Good Dogs, Unleashed!

Spring is Here!
April 5, 2012, 4:38 pm
Filed under: Chomper, Miscellaneous, Training | Tags: , ,

Considering the last post I made was in September, I’m going to go with the excuse of “I was hibernating.” By hibernating I mean snuggling the dogs and my Kindle while drinking wine in front of the fireplace. Although realistically, it’s just me taking dozens of photos of the endlessly handsome Petesworth while Chomper hides under the bed. Her noise phobia gets the best of her and it’s difficult to desensitize her against the unpredictable popping of wood. Petey on the other hand, cannot get enough.

Petey enjoys his fireplace photoshoots almost as much as the fire itself.

The winter was super mild this year though, so we didn’t spend the whole time inside. Boyfriend and I got into geocaching in the fall and spent a good deal of time traipsing through the woods with one or both dogs in tow. For those who aren’t familiar, Geocaching is sort of like a world wide scavenger hunt where people hide small containers and everyone else looks for them. Containers always hold a log book for everyone to sign when they find the cache, but many are large enough to leave other little objects as calling cards or for trading. It’s easy and free and all you need is a hand held GPS unit or a smart phone. You can find way more info at One of the best parts about geocaching is that it has introduced us to all sorts of parks and other natural areas we had no idea were there. We spent the week between Christmas and New Years at the beach and found quite a few small, beautiful parks. It’s a really fun thing for us and the dogs get to go exploring in new places too, so they’re big fans.



A gorgeous park near Ocean City, Maryland.

We also moved into a new place and that was a huge pain, but it’s turning out to be a great training opportunity for Chomper. She’s been a neurotic mess since the day I got her and I’ve tried a million different training methods to work with her fear and anxiety. I have half a dozen different books on the subject, but none of the classic counter-conditioning or desensitization has ever worked for her. In the fall I purchased yet another book, Behavioral Adjustment Training (BAT) for Fear, Frustration and Aggression in Dogs. This book is in the process of changing Chomper’s life. Detailing exactly what BAT is will come in a later post, but for Chomper, BAT is rewarding her bravest behavior by increasing the distance between her an the thing she is afraid of. So, Chomper is afraid of children. When we’re on a walk and she notices a child, she has to make a decision between getting upset and ignoring the child. Normally, Chomper’s first reaction is to stiffen her entire body, raise her tail and freeze in place before lunging forward and whining then spinning around and repeating the lunge and whine. She’s doing this so that the child will go away. Normally, either the child gets totally freaked out and runs away, or I drag Chomper off in the other direction. Either way, Chomper is getting what she wants (distance from something scary) for doing a behavior that I don’t want (being fearful and defensive). WIth BAT, I wait for Chomper to notice her trigger (people, cats, dogs…) and wait for her to give any type of displacement behavior (relaxing her body language, turning away, sniffing the ground…). The second she provides a displacement behavior, I click and turn around and walk away from the trigger, thereby giving Chomper the distance that she wants, while slowly showing her what good behaviors she can offer to earn that distance. Like I said, it’s kind of a complicated idea to explain in a short paragraph, but the point is, it’s working fantastically.

We’ve only been trying the BAT for a little while now, but Chomper is finally starting to show some improvement with her behavior. In order to keep track of her positive strides and to help keep my moral up when things aren’t going well, I’ve decided to keep a list of things Chomper has not reacted to. So, yesterday, Chomper walked past the following things without reacting in a negative way:

  1. An elementary-aged kid tossing a baseball in the air about 20 yards away
  2. An older man sitting on his front porch with a yappy dog (I don’t think Chomp saw the dog but she definitely heard it) about 10 feet away
  3. Three teenagers tossing a football back and forth about 20 yards away
  4. Four elementary-aged kids coming directly toward us from about 20 feet away-this one was super hard for her, she still whined, but she also still turned away, so it counts
  5. A man sitting on the curb talking on the phone from about 15 yards away-this was another tough one, she tends to do worse with men than women

As you can see, I’m trying to be as specific as possible so that I can keep track of what is more difficult for her so that I can be prepared when those situations present themselves. So far so good. We’re even making progress with not reacting to everyone that passes by when Chomp is on the deck. Unless it’s a cat, in which case you can forget about it. I’ll do my best to keep updating the list of things she’s doing well with. Having a reactive dog is hard as hell, but seeing a positive change in her behavior feels amazing.


Petey Hits Puberty
September 5, 2011, 7:38 pm
Filed under: Training | Tags:

As you know, Petey was neutered last month. While neutering is a great thing, it unfortunately doesn’t stop the adolescent months from coming. Between the ages of 7-9 months, dogs hit their teenager phase and start testing their limits and their owners patience. They may be more active, bark more, start destroying things, or just generally being a handful. This is when a lot of those cute puppies get taken to the shelter because now they’ve grown into not so cute dogs. This is also the time when all those behaviors you let your dog do as a 15lb puppy (sleeping in your bed, jumping on you at the door, nipping your hands, etc.) become the behavioral problems you call me for. It’s amazing how many people think that dogs inherently know how to behave and will just become good dogs as they grow up. Unfortunately, a good dog is work and unless you get incredibly lucky, directly depends on your behavior as an owner.

So Petey seems to have hit the adolescence mark a tad early, and it started with chewing 2 things I really didn’t want him chewing. One was a plastic figure of Spike from The Land Before Time that I have had since I was a kid. Literally, at least 20 years. It was, fittingly, preserved in perfect condition by being buried in our childhood sandbox. When my dad dismantled the swingset last year, he found it in the sand and I took it. I loved that I still had it and that it still looked the same as the day I got it. Now it’s missing a hand and part of it’s tail. Worse, Petey took it out of the bag it was packed in, and chewed it right in front of us. Stupidly, we were distracted with one of our friends who was visiting, and we were watching Breaking Bad. I was so pissed, I didn’t even take a picture of it for you.

I did take a picture of the second thing he chewed, ironically, my camera case.


Boyfriend was quick to point out that I didn’t even like this case when I bought it, but I have no recollection of that. Or at least not a lot of recollection. Shut up. That’s not the point. The point is, I use my camera all the time, and now it’s unprotected. “Like it was for the first 2 years you had it?” I said shut up.

Petey’s other fun, new, adolescent behavior, is barking! The neighbors at boyfriend’s parents’ house have three dogs who DO NOT SHUT UP. They bark every time they see us in the backyard and they bark loudly and incessantly. I actually feel semi-bad for the owners because they can’t even sit out on their deck, because the second we come outside, their dogs lose their minds. On the other hand, I don’t feel bad, because they don’t do anything to retrain their dogs, they just put them inside. I’ve thought about leaving them my card, but I think they might be offended, and they’re not my neighbors, so I haven’t.

Anyway, Petey has decided that, since the neighbor dogs bark, he should bark back. We’ve heard him bark, maybe 5 times in his life, and that’s always at Chomper when they’re playing. Since we’ve been here, it’s all the time. I’ve been working on teaching him the command “quiet” and so far it’s going well. Although as I’m writing this, a gaggle of brats emerged from the woods and both dogs ran to the fence barking their heads off. Did I mention Chomper hates kids? Luckily, Petey is a lot of talk, he loves everyone. The brats ran back into the woods. I don’t think they saw me on the upper level of the deck, so who knows what they were plotting. Whatever it was, Captain Barks-a-Lot and the Fun Police foiled it.

Old Dogs, New Tricks
August 16, 2011, 6:52 pm
Filed under: Chomper, Training

So this month, one of my all time favorite stores, Borders, started liquidating their stock of books. I’m both happy and sad. Happy because I can buy ridiculously cheap books. Sad because I’ve spent countless hours in that store since I was in high school. However, I may have been a slight part of the problem, because I often found books there that I wanted to read, then went home and downloaded them to my Kindle.

Anyway, the first thing I did when I heard, was pick up a bunch of dog books (obviously). Now, you would not believe the ridiculousness of some of the books there. Let’s start with the one I opened up to this:

Yeah, right. In no way would this end with me getting my feet bitten off.

Now, I’d love to give you the source for this, but I can’t remember for the life of my what it is. I’m leaning toward a book by Kyra Sundance. Yes, that is her name. While clearly this means that her parents were on hard drugs, I try not to hold it against her, because she’s a great trainer. I want to say this was from her 101 Things to Do With Your Dog book. Clearly this is not something a sane person does with their dog. Also, your dog will hate this.

There were other books too. Like this:

Dog names for people who have apparently never met any dogs.

Really? A dog name book? Let me tell you something. After 10 years working with other people’s dogs, I can tell you that they are all named the same things. Bailey, Buddy, Sandy, Bella, Maggie, Max, Lucy, Daisy… Occasionally you’ll get a great, unique name. My favorite so far was Waffles. That was a cat though. Either way, if you need a dog name book, you probably shouldn’t have a dog. That being said, I highly suggest taking a look at Veterinary Pet Insurance’s craziest names list. They include such absolute winners as Sir Broccoli and Sir Oswald Wigglesworth. Then again, they also include losers like Yager Myster Baby Puppins. Because apparently someone can’t spell Jagermeister. My point is that you can pretty much name your dog anything, so why do you need a book? Also, have you heard of the internet?

This is one that I’ve sadly seen in real life. Crazy pants groomers compete in creativity challenges at grooming competitions and expos around the country doing things like this. It takes hours. The dog has to stand still, on a table, for hours. I wouldn’t want to do it, I know my dogs wouldn’t want to do it, and I can’t imagine their dogs enjoy it much either. That being said, how ridiculous is this?

This dog hates its life.

After laughing hysterically at a lot of books, including one that claimed to be able to teach your dog to talk to you with sign language (not respond to your hand signals, but tell you who was at the door by lifting his back left foot and moving it in a circle kind of sign language), I did actually end up with a few. Remember I mentioned crazy named Kyra Sundance? She’s got two great trick books. One for puppies and one for dogs. Despite the fact that they include pictures like this:


And this:

Also no.

They really are beautifully designed books with great step-by-step photos of how to teach your dog new things. She covers everything from the basic sit, stay, come, to advanced things like jump over my crotch while the blood flows to my head. I also am endlessly amused by the fact that she shows how to teach your puppy to get a soda from the fridge, then uses the same steps to teach your dog to get a beer. Because your puppy is obviously not old enough for beer. Petey and the boyfriend apparently disagree with me on this:

This beer has the word "dog" on the label. Clearly this makes it mine.

I’ve been using the books’ ideas to come up with new things to teach the dogs, and have had a lot of success. Petey now knows how to sit, lie down, stay, come, focus, shake, spin, beg, high five (while in the beg position), army crawl, put his two front paws up on something and ask for beer (thank you boyfriend). Chomper can do all of those plus target any object and turn on a push light. I’m working on play dead, roll over and be ashamed with both of them.

In addition to plain old tricks, I also purchased a kid’s play tunnel to go with my homemade weave polls and balance board/teeter/big piece of wood that i balance on one or more smaller pieces of wood. They love the tunnel and both are running throughout without hesitation. Chomper still doesn’t love the weave polls and seems to look at me like I’m asking her to put an umbrella in the dishwasher. She thinks it’s pointless and she’s only doing it because I’m giving her liver treats. Even then she’s only willing to do it once or twice before she tells me to go shove it while looking at me with disdain.

Like this.

Petey on the other hand loves the weave poles and looks like he has the makings of an agility champ. If, you know, I had the desire to put that kind of effort in to competing with my dog.

I’ve also been using the tunnel as a jump hoop while it’s folded up. They love it and Petey can jump ridiculously high for his size. I have a feeling this will manifest itself in fence jumping in the near future.

Progress in the Food Aggression Department
July 11, 2011, 7:03 pm
Filed under: Chomper, Training

Chomper not eating Petey

Chomper has issues with food. She doesn’t like other dogs anywhere near her when she’s eating her meals, or if she has a bone or treat-dispensing toy. She also doesn’t like it if there are strangers moving too quickly near any of those things. We’ve been working on it. A lot. So this picture of the two of them eating a snack out of a Busy Ball and a Kong Genius is a miracle. This lasted about 10 minutes. Then Petey finished his food and Chomper tried to eat him. It was awesome while it lasted.

Self Control