Thursday, May 31, 2012

Today's Cloud

I don't really have any complaints. Again! Today has been a very good day, from start to finish. On our walks Monster has been attentive to me, performing very nice heels, stops, recalls, etc (I've even been working on recalls with just a drag leash today, but don't tell the neighbors), at home he's been very playful and energetic but not in an obnoxious way, and I've already told you how great he did in training.

So, no cloud today!

Not. So. Fast...

What's that, Monster? You think I suck at taking direction in training, doing the exact opposite of what I'm told, misunderstanding instructions (no, I'm not doing it on purpose, stop saying that!), nodding my head and then repeating the mistake I was just warned against, forgetting what I'm supposed to do, dropping your treats, clicking too late or for the wrong thing, and generally making your training much harder than it needs to be?

Now you're being mean, Monster. But I suppose you may have a point or two... Or several.

Damn straight!

Today's Sunshine

Monster and I had a great time in training today! Monster was in a great mood, attentive and interested, albeit a bit bouncy and bitey - in a playful way with the leash (oh alright, also with my fingers). Yet another new stranger to first BAT against and then go up and sniff. This time we even did formal greetings, where he was asked to walk up to her and stick his nose in her cupped hands and then return to me for reward and praise.

Fun, a new person to slobber on!

It all went great, and time just flew by. Sure, occasionally Monster became overexcited or frustrated and started bouncing and barking, and he did do some of his lovely piranha attacks where he jumps straight up from nowhere, but he never connected (although he did slam into a plastic chair making a sound which uncomfortably reminded me of a crushed skull, nearly stopping my heart), and he clearly meant to be playful rather than aggressive.

I have to say I'm impressed with this stranger too, who more or less laughed at me when I was concerned Monster had scared her (or hurt her) by jumping at her face. I'm so used to people hating or fearing Monster that her attitude completely threw me. I know he isn't even trying to connect, but I understand it looks quite different when he's flying towards you - and you don't even know him other than as a dog who is in special training for aggression issues. Nerves of steel...

And I really wish everyone could find a trainer to help them like Teach helps me and Monster! The progress we've made in the past months is really amazing, and Teach never runs out of new things to try. We've been very lucky to meet him!

Plus he's fun! And he gives me treats, and I can still get him to flinch sometimes! Best toy ever!

Of course all Monster's inappropriate behaviors need to be worked on, I can't have a hundred pound dog who greets people by jumping up and head butting them in the face. I know today wasn't perfect. But it was a lot of fun, and an amazing success. I much prefer having an overeager bulldozer rather than an aggressive ball of suspicion.

Who are you calling bulldozer!?!

The only time he showed any suspicion was when she put her hoodie up, which made him tense up and react. But he recovered beautifully and held no grudges after that.

Today was such a fun day!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Today's Cloud

Actually, today is one of those rare days where I have nothing bad to report!

Well, I suppose you could say I've been slacking... I'm behind on my homework, to say the least. Must try to focus on necessary stuff rather than silly and fun stuff.

Awww... You're no fun.

Today's Sunshine

Monster and I had The Kid visiting again today (and yesterday), and we got some good training in together. First Monster and I made a little show with some of the tricks we've been working on, like picking up things and placing them in a bowl. This was good exercise, as performing for a reacting audience is very different from just training with me. Then we did some tracking/hide and seek, where The Kid ran outside and hid somewhere near the house after doing some confusing loops, and then Monster had to track him down. It was horribly sloppy from a formal standpoint, with the tracks extremely fresh and me even allowing some air scenting, but it was great fun for all of us.

Why doesn't The Kid live here with us?

Because you're quite enough of a handful, Monster...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Today's Cloud

We were walking past a neighbor's garden when I saw him come outside with his two Dalmatians. I called a hello, both to be polite and make sure he'd spotted me walking by with a dog. He said hello back, Monster looked at him and the dogs when he heard it, and while he did tense up and become a little excited he did look away again and keep moving. Unfortunately one of the other dogs rushed the fence to stare at us, and Monster stopped and turned to look. He was still fairly calm, but he wasn't ready to move on right that second. Even more unfortunately, the other dog also came over at that point, barking his head off, and the owner yelled after him - both things making the situation too much for Monster. I started trying to maneuver him away (by straddling him and trying to frogmarch him down the street), while the neighbor was simultaneously apologizing to us and trying to get control over his dogs. What he couldn't know of course was that to Monster it made the whole thing even worse, both that he was looking at us and addressing us, and that he was correcting his dogs (verbally and physically). It took quite a bit of wrestling to get a screaming Monster away from there, and no doubt yet another neighbor has gained a bad impression of Monster.

I'm going to EAT YOUR FACE! And then I'm coming for your dogs too...

It's so incredibly unfortunate, as it looked very promising at first when Monster was able to ignore the man and the two dogs... It still looked promising when he just wanted to look at the first dog rushing the fence... But no, it wasn't to be.

But... It wasn't my fault!

Today's Sunshine

On our morning walk today, Monster and I managed a very good spontaneous BAT session against another dog.

It turned up fairly suddenly, moving toward us, and I quickly turned around and walked Monster back where we came from. When we got to a crossroads where I could choose a different direction I turned us around toward the approaching dog again. Monster looked up, spotted it, and in a split second turned back around and started moving away, looking back at me as if asking why I wasn't following. I let him out on a long leash and walked a dozen feet or so before asking him to turn around again. He did, he looked at the dog again and then looked up at me and walked away. Pretty much perfect!

Seen it. Let's go.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Today's Cloud

Lots of nerves today... He's been growling and barking in his sleep, jumping up suddenly and looking for something to take it out on. Outdoors he's basically scanning for triggers everywhere, and seems practically disappointed when he can't find one.

Well, these days happen.

They're gonna keep happening unless you remember to buy more chicken! Can't you take a hint?

Today's Sunshine

Wow, what to pick? There are so many great things to choose from!

No, not really...

Monster was, is, and will remain wonderful, that's got to be enough for anyone.

Awww, that earned you a kiss!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Today's Cloud

A couple of hours after the horse passed by our fence with no bad reaction from Monster, we spotted another horse. About half a mile away or more, slowly walking away. And Monster went nuts. Pulling the leash so I had to lean back to hold him, grunt-growling deep in his throat, bouncing on his toes and refusing to leave. All for a very distant horse.


Told ya...

Today's Sunshine

A horse trotted by the garden today, and while Monster did become a bit tense he actually walked up and stood next to me instead of rushing the fence. I kept a hand on him in case he'd loose it, but it wasn't necessary. Once the horse had passed the property Monster just sneezed all over me and then lay down and went to sleep.

I don't think I've done anything to make this happen, but it still feels good to see Monster relax like that in a situation which would normally have had him screaming and shaking. I bet it feels good for him too.

Nah, I like to be wound up too. I just need to change things up so you're easier to push off balance next time.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Today's Cloud

Monster has escalated his war on the workers here working on the house. He was actually pretty cool about it when they first turned up this morning.

What? Those guys? Yeah, I've seen them, what about it?

For about ten minutes.

Then the barking at the windows, clawing at the front door, lunging, rushing and jumping started. The guys are great, even when he gets far too close when he catches me by surprise (I know, I shouldn't be surprised after a hundred times) they just carry calmly on without so much as breaking step. Pretty amazing really, perhaps they're blind and deaf?

Nah, that's not possible, they're working at record speed. After two days they're three days ahead of schedule! It's practically magic, how fast they're working!

I wonder if they taste like chicken... I like chicken...

Hang on... I may be on to something here... Anyone with a construction job scheduled who wants to borrow a Monster?

Today's Sunshine

We had a new training session with Teach this afternoon. It's been two weeks since last time, and while I'd love to claim Monster and I had made great progress in that time that is of course not true. We did make great progress in the session, though!

I'm sorry, are you implying this is a surprise somehow?

When we got there Monster was still pretty agitated, very focused on the happenings in the surrounding neighborhood, staring and on his toes. He lunged at Teach's face a couple of times (not trying to connect, just making a point), he bit me (not hard, again just making a point) which really surprised me, and was generally very difficult and backslidery. In spite of that we quickly worked our way up close to a staged person. Once there, Monster was allowed to sniff. Then he was allowed to interact, first taking treats she threw on the ground, then calmly eating straight from her hand!

Give me that turkey, human!

I have to hand it to her, she was great at being a Monster guinea pig! She was very careful to not look Monster in the eyes, consistently turning away while at the same time feeding him treats (I'm always impressed with people who can multitask and coordinate their movements, two things I fail at completely). When the treats ran out Monster would try to seek eye contact with her (amazing!), stepping around and trying to find an angle where she'd look at him, but she resisted him (also amazing, resisting Monster is another thing I suck at!).

Why wouldn't she look at me, I'm the cutest thing in the world!?

We did this approach multiple times, Monster walking toward her calmly, accepting treats from her calmly (well, there were some attempts to get to know her better, but nothing unmanageable and nothing aggressive), and then letting Monster choose to walk away from her when she stopped interacting with him. I'm not sure how long we were at it, or how many greetings we did, but not once did Monster act up. (Teach made sure to stay at least partially between Monster and... Guinea Girl at all times, just in case.)

Next time I'm getting a kiss!

She wound up quite slobbery toward the end, but I suppose that's how it goes for Guinea Girl... (She should have her own superhero comic, I can't believe there isn't already a Guinea Girl out there! ... Don't tell me if there is one...)

In the end, it was a pretty awesome and successful day. I really needed that, I've been feeling a little down lately about our chances. I think poor Teach may have thought I was a bit pessimistic and dour today, but I just had problems processing what had happened. It really went great!

Of course it did, silly. Thanks to me!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Today's Cloud

Monster has a problem.

What is this thing!?

There are strange invaders in his home. And they're not just walking around and talking. They're not just carrying strange things and leaving them on the lawn. They're changing things. They're destroying things!

Evil has arrived.

WHAT are they doing?

I expected this to be difficult for him, but I underestimated just how difficult. He's not dealing well with these people talking outside our windows, using strange, loud and smelly machines, and changing our garden. He deals even more poorly with it if he gets to go outside and watch it.

By now I'm just hoping it'll be over quickly.

Today's Sunshine

It's cooler today. Not more than a few degrees, but it seems to make a world of difference to Monster. Apparently he has a very sharp "do not cross"-line for temperature...

Aaaaaahhh, that's better!

Unfortunately summer isn't exactly over yet, but there's no reason to borrow trouble - today was cool enough, that's good enough.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Today's Cloud

It's completely impossible to get anything done. We can't train when Monster is about to fall over in heat exhaustion. Even if he would want to, there'd be no way to reward him. I can't very well throw him a ball to chase after unless I want to watch keel over, and he's refusing to eat in this weather so treats are completely out.

I actually love summer, but it's hard to deal with for Monster. Hopefully he'll adjust soon...

Adjust? Me? Never! I have my pride...

Today's Sunshine

We have survived the day! So far, we have not melted. We shall prevail against the burning heat!

Is this the surface of the sun?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Today's Cloud

Giant hogweed. It's everywhere. Soon there will be no off the path walks for us, until winter comes again. The early risers are about waist high now, in the shadier and damper areas. In less than a week they will be taller than me and will have taken over the entire countryside, making it impossible to leave the paved roads (unless you enjoy blisters, oozing sores, scars, and blindness). Even along the paved bike path they were a problem last year, growing closely along the sides.

Toxic invaders...

I just want to take a flame thrower to the whole thing, but that's not really a good solution I suppose. It sure would feel good though...

Today's Sunshine

Well, it's been quite sunny weather, I can tell you that! Less training sunshine though...

I suppose when The Kid's dad came to pick him up, Monster only barked once, didn't try to get out the door, and rather calmly accepted that he wasn't going to get to greet, and The Kid was leaving him.

That's not bad, actually.

Monster Summer

Summer's really here.

Err... Mom, did you "forget" to mow the lawn again?

Cats are frying in the road, birds are panting in the tree tops, and Monster is dying.

Kinda hot out today, isn't it?

It's becoming a problem to walk him, because he gets quite affected by the heat.

No, seriously, there's something wrong with the weather, right?

And for some reason he hates to drink. He always resists the call of the water bowl, and he won't drink from streams either. He drinks enough to survive (so far), but not really enough to cool off.

You know... Walking's overrated. You go on, I'll stay here.

I wet him down and I feed him ice (he likes ice, at least sometimes), but once he becomes too warm he'll start to pace and wind himself up rather than staying calmly in a cool spot. I've seen him thump down in the middle of the sunniest part of the lawn and just lie there and whine - ten feet away from rocky shade!

COME ON!!! With or without you, I'm going home!

How does this breed survive in Italy, is Monster's heat coping mechanism broken somehow?


Which still feels like "today", but in fact it's Monday by now. It's past 2 am. I'm not sleepy, but the procrastination has got to end!

No blog for you!

I've been asleep for four hours, three-four more and it's time for us to get up!


I was going to blog. Honest!

But as I sat down by the computer I felt sleepy, and decided to hurry off to bed instead. I have problems sleeping, especially falling asleep, and while I feel tired often sleepy is rare. And for once I actually took the opportunity.

If she gets an extra hour of sleep she's a lot more fun the next day, so I'm not complaining.

I didn't actually fall asleep for a couple of hours anyway, but at least I tried.

No blog for you!


I finally remembered to bring the camera on a walk! Yay, fresh photos of the most beautiful Monster in the world!

This is what I got:

It's kinda foggy today, Mom.

Somehow damp has gotten into the lens... I'm not happy.

No blog for you!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Today's Cloud

Monster is limping. No idea why... I'm not taking him to the vet again unless I absolutely have to, though. Last time was horrible, most of all for Monster.

I can't find anything wrong with him, and if he gets excited he forgets about it. But once he's calmed down enough to feel things again, the limp is back.

No jumping, no running, no climbing.

What!?! You're talking about yourself, right? Right???

Today's Sunshine

Monster vs. Squeaky-To-Bowl-Trick: 1-0!

A little while back I tried teaching Monster to fetch a toy and place it in a bowl, we did three training sessions over three days before my easily distracted bird brain forgot all about it again. The first day Monster didn't get it at all, and half way through he started picking up the bowl and tipping it over his head like a hat, which I thought was hilarious so I completely lost direction in the training. Second day we managed to get some progress, with Monster sometimes picking up the toy and sometimes putting his head in the bowl. Third day, Monster would pick up the toy and move it around, sometimes closer to the bowl. Occasionally he'd put the toy in the bowl, which I of course rewarded exuberantly. Then, I promptly forgot all about this trick.

If it weren't for me, you'd forget where you live once you'd walked five minutes from home...

Spotted the bowl and squeaky toy we'd been using today, and decided to pick back up where we'd left off. As soon as Monster saw me holding the bowl he came running, with an excited look on his face. I dump the toy out on the floor and place the bowl in front of me, waiting to see what he'll do. Monster immediately picks up the toy and puts it in the bowl. I click and reward, and before I have time to take the toy out to start again Monster does it himself, first taking the toy out, dropping it on the floor (and batting it a couple of times with a paw just to make it squeak some more), and then picking it back up and dropping it in the bowl again, finishing with a big smile toward me. Clearly, he'd figured this trick out!

So I started throwing the toy far away - he immediately fetched back to the bowl. I placed the toy where it was hard to reach and he'd have to work to get at it - as soon as he had it he dropped it into the bowl. I started hiding the toy - he searched until he found it and then headed straight for the bowl. I figured I'd finally outsmarted him when I threw the toy away, and as he had his back turned I tipped the bowl upside down!

You're mean!

In fact, this did stump him a little at first... He dropped the toy to examine what was wrong with the bowl, but then got anxious about dropping the toy outside the bowl and had to pick it back up, and then of course he couldn't do much with the bowl. Pretty soon he was fine with putting the toy down while he dealt with the bowl, though, and started chasing the bowl around to get a grip so he could turn it back up. Once he had it, it got a couple of revenge chews before he brought it back to me (*note to self: buy new bowl), put it down, and triumphantly placed the toy back in (what's left of) the bowl!

By then he got all the treats I had on me, as well as a lot of excited praising and petting.

My dog is smarter than me, people. He solves tricks much faster than I can think up new things to teach - and how.

Are you only figuring this out now? Me's a genius!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Today's Cloud

Death by hedgehog.

Has anyone managed that so far? Because I think that'll be the way I go, and I'd like to know if I'll be the pioneer.

There are hedgehogs everywhere. I love the little creatures, but unfortunately so does Monster. If there's a hedgehog to be found Monster will go flying, and unfortunately so will I. Pretty soon now, he'll send me head first into a rock, just so he can get closer to a flea and tick infested ball of needles that vibrates and sounds like a broken engine.

Oh, it'll be worth it...

They are cute, though.

Today's Sunshine

Not really all that much. It hasn't been a bad day, I just can't point to any kind of progress. We walked, we trained, we ran errands... It was a bit of a dull day, actually.
Not my fault, you're the boring one!

True. I've been a bit off today for some reason, and haven't taken advantage of naturally occurring opportunities to challenge ourselves and train. But that's not very sunny! So...

Yeah, I've got noting. Sorry.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Today's Cloud

My knee makes an odd crunching sound when I walk uphill or on flat ground. It doesn't hurt much, it just feels (and sounds) weird. Now, walking downhill, that hurts!

Then don't walk downhill. Do I have to think of everything?

Which means, shorter (and slower) walks for a while. Sorry Monster...

Today's Sunshine

Monster and I did some impromptu hide and go seek on our walk today. Working on the long line (~50 feet) I'd duck behind bushes and rocks whenever I got the chance, and he'd come bouncing around to find me. It's a simple game, and one I expect most of you play with your dogs, but for us it's been a bit tricky before. Either Monster is fixated entirely on something, and won't register that I'm missing (and I can't stay hidden forever, since anything could turn up on the path when I'm not looking and trigger Monster), or he's got half an eye on me at all time and hiding isn't possible. But today he was calm enough to explore a little without me, giving me opportunities to "disappear", while also alert enough to notice I was missing.

Found ya!

It was fun, and I think it was good for us too. I'm most likely reading far too much into it, it's just one walk after all, but I think it might mean that he's feeling a little more confident. He doesn't need me so badly he has to keep track of my every move, and he isn't so suspicious of the world he'll freak out and fixate entirely on anything. Right?

Well, it's at least good enough to be happy about for one day.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Today's Cloud

What progress I saw around people today was balanced out by Monster's backslide around vehicles...

He's lunged at a couple of cars today, a motorbike and a truck. I could tell he was getting ready to do it, but had nowhere to go in time to get away. When the truck was coming toward us we were next to a steep bank, I grabbed Monster by the harness and pushed him out toward the side as far as I could go (not because I think it helps him relax, but simply so we won't end up in the road once he lunges), but that wasn't very far and of course also meant he ended up much higher than me. So when the trucked passed and Monster lunged I had no power to hold him, and I was pushed down the bank where I landed on an extended knee. I kept a hold on Monster, but it took a couple of minutes before I could get up off the ground and limp home on a burning knee...

His reactivity to traffic may be a bigger problem than I had thought.

Naah, I'm just doing it for fun!

Today's Sunshine

Monster has been pretty great around people today. Both with people I talked to out walking, and with the neighbor at the fence. Usually he'd tense up, most likely bark, and quite possibly lunge and escalate from that, but today he's been calm and even inviting. Not expecting it to last, but that doesn't mean I can't be happy about today.

Why are you so surprised? I like people.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Today's Cloud

No more off leash training for Monster... I've had to take down the garden fence to make space for the machines coming to dig tomorrow, so Monster no longer has yard privileges. No idea how long it will be before I can put up a new fence, but I'm afraid it may be quite a while...

Awww... I wanna go outside.

Today's Sunshine

Today has been a busy day, I've torn down the porch and the car port and cleared debris. Lots of sudden bangs and thumps, people shouting and running, tools clanging and poor Monster alone in the house for most of it. But he's been very accepting! When I've gone in to check on him he's been interested but calm, and when I've taken him outside from time to time (he has to stay inside for most of it because it can be quite dangerous with all the nails poking through torn down boards and sections falling left and right) he's wagged his entire body, sniffed around a little and contentedly settled down to watch. I'm very happy with this!

I'm not. We don't have a front door anymore!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

It's Time!

All right, time to pick back up with the blog! The worst of the pollen season has blown over, and I'm out of excuses. So, here goes!

Monster's still here, I'm still here, we're still training, things go up, things go down, etc. Phew, that was exhausting, time for a break!

See you tomorrow.

What? You didn't actually think she'd manage a real post, did you? How gullible are you people?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Today's Cloud

It's the pollen. Of course.

The other day I gritted my teeth, took an extra dose of all my medicines, and took Monster for a walk. About 20 minutes away from home my throat started closing up, and I had to turn around and walk back home - veeeery calmly. Asthma is no fun, and it's seriously limiting us.

The silver lining is that the horrible, sunshiny, pollen friendly weather we've been having lately means we'll have a quick and sharp peak and then the worst should be over. I can stand it for another week.

You can stand if for as long as you have to! What's the option, weirdo?

Today's Sunshine

The pollen attack is really kicking my butt this year, but I've found something almost like a solution. The past couple of days I've spent most of the time out in the garden with Monster, sitting on a blanket armed with a bag of chicken and a tug ball. The long weekend and the amazing weather means there's been a lot of activity around us, and I've just been working on rewarding calm and attention.

It's not ideal, but it is training of a sort and Monster seems a lot more relaxed now. He gets quite a bit of stimulation, a challenge whenever children run screaming by the fence or a dog starts barking, and attention and praise from me, as well as some general physical activity running around to check out all the smells and sounds.

Fun in the sun!

He's been doing pretty good actually, and this afternoon he just lay beside me contentedly watching some kids, a biker and a scooter pass by without caring - stuff he'd usually react quite strongly to, if not necessarily aggressively.