Saturday, March 31, 2012

Today's Cloud

On a walk today I had Monster on the long line. We were walking on a path with great visibility, open farmland to one side and a stream to the other. But all of a sudden two guys popped up right in front of Monster. They seemed to have been hiding behind a bush by the water, perhaps they were fishing I don't know. They were wearing hats and sunglasses, Monster was about 50 feet ahead of me and they were about 8-10 feet ahead of Monster. I immediately called Monster, but I also tightened the line since they were so very close - and moving toward us. Monster did take a few steps in my direction, but he couldn't handle that they were following him on top of the surprise and everything so he turned around, planted his feet wide and began warning them off.

I'm big and mean, don't come any closer!

They just ignored him and kept coming! I had to reel Monster toward me, while also trying to move off the path into the muddy field. I eventually managed to get him away, so he was about 2 feet to the side of the path, lunging and roaring. The guys calmly walked past, said hello to me, and moved on. Monster was literally frothing, rearing up right beside them as they walked by...

I know the biggest fault here lies with me (of course). If I hadn't tightened the line and tried to pull Monster in by force he'd probably never have reacted as badly. But it's not like I want to take a chance with a couple of strangers either.

Bad day.

Today's Sunshine

Monster and I had company for our evening walk again tonight, as our neighbor is out and his dog wants to get out and about too.

This time when I said where we were going ("Let's go see Tilly!") Monster bolted upright from deep sleep and ran to the front door. I didn't even know he'd learned her name.

Are you calling me stupid?

I was worried I'd ruined everything, getting him so wound up in advance. Especially since he whined and pulled all the way to her house... But as soon as they met he was fine. No stress, no intense behavior, nothing

We had a nice walk all three of us, hardly even any leash pulling. Well, all right, some pulling. But still. Nice evening.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Today's Cloud

I can't get over the feeling that something seems off with Monster. I can't point to any one thing, no limping, no refusal to jump or climb, no obvious signs of pain or discomfort. But something still feels off.


Are you calling me broken? Name your seconds!

That's it, I'm taking him to the vet's!

To check for what, though...?

Today's Sunshine

Monster had a lot of focus outside today. I placed him in a stay and wandered off and hid a toy somewhere in the garden. In spite of him nearly vibrating with excitement, he stayed in place every time. I wandered out of sight, came back, disappeared again, showed him the toy, etc. The longest stay was a little over three minutes, and he didn't budge. When I returned I praised him, petted him and talked to him, and he stayed through that too, waiting desperately for me to say...

-Where's the frisbee!?


(Monster works buck nekkid in the garden of course, I just don't have a lot of photos of him at full speed - cameras risk going airborne - so I'm using what I've got. Deal with it.)

Hiding toys in the garden is of course not track work, since a scent trail needs time to sink. Instead he uses air scenting for the toy (as opposed to checking where I went). It's great fun to watch him search. He'll always head first to the last place he saw me holding the toy (I usually pretend to hide it somewhere within sight, but tuck it away in a pocket or up a sleeve instead), but when it's not there he doesn't get stuck. Instead he'll begin the search in earnest, working the wind from different angles, climbing up trees to check, making big loops around the perimeter to pick it up and close in. While he's searching I remain quite passive, although I do tend to sneak after him a little around corners and bushes so I can watch. When he finds the toy he'll come racing back to me so we can have a reward tug of war.

He really loves it, and I try to make sure to vary the difficulty so sometimes he'll find it easily and sometimes he'll really have to work for it. I wish we could do it other places too, since he knows all the tricks in the garden pretty well by now... Maybe one day.

What "maybe"? Quit whining and get to work!


Dog Whisperer, Explained!

This guy really has watched the show, and has learned the secret trick!

He comes to your house...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Today's Cloud

This evening I had to drive over to The Kid's house, to give his cat her pain medication (and put her cone collar back on which some genius had taken off her). As I was about to put Monster in the car, a German Shepherd came up behind us. I decided to take the offered opportunity and BAT against it just a time or two before we left. But I misjudged which way they were about to turn and wound up with them on the other side of a hedge. Which always drives Monster wild, because he can't see the trigger which means he loses control. I managed to drag/call Monster away, but we had to move away from the car. Once we were at a distance where he could calm down again I decided to give him a little time to do a sniff-n-pee, so he could get rid of some stress. Only, another dog came up behind us when neither of us were looking. Monster just bounced around and looked at it, but it was moving toward us and I could see Monster getting a bit more tense. I knew I couldn't wait for him to make the right choice, especially with his already high stress levels, so I tried to call him away before he was ready. Which made him pull the leash taut and start staring the other dog down. Nothing for it, I had to drag him away under loud and energetic protest. I got him in the car, saw that the dog was right by the road where we would pass it very close, and drove out anyway!

Why do I do stupid things like this? Would it really have mattered if I'd sat in the car for one minute, letting Monster calm down and the other dog move away? Perhaps it would hurt my tiny, tiny brain to think of it. Monster of course went completely nuts again when we passed by the other dog. Monster never reacts to triggers when he's in the car. Great job by me to put him in extremely high stress and then drive past an active trigger at crawl speed! I couldn't have been more effective in training Monster to react to triggers in the car if I'd planned it...

Ooh! Ooh! Can I say it this time?! Bad Monstermom! Bad!

Today's Sunshine

Today out in the garden Monster and I were working a free shaping session (the resolution, you know) when we were surprised by a horse in the road on the other side of the fence. Monster has very slight issues with just horses, horses in a paddock by themselves. Horses being led by humans are a big deal however. And horses with a rider is apparently some sort of Threat Level Midnight, and nearly make his head explode even at great distance. Since horses do ride through the village now and then I always keep a watchful (hearful?) ear out for clippety-clopping hooves when Monster's outside, because he will drive himself absolutely insane by the fence, to the point of possibly hurting himself. Not only that, but horses are strange and skittish animals, and may weirdly not appreciate being cursed out by a frothing Cane Corso even if he is on the other side of a fence.

Then there's that whole thing how horses keep trying to kill me. If he did manage to spook one badly, it would probably jump the fence into the garden just to kick me in the head...

See? Mom knows they're demons too!

But today, the giant creature snuck up on us! Neither of us heard it until half a second before we could see it. Monster raced to the fence, drew breath, and...

Nothing. Not one bark. He did bounce up and down on all four, and make prey dives in the direction of the fence a couple of times, but he didn't make a sound. And when he looked back at me(!), who had remained calmly behind (not at all frozen in a combination of surprise and resignation I tell you), I took the opportunity given and asked him where his ball was. He took a step toward me, looked back over his shoulder at the horse, and then went racing to find his ball!

Naturally he got lots of praise and lots of play.

And then we went back inside, before that thing decided to come back and ruin everything.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Today's Cloud

Today I've been running around, getting The Kid's cat to the vet to get spayed. Meaning Monster had to stay home alone a couple of times today (since I couldn't have him the car when I was chauffeuring the cat around), for slightly longer than he liked. At least the second time.

On top of that, I had to spend quite a few hours in the afternoon/evening where he's not allowed, meaning I had to leave him in the car. He was so happy when we got home a little after eight and he realized I wasn't going anywhere, he started rubbing against the walls like a cat and gathering his toys into piles on the living room floor.

Poor, neglected Monster.

You know, you make a lot of excuses but not a lot changes...

Today's Sunshine

Monster vs. The Kid again today, and once again Monster managed to keep quite calm. I didn't let them spend a lot of time together, because Monster's been weirdly skittish lately and I don't want him to suddenly become afraid of The Kid too, but what time they did get Monster was very calm. Happy, but calm.

I wanna play, though...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Today's Cloud

I finally did get around to lay a track today and let Monster work it. Unfortunately there was nobody home, Monster had no idea what a track even was - much less how to follow one!

With a lot of patience and encouragement, he did manage to follow through to the end. But along the way he lost the track repeatedly and appeared confused and unsure. I probably should have just given up on the whole thing - after all, the only thing failure teaches him is how to fail - but I think I was too incredulous to realize it really was happening.

Monster is a tracking maniac. What's happened to suddenly make him about as able to track as I am?!

Yeah, I see you pointing at the ground. What do you want me to do with it?

Very, very strange...

Today's Sunshine

Monster's been quite a bit calmer today. Which leads me to discover that he's been fairly intense the last few days, something I'd apparently missed.

Anyway, all better now it seems...?

Oh, I don't think so. I'm just getting warmed up!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Today's Cloud

I promised Monster we'd go out tracking today. At a quarter to midnight, I think I may have to consider the possibility it's not going to happen...

You've got some explaining to do.

Today's Sunshine

We got a letter in the mail today. Monster's x-ray results and score... Drum roll please:

Hips: clear. Elbows: clear.

Well done, Monster!

Oh yeah, I'm so surprised. It's not like I'm awesome or anything...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Today's Cloud, Tomorrow's resolution

I have to confess a complete failure (I know you're not surprised, but you could fake it just to be polite you know). I have not fulfilled this week's resolution, to have no less than three free shaping session with an item per day. Some days I did fine, others not so much, and at least one day I did nothing at all...

Look Mom, I can do a new trick! Mom? Mom!? Awwww...

It seems it's difficult for me to get into the routine when it stretches for an entire week. Still, no admitting defeat! (Just humiliating disorganization will do.) Since I still believe it's a good thing to be doing with Monster, we'll simply keep trying the same thing this coming week.

Today's Sunshine

Monster and I spent quite a bit of time out in the garden today (glorious sunshine, must make the most of it before the trees start their annual attempt to kill me with their sex life). While he did become fixated and barking by the fence twice today (once at the neighbor working on his wood pile and once at a cat parked ten feet away calmly staring at him), for the most part he was lying down and contentedly chewing on sticks and listening to the neighborhood dogs barking in chorus.

She's lying, she had me working like a dog!

I just wish I knew how to make that happen, as opposed it happening on its own with no obvious explanation.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Today's Cloud

As we left the house for a walk, we both spotted a woman walking two tiny dogs in the street right outside our house. Monster was very interested, but not to the point where he would act on it, so I decided to try BATting against them.

Unfortunately, there was a man approaching from the other direction who was also out walking a tiny dog. Even more unfortunately, both groups managed to walk behind a hedge right outside our house just as they were about to meet, meaning Monster could no longer see anyone. That really stressed him out, but rather than forcibly dragging him back inside the house I decided to stay put and wait it out - in just a few seconds they'd be visible again.

Where'd they go!?

But when it rains it pours, right? While I couldn't see any more than Monster, we certainly heard. Apparently some (all?) of the dogs had Monster-problems of their own, and all hell broke loose when they met. Judging by the noise, there was a meat grinder and a couple of demons involved... Monster lost it, lunging and barking, and didn't wind down completely for the entire walk.

Today's Sunshine

Weather report promised sunshine today, but all we got was wet and dark fog. All day.

Unfortunately that matches the Monster weather, because I can't really come up with any Sunshine...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Today's Cloud

Head. Ache. Headache. Ooooooohhh, headache.

Must. Wean. Off. Coffee.

I may not survive this time.

Today's Sunshine

Dobie has come and gone.

Helloooo there!

It was a very nice and relaxed visit. The dogs mostly kept to themselves, interacting very little, but that's fine. Monster's stressed behaviors from before are now nearly gone. He no longer stays in situations and winds up, instead choosing to leave and calm down. He did react once today, when Dobie began tensing and posing against him.

Come on, scrawny!

Monster showed signs of stress, panting, wide eyes, and tense head movements, and started diving for toys to show off to Dobie. I didn't step in, even though perhaps I should have, because I wanted to see if he could get himself out of it. He couldn't, at least not in the minute or so that I gave him. But when I told Dobie to back down (go lie down in the corner of the sofa), Monster relaxed immediately. Before he would have remained tense, most likely trying to follow Dobie and continue his over the top pacifying signals and play invites.

I realize this is far too little data to draw any conclusions from, but can I at least say it seems like it's a good sign?

Yeah, I can. Because this is my blog.

Say what now?

Fine. It's Monster's blog. But he agrees with me.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Today's Cloud

Something still feels off about Monster. I don't know what it is, but something is raising a red flag... What?!

Today's Sunshine

Met with Teach again today. I don't have any photos from our session, but take a look what BAT can look like when we're just doing it on a regular walk. Here's Monster after he's spotted a trigger, calmly checking it out:

Hmmm... So that's a dog, huh?

I know the sitting is a bit weird, but sometimes he just likes to get comfortable for a little while. It doesn't seem to be hurting any, so he's free to choose. Because after a while:

Well, that was fun. Now what?

Monster is very good at giving clear cutoff signals. He'll usually either seek eye contact with me or turn around completely. Which gets him praise from me, and a nice reward in the form of leaving:

Onwards, adventure awaits!

In our session today Monster got close to the setup dog. A little too close a couple of times, when he surprised me and leaped towards it, pulling the leash tight. At first this got me down a bit - I've been somewhat negative lately - but pretty soon I realized how amazing that negative reaction was. Not so long ago, I wouldn't have been caught off guard by Monster lunging toward another dog. I'd have been expecting it! The only reason I wasn't prepared for his behavior today is that it's become rare.

How about that?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Today's Cloud

Take a look at my baby...


No, seriously. What?

Fine, be that way. I don't care!

Is he a little... thin?

He's always been a picky eater, and I thought we'd found a way to at least manage his weight by now. But lately, I wonder if he hasn't been losing weight again. I know he's young and not fully mature, and I know it's good for dogs of his breed to be thin. But there's got to be a too thin too, right?

Today's Sunshine

Lately I've started walking Monster on the tracking line. It's about 50 feet long, and made of a thin rope (like a flagpole rope) with a plastic coating. This makes it light, and it doesn't snag easily.

Using this for a leash, Monster gets quite a bit more freedom on our walks. I think I've been hesitating using it in the past because I've been subconsciously thinking that the whole off leash thing would all resolve itself tomorrow. Of course, that's not true. Even if Monster's issues suddenly disappear overnight, training a dog to be manageable off leash takes time and hard work. Meaning, Monster will be stuck on a leash for a long time - even if he gets to the point where off leash is a reasonable goal.

Therefore, the tracking line has become our leash. It gives him a chance to move about more freely.

Mmmmmm, nice...

I think it's also helping with his willingness to offer eye contact. Now he seems to be checking in with me a bit more, even when he's off exploring.

What's up, Mom?

It also gives us a great opportunity to practice recall away from home.

Woooohoooo! I'm coming, Mom!

I also think it's good for him to be able to explore a bit more independently. You never know, it might help his confidence...

Whoah! What's that?

All in all, I'm really happy I made this change. Occasionally I get a little twinge of guilt because I didn't do it sooner... But realistically, I couldn't do it before. That line is well and good when we're out on a nice walk. If he's pulling, holding it hurts like fire. If he were to go full on aggressive, it would injure my hands. I'd still hold him, of course, but it would be more than just a little painful. These days I no longer expect at least one full Monster breakdown every time we set foot outside. In fact, I'm pretty confident that even with a surprise encounter there won't be much more than some pulling and tensions, as opposed to lunging and trying to tear free.

He wears the regular leash as we're leaving and entering the village, and I change over once we're out in the open. I'm not an idiot.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Today's Cloud

Something's been nagging me lately. What if there's actually something wrong with Monster? I don't mean mental problems, his behaviors aren't unpredictable or confusing, I mean physical problems. So many dogs with behavior issues are actually in pain...

When Monster first started behaving like this, I took him to the vet's. They found nothing wrong with him, but I felt at the time they weren't all that interested in looking... It felt a bit like, "Well, what did you expect? You want him to behave differently, that's on you." Which: valid. But I still think they could have spent a few more minutes actually examining the dog. I never took him back (or rather, somewhere else), since he's never actually shown the slightest sign of physical discomfort. He never limps, he runs and jumps, and he'll let me touch him anywhere.... And I don't relish the thought of putting Monster through the stress of a vet's visit for nothing, not to mention again being told there's nothing physically wrong with him and now I owe them my car, my house, and my firstborn...

Still. What if there is something wrong with him?

Today's Sunshine

Not much positive today. I've had to fill in for my sister, being the Awesome Aunt that I am, and take care of her kids. That means less time for Monster unfortunately. Let's see, a positive... Perhaps that Monster is now pestering me to do stuff with him, meaning he'd like to train. That's a good thing right, even if it happened because he's been neglected?

... Right?

Oh, don't even bother trying. You're going to Hell.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Today's Cloud

I think I've made a mistake.

Wow. There's a shocker.

Monster isn't really enjoying the retrieve training so much. He tends to shut down, lie down and look away, or get frustrated and start pawing at me and trying to get me to play. We have trouble with this quite a lot, I believe it's a combination of Monster severely lacking in confidence and me being very bad at structuring training effectively so it's challenging but not too difficult. No doubt, I'm much worse at this when I'm working toward a specific goal. And when I don't reinforce Monster enough he loses even more confidence.

So I'm doing a take-back on the resolution. No more retrieve. Instead, I'm going back to something Monster really seems to enjoy - and something that's really hard even for me to screw up: free shaping. More specifically free shaping with objects. I just pick a thing, any thing, place it in the training area, and reinforce Monster for interacting with it. I find that we can't get shaping to work without an object, presumably because I put too much pressure on Monster (staring at him and waiting for him to do something), since Monster just lies down and basically plays dead. I suppose we could work on that, but I'm not sure it would be a good idea - the point is to make him more confident acting, not being passive. The reason for only doing free shaping is of course so it won't be quite so easy for me to pile on the pressure and raise the criteria too quickly. If I don't know where we're going it's pretty hard for me to hurry to get there.

I may not look like it, but I actually enjoy shaping.

So, new resolution for this week is having three free shaping sessions, with an object, every day. Today Monster has learned to balance on a snow shovel (out in the garden), and put his head inside a cardboard box. There should be a third thing, but the day isn't over yet.


Today's Sunshine

Today Monster and I came across a man thinning the forest (or rather, "forest" as we both scoffingly rolled our eyes at the tiny stand of trees) along our usual walking path. He was wearing bright orange protective clothes, a giant hat with a visor and built in ear mufflers, and wielding a chainsaw. Naturally, Monster was... troubled. I BATted a few tries against this frightening apparition, until we got close enough I could see the man was looking at us. I stopped and called out to ask if he minded if I worked with Monster to not react against him, and he called back and asked if the dog was aggressive around people. I answered that yes, he tends to overreact, he's never actually attacked anyone but he certainly puts on the show that he'd like to, and he's loud and rude. The man called again that it was OK, and got back to work.

So Monster and I spent some time (I again have no idea how long, as I didn't check a watch and know from experience that I completely loose track when I'm training Monster) working against this man, us along the road and him among the trees. He moved around a lot, sometimes toward us, sometimes farther away, and made lots of horrible noise. Occasionally a tree would fall.

Monster was interesting. Initially he'd stare intently at the man, and look back often even as we were moving away, but after we'd been at it a while he seemed to lose interest... I don't know if it was extreme displacement behavior, or if he was genuinely that unconcerned. He'd start digging by the side of the road, pick up sticks and try to play tug or fetch, and generally ignore the man except for short periods when he did something extra interesting. He did get freaked out when trees fell, though, and would shy away keeping his body low. However that only lasted for a second or so before he was again moving forward trying to get a better look, so I simply ignored him and gave him the full leash length to move around in.

Yeah, I know there's some weird guy behind me, but I found a stick!

After some time, we were perhaps 15 feet away from the man, and he turned the chainsaw off to talk to me. Monster started barking when the man turned toward us and addressed me, so I asked him to sit and petted him whenever he was quiet. He calmed down in about twenty seconds. The man and I talked about what he was doing, where we were from (both of us from places with real forests), the pathetic collections of sad trees they call forests down here, and about animals. While we were talking, he slowly sat down and started removing scary things like the weird helmet, and I equally slowly let Monster get closer and closer. When Monster got within touching distance, the man looked away and held out his hand, fingers lightly closed and knuckles first, a little bit toward Monster. Monster sniffed him, and decided he'd found a new friend.

Things like this make me so happy. If only we could meet more people this understanding and helpful! It really was great!

Of course, when the man got up and picked up his helmet (which Monster had sniffed very carefully when it was on the ground), Monster had a bit of a "The scary thing must die!"-episode. But it only lasted for a couple of seconds, and I still think it was a great meeting even though it could have ended even better.

What? It was a scary helmet, I tell you!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Today's Cloud

Today was a difficult day... Nothing actually went wrong, at least no more than usual, but for some reason today really got to me.

Uh-huh... Fascinating. Please, whine some more!

Monster and I met a woman out walking this morning, on a narrow path. I realized Monster wasn't going to be able to pass her without probably scaring her with his rude behavior, so I veered off about 20-30 feet and stood there to let her pass. As she was even with us, Monster started pulling toward her. Not quite lunging, but jumping slightly forward on the leash and keeping it tight. I said hello, she said hello, and she walked on by. Monster never barked or growled, and just a few seconds after she'd walked past he turned and looked at me wondering what we were standing around for. So really not bad by Monster standards...

But it depressed the living daylights out of me. I don't know why? It just made me look at him and think "I'm never going to be able to trust you, I'm never going to be able to let you off leash, I'm never going to be able to walk you among people..." I don't actually believe any of these things are necessarily true, even! I accept that it's a possibility, but I do aim even higher than those basic things. So why these dark thoughts? I don't get it.

Because you're crazy. Crazy, crazy, crazy...

Today's Sunshine

Monster and I have been doing some good work on the retrieve today. And by that I don't mean we've made amazing and speedy progress, but rather that I've managed to keep it very simple. I'm always eager to move forward, and it's always a bad idea. Getting to the goal without completing the course just means you've rushed through without actually learning a solid behavior. Today we've only worked on take and return from my hand, holding no more than a second, and only in the living room. In fact, I think this week we won't push it much farther than that, instead focusing on varying the retrieve object. Not actually retrieving anything, just getting a solid hold on anything I ask him to grasp - probably not even training outside the house.

Believe it or not, but this is progress for me.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Today's Cloud

I tend toward arrogance. Just tend, mind you. It's not like I am arrogant or anything!

Thing is, no German Shepherd is going to pull me off my feet. Certainly Monster can't do it either. However... Holding a German Shepherd and a Cane Corso, who both spot a cat in the dark when you're not prepared, and go for it simultaneously, could - just could - maybe bowl a weaker person over. Not me, though, naturally!

... but I may have skidded a couple of half steps...

But really, the blame lies with all the sand on the surface of the road. Yeah, that's what it was.

Today's Sunshine

My neighbor is again out hunting for a girlfriend, so it fell to Monster and me to take his dog out for her evening walk. It went so well!

Monster was a little anxious as we neared her house, but as soon as we'd gotten past the awkward greeting he was just fine. He didn't obsess over her, he didn't cower away from her, and he didn't manically and pushily try to get her to play. Throughout the walk, he could walk next to her without tensing up, and he could pay attention to me. The only times that were a little difficult were when he got tangled in the leash and I made him stand still so I could get him free, and she came up to him and started sniffing his eyes. He did try to back away from her then, and became a little bouncy and tense, but no big reaction and he immediately let it go once it was over.

Hello handsome...

Really great.


I've completely forgotten about the daily resolutions! Shame on me...

Well, no time like the present, I suppose. Although, I think I'm going to change the concept a little. I think I'll try making a weekly resolution to work on a specific trick (or issue), at least part of it, each day that week. It feels like a better way forward in training, not just a way to make sure I actually put in some effort every day.

So, let's see, today's a Saturday. But if I put it off until the start of next week I'm just going to forget about it again, so it starts now: The coming week I'm going to train "retrieve" with Monster. Currently, Monster will retrieve high value items (ball, tug toy, etc) and bring them to me, but then he'll often either try to start a tug with it or run past me and try to start a chase. With low value items (paper, shoe, etc) he'll run off and mark it, but sometimes not even pick it up and often pick it up but not carry it all the way back to me (he'll spit it out halfway and come trotting in for a reward). High or low value, he'll hardly ever give a solid retrieve all the way to my hand...

So, that's where we'll start. Just picking things up and handing them over. Actually, we'll probably start with taking things from my hand and then immediately putting them back. Goal is fetching and retrieving any thrown or placed item, bringing it in to sitting position, and giving the item into my hand. Yeah, I realize we won't get there in a week, but that is the desired end result and it's what we'll be working toward this week - but not pushing toward regardless of what's realistic in the moment!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Today's Cloud

I've got... nothing to say. No clouds today. Wow...

Hang on! The reason there's no cloud isn't because everything is great and there isn't even the smallest problem though, right? No. So in other words, the reason I've got nothing negative to report is I've been lazy. Today I've only been doing fun and easy stuff, avoiding even trying to work on any of our issues. It's not hard not to fail if you won't even try...

Heh, found a cloud after all, didn't I?

Today's Sunshine

Dobie was here today... That actually went very well! Monster did get a little intense in his play invites, but he didn't keep escalating. Dobie snapped after him a couple of times, but nothing major and Monster sort of just shrugged it off and moved away to go lie down somewhere else. Very low stress for a Dobie day.

It was actually nice for me too!

Then Monster and I took a trip to the forest. If I'm being honest, I'm kind of miserable here... I've lived here for years, and I've got no real complaints (except for the ticks! There are no ticks where I'm from, and I hate the little demons!), but I just can't get used to the landscape. It's all open. And flat. Yeah, I realize those are completely unreasonable complaints, but it really gets on my nerves! Home for me means forests, hills and streams. I thought I'd learn to feel at home here too, but it doesn't seem to be happening... So today we went on a little outing, and drove for an hour to get to a forest. It's a national park, so it's got trails and signs and bins and the like, but at least it's also got trees. Monster and I spent four hours there, and while I still sneak a glare or two at those strange looking trees, or frown a little at the strange bird calls, it really is a great feeling. I think Monster really likes it too, even though he actually grew up here so I guess he can't actually miss it.

That's... Exciting.

I also took the opportunity to swing by a large dog equipment store to pick up a few things. Among those a couple of durable frisbees, one rubber and one textile. I've bought some cheep frisbees for Monster before, and he has seemed to like them but none have lasted more than one or two tosses before they're in pieces. These last. And he really loooooooooves frisbees! Great new favorite reward!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Today's Cloud

When we got back home after our training session tonight, Monster went nuts. He chased a squeaky toy around the house, started digging between the sofa cushions, and stole things off tables to chew to pieces. This is actually a fairly normal behavior for him when we've been out doing something, but the last week or so he hasn't been acting like this.

What? You want me to just lie here?!

I get spoiled quickly, don't I?

Today's Sunshine

Met Teach again today to work more on BAT. As usual (no no, I'm not cocky at all) Monster did great, and we got quite close to the staged dog. Perhaps 20-30 feet or so? Plus, this time the dog was moving around! I'm so happy, it really feels like genuine progress,

I like it too!

Of course, now that I'm writing this I'm getting a strong feeling of impending doom... Surely this is too good to be true. But setbacks are normal, and if - scratch that, when - they come I'm not going to let them get me down. And I'm certainly not going to bog myself down with future problems when things actually going great. So, woohoo etc...

(Bonus, Tin Can is being a trooper and still hanging in there!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Today's Cloud

My car, affectionately known as Tin Can, is sick... Today as I was picking The Kid up from school, I noticed white smoke rising from under the hood, and it smelled like burning oil. Gingerly lifting the hood (I'm a wuss, I always expect engines to explode), I saw that somehow the oil lid had come loose and oil had spurted up all over the engine... thingy.

Speaking to my sister, either I just hadn't tightened the lid carefully when I last filled up the oil or there's a blocked valve... thingy, causing high pressure and forcing the lid open. (Or possibly both? Or something else?) So, I should fill up the oil, tighten the lid carefully, and drive home and see how it went. Well, I'm home, I checked the lid and it's still tightly closed. But now I don't know if that means everything is all right? Monster and I have to go meet Teach tomorrow, how's that going to work if Tin Can won't cooperate? My sister said to drive, and if the car breaks down she'll come pick me up... That's not very reassuring.

Poor Tin Can. I wonder what's really wrong. Whatever it is, I bet it involves some kind of... thingy.

Today's Sunshine

The Kid was here today, Monster's most favorite toy! For the first time ever, Monster was calm throughout. He tried to play, sure. He followed The Kid around, sure. He repeatedly tried to sit on The Kid's lap, sure. He mournfully drooled beside The Kid's seat when he was eating, sure.

What do you expect, I'm starving!

But he was calm. When The Kid didn't want to play, Monster laid down and went to sleep. When The Kid sat down to do his homework, Monster crawled under the table and went to sleep. When The Kid pushed Monster (who outweighs him by at least 30 pounds) off when he was too heavy, Monster snuggled up next to him and went to sleep. When The Kid wouldn't share his cheese sandwich, Monster... Well, all right, he actually edged closer and closer, put his drooly head down on the table, and nudged The Kid's arm. But then he went to sleep.

Very nice.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Science Fiction Weather Report

You know in a sci-fi movie, how planets can have two suns? No? You're not nerds? Well, I am so you'll have to take my word for it then. Today kind of had two sources of wonderful sunshine!

Nice and warm!

But. You know how maybe those two suns can have some weird radiation that's going to make you scaly or lose your memory? That might also be a part of today's weather report...

This morning on our walk, Monster and I spotted a group of other dogs who had stopped with their humans for a talk at the bottom of a hill. Monster and I immediately started BATting against them. Our first turn was about 200 yards away, but after perhaps six or seven attempts we were less than a hundred feet off. As I decided we were making our last pass, so I wouldn't push it too far, the group unfortunately split up and one of the dogs started walking towards us. Monster had just looked away, but we didn't have time to start walking away before the dog came towards us. I had to drag Monster away, and we had to end it on a bad note...

So, great that we got so close - to a whole bunch of strange dogs and people - but awful that I pushed it so far Monster eventually failed.

Then, this evening, Monster and I met with another person who also has a (gorgeous, gorgeous) dog with some reactivity issues, and we did a session together. It was very difficult for Monster, it was a new environment, and we had to get to the spot by following the other dog. But he did do great once we started working though. At closest I think he was perhaps 15 feet from the other dog... There were a few failures, where he went towards the dog instead of away when he was praised, but overall it was really great. And I was so grateful to the other person when she said she thought we should call it a day. I had noticed Monster was starting to get a tiny bit tired, but I didn't want to cut their training time after just 15-20 minutes, so it was great they wanted to stop by then too. Except, once I got to the car and checked a clock I realized we'd been at it for ninety minutes! I'm such an idiot, pushing Monster that hard...

I'm kinda sleepy, Mom...

So. Great things. Bad things. Scales etc... What's the sunshine, what's the cloud, who knows. Mix well and serve cold.

I may need some sleep too, I think...

Today's Cloud

Mom flew back home today. I know I've been bitching about having her here, but it's still sad when she leaves. She complains about everything, all the time. Especially Monster. But with her it's not about how he's a horrible dog and why would I keep such an aggressive animal - it's about how he's a dog, and why would anyone have any animal. It may sound weird, but it's kind of refreshing to listen to someone who just sees "dog" when she looks at Monster as opposed to seeing "monster".

Mom doesn't hate dogs, she'll bond with the individuals (even including Monster) but she just cannot for the life of her understand why anyone would want the responsibility of having a dog. Dad's the one bringing dogs home (he hunts), and Mom's the one who spends twelve years caring for them. I suppose it' makes her feel like they're a chore and she thinks the rest of us, who aren't living with Dad, should use our freedom to not have dogs. So she'll sit there scratching Monster's neck, while having a serious talk with me about how once Monster's dead (insert every superstitious ritual to ward off evil, jinx, bad luck, etc, here), I'll be free to never have another dog again...

Don't worry! I'm gonna live forever.

Hmmm... I may have talked myself out of missing her.

Today's Sunshine

There's some construction going on on the big road outside the village. I took Monster over there today and asked the guys working if it was OK if Monster and I spent some time hanging out nearby to work on him being comfortable and relaxed in a difficult environment. They were very friendly, and even wanted to pet Monster.

We spent a little less than an hour there today, standing by the side of the road, walking back and forth, and practicing eye contact. There were a lot of sounds and sights, big machines, big guys in weird clothes, noisy radios and the like. And Monster handled it like a champ! It was great! He was a bit excited at first, but after a few minutes he didn't even mind when I was talking with one of the guys, shouting to be heard over the noise. He'd sit, lie down, roll over, dig a little, sniff the wind, watch the cars and chew on sticks when not specifically asked to do something. Sure it might be better if he'd just lie down and go to sleep, but that's a bit much to ask right now. I thought it was great.

That's cause I am great. Bow down to my awesomeness!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Today's Cloud

Mom keeps cleaning the house. I can't find anything. She's moved Monster's food bowls, and I don't know where she's put his leashes. I'm pretty sure she's thrown the pick up bags away... The clickers are God knows where. My patience may be there with them.

Monster's very happy though.

GrandMom's fun! She puts everything where I can reach it, plus her clothes are made of fur! She's the best!

Today's Sunshine

Monster and I just came back home from a nice walk with a neighbor's dog. Sure, it was a bit stressful, with quite a bit of leash pulling and jumping at sticks, but it was manageable. And for once, it really seemed like Monster became calmer with time, as opposed to building more and more stress. Once home, he had a bite to eat and went to bed. After a stressful experience, he'll rush around the house picking up toys, checking all the windows, and trying desperately to engage me in something (preferably play, but he'll happily take anything he can get including a telling off). But no sign of this behavior tonight.

I just want you to take my mind off it, is that so wrong???

We even BATted against another dog we happened to meet in the dark (maybe 100 feet away). Our guest dog of course has no BAT experience, but Monster still handled it wonderfully. Great walk!

Neapolitan Goes The Same Way

The miracle of dogs failing the vet check at Crufts continues, and (to no one's surprise?) the Neapolitan Mastiff didn't pass. Neither did the Mastiff.

Poor dogs (not for failing in a competition, but for being unhealthy). And none of this will help the individuals. But I really do hope that it will help future generations. In a while. When the outrage, ear stopping and pitchfork wielding among (some of) the breeders dies down...

We'll see, I suppose.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Today's Cloud

Monster hasn't been very willing to work today. Pretty much whatever I try to work on, old or new, he stresses out and starts to lick everything manically, or he shuts down. Not sure what's going on, but I'm thinking I'll just let him rest for today. I think I'll even go so far as to postpone our evening walk to The Hour Of Skulk, that magical time late at night when only the owners of reactive dogs are out and about. Quietly sneaking around corners, desperate to avoid any and all triggers...

I have been an absent member of this club for quite some time now, but judging by Monster today I'll dust off the membership card. Poor Monster. Dobie was incredibly calm today - by Dobie standards - and I may have misjudged how difficult it still was for Monster to have him here.

Today's Sunshine

So. This has nothing to do with Monster, or even with me. But I think it's wonderful, and I make (and break) the blog rules, so there.

Crufts shows some sanity!
And then does it again!

While it's tragic these dogs are so unhealthy, it's an amazing development that they won't be rewarded for it anymore. There is sure to be wailing and complaining from a whole host of outraged breeders (in fact it's already started), but I personally have never understood how breeders who deliberately breed for exaggerations that cause dogs physical (and mental) discomfort - not to mention outright suffering - aren't guilty of animal abuse. It's a mystery to me. If a vet can look at a dog and say it's actually suffering, and this is a situation the dog's breeder has deliberately put the dog in, how is this not covered by the laws that protect animals?

But apparently that's not how it works, so we have to fix the situation some other way. Namely, stop rewarding bad behavior and start rewarding the good instead! So, this is the first step in the extinction of an unwanted behavior. And now, let's sit back and watch the extinction burst...

Those poor dogs, though. Not so many decades ago the Neapolitan Mastiff
There is a dog in there. Somewhere...

looked a lot more like the Cane Corso

Duuuuude... What happened to you!?

It's a fucking tragedy, and I won't apologize for my language in this case.

Let's all just hope The Kennel Club doesn't back down again once they realize how many dogs will have to be excluded (but surely they already knew). And that it's not a temporary PR stunt and the madness will return to "normal" once they feel people aren't looking anymore.