Friday, September 23, 2011

Just one of those times

We arrived at the beach earlier today for a long weekend, a long damp weekend. Looks like storms will be on and off at least through Sunday, fortunately Bugsy isn't worried about getting wet.
About 7 this evening I took him down to the beach. The sun was thinking about setting and had emerged from behind some clouds. The sky was shades of orange bleeding to purple. The wind was blowing and it was raining lightly.
The beach was empty for as far as the eye could see.
I unclipped his line and set him free. He ran and played, splashing in the active sea and zooming around me.
Pure joy
Just a great moment with my crazy beast that I'll remember forever.
The joy, the lighting, the smells of the sea.

Friday, September 16, 2011

How to eat a lamb's bUGsy

I brought home a bag of lamb's ears - he's never had one before.
He sat patiently staring into my eyes as I opened the bag.
He sniffed the 'new food item' and looked at me as if to say," Good God woman these are from baby sheep!"
A little more scrutiny by Bugsy and then he ran off with it to the living room.
I'll let him explain the rest................

Expel it from your mouth and move away from it.
Crouch down and stare at the wacky humans that gave it to you, keep tail wagging while doing this
If your humans walk toward your lamb's ear, run and get it (this is very important if they have a "ziploc bag")
Then dance with it in your mouth
Expel it and go several feet away from it
Get it again and put it as close to your nose as you can but don't let it touch
Talk to it
Playbow, see if it does something
Nope not moving
Pick it up and dance again, whimpering as you dance
expel it (note humans laughing at you and rolling their eyes)
Look at it very carefully
Dance with it one more time, then go ahead and eat it in less than 30 seconds.
Lick your lips.
Roll on your back
Go drink the entire contents of your water bowl
Check cupboard to make sure there really is a whole bag of these yummy treats.

The end.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Feeling groovy

When Bugsy was a young pup we were charged by two large off leash German shepherds. I & my husband were frightened and prepared to fend off the dogs. Bugsy just stood there calmly as they ran toward us aggressively barking and meaning business. The hair on the back of my neck was raised and I feared for my puppy. Bugsy stood there, head up looking right at them, tail in his normal slightly raised position.
He didn't cower, roll over, bark, or any other fear or defensive move. He just stood there. The two dogs lost steam upon arrival. They sniffed him, he sniffed them and off they went. We humans were shaken, we watched carefully as the dogs sniffed each other, having difficulty in understanding our puppy seemingly fearless upon being charged by two large and unpleasant dogs and the fact they pulled up and didn't attack him.
This was the first and most remarkable incident we had with him and unpleasant dogs but we often found ourselves amazed at his disinterest in the three very noisy schnauzers we passed daily, or the border collie that wouldn't stop trying to hump him, or the bc mix that bit his neck pulling out fur or any of the other unpleasant dogs we met in our wanderings. He never cared. He never retaliated he just stayed happy and in human terms seemed to ignore them.
Things changed when at about 3.5 yrs old an aggressive dog in our neighborhood, with irresponsible owners, got a bit too close to making contact with us. The third time it did it Bugsy responded. He responded with an aggression that was beyond anything I thought he was capable of; he seemed to have either a non- response or a very serious response.
Very shaken and confused we headed home.
Thus began a journey. A journey to recover MY Bugsy.
After this incident he became a reactive dog. And he was darn serious and at 105lbs of muscle I was no match for him.
I'll skip the blow by blow and just say I shed tears, read furiously, studied his behavior, tried every technique I felt appropriate and I prayed.
I also just kept walking him.
A while back I started to notice improvement. There were still times I managed him in order to prevent an opportunity to react but he was more easily managed. He became extra alert but did nothing more. And he just kept improving.
Saturday we were out walking and we were charged by a golden, a dog known to have harmed two other dog's I know. As if in an instant replay from that day over 5 yrs ago he just stood there. Looking right at the charging dog, confident but not aggressive body language and once again the situation was diffused.
As my heartrate slowed and we made our way home I was less shocked by Bugsy's behavior compared to puppy Bugsy but I was more impressed. Slowly I realized my prayers had been answered, MY Bugsy was back.
As if to reinforce this we met a crazy young BC the other morning who stalked and then pounced on Bugsy and snarled and was generally unpleasant. Bugsy ignored him.
So my Bugsy is back.
I'll never not watch his interactions with new dogs again (as I did pre-reactivity) but I feel this tremendous peace and happiness that we have made it full circle. It has taken 2.5 yrs but we've made it.
Thank you Bugsy, I sure do love you.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I think we have an agreement or perhaps I'm a failure ;)

For the first few years of Bugsy's life my husband and I were determined that he would walk next to us and not sniff the entire time. And by golly he'd walk at our pace.
We tried all sorts of training methods and tools with very limited effect.
Quite honestly it felt like a daily battle.
Then somewhere along the way I changed my goal. All I wanted was that he didn't put any tension on the leash.
With the change in my goal we started making more progress.
Then as he rehabbed from his TPLO I allowed him to set the pace; I kept him slow on inclines and descents but on the flat I let him set the pace as long as the gait was balanced.
What I realize now is that I have maintained this agreement and that it works for both of us.
He gets to sniff - although at times he hears "let's go" and he moves on (he's more of a tracking sniffer than a stop in one spot and sniff sort of guy)
but he doesn't get to pull on the leash.

I also allow him to set the pace - so he is in front and I don't care. I am happy to be able to see what he is doing and not have a 105lb dog underfoot. If I say "here" he needs to come to me pronto and he does.

As for fast or slow or in between pace - he's a fast moving sort of guy but he doesn't all out sprint (unless attached to a bike) so it's great for me to have to jog and I am a fast walker so the trot works too.
He so rarely walks slowly that if he is, it is either super hot or he isn't well. In both of those cases it is better we go slow so no big deal.

So there you have it - I let my dog - who is out in front of me - sniff/track/ and set the pace on our daily jaunts.
In doing so I have replaced the battle with a positive experience for both of us.
If this indicates I have failed as a dog trainer than so be it - works for me and it works for Bugsy

Friday, September 2, 2011

Breaking news.... the Beast is SIX!

We don't know his real birth date so we picked the 1st of September in honor of a good friend's mom who lived to 101 and was an amazing woman. We hoped she would guide our nutty boy from above :)
What I didn't realize is that the first of September is also the first day of Canada Goose season in North Carolina; now that couldn't be more appropriate.

It's hard to accept that due to his size he is now considered a senior, especially when he's running around like a fool and continues to get into puppy mischief, but he is. This makes me a bit sad but I refuse to age him mentally if he refuses to age physically!

When I sat down to consider the last year I was amazed at all the fun he has in his life and what a wonderful existence he has. This year is the first year that he lost some friends who went to the Bridge, it was also a year of puppies as he has 5 new puppy friends just this year!
He traveled to new places, met new people and carried on the like the fool he is.
Here is a little slide show I made of his year:

That doesn't show the captions but I believe if you click on it you'll go to the main site.

Yesterday to celebrate his day I made him a lovely cupcake and then later we played some fetch with his pheasant wing dummy. Those pics are here:

sorry for being lazy and just linking but I hope you enjoy the pictures!

Bugsy let's make it an even better year!