Thursday, March 6, 2014

Out Of Office

Just dropping by to tell you that I'm not exactly playing hooky from the blog (for once)! I'm currently up north in my old home town - you know, that ridiculously backwards place where the Internet is a rare animal to find - to visit my parents. My father has once again acted under the delusion that he's just the same as he was in his twenties, and consequently got his foot caught in the snow chains as he was climbing around on his... logger? harvester? big-tractor-thingy-you-cut-down-trees-with? yeah, let's go with the last one. Anyway, he fell backwards, landed on his head/shoulder/back, broke a bunch of bones, whacked his skull, and smashed an eye. So here we are, dad's injured and Monster and I are hanging out in the sticks for a while. I don't know when we'll be getting back to civilization, but you'll have to manage - somehow! - for a while without us...

Did Grampa cut these down before he fell?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Weekend(+), And Today

So. Skipped the blog again. There's a surprise! And I really don't feel like blogging right now (my bed is singing a siren song), but let's just get something written down - that way I'm more likely to return tomorrow, I suspect.

This weekend Tilly came to stay with us again. She's still injured and needs to stay calm, but she's not in much pain so she doesn't want to stay calm. Her presence this time unfortunately led to a lot of stress and a lot of inactivity. Not great, and there were some tense moments when she wanted to take her general annoyance out on Monster. And Monster became quite frustrated after a while and started a lot of bad behaviors, like charging the fence when people walked by and barking his head off at the neighbors. Bad behaviors, and unfortunately they didn't go away when Tilly did...

Anyway, not a lot done on the list of things that should be done (can't remember it right now): very little walking, no training. That kind of thing.

Today was slightly better, although not great... We started off better than we finished, you could say. We've walked about two and a half hours today, and we've also done some training. I tried the "do as I do" on our walk too (so typical me, to rush things), it's really proving to be a lot of fun! I can't say it's working well yet, but at least it's interesting. Monster seems to have grasped that there's two parts to it, first the "watch me" and then the "repeat". He'll watch (usually), but as for repeat that's not so sure... Some things seem to be a lot easier, things I do with my hands or when I get up on things work most of the time. But for instance when I tried to head butt a chair back, he ran up to the chair and started pawing and biting the rug under the chair. That was weird, and it took me a couple of tries to realize that he's not watching what I do with my head: he's watching where I look! So when I bent to put my head against the chair, I was looking at the floor... Interesting... He also (and this may be related) has shown no tendency to map his body against mine and repeat things like lying down or spinning around, rather he's focused on the parts of my body he's used to taking cues from: face and hands... We'll see how it goes!

And tomorrow is Baking Tuesday, so I'm not sure I'll have anything to tell you then either. Fingers crossed...

Oh sure! Who needs to make an effort when we can just hope for luck...

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thursday Again

Yeah, I can't with the dramaqueen headers anymore... Anyway, I'm exhausted, let's get through this (I'm such a cheerful and optimistic person...)

  • Walks:   2h 30min. Comme ci comme ca... All things considered, not so bad for this day at least.
  • Exercise:   ~20min. Walking through deep snow can take quite an effort. Monster was having so much fun I don't think he really felt it then and there, but he's actually been a little tired tonight and he's never tired!
  • Training:   0 I think. Coulda woulda shoulda... Some simple obedience and similar on our walk, but nothing more.
  • Planning/preparation:   Nothing.
  • Other:   No

Today was the day I confirmed my car is magical! First of all, the driving conditions were awful this morning, so after checking which roads were open and not I wound up leaving home an hour earlier than I'd planned since there were accidents and drifting snow closing a lot of the roads I'd meant to take! But in spite of the conditions, Tin Can just plowed through (literally, in some places!) and we got to the garage half an hour early. And he sailed through the check! I mean, sure I got a list of things to fix but rust and a broken tail light is nothing compared to what I was expecting. Not only do we now have a car for at least one more year (barring accidents), I won't have to sell my teeth to pay for repairs! This may not seem terribly important on a dog blog, but having to go for the car inspection meant Monster losing time plus us not having a car would severely impact Monster's life too. So, a dog blog can be about a car and still be a dog blog. Because I say so.

What you're really saying is that you're tired and can't keep your mind straight, right?

 That too...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wednesday Of Shame

I'm really upset over something entirely unrelated, so let's just get this over with (at least I'm posting, that's something, right).

  • Walks:   1h 45min. About the same as yesterday. Yeah, the weather is quite bad (two minutes after leaving for our morning walk I had a rare white Corso at the end of the leash, and another couple of minutes after that he'd given up trying to shake the snow off and just rolled with it) and I have a couple of other things on my mind, but I mean just look at the statistics for this past week! It's not pretty...
  • Exercise:   5-10min maybe. I've tried to use the snowfall to have Monster walk on leash through deep snow, forcing him to lift his legs high for each step. But not as much as I meant to. (I get tired from walking through deep snow too, plus Monster just loves to run like crazy through the snowdrifts and I didn't have the heart to force him to walk calmly when he just wanted to go nuts...)
  • Training:   Let's just not even talk about it, OK?
  • Planning/preparation:   No.
  • Other:   Since I'm feeling desperate to find something to write about, I guess I can mention he's spent a couple hours out in the yard today while I was working on the car. The fact that I list "spent time outside" as something worth mentioning is sufficiently pathetic to also serve the purpose of shaming.
In other, but unfortunately related, news, tomorrow Tin Can has to go in for the annual safety inspection tomorrow (all cars must get looked over once a year by a specialized garage here, in order to ensure road safety), and he will not pass. I've been trying to fix what I can today, but I'm really not a car person so what I can do isn't much. And some things may have become worse after I fiddled with them... The problem is that I can't afford a new car, but I'm worried the repair costs for some of Tin Can's issues may exceed the cost of a new car! But where we live we need a car (there's one bus in the morning & one in the evening, that's it). Unless the car fairy drops by for a visit we really need Tin Can to pull a(nother) miracle tomorrow. We'll see. Monster will have to stay home tomorrow, though - if nothing else he'd make it a lot more difficult to catch a ride home if worse comes to worst, nothing like hitchhiking with a reactive Corso next to you...

What?! Everyone would stop for me!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday Of Shame

OK, these post headers are starting to feel ridiculous... But, whatever, more to be ashamed of! Obviously that must be a good thing, then?

I think you're starting to lose the plot...

  • Walks:   ... I don't know! I've been pretty good at remembering to keep a record of at least our walks since I started these posts, but today I couldn't even manage that. Tuesdays are a bit special though (more on that later), so I think it's just because of that. I'd say somewhere between 1h and 2h, closer to 2h but no more than. Something like that.
  • Exercise:   0. Again, Tuesdays are a little "special rules apply", but since I've been slacking so much all the other days that's not such a good excuse!
  • Training:   Well... We did try out the new "do as I do"-thingy with The Kid as an interested audience, but that's about it. Five minutes, probably...
  • Planning/preparation:   0. Again.
  • Other:   And this is where we get to why Tuesdays are special. Every Tuesday belongs to The Kid. I pick him up right after school, he eats a snack in the car while we talk about our plans, and then we go home and bake, bake, bake! We spend all afternoon and most of the evening baking, always something new and usually something a little advanced. Whenever something is resting, proofing, baking, cooling, etc, we focus on homework. Monster has to take a back seat, this is The Kid's day. Ideally I make sure Monster's had a full morning, but lately this hasn't been going so well... Now, Monster loooooooooves The Kid. Just seeing him sends Monster into raptures of joy, so it's not like he suffers and sulks on our baking Tuesdays. Plus The Kid likes Monster too, so usually he gets a few minutes of attention here and there (would probably be more if I didn't insist that hands have to be rewashed whenever they've been in a dog's mouth!) and we often get to have a little "show" where we show off any new tricks Monster may have learned lately, or something old but with The Kid as handler, and the like. But still, they're a back seat day for Monster. Not today, though. The Kid had a bad headache and was really tired. After less than an hour baking he was crawling around on the floor wrestling and playing tug with an ecstatic Monster. So while I did the baking The Kid and Monster played (and no one did the homework). It's maybe not the most impressive activity, very little learning and no organization what so ever, but on the happiness scale it's a bullseye! And while I think it's good for Monster (in general he needs to be physical with people other than me, plus he's pretty careful around The Kid - who's twelve, so no one panic about fragile children, OK - and he develops his "play nice" skills), it's also good for The Kid. A couple hours of relaxing Monster therapy and his headache was gone.

That's just how awesome I am!

So, not a great day (obviously, we're not really having any of those lately) but all things considered not a disaster either. I guess.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Of Shame

... and then some. I'm tired and cranky, let's just get this done:

Yeah, that's the spirit...

  • Walks:   1h 40min. And barely that.
  • Exercise:   Nope.
  • Training:   No clue... We have been doing something, but I have no idea how long we've spent on it. At a guess... Maybe half an hour? I got a recommendation to check something out called "do as I do" training, it's really interesting and quite fun to do too! You really, really need better organization put into it than I managed to scrounge up though. But google/youtube it! The science behind it is fascinating, and I think the practical effects on a reactive dog could be very rewarding (in general, it's not reactivity training). Put simply, you teach your dog to copy what you do. And I won't try to put it not simply, since I don't have much of a clue myself. But check it out from better sources than me!
  • Planning/preparation:   10min. However long it took to read a little about the above training method and watch a couple of videos... Maybe ten minutes? Yeah, let's go with that.
  • Other:   0. I don't even remember what I'm supposed to put under "other"?
In my defense - and I realize trying to defend myself severely undercuts the purpose of showing off my shortcomings, but when did I ever manage to stop myself when I knew I was doing something wrong and/or stupid - Tilly's stomach didn't like her new medicine, and we wound up having to run outside repeatedly all night. Not a lot of sleep, you could say... But then again, I chose to have a dog knowing full well that I'm responsible for his well being every day. Not just days when I feel great. Still. I'm going to bed now.

Me too. You're not the only one who was up all night, you know!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Of Shame

Today started off sort of slow, but then it picked up and I was really optimistic half way through. Now I have a headache and a surprise visit from Tilly (neighbor's dog who stays with us from time to time) put us completely off course again.

  • Walks:   1h 45min. I won't try to claim it would have been a lot more, but having Tilly come stay with us meant we can't go for more than very short walks. She has an issue with her shoulder and isn't to be exercised. 
  • Exercise:   0. I meant to do the ball (etc) exercises this evening, but with Tilly here it's not possible. (She's a resource guarder with a very low stress threshold, I can't train anything high energy and I can't reward with food or play, so...)
  • Training:   25min. This was what made me feel so happy today! We put about 15min into a partial obedience program (heel through a course, stay under march, stay, recall to heel, send, distance control). Not the most impressive stuff nor the most precise performance, but we had fun! Monster was so involved in the training, he sort of made me wake up... While competition obedience has never really been my thing, today it was so much fun. As wind down/reward (I managed to end the training in time this time, rather than drag it out until it became boring!) we did a nosework session outside as well, where Monster had to search for a piece of plastic in the garden (I hid it up a tree) and got a bully stick for finding and retrieving it. It took ten minutes. I meant to do some more obedience training indoors this evening, focusing more on precision, but, you know, Tilly.
  • Planning/preparation:   0. I'd like to say I've spent this quiet evening with Tilly planning to make up time tomorrow. But I haven't. And I won't.
  • Other:   0. I realized today that I can't remember the last time I just played with Monster. Just for no other reason than it's fun, just got down on the floor and wrestled him or something. Can't do it with Tilly here of course, but she's not here all the time and like I said I think it's been quite some time since I did it. Must be remedied. But hasn't been today. I also haven't read any of the stuff I meant to read about precision obedience before I messed it up any more...
Is blaming Tilly really the way to do this...?

No, it's not. I just... It feels like climbing up a steep, sandy slope. You fight like mad to get anywhere at all, and the smallest thing will knock you back again. But it isn't Tilly's fault, I'm just looking for a scapegoat. Again. That's ugly behavior.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saturday Of Shame

Miserable day! I've been tired, cold and grumpy ever since I woke up - and I'm never cold when I sleep, I always wake up with practically a fever. Sure it's cold outside, but it's not cold-cold (five-six degrees below zero today, Celsius. I can remember going for firewood in a T-shirt and sandals in well below -30 back home). And it's not very warm indoors either, but 12-15 degrees is normal in this house and no reason to sit shivering under a mountain of blankets... I'd blame it on being sick if I could, but there's nothing wrong with me besides being tired and frozen. If I was more active I wouldn't be so cold!

Enough excuses. This has been our day:
  • Walks:   2h. While I accept we generally walk less on weekends (a lot more people and dogs around, keeping unpredictable hours and routes, means a lot more triggers for us), this is not enough. Especially since everything else is slipping too.
  • Exercise:   10-15 minutes... We did cavaletti for a while - which is less exercise and more training still, since Monster doesn't want to/understand how to walk it properly. He happily steps correctly with his front legs, but the hind legs (which is what I really want to focus the exercise on!) are all over the place, often entirely outside the cavaletti as he happily diagonals through it... His hind leg awareness has always been a serious weak spot, so I'm not sure if he just doesn't understand or if the exercise is uncomfortable for him and he doesn't want to strain his hind legs? Maybe I need to build some kind of chute for it? Yeah, like that's going to happen... I'd also meant to do some balance and strength exercises on the ball, elephant and mattress (all inflatables) but never got around to it.
  • Training:   ~30min. Working on the "hands up - play dead" trick for about 20min. Not getting very far, and I think my bad mood made Monster feel uncertain and low in the training. We may have moved backwards... Also did about 10min of nosework, same setup as yesterday. (I meant to do it outside, but it was so cold I couldn't face it.)
  • Planning/preparation:   0. Thought about it. Didn't actually do any. 
  • Other:   0. Nada.
Raise your hand if you're bored and depressed!

So. Not a good day, you could say. I wish recognizing the problem would also lead to fixing it, but it doesn't. I'm not particularly optimistic that tomorrow will be any better. And I shouldn't even think about it in terms of "hope"! It's something I do or don't do, not something that just happens. But again, understanding that isn't the same as changing it...

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Of Shame

Alright, let's do this!

Do you really think this'll work?

Today I have achieved the following:
  • Walks:   2h 45min... Yeah, better than yesterday maybe but nowhere near anything to be content with. Again I'm writing this before our last evening walk, but from how I feel right now I doubt it'll be anything to write about anyway...
  • Exercise:   0... Yeah, that may look bad but this time it's actually OK... No, really, it is. Today was meant to be a resting day, and since I overdid it with the dragweight yesterday there's extra reason for it too. So zero exercise is OK - but just for today.
  • Training:   40-50min? Two sets of nosework (searching for a piece of plastic, indoors, four rooms), unfortunately not entirely sure how long but I estimate ~10min each - with better planning and preparation I would have known more precisely, no doubt. Also did some trick shaping (trying to get the "hands up - play dead" trick, for whatever reason), again very uncertain how long we spent on it but I think around 20-30min. Too long, anyway, since Monster wound up having to tell me he was tired before I stopped. Again the lack of planning made it ineffectual and uncontrolled.
Also adding a couple of new categories...
  • Planning/preparation:   0. Any and all activities we've gotten around to today happened haphazardly, nothing planned or prepared. Also have spent no time planning or preparing for tomorrow.
  • Other:   ~20min. Have spent some time giving Monster a massage, plus experimented on some new treats. (In case you're wondering: don't make a mousse by running canned tuna and rice flour in a blender, put the resulting goop in a cake decorating bag and squeeze it out as training treats. Apart from the mess, apparently raw rice flour results in a dog a few hours later turning in a doughnut shape to stare in confusion at his behind, since it's making weird noises - and even weirder smells...)
Tell me when it's over!

 Too early to tell how/if this works I guess... Although I have been aware of this post looming all day, so maybe it's having an effect! Most of all I just want to sleep, though...

Thursday, January 23, 2014


I've been informed that there may be a problem with leaving comments on this blog. Apparently for some (possibly all) you can leave all the comments you like, but I never get them... That's just great... I have no idea what's causing this or who it may or may not affect (browser specific? no clue), so I also have no idea what to do to fix it. For now I'll change to open commenting (from my current setting of approving all comments) and hope that does the trick. I have no plan B though, so I really hope plan A works.

Oh, and in other words this also means that if you've been leaving comments and I haven't published and answered them that's not because I'm an awful person (don't get me wrong, I am an awful person, it's just not manifesting specifically in ignored comments), it's because I never got them. And yes, I've checked the spam folder too. Now that I'm writing this I realize that maybe the zero spam comments I've been getting for quite a while now should have been a clue... Spam bots don't tend to get tired and go away...

Anyway, sorry. Hope this fixes it.

Let's Try Something New!

OK, so I'm not going to go over yet another "oh, woe, how I have let the blog slide" complainathon. It's obvious, we all know it, let's move on. But something I realized today, that I must have forgotten or refused to remember even: this blog is supposed to help us by being a record of Monster's development over time (which doesn't work if I don't write anything, duh), as well as a place to look at each day's efforts and results. Long term and short term, this blog was meant to keep us on the right track. And I think not dealing with the blog has allowed our training to slip, quite a lot! Or perhaps I've been so reluctant to blog because I knew there was a problem and I didn't want to face it...? I don't know. But either way, I think there is a problem and it has to be dealt with.

What, now? How about tomorrow...?

Yes, now. Or I'll just go back to hiding from it again. The problem is this: I don't want to, I can't be bothered, in a minute, we'll do it later, it's better tomorrow, I'm tired, I don't feel well, and we'll just wing for now and I'll do it properly next time... Put simply, I'm neglecting Monster. We're doing far too little, and what we do tends to be halfhearted and improvised - after a long windup of "five more minutes, I'm coming..." I'm not sure how long this has been going on, even! And I'm trying to snap out of it, but it's really hard. I don't want to do things, everything seems like such an effort - just going for a walk is miserable most of the time, and not just the getting started but most of the way through I just want to turn around and go home. Let's not even talk about training specific behaviors, sometimes I improvise something halfassed but it's all one offs and leads nowhere. Poor Monster!


So, time to try something new on the blog: public shaming! An excellent old tradition, time to put it to use. For now I'm going to skip the good/bad posts, and instead just post a summary of our day each evening (I intend to, at least) listing what we've actually done. Writing that out in black and white and letting everyone see just how bad a dog owner I am might succeed where I've so far failed: curing the lazies. And I have a bad case, so let the shaming commence!

Today I have managed the following:

  • Walks: 1h 55min! Wow... That is some kind of pathetic... Admittedly we still have our evening walk left since I'm writing a little early tonight, so that could be another 45min... 30min... 20min... Oh, come on, not even twenty minutes!? Maybe not... Let's say 15-20 minutes more tonight then, just to keep me from starting to cry.
  • Exercise: 35min dragweight. OK, that maybe doesn't sound so bad, but actually I never meant to go for that long since we're still very new to this exercise, but I just lost track of time (since I hadn't planned anything properly). We also got started more than an hour later than I intended, and that hour was spent entirely on "five more minutes"-ing with me huddled under five blankets on the couch...
  • Training: 0! Absolutely nothing... Not a single behavior trained today... Yeah, there's a reason I say there's a problem... Theoretically I could say the day's not quite over yet, but the honest truth is I won't do anything tonight. I may think about doing something, but I won't actually do it. Nothing.
So far the public shaming doesn't seem to have kicked in yet... Let's hope it starts its magic soon though, before Monster moves in with our neighbors - they may be cat people (and watch Cesar Millan for entertainment) but they're no doubt more fun than me!

Well... It's possible! I'll give you one more chance though.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Today's Sunshine

Today I've had the pleasure of seeing Monster deliberately make the right choice in several situations where we've met other dogs. He's chosen to turn around and walk the other way, without stress and without prompting or even reinforcement from me. Admittedly he did this at far greater distance than I'd like to think he could handle, but he's the boss in this case: as long as he does the right thing he gets to decide the when and where.

Hey, I felt comfortable...

Today's Cloud

So, let's do this quick and dirty (so it actually gets done...)! Today we've had yet another reminder of Monster's difficulty with cats - severely aggravated by the cat related injuries he received recently. On a walk he saw a cat run across the road quite a distance ahead of us, and suddenly he was manic. Pulling on the leash, scanning all around (looking for something to react to), bouncing around, and showing all signs of stress and frustration. Eventually he exploded and lunged at a car driving past. Cars are no longer an issue for us, but because of that cat he suddenly reverted. I've tried working with him around cats to get him to calm down again, but so far no luck... This is a (depressing) reminder of how all problems are linked, and "fixing" just one or two issues isn't an option: I need to fundamentally alter his associations and coping mechanisms. And I'm just not good enough...

Bloody cats!

Well, no point in giving up!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Yeah, Yeah, I Know:

You. Suck.

I told you, I already know! Alright?


 So... I honestly though I'd gotten back on track with the blog, but as stubborn evidence shows that was not the case... I swear I'm trying but it's just such a weird uphill battle! Yeah, I know, I'm whining again. I don't know what to say beyond: I'll keep trying. I got a smartphone for Christmas (yes, I've been veeeeery far behind the times...) and that thing is quickly becoming invaluable - I've started to schedule everything (everything) and once I've worked out an effective everyday schedule I'll input "blog!" as well. I tend to obey external orders better than internal ones, so I expect if the phone tells me to sit down and write I'll actually do it. Hopefully.

I hate that thing - it keeps binging, beeping, buzzing and plonging- So annoying! But I will say my food seems to be served on time lately...

Anyway, on to Monster! Well... Not much in the way on news, honestly. Some times he'll handle a trigger like there's no problem at all, other times he turns into, well, a monster. The ups are great, the downs are depressing, and the huge variation is confusing and frustrating... But we'll get there! Right?

What? Get where?

I'm trying to get more organized with our training, which again the new phone is proving ridiculously helpful with - I still don't like phones, but clearly I have a place in my life for very small computers. I'm also thinking about trying weight pull/drag weight, but unfortunately Monster is still too difficult to be welcome at the local club so if I want to start that we're on our own... I'll read some more about it and look into equipment and then we'll see I guess. I just think Monster would benefit from more physical exercise, both mentally and physically...

Hey! What are you implying?!

I'm not implying, I'm stating outright that you're too skinny and what muscles you have are 80% in your front half... It's way past time-to-do-something o'clock. I also suffer near daily freakouts over your hips, clear x-rays be damned, so we need more muscles on you for my peace of mind too.

In other news... Yeah, still not much. Tilly spends a lot of time with us still, and they work well together now. Hopefully we'll get to start regular reactivity/social insecurity training with Teach again soon (that's been on ice for quite a while now unfortunately). We haven't been up north to my family over the holidays this year - wait, this past year I mean (it'll take me about ten months to get used to this again, and then for some reason it all starts over again quite soon after that...) - but I guess we'll need to go up soon(ish). Provided we can find something to drive, since Tin Can doesn't have many miles left in him... Anything else... Hmm... No, can't really think of anything, sorry. Hopefully (see, at least I've learned not to promise anything...) I'll be back tomorrow with a more day-specific update. And if you have a futurephone too, like awesomely futuristic me, you can take a look at Monster on (in? what's the correct terminology for apps? and why are they "apps" rather than just software programs?!) Instagram. User "monsterinmyhome" of course. (The first posts aren't in English - the very first post is an entry in a competition (for a car, fingers very crossed!) so it's weird, staged and makes no sense whatsoever out of context (it's a Saint Bernhard pun) - but lately I've tapped my way around the tiny, tiny keypad to make them bilingual. Since the point is the photos anyway I don't suppose it matters much, but anyway...) It's not the futurest of futurephones, nor the smartest of smartphones, so the camera on it kind of sucks - on the other hand the photographer has no skill whatsoever, so it probably evens out or something! And since the weird computer aversion doesn't seem to extend to tiny pocket computers you can also apparently use to phone people with I don't get a pathetic panic attack when I try to post something. Yet, at least... So, I'll hopefully see you here, but if not you can still get a small Monster fix on (in? at?) Instagram.

Plus the photos there aren't three years old...

I will be back tomorrow though! Surely...