Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pupdate: Zia!

Remember when the NW team had the litter of Rat Terrier/Jack Russell Terrier pups in foster a couple of months ago? Well, here's a great update on one of the two kiddos who were with us.

Zia has kept her name and she's been pretty busy in the last 8 weeks. She's now 14 pounds, double the size from when she was with us, and is now a graduate of puppy school. Below you'll see some photos of her showing off her skillz which include: go to mat, dance, crawl, sit pretty, and a bunch more.

Zia in a rare contemplative moment
This is her mom's first ever small dog and she said it's a big change for her. Zia keeps her whole family on their toes but in spite of that they are all in love with this sweet, smart girl.

Enjoy the great photos they sent of her:

Puppy School Graduate!
Showing her dance moves
Sit pretty!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

I can't resist the cute!

Hobbs is such a sweet little guy and one of his favorite things to do is to curl up in a lap and snooze.

Last night I was working on the computer and Hobbs joined me. He was so dang cute that I had to keep stopping what I was doing to snap his latest cute pose.  Here are a few of my favorites:

I call this his Inuit pose
Wanting the camera to go away but still wondering what I'm up to
Ahhh, sweet little lovebug
Snuggle contortions
And finally, getting fed up and hoping that I'll put the dang camera down

Friday, March 29, 2013

Zuni and her BIG antler

Zuni is a puppy and puppies love to chew. While we have a wide assortment of chews just lying there in the living room for the taking, Zuni has decided that Langley's ginormous antler is her favorite. Luckily, Langley isn't super attached to it like he is his pig toys.

It's not just any old antler. This is a big old hunk of elk antler and is probably about a quarter of her body weight. Most of the photos I take make the antler look smaller than it is because it gets foreshortened but the photo above gives you an idea of what a ridiculously proportioned chew she has chosen as her own. And I just love her for that. If a chew is good then more of a chew must be better, right?


She chews it on the couch, and while she lies on my lap and under the table and on her dog bed. Pretty much any place is a good place to chew and her hunk of antler in her book.

And the rest of us - dogs and humans - love that antler too. We love it because when Zuni is focused on chewing, she's not focused on us! No running leaps over the dogs or hanging from a pant leg trying to get me to pay attention. Just a blessed chewing noise that means calm has descended and puppy mayhem is avoided for a few more minutes.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Recipe For Zuni

Zuni is a sweet and wild and crazy and too smart for her own good little dog and if there was a recipe to make a Zuni, this would be it:

2 parts sugar
2 parts piss
1 part vinegar

She'll make you want to pull your hair out but you'll be too busy laughing at her cute and crazy antics. This little gal has an overload of personality and with a special someone who is able to provide her with loving boundaries and a good quality, force-free, positive puppy training education, they are going to get one remarkable little dog. And hopefully that special someone likes to hike or run because this little girl likes to move, move, MOVE! She goes up on Petfinder soon and we're sure she'll get plenty of attention.

Here she is with an antler she stole out of Langley's crate. She was sick and tired of the little scrawny 5" one that I kept giving her and thought this one was just her size.

This antler is really heavy but she carried it around like this for quite awhile, jumping on and off couch and chairs trying to find the right spot to chew it.
Nom, nom, nom...
"Don't get any ideas, Frodo. This antler is MINE!"

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Pack's "non-rescued"

When you live in a multi-dog household it's often the dogs with the most issues that get the attention. As a foster parent, I feel like it is my responsibility to help my foster dogs learn the basics and maybe deal with a few fear issues they might have so that I can give them the strongest possible start as they move on to their new lives.

So often, my two personal dogs don't get the time and attention they deserve. While they certainly both have things they should be working on, it always seems less urgent than what the foster dogs are working on.
Frodo looking less than enthused on his walk

Frodo's always been a bit of a stressy guy and I kind of just take that for granted. But ever since Langley joined the house with his load of anxious energy, Frodo's had a rough time. While he's pretty tolerant of the foster dogs, I think that Langley has finally tipped the scales and I've been noticing that more and more Frodo's showing signs of stress. He's marking in the house, for one, which only happens when he's highly stressed. I've also noticed that his back is all roached up and he tiptoes around like he's in a Spy Vs. Spy comic or something. When he was outside yesterday I actually thought he was pooping and that was just how he was walking around the yard.

The result is I've been trying to devote a set amount of time where all the other dogs get put away and just Frodo and I hang out. I've been playing his favorite game - fetch - but I've also been working on just getting him out of the house. He's not a big fan of walks and since he's such a slim, trim guy, I stopped taking him on walks since he really didn't enjoy it.

I'm rethinking that though. Part of the problem is that he hated taking multi-dog walks and I can't blame him. I'm not fond of walking multiple dogs at once either. But Frodo really needs to get out and learn that life outside his little bubble can be enjoyable. So today I loaded my pocket with kibble, put Frodo's harness on, and off we went for a short walk.

He did pretty well and I tried to be very generous with the kibble since food=fun in Frodo's book of rules. While I can't say he'll be excited to go on a walk with me tomorrow, I don't think he was miserable and hopefully he'll start to see this as a time that just he and I can share together - no crazy puppies or dogs with boundary issues getting in his space - just him and me with my treats and poop bags, out for some fresh air and peace.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Turning Keep Away into Fetch

Zuni loves her toys. In fact she has a bad case of "MINE Syndrome".  You know, when a dog has to have a toy and doesn't want anyone to get close to it. And this actually is causing her a bit of anxiety. She'll have a toy that she wants to chew on and will jump up with it into the chair. But then she sees that I am sitting on the floor by the chair and she decides she better find another place to play with her toy, in case I decide to take it. So across the room she goes to the couch and she lays herself down on the couch, only to notice Frodo sitting on the back of the couch, looking out the window. Well that just won't do so she heads over to the dining table, and so on and so on....  At times she'll finally relax and chew on her toy, but sometimes I'll see her anxiety increasing and her hunt becomes almost frenzied.

In this photo Zuni is worried that Frodo will steal her bone and she's hunting for a safer spot to play with her toy

Because she has that fear of being punished when someone takes something from her and also because this whole thing is causing her anxiety, I decided to try teaching her a game that is the opposite of keep away: fetch!  In fetch she learns that it's pretty fun to bring a toy to someone because they will throw it for you and then you get to chase it and it's all yours again. So not only am I making letting go of something easier, she also learns that letting go of something can be fun, exciting, and very rewarding.

We started out with a toy frog she likes. I filled up my pocket with kibble from her evening meal and then started out trying to trade her kibble for the frog. At first she was having none of that and left with her frog to the other side of the room. Buuuuuut... I did have kibble just lying there in my hand for the taking so she finally came back over.

Zuni with the squeaky frog - here she was trying to ignore me and my proffered kibble because this was a REALLY awesome frog and it was HERS

At first she tried to do a quick swipe of the kibble so she could get the frog back in her mouth before I "stole" it. I took the frog and tossed it just about 12" from us. She ran and got her frog and looked back at me suspiciously and saw that I had kibble in my hand again. Back she came with her frog. It only took 2 times before she was happy to drop her frog for the chance of the kibble reinforcer. Then we ran into the problem that she no longer cared about the frog. She just wanted the kibble and when  I tossed the frog and she looked at me like "I am SOOOO over that frog. Gimme the kibble."

Then our game had to change and we began to shape our "fetch". First she got clicked and rewarded for touching the ball and coming back for a treat. Next she had to get her mouth around the ball before she got clicked. At that point we ended our game for the evening, both of us feeling happy and successful. For me, I knew we were well on our journey of teaching her that letting go of a favorite thing isn't always horrible and it won't be followed by punishment. For her, well - toys, clicks, treats and playing - what puppy isn't going to love that?!

We'll play this a few times a day - doesn't have to be a big official, scheduled, "training session" - instead it's just a few minutes of one on one playtime and that will keep her enjoying our time learning together.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Zuni: A Nut and Her Nut

It's always interesting to watch which toy(s) new fosters decide is absolutely spectacular. Soon after arriving they find the big low toy basket and start digging around. Some love them all, but some, like Zuni, find one in particular that they think is just amazing. Often it's a toy the other dogs in the house had completely forgotten existed.

For Zuni this toy is the Ruff Dawg "Wee Nut". There is something about the texture and give of this toy when chewed on that makes it a favorite of puppies. Well the night that Zuni discovered the nut she could not put it down. She was a bit worried that Frodo would try to steal it so at first she decided to lie next to Troy with it so that she could hide behind his legs if Frodo came near. Anytime Frodo or I glanced in her direction she'd hurriedly scurry behind his legs and peek out to see if we were still watching.

When she discovered that Frodo could care less about her peanut, she went to see what he was up to, nut in tow.

She knew by experience that Frodo does not "play" so she stood there and stared at him for awhile, practicing her newly learned self control. That lasted a few seconds but then she couldn't stop herself and had to try to get him to play anyhow. Frodo was not amused but I thought it was hilarious.

After she was told off by Frodo she loped around the room a few times and when Frodo and I decided to play fetch, she thought that was an incredibly fun game. She joined in the chase, not really caring about the ball but just enjoying getting to chase Frodo around without getting scolded by him. The nut never left her mouth.

Finally after a long evening of chewing and chasing, it was time for bed so off she went to her crate with it's pile of chew items: antler, bone, nylabone, squeaky gummy bear...and of course, her peanut.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

On the Road with Langley: Dealing with some surprises

Langley is full of surprises and on this trip we had some great surprises and amazing successes when we went on our outing to Blueberry Farm park.

This was our third outing and in true Langley style, it just took two trips for him to recognize a pattern to my "getting ready to go on a car trip" behavior. As soon as I opened the closet and grabbed my totebag he got very worked up and excited. The best way to deal with a dog like Langley who discovers human behavior patterns way before I ever do is to switch things up on him. I'm not especially good at this advice since I'm very much a creature of habit, so when Langley's excited barking and spinning let me know that he was getting overworked about going out, I changed it up. After packing the bag, I set it on the table, put him in his crate with a chew toy and then sat down at my laptop for about 10 minutes. In that time he settled back down and actually fell asleep. PERFECT! Now we could start our outing.

So off we went in the car and I decided to take a big chance and go through the drive through to get some coffee on my way there. Langley was crated but the crate door faced the side window so he could easily see out. To make matters worse, we get to the drive through and there's a repairperson working on a sign one shop down. Oy! I was stressing out but decided to try anyhow and would you believe it, Mr. Langsters was cool as a cucumber. Not a peep out of him, even when we pulled up and I opened the window to talk with the barista. Frodo could definitely take some lessons on coffee shop etiquette from Langley.

Off we went to Blueberry Farm Park for our second visit, curious if I'd see any change in his comfort level. I pull up and there was a dang Puget Sound Energy truck. The driver was in the cab having lunch. Again I assumed that this would get Langley worked up, even though the guy was about 20' from where we parked. Langley definitely noticed him but instead of barking, he chose to head the direction of the rotten apple tree, a much more pleasant option in his mind than barking at a strange guy. I spoiled his plans for an apple buffet and headed on past the tree down to the grassy side area. We did the occasional cues of "check-in" and "touch" to make sure Langley was still able to focus and not over threshold but he was doing great.
Tongue flicks - whether barely noticeable or even a full on lick like this - are a sign that a dog is uneasy

I'm not saying he wasn't stressed. There were lots of signs of that. His usually sleek coat had thrown up a bunch of dandruff, his movement was jerky and sudden, and he had a stress poop (forgive me in advance for having to watch the poop bag swing on camera throughout the video below. ) On top of that he was giving lots of the signals that he was worried: tongue flicking, sneezing, full on nose licks, stiff tail, pacing, shake offs, circling... While I don't want to overly stress him, I do want to push him a bit outside of his comfort zone. The trick is to not push too far. While Langley is a bit beyond where I'd like him, stress-wise, at this point that is about as calm as he gets outside of the house. So for now, I'm just making sure he's still checking in with me and able to connect and run through a couple simple cues. We also keep the outings pretty short so he isn't stressed for long.
Panting is another sign of stress as is teeth chattering. Langley chatters when he's over threshold but luckily there was no chattering on this trip.

After a walk full of sniffs and lots of birds, we headed back towards the car while things were still going well. The utilities truck had left but now there was a police officer parked even closer to us, watching for speeders. We took it really slow as we headed back to the car because Langley was pretty concerned about the car and the radio noise coming from it. He was doing great - no barking or anything. Then just as we got about 5 feet from our car the cop started his siren and took off after a speeder. I held my breath because the noise had even startled me. Langley froze, spun, and then did a shake off but no barking. He knew the jackpot prize of the tendon was in the car at this point so I think that helped him overcome the startling development of the police car.

At this point I should have gone straight home and not pushed things. He was chewing and all was well. I decided to stop at the post office though and figured the tendon would keep him distracted. The good news is that there wasn't any barking or extreme freaking out but when I got back to the car he was finished with the tendon and obviously pretty stressed. Dang! I just undid some of the accomplishments of the trip by pushing him too long. On the way home I pushed little bits of beef liver through his crate at traffic lights, and he seemed to relax pretty quickly and was almost back to his normal energy when we arrived home.

I am SOOOO proud of Langley. He had 4 novel situations that he had to adjust to: coffee drive thru, utility truck and driver, police car and siren, and finally being crated alone in the car at the post office. He was able to be resilient enough to manage all of this and still be able to do some fun tricks when we got home before he had a nap in his crate. Langley's path has been mostly baby steps for the last 10 months so when we get a big step forward like this, I am very proud of this brave guy.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Our First Barkbox Arrived!

Recently a friend on Facebook posted about this cool new thing called the "BarkBox". You subscribe to the program and then each month a box filled with treats and toys is mailed to your house. I thought this sounded like a blast for both me and the dogs so we signed up and today we got our first box.

Here's what it looked like when we opened it.
Looks like some fun stuff

There were 2 bags of treats, a poop bag dispenser/bags, a hemp squeaker bone, and a very cute felted wool mouse

But this is what the dogs really wanted - oooh! wrinkly paper strips!!!
I decided the mouse was way too cute so it got tucked in my little corner where I have all my rescue paperwork. I figure I'll enjoy him for awhile before I let the dogs tear him all to hell.
Cute little wool mouse, hiding from the terriers

As for the squeaky bone, I figured Hobbs should get to try first. We went downstairs with it, just Hobbs and me, but he was having none of it. Once again it was too much pressure and he wanted to climb in my lap instead and steer clear of the blue thing on the carpet. He got some of the new liver treats from the box instead and I took the bone back upstairs.
Hobbs is feeling way too pressured. He wants to know why I'm trying to get him to play with this. Is it a trick? Poor Hobbs.

Zuni didn't need to be asked twice about whether she wanted to play with the bone. Frodo wanted to de-squeak it but Zuni kept a game of keep away going long enough that he just gave up and lurked in the corner, waiting for her to lose intersest.
Rolling around on a dog bed, enjoying a good wrestle with the bone

If you are interested in getting a BarkBox subscription of your own you can use this link to get $5 off your subscription - plus if you use the link our foster dogs will get an extra box free! So it's a win for you and win for the foster kiddos. Thanks!
Zuni is making sure that even though she's playing, she's keeping a lookout for Frodo or anyone who might try to steal her toy

Friday, March 22, 2013

Puppies and Punishment

I was playing a game of chase with Zuni in the living room and she was having a blast, tearing around with her peanut toy in her mouth and playing keep away. She jumped up on the couch and I came up to her on hands and knees, preparing to do the "gotcha" part of the game and then have her chase me and the toy. At that moment though, I saw her body languange change. She froze for a moment, stiffened, backed into the corner and rolled on her back, mouth clamped down on her nut, not wanting to give it up but at the same she was very frightened that I was angry. I've seen this in dogs before and it breaks my heart every time it comes up.

Zuni is a typical teething puppy - everything goes into her mouth. That means it is the humans in her home's job to clean up after themselves and not leave anything within puppy reach that they don't want destroyed. For some reason though, people just don't seem to understand that these babies aren't born with a list in their brain of what they can and can't chew on. So they grab the leather shoe or a childs favorite doll and off they go for a good chew. Often a chase can ensue with the human getting more and more frustrated and the end result can be very bad behavior on the human's part.

Someone has cornered this gal and taken things from her and then punished her. Of course she had no clue why she was being punished, just that her human has inexplicably become loud and scary again.

Yelling, shaking, nose flicking, smacking, or pinning a pup to the ground is not training. It's bullying, it's detrimental, and most importantly it is just plain wrong.

In this case I waited until Zuni's body language started to relax a bit, and then I just gently stroked her belly while she held her peanut in her mouth. Eventually she relaxed and realized I wouldn't take her toy if she wanted to hang onto it. She got a massage while she chewed and then, realizing that nothing scary was going to happen, it was game on again and off she went tearing around the room with her beloved peanut.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring has Sprung: New foster puppies in the Northwest

Spring has arrived and it seems like the shelters have had an early puppy season this year. All those late winter pups who were impulse Christmas gifts are now showing up in the shelters when the parents realize that there's a lot more involved in puppy care than buying a bag of puppy food.

While some would think, "Why do puppies need to be rescued? Aren't they the most adoptable dogs in the shelter?"  You are right, these dogs are highly adoptable but there're a couple reasons they need rescue. One, the sheer number of young dogs in the shelters we work with are so high compared to the number of local adopters that there is no chance they are all going to be adopted - no matter what their age. But the second reason is that once these puppies are in with the general shelter population, it is a race against time to get them out of the building before they succumb to the diseases that are common there. Puppies have underdeveloped immune systems and when you combine that with stress, it can be a deadly mix. Once puppies become ill, even if the shelter is one that can provide medical care, it can be tough for a dog to bounce back and fight the illness in the shelter. They often end up euthanized. Don't blame the shelter though. Blame the people who bought that Christmas puppy and then dumped it when the novelty wore off.

Sorry to be such a downer here. But I do have some happy news. Recently we learned of five puppies (all from different litters, some owner surrenders and some strays) who were needing out of the shelter that we work with most often, the Central California SPCA in Fresno, California. Our foster homes were full but it's pretty easy to talk a foster parent into squeezing in an extra dog when it's a cute puppy. (I hope my foster parents forget that they just read that.) I was able to find room for 4 of the 5 pups in the Northwest foster homes and the youngest pup, a 6 week old female who was a stray, I believe, will be fostered by a foster home on the NR CA team.

Sassy little Zuni
You've already met the first pup - our sweet and sassy foster girl, Zuni. Now I'd like to introduce the other 3 young members joining the Northwest New Rattitude pack, all who will be arriving late Friday night.

First we have Dotty. She's a short, spunky gal and is about 12 weeks old. We don't yet know much of her history but do know that the shelter really marketed her, including having a volunteer photographer do some "glamour shots" and then having her be the featured dog of the week on the local news station. She also was featured on the shelter's Facebook page and while several people commented on how cute she was, no one stepped up to adopt her and so a rescue option was sought. We're sure there will be no issues finding her a home now that she's in the Northwest. She'll be fostered in Bellevue, Washington.

Next we have Inigo. This 16 week old little stray boy came into the shelter pretty road weary. We were contacted about him to see if New Rattitude was interested and it just so happens that I have a friend who is a sucker for chocolate Rat Terriers and agreed to take him. You will be able to follow Inigo's adventures in foster care on his foster mom's blog, A Day in the Life of a New Rattitude Foster Dog. He'll be fostered in Seattle, Washington.

And last but not least we have this 16 week old, chocolate tuxedo beauty, Jewell. She also got her "glamour shots" taken and was featured on the shelter's facebook page but did not end up adopted. I happened to be cruising the FB page, looking for Dotty's shelter intake number and came across Jewell. Our CA volunteer Lynn checked up on her and she was not getting interest and needed rescue as well. So we found a spot for her to be fostered and she'll be joining our foster home in Amity, Oregon.
So welcome these new kiddos quickly because I'm sure they'll be in their new homes in no time at all.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Langley and Zuni: Slow Speed Ahead

While the phrase "full speed ahead" would better describe the personalities of both Langley and Zuni, when it comes to getting the two of them able to be in the same room together, I am moving forward at a snail's pace. It's much better to move too slow than too fast when it comes to introducing dogs in my opinion. If you go too fast and an unforeseen situation or one of the dogs' anxieties causes a fight, you have the potential to permanently damage the chances of those dogs ever becoming pals, or even being able to ignore each other in the same room. While most dogs are pretty forgiving about these things, an anxious dog is hyperalert to potential danger and you don't want them to put that "danger" label on another dog in your home.

I talk about slow introductions to adopters all the time and I talk with the NW foster parents about it a lot too. I'm sure they are pretty sick of me saying all the time "don't forget, you need to do a slow intro with your pack" when I hand over their new foster dogs. I can be like a broken record. However, I have lived with the outfall of moving too fast through introductions and had disastrous results that made life pretty miserable for humans and dogs alike in our house.

So when I saw how alarmed Langley seemed by Zuni's erratic movements, and also the way Zuni reacted to Langley's standard jumping and lunging when he's worried, I knew I needed to be really careful. At this point they are never allowed out loose together. In fact I don't even have them out leashed in the same area at this point. One is crated and the other gets to be politely curious. When Zuni is the one crated it's much easier since Langley immediately relaxes when he knows she's contained. However, when Langley is crated, I watch very closely. As soon as Zuni does a couple appropriate sniffs, I throw two treats - one piece of kibble into Langley's crate and the other about 3 feet in the other direction across Zuni's line of sight so she'll tear off happily and everyone ends the interaction feeling good about things.
Langley quickly figured out that every time he glanced at the crate, I dropped a treat for him. Pretty soon he completely forgot that she freaked him out and was moving closer to the crate and constantly glancing over at her and then looking away at me. Good boy Langley!
Slowly the treat requirements increased to having to show some actual nosing at the crate and interaction with Zuni. By that point he completely forgot Zuni made him nervous and he started to show signs of wanting to play. Did I let Zuni out so they could play? NO WAY! We'll need several more sessions and him getting to the point of not showing signs of nervousness around her before they get to play together.
How long will I do this? As long as they need me to.  It's wrong to set a time table because while for some dogs it will just a few minutes, another dog might need 3 weeks. You have to watch the dog for signs that they are ready to move forward. 

After doing crate intros a great next step is going for a walk together - both dogs and 2 people. Everyone lines up so dogs are on the outside at first and not needing to touch each other or get close: dog-human-human-dog.  Once they start to be less worried about being near the other dog, you can get a little closer: dog-human-dog-human.  When they seem fine with that you can maneuver a few short "moving butt sniffs" as you walk so dog's don't feel vulnerable. Keep it short! Some dogs like Langley can go full "roto-rooter" with butt sniffs when they're nervous and then you've undone all the good will the walk has created.

Finally, when everyone's body language seems calm and relaxed (if it isn't, save this step for another walk) you can move so the dogs are walking together: human-dog-dog-human. Some dogs will be totally okay with each other at this point, but if one of the dogs is anxious, your best bet upon returning to the house is to separate them with a yummy chew as a reward for a job well done.  You may not get past step one of the walk but that's okay. Allow the dogs to choose when they are ready for the next step.

It may seem a snail's pace to you, but take it from someone who has learned the hard way, better to practice patience now and enjoy a peaceful household and relaxed dogs in the long run.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Another Outing with Langley: Blueberry Farm Park

Langely and I are continuing to work on helping him get better at managing his anxiety outside of our house. This time I decided to try to go somewhere that we would be less likely to see people or other animals so we headed over to Blueberry Farm Park. This park was a blueberry farm and orchard that was gifted to the city. Since it's just basically a grassy field with blueberry bushes, apple trees, and blackberry patches, no one really visits when the fruit isn't ripe. Before we really get into this post I have to apologize for the crazed camera work and smudged lens. Trust me, it isn't easy trying to intensely focus on an anxious dog for signs of approaching threshold while holding said dog's leash in one hand and a camera in the other.
Part of Blueberry Farm Park - Langley and I explored the edges but didn't head down the rows of bushes yet.
A fairly steady stream of traffic passes the park at all times

We started out with a puzzle again and this time he was able to concentrate a little better. But he was pretty concerned about the cars whizzing by on the road.

 I decided that rather than keep working on puzzles I'd just let him explore on leash. We walked on different textures of bumpy concrete, gravel, mud, and short and tall grass. Langley was very alert but seemed to be enjoying himself - especially when I wasn't paying attention and he found a big pile of downed apples that had been rotting away under a tree all fall and winter. He ate about three of them - the last one whole when he saw that I was probably going to take it away.

We continued our exploring for a few minutes, Langley sniffing his way with occasionally glances over to the road. While it probably doesn't look it to you, in the previous video Langley was staying pretty close to me with minimal pulling and no full body lunges for things. If you have ever seen Langley in full on hyper alert mode you would realize what a big deal this was for him. But even as well as he was doing it's really, really important in this kind of work to end on a good note. Never push a dog until he's over threshold because then you leave with him remembering that negative end part.

To see where we were at anxiety wise, I asked Langley to "check-in" which is a cue for him to stop what he's doing and just check back with me. He was able to check in, which was great but he also did a pretty long stress shake so I decided we'd head back in the direction of the car.

Back at the car, Langley had remembered this part from last time - the chewy treat! So he was ready to hop in his crate and get the prize he'd earned. I handed over the tendon for a job well done and we headed towards home.

So during our outing he was pretty anxious - lots of pacing spinning, shaking etc., but all along he was able to check in with me. I let him take the park at his pace and go where he wanted to sniff (except the middle of the 3 food diameter rotten apple pile). The trip became more about letting Langley take the lead and make some choices of where and what he felt comfortable doing, rather than me having an agenda of what puzzles we'd play with and what tricks I wanted him to be able to cue to. Much more successful than our last trip and I think we'll visit the park again soon.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Frodo, the Puppy Professor

Zuni is everything that makes a terrier puppy great. She's goofy, wild, sassy, loving, a bit crazy and always cute to the nth degree. This combination is also the reason she and so many other terrier pups end up in the shelter. Not that she's done anything wrong. No, she's just being what she was born to be: an overdose of smart and sassy. The problem is the humans. They see these little spotted chub balls of cuteness and develop a bad case of puppy fever. Once they give in to the cuteness they can rarely think ahead to how 5 pounds of sweetness is about to turn their entire lives upside down - at least for 2 years, but lets be honest we are talking terriers and sometimes they don't grow out of their puppy wildness till they hit 10-12 years old!

Let me tell you that cuteness can wear out very quickly and the worst part is a lot of times these dogs seem to be smarter than their new owners. They push boundaries and learn their humans' every weakness and without some calm, loving leadership on the human's part it is very often a recipe for disaster.  That's how you end up with a Zuni - this bundle of sweetness who has likely been smacked around by a frustrated male and has learned to bite to avoid a man who reaches for her without her first showing she wants to approach him.

While I do my best as a foster parent to repair the mistakes that well meaning and not so well meaning humans do to mess up these little ones, I have found that nothing teaches a wild puppy manners quicker than an adult dog. At our house the best puppy teachers are my personal dogs. While old girl Tilly can handle the mildly rude puppies, for one as energetic and ignorant of doggy good manners as Zuni is, I let Frodo the Puppy Professor take them on.
Frodo the fun police: supervising past foster pups, Astro and Nova

Frodo is very conflicted about puppies. On one hand he detests them because they are pushy and rude.  But on the other hand, when a puppy is in the house that means that there's a lot more training happening and that means the treats start flowing. Frodo will never leave the room while there's a chance that food is going to be handed out. This means that when puppies are out having their supervised play time, Frodo is supervising right there with me (aka snagging their treats).
Zuni attempting to get Frodo to play with her: she starts by respectfully licking his mouth but that can quickly turn into excited muzzle punches

While I'm not an advocate of people just letting their puppy drive all the adult dogs of the house crazy with their rudeness, I do feel it's necessary for the adults to deal with small doses of puppies if they can handle it. Frodo has learned that if he makes it through one of these 5 minute teaching sessions there's a large delicious, chewy animal part in it for him so he has learned to stoically endure them.
Frodo giving Zuni the appropriate "I SAID I don't want to play" signals. Note how Zuni's body is pulling back in surprise? Also notice that Frodo is looking away. He's not preparing to attack or anything, just letting her know she needs to back off by showing his teeth. This time he didn't even have to make a sound.

Zuni, taking the message and backing away for a bit but still pretty interested in Frodo, who she just adores, much to Frodo's dismay
As rude as Zuni was when she arrived, man has Frodo taught her quickly what is expected of her. That doesn't mean she doesn't regularly go back for more and get multiple corrections from Frodo, but the length of time she can respect his wishes and just adore him from afar is lengthening. Yesterday nothing stopped her from coming back for more - not his showing teeth, snarling, or pinning. But today I watched once after a correction and she scooted back, laid down and watched him for about 5 seconds and then tore off looking for a toy. She left him alone for over a minute after that and this is becoming the norm. What a great teacher Frodo is! Below you can see a video of one of their interactions. BTW - this is Frodo's favorite spot to survey the room from - comfy, but ready to spring from the couch should a treat get dropped somewhere in the room.
Now check out this video. Watch how badly Zuni wants to bug Frodo but she knows she needs to leave him alone so keeps checking herself and backing away to do something else. The best example starts at 23 seconds.  Good girl, Zuni! Looks like Frodo is doing a great job at teaching Zuni some early impulse control lessons. 

Not all adult dogs can handle the bad manners of puppies though. Langley gets overwhelmed and feels under attack and he can lash out so he and puppy get the "crate and rotate" routine. Tilly can handle the pups but does show signs of stress and anxiety when they don't listen to her corrections and I don't want her to have to deal with that. Hobbs also gets anxious around her but I had to high five him for the awesome full speed, rolling, wrestling pin that he gave her outside when she ran into him. It was like some awesome Judo move that ended up with her on her back looking into his snarling face and wondering what just happened. After that experience I decided that when Zuni is on the loose, Hobbs get to hang out in a Zuni-free area. He is structurally a bit fragile due to his former injuries and he doesn't need 7 pounds of puppy running into him full speed.

For those of you who feel sorry for Frodo, let me assure you that no Frodo's were harmed during the making of this post. After 5 minutes with Zuni, he was allowed to retire upstairs (sans puppy) with a bison scapula and we didn't hear from him again until he heard me setting out dog bowls at dinner time.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

House Squatting with Hobbs

Not that kind of squatting!

Sometimes Hobbs and Tilly hang out in the kitchen together so we keep an extra bed in there for such occasions. Tilly has to have really tough beds made out of upholstery fabric because she loves to chew on sherpa and she is one of those dogs who feels the need to dig a spot for herself before she lies down. It took a lot of experimenting and many a shredded bed to find the shapes and materials that work for the old gal.

I was pretty excited a couple of weeks ago when after talking to a distributor's rep about tough beds, I discovered this Pet Cave bed. It's made of upholstery  material and soy based foam and can hold up to Tilly's nesting habits. She loves the fact that it's a little cave and she can hide out in her den and survery her domain.

Hobbs enjoying Tilly's cave
Well, Hobbs thinks the bed is pretty spectacular as well so when Tilly is busy cruising along the cabinets, looking for dropped food or a cabinet door that's slightly ajar he will hop in the cave and enjoy it for awhile. And if he's lucky, when she notices he's in her bed she'll just go use the other one. This happens about 50% of the time and the other times she grouches at him until he hops out.  This day Hobbs was lucky. Looks pretty comfy, huh? Later Tilly did reclaim her bed, but that's okay. Hobbs found a better spot to snooze later that evening as you can see in the video below.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rescue Railroad Stopped Here Last Night

It's that time again. The Northwest New Rattitude team had 2 foster dogs arrive last night. You've already heard about our girl Zuni who is a  busy little thing who will hopefully like Langley and be willing to do some wrestling with him. One thing we've learned is that Zuni does bite - she has a fear of men and her temp foster mom has said that she's pretty sure that someone has punished her for her puppy behavior. It's so very sad when a dog this young has been taught that biting is the only way they will be listened to. Not to worry though, I've worked with this issue many times before and we will start work right away to help her learn that guys are not so bad. She's a wild little thing, full of energy, and is true puppy form she's been told off by every dog in the pack so far except Langley, and that's just because they haven't been introduced yet.


The 2nd girl who has joined New Rattitude is Percy. Percy is about 4 years old and we are told she's a petite 8 or 9 pounds. She's much too sophisticated to be goofy or tear around with puppies. This gal prefers a home where she'll be undisturbed by wild and crazy dogs or young kids but she can't wait to find some people of her own to snuggle with. She's being fostered in Bellevue, Washington where she has plenty of pals to hang out with.


Friday, March 15, 2013

On the road with Langley

I am very much a home-body. I love hanging out with my dogs, putzing around the house, doing my rescue work, etc. So while Langley's been with us, most of the work we have done is all at home, in our yard, or on walks in the neighborhood.

Dogs need more than that though. The more they are exposed to, the more resilient they are to life in general and goodness knows, Langley could use some resiliency. He's such a good boy but it doesn't take much to get him to completely lose his focus due to anxiety.

So on Thursday, off we went to Langley's vet to do some practicing in the parking lot. The office is located at the back of an office building in Northeast Tacoma, Browns Point Vet Clinic, and because of the location it's pretty calm back there with very few cars coming and going. The one distraction we didn't think of were seagulls. Since the office is just about a block from the Puget Sound there were plenty of gulls flying over head and you know how Langley is about birds...

My goal was to keep Langley under threshold. That's dog speak for keeping his anxiety under control to the point that he can focus on things other than his anxiety, like toys, treats, and most importantly, me.

First we started out in the parking lot with kibble in the Green.  At first this was an exciting game but then a lady with a cat carrier came out and after that, it took beef liver to hold his attention.

Next we tried a Nina Ottosson puzzle called The Brick. Mind you, this is a puzzle that Langley knows well and typically is pretty systematic in getting each and every piece of kibble out of it. You can see in the video that having to think through this puzzle was pretty tough for him with all the distractions but he did manage to do part of it.

Interspersed with the toys we did some sit, down and spin cues. Again, Langley was able to focus for the most part but it was definitely a challenge. 

At this point I should have probably packed it up and called the day a success but I decided I wanted to see if he could handle doing the puzzles or green next to the front door of the vet. It was slow and there were no animals inside so he managed pretty well but I had to bring out the big guns and use full size hunks of beef liver instead of kibble for treats. That did the trick. It was definitely a lot tougher for him to focus on me even with a huge hunk of liver in my hands, but he was somewhat able to focus so I decided not to push it any further and on a good note I took him back to the car and gave him a hunk of freeze dried tendon in his crate. Chewing is a great way for dogs to relieve stress so ending a desensitization exercise like this with a yummy chew is a wonderful way to finish up the session. It's a high end reward for a job well done and the same time a great way for dogs to self soothe.

When we got home Langley and I were exhausted so he had some crate time and I went downstairs to curl up on the couch with 2 dog warmers (aka Hobbs and Frodo) and a blanket and get some computer work done. From start to finish, including the drive, it took less than 30 minutes but because both of us were having to focus so intensely it was pretty mentally tiring.
Langley, settling in for a little crate time

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Arriving Soon: Zuni!

Sometimes people make me crazy and the pure stupidity of some folks can be amazing. Well Zuni's story is one of those that makes you shake your head and wonder how the human race has avoided extinction.

Zuni is young - 3 to 4 months - and like all pups her age she has needle sharp teeth. Anyone who has had a young pup in their home can attest to the fact that it's pretty normal to have little scabs all over your hands thanks to getting snagged by puppy. Add to that fact that they are teething and want to chew and mouth anything that is in their path and you know that at some point a body part is gonna get punctured. Well Zuni's former person had never had a puppy before and they labeled her, a very mouthy and active little gal, as being a biter. She had snagged the person during rough play, causing a puncture wound. Because of this they brought her to the shelter as a biter. You might not know this but labeling a dog at a shelter as a biter can be a death sentence.

Zuni, the "vicious" puppy

The shelter employees played with her and evaluated her and found that what the person was calling "aggression" was just active terrier pup play and the biting was a mouthy, teething puppy who needed redirection onto toys. However, now she had a bite history so she was available to rescue only. Not many rescuers look at biters (me included) but after hearing her story, I said I'd be happy to foster her.

So I'm not saying there's absolutely no way she has a biting problem, but I find it highly unlikely and I trust these shelter employees since our Northwest team pulls over 1/2 of our fosters dogs from this Fresno shelter so we work with them a lot.  Stay tuned to hear more about little Zuni as we get to know her and the habits of her mouth...

Zuni is named for a well known New Mexican pueblo people that have existed as a farming culture in their present location of NW New Mexico for about 4,000 years. Their existence as a culture in the region is much older though and their unique language is 7,000 years old. It's the largest of the New Mexican pueblos with about 10,000 tribal members and is also considered the most traditional. Artistically they are known for their master silversmiths' jewelry making skills (an art form thought to be adopted through the Navajo), their pottery and their fetish carvings.  Religious beliefs are centered on the three most powerful of their deities: Earth Mother, Sun Father, and Moonlight-Giving Mother, as well as  other kachinas.

The Zuni history is fascinating and Wikipedia has a good overview if you are interested in learning more. Their tourism Website has some great info about the modern peublo as well as the history of the region, geological and historical landmarks, and their famous artistry. We were lucky enough to attend a dance showcase in Gallup, New Mexico and below are some photos of the Zuni dancers.
White Buffalo Dance
A harvest dance
Turkey Dance