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.

Short and Sweet

…were today’s walks. I am amazed at how common fearful dogs are (totally unrelated to our walks).

We saw a dog from a distance, and some people here and there, and a bike passed us by at close quarters. A lady was coming towards us on the narrow pathway, so pnut sat and I stuffed him with treats until she was gone. It was a bit much for him, he was visibly anxious about it and slightly reluctant to take the treat as she was directly beside us, but he did continue eating. He had a hard mouth a couple of times today. I feel that though the walks were short in time, they were not short in content. I have increased the size of the morsels that I provide for counter-conditioning, because chintziness is no way to change bad feelings.

In other news, I wish I had a friend my age who was equally obsessed with science-based cruelty-free behaviour modification and lived nearby and had a dog they were working with. Not sure where to look for said dream amigo.

Sorry, we are in training

Walk 1: Went back to the mall because it was nice and early, I figured there wouldn’t be too many people around. It was good, but a bit overwhelming towards the end. I don’t think I should have stopped to break up treats. We need to keep moving! Moral of the story: take big treats on neighbourhood walks where triggers are likely to be far apart, but portion ahead of time for cc in busy areas. The Vitality Jerky Bar treats are incredibly stinky – I wash my hands with a big ol’ glob of grapefruit soap which d’habitude leaves my hands sweet and fresh smelling, but not after handling these stink bombs! But he likes them and they’re nice and big, so stay they will.

Triggers: several people in motorized scooters, a toddler and mom, a few people here and there, and someone who commented on his cuteness, to which I awkwardly responded ‘Heh heh, sorry, we are in training,”. This apology and explanation were entirely unwarranted, as she evidently did not intend on approaching us, but was instead simply walking past. Next time, just say thanks.

Walk 2: A rushed trot around the neighbourhood in between the second and third periods of the 4th game in the NHL final round LA vs NY (spoiler: NY won this elimination game, thus evading elimination!). We walked out of the house as a man slooowly walked by, singing in the wavering style of (what I know as) traditional-ish Chinese music. Pnut was not impressed. He is currently trying to dig a hole to China starting through my bed. We also passed several delicious (read: disgusting) morsels, one of which was outside a house with a cat in the doorway and someone inside commenting “Oh, he must smell the chicken!”. Lady, if all he wanted was the food inside your house, and he was being that insistent about it, do you think we would ever get anywhere? Nuh-uh. Then we passed two ladies chatting. Shortly afterwards, we passed an elderly Asian couple shuffle-jogging. Again, pnut is significantly more nervous around Asian people. Last was a yard containing three guys playing basketball. Then home! Where mis padres me preguntaron whether the dogbean barked at anyone. Why, no, I replied. Funny how treats will do that. My Mother scorns my doling-out of treats at the appearances of triggers. It takes an internal deep breath to not shoot off about why this or that or how she is so something or how I feel that nobody values or respects my passion or knowledge. But, they don’t value or respect my passion or knowledge, so best to just zip it.

I don’t think dogbean barked at the door at all today! If at all, only one quiet little bark I think it was. More dedicated practice is still needed. I fantasize about him being able to “Do as I do”, but there are bigger fish to fry at the moment.

Tomorrow I pick up my friend. And then my friend and I pick up her dog. Woo! Dogs all around. Then I will watch the first World Cup game at 1pm, and Friday morning I will return to the shelter to walk dogs. Dogs and sports!

Treat Trio for Counter Conditioning on Walkies

“Let’s get to it”

-Michael Bolton


Three walks today, two with me and one with Pa. Reportedly on the first walk he barked at a lady gardening who greeted him, as well as the neighbour who greeted him from the window of his truck. Not bad, but also no good for him. Or his reputation – I am going for “dream dog”.

I chose to keep both walks in the neighbourhood after he was so tense walking around the mall yesterday. On the second walk, after dinner, we saw a lady jogging, some toddlers playing loudly and their moms yelling intermittently, a pair of beautiful quiet yellow dogs walking with their man, and some average sketchy Asian people (somebody ahem pnut has a problem with Asian people…they are always walking slowly and backwards and with umbrellas and visors and other suspicious items). I felt that this was an extremely successful walk, until we were back on our street and a man on a bike with a big white dog was following us and catching up quickity split! 😦 Pnut noticed and kept turning around to stare as I tried to hurry him along, stuffing treats in his piehole the whole while; we were only a couple of houses away when the other dog began whining. It seemed to me (though it’s not like I have a degree in animal behaviour or anything, hardy-har-har) that the dog wanted simply to greet Pnut. Or maybe it was “jealous” that Pnut was getting treats. Whatever. Either way, Pnut was rather alarmed at this development and I ended up intermittently pulling to get him home – not a good thing to do, as it simply adds stress and discomfort to the situation, but it is preferable to standing there and letting the other dog come by while Pnut (presumable) stares on in paralyzing horror.

On our earlier walk, we passed by a guy cutting tree branches who offered us one to throw, and an elderly couple pushing a stroller. As we passed the elderly couple, we were going past a guy playing basketball in his front yard, and just up the street was another person approaching as well as a man using power gardening tools (?). Before that, there were a couple of very little kids riding bikes and yelling, which just happened to be very near two people walking and talking who then parted ways as an SUV pulled up. Jeepers, on that walk all of the triggers managed to group themselves! But he did wonderfully.

In fact, I can’t believe how well he did today! The two golden dogs appeared only a few metres away from behind some bushes, and while Pnut was visibly alarmed, he did not bark or even growl, and was able to stay with me and respond when I called him. This is incredible! Not to mention him not reacting at the man with the branches who spoke to us – we managed to have an entire exchange without being interrupted by barking, which my conversations on walks generally are. On a related but totally insignificant note, the branches were huge, longer than my room (I know you don’t know how big that is but measuring things is for wussies), and the dog is 12 lbs, and the man said “If you need a stick to throw, I’ve got plenty.”. Thanks bro, always looking out for a dog in need.

Anywho, super pooper! Heh. Super proud of pnutterbutter. I also walked 3 dogs today at the shelter and took my friend’s dog to be boarded. Dog day!

And I have decided that there is an ideal combination of treats for counter conditioning on walks. It is the beautiful trio of freeze dried crunchy liver (Crouch? Grouch?), Zuke’s minis, and Orijen treats. I am currently using vitality bars (don’t recall the brand) as a substitute for Orijen because I ran out when I dropped my treat bag somewhere during the first walk. Hmph. They are pretty good too. Recently, I have been considering whether perhaps straight up hooman meat – I mean, meat designated for consumption by hoomans – is cheaper than dog treats. Thoughts?