Sunday, August 31, 2008

Day 28 of 30DR: Progress?

Here's something I noticed today: crappy dog incidents seem to correlate with the tidiness of my house.

When my house is a mess, it's usually because I'm immersed in something else and neglecting it. Like for the past 2 weeks I've been starting school--especially the last seven days.

I haven't been blogging with behavior observations because for the last week or so I've been mostly just getting through each day. The dogs continue to be separated by baby gates. I've kept up most of the 30DR: feeding them twice a day in different locations, requiring them to sit before anything good, restricting them from furniture, crating them at bedtime.

What I haven't done *consistently* the last week: regular training sessions each day, 30-minute settles (in the 'down' position) for each dog each day, morning walks.

I've done most of those things much of the time but some days I did slip.

Something good I've done: taking them individually to a neighbor-friend's house to play with a pug-doxie mix. Both dogs have been doing really well with that dog. It's a joy to see.

This morning I took Petunia to play with the pug but there wasn't time to take Buddy afterwards. Instead of taking Buddy for the walk (he'd been waiting for it, knowing it was his turn, watching for us out the window as we returned) I put them both in their crates so I could make it to church. I came home from church, let each dog into the yard, then put them in their gated areas: this time P got the back of the house (kitchen, bedroom, my dining table/workspace, B got the front of the house: living room, upstairs guest rooms.

As I made myself some tea I heard what sounded like thunder--or a dog bouncing off furniture upstairs. As I climbed over the gate into the front of the house B was speeding downstairs and into the corner of the living room. Guilty of something for sure. Upstairs I discovered that he'd pooped all over the guestroom floor. Everywhere.

So I clean it up and make no eye contact with him and think to myself that this is because he needs exercise (and more discipline?) but meanwhile how do I respond?

I could crate him but I don't want the crate to be punishment. So right now he's on a down-settle, I haven't made eye contact at all--just put the collar around him and led him to the floor at my feet--and he's resting on my right foot and that makes me happy but I guess I need to move it in case it's somehow a dominance thing. Lord.

. . .

OK so after sitting like that for a half hour I told him to stay while I went into the kitchen to pour more tea. I returned to the living room and he hadn't budged. I didn't say 'Good Dog' but instead just returned to my spot on the sofa with my foot on the leash.

But throughout all this I'm still wondering if he 'won' because I'm giving him a form of attention (by ignoring him on a settle I'm still here with him on his side of the house) that constitutes a reward for his bad behavior upstairs.

Meanwhile, Petunia is on a dog bed on the floor, growling occasionally at the noises outside. I can see her through the fireplace.

. . .

While I'm sitting here, some additional updates:

* Yesterday when Buddy and I were outside I heard jangling and Petunia had pushed aside an improvised barrier to join us outdoors. I immediately led them back into the house and calmly separated them and during this process it seemed clear that they knew they weren't supposed to be together. Neither dog really greeted or approached the other. I think I led B back to the house first, perhaps because he was closer to the door. Buddy didn't seem to acknowledge P much and just went inside and took his position on the front side of the house. P did pretty much the same thing.

* Friday morning I was exhausted from my late-night class and allowed myself to sleep in later than usual. I let each dog outside then gated P in the room with me and climbed back into bed. She jumped up on the bed. I sent her off. A little while later I switched dog positions; B was with me in the room. He also jumped on the bed. I was half asleep and used that as my excuse for allowing him to remain on the bed a few minutes. I realized I was being inconsistent and wrong. But I *so* miss having the dogs near me. I got up within a few minutes so that i wouldn't fall asleep with him there, making myself an even worse dog-leader. That's the only instance of my breaking the bed rule, though, for nearly 30 days.

* I'm continuing to use the Gentle Leader with B. P continues to flee when I approach her with it. I've managed to set the neck-size for her but the snout-adjustment is trickier. It takes both hands and a calm dog in a sit position (not under the bed). I'll keep at it because I think it would be a good thing for her. She doesn't always pull on walks but does sometimes, especially with my mother. Also, from a leadership standpoint I think I ought to be able to require her to wear a head collar occasionally.

More exciting news:

I'm in the middle of a transition to Canidae dog food. The food-recall really pissed me off. We've been Nutro customers since I adopted each dog, and although the dry Nutro we use wasn't one of the recalled products the moist Nutro products were recalled. I had trusted Nutro with the health of my dogs. I did a lot of research and was confident the product was manufactured in North America and met exceptionally high standards. Standards, schmandards. They outsourced part of their production to China; standards were compromised; dogs died. Nutro has lost my business. Period.

Two DVDs arrived yesterday: the first two seasons of The Dog Whisperer. So far as I can tell none of the episodes is really about my scenario: two dogs living in the same house and not getting along with each other. The closest I've seen so far is the "Cinnamon and Chocolate" episode but that's really focused on the behavior of just one of the dogs (Cinnamon, "the rescue dog"--and BTW it irritates me the way the owners seem to attribute the dog's behavior problems totally to the fact that he's a rescue dog rather than a breeder-purchased dog). The DW doesn't really deal with the dynamic of both dogs. Don't get me wrong: I do see myself in the mopey-looking mother and daughter of that episode--they seem so weak and wimpy and I dunno just hideously squooshy. But I was hoping to see more about handling two dogs that have to be separated and simultaneously trained to repair their relationship.

The episodes in which the DW brings his pack animals into the picture are not helpful to me because I don't have a DW-approved pack to train my dogs to be dogs. Thank God for the neighbor's pug, that's all I can say.

. . .

So looking ahead:

The 30-day period of the 30DR is nearly over but we've really only just begun. Partly because I didn't do all the things I said I'd do:

* I still haven't acclimated either dog to a muzzle. (The P-muzzle-scenario is seeming less like a good idea now that I'm reminded of how traumatized she gets about things on her body--she's been so calm around B, even yesterday she came outside and didn't shrink away from him. If you knew nothing about their history you'd never guess a problem existed between the two. But of course that was true of them before the 30DR also: half the time they'd seem fine; half the time P would be hiding under furniture.)

* I haven't established a real walking routine for us.

* I haven't maintained the bicycling routine either. (I started the practice of reserving a kayak for myself at the boathouse after heinous meetings as a way to get myself off campus and into a calm state of mind before going home those days. I need the *reservation* part of the exercise because otherwise I'm likely to just return home and get distracted and neglect the exercise. The reservation gives me accountability.)

* I haven't done enough daily training sessions. Not nearly enough.

* I haven't kept my house tidy, which I think is something that needs to be part of this. Neglecting that part of my life seems to be a manifestation of other weaknesses. I'm not saying it's a cause-effect relationship but I do believe that changing more of my external behaviors will help me become stronger inside.

* I stopped using the daily checklist, which wasn't part of the first trainer's requirement but did help me discipline myself.

OK, so now what? Well, 30 Days Has September so I'm thinking it's time to regroup and start another 30DR, modified according to what I've learned from the first 30DR and the trainers who helped me, and the realities of my life.

I'll call it C2C and base it on the Click to Calm approach assigned by the new trainer. In a nutshell, here's that approach:

* Continue the basic rules established in 30DR.

* Enroll Buddy in the October Canine Good Citizens class.

* Make a daily walk a non-negotiable commitment to EACH dog.

* Use the training worksheets given me by the new trainer, using the clicker as part of the reinforcement.

* Teach each dog a new trick this month. Something that will really work their brains.

After watching DW I'm also thinking I should do something with each dog that reinforces my leadership role, like getting Buddy into the swimming pool with me and like getting Petunia to wear her Gentle Leader.

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