raves over Hurley's cute tail, adorable facial features or the fact that he's just one good-looking dog, his love for Chris is hands-down my favorite thing about him. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Training Shuffle

This post is part of our 2012 Training Challenges series.  Each month we'll tackle learning a new trick, command, behavior.  You name it, we'll train it.  Seriously...if you have an idea, let us know in the comments below!

For every one step forward, we take a few steps back.  And then a few steps forward, back, get the point.  I call it the Training Shuffle and it completely defines my experiences training Maggie & Sadie. 

If you like my Facebook page, then you might have seen my post last week about how awesome Sadie did in our first rollover training session.  It was amazing, unexpected and completely due to the Hubster's work with her.  She was lured into a rollover on the very first try!  And then she did it again...and again...and then on the other side.  Woot!  I was ecstatic that our training challenge for February was going so well with her, seeing that Back Up last month was, well, let's just say Sadie did NOT have it down by the end of the month.

Then we had a second training session, a third and a fourth - all complete and total training failures.  Not only did she refuse to be lured, she refused to lift a leg off the floor.  Yes, she would get on her side but that was it.  She wouldn't even move her head around to sniff at the treasure trove of treats I had in my hand.  What the !?!?!?

I was at a loss.  How does she go from absolutely no problems rolling over to get to a treat to zero interest in the treat?  Several theories later, I realized that it was the room we were training in that was the problem.  See, the Hubster does training in our den in the basement.  Our carpeted den.  I usually do training upstairs in our living room.  Our hardwood-floored living room.

So this morning, off Sadie and I went to the den to see if carpeting truly made a difference.  Voila!  Training obstacle overcome.  Princess Sadie must be comfortable when contorting her body into a rollover.  Either that or she must have her precious tent to hop into after each successful or unsuccessful attempt, which belongs in the Top 5 Cutest Things Sadie Has Ever Done list.  I keep watching this video and dying over how adorable she is.  Who needs a roll over when your dog hops into her tent with such utter joy after attempting said roll over?

While we had a step forward in our training this morning, I am sure we will experience some more steps backward but how could I ever get frustrated with a dog who has such enthusiasm for all things tent-related?  I don't.  She just makes me laugh.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Special Singles

At our house, the dogs feel very lucky that they are no longer "single".  We can enjoy our Valentine's Day with the comfort of knowing there's a never-ending supply of snuggles, food, treats, more food, snacks, more snuggles...well, you get the point.  But as happy as we are to be in a committed familial relationship, not every dog is so lucky.  This Valentine's Day, we'd like to devote our blog to highlighting some special singles who are waiting for their soul mates and forever homes.

First up, we have adoptable Gavin.  Gavin is spending his days currently at Family Dogs New Life Shelter here in Portland, which as far as shelters go, is not a bad place to be waiting for his Valentine.  He's a Pittie Basset Hound mix.  Yup, he rides low, folks.  And he's got the funniest Piteo that you simply need to watch (just click on his name above)!  I've got a feeling this stud is not going to be single much longer.

Mocha here is looking for love this Valentine's Day and how can you resist that gorgeous mug?!?  Mocha was found on the streets of Portland, likely abandoned by her family after she had a litter of puppies.  This gal deserves a comfy bed, warm home and someone to love her for the rest of her days!   Mocha is currently at the Multnomah County Shelter.  They do a great job featuring their adoptable pitties but as with any county shelter, space is tight and Mocha needs her jail break to happen soon.  

And for our final single dog, we'd like you to meet Adoptable Moose.  Moose is a Pittie Mastiff mix, is a cuddle monster and, through on fault of his own, is once again searching for his soul mate.  He's had some rough times but even though he's been let down, he still adores all people.  Moose is currently being fostered by Born Again Pit Bull Rescue in Sherwood, OR.  Moose would love nothing more than to find his forever Valentine and snuggle away the rest of his years trying to fit in your lap. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Jowl Junk

jowl junk [joul juhngk]  noun The accumulation of various food, toy & other remnants that get lost in your canine's cheeks and end up deposited in their water dish. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why Hurley Is a Genius Puppy

This post is part of our 2012 Training Challenges series.  Each month we'll tackle learning a new trick, command, behavior.  You name it, we'll train it.  Seriously...if you have an idea, let us know in the comments below!

I've often said that Hurley is incredibly smart.  I frequently call him a genius puppy.  Why?  His ability to learn anything faster than I can teach it.  Literally. 

Case in point.  We're working on Roll Over.  We started the last week of January and have been very lax in the number of training sessions we've done.  This is exactly how much time we've put into it:

Week One:  2-3 training sessions of about 15 minutes each.  First session was about getting Hurley comfortable rolling onto his side so he got clicks & treats simply for laying on his side.  Second (and third if we did a third that week, I can't remember) session was about getting him to roll over while being lured by a handful of treats.  No verbal command used to mark the rollover yet; it was just about getting him comfortable with the movement.

Week Two:  Last week, we did a couple training sessions in the store (probably 15 minutes each) continuing to build on his comfort level rolling over.  I also worked on withdrawing the lure by keeping my hand full o' treats farther away from his snout.  I was still moving my hand across his body/back to elicit the roll over but I was able to back the hand away about a foot to 18 inches away from his body.

Week 3:  This past weekend, the Hubster worked on roll over with him.  On Wednesday, I had a 15 minute session in the shop.  As soon as he hit his side, he immediately did a roll over without being lured (I did have treats in my hand but hadn't had the chance to move my hand before he flopped over) and so I started marking it with the verbal cue.  He even figured out the hand cue before I had decided what it was going to be.  If that doesn't tell you who's smarter between the two of us...

Total time Spent on Roll Over:  90 - 120 minutes.  Yup, that's it folks. He's about 80% of the way there. 

He is at the point that we are "showing off" his trick to customers.  Hurley loves to show off so I use it to cement whatever we are learning.   Even on a command he's being stubborn on, he can never resist the temptation to show it off to his adoring fans (yes, he is fully aware of how many people he has wrapped around his dewclaw).

And while he may be smart, he's not perfect.  Dude can't figure out how to roll over on his left side. 

Training videos coming soon & next week I'll share the trials and tribulations otherwise known as me trying to train Maggie & Sadie.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

No Kisses For You

Hurley's got this cute little routine he does with customers at the shop.  He says hello as close to the door as possible (we're working on that), follows you around until you say hello to him, leans in for a good pet/rub/butt scratch and when you lean over, enraptured by his insanely adorable mug, he reaches up for a quick, gentle, non-obtrusive lick on your chin.  And then if you're really lucky...or if you just came over from the pizza shop next get a second one.

It's too freakin' adorable to take most days.  Especially when he does it for every. single. customer.

Except for one ginormous fact.  Hurley never gives me kisses.  At most, I've gotten 2.  Ever.  He also has never given the Hubster kisses.

{Sad Trombone}

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

February Training Challenge: Roll Over!

This post is part of our 2012 Training Challenges series.  Each month we'll tackle learning a new trick, command, behavior.  You name it, we'll train it.  Seriously...if you have an idea, let us know in the comments below!

For January, we tackled "Back Up" with moderate success.  1 out of 3 ain't bad?  

Since it's leap year and we've got an extra day in February, I'm not at all freaking out about not really having started for reals our February Training Challenge.  If you caught one of my posts on January's challenge, you might have caught the sneak peek at our next challenge, which is....drumroll please...Roll Over!

While this is a fairly basic one, it has been heretofore absent from our modest arsenal of tricks.  And it's been tried though not in a while.  See, last I tried, Maggie was probably about a year old and, at that point in her life, extremely averse to rolling onto her back.  Girl hated belly rubs.  Luckily, she's relaxed as she's grown up and it might be a good time to try again.  I hope.

The Hubster has had some previous success with Sadie but it hasn't stuck.  Which is more to do with our effort than her ability to get it. 

And as you saw a couple weeks ago, Hurley is already getting pretty comfortable with rolling over; now it's just fading the lure.  Which will be 100% about my ability more than his.  He's pretty patient with me and knows I need time to figure it out so I'm confident we'll get there.

What I'm really saying is....holy crap, we're already a week into February and I haven't even started working on shaping the rollover with the girls! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Back Up: Completed-ish

This post is part of our 2012 Training Challenge and this month's challenge includes participating in Something Wagging's 2012 Train Your Dog Challenge for January.  We chose to work on Back Up so I would have a command to get Hurley's noggin out of mine when needed.

And with minutes (literally) to spare before the deadline, here are the results of Something Wagging's Train Your Dog Challenge!  If I were one to make my dogs compete against each other, Maggie would win for Cutest Wiggly Butt, Sadie for Best Effort and Hurley for Best in Show.  Also known as giving my other 2 dogs a bone since Hurley clearly smoked his sisters when it came to learning Back up. 

Since we've gotten Hurley, we've been working on the same basic training that we had done with Maggie & Sadie.  Up to this point, I've never tackled teaching all 3 of them something relatively new.  And so I never realized how completely different they learn.  Maggie & Sadie are high energy in, they will perform a tornado of activity, every trick they think they may know, just to earn one single treat.  They're hopping, twirling & wagging their tails a mile a minute.  It's chaotic and difficult for me to get my timing right with the clicker.  Hurley on the other hand is extremely calm when learning.  If he's not sure what I want, he will lay down and look adorable.  Smart dude knows calm behavior, a down stay and puppy eyes will get him that treat 99 times out of 100. 

More than them learning Back Up, which really only Hurley knows on command, this experience showed me how much I'm slacking when it comes to training Maggie & Sadie.  Just because they are relatively well-behaved dogs who pay attention to Mom's tone of voice well enough that tons of specific commands aren't necessarily needed, doesn't mean that they don't benefit from training sessions.  If for nothing else than it makes them so darn happy to earn a few treats.  And so I embark on the remainder of 2012 determined that this won't be the Year of Hurley the Wonder Dog.  Rather, it will be a year of training & bonding with all 3.  Yes, my expectations of Hurley will always be greater because he's out and about with the public on a daily basis.  Yes, he will likely always smoke the girls when it comes to his ability to learn new stuff.  But I had more fun trying to corral the craziness of Maggie & Sadie than I had expected.  Even when they're all over the place, this Momma can't get frustrated because their enthusiasm is too contagious.

(Yes I cheated and used the same video for Hurley from mid-January)

January is over and then some.  Hurley has Back Up down - we are now including it in strings of behaviors and he can back up 4-5 times in between click & treats now.  Sadie struggled at first but once I did some one on one training and incorporated jackpotting treats when she backed up without hopping, she really started to understand the movement I was asking for.  She doesn't have it "on command" yet but is close.  Maggie totally understands the movement but IS JUST SO DARN EXCITED FOR A TREAT that she can't help but hop backwards most of the time.  Her level of enthusiasm has always been an issue as she just can't contain herself.  While she did demonstrate that she understood the movement I was asking for, she didn't progress any farther along than Sadie by the end of the month. Needless to say, we still have lots of work to do on back up but that's not gonna keep us from moving on.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post when February's Training Goal is revealed!