Madness

Madness, as in craziness, and as in angriness (apparently that’s not a word…how unfortunate).

I feel as though I have made zero progress, ahem, dogress this entire summer. Today on walkies I picked him up because two dogs came racing out of their front yard where they were loose, barking and growling at him. Not friendly like at least the last guy was. The owner got up from where she was working and eventually got their attention. And was kind enough to ask if I was okay. It’s one thing to have your friendly dog loose – still irresponsible, but understandable at least. But it’s another thing entirely to have multiple obnoxious and potentially vicious dogs completely uncontrolled, just waiting for somebody to walk by to pounce on them. Hng!

But it led me to thinking where the blame for pnut’s lack of progress really lies. And the truth is, first and foremost with me. I will not say that I don’t believe these owners and other impolite and uninformed persons aren’t also hindrances to dogress. Most certainly pnut is not at all to blame. The lack of thought and time I have put in to training him are what matter the most.

It’s interesting, because this is a field that challenges me like no other. (Dog training, that is.) When other projects and hobbies become difficult (ie I reach the asymptotal part of the learning curve), I generally quit. And when other projects and hobbies don’t go as planned or turn out their best, I can just shrug and ignore them. Pnut, however, is not a project that is likely to go away any time soon*, nor can I shrug and ignore him when he is barking his brains out at a stranger, though evidently some people can. It is very important to me that he become comfortable meeting new people. Not only would this simplify my life significantly, but I could not help but count it as a personal victory, that we overcame his fears. Obviously the most important reason for working towards more confidence is to make life more pleasant for him.

One more complaint before I go. It is, in my opinion, a huge source of stress for pnut when the door opens or is knocked on or the doorbell rings. Therefore, I have put some time into ds/ccing him to these events. Unfortunately, mis padres siempre try to “help”. There is no way to tell them off without offending them. I worked today with peanut outside so that he could see there was nobody there, and the sound of the doorbell was muffled. While I was feeding during the doorbell ringing, somebody knocked loudly and several times on the other side of the door right next to us. This put pnut’s fur all a-bristly and his tail at attention as his eating turned very sharky, all indicating a high level of arousal, which is exactly what I do not want. I terminated the session then. And such things as this constantly occur when I try to work with nutnut on this huge problem. I knock once and feed. Knock once and feed. Knock once and feed. Knock once and – somebody on the other side of the house bangs on a wall for 10 seconds to “help”. Uy. I just want to bang my own head against the wall sometimes.+

* My parents have each independently asked whether I am taking him with me when I return to school…and my Father offered to care for him if I have no other way to find a place to live. So much for them never taking care of my dog, as they claimed so adamantly when I adopted him! They clearly secretly at least half-hope that I leave him behind for them to love and fatten up.

Screaming at Dogs

…has today proved ineffective. We were having a magical walk – well, not magical, but manageable. Saw a black dog chained up in someone’s driveway and thought oh great, here we go with the barking and lunging from both canine parties. But the stranger dog was silent! Phew, I thought. Pnut didn’t notice so I thought we were off scot free.

Until the dog was suddenly right beside us. No human in sight, no leash dragging, nothing. This dog appears to have been loose without supervision in the front yard. I started stuffing pnut with duck as fast and furious as possible (and trust me, I was furious) and decided to yell at the dog to make it go away. I yelled and stuck out my foot in the hopes that this would convince the other dog that I am dangerous or at least not fun. However, it paid me no mind. Now I am starting to fear the other dog trying to steal the food in addition to just being around pnut. Pnut had not barked until I started yelling, which I consider a miracle. But I yelled and he promptly began barking and lunged once at the other dog. This successfully caused retreat of the illegally off-leash dog, and I was able to coax Peanut to also walk away and eat treats treats treats. Then after about 30 seconds of walking away, I heard the dog approaching again. “It can’t be”, I thought to myself. But it was, so this time I picked Peanut up and kept on in the opposite direction of the dog. It did not continue coming up to us.

For one thing, I feel so stupid and guilty for yelling – I think I just scared Peanut more by doing so, thus negating my counter-conditioning efforts. I also feel stupid because there was a guy down the street staring at me. Everyone always stares at me when I am out with pnut because I am feeding him which is not what most people do on walks. I don’t enjoy it, and now I am additionally being stared at for yelling at a random dog which “nicely” approached me. And I imagine that they are laughing at me because I yell, and then pnut yells. One more to add to the list of reasons to feel stupid – I never considered that I may be instilling fears in the other dog. I don’t think dogs should approach strange dogs, but if it is loose without supervision I can’t imagine that there exist many well socialized dogs that wouldn’t come up for a little look. It is unnecessary to potentially plant fears of Jack Russell Terriors or girls with ponytails or whatever else the dog might latch onto. I can’t control whether nutnut reacts and scares the other dog, but I can most certainly control myself.

However, I am at a loss as to what I should have done. I had food and a dog, both of which (presumably) interested this other dog. The dog was not being controlled by anyone, my house was not close, and I am sure that if I walked away, the strange dog would have tagged along. It is ill-advised to pick up a dog being targeted by another, aggressive dog. I don’t know whether picking pnut up would have been the best option. I did it later on because the other dog was far enough away that it wouldn’t have been able to get pnut.

May I just point out that it is illegal and extremely irresponsible to have your dog free and unattended. If pnut was worse behaved, he could have bitten. I expect that the owner, if they saw the interaction, thinks I am crazy and poorly behaved for yelling at their dog. I detest the world of dog. I do not appreciate the super strong feelings I have about dog ownership and training. They make me upset. They make me hate people.

Water is Sweet But Blood is Thicker

Where to begin?

Dogbean was supposed to go to the vet tomorrow morning, be done with his antibiotics and the cone, but no. That would be too easy. So this morning he got up from my lap and there was a thick line of blood all down my leg! Yesterday I noted that his scab seemed like it was going to come off, and when I got a closer look I realized the scab was nearly being popped off because the area was swollen. We went to the vet this morning, got an additional week of antibiotics, and now steroids for two weeks.

The biggest reason I am irritated about this is that it’s nearly impossible to feed him treats while walking when he has this cone. That in addition to him being not very willing to walk at all, means my opportunities for counter conditioning are severely restricted. Yesterday I looked into force-free trainers in the area because I was starting to feel so stumped and overwhelmed, like I am not making any progress with him. It really does feel like I am not making any progress with him. And this summer was supposed to be my chance to turn everything around for us, so that we could have a wonderful next year at school, hanging out with all our dog and people friends.

However, I took him out for a walk tonight because he was rather hyper, and it didn’t feel quite as bad. This makes me think that perhaps one shorter walk at a less busy time would be most beneficial; maybe I have been overwhelming him with so many triggers in a day.

He has been eating only duck and sweet potato (and pills) for a couple of days now, and the potential of undiagnosed food allergies is so incredibly stressful. I don’t know what to do, and I really do not want this anal sac issue to continue/return. If I continue feeding sweet potato and duck, I have to add a specialized supplement, and keep it up for 2 to 3 months before I can begin adding in anything. I don’t know if he even has allergies at all to anything – he did do a fair bit of licking (before the cone), but his skin and coat are generally quite nice and he doesn’t itch particularly much. I am considering trying out a new kibble – limited and novel ingredient, and high fat. Limited novel ingredient basis obviously in case of food allergies, and high fat so that they are delicious and therefore motivating enough to use for training. I am confused and I hate decisions. I have three dog nutrition books screaming at me, one I ordered, one from the public library and one on lend from the vet. It must be nice to be not scientifically minded, and just believe anything you hear on TV or read on the internet. I have trouble trusting “experts”, I am so skeptical!

Are you supposed to conclude these things somehow? I hated essays in high school.

Growling & Barking

We found a baseball in the park yesterday which he was extremely possessive over. Lots of mean growling, and lately he has been doing a lot more barking, particularly in the backyard with his (favourite orange) ball. He barks if you don’t come get it and throw it, but he barks if you approach it, and darts in and barks if you reach for it, as if to nip. It is rather alarming, not to mention the barking just feels insulting as I can’t do anything right. So yesterday and today I have just been approaching him with it and offering treats, giving him treats for putting it down, etc. Normally if he put it down, I would grab it and throw it, but now I am feeding and then backing away and encouraging him to get the ball back himself. I suspect he might be frustrated because it is more difficult to take possession of the ball while wearing the cone, and since he can’t pick it up, he vocalizes.

Other reasons he may be vocalizing more in general:

– excess energy because he can’t/won’t do anything with the cone on

– more opportunities here (backyard) to practice this behaviour with no bad consequences

– rewarded with attention, food, or being let in to the house

I am trying to prevent him from getting upset enough (i.e. when left alone) to whine or bark, but sometimes I fail and he begins. I can (miserably, all the while beating myself up) wait him out, but the other occupants of the house cannot, and they either call him away for attention (thus rewarding it) or shoo him (also rewarding it because dogs do not understand words, only attention).

Problems dog. God forbid, however, that I express any of my misgivings or grievances regarding this dog, lest I be punished with “told you so”s until I am plastered in them, unable to move or think.

Delivery

I need to work on treat delivery and training mechanics. I have been to a couple of puppy classes where I got to work with adorable munchkins, and I am slow and clumsy (ha ha, just like the puppies!). When I take pnut+cone for walks and need to give him counter conditioning treats, it is such a mess, with him jumping up and smearing food all over his cone or getting it stuck to his chin. I knew that usually he sort-of jumps up to get treats while we walk, but I didn’t think it was a big problem. I have certainly heard that mechanics are crucial and treat delivery, especially for counter conditioning, should be straight to the mouth.
When we are out walking, he is almost always far enough away from me that I have to call him to me in order to feed, which changes the situation from counter conditioning to operant conditioning. This is bad. For whatever reason, during today’s walk, he mostly stayed right by me, making things a lot easier. Also in the last day I have seen improvement in terms of him keeping “four on the floor” for treats while walking, which I gleefully attribute to my realizing that I feed too high and trying to keep it lower.
A friend of mine is attending Chicken Camp with Bob Bailey, which I would absolutely love to do. Though at this point it would probably be more than I can handle. I read through the descriptions for his courses, and just as I pretty much knew, they are almost all about mechanics – speed, coordination, cutting out “noise”. I am so sure that I have awful mechanics, but I get away with it because my dog is a genius. For this reason, I am extremely grateful for the chances to work with puppies, with short attention spans requiring high rates of reinforcement and constant engagement.

Energy

At various points today, PNUT has been a flaming bouncing ball of energy. He has also been more vocal in general lately. I am not a fan of this. Right now he is whining and staring at me from his “bedroom” aka the bathroom, as he does every night since getting the cone. I’m not quite sure how to reward quiet, since he is normally quiet, and the only way I can reward him is if I go over there, but if I went over there, he would stop whining anyway.

*20 minutes later*

I told him to go into his crate, and stay, as I went to retrieve some freeze dried sweet potato chips. I rewarded him immediately upon returning because he had stayed and not vocalized; I then continued rewarding him at short but random intervals as he remained quiet, as well as rewarding for relaxed behaviours such as lying down, putting down his head, and turning away from me. For fear that he may actually be expressing a need to pee and not just dissatisfaction with his location, we then left the room to go outside. Of course, he did not pee. He spent maybe 10 seconds sniffing the grass and then sat at the doorway. Now he is begging for food from my sister. This allows me to sit quietly and not half focus on clicking and treating every few seconds.

I have to put in a conscious effort to use short sentences. When I reread what I have typed, it seems like a lot of non sequiturs. Feel free to leave comments on my writing style; I used to love semi colons until a TA in a music course made me get rid of every single one in my 10 page essay and exclaimed “Ugh, what’s up with all the semi-colons everywhere! You kids these days are obsessed with them!”. Hmph, I thought. I like them. Also, I used to produce a sewing blog, and I loved the writing I did for it. It was so…advanced, yet humourous. It makes me look like a simpleton here in comparison.

On the topic of energy, I like to live on the edge and plug in my laptop to charge at the very last second when it gives me the about to die warning. Because I don’t have enough stress in my life.

Moving on, Peanut dragged his rear on the ground today and his scab rubbed off, leaving a red raw wound which hopefully will heal nicely and not be half skin and half dirt/grass as his previous scab was. I just realized the chlorhexidine label recommends only using it for 7 days. The painkillers were also provided for 7 days. My personal almost entirely uneducated opinion is that he needed at most 4 days of painkiller, but the chlorhexidine should continue to be applied for more than 7 days. I simply can’t wait until he is back to normal!

Speaking of normal, he had the cone off for half an hour this morning (don’t fret dear readers, he was being held to prevent wound access) and spent the entire time licking his legs and paws. This is an activity consistent with the diagnosis of a food allergy, which was suggested by the vet in response to his anal sac abscess. I never considered his licking particularly abnormal before, but now that I think about it, he does spend a significant amount of time licking himself. The book “Dog Food Logic”* suggests that beef, soy, and dairy are the most common allergens for dogs. Time for more research!

Oh yes, this post was to be about nutnut’s energy level. Yes, today I was trying to plan my course schedule for next term when I was lovingly attacked by a jumping, spinning, and panting dog who would not leave me alone! I’m not sure where his sudden burst of glee originated, but it merited immediate attention in the form of a nice walk. He continued to be jumpy and stretchy and loving all day.

And we saw a skunk in the neighbourhood for the second day in a row! Or, to be specific, I saw it and pnut did not. Thankfully. Also an Eagle in the field, with crows dive bombing it and cawing like mad! As pnut and I entered the park, the grand and majestic Eagle took off with a carcass firmly gripped in its claws. Good riddance! I have heard stories of Eagles (do I need to be capitalizing “Eagle”? whatever) stealing small dogs for lunchtime snacks, and I like my small dog please and thank you very much.

Getting away from scary ol' P-NUT as fast as he can

Getting away from scary ol’ P-NUT as fast as he can

* “Dog Food Logic : Making Smart Decisions for Your Dog in an Age of Too Many Choices” by Linda P. Case, M.S., published by Dogwise. I purchased a copy for myself and one for a friend after reading this review by Eileen of eileenanddogs. She runs a fantastic blog and highly recommends the book (God forbid I think for myself)!