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Posts Tagged ‘dog training’

Jasper recently graduated from Intermediate dog training and they like to make a big fuss of it, kind of like kids graduating from kindergarten. They hand out graduation hats and line us up for photographs. Fortunately, Maya came with me and could help with photos, because who can resist this silliness? (Well, Jasper, for one, definately resisted.)

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Success!

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In this episode: kid health, dog obedience and fat loss –

Maya is pretty much healed now, and stuffing everything not nailed down into her face to make up for those few days she could not eat properly. We now have an appointment at an orthodontist for the next step: braces. Ugh.

Asher doesn’t have an appointment with the tummy guy until March, but I’m rattling cages and trying to get it earlier. Meanwhile, he continues to eat normally and I continue to wince inwardly and resist the urge to web surf for answers I can only actually get from the doctor.

My mission to stop Jasper from becoming an annoying and humpy dog at the park is actually coming along very well. He still tries it when he first encounters one of his favourite dogs, but pretty much all I have to do is yell: “I’m watching you, so don’t even try it!” and he stops. If he starts in again, I leash him and that really calms him down.

Yesterday, I walked with another woman who has a doodle the same age, and the two of them acted like very badly behaved teenage boys. Every time they encountered a dog smaller or younger than them, they’d charge the poor thing. The other dog would sit on it and Jasper would yank ears and tails. Usually calling them off would do it, but once they ran ahead to a young Golden and were really knocking the poor thing around in their exuberance, and would not listen to orders to leave him. So I managed to get in front of Jasper and yelled, “Jasper, STOP!” at which he came to a screaming halt and lowered his head in that ashamed doggy way.

I find that lately he’s taken another cognitive leap with me and understands a great deal of what I want from him. For example, when we walk around the neighbourhood, I don’t leash him and there is one spot where we walk on the sidewalk on a busy road to cross at a certain spot for the park. He normally walks right behind me then, but a couple of times he’s jumped the gun and start to cross early. The first time, I was so surprised I said, “Hey! Get back here!” and to my amazement, he did. He does not understand the words “hey get back here” but he understood my intent. And while he will roam into the road on the side streets, when he sees a car coming, he now goes straight to the side and stays still until it passes (because I make him wait whenever a car goes past.)

See – the smartest dog ever.

As for Weight Watchers, so far so good. I lost 4.5 lbs the first week and I know I’m down a bit more so far this week. Thanks to all the dog walking, I get enough points that I don’t feel particularly deprived (so far). But I am aware that I am still in the weight loss honeymoon period and the difficult stuff is yet to come.

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I have a cold. This is Asher’s fault. He is fine now. Boo has it too, which she was clearly hoping for. From the moment Asher got sick and therefore started getting preferential sick-person treatment, she would cough weakly now and then and say, “I think I’m sick. Do I have a fever?”

Boo is obsessed with fevers and wants to take her temperature at the slightest sniffle or stomach ache. I told her that normally colds don’t come with fevers and she was shocked. “You mean, you can be sick without having a fever?” This opens up a whole new world.

The funny thing about her thermometer fetish (which Asher shares) is that J and I are firm non-believers in thermometers. We have two – a digital one and an old-fashioned mercury one which we’ve had for many years. When Maya was born, we took her in to our doctor for her 2-week checkup and asked if being good parents required buying one of those fancy ear-thermometers that had just hit the market.

Her response was an unqualified no. She told us that her opinion, as a mom of three, was that thermometers are largely useless. “Taking the baby’s temperature is just something to do to give you a few moments to try to figure out what to do when you already know something is wrong,” she told us.

We quickly figured out she was right. If a kid was hot, but cheerfully running around dripping snot on everything, we didn’t worry. If the same fever came with lethargy and no appetite, we were off to the doctor.

The only time I ever really need a thermometer is when I am sick, so I can prove it to J, who never believes me.

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Despite feeling like my head is wrapped in thick cotton, I am off to Jasper’s last class of intermediate doggy training. I’ll remember to bring a camera this time, to get a photo of him with his little hat on. They go nuts with the whole ‘graduation’ notion.

He now knows how to heel, but doesn’t much like it, and to stand, wait, go lie on his blanket on command (that one still needs a lot of work) and touch a ball and a rope on command. He can discern between the two, which is a good parlor trick. Even better is that no matter what I pick up, if I hold it in my hand and tell Jasper to touch it -“Jasper, touch hairbrush” – he will reach out and touch whatever I am holding, which makes him look brilliant like he knows all these words.

It reminds me of when Maya was about 14 months old and learned the colour yellow. We’d hold stuff up and say, “Maya, what colour is this?” and she’d yelled delightedly, “Lellow!” This looked brilliant unless you help up something blue, because she’d still yell “Lellow!”

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My lovely doggy is being a bad boy. It started a couple of months ago, when I started walking with a nice woman and her nice Golden/Newfie mix, Max. We would find ourselves at the dog park at the same time a lot, and the dogs are both only a year old, so all seemed good. Only Jasper developed a obsession with Max. He is madly in love with Max.

Whenever we meet up, Jasper starts pulling on Max’s ears and biting his butt. He even has tried nipping at Max’s heels. Incessantly – in a desperate bid to get Max to play with him. (Jasper loves nothing more than to be chased, and indicates this with bum-biting.) But worst, he humps poor Max as often as he can. Since Max has problems with one back leg, that is bad. And just generally annoying. The humping really kicks in if Max dares to pay attention to any other dogs, as though Jasper is trying to make it clear that Max is his and his alone.

We hadn’t run into Max and his mom for a little over a month, and then when we were at the dog park on Saturday, in this huge field with at least 100 other dogs. Jasper suddenly darted away from me through the crowd and, sure enough, he’d spotted Max.

I was putting up with it – we’d joke about Jasper’s stalker behaviour – but then I walked with a former teacher of Maya’s, who happens to have an aged Golden. The Golden didn’t feel like running after Jasper, who responded by becoming utterly annoying and tormenting the poor old guy, pulling and biting at him, and then he started with the stupid humping. The Golden and his mommy were less than amused.

I realized his annoying behaviour is getting worse and I don’t want one of those dogs that everyone else at the park talks about – “Can you believe she lets him do that?” So today when we ran into Max, the moment Jasper started being annoying, I grabbed him and put him back on his leash, forcing him to walk close to me for a bit. Then I let him off and he went straight for Max again. Back on the leash. Repeat.

Teaching him to distinguish between his ball and his rope, then touch the correct one on command is far more fun, I have to say. And way cuter.

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Guess where I was at that time last night? I was walking through a huge park near here. A year ago, if you’d told me I’d be having a nice stroll through the park in the middle of the night in winter, I’d have thought you were completely bananas. But Jasper and I didn’t get our walk yesterday and he started begging. He makes his wishes very clear.

So off we went. I got the coolest things for the bottom of my boots. They make it very easy to walk on ice, so I can stomp confidently over anything.

The reason I wanted to go to the park was so that Jasper could run around off-leash. Of course, the by-law says he’s not allowed in the park at all, but I figured there wouldn’t be too many by-law officers hanging around at that time in winter. It did occur to me that, being a woman, walking in a deserted park late at night might not be considered to be a particularly smart move, but I figured I had the dog as apparent security (I call it apparent, because if anyone appeared remotely threatening, Jasper would come and hide behind my legs). Also, I have these impressive metal studs on my boots, and since Jasper was off-leash, I had his leash in my hands – a nice flexible rope with a big metal clip on the end of it. I was quite willing to whack anyone who bothered me. As it was, I saw no one.

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I’ve been watching the first season of The Dog Whisperer. I think Cesar Millan is cool, although it isn’t necessarily the way I’d do things. I’ve watched a lot of shows made by another dog guru called Stanley Coren, who was dealing with doggy psychology when Cesar was in diapers. His show did exactly the same thing – help people deal with messed up dogs. Naturally, they face some very similar problems and deal with them in completely opposite manners.

For example, if you take a dog who fears something irrationally, like the noise of a vacuum cleaner, Cesar would turn it on and force the dog to stay in the room, then make the dog get closer and closer, himself staying completely calm, until the dog realizes there is nothing to fear and relaxes. By not reassuring the dog and remaining completely calm, he helps the dog calm down. It works, and fast.

Stanley would take a different tact, putting the dog near the quiet vacuum and rewarding the dog with treats until its calm, then turning it on from a distance and repeating the process, ramping it up until the problem is solved. His method is to take away the negative association and replace it with a positive one. It takes a little longer and also works.

They are both firm on the idea that you have to make the dog realize you are the boss – the pack leader – by requiring the dog work for everything you give him. For example, Jasper doesn’t get dinner until he does something we demand, usually sit and wait until we give him the okay. This keeps them understanding that they have to listen to you and prevents them from developing anxious behaviours that result from thinking they have to be the boss.

Cesar and, to some extent Stanley, also believe that when you walk your dog, it should be slightly behind you with its head at your side, because the pack leader goes first. I don’t enforce that, letting Jasper wander all over. But I’ve noticed lately that when Jasper is uncertain about the situation, like when we are walking along a busy street, he naturally falls back and lets me walk just ahead of him.

Another advantage of a submissive dog is that you can dress him like an idiot and get away with it.

New Year’s eve, 12:30 am:

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and kitty badness.

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Doesn’t she look sweet? She is, mostly. She loves to cuddle up and smush her face into my hair. She likes to crawl under the blanket with me and snuggle under there on my chest.

She also loves to chew on string, cords, anything long and skinny. She’s chewed cords off blinds, neatly snipped apart my yarn as I’m knitting more times then I can count, and no necklace cord is safe. But she reached new heights of destruction today by efficiently scissoring right through the earbud cord for Maya’s new iPod. She didn’t even show the kindness of just hacking off one earbud so we could at least listen in one ear until we get new earphones.. Nope, she severed it right at the jack. Little shit.

I’d just discovered the world of podcasts, too, and had been working my way though the Savage Love archive, amusing myself listening to Dan call people up and talk them into dumping their boyfriends or coming out of the closet that minute.

On the other hand, Snowpuppy is being just delicious. He has lost none of his love of the snow and still likes to bury his whole face into it, then burst out and run madly around. I haven’t got any really good pictures yet, but I did take this one after he’d hung out for a while outside during the last snowstorm:

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He’s so freaking cute to watch that I have taken to letting him off leash more often as we walk around the block, because I like to see him bounce around on people’s lawns. He’s getting very good at staying on the last few feet of them, and while he does pop out onto the road occasionally, he does obey, “Side” and come back when I order.

I have to say, this whole dog-training thing paid off in a big way last night, beyond ensuring he doesn’t eat my dinner when I get up and the unbearable cuteness of seeing him poke a ball with his nose when I tell him to “touch ball.” When he lingers at some interesting smell too long, I just walk ahead because he can’t bear to let me get too far away from me and will come galloping after me in no time. Last night, though, in his snowy joy he galloped right past me just as we were reaching a turn in the road. Coming from the other direction was a car, also turning. In the dark, there was no way the driver could see Jasper racing down the road and in his exuberance, Jasper hadn’t noticed the car, either.

I saw in a flash that car and dog were on a collision course and instinctively yelled out, “Jasper, WAIT!” as he hit the edge of the road ahead of me (I have trained him to wait at the edge of the road, or anywhere ahead of me when I tell him to until I release him). I was hugely gratified and relieved when he skidded to the quickest stop I’ve ever seen, and then even came trotting back to ask what was up.

Disaster averted! Thanks to all that training work. Of course, someone sane might argue that it also would have been averted had I not been so stupid as to let him run around in the dark off-leash, but we won’t go there now, okay?

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I found my camera, but still don’t have any pictures of snow-puppy. I do have pictures from Boo’s birthday party, now a couple months old. But here are a couple anyway:

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She wanted a gymnastics party, because as far as she is concerned, if you can’t climb it, jump on it or jump off it, it is no fun. For those people who are deluded into thinking that at least girls are calmer than boys and don’t treat the house like a jungle gym, I invite you over to my house to witness Boo do things like leap from the top of the bunk bed like a spider monkey to the floor. Or worse, to the rocking chair.

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Here are several of the kids waiting for their turns. The tall boy in the white shirt is Boo’s boyfriend. Isn’t he cute? Well, actually, turns out he’s one of her boyfriends. The little guy behind him is the other one. Too bad you can’t see him better, because he’s cute too.

We discovered this the other day when Boo announced, “I have a boyfriend and D has a girlfriend!” Odd way to put it, but we’ll play along. “Who are they?” Maya asked. “Well, I’m D’s girlfriend and C is my boyfriend.” We pointed out that it sounded like she has two boyfriends and she was just delighted with that notion. I’m going to have to watch that one closely.

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Someone just found my site by googling “what judaism means to me.” I find this odd. It doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing the internet is going to tell you. Speaking of, we took the whole family to synagogue this Saturday and plan to continue. We fell out of the habit at our old shul because there was nothing to keep the kids engaged, making the whole experience increasingly unpleasant. We are back on the wagon, though.

Asher threw a huge fit because services bore him silly. In truth, I sympathize completely. Just sitting and not being allowed to doodle, or knit or read something else at the same time is difficult for me as well. He solved his problem by refusing to enter the sanctuary, wandering around the rest of the building until he found a friend. I solved the problem by reading the Torah (and commentary) in great detail. It was actually quite nice. I think we all enjoyed the experience more than we expected to, which is good, because we are determined to make this a regular activity.

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Jasper has started intermediate training at Petsmart, where he did the beginner class. Same instructor too. She is great. He’s learning to stay longer, wait (which is different than stay), and heel. Heel is the one I just couldn’t quite figure out on my own. I did have a go at it now and then, and something must have sunk in, because he got it the moment I tried and while other dogs are making it 4 or 5 steps down the aisle before bolting, Jasper makes it up one aisle and down the other. Of course, it helps that he is brilliant.

Our latest move is teaching the dog to ‘touch.’ “Touch ball” is this week’s command. Every time Jasper pokes the ball with his nose or paws at it, he gets a treat. At first, he found me waving the ball in his face very annoying and tried to bite it. But he soon clued to. The instructor has great plans for ‘touch,’ like teaching the dog to turn off lights or pick up their own toys and put them away (I asked if I could bring my kids to the next class, so she could teach them that trick too).

This class is smaller than the beginner, not surprisingly. There are only 4 other dogs. One is a tiny little poodle, which I find odd. Most dogs in training classes are large, I guess because most people aren’t concerned about being able to control something that weighs only 7 lbs.

Last class, we went out into the store to work on something – the instructor likes the distractions – and as we exited the training room we passed a girl about 20 years old. When she spotted Jasper, she yelled, “Wow!” Then she followed us. She watched the training session, commenting repeatedly on how beautiful my dog was and how much she loved him. As we headed back to the room, she told me in a voice of complete sincerity, “I just love your dog so much that if I could, I’d steal him.”

I was glad to be going into the training room and away from the crazy dog stalker, but she followed us in! She sat beside Jasper and kept trying to pat him, but he was having none of it. I don’t know if he independently decided she was nuts, or if he was picking up vibes from me. When the class ended, I confess bolted ahead of the others, leaving the stalker trapped behind the other dogs going out the door, and then quickly left the store, double-checking that no one had followed me from the parking lot when I left.

There’s the down side to having the most marvelous dog in the world.

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