Monday, February 25, 2013

Tiny update

Monster's been feeling a bit under the weather lately, so not much is going on. For once I haven't forgotten about the blog, but what little has been happening lately is a bit... unappetizing to tell you about (it involves frequent and "fertilizing" visits to my lawn)... Poor Monster.

I'd like it to stop now, please...

I'm not used to living so close to lots of other people and their dogs. I honestly had no idea dogs could catch "stomach flu" from each other like we humans do - I'm apparently a clueless hick. Well, he's doing better now at least, so we should soon be back to our more usual daily failures...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Today's Cloud

This evening Monster seems to be a bit under the weather... He mostly wants to sleep and occasionally go outside to do his business rather quickly. Poor guy...

I wonder if this thing can be used as a potty...

I gave him some kibble earlier today, and it's been months since ha last had anything other than raw food. I wonder if that's what's bothering him...

Today's Sunshine

As I was getting home with Monster a neighbor's dog suddenly appeared on the edge of our yard. This is a young dog (six months old or so) who is quite insecure, and when he spotted Monster his hackles went up and he started bounce-barking at us. Monster responded in kind - for about 4-5 seconds! Then he did one half hearted lunge, and then turned his back on the loud intruder and proceeded to ignore him completely until he went away. (I was meaning to catch him myself, but another neighbor who'd heard the barking came out and collected the runaway and brought him home before I had time to put Monster away.)

That guy's kind of weird...

Monster is such a good boy, isn't he? Yes he is!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Today's Cloud

This is going to be a ridiculous complaint, and one I know I'm going to regret, but... There's no one else out walking anymore! For days now we've gone out and not even seen a dog or person in the far distance. It's just empty. Which certainly is nice and relaxing, don't get me wrong... But how are we supposed to train? There are no triggers! And these past few days have been going really well too, making me think we could maybe have made some progress.

That's right, I'm super nice and relaxed. Try me...

(I know, I know... I've jinxed it.)

Today's Sunshine

We've had a really nice walk today (despite the miserable weather, the mud and ice and freezing winds) where Monster really seemed to enjoy doing the walk with me as opposed to doing his own thing and only reluctantly letting himself be convinced to do two seconds of training occasionally. It really feels nice when he's in the game, so to speak...

Aaaaalmost got it...

Among other things we did a treats-in-a-tree (or "treet"), which he thinks is pretty fun. But his increased interest in me means he's become difficult to photograph, since when I move away a bit to fit him in the frame he abandons whatever he's doing to come up to me and ask why we aren't doing things together. I don't mind though...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Today's Cloud

And what do you think I did with this blissful day of calm? Thaaaat's right, nothing. I have done no training today beyond the basics (leash manners, heel, recall, hand target, jump up, retrieve, and so on), no BATting, no tattling, no self control exercises, no handling... Nothing. I think I need to train myself, so I don't squander days like this. Sure, Monster's pretty much fine with today's activities - he's very low maintenance today - but it gets us nowhere in the larger picture. Frustrating.

I dunno, seems fine to me...

Today's Sunshine

Monster is back to normal! Yay! Today he's been his usual charming self again - I mean, sure, he's a bit of a handful anyway. But he's not completely bonkers at least.


He's actually been unusually calm today even, mostly sleeping the day away. I guess he needs a rest too... I'm a bit uncomfortable still, about not knowing what happened or why. But I shouldn't look a gift Monster in the mouth I suppose.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Barking Mad!

Monster is not a barking dog. Normally... But the manic crazy from yesterday has continued today,and he's been simply... Insane. He's run from window to window, barking at the outside world, at the walls, at the furniture, at me, at anything, everything and nothing. We've been unable to even leave the yard, as he would attack anything and anyone. Never mind people and dogs, he'd lunge at sounds, flying birds, the wind, absolutely anything. A bird flew over high overhead and Monster leapt straight up into the air, just *sproing* - like a Jack Russel - and kicked me in the head! I haven't been able to reach him at all, and whenever he's calmed himself enough to lie down he's kept a continuous whine under his breath until he had to get back up and start over again. Why? I don't know...

Eeeeeoooooeeeeoooooeeeeee! The mothership is landing! The voices told me!

And then. Suddenly. He looked at me again early evening. No longer were just the lights on, there was someone home again. He was still agitated, but I could reach him and communicate. We started doing some training exercises and some nose work, and he calmed down further. We've just been out for a late walk (finally!) and he was almost back to normal again, apart from pulling a bit much on the leash.

Alright, I'm focusing. What did you want?

What the hell was that?!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Today's Cloud

Miserable day today. Monster is hyped. He's on high alert constantly, listening to sounds outside the house when we're indoors and scanning the surroundings like Terminator when we're outside. We haven't even had bad meetings today, we've had bad seen-at-a-distance-s instead. He reacts to everything! And he doesn't even have a glance to spare for me... In a way it's slightly encouraging, as the sharp contrast shows how far we've actually come - this was ordinary not so long ago after all! - but most of all it's just miserable and difficult. And I don't know what's caused this backslide...

You watch it, pal.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Today's Cloud

I'm kind of annoyed with myself. We met a man on a bike on a walk today, he turned onto the road toward us quite suddenly. Monster was on full leash length ahead of me (about six feet), and looked up at the approaching bike with what looked mostly like calm curiosity. But I sharply shortened the leash and tightened it, holding him closely to me. Resulting in Monster immediately switching gear and going for the bike... I know my reaction feeds his reaction, but I don't know what to do instead. Quite possibly Monster could have handled the passing bike without aggression, if I hadn't reacted at all, and if he'd been allowed a slack leash and full length. But "quite possibly" just isn't enough. I don't have enough control over Monster without shortening the leash - if he were to lunge at the bike he could actually reach it on a full length leash, and while I doubt he'd actually do anything it would still scare the snot out of most people. I can't take the chance. So instead I actually deliberately provoke Monster's reactivity. Talk about a rock and a hard place...

Yup. All your fault...

It just really sucks that instead of solving our problems I keep aggravating them... And I can see that I'm doing it, but I can't find a way out of it...

Today's Sunshine

There hasn't really been anything specific to point out as sunny today, so let's talk about a fun little pastime we've come up with instead. As a simple nose work exercise, I'll hide an item somewhere in the house and have Monster search for it. Not particularly advanced, but I've been trying to develop it a bit and have found something which is proving much more of a challenge for Monster.

Weeeeell... That makes it sound like it's hard, I can't agree with that. I'm far too good.

So, this is what we do: First, I take out a special treat (usually a half thawed chicken wing, which Monster for some reason really enjoys) and place it in Monster's food bowl with him watching. But instead of giving him the all clear to eat I give him a command to stay. I take out some item (anything really - usually a small item of clothing like a sock, or a coaster, or a key, or my wallet, or one of Monster toys) and show it to him, letting him sniff it briefly. Then I go upstairs and walk around a bit and hide the item somewhere a bit tricky (behind the books on a shelf, under a pillow, under a rug, on a window shelf behind the curtains, and so on - anywhere he'll have to make a bit of an effort), making sure I've touched and lifted lots of other things along the way too (otherwise he'll just track me instead of doing a search for the hidden item). I then go downstairs again and send Monster off to search...


This maybe doesn't sound like it's all that difficult, but for Monster it's not so easy. First he has to hold a stay close to the temptation in his food bowl - with me elsewhere so he needs to control himself rather than letting me control him - for several minutes (it's not a big house but I make sure it takes a bit of time to hide the item). He then has to leave the treat in order to get it, and focus on finding the hidden item without getting distracted by the temptation. He then needs to not only find it and race off to his food bowl, but instead pick it up and bring it to me... I don't know about your dogs, but Monster struggles a bit with this. The first three-four tries I had to help him leave the food bowl at all, and follow him upstairs to get him started at all. And even when he'd started searching he'd abandon the search and come back down to look at the treat again, repeatedly. He has pretty good search stamina ordinarily, but found the treat very distracting. And once he did manage to find the item, it was really hard for him not to race off and reward himself rather than finish it and bring the item to me. In other words: lots of fun!

Fun for whom?

Oh, Monster likes a challenge too, don't worry. And as I said, this is surprisingly challenging for him. My only worry now is that it keeps getting easier for him. Soon it'll probably be boring... If anyone has some tips on ways to add variety and difficulty, we'd be happy to hear about it!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Last Week Combined

Sorry people, I'm just coming out of a multiple-day migraine (which means that I'll soon be hyperactive and manic - awesome!), and the blog has been suffering in the meantime. As usual, I know... Aaaaaanyway:

Past week's Sunshine: Monster watched a man on a bike come toward us on a side street, and then pass us, and all he did was look and didn't even tense up. A huge trailer drove past us with scratching and huffing brakes, and then stopped right in front of us and the driver got out and started banging around on the rig - and Monster just sniffed the wheels a bit and moved on. We walked toward a dog (who was also walking toward us) and then turned off that road when we were about 50 feet apart, only to then have that dog turn off on the same road and follow us closely for almost a mile, and Monster just looked at it a couple of times and then let it go.

Past week's cloud: Monster barked at a couple of kids passing by our garden on the other side of the fence. I've been having difficulty getting him to pay attention to me on walks, he'd much rather focus on his surrounding sights and smells. He lunged at a passing van. His increasing interest in wild game is getting out of hand. Thanks to my delightful tunnel vision (a present accompanying the migraine) I took a misstep and rolled my ankle badly, resulting in a very limited range for walks.

And, as usual, a photo of the most wonderful dog in the world:
That's me!!!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Today's Cloud

Today we had a bad walk. A bad, bad, bad walk... We found ourselves sort of trapped on a road we couldn't get off in time, and were forced to meet a woman walking and a man biking toward us. It didn't go well. I simply had to hold Monster fast and wait for it to be over. He lunged, growled and snapped toward them (it was perfectly timed of course, so they reached us at the same time), and generally behaved as his name would indicate... Not a lot of fun.


Interestingly, just moments after they'd passed us Monster turned to me, did a sort of halfhearted air snap in my direction (frustration/diversion, no real threat behind it) and then immediately sat down in front of me and sought eye contact. It was an almost comically quick transition... He had no further interest in the people, even though they were still in view - fairly close to us even. Weird. This is new, I think. I think I'll choose to look at it as a good sign. At least until the opposite is shown...

Heh heh heh, you've fallen for my trap...

Today's Sunshine

Today is one of those rough days when I just can't find a positive... Not that everything is abject misery, it's just... Nothing sunny peeking behind the clouds today....

But what about me?

Oh, alright. I still have Monster. We're still in the game. As long as these things are true there's plenty of sunshine after all!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Monster Massage

I decided to try my hand at massaging Monster today. I've long thought he'd benefit from massage, he tends to have some tight muscles along the spine and neck and it's of course also supposed to be generally beneficial. Unfortunately I can't take him to a massage therapist since I can't be sure how he'd react. I've been reading about canine massage and watching some videos on youtube to try to get the hang of it, and today I decided it was time to put theory into practice. My greatest inspiration is a youtube video of a woman massaging her Boxer. To be honest, I had to fight a bit with myself to watch it through and take her seriously - things like cutesy smiley faces and pausing to think happy thoughts just doesn't come naturally to me. I want facts and straight lines. But that's my own weakness - or prejudice if you will - and I can't let that rule everything. Because what she can do to her dog is nothing short of magic, and I would be truly closed minded if I couldn't see and admit that. There are more technical videos out there, I've watched them too, but this is the one I return to. This is what I want for Monster. Take a look and tell me if this isn't doggie nirvana:

So. Time to try the same for Monster. I put some soft blankets down for him, made sure I was calm and focused, and gave it a go... No doggie nirvana for Monster, let me tell you. What followed was 45 minutes of me trying to get him to relax, while he rolled around on the floor, chewed on my fingers, compulsively licked my hands, arms, legs and feet, got up and walked away, and eventually just started crying! Whenever he got up and left I just sat there and waited to see if he would come back, which he always did after just a few seconds (he basically walked one or two laps around me and then lay back down again). When he started licking or biting me I just took my hands back and waited for him to settle down again. Same when he rolled around, and when he started kicking me. He'd let me keep at it for a minute or two, then he'd start something again. A couple of times I did think he was starting to settle down, he'd heave a sigh and sort of plonk down on his side and even half close his eyes - but then he bounced back up again. I did get a couple of yawns too, which supposedly is also a good sign that a dog is settling into the massage, but they seemed more like precursors to finger chewing in Monster's case. The final time he seemed to settle down and relax he then started to cry - he did a sort of continuous whine/howl thing under his breath which sounded downright eerie. He didn't seem to be protesting the touch, he didn't seem to be in pain or even really unhappy (beyond the crying), but I still called it quits at that point. I'm at a loss here people. I'll probably keep trying, hopefully Monster will get better at relaxing and I'll get better at massaging. I did put the blankets down again in the same spot a few hours later and Monster came up to me right away and lay down, seemingly expectant. So he's presumably not traumatized at least... Still, we have a long way to go before we can compete with the Boxer Bliss!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Today's Cloud

I miss my camera. I'm going stir crazy having to reuse old photos all the time... Sure, Monster is gorgeous and there's just no way anyone could tire of looking at him. But he's gorgeous in new ways every day - and you're missing it! Poor you...

How do you like my Blue Steel?

Yeah, I know it's got nothing to do with reactivity training. But I'm in a really good mood, and I don't want to sour it by harping on details when things are going so well!
(I just jinxed it, didn't I...)

Today's Sunshine

Today we walked over to another village a couple of miles off, to hang out by their (teeny-tiny) train station. Monster watched as children raced around shouting and hitting each other with school bags; as rail workers waved signs, clanged tools, drove ATVs, and shouted; as bikes drove by; as dogs walked past; as life went on around us, basically. We weren't close, we were several hundred feet away from the platform. But we were only about 20 feet away from the path leading up to it, and people and even some dogs did pass us by while we stood there (discretely lurking in the bushes, I'm sure to everyone's delight...) - and while Monster was at times very interested, he never broke. Not once did he act out, his strongest reaction was to a dog trotting past - he craned his neck and sniffed the air vigorously, and even stepped in place a little with his front paws. In other words, it was awesome!

I wanna go again!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Happy, Happy Day!

I've just had the most wonderful experience with Monster! We've gone for a walk along with a Big Bad! Successfully!

Big What? What are you talking about? What!? ME?!?

That's right, Dobie. Monster and Dobie have been kept apart for quite a while now, since Dobie just wouldn't stop attacking Monster... What little they've seen of each other at a distance has been filled with hostile posturing and outright aggression. But tonight we went for a walk. And do you know who had the most problems with this? Dobie! That's right, Monster for the win!

And the crowd goes wild!

While I won't claim Monster was entirely relaxed, the one who dictated distance was Dobie. At the distance (15-20 feet) where Dobie could walk under some control, while still staring and occasionally lunging slightly at Monster, Monster was walking on a relaxed full length leash, sniffing the ground and busily ignoring Dobie altogether. How about that, people!

What're you so excited about? Nothing to it, really...

He did have a bit of a problem when we walked along a tractor lane for a couple of minutes. I've no idea what that was about, but while we were on that lane we had to increase the distance to nearly 50 feet or Monster would turn on Dobie quite aggressively. But as soon as we turned onto another road, the behavior was completely gone again! Weird...

You only say that cause you're not a dog... You just don't get it!

Now, I know Dobie is - in spite of all the problems associated with him - not the same as a strange dog. And I also know that what I'm so excited about as a successful walk would be a complete nightmare to someone else. But for me, this was really amazing! Unless you've struggled with something like this, you just don't know how depressing it gets sometimes... Tonight gave me a much needed glimpse of a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's such a high you would never believe it if I tried telling you. So I won't. But still. Such a high!

Uh-huh... Could you wind down now? I want to take a nap...

Such a high, people! Like you wouldn't believe...

Monday, February 4, 2013


Both me and Monster seem to have caught some kind of nasty stomach flu... Consider us out of commission for the time being.

I've only got one thing to say: yuck!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Don't read!

Because this post is really all whine... You've been warned!

You people never learn, do you?

I'm sooooooooo tired! I want to sleep!
Seriously, who do I have to kill for a good night's sleep? I'm game, I'm telling you!

Again. This is not difficult: just copy me! Zzzzzzzz...

I'm not sleepy though. Just really, really tired. Lying down, I just find myself staring at the ceiling waiting for something interesting to happen. I hate this. I spent a couple of hours in the garden today, just sitting down doing sweet F-A. Just so Monster could experience something, even if it was just watching the world go by. Poor Monster... I'm so tired by now I no longer remember basic commands - I find myself sort of stuttering some kind of oh-er-uhm-command for simple things like "sit"! (took me about ten minutes to figure that one out in order to write it down! and you don't want to know how long I've spent on making this text readable at all...)

I don't mind. I find I get away with pretty much anything these days... Awesome!

Quite a few years ago I suffered from aphasia. For nearly two years I couldn't rely on verbal commands for the dogs I had then (not the only problem obviously, but this is a dog blog after all), instead using hand signals and nonverbal sounds (clapping, finger snapping, stomping, etc). That was pretty rough, but also challenging. And I still use some of the signals/techniques I developed back then. But this. This is no fun at all. I just want to sleep!

Again. It's not hard. Just try to be normal!

Please. Just let me sleep.... I've read about sleep deprivation psychosis - I realize I'm being a pathetic drama queen, but I can't help wondering just how far off that is by now. Yeah, all right, thats ridiculous. Still though... Please. Just let me sleep. Please...