Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Great Escape

The other evening, I got home before the Hubster and did him a favor by de-pooping the yard.  After I opened the gate and deposited said poop in the garbage, I played with the dogs in the backyard for a while.  A big dark cloud was gathering above head so I opted for some fetch and chase play rather than trying to squeeze in any walks before the rain hit.

After our play session, it was dinner time, the Hubster arrived home much to the joy of everyone and I settled downstairs in our den with a beer and the computer.  A few minutes later I hear him call Hurley inside.  Then I hear him stomp across the floor.  Then I hear the front door open.  Then I hear him call Hurley again.  Shit!  Hurley's not in the backyard!  I run upstairs, confirm gate door was left open by me trying to do everyone a favor by de-pooping, grab a leash, some treats, my shoes and fly out the door.  I yell to the Hubster "Go towards Lombard!" (the big busy everyone drives too fast on it road 1 block away from our house that I'm eternally terrified will be the death of my dogs should they ever get out) and start jogging in the opposite direction.  My heart is racing a million miles a minute and all the terrible possible scenarios start sprinting through my head.

"I got him!" the Hubster yells in my direction within 30 seconds.

I return to the house to discover where Hurley ran off to:  the opposite side of the gate at the side of the house where he sat patiently waiting for us to find him.

Note to self:  Next time you think Hurley got out, check the front yard before tearing off to search the neighborhood. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday Fun Day: Coastal Hiking

Sadie and I recently drove out to the Coastal Range here in Oregon for a nice day hike for our Monday Fun Day adventure.  It was breaking 80 degrees in Portland and man, we just had to escape the heat!  (yes, I'm being sarcastic)

We decided to tackle Saddle Mountain, the highest peak en route to the Coast from Portland.  One review of the trail mentioned hurricane fencing used as trail maintenance in the latter half of the trail, which may not be good for dog paws, but I decided to risk it anyway.

Sadie approved and off we went!  The trail was a little more difficult than I had thought, or rather first hike of the season, I'm a little more out of shape than I realized.  But Sadie was very patient with my frequent stops to catch our breath and have a sip of water.

As we got up to the fencing as trail portion, out of shape Mom was huffing & puffing and decided to use Sadie's gentle paws as a reason to be OK with only doing half the hike Sadie decided she had better things to do.

The Summit we never reached...
So back down the mountain we headed and spent the rest of our afternoon at Cannon Beach.  And guess what?  No Sadie Water Crazies!  At all.  She didn't start whining once she smelled the ocean air.  She didn't pull when we parked the car and walked towards the beach.  Hell, she even walked excitedly but relatively calmly (for her) down the beach until we got to a less populated section where she could run.

And run she did!

Seeing her not get so crazy around the waves was totally worth a little bit o' shame regarding the unfinished hike.  I'm glad we took the time to reward her with a beach visit; would've been a shame to be just a few minutes away and not get to see her zoomies in the waves. 

Happy Memorial Day! May it be filled with sunshine, waves, BBQ and a wee bit of zoomies.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Walk Where Hurley (Almost) Caught a Rodent

This morning, Hurley and I headed out for a morning walk.  He's been doing so well I even decided that this was not going to be a "training" walk.  The clicker and treats stayed at home and off we went to enjoy a half hour of morning sunshine....and rodents. 

Immediately upon exiting the house, I had my eyes peeled for the usual suspects.  You know, birds, cats, squirrels.  The things that will prompt Hurley to forgo his loose leash walking ways and lunge.  I spied a crow a half block up and got ready with my "Leave It" the moment Hurley noticed it.  However, I failed to notice the R.O.N.S. darting right in front of Hurley's snout.  I have no idea what this Rodent of Normal Size was - it looked like a squirrel and a rat had an illicit affair and begot a bastard rodent.  Whatever it was, Hurley's jaws came within millimeters of crunching it to pieces.  How it got away can only be evidence of superior rodent survivability because, folks, I thought this R.O.N.S. was surely a goner.  Somehow, it cartwheeled away from Hurley's snapping jaws and darted far enough away for me to get my hunting beast under control (and by under control, I mean I dragged him kicking & screaming in the opposite direction).

I can usually buck up and face whatever grossness I have to to ensure the health and well-being of my dogs.  But prying a live R.O.N.S from Hurley's jaws of death?  Nope, don't think I could've handled that one.

And 30 seconds later on the walk, we saw a opossum! What the ?!?!?!  I have never seen any rodents or marsupials ever in our neighborhood.  Ever. 

Our (New) Training Plan

Our training plan for the Hurley Monster and his bad shop behavior is well underway. Here are our goals and how we are going about accomplishing them.  The #1 most important thing we've undertaken is the Nothing in Life is Free Program.  Hurley's response has been so rapid that I am hopeful he'll be returning to the store sooner rather than later. :)

1.  Diffuse the importance of Mom.  We hope to accomplish this by increasing the importance of Dad.  So far, we've instituted a pretty strict (when we're consistent about it) Nothing in Life is Free program.  Hurley has to sit to gain access to everything he could possibly consider a resource - the backyard, toys, bones, food, affection.  While this has many benefits, it helps to diffuse how important I am to him because many times it's the Hubster who is asking for the sit and granting him access to the resource he wanted.  Hurley has chosen twice in the past week and for the first time ever to hang out with Dad over Mom so I'd say our plan is working.  The two will also be undertaking "Dude's Week" once the Hubster is done with school for the summer.  A week full of fun, new and exciting adventures, all brought to Hurley by Dad. 

2.  Create alternative rewards for Hurley besides food (toys, affection, etc).  This is where the Nothing in Life is Free program shines.  Hurley has always had a hard time sitting if you don't have a treat in your hand.  By making him sit to earn other types of resources, I see him beginning to realize that play, toys, attention - yup, those are all things he can work for and it's not just about food.  We haven't seen any improvements yet in terms of how he behaves around food but I know it will take time and maturity for him to calm down in that area.  I'm just glad that I no longer have to wait 30 seconds or longer for him to sit before I open the back door! 

3.  Continue to build on his good behavior around other dogs outside of the shop. This is where Hurley gets to have lots of fun.  Increased trips to the dog park, doggie play dates, and participating in events like the Doggie Dash all serve to increase his confidence around other dogs. 

4.  Create a default "Look at me" behavior when he sees another dog.  Any time Hurley and I are out and about, I am constantly asking for "Watch Me's" but especially when we run into another dog.  By creating a default Look when he sees another dog, I will therefore be able to guide his response to that dog.  This one is going to take months but he's doing really well.  At the dog park the other day, he gave me such a sharp swivel of his head when I asked for a "Watch Me", I was floored.  He definitely is beginning to solve the simple equation of Look at dog + Look at Mom = Treat.

5.  Create neutrality in Hurley when around reactive dogs. Ultimately, I would like Hurley to always be solid regardless of the behavior of another dog.  In one on one situations with a reactive dog, he is likely to react back.  When surrounded by many dogs (like at the dog park) and one reacts, he avoids or ignores the situation.  He really just needs more training to encourage avoidance in all situations, even when it's just him encountering one reactive dog.  We practice on our walks and any time a dog barks, he gets a treat.  When we walk by a reactive dog in their yard, he gets a handful of slowly dispensed treats.  It won't be long before he starts associating a dog's bark with yummy treats.  And knowing Hurley, if he thinks a reward is for his taking, other dogs do not exist.  Unfortunately, this also means that Hurley cannot go on walks with his sisters right now as everyone is more reactive when walking together as a pack.  Once we've resolved the individual issues, we'll be back to multi-dog walks but for now, everyone gets one on one time with Mom & Dad.

Them's our goals!  The plan is to see significant progress on each goal before considering allowing him back in the shop.  I've seen such a difference in him these past two weeks of undergoing Nothing in Life is Free and staying at home.  I'm no longer his sole reason for being, he listens better, he comes better and he seeks out affection more.  All in all, I'm incredibly pleased with how much he's progressed in such a short time and believe he'll be back in shop before the end of the summer for sure.  We're going to take it slow and reward him with time in the shop.  Another way he has to earn what he wants.  :)

Thanks for your thoughtful comments on my previous posts about Hurley's shop issues.  It helps to keep us going and not give up!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Fun Day: Doggie Dash

Spring is back and along with it, my intermittent feature, Monday Fun Day!  Every so often on a Monday, you'll see a post showcasing how awesome and dog-friendly our lil' neck of the woods is. 

The runners all lined up
For this week's Portland-is-the-best pleasure, we bring you The Doggie Dash.  Now, technically, this event occurred on Saturday, not Monday but Saturday Fun Day just doesn't have quite the same ring to it so humor me.  Please.

Hurley's ready to get dashing!

This was our very first time participating in the Doggie Dash, which is a run/walk/fun event hosted by and benefiting the Oregon Humane Society.  Each May, thousands of dogs and their paw-rents gather on Portland's Waterfront and run or walk (we walked 'cause, you know, "Hurley Don't Hurry") a 2.5 mile loop over and back across a couple of Portland's Most Famous Bridges.  I've wanted to do this in the past but alas, Sadie is not particularly great with crowds and that many dogs would give Maggie conniption fits.  This is right up Hurley's alley, however, so off we went this past Saturday morning.

 Hurley was a rock star!  One of the major reasons I wanted him to participate this year was for him to gain a lot of practice with on-leash greetings (part of our training plan to conquer his reactivity and resource guarding issues here in the shop).  And boy did he have them!  At one point, they announced an estimated attendance of 4,000 dogs.  Hurley sniffed hundreds of butts.  Literally.  When a dog reacted to him, he Turned. His. Head. Away.  With the issues we've been having related to the shop and with 2 other dogs with reactivity issues, having him be completely neutral in this type of situation is such a breath of fresh air.  I knew he had it in him and I'm so glad I trusted that his issues at the shop weren't affecting him outside of the store.

We'll definitely be participating in the Doggie Dash next year and next time around, we're thinking 'bout forming a team.  Really, who wouldn't want to be a part of Team Hurley?

Friday, May 11, 2012

How to Hurley-proof a garden

Hurley loves my garden.  Last summer, he demonstrated his love by plowing through the picket fence we had around the garden beds, stealing all of the green tomatoes, mowing down most of the rest of the plants and completely destroying half of my well-constructed hastily nailed together raised beds.  I officially gave up on my garden when he started digging up the onions and playing with them.  Everything that could get harvested did and the rest just withered under Hurley's constant attention.

I considered giving up gardening this summer.  Considered.  But, I thought, let's give it one more try. 

It's not pretty but this is my Hurley-proof garden. It has been two weeks and he has yet to mess with the chicken wire.

There used to be four garden beds.  Hurley decided that four was two too many.

Chicken wire + wire trellis = Hurley-proof...for now
Even the herbs are stuck in jail

I would say that someday I will have a nice-looking garden and well-manicured lawn but I know better. Just as I will always have hair on my couch, my garden will likely always be Hurley-proofed.  But the alternative, not having Hurley, is a life I can't imagine living. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sometimes All It Takes is Sadie

A week or two ago, I had a particularly bad day with Hurley in the shop.  One of the ones that prompted me to decide that he needed to stay at home for a while.  Needless to say, I was upset and feeling a bit defeated when I got home.  So I did the one thing I know will always lift my spirits:  Spending time with Sadie.

Sadie and I went for a walk.  Sadie's not perfect on walks.  She's my Excita-Bull and reacts to other dogs by barking.  Barking Joyfully.

Having one dog with resource guarding issues leading to reactivity, another dog with quickly fading leash aggression issues and a third with a history of fear aggression, I know one bark from the next.  Sadie's my joyful barker.

Sure enough, on our walk, we saw a couple dogs.  She immediately went into joyful barking mode.  Now, as a rule, I don't encourage any barking in relation to other dogs while on leashes.  I know all too well how this can quickly turn into going over threshold and bam! leash aggression.  We work on this with Sadie during our walks.

But on this particular day, it was so refreshing and soul-lifting to witness her expressing her joy through barking.  Of course, I told her "That's Enough" (which we are diligently working on as her stop barking cue, with mixed results).  So she sat at my side.  Lifted her snout.  Barked once.  Turned her head the other way.  Maintained her sit.  Barked a second time.  I couldn't help it.  I laughed.  And so there we were on the sidewalk, me laughing and her giving short, quick, joyful barks while in a perfect sit at my side.

I'm sure the people passing us by thought we were both nuts.  But I didn't care because Sadie gave me what she always gives me when I need it:  a reason to laugh.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

When a Full Cup is a Bad Thing

Earlier this week, I posted about "Adolescent Puppy Brain" and the regression of Hurley's resource guarding related behavior at the store.  My mild-mannered puppy has been morphing into a reactive beast and it's not good.  Beyond recognizing this as a normal developmental period that all dogs go through when they regress in their training and behavior at about a year old (aka "Adolescent Puppy Brain"), I also had to recognize that some other factors were involved.

You see, Hurley's cup is running over.  His cup of stressors and when that cup is full, his threshold is reached and he's unable to deal with the dog entering the store.

Stressor #1:  The biggest stressor he faces is his conflict over sharing the store with other dogs.  Hurley likes other dogs.  He enjoys playing and has met and liked 99% of the dogs that come into the store, even if he was a little barky to them at first.  He's especially great with puppies and small dogs but can be intimidated by confident and/or large dogs.  He also is manic about food and conflicted about enjoying another dog's presence while simultaneously sharing the store - his Most Valuable Resource as it contains food, Mom, and is not shared with his sisters.  I've known he's had this conflict since last Fall but he made tremendous steps towards accepting the presence of all dogs in the shop six months ago. Now that conflict is not so resolved anymore due to "Adolescent Puppy Brain."

Stressor #2:  The leash.  Hurley likes to rush to the door to say hello to anyone, canine or otherwise, who enters the store.  I've been successful at getting him to wait until I release him to say hello to people but he finds waiting to say hello to dogs a little too challenging at this point in his training and life.  Which results in a Hurley Monster straining at the end of his leash while I hold him back so our customers may enter in peace. As you can imagine, this is extremely frustrating for him (and for me!).  The upside is that this leash reactivity is fairly limited to the shop.  He does not exhibit any frustration on our walks about not meeting other dogs, though he is not yet at the point where he can walk by another dog on the same side of the street without a little bit of a hello.

The good news is that I am practically an expert on leash reactivity, having worked with Maggie to get her over hers in the last few years. Counter Condition, Counter Condition, Counter Condition. 

The bad news is that it takes a while.  The impression on a dog's brain from one bad experience takes many, many positive experiences to erase (at least in my experience).  And Hurley, in particular, has a better memory than most.  The more instances he reacts, the more likely he is to react in the future.  This was a major reason why I decided that he needed to take a prolonged break from the shop.  At this point, he is conditioning himself to react to each and every dog who comes in.  His threshold is being reached quicker and I have less time to intercede before he is un-intercedable and must be removed from the situation. It's my job to make sure his cup o' stressors remains as empty as possible and since I can't accomplish that right now at the shop, he stays at home. 

But that doesn't mean we're not working on these issues!  I'll post more about our training plan in the next week or so. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

When Facing Reality Sucks

I know. I know.  I've sorta been lacking in my posts this past month.  It's been a tough one and not just because I've been sick twice in the past 6 weeks.  On top of it being a busy month, blogger completely changed their interface and stressed Sarah does NOT deal well with change.  OK, enough complaining about me now and on to why our month has been rough...

We have known that Hurley is a bit manic around food and that he's got slight resource guarding issues.  While we made tons of progress on these issues last fall, he has recently been diagnosed with a case of "Adolescent Puppy Brain" - otherwise known as regressing in training and behavior.  It happens to all puppies.  And it will likely happen again before he hits two. I am writing this so 6 months from now when we have the same issues, I will read this and hopefully feel better about the inevitability and completely out-of-my-control-ness of "Adolescent Puppy Brain."

His particular case of "Adolescent Puppy Brain" has resulted in a Hurley Monster who is not cool, man, not cool, about sharing the store.  Last Fall, he had the barkies at dogs who entered and now, the 80lb lug has progressed from barking to full-on reactivity to most of the dogs who come in to the store.  And since there is no magic pill to cure "Adolescent Puppy Brain", this mama simply has to continue counter conditioning, work on reactivity and socialization out of the store, and wait until this has run its course.

The sad part is that, since Hurley's behavior is in the "completely unacceptable for a shop dog" realm, he's staying at home for the time being.  Which means I don't get to enjoy this every day:

Big dog in a little box

Although it will be Hurley's behavior that determines when he's allowed back in the shop, I am full of high hopes that "Adolescent Puppy Brain" can be cured with time and diligence and that he can return relatively soon.  Why?  Dude will chew on opposite ends of the same bone with his sisters so I KNOW he can overcome these issues at the shop.  I'll be posting more this week about what our training plan is to counteract "Adolescent Puppy Brain", how his cup of stressors runneth over here in the shop, and the regression of his resource guarding behavior.