Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Favorite Things: Sadie Edition

just a few of my favorite things. . .

The way she thumps her tail when Maggie is getting attention. She may be in the other room but her tail thumps against the floor in rythmic joy. I hear it through the walls & it makes me smile.

The way she waits until Hurley & Maggie's wrestling over a toy dissolves into bitey face and then makes her move. She sneaks her snout into the mix, grabs the toy & does her best to retreat to a safe haven without being noticed. It is sneaky. It is quick. And she almost never gets away with it. Hurley or Maggie catch her within a few steps and she almost always relinquishes the toy without a protest. But those times when she decides to hang on? Those are magic.

The way running to the tent has become a routine part of any training. I think she does it because it makes me laugh.

That her favorite sleeping spot is a laundry basket full of clothes.

Zoomies. 'Nuff said.

Celebrating Anniversaries

Tomorrow, I celebrate my first year in business at NoPo Paws.  This month, Sadie celebrates her Gotcha Anniversary (we don't know the exact date we got her).  Last year as I prepped and rushed to get the shop ready for its Grand Opening, I never realized these two major events coincided in the same month.  But now that I have this year under my belt and am waiting with open arms to embrace the many years ahead, I realized that it was fate that these two major life events occurred in the same month.  For this reason:  without Sadie, there would be no NoPo Paws.

Before Sadie, I had had a couple easy-going labs: Suzy, the World's Most Perfect Dog, and Maggie, a happy, independent puppy.  I didn't know what it meant to rehabilitate a dog; I didn't know training could be such a lifelong project; I thought Cesar Milan was a great trainer; I was a dog owner but not an impassioned dog lover.

Sadie changed all that. 

Many people labeled her an aggressive pit bull mix in our first months together.  But when I looked at her, all that I saw was a scared dog.  She came to us unsocialized with a fear of people and the world in general.  Yes, she may have snapped, growled and lunged at the things that frightened her.  But at her core was this heart.  A heart that wanted so badly to bond with people and enjoy life.  A heart that just needed someone to believe in her.  And in the process of working together to conquer her fears and encourage Sadie's heart to shine, she gave me the greatest gift in the world:  purpose and a dream.  I came to realize how fulfilling I found working with dogs and their people and thus started down the path that brought me to where I am today.  The rest of my life will forever be changed because of her.  My parents gave me the gift of life; my husband gave me the gift of love and partnership; Sadie gave me the gift of lifelong passion and purpose. 

While Hurley may be the face of NoPo Paws, Sadie will always be its soul.

Happy Gotcha Anniversary, Sweetie.  Mama loves you forever and ever.

In Sadie's honor and in celebration of our 1st Anniversary, my shop, NoPo Paws, will be donating 10% of our non-food sales to Born Again Pit Bull Rescue Apr 20-22nd.  If you are in Portland, please visit us and support this wonderful rescue.  For more information on the many events occurring in the shop this weekend, check out our website.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hurley and the Tent

A while ago, we decided to put the dog tent we had received as a wedding gift to good use and use it as a kennel in our living room.  Sadie took to it immediately, Maggie quickly followed once she realized what nice, fluffy blankets were in the tent and Hurley was the last to embrace indoor camping.  But once embraced, he has done his best to monopolize the tent.

You mean I'm supposed to sleep with my head inside the tent?

Now this dog tent, while it looks like a normal tent, has some special features for dogs.  The bottom does not attach to the sides of the tent, ensuring that your dog can exit the tent at any time and in practically any direction.  When I first put it up, I didn't understand why.  If I can't secure my dog in the tent, why would I use this?  I don't want my dogs chasing deer, or worse bears, in the dead of the night in the woods.  #DogTentFail, right?  Apparently, the tent manufacturers were a bit more insightful than me and understood dogs, especially dogs like Hurley.

Hurley, being Hurley, expects the world to move out of his way.  He has no issue "rearranging" the tent as he circles around in it, fluffing up the blankets into his comfy napping spot.  We'll often have a good laugh as we sit watching TV and round and round he goes, with each circle causing the tent to get a little off kilter.

A few nights ago, The Hubster fell asleep in our den and so Hurley and Maggie decided to keep him company and spend the night sleeping in the tent.  At about 4am, The Hubster is wakened by the sounds of Hurley having a nightmare.  A nightmare in which he thrashes around, stands up and attempts to exit the one un-exitable side at the back, causing the tent to completely collapse upon himself and Maggie.  Poor girl, she hasn't gone back in the tent since.  Hurley, however, harbors no fear of the tent after that incident. 

Two days later, he reduces the tent to this:

What?  I just needed to get comfy.

Yes, it's durable enough to have survived the Hurley destructo-machine twice now.  But we may need to get him a bigger tent.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: He Makes Me Laugh

Here are just a few of the ways in which Hurley has got me laughing in the past few weeks:

Squeezing himself in to get a teensy piece of the bed
Learning how to get on a chair in training class
Waiting for me to get out of the bathroom

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why Clicker Training Rocks

Today we started serious work on Fetch & Drop It, April's Training Challenge for Genius Puppy Hurley.  I grabbed a squeaky ball, the clicker and dumped a handful of diced carrots on the counter.  Ready, set, train!

Hurley ran after his ball as I prompted "Go get it".  Actually, he meandered after it and pounced.  And then he brought it back, I asked for a "drop", he dropped it and got a click & treat.  Repeat.  Repeat. Repeat.  Wait...I thought this was something new we were training, right?  Guess Hurley pretty much has Fetch & Drop down.  So what to do now...

I decided to practice shaping using the clicker.  I am, by default, a trainer by lure.  It has always seemed like the quickest way to get the behavior I want and, other than encouraging sharkiness in relation to my hand, has been pretty successful for us so far.  But not all behaviors can be lured and I absolutely agree with the theories behind shaping as to its effectiveness in training by forcing your dog to think and problem solve.  Learning's a lot more effective and sticks when you have to figure something out for yourself.  It's about time that I added shaping to our training bag o' tricks.

I grabbed a box, a box barely big enough for Hurley to get in.  In fact, I had my doubts that all 4 paws of his 80 lb-ness would fit.  But, hey, we're just getting started - what are the chances Hurley's actually going to offer all 4 paws in the box today when he's never offered a single paw in a box, right?

It did take us over a half hour to get from one paw touching the box to all four in.  And the only time I helped was when he was stuck at the first paw in the box.  I told him "Other Paw" and he plopped his other front paw in the box immediately.  From there, it was just clicking and treating two paws in and any time a back paw went in.  From the second he got all 4 paws in at the same time, it was maybe 10 seconds until I got this:

 I had no hopes, no intentions of getting a sit in the box but apparently Hurley did.  So I started marking getting in the box with "In".  How the heck did we get from experimenting with shaping to verbally marking "In"?  a) Clicker training rocks and b) Hurley is a genius puppy.

We were out of carrots so I told him good job, gave him a kiss and hug and took myself a bathroom break.  A few minutes later, I came back out to Hurley, just sitting in his box.

I knows stuff!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Training Challenge Updates

No, the interwebs did not swallow me whole, nor did I get run over by a bus.  Sorry I've been M.I.A.!  We just finished the wettest March on record here in Portland and I had me some lack of sunshine blues.  But even though I've been a bit lax on taking the dogs on walks or to the park, we did make progress on our March training challenge to learn to twirl.  Luckily for the dogs, I am an expert twirler so I was really able to lead the pack on this one.  :) 

March roared in like a lion with Hurley having the hand gesture for twirl down before March 1st.  Rockin' & Rollin', my friends!  Unlike Roll Over, he had no problems learning to twirl in each direction.  As with everything, he's much more reliable with the hand gesture than the verbal so right now we are continuing to work on cementing our verbal communication.  And I have the best verbal command for twirling in each direction (think figure eight) - HIPPIE DANCE.  Hippie is twirl counter-clockwise and Dance is twirl clockwise.  While we have the foundation down pat, it's going to take us a little bit longer to get the two fully strung together into one solid Hippie Dance command. makes me smile every time we practice as I imagine our progress getting us to the point where I say "Hurley do your hippie dance" and he meanders around in a large figure eight in typical "Hurley don't hurry" fashion. 

The girls did great this month with twirl too.  I figured out that Maggie learns much better without a lure.  A treat in my hand gets her so pumped up that she can't concentrate.  So we spent most of the month just working on her targeting my treat-less hand around in a twirl.  Such a better training experience for both of us!  I'm still working on fading the hand targeting to a hand gesture but that too will take more time.  And once I wasn't worried about always having that treat in my hand, I started practicing our twirl randomly throughout the evenings.  Hurley's doing his "Hurley don't hurry" thing when I call him to come inside?  No sweat.  The girls and I will just practice twirl while we wait for his meandering self.  Waiting for water to boil?  Perfect time for an impromptu training session! We got a lot more practice in this month than in previous months but overall, probably had less formal training sessions (one dog, 15+ minutes, treats, clicker, the whole shebang).  I feel like we've figured out a good groove for how and when we practice - one that doesn't stress me out trying to find the time to work with each of them and allows us more practice time in smaller increments throughout the week. 

I am considering March's training challenge a rousing success!  Are we where I want all 4 of us to be in our hippie dances?  Not entirely but we've got a good start and that's all I can ask.

So now it's on to April and what do we have in store?  Well, I need to lay the foundation for Hurley to learn a few things that the girls already know.  And I need to practice January's Back up and March's Twirl with the girls more.  So this April, Hurley will be working on Fetch & Drop.  He's not a natural born fetcher but I'd like to train him to fetch specific items by name and to put his toys away in the toy basket, both of which require a solid understanding of Fetch and Drop.  Since Maggie already has these down and Sadie really has never given a rat's arse about Fetch, I will spend the month making further progress with them on past training challenges.  Giving both them and myself this time to work on these challenges is as important as the accomplishments we make during each individual month.  Because it means we haven't given up even if we weren't able to reach the finish line at month's end.  Except for roll over.  I completely give up on teaching the girls that one and I don't feel one iota of guilt about that! 

It's Monday, I have the day off, and for once, the sun is shining.  So pardon me while I sign off and take the dogs on that super, duper long walk that they deserve.