Thursday, April 26, 2012

Today's Cloud

While the session today was very interesting (and I'm getting homework, which I love since it helps me structure our training better), toward the end it didn't go so well. For the first time in a very long time (once again I have no real idea how long it's been since this was an issue, sorry), Monster began aggressing vocally toward the trigger. He reared up, and growled and barked toward the staged person. When I pulled him away he turned on me and bit the treat pouch. It... wasn't great.

Oh, please! You people just can't take a joke!

I'm not sure if he really was showing aggression or if he was just very frustrated, though. He let it go as soon as he got away, which he could never do before. He didn't seem stressed. And the biting seemed more playful than anything, both in his choice of target ("This is mine, give it!"), and in that he sought eye contact with me as he bit. Plus, you know, nothing broke. If he really wanted to bite me, he would, and if he really wanted to take the treat pouch he'd just tear it off. He's got the physical power to do as he pleases.

Oh, you better believe it...

And not only that, but it didn't seem like the old warnings and marking of - for him - unacceptable behavior either. At worst, I'd say it was a challenge, and a rather playful one at that. But as for what he was directing toward the trigger, I'm not as sure...

So, while today's training session really was mostly positive, I will say that I'm a little disappointed by this behavior toward the end. Not only disappointed, but also confused. Which isn't great, but on the other hand it's a new challenge! It's all a matter of perspective.

Today's Sunshine

Just got back from a training session with Teach, so I'm going to try to use up whatever mustered up energy I have left to get some posts up. If something just dies out in the middle of a sentence, I've fallen asleep on the keyboard...
(Didn't realize how tired I was before I got in the car to drive home again, and nearly fell asleep at the wheel waiting out a red light. Not an ideal spot for a nap.)

You're way too picky - every spot is a great spot for a nap!

Today's session was a lot of fun! No dog today, just a person - which for Monster may actually have been worse, I'm not sure... I had trouble reading some of his reactions, to be honest. But for the most part things went very well, he rarely fixated (actually it was difficult to get him to care about the staged person at all at first), he responded well to walking away, and at least initially even his reactions and lunges were playful. Not so all the way through (I think), but this is the Sunshine post after all.

Which leads me to: Teach helped me realize something today. It's actually a pretty big deal, and I can't explain how I've completely missed it so far. When we first started our training sessions with Teach, Monster would bite me - not very hard, but a clear warning - if I put my hand near his face once he'd locked on to a trigger ( = gotten far too close, to the point that an attack was imminent). It was impossible to feed him treats at that point, which I had to warn Teach about when he was about to try it. As he brought up that memory today I realized I have no idea how long ago it's been since that was last an issue. These days, if Monster gets completely fixated on a trigger I don't even think about a risk of him biting me if I try to get his attention physically. That's... wow. What a difference!

Bite you? What are you talking about? If I'd wanted to bite you, you'd have one less hand. Just so you know.

It may not sound like much, and the fact that I hadn't even noticed it may make it sound like even less of a big deal, but I think this may be one of the brightest Sunshines I've ever posted here. It's a big deal, people.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Today's Cloud

I'm losing ground. I keep trying to keep up, but I'm not trying hard enough. Monster is losing interest in the boring clump dragging the other end of the leash, ignoring me again for the much more interesting rest of the world.

Today he lunged at a passing semi, nearly dragging both of us into the road. He'd stopped doing that a while ago.

He lunged at a dog about 300 feet away from us, moving away from us, and kept doing it until the dog was out of sight. He hasn't been reacting like that in months.

He pulls on the leash. He tries to look over garden fences of the houses we pass by. He stops to smell an interesting spot, completely ignoring my halfhearted attempts to move us along. He's started taking rewards from my hands instead of performing for them.

If the pollen season doesn't blow over soon, we're going to be back on square one...

Oh, come on! I'm adorable!

Actually, that's not true. If I don't pull myself together soon, regardless of circumstances and whiny excuses, we're going to be back on square one. I've been allergic for 25 years, I should be able to deal with it by now!

Today's Sunshine

At least I'm still hanging in there. We still go for walks, we still do some training indoors.

That's not much to brag about...

I don't know why this pollen season is hitting me so hard, I know I've lived through worse. Perhaps it's allergy amnesia?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lazy Blogsmanship (Again)

Yes, I've been neglecting the blog again. I've fallen off the coffee wagon, blaming it on things like "I need it, because in pollen season I get sooooo sleepy" and "Well, my brother drinks two cups of coffee every two hours, it's impolite to not join him"...

These things are true, coffee helps against the allergic perma-doze and my brother drinks copious amounts. But while I love coffee, my body simply can't tolerate it. In spite of not drinking any later than 9 am (for the later coffee breaks I'd just have sympathy tea - red or green, no caffeine - while Roar drank a whole coffee plantation's worth), I cannot sleep. I go to bed around 2 am, toss and turn, and give up around 6. I'm now so sleep deprived I'm literally dizzy.

My brain is already parked in neutral with all the infernal pollen flying around, I don't need to deliberately add to my cognitive difficulties! No more coffee since yesterday (when my brother left for home) and by this evening I'm actually sleepy, not just tired. Unfortunately I'm also in caffeine withdrawal and have a splitting headache... Still, I'm planning on getting to bed within the hour and sleeping until at least 7 tomorrow morning.

Aren't you forgetting something? Or someone?

So what does this have to do with Monster, the real reason we're all here? My mental and physical state affects him too, of course, and I've been more or less neglecting him lately. I find going on walks difficult (I can't breathe with all the pollen), when we do get out I'm confused and distracted, more or less just a lump of tired barely hanging on to one end of the leash. No fun for Monster, and actually potentially hazardous as I'm not attentive enough to spot trouble before it's already too late. Training is a joke, I miss the reward moments, I forget what we're even doing, and I give up for just about anything. In short, I suck.

Time to change that! I can't stop breathing pollen, but I can stop drinking coffee. I think.

Imagine having to live with this...

I'm rambling, aren't I? So tired. I'll do better tomorrow. Remind me to tell you about yesterday's meeting with Teach, Monster got to meet a very scary stuffed toy dog. Should have brought my camera...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Today's Cloud

Less than one minute after my brother entered the house, he squared off against an overexcited Monster and growled at him to -Cut it out!

Whaaaaat? Are you joking? Are you threatening me? I think I'd better react to both possibilities simultaneously.

So I asked Roar to please be mindful of not frightening the dog (who was by then bouncing up and down trying to get in Roar's face), while trying to distract and calm Monster down. Unfortunately, my brother appears to have heard this as "Please grab the dog by the neck and tell him off more sternly, and then try to grab him around the muzzle when he comes close again"...

Not sure how I could have mumbled so badly that that's what it sounded like?

Well, you work with what you've got instead of wishing you had something else. After leashing Monster and getting my brother to sit down for a while (not by telling him to do so, as that would most likely result in him starting a wrestling match with Monster, but by bribing him with coffee), things calmed down again. I don't know how long it'll last, but it's not a disaster it's just an opportunity. For what, I'm not sure, but I'm determined not to get bogged down in "if only" and "I wish".

Suck it up and deal with it!

Look, I know you're dumb... But you've got to know you're not fooling anyone - not even yourself, easy as that should be.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Today's Sunshine

Well, my brother turned up eventually! That's a relief.

Wait, was he ever going to not turn up? You said he was coming, and then he was here. I don't get the problem...

But this is supposed to be about Monster after all, so... Monster was fairly attentive to me on our morning walk today. Not very attentive. But on the other hand he was very wound up, bouncy and excited. In that state I'm lucky he doesn't try to pop my hand off at the wrist with his tugging, and I can get eye contact with the man in the moon easier than with Monster. But today, even with the screaming of the pheasants and the rustling of the running deer (are they standing around waiting for us, like the background people in The Truman Show?! lay off with the constant temptations, Bambi!), Monster kept an eye on me, often stopping to look back, and even being mindful not to get the line tangled around trees when he left the path.

Not bad.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Today's Cloud

It will soon be midnight, and my brother is nowhere to be found. Talked to him two hours ago, and then he was half an hour away. He's not picking up the phone since.

If you're doing this to mess with me, you're going to regret it!

Haha! Uncle Roar is so funny!

Today's Sunshine

Logged quite a bit of time today trying to get Monster to not attack the lawn mower. Mixed results. The lawn is partially mowed, and Monster remains just as convinced that the mower is a demon carriage...

It is! I'm saving you!

... Yeah, I know this isn't sunshine material. But quite honestly I've got nothing, and it's just too depressing to do an all cloudy day yet again. Hence: lawn mower practice, yay!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Today's Snore

Monster is very tired tonight. He'd like some peace and quiet so he can sleep. Continued tapping on the keyboard not allowed.

Sznnnffrrrrrkz... Leave me alonezzzzz...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Today's Cloud

My brother is coming to visit.

He'll be here the day after tomorrow.

Good lord...

What? Uncle Roar is coming here?

First of all, I love my brother. I really do. He hasn't been down to visit in years, so he hasn't seen the house or anything. That bit will be fun!

Secondly, he loves dogs, he really does. But he doesn't really agree with me on how to treat and train dogs. He's not extreme, but he is old school. And that of course shows itself more when it comes to Monster, since he has the behavioral issues he does...

Roar won't actually do anything to Monster, and he won't directly interfere with the training. But those of you who have an older brother know about the pressure of the Silent Judgment, and the stinging of the Scoffing Remark, right? Oh, man...

Read my lips: No! More! Whining!

Monster of course loooooves Roar. They've met when I've been back home to visit family, and Monster finds Roar to be one of the few men up there he'll love unreservedly. He hates my father, for instance. And in general, he has some difficulties with the lumbering body language, loud voices, big gestures, and violent humor in my home village, especially with the men. But for some reason my brother is exempt, even though he's at least as loud as anyone else (he's called Roar for a reason), and quite confrontational when he feels Monster should chill (so, always). It's a mystery to me.

You don't need to get it. Shut up and start baking, we need to make Uncle feel welcome!

And now the real reason this truly is a Cloud. I've saved this for last because it's actually been difficult to type it out, much harder than I expected it to be. Roar had to put his own dog down two days ago. He was a wonderful dog, who unfortunately suffered from patella luxation and bad hips. He was fearful and aggressive from the start, although he did become more accepting of people in his last few years. He always liked me, though, and would come up to be cuddled from the first time I met him. He loved to play fetch, and he was such a good dog, in spite of all his issues. My brother won't talk about it much, but I know it hurts. It wasn't a surprise, he's been living on borrowed time for more than a year, but while that should make it easier I'm not convinced that really is the case...

Monster and I will make Roar feel welcome, though.

Or possibly Monster will eat him, no way to be sure...

Today's Sunshine

Monster and I met Teach again this afternoon. Overall, I'd say it... didn't go that well. I had trouble finding the correct moment to praise and turn, Monster was all over the place mentally, and we didn't get as close to the staged dog as we've been able to get in earlier sessions.

What do you mean, "all over the place"?

So why is this posted as Sunshine?

Because Monster had fun. Some days, that's important to remember. I may not be seeing amazing progress. Monster may spend more time jumping to headbutt me (or Teach) and chewing on the leash than he does walking nicely towards and away from the dog. He may even freak out and lunge toward the dog when he does bother looking at it. But through it all, even the lunging, he was happy. Sure, he was Monster-happy, which usually means there's a bruise or twelve in the future for me, but I don't need to have an easy dog as long as I can have a happy one.


But... maybe next time he can be a little bit easier too? Just a little...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hypochondria, Indeed...

Took Monster to the vet today. Nothing wrong with him. Of course.

In fact, he was so healthy they didn't even bother sedating him to examine him further. In the vet's opinion Monster's in great health, albeit very skinny, but has a behavior issue. Yeah, knew the last two points already.

The exam was awful. Monster did well (for him) initially, but when he was taken into a corridor so the vet could watch him move it all started going south. There were people passing, some were carrying things, dogs were barking behind doors, he had to stand and be poked and prodded in all this, and he couldn't take it for very long. He started lunging and growling, both trying to get away and scare people off. He managed to jump up at one vet tech who was passing when I didn't see her, and put his feet on her chest and stick his nose in her face... He was muzzled, and quiet, but it was of course terrifying for her nonetheless.

That was a difficult place to be. I hadn't expected we'd be forced to stand for an examination in the middle of a busy (and narrow) corridor, with people coming from both directions and turning up from behind... And all for nothing, as the vet determined there was nothing wrong with him after all. It wasn't a surprise, I've been debating whether or not to have him looked at for ages now because a large part of me was convinced he's fine. But hearing it felt awful. Not because I was in any way disappointed that he's healthy, but because it means I've put myself, the veterinary staff, and most of all Monster through an awful ordeal for nothing. I'm ashamed and sad, and I actually started crying when she told me. Which made me embarrassed, which is not the best emotion to have when you're trying to stop crying...

Still, it's over now. We're back home, nothing really bad happened, and Monster is resting. I'll let myself wallow for today, but tomorrow I have to let this go. It is good that Monster is fine! I'm just upset that I went chasing wild geese at his expense.

Monday, April 9, 2012

No Posts Lately

I know I haven't been posting the last few day, I'm sorry.

I've finally won the war with myself on whether to take Monster to the vet, and he's booked for a full checkup tomorrow. But since I made the appointment I've been freaking out, and every time I try to write about our day it all seems so trivial compared to the looming doom of the vet's judgment...

Trying to be objective, there doesn't seem to be anything physically wrong with Monster. But it's been nagging at me for ages, and now I'm freaking out that it will be bad news. And not only will it mean Monster's in pain for some reason or other, it'll mean he's been in pain for a long time and I've done nothing about it.

Yes, I am a hypochondriac by proxy! How did you know?!

Somebody save me. Please.

I'll tell you how it went tomorrow after the appointment. Unless I'm too busy crying hysterically...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Today's Cloud

There's lots to do in the garden these days. Especially for me, who's fighting against the pollen clock. Soon there will be no possibility for me to do much at all outdoors for a while...

So I find myself rationalizing spending less time with Monster. I try to tell myself just being outside with him a lot, letting him chew on sticks, bark at the neighbors (well, I don't let him, but...), and "help" me with the flowerbeds, weeds, dead leaves, sticks and general springy stuff, is enough for him. After all, even if it's not a walk, he's moving around a lot. And even if it's not training, he's active.

Found another apple, Mom! I'll put it in the pile, OK?

But the truth is he's sort of on his own, even though he's right beside me. I'm focused on what I'm doing, leaving him to amuse himself. And he's even locked inside the house when I'm outside. It turns out that while he's fine around a "dead" chainsaw, as soon as I yank the starter cord he goes nuts and and tries to grab the sword. NOT SAFE! So, crazy Monster gets to sit indoors and howl whenever it's tree massacre time...

He does have a lot of sticks to play around with afterwards, though.

You think that makes up for it? It doesn't.

Today's Sunshine

We're now up to two sofa cushions, all four feet on them! However, he now wants to sit down as soon as he's up, so we may need to spend some time building his will to stand and balance before we move up further.

No matter how it goes, though, we're both having fun with this exercise!

She's lying. I never get to do anything fun! It's just work, work, work...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Today's Cloud

Bark! Barky, barky, bark-bark-bark! BARK!

Barking at the neighbors, every chance he gets. Bark bark bark. Bark, there's a car! Bark, the car's stopped! Bark, someone's getting out! Bark, there's a complete stranger outside the fence! Bark, the stranger is talking to me! Bark, the stranger walks away to the mailboxes. Phew, all is calm - no wait! Bark, someone is coming toward me from the mailboxes! Bark, a stranger is talking to me! Bark, the stranger is holding a dangerous key-shaped object! Bark, the stranger is approaching the neighbor's house! Bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, burglary! Bark! Oh, danger appears over, I have successfully scared off the suspicious looking stranger! All is well, you can relax now...

Don't worry, I'm on the job.

Well, I can't relax! Would he please just stop barking? At least at people he's known for over a year? Or at least at my sister?! She's family! What's gotten into him?

Ah, I'm too tired to figure it out. Bark, bark, bark, all day long...

Today's Sunshine

I've been working on getting Monster to balance on things for a while, with very little success. The goal is to have him up on an exercise ball - both to give him a workout and because it looks cool of course - but there's no way he'll agree to that without building up to it. So I've been trying different things to use as buildup, but with the aforementioned lack of success. Most things aren't big enough for him to voluntarily step up with all four feet at the same time, and those that are (like a table, my baby's not small) are far too sturdy to easily transfer the experience to a ball later.

However, today I took a back cushion from the sofa, don't know why I didn't think about that before. He wouldn't really stand on that either, instead laying down on it with half his body hanging out, but once I became even smarter and picked a seat cushion instead we started getting somewhere. Unfortunately we ran out of treats before we could get any further, but at least now I know I've found an angle to work from. Once he'll solidly step up and move around on the seat cushion, I'll add another. And then another. The pile will be unstable and bouncy, not unlike the ball - although it won't roll around, fortunately. Once he feels comfortable with that it may be time to try moving over to the ball. At this pace it may take a year or so, though. Monster is... not participating in training lately.

Why should I? It's stupid. You're stupid. Turn on the TV!

Bloody teenagers...