Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Lesson in Tolerance

This is Quincy.  Here's what you need to know about him:  12ish years young tripod Chessie.  Yes, he's adorable - in that stinky breath'd old geezer sort of way.  He's pretty much a breeze to dog sit except for a teensy issue:  he doesn't share well.  And we're dog sitting him for 3 weeks.

M-O-M, why doesn't he want to play with me?
Unfortunately for Hurley, Quincy mostly hates sharing Mom's attention with him.  See, Q spent the first week at our house doing everything in his power to not allow my dogs to receive any of my attention.  Laying in doorways to prevent them from entering?  Check.  Body blocking them from getting closer?  Check.  Bared teeth?  Check.  Snapping?  Check.  Having to spend lots of time separated from us due to his behavior?  Check.

Fortunately for Quincy, my three are being exceedingly respectful.  Maggie's told him what's what a few times but has been more tolerant than I would have ever expected.  For her to ignore a dog who is snarling in her general direction is huge progress!  Sadie plays the peacemaker, continuously trying to make friends with Q.  She can't comprehend why he doesn't want one of her famous tongue baths.  Hurley ignores him, whining and pouting about his sad lot in life.  Q enforces a strict no-fun policy in his presence - no wrestling, no chasing, no fetch, no toys, no fun. 

Quincy's starting to chill out halfway through his stay with us.  He's much better with the girls but still struggles to allow Hurley close to me.  Hurley gives Q the widest possible berth.  He won't look at him, won't play with the girls when Q's around, squeezes himself as close to the wall and as far away from Q as possible, has given up his regular spot at my feet and, due to all of the above, has been perfecting his pouty face.

Why doesn't he like me, M-O-M??

Poor Hurley, right?  Actually, I'm glad he's having this experience.  The girls let him get away with murder.  Seriously, he continues to murder my tomato plants!  Why don't they stop him?? sidetracked.

Hurley's learning a lot of things by being around Q.   Tolerance.  Patience.  Respecting one's elders.  Letting bossy dogs be bossy without getting all upset about it.  All good life lessons. 

Even if he won't stop giving me this look.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Am I The Only Dog Parent Who...

Am I the only dog parent who expects a higher understanding of action/consequence than is possible from her dogs? One who totally understands they're probably not going to get what I'm trying to lay out for them but doesn't care?

Let me set the scene.

I had chopped up some zucchini from my garden-with-a-squash-problem and realized, though I do love me some beer battered fried zucchini, that 2 whole large zucchinis' worth was probably a bit too much for me and the Hubster.

So I chop 'em up further for an impromptu, let's practice 3-dogs-taking-turns-with-commands training session.  I zucchini'd each of them for sitting in turn.  Then I zucchini'd Sadie for a high five (Hurley & Maggie also offered one up).  Then Hurley (got another high five offered from Sadie & Maggie - 3 dog training is going so well).  By the time it was Maggie's turn, she was pretty excited and her high five knocked half of the zucchini from my hand.

Hurley & Maggie hoovered the floor.  Sadie just maintained her sit & looked at me for permission (I had been telling the two who weren't supposed to be high five'ing to stay).  That's my girl!  So I slowly fed her every remaining zucchini in my hand as Hurley and Maggie watched. She got about twice as many the other two stole from the floor.  I actually said to them "Look at Sadie getting all the rest of the treats because she's good."  I did not add "neener, neener, neener" and for that I am proud. 

Am I the only dog parent who does this?   While it was powerful for Sadie as she was amply rewarded for her behavior, Maggie & Hurley were also rewarded by the food they scarfed up.  Probably more rewarded than they felt punished by not getting the rest of the zucchini.  I mean, it is only zucchini after all.  I don't think Hurley even drooled over it.

Am I the only pet parent who does this?  In the moment, my sole (and snarky) purpose to teach Maggie & Hurley a lesson but it was Sadie who got the most out of it (unintentionally).

I really hope they learned their lesson. Seriously.

And this girl?

She's Awesome!

Friday, August 17, 2012

He's Ba-a-ck!

While we've had some good times poking fun at the Hurley Badger over the summer, it has and continues to be my goal to get him back into shop dog shape.

Classic Hurley in the shop montage starts now!
Quite frankly, he was probably ready a month or two ago...right at the time the Hubster was starting his 6 weeks off during the summer (he's in education, anyone who's married to an educator knows the vacation jealousy that's suffered by spouses all over...sigh).  Anywho, the choice was to start Hurley back in the shop and relegate him to his kennel for most of the day to control his introductions and interactions with each entering dog; or I could, and did, leave him home for the summer to continue their male bonding and so that he could enjoy kennel-free days with the Hubster around the house. 

The boys had a great summer but it's back to work time...for both of them.

Big head on a little body!

Hurley started back at the shop today!

The plan is to go slow and have lots of patience.  I can't expect him to magically not react to every dog who comes in.  But what I can do is set him up for success.

Sweet puppy Hurley

It starts with spending the day in the kennel at the shop.  He's still kenneled when at home alone so this is not a huge change for him in terms of how he spends his day.  I've got the kennel just at the edge of my storage room so that I'll be able to click & treat calm behavior every time a dog enters the store.  We'll stay at this level until I feel that he's demonstrated not getting bothered over hearing/smelling a dog in his territory.

Can I haz treat?

Then we'll graduate to public kenneling, ie his kennel being out on the shop floor and not back in the storage room.  I anticipate this being a really hard step for him and plan on requiring customers to keep their dogs in the front half of the shop while his kennel is set up at the back so as to give him tons of space.  As he gets more comfortable and less excited by the dogs in the shop, we'll move him forward or allow them closer.  During this time, I will allow him to interact with the dogs he already knows and loves.  Slowly and surely, I'll let him out of his kennel to say hello as he demonstrates he's ready for that next step.

Fluffer nutter - also, can you believe Hurley was ever small enough to fit in a basket???

After that, he'll progress to being tethered to me or an area of the store floor where he's less likely to react. Hanging out with me behind the counter, performing any training not related to his acceptance of dogs and free rein of the shop are big no-no's for now.  I'll only use the clicker and treats in relation to the use of the crate and to reward calm behavior around other dogs.  No more training fun tricks during the day for us.  Maybe I'll be able to lift that rule in the future but for now, I want Hurley to be crystal clear that in the store, him accepting other dogs in his territory is the only way he can earn food.

Christmas decorating is boring business

Over the summer, Hurley's had multiple trips to the dog park, attended dog walks & street fairs and spent 4 days at our favorite boarding facility, which is more doggie camp than kennel.  He spent those days romping in fields with other dogs and got an A from the folks there when he left.  He still is influenced by his sisters' reactivity but is getting better.  I've noticed since we boarded him that there is much less joining in the barking at the window.  We've started using the Leave It command at home when the dogs get all riled up about a dog or person who walks by our house and this seems to especially hit home with Hurley.  I would call him a rock star Leave It'er at this point.  He listens to me 95% of the time when I tell him Leave It (his current obstacle is the hundreds of crab apples falling on the sidewalk from a neighbor's tree).  All in all, his canine interactions outside of the shop continue to be stellar.  The issues he had are steadily improving - while he will react to another dog who started reacting first, he and I are both getting better at seeing those dogs coming and ignoring them. All in all, he's demonstrated that he's ready to be given a second chance at shop dog.

My personal favorite: Dog in a box

I've missed that dog in a box.  I'm so glad he's back!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Great Pool Experiment

One of the things I was most looking forward to on our recent vacation was introducing the dogs to the pool.   I had predicted that Sadie would be the first in, last out and would fully embrace the pool with little hesitation.  I predicted that Maggie would struggle with the pool at first and not want to go in, but that her desire to fetch her ball would trump any uncertainty and she would gladly jump in.  I had no idea what to think about Hurley.  Would he show his Hurley Badger Don't Care personality and not let the deeper water bother him?  Or would he refuse to go in at all costs?

Here's how they did.

I love Sadie.  She's my sweet, wants to please type of girl.  Smart, she is not.  She loved the pool.  She just couldn't figure out how to get in or out by herself.  It started with the Hubster "helping" her in.  And by helping, he pretty much picked up and tossed.  She loved it!

Round in circles she swam.  We soon realized that she had no idea how to get out of the pool.  Thankfully, Maggie was there to show her the way.

Then she couldn't figure out how to get back in.  Round the pool she ran.  Bark, whine, crazy Sadie sounds?  Check.  Then she came up next to me, put her front paws in and looked back at me with an expression that definitely was asking "Please?"  I obliged and pushed her in with a laugh.  And for Sadie, that is apparently how to get into the pool.  Ask Mom or Dad for a little help. We tried and tried to encourage her to get in on her own but she was having none of it.  So pushed into the pool she was for the rest of the day.

Maggie was pretty predictable.  All it took was a ball.  She did take a little bit of time to warm up to the whole jumping in thing but quickly embraced the dive.

And Hurley?

Hurley Badger Don't Swim.  The Hubster was able to get ahold of him once to toss him in and after that, forgettaboutit.  He kept his distance from both of us (c'mon Hurley!  Mom didn't do anything except take pictures!) and would have nothing to do with it.

For the record, I would not advocate tossing your dogs into a pool to introduce them to it.  We knew Sadie's love of water and Maggie's love of ball would set us up for success with the pool so the tossing was mostly for our amusement. Hurley was never meant to be a swimmer - getting him in the pool that one time showed me that if he ever falls in somewhere, he can figure out how to swim and that was my only goal with the pool and Hurley.   

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vacationing with the Dawgs

Last week, the Hubster and I celebrated our anniversary with an Anniversi-cation (n. a vacation occurring around/on one's anniversary).  We rented a cabin on the Southern Oregon Coast and spent a few days exploring the beautiful coast line and the Redwoods.  It was a perfect few days away from Portland.  And we brought the dogs.

You may think I'm craisins for taking my rambunctious trio on a vacation including an 8-hour road trip. There were moments when I agreed with you.

But overall, we had a great trip with few issues.  Here are the keys to taking a wild pack o' dogs on vacation:

1.  Plan a stop to tire them out shortly into the roadtrip.  Don't stress it when the dogs are terribly behaved at the first stop.  Even if it elicits this expression from the Hubster.

This photo cracks me up.  And he only half-meant that expression.

Our dogs know that when we all pile into the car, they are about to have the time of their lives.  I'm happy to say that Maggie & Sadie seem to be calming down a bit in terms of their excitability.  Sadie actually sat and paid attention to me before I took her harness off and let her run free on the beach.  Hurley was a jerk an overly rambunctious teenage dog and developed an awesome new habit of barking out of control upon exiting the Jeep just for this road trip.  

In every picture I took, Hurley is at the back of the pack.  You are all welcome to make fun of the slow poke who can't keep up with his middle aged sisters.  He deserves it.

But that's OK - we won't ever see the 30 or so people on the beach who witnessed our dogs completely melting down on the walk to and from the parking lot.  Ever.  That's a good thing.  But our mission was accomplished and they were calmer the rest of the drive.

2.  Bring something to calm your dogs down while in the car.  Hurley does not like long car rides. Actually, I think he would be perfectly OK if he could sit in my lap the entire way but that's not gonna happen.  So I brought along an herbal calming remedy to help with the constant whining and drooling.  I also made him a little bed on top of our suitcase so he could be more at our level and able to rest his head in between our seats.  All in all, he did a fantastic job tolerating the long car ride.  Sadie & Maggie are great in the car and don't need any extra help chilling out.  Though Sadie does has this magical ability to get her seat belt attachment to her harness and a leash entwined about a bazillion times.  It's quite impressive.

3.  Rent an uber dog-friendly place.  If we had been hoteling it, we would never have considered taking all 3 of them.  The potty breaks, the worrying that they would bark and disturb neighbors?  No thank you!  Instead, we rented a dog-friendly cabin with a large fenced yard.  The dogs loved an extra large yard to romp in and had fun exploring the cabin.  We took 2 kennels to keep them in during the day when we took excursions that not all 3 went on.

4.  Give yourself a break and don't try and take the entire pack everywhere.  We decided before we left that our day trips would include only one dog.  Though there was lengthy debate on whether or not Hurley could be trusted not to bust out his kennel and destroy the cabin, ultimately we decided that it was Maggie & Sadie's turn to have some special time with us.  Sadie accompanied us on our trip to tour the Redwoods.

While Sadie enjoyed her day trip with us, I'm pretty sure she missed her sister.  Either that or she was bored with being in the car most the day. 

The next day we took Maggie on a short hike, some fetch at a Secret Beach (actual name of the place) and a tour of the highlights of the Oregon Coast right where we were staying. 

I don't think she missed either Sadie or Hurley - fetch is apparently more fun without all the tackling.

5.  Bring Vacation Bullies, Chews and Bones.  Besides just being a nice treat to make vacation even more enjoyable, these can be instrumental in calming your dogs down when you leave them in the car to take a picture at that gorgeous viewpoint (our dogs are barkers when we leave the car) or to give them right before you leave them in their kennels at a new place.  Hurley is the one most likely to freak out about being left in a new place and the special treats really helped distract him when we left him at the cabin.

6. Vacation is for breaking routines & rules.  Since we don't allow dogs on the couches at home, I immediately allowed them this luxury at the cabin.  It is vacation after all and that means some special rule breaking.

Hurley loved the new rule until he realized that it meant being our foot rest. 

7.  Take at least one picture of the 3 of them sitting nicely.  It surprisingly took us one try to get this picture.  And Hurley popped up the second the shutter snapped.  But they did it!  All three of them stopped romping for one second and humored the Mama. 

8.  Appreciate the ways in which vacation challenges you and your dogs.  We definitely learned where we need to pick it up in terms of training.  Hurley & Sadie need more practice exiting the vehicle calmly and all three need a Settle Down type command to remind them to keep calm during exciting adventures.  Our biggest challenge is their behavior as a pack - individually, they are awesome - but when Hurley's egging on the other two to get excited and not pay attention to us, it gets challenging. 

Hurley had to literally be put to bed like a baby by the Hubster on the first night.  We put them in the kennels at night so that they would be accustomed to being in them at the cabin when we had to leave them behind during the day.  This very much disturbed Hurley who cried and cried.  The Hubster had to tuck him in and sit by his kennel until he fell asleep the first night.  Dude is such a baby! 

One of the things I took away from this, our first real vacation with the dogs, is that they do not understand vacation.  The second day, when we took them to a beach close to the cabin, they were all remarkably calm in the car.  We realized they thought we were going home.  When we did get in the car to go home, they were all jacked up, thinking our vacation was just going to get even more awesome.  Vacation is confusing to dogs and though ours had a great time, I was sensitive to the ways in which it was also stressful for them.  We don't take awesome road trips encountering beach after beach and stay in a cool cabin with a pool and deer who run along the fence every day.  Maybe we should.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hurley Badger Don't Care: Laundry Basket Bed Demise

Our dogs have a funny habit:  preferring to nap in our laundry baskets rather than the nice, comfy beds we have for them.

I'm sure it's something 'bout being in our bedroom vs their bedroom, our scent being comforting and sometimes, warm laundry comfort.

It's been cute.  Up until the Hurley Badger started adopting this habit.

Unfortunately, Hurley Badger Don't Care that he's too big for a laundry basket.

RIP Laundry Basket.  We enjoyed you while you lasted but will be sticking to the plastic varieties from here on out.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Strut Your Mutt Walk

This September, Hurley and I will be walking in Best Friends Animal Society's nationwide Strut Your Mutt Walk.  We love Best Friends and all that they do to help homeless pets!  We also love our local rescues and have joined Born Again Pit Bull Rescue's team to raise moola for them specifically.

There are a bazillion reasons why supporting local animal rescue is important to me.  But there is one big reason why this walk, this rescue and walking with Hurley means so much.

When Hurley came into our home, boy did he add joy!  With him in our life, I will never go one day without bursting into laughter.  He's taught me so much about having a pack of dogs, training, and patience.  I've accomplished more with training him than I ever thought I was capable of and I'm still learning every day.  In short, he has been an amazing addition to our family and I am thankful for every day that I get to spend with him.

But when we added the third dog to our family, it took a very important spot in our house - the one for foster dogs, specifically Pit Bull type fosters.  As much as I would love to have continued fostering and adding dogs, there is only so much square footage in our little home and we are at capacity. 

Those who are new to the blog may not know this, but the whole reason I started blogging was to document my foster pups.  To have a place where they could be celebrated and as they went into their forever homes, a place where I could reminisce.  As any blogger knows, blogging becomes so much more than your initial reasons for starting up.  This blog has become mostly the Hurley Song & Dance Show (what can I say, he's quite the character) but I will never forget the reason why I started.  For the Love of Foster Dogs.

So while I can't foster right now, I can help out in other ways.  And one of those ways is to support and raise funds for two rescues who do a lot both locally and nationally to save pit bull type dogs.

If you are able, Hurley and I would love your support.  No amount is too small (nor too big for that matter!).  You can donate at (we're under NoPo Paws - I'm joining both blog and store together on this rare occasion to help me reach my goal of $500!) or by clicking on the Strut Your Mutt badge on the left side of this blog. 

The Strut Your Mutt walk is on Sept 29th and is coming to many cities around the nation.  If you're unable to help us reach our fundraising goal, joining a team in your neck of the woods is a great way to get involved.

Another way to help is to share this blog post.  We'd love some linky love or shares on Facebook to help us get the word out.

Thanks for all your support!  Hurley says he promises lots of Hurley Badger posts if we meet our goal!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hurley Badger Don't Care: To Mom's Advantage

Most of the times, Hurley's alter-ego Hurley Badger Don't Care means that he's getting into mischief.  Things like busting out of screen windows and destroying dog tents are par for the course around our house.

But there are times when the Hurley Badger's personality can be used to his parents' advantage.

Like with training gear.  Hurley Badger Don't Care about wearing harnesses, halters, packs.  Don't nothing bother Hurley Badger!

Until now, my walking gear of choice has been the Easy Walk Harness.  Back in the day, before I knew anything about training dogs, we tried almost every type of harness & training collar under the sun to get Maggie to walk nicely on a leash.  On that list was the Gentle Leader.  She hated it.  Hated it. HATED IT.  So much so that one day, she just chewed the darn thing up and that was the end of the Gentle Leader.

Then we found the front clip harness and our lives were forever changed.  Both Maggie & Sadie walk so well on it that I'd never considered using a different type of harness with Big Boy Hurley.

That is, until the front clip harness started losing its effectiveness.

We've been working so hard with Hurley walking with one of his sisters.  On his own, he's great on a leash.  Add in one of his siblings and you'd think the Dude had never walked loose leash style before.  It's a little bit jockeying for front position but mostly just trying to get to that thing on the ground that might be yummy before his sister can get to it.  And playing bitey face.  He really loves bitey face walks.  He's so strong nowadays that even with the Easy Walk, he can easily drag me down the sidewalk in his quest to reach a pine cone before Maggie. 

We are taking a vacation with all 3 dogs next week so getting them to walk nicely together is paramount to us enjoying our vacation and the dogs getting to explore places with us rather than being stuck in kennels at the rental cabin.

Earlier this week, the Hubster asked me to bring home the Gentle Leader head halter.  Recalling Maggie's hatred of this tool, I was a little skeptical that it would work for the Hurley Monster.  But when the Hubster asks and asks to use training gear that I have no strong objections to, I leap to obey. 

Home came the Gentle Leader.  Out came the clicker.  My only goal the first time was to get him to accept a loose loop around his snout for 5-10 seconds.  That's acceptable progress for the first time a head halter goes on a dog and many dogs take much longer to accept it.  (Maggie's hatred of it definitely stems from our lack of knowledge when she was a puppy and forcing the halter on her too quickly.)

2 minutes into it, Hurley was sitting nicely with the halter hanging loosely around his snout.  5 minutes into it, it was tightened and secured around the back of his neck.  8 minutes in, I left it on for 30 seconds and he didn't tried to get it off.

10 minutes after starting to introduce the halter to him, we went on a walk around our block.

Gentle Leader success!

Is it because Mom knows her stuff now?  Or is because Hurley Badger don't care 'bout no harness around his snout?

I'm going with the latter.

PS.  The Hubster was right about the Gentle Leader working for Hurley.  So far, he's amazing on walks.  Granted, it's only been 2 walks and the real test comes tomorrow morning when we add one of the girls to the walk but so far so good.  Enjoy being right, baby!  'Cause you know how often that happens. ;)