Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Today's Cloud

I'm feeling very cold. My back, head and legs ache. There is a strange tickle/pressure in my chest and throat when I breathe. I get suddenly dizzy. I'm so very tired and at the same time I feel strangely anxious...

I recognize this feeling. This was how I felt last time I got the flu - which then turned into pneumonia.

Please don't do this to me. I have no one to take care of Monster if I'm knocked out. The only ones I can trust to treat him per my instructions would be the children, but they can't handle him. And the ones who could handle him would instead ignore my training preferences and immediately turn to corrections.


Update: Thank you! Crisis averted!

Today's Sunshine

Today Monster and I were in the garden when our neighbor came out to his garden to work. This neighbor is an old man and very hard of hearing, which means he moves strangely (to Monster's eyes), he shouts very loudly (and so do I when talking to him), and he keeps coming closer and closer (to try to hear better). In short, he's Monster bait...

But, today I managed to get a very good reward situation going with Monster, where he'd look over and remain calm, and continuously accepting rewards. Towards the end he even looked and then turned back to me a couple of times! So, so wonderful, when ordinarily he'd be bouncing around along the hedge separating the properties and screaming his head off with no ears open for my opinion on the matter.


Monster and I were at the vet's, and I never got around to posting anything, sorry.

The first thing that happened when we got in the exam room was they thrust a beeping chip reader at him, and when he turned his head to check it out it hit him across his nose... Things went downhill from there.

Monster was eventually sedated, and I don't know if they'd calculated the dose wrong or if he's just sensitive, but he fell like a clubbed ox. As the vet tech pulled the needle out of his leg he just collapsed, surprising us all as it's not supposed to take that quickly.

He had his hips and elbows X-rayed, and now begins the horrible waiting for the result. Although the vet isn't supposed to say anything, only the specialists are allowed to grade joints and that takes a couple of weeks, he did tell me at least the elbows looked normal... What does that say about his hips?!

After the exam, Monster was given a wake-up shot. It did not have magic powers. He was still a barely functioning mess for hours yesterday, and only really woke up around 8 pm. And since he'd slept all day, he then proceeded to demand lots of activity and had no interest in going to sleep at a normal hour.

Well, that ordeal is over with finally.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Today's Cloud

While out on our walk today, we happened to meet Boots again. You remember him, the man who lets his two dogs play with Monster (and thinks I'm vastly exaggerating Monster's issues).

Hello, remember me?

Apparently there's a family down the street with two dogs with some aggression issues, and Boots has volunteered to straighten them out. Personally I don't really see the point in having someone else work your dog for you, I don't think that will fix much, plus the methods used aren't the kind I'd recommend. But they are trying something after all, and I certainly can't demonstrate an amazing result from my convictions (yet), so to each their own.

However, Boots was walking one of these dogs today along with his own two. She's an older bitch, a little smaller than Monster, and apparently known as the scourge of the village 2nd to Monster (I've never noticed her, but I kind of have my mind on Monster when we're out, especially if there are other dogs around). Boots first walked up to us and introduced the dogs to each other, and then joined us on the path we were walking. My concerns at Monster's clearly stressed behavior went, I believe, completely unheard. Both Monster and the new dog were very explosive in their movements, they were playing - mostly - but in a way I consider unhealthy. Boots quickly let all his dogs off leash, and when we reached an open area expected me to do the same. This I completely refused. As we were talking we'd stopped walking, and I noticed some tension between the new dog and one of Boots' dogs. I pointed this out, but he believed they were playing. Things escalated into a staring match across a water filled ditch, with very tense body language, no blinking and lips pulled back. Monster became very agitated by the behavior of this new dog. She wasn't challenging him, but he clearly didn't care about the finer points. I pointed out that things were about to go south with my dog, regardless of whether he thought things were fine in his group. He told all the dogs to knock it off (further agitating Monster, but that's of course not something I expect people to make allowances for), and sent them out into a field. There the new dog began chasing Boots' dog, in a way which did not appear friendly, but he remained convinced they were fine. While I was trying to point out the situation as I saw it, the two dogs finally clashed and went down in a cloud of teeth and snarling. Monster went from "I don't like this." to "Alright, time to die!"...

Boots soon managed to separate the dogs, but Monster was beyond calming down at that point. Boots kept putting himself between Monster and the new dog, and I had to keep asking him to move as this only served to agitate Monster further and risked Boots getting bitten. The new dog was still off leash, and came up to Monster repeatedly, so I had to struggle with holding him so he couldn't get to her. I tried to explain to Boots that he really needed to keep her away from us, because Monster had taken quite a bit of offense at her attacking a friend of his, and there really was a danger he would hurt her. We finally parted ways there, and I dragged Monster off into a tractor track.

Oh, looks so nice and peaceful...

In situations like this I get quite frustrated that I can't raise my voice or be more assertive. But once Monster has started spiraling, if I sound or act anything other than calm and sweet he's going to lose it completely.

I'm sure Boots is a very nice man, and I'm sure he genuinely feels I'm handling Monster completely wrong. But that's probably part of the problem, because I feel his methods are wrong, and I think we keep talking past each other...

Anyway, once we'd put some distance between us and the gang, I just stopped in place and waited for Monster to calm down. It took about ten minutes, but he did eventually sit down, sigh, and look at me. Time well spent I think. After that he was almost as usual on the walk, except for when we were almost home and he spotted Boots and the dogs again a few streets over. Alert! Alert! Oh well, no crying over spilled milk.
(But I should learn to stop spilling it, though...)

Today's Sunshine

Monster was fairly interested in training today. We even made some progress on hand targeting (went from him barely hitting my hand before backing off again to holding his nose in my hand for a couple of seconds) and impulse control (actually checked in with me when we approached the bait I'd placed, although still pulling towards it). Trying anything newer, stuff we haven't worked much on before, resulted in him shutting down every time though.

Still, he seems to be bouncing back faster than I'd hoped! It's enough for now that we can train on the oldies, we can work on getting his confidence back up gradually again.

Pity we'll have to pile on the stress again since we have to go to the vet's tomorrow...

We're going where!?!

Today's cloud

I have a headache. It's past midnight. Tomorrow I'll be slow and tired because I couldn't be bothered to use my common sense and go to bed when I should. Which means Monster's training will suffer.

I really suck.

Today's Sunshine

Monster has been sleeping half the day, and wanting to do stuff the other half. I've kept things calm even when he didn't want to, just a few short training sessions on things like eye contact and impulse control spread out over the day. I'm hoping this will help him come back down from his stress high, and if he seems back to normal tomorrow I'll start going back to our routine again.

Come on, let's go!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Today's Cloud

Today I've tried making wonderful treats for Monster. Yummy dried chicken thighs, tasty dried chicken hearts, and wonderful dried whatever-that-pig-part-was... The house smells horrible, and Monster just looks at me and sighs when I hold one of the new treats out to him. Why won't he eat!?

Because he enjoys driving me up the wall, that's why.

Well, there's that. But also, I have my own secret stash in the garden. Ssshhh, don't tell her...

Today's Sunshine

Finally, Dobie is back in his own home! Monster has spent most of the day asleep, which I think is good for him. Hopefully he'll recover quickly and we can get back on track.

What a relief!

You sure he's gone?

You Are What You Eat. So Is Your Dog.

Here's a good article to start with if you think all dog food is the same! What's in the food?

While I certainly feel that just buying from the top brand isn't necessarily better, I think this article does a good job of sorting out why you should make a deliberate choice rather than just pick up whatever is cheapest, easiest, or your dog is most happy to be served (some kibble is coated in sugar...).

Food for thought, people.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Today's Cloud

Monster is stress barking. He is lunging at everything. He is licking his front legs manically. He can't be further away from me than three feet. He won't take reinforcers. The stress is really getting to him now.

Today's Sunshine

Dobie is going home tomorrow!

Raw Pleasure

I recently realized a raw food producer was based fairly close to us! I've been trying different dog foods for Monster, among them two different brands of raw food. One he liked OK, but became horribly skinny. The other he liked better, but he's been shedding dandruff and been generally mopey. Neither brand he'd actually finish a full serving of before it went bad (the downside of raw food). So I started looking around for a new brand, and as I said I discovered there was one which is locally produced. It's less than an hour's drive away, and if you buy from the factory you get a sizable discount. Not only that, but if you buy the stuff before it's sliced up and packaged, you get it even cheaper. Raw food is more expensive than most top brand kibble, but the health benefits outweigh the pain in the wallet to me. But this way, even counting gas money, we're getting it cheaper than average priced kibble. I feel there must be a catch somewhere... Let's ask Monster.

Leave me alone, I found a giant meat popsicle!

Nope, Monster doesn't seem to be complaining. Admittedly it's a bit of work to break that thing apart, but two of those bad boys should last us close to a month (depending on how much he winds up eating/needing per day, we haven't landed on a portion size yet).

Ideally I'd like to source and mix Monster's food myself (because you seriously would not believe what gets put in dog food!), but I can't handle it. Apart from feeling I need a science degree to be comfortable balancing a healthy diet for him, I just hate having that raw meat goo all over my kitchen. I've been a vegetarian for... I'm not sure, five or six years now I think. Meat is not something I enjoy handling.

But of all the raw dog foods I've ever handled (and we've tried others that just never made it onto the "let's try this for a while"-list), this is the most pleasant to have defrosting and eaten in the house. It smells exactly like the slaughter house in hunting season when I was growing up [*], and if you don't know what that smells like I can only say it's a lot more pleasant than the smell of those plastic wrapped dead clumps you buy in the supermarket.

[*: That's right. I grew up in the countryside. My family raised animals for meat, first sheep and later cattle. Everyone hunts. I've helped with slaughter and butchering, and I know where meat comes from. The idea that all vegetarians are city weaklings who were never taught the realities of life is a ridiculous security blanket meat eaters snuggle up to, so they can avoid looking at their own choices. Yeah, I said it.

And I don't chose to be a vegetarian because I'm too weak to eat meat. I have no problem killing for survival, either in defense or for food. I'd kill you without a second's remorse if my life was on the line. But I won't kill for pleasure, which is what you're doing when you eat meat. You don't need it, you just want it. And on top of that, most of you could never handle killing an animal for food, you just expect someone else to do it for you so you don't have to think about the nasty bits. Yeah, I judge.]

Having said all that, it'd never occur to me to make the same choice for Monster, or any other pet. Ethics is a responsibility for those who can understand it.


Today Monster has been very uneasy. I don't know if he's feeling unwell or what's wrong. Perhaps it's just that his stress has been building a little every day now that Dobie is here, piling on.

I drove Dobie home today, and left him for a few hours in his house so I could have some alone time with Monster. But I think it may actually have made it worse...? He was so nervy in the car, when I hit some gravel that made a noise under the car, he jumped straight up and whimpered. Later we were in the garden and he ran off to bark at the fence. I followed him and put my hand out to grab his harness, and he crept down low, jerked away, tucked his tail and ran away from me. I was horrified.

And this evening, a few hours after I'd picked Dobie up again, the fighting started again. I don't know what to do. I've separated the dogs of course, and Monster isn't badly injured (physically), but this is Hell.

Two more days with Dobie in the house.

If he's staying, I'm leaving!

Sounds good to me.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Today's Cloud

All three of us appear to be a bit under the weather today... Not sure what's wrong. Perhaps it's the actual weather?

Both dogs just want to lie down and do nothing. Monster will just mope and look at me if I ask him to come, and Dobie will sigh and heave himself up as opposed to his normal explosion of anxiousness if I so much as draw a breath (I could be getting ready to say "let's go" after all). I don't know of any zoonotics which would make us all glued to the couch without any other symptoms, so I'll assume it's psychological or environmental. In either case, we need to snap out of it.


Leave me alone. And turn on the TV, I can't reach the remote.

Today's Sunshine

Not a great day... What to be happy about?

Who needs a reason?!

I suppose... The dogs are calmer today.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Check This Out!

I just found a goldmine! | Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies

This seems like a great resource. I've only browsed around a little so far, but I think I'll be able to find lots of interesting things here. Hopefully it'll at least help me understand enough to make it easier to continue learning more.

It'll be nice to have some more solid sources than silly little books about being nice to the poor little puppy (not my words), and shove them down the throats of the "one good correction will teach him his place"-people!
(Hello, there's that aggressive primate.)

Sunshine And Clouds

For some reason stress levels have been high today. Both dogs have been very attentive and reactive to sounds (I assume, I can't hear anything but their ears are of course better than mine) from outside, with lots of barking at the windows and doors, and running around inside showing guarding behaviors. I put them in their places and tell them to relax, but it only lasts a little while before they both charge up simultaneously  and start telling off the world again.

So very little organized training at all today. Very little peace and quiet. Very little patience left...

But, on the bright side! Despite both dogs being very tense, they haven't even once turned this on each other. In fact they appear to act in unison and guard the house together. While I of course don't want them to be tense and stressed, and don't want them to guard against nonexistent dangers, it makes me happy to see that in such a high stress situation there is no sign of tension between the dogs.

I don't trust it, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy it for now.

We're happy too!

(That's an old picture. I'm not that stupid.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Today's Cloud

Just general Dobie problems. He does actually seem to get calmer and calmer the longer he's here. He no longer whines under his breath nonstop, for example (yes, nonstop, even in his sleep). But it's still stressful, and every single thing has to be planned to cause as little stress as absolutely possible. I find myself rather sitting thirsty than getting up to get a glass of water, because the smallest movement causes Dobie to become an exploding stressball... Poor Dobie.

I am super relaxed, you hear!

Shaping Is Fun! (aka Today's Sunshine)

Monster and I have been working more on base position through shaping using a platform (I told you about this yesterday, keep up). While it's still far from complete, I finally get the charm of shaping!

Shaping has never really worked for us before. If Monster isn't being given cues and guidance, he'll just shut down. I assume this is a result from our unfortunate time of correction based training, and I'd more or less given up on Monster ever conquering this. As I told you yesterday, he did the same when I first introduced the box. Instead of experimenting and offering up a score of behaviors to try to find the right one, as you read about in all those smug, braggy (not really, I'm just jealous) explanations of shaping, he'll just become passive and either wander off or lie down and look at me mournfully.

But now! As soon as I walk near the box, he'll do an amazing flying stomp to get on it and then look at me expectantly. It's so great it's actually making me tear up! (I've had to put the box away when we're not training now, since he just won't leave it alone.)

Well, click already!

I've tried to use the camera to capture it, but it's really hard since the focus still has to be on Monster and rewarding everything he does right. However, I discovered something today I just had to share. Well, I've noticed it before of course, I expect everyone has. Tail position. Yeah, advanced stuff, right? But see, while I know dogs "talk" with their tails, and I can read Monster fairly well, today's training really drove home how precise it is, and how much it tells me about how the training is going. I couldn't catch an example of everything, so I'm using some other photos too. Check this out:

*Should be a photo here, but I don't have one. It looks almost identical to the next one, except the tail is limp and close to the body.*

Above should be an illustration of what it looks like when he doesn't understand, and is also unmotivated to try, perhaps even a bit uncomfortable. This would be how he looked when I first put the box in front of him and he shut down.

I don't get it...

Here his tail is pretty low, but he's holding it a bit out from his body. It says he's interested in the situation, but has no clue what's going on. This is what his tail looked like when he first started interacting with the box at all.

Hang on...

Here his tail is stiffer, and he's holding it out even further. This means he's fully engaged and actively trying to figure out what pays.

All right!

This tail is held almost straight out (looks like he has gas), and means he's really thinking. Once he's reached this position, he's working hard and figuring stuff out and learning. And enjoying himself!

Not sure if I'm doing this right, but who cares - it's fun!

Once the tail goes higher, it means he's either so sure of the behavior he no longer has to think about it, or he's become exhausted and can no longer focus. In either case, he becomes goofy instead of concentrating.

I rule the world!

And once it's high and tense, there's just no hope of working with him, he'll just jump, bark and be generally obnoxious. Too stressed.

I find that I get the best results if I try to keep him going between "Hang on..." and "All right!". If he goes lower than "Hang on..." it means he's not understanding, and if he goes higher than "All right!" it means he's either learned it already and isn't being challenged, or I've worked him too hard for too long and he's stressed out.

Our result from today is that Monster now realizes that the reward comes for moving his back paws, he'll now step around the box with his back paws while keeping his front paws on the box (and occasionally falling off).

So tomorrow - no scratch that. No planning while Dobie is here. Next time I'll try to get him to seek base position next to me, and follow me when I move away. We'll see.

But honestly, even if he never gets base position, I don't care because this has been an awesome experience!

(No, not really. He has to get good base position for us to be able to do pretty much anything... But you know what I mean.)

I've been working hard today!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Today's Cloud

It's difficult training with another dog here. When training Monster, every move and sound Dobie makes has an effect on Monster. And once training is over Dobie apparently has to try some dominance over Monster (which I don't allow, neither dog is allowed to climb on the other, stare at the other, put their head on the other's back, or anything like that). And when training Dobie, Monster freaks out. He's jealous and stressed, and he shows it...

That of course means that we need to train that, and it's good I have to face that. But it's difficult...

Oh, poor me. Boohoo.

Cue eye roll here...

Today's Sunshine

Another step backwards. I decided I wanted to back up in training and get a really good base position. And this time, I was going to shape it and work on a platform...

So, this morning I introduced Monster to a box on the floor, and stood by with clicker and treats at the ready. In the first training session he eventually laid down and sighed in confused frustration, never having even gotten close to the box. Now, I'm not good at shaping, so I cheated (I think?) and tried to make the box interesting, pushing it around and playing with it before our next training session. By this evening, Monster now steps up onto the box and moves his back paws around!

Yeah, it's not actually a base position (or even close), and I'm pretty sure he hasn't twigged to the fact that moving his back paws (as opposed to trying everything) is the point, but I still love it. It was a lot of fun, and I think we got pretty far in one day. Monster also seems to have enjoyed it.

(Didn't get any photos, since I was too busy being an awesome trainer and all, but Monster's so pretty it doesn't matter if the picture has anything to do with the post!)

You know that's true.

About Those Daily Resolutions...

I'm not going to apologize for this. With Dobie here I don't feel I can make plans in advance. I need to be as flexible as possible, which isn't very since it's me... Deciding I'll focus on something special each day risks me pushing that decision when I shouldn't. It may not be a big risk, but I don't want to make anything harder than it has to be right now.

It's going well for the moment, but I need to take it day by day.

Oh, relax! It's not like I react and change in a microsecond...

Another Dog Game!

This one's a favorite, and gets played almost daily: "Where'd you go?"

You can play this both inside the house and outside, all you need is something to hide behind. As you and the dog are walking together somewhere, let him get ahead of you and then slip away and hide. Below, Monster and I was leaving the kitchen for the living room, when I instead hid behind a cupboard.

There you a- eeek!

And when the dog comes back to see where you went, you jump out at him and roar (from dog height, not from above). So the dog backs off around the corner again, and the game resets. We like to repeat a "found you" three or four times, but you'll quickly see how long your dog thinks it's fun.

In the case above Monster also has a rawhide bone in his mouth, that works fine for us but isn't necessary. If your dog has resource issues you may want to avoid that, though.

If your dog is skittish or uncertain, you can of course be more gentle in the "jump out and scare him" part! Or skip that entirely.

What's it good for? Maybe it helps Monster feel less threatened by people doing unexpected and odd things, moving suddenly or raising their voices. I wouldn't play this game if Monster showed any signs of discomfort, but it's clear he loves it. You can't quite see it in the photo above, but to the left of the refrigerator there's an oven with dark glass making a kind of mirror. Often when we play in this particular spot I can see Monster stopping just before the corner and looking at the "mirror" to see where I'm at, then he'll grin and trot around the corner. He's not actually scared, is my point, or even surprised.

(And yes, Monster can see and understand what's in a mirror. He also likes to watch TV - especially sports or anything with bears. And no, he's not just listening. And yes, I'm sure about the mirror. In fact, he often comes up behind me when I'm brushing my teeth in the bathroom and seeks eye contact through the mirror. It's a bit of a pain, because I try to make sure to always reward eye contact, meaning I now have to keep dog treats in the bathroom which goes against my hygiene principles... Still, it's also kind of awesome, so I'm not really complaining!)

You know, people say I look kind of dumb... Shows how smart they are.

Wrong Kind of Tracking!

Remind me why I was so pissy about the cold?

Cause this is not how I like to see my floors...

Since there's still some tension between the dogs around going out/coming home procedures, it makes it difficult to take the time to clean paws immediately. I know this is what you sign up for with dogs, but come on! I don't like cleaning. I wonder if I can teach Monster to use a mop...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dog Games, Part Deux

Quick and simple game today: Where's the doggy?

What? I'm right here dude.

This game is played by putting a blanket (or jacket, or whatever) over your head and letting the dog "find" you. I call it "Where's the doggy?" because that's what I said (whispered actually) the first time I did this, much as you do with a small child when you cover your face and ask where the child went. Monster loves this game, and will jump up on me and frantically try to dig my face out from whatever is covering it. Once he's "found" me he's so happy he almost ties himself into a knot, wagging his tail and jumping and running around.

Fun, quick and simple. What's it good for? No idea... Maybe it helps make your dog interested in keeping contact with you?

A note of warning though, as this is again a game which may be a problem to play with a large dog, at least if they get as into it as Monster does. You may need to set some rules about how the dog is allowed to dig you out, as well as how he's allowed to celebrate once he's succeeded.
(Black eyes and claw marks usually aren't what we're going for.)

Today's Cloud

Slow day. The roads are ice, and it's been raining most of the day. It's difficult to walk, it's wet, it's cold (because it's wet, and because I fall down on the ice all the time - which makes it even more wet), it's miserable. Not much activity outdoors today.

And still there's mud all over the floors (and some walls)!

What?! Who could have done that!?

Today's Sunshine

It seems like the dogs are both calming down the longer Dobie is here... Today, when Dobie would normally already be home, they were both very anxious when they first met in the morning. But since then they appear to have accepted the situation nicely.

(And as I'm writing this Dobie starts whining and pacing again, just to keep me on my toes...)

Perhaps this time together, when Dobie can't go home and reset with his other family, will be good for us. I'm not taking any unnecessary risks of course, things could go wrong still, but it's much more peaceful than I feared it would be.

Once upon a time...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Today's Cloud

Met someone else training an aggressive dog out walking today. Unfortunately we're not using the same methods, and the situation became very uncomfortable for Monster who finds men using the "dominate your dog"-type of techniques to be very disturbing - even if they're not doing it to Monster.

I didn't realize Monster and I were being seen as willing training partners (presumably because of Monster's own behavior issues, which seems like exactly the kind of training dog you don't want) until we were more or less trapped (since I kept moving away into smaller and smaller side roads). Eventually there was nothing left to do other than accept that the dogs passed each other on a narrow road (with two other dogs running around loose and barking)... It did not go well.

I didn't like that, Mom.

Monster barked and growled, and pulled hard on the leash, and the other dog naturally responded in kind (I don't know which one of them "started" it, but I think that's rather irrelevant). The road was ice covered in water with walls lining it, so I had very poor footing and nowhere to go. I should have demanded that the other group turn around and leave us alone, but I know from experience that if I raise my voice or in any other way show that I'm annoyed Monster will lose it completely. I think it was the safer choice after all to accept the meeting and move on, but I'm still not happy about it.

Monster was stressed, pulling on the leash and keeping a close eye on the surroundings for the rest of the walk. It's not a disaster, but it does set us back, and it feels so unnecessary...

Today's Sunshine

I feel fairly confident in my routines with Dobie in the house. It may not be a perfect situation, but I think we should be able to avoid fights...
(Hope that won't jinx it!)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Today's Cloud

Dobie's regular family is going away on a trip. This means Dobie is staying here. For ten days.


Today's Sunshine

I took Monster to the vet today. I found some lumps on his neck (gigantic, rock hard lymph nodes), and was hysterically terrified that he had cancer...

However, by today (found them day before yesterday) they were back to normal again. The vet couldn't check anything, since nothing was wrong anymore, but she could at least assure me that lymphoma doesn't come and go like this! I'm to take him back immediately if they swell up again, so they can run some tests, but maybe that will never happen!

Some may think today was a horrible waste of money (left the vet's with a paper saying the dog was perfectly healthy - in fact showed no signs of ever having been sick - and with a much slimmer bank account) but I don't care. Monster is fine, that's all I care about.

It's All Fun And Games!

Do you play with your dog? I don't mean teaching your dog things in a playful way, I mean playing dog games with your dog.

I do, and I think everyone should. I was talking to some friends and realized that not everyone does, though. In fact, some people didn't understand what I was talking about, so I figured I could give a few examples. If you want scientific studies that playing with your dog is a good thing (or if you want support for the opposite) I'm sure you can find something if you go looking. I don't don't really care: I think it's good, I think it's fun, that's all I need.

I can sign off on the "fun" part!

Today, we'll be teaching you the kissing game. It's very complicated - like all dog games! What you do is you sit down opposite your dog (in our case I sit and Monster lies down, because he's pretty darn big) and you kiss him. I'm not being weird here, at least not in that way. It's simply quickly touching your lips (or I suppose you could go with your nose or your chin if that feels better) to the front part of your dog's muzzle, while looking into his eyes. Very quickly your dog will catch on to this game, and it becomes a staring match where you both try to be the kisser instead of the kissee. Look, look, look, kiss! Haha, I got you!


Yeah, that really is all there is to it. Dog games are simple. What makes it fun? No clue... Perhaps it's just that the dog thinks it's so much fun? Perhaps it's because there's no goal, no right or wrong?

What's it good for? Monster has a bit of a problem with people staring at him - and with him being asked to stare at people - as well as with people bending down over him or having their faces very close. I think this game helps him with that, making people's faces and staring eyes a lot less threatening. But even if I didn't think that I'd still play this game, simply because we both think it's fun.

If your dog doesn't think it's fun, don't play! (You may want to give it a few tries to see if he catches on, especially if he's not used to you playing with him, but if he's clearly uncomfortable you should of course stop.)

And be careful your dog doesn't get too excited, at least if he's Monster's size. If we play this game when Monster's stressed, or if we play with too much energy or for too long, he'll eventually start using his paws too. Getting hit in the face with a flying Monster paw can really hurt.

Monster also gets a reward if he manages to land several kisses in a row: he gets to chew on my nose a little. I'm not sure how this rule came about, but that's the thing with the dog games: they happen naturally and you both understand the rules involved. Dogs can't talk, but you know you can still understand them if you try. Considering how hard they work to understand us, I think they deserve the same from us from time to time...

There will be more dog games in future posts. Maybe tug (although everyone knows that one, and most even use it in training, it's still a dog game because you don't have to teach it to your dog), or hide and go seek (which sort of qualifies, at least on the fun part), or push and shove, or hand over paw, or I'm gonna get you, or where'd you go, or...

Human, you're feeling sleeeepy. When I bark once you will wake up and want to play. WOOF!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

All Sunshine, All the Time

Monster and I had a great training session today! It's not that we had any major breakthrough or anything - or even that it went all that well to be honest, but it just feels good to be doing something more. We'll see if it pays off, but right now I'm hopeful.

Plus Monster had a lot of fun, deciding that the new trainer was a great new (treats dispensing) toy...

I'm gonna get you!

(I'm not posting a Cloud today, because it would be about health and I don't want to make the worst of the situation... Also no resolution for tomorrow, for related reasons.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Today's resolution

... didn't go that well, so mission failed. I did manage four times five minutes, but the promise was for five times after all. And they weren't very effective either. Monster has been completely crazy all day, both inside the house and out, and will even drop the tug toy mid tug and just stand there and drool and look vacant. Nobody home.

No new promise for tomorrow, since we're meeting the trainer and perhaps getting homework or recommendations for or against specific things. Well, I suppose I can promise I'll get to the meeting on time! I very much hope I'll be more successful keeping that promise. (I'm going to get lost, aren't I? I just know it...)

Fine by me, I'm not too sure about this anyway.

Today's Cloud

Monster has been completely nuts most of the day. He's been barking at the windows, and at me, and trying to open the doors and get out. I keep all doors locked, because I know Monster can open them if he wants. He hasn't tried for a long time now, but it's become a habit fortunately, so he didn't get anywhere.

From his behavior it appears he thinks there's been some sort of intruder in our garden, but the only tracks I find are from cats (no, I'm not bragging about my amazing tracking skills - the lawn was covered in fresh snow). A lot of tracks, sure, and Monster is a bit overly interested in cats, but he normally doesn't react this strongly to them. I don't know what's gotten into him...

Let me out right now, you hear!?

Today's Sunshine

Tomorrow Monster and I are meeting a new trainer, and we'll be working against a training dog... No telling how that will go, so I might as well be happy about it today before anything's gone wrong.

It's exciting, and I'm looking forward to it. Not sure why, because I do understand that one training session tomorrow won't magically fix anything. Still, I suppose I can be happy about actually trying something more organized than wandering around at home and hoping for the best. Hopefully this will go well, and I'll learn some things I'm doing wrong. I've been trudging on and not getting very far for some time now, so help to see my mistakes is much needed.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Today I completely forgot about the daily goal. I still think it's a good idea, but I have to actually do it too, right?

I'm thinking since I'm more of a night person, maybe I should set the goal the evening before. Yeah, let's try it that way for a while.

So, tomorrow I'll train Monster's eye contact while moving. We'll work in five minute sessions, and repeat five times over the course of the day.

Today's Cloud

I'm still feeling tired and strange, and I manage pretty much no organized training whatsoever. Monster gets his walks, and I ask him for a few tricks here and there, but it's more of a chore than a pleasure. And it's certainly showing in Monster! He catches on quickly that I'm not paying attention, and old nuisance behaviors like pulling on the leash and ignoring me has resurfaced. Not to mention his overall stress, because he's not getting the exercise and activity he should be.

Yeah I hear you... But I'm thinking about it.

But, today's better than yesterday, so it's going in the right direction I hope.

Today's Sunshine

I don't really have much to say today either... I suppose I'll go with having trimmed Monster's nails. Not all of them, unfortunately, but about half. One front paw, and one back paw. Monster does not like having his nails trimmed, and fight me all the way through. Not violently, but trying to turn it into a game or just plain making it difficult. He'll lie down on top of his paws, for example, and he weighs quite a lot when you try to dig one out. Or he'll play "catch the clipper", and try to steal the clipper out of my hand. Or his absolute favorite, which is "a nail for a nail", where he'll bite one of my nails for each clip I make.

He gets increasingly frantic the longer we carry on, so I usually aim for one paw at a time. Today went pretty well however, and I managed almost two paws (one nail left on the back paw) before stopping. I don't want him to feel trapped when we're doing this, so I'm careful he doesn't go from playful/stressed to anxious. The goal is of course being able to do all his nails in one go.

Where'd the paw go? You can't fiiiind it!

Winter Wonderland

Today is a day of fog and hoarfrost. It's really gorgeous, so I brought the camera along on a walk.

Bedazzled birch trees.

In some places the fog had lifted, and there was sunshine and blue sky. In others, we could barely see 100 feet in front of us.

Heading back into the fog again.

It was nice to have some variation in what I honestly feel is a bit of a dull landscape. Monster wasn't quite as appreciative as me, though...

Eeeeeek! Who dumped an avalanche on me!?

Still, we can't just wander around and enjoy (or hate) the frost, we need to do something useful too.

Whoa! Can I come down now?

It may not look that impressive, but to Monster this rock is a bit too small. He can't fit comfortably on it without balancing a bit.

When I bring the camera along on walks, there really won't be much training though. I'm clumsy enough trying to keep track of Monster, Monster's leash, the clicker, the treats, the tug toy, and so on. With a camera taking up one hand, I've got no chance. And most of the photos come out like this:

Too late, sucker!

Which, when I think about it probably illustrates to you all just how bad my clicker timing is... No wonder Monster isn't learning any faster. Poor Monster.

The fact that everything today - even the air - is bright white and glittering isn't exactly helping my headache, but you can't have everything after all. It's really beautiful, and I'm not complaining.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Today's Cloud

Bad day. I've had a headache from the moment I woke up, my head feels stuffy, and I'm just so tired. Poor Monster! Just the bare minimum of walks, and hardly any training.

The thing is, I'm not even really sick. I just don't feel great. I'd give myself a pass if I had a fever or the like, but this is just being whiny and lazy... And the worst part is, I realize this but I still don't shape up! After forcing myself to take him out for a walk, I just drag my feet and argue with myself the whole way about whether I could just turn around and go back home...

I'd say I'm ashamed of myself, but that's just giving myself an easy out. Being ashamed doesn't make anything better, and it doesn't give Monster something fun to do.

Helooooo? Anyone down there who wants to play with me?

Today's Sunshine

Pretty dark, actually. Let's call today an eclipse, shall we?

Whuh? Oh, whatever.

I Promise To

... brush Monster's teeth today.

It may not sound like training, but Monster is a little hesitant at being handled, and I'm apparently very bad at training him to accept having his teeth cleaned. Instead of brushing Monster's teeth, it becomes a fun game of chewing on Monstermom's fingers. I've gotten to the point where he'll let me get to one or two teeth before he has enough, but no more. Today, these white mountains shall be conquered!

Aaaand: mission failed! I haven't gotten very far at all actually. It's really my own fault, of course. I've been sluggish and reluctant all day, not getting around to things or paying enough attention. Obviously, this means: Bad Monstermom! Bad!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Today's Cloud

It felt like Monster became more stressed the longer we walked today. That seems like a very bad sign, indicating that I'm doing something very wrong. The dog shouldn't find it harder to pay attention to you the longer you're out, right? Am I pushing him too hard, making too many demands (don't pull, don't pee, don't sniff, etc), or am I not demanding enough (letting him walk around on his own, sniffing and getting excited about his surroundings)? Is it temporary, is it age, is it something I've been doing all along or has something changed? I'm at a loss, which isn't enjoyable.

Today's Sunshine

I decided I need more help, and contacted a trainer to find dogs to train against as opposed to wandering around hoping for the best.

Well it's about freaking time!

I Do Solemnly Swear

... to meet at least three dogs today, and successfully train Monster's leash aggression. (Meaning, close enough to keep him interested, but far enough away that he doesn't find them threatening.)

Aaaand: Mission failed! Quite spectacularly, even. We saw one dog today, at a distance where it gave us a possibility to train. A few more dogs far away, but Monster no longer notices dogs that far away, so it meant nothing for him. Fortunately no surprise dogs that were too close either, so it wasn't a bad day, it just wasn't good.

Which means: bad Monstermom!

No I wasn't! Oh, wait, you? Yeah, OK.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Today's Cloud

There were some growls from Monster towards Dobie today. Usually Monster is overly excited when Dobie is around, becomes stressed and releases that stress with play behaviors (which is unfortunate, since it aggravates Dobie). But a few times today Monster very clearly warned Dobie not to come near him. In a way it's perhaps good that Monster has realized that they really won't be friends, but I really don't see any aggressive behavior as a positive...
(Yes, it's just growling, and certainly he's allowed to growl, but it's still sad that he feels the need to. Although, I obviously understand why.)

Today's Sunshine

Monster has felt really focused today. Working well and concentrated when we're active, and then collapsing in a contented heap when we're back indoors. Dobie makes for a tense situation, but after about ten minutes outside it seems like Monster literally shakes it off and is happy and interested again (we don't do anything indoors with Dobie here, calm is the key word for all the time the dogs spend together - well, as calm as Dobie ever gets). It's not an ideal situation, but it's working as well as I can manage.

And it's fun training with a dog who's enjoying it!

I'm coming, mom!

Bad Monstermom! Bad!

Wow, I'm really not good at this, am I?

I did actually set a goal for today, but I didn't remember to post it. So now you'll all think I'm lying, and just picked something random I'd already done today, right?

Dang, you caught me. In fact, everything on this blog is a lie! I don't even have a dog! You've all been pranked!

Um. Sorry about that. Don't know what came over me...

See what I have to live with?

So, my lying resolution for today was: Make five consecutive, successful recalls of Monster, off leash.

I'm not sweating the details. As long as Monster comes when called, with good speed, and stops when he reaches me, I'm not worried about him completing a heel position or the like.

Enough with the "stay" already, have you got any idea what the cold is doing to a certain part of my anatomy!?

Aaaaaand: Mission accomplished


Good Monstermom!