Friday, May 31, 2013

Not just another pretty face

Consider this a warning: I am about to post a rant here. Read through the rant first and then read the stories attached to the photos about foster dogs who have a happy future because they ended up in homes that were a good fit for them. The exception are the photos of Salinas and Langley - dogs who are still looking for that good fit but in the meantime are busy learning new skills in foster care to help them be more comfortable in the human world.

I have this weird impossible little fantasy. It's a world where all the puppies of terrier breeds - in fact all working breeds of dogs - gave birth to hideously ugly puppies. Because then people who bought/adopted those puppies might actually think about what life with an active, intelligent dog will be like. Puppy blindness is so common and invariably the people most susceptible to it are the ones least able to actually provide what a dog needs be successful living with humans.

Salinas is still looking for her "good fit".  She's a great girl but has some anxiety issues  and will  need a family  with some skills (or interest in learning those skills) in working to help her gain confidence.

But terrier puppies are not ugly. They are almost illegally adorable and so the shelters fill up with all the 1+ year old dogs whose humans have failed them and then ultimately blamed the dog for behaviors that are a result of the human's failure. A dog is not just a pretty face - they have a personality, likes and dislikes, fears and possibly phobias, a certain energy level... They are an individual, just like you are an individual and when you add a dog to your family, be sure to keep that in mind.

Kiwi was transferred to me because she was terrorizing the Italian Greyhounds in her first foster home. She was a high energy, bossy little bundle of cuteness who wouldn't take no for an answer from other dogs. She also had a seizure disorder. Her new family had an active and playful beagle who was twice her size and able to keep up with her and push back when she was being rude. He also had a seizure disorder and her new family loves her energy and isn't at all fazed by her need of medication to control her seizures.

So as responsible rescuers hoping to change the path a dog's life has taken for the better, we take these undersocialized or hyper or anxious or pushy or snappy or (insert label here) dogs. We start to work on modifying their behaviors so that they are happier dogs who feel more in control of themselves and better understand what's expected of a "family dog."

Salish was a big, young girl who loved to play rough and could run like the wind.  Her  adopters were newly retired and live in a very remote part of Eastern WA near the shores of Lake Roosevelt. She gets plenty of exercise hiking with her dad and walking the beach with her mom. She also has a big furry brother to wrestle with. This is a case where her energy and need to run could have led to a disaster in a home that didn't exercise much.

Here's where it gets frustrating. People go to Petfinder or Adoptapet or even Facebook and they see an adorable photo of one of our cute foster dogs and they can't see anything past the cute. You talk with them about a special needs dog and the type of training you're working on and what kind of environment they tend to struggle in but nothing is heard. They nod their head and say that's fine - no, they won't be upset if the dog submissive urinates or if the dog initially snarls at their guests when they visit.

Neah was one of those dogs who watched her world very carefully before she engaged. with people.  But when she did decide you were okay, then watch out! She was goofy and playful and busy and smart. She found some great parents who let her be herself while she was first getting to know them. Now they take her hiking, boating, walking and for playtime with her brother Atticus (pictured above.) They gave her time and she gave them her fabulous wonderful amazing self.

You see, they have a story all set in their mind where they adopt this dog and a happily ever after occurs and everyone walks off into the sunset. But that's not what happens. Because dogs are living, breathing individuals and building a relationship and learning to live with another living, breathing individual takes time and effort. It is not instant and it is not necessarily easy. Love does not conquer all. Dedication and effort - that is what makes a relationship successful. Love helps but it won't get you to the finish line.

Quinault was the epitomy of the gorgeous terrier puppy. This blue tuxedo coat , tricolor puppy  was athletic, wild, and smart as they come. He needed someone who would keep his brain and his body exercised. He now lives in a beautiful rural part of British Columbia where he does everything with his family - attends soccer games, canoes, hikes, goes to work, and is allowed to be his best - an intelligent athlete with lots of love to spread around.

If anyone tells you that all rescue dogs are behaviorally fine they are lying to you. Now, a lot of them have absolutely no issues, or they have behaviors that just need a good basic positive training class to iron out the wrinkles. But I'm here to tell you many of these dogs have been dumped because the person who had them before couldn't deal with some of the behaviors the dog has developed. That behavior could be something as benign as sleeping on the couch or as huge as separation anxiety that is so severe that they tear apart a house. Some behaviors can be modified, but some are deeply ingrained and take tons of time and patience and training of the human to work through.

Chutney aka The Chut-butt was about as bossy a little terrier-chi mix as they come and he loved to trash talk as he played. He was loud and proud and needed a family who could handle that. Not only could his family handle his bossy little loudmouth, trash talking self, it is one of the things they love best about him. He is cherished for the very quality that likely was the reason he ended up in a shelter. Now he enjoys hiking with his parents and keeping their two large German Shorthaired Pointers in line.

Now here's what is awesome about a responsible rescue like New Rattitude and probably a little annoying to some adopters as well. We took that dog out of a shelter where it might die, we met them where they were at, and we now live with them in our home. We know these dogs. We know what they can handle and what is so terrifying to them that they cower in a corner. We know their bathroom habits, how often they vocalize and what that vocalizing sounds like. We know how they sleep at night (or don't sleep) and their style of play and what type dogs enjoy them and what type of dogs tend to be bothered by them. We know if they will cuddle with your cat or eat it. And if we don't know, we'll tell you that we don't know. Ask us questions and you will get answers about what life is like with a particular dog.

Kasha wanted very little from life: a steady supply of food and a lap available to her at all times. She didn't want to have to play with other dogs or work her brain or hike long distances. Her moms give her just that and understand that while she's not perfect she doesn't have to be. She's an incredible dog just for being herself.

So if you apply for a dog with significant fear issues and you have a baby and a toddler and a yellow lab and a parrot and a full time job and I as the foster parent say - "this is not going to be a happy fit for either of you" - I am not trying to be mean. I am not judging you for having 3 kids or having lots of pets or working long hours or whatever else may be the case. I am just telling you what I know my foster dog can handle and letting you know that they can't handle your lifestyle.

And who can forget Mr. Langley.  This guy is going to need someone who is patient and flexible and who has the time to really focus on him and help him work on his anxiety issues and manage his compulsions.  He will repay their efforts with amazing devotion and a goofiness that will never leave them wanting for laughs.

I've had people get really angry when I told them I didn't think that they and a specific dog where a good match for each other. They say things like "but these are rescue dogs! They need a home!" And they do need a home. But they need a home where they can be successful. A home that will be the last one they ever have to get used to.

Zuni was an active adorable Jack Russell/Rat Terrier mix puppy who had a fear of men and  because she was obviously punished for  her puppy behavior, had learned to bite to get out of scary situations. She's the stereotype of the cute puppy who brings in landslides of applications that really shouldn't have a young puppy. Her adoptive family has a Jack Russell so are used to smart energetic dogs. They were understanding of her fears and the biting and really spent time learning ways to help her work on things using positive reinforcement.  They also set things up so that while she was young she could get mid day breaks on work days since an 8 hour day is a long time for an active pup to hang out in a crate.

I've had dogs returned before - some for really stupid reasons, but some because I didn't follow my gut and I let the applicant sway me. In those cases when I didn't follow my gut, it's been a really awful experience for all involved. The adopters are heartbroken because no matter what training they get or what they do, the dog just seems miserable with them. And the reason the dog is miserable is that their personality doesn't fit the lifestyle of the adopter. If you take an anxious dog and put them in a loud and bustling household they are going to be miserable. Likewise, if you put an active, smart dog who needs lots of exercise and brain work in a house where the owners work 10 hour days and then come home and have dinner and watch some TV, things will not go well.

Hobbs is about as sweet as they come, but he was pretty shy and underconfident and needed a family who wouldn't let him fade into the background and end up ignored. He joined a former NR dog in a great home that adores his sweet self and lets him have the time and attention to shine. He has relaxed and has become a goofy boy who loves to play.

So again - this is not about being mean and judging a person. This about me having done this whole adoption thing over and over and over for many years and learning (sometimes the hard way) what type of home the different personalities of dogs do well in. This is about me wanting a dog that I have put time and energy into and that I really care about to have the best chance at a happy ending and not having to go through the upheaval of once again being re-homed. I want that dog to have a true "happily ever after" and that means the personality and activity level, and emotional state of dog and human need to mesh.

I guess I should end this with a disclaimer. New Rattitude is a great rescue. It's important to us that our foster parents tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth about their foster dogs to potential adopters. But I've worked with groups who are not this upfront so you need to be really careful to know who you are working with. Ask a lot of questions about the dog. Ask questions about the rescue group. Check out their Website and make sure the group is fiscally transparent. Use things like Guidestar Exchange to check and see if the non-profit has met certain criteria of fiscal responsibility and transparency to their donors. That isn't necessarily going to guarantee that they are equally transparent about the dogs they rescue, but it's a start. If for any reason you are feeling like something is being hidden or you are getting multiple stories then move on.  Don't go buy a dog from a pet store, but don't adopt from a group you don't trust. It could lead to a lot of heartache.

So there's my rant. I know that it's not going to stop this from continuing to be a problem, but at least I feel better for putting it out there.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Stupendously wonderful baby steps!

While I don't have any good new photos for this post and am just recycling photos, I do have some exciting progress to report.

The girls wait patiently in nice "sits" for the new treats I am handing out.

It's been about 3 weeks that the girls have been here with us. The longer I work with fearful dogs, the more I learn to appreciate and celebrate the baby steps and to not let setbacks dishearten me. For a linear, process-focused person you can trust me that this knowledge has taken years to acquire and I still have plenty of moments where I struggle with just focusing on and celebrating the moment.  I suppose it's one of those lessons that takes a lifetime to truly learn. Pretty sure I still have a lot to learn but at least I'm trying.

Anyhow, I've been working really hard to just focus on the moment and not what my long term goals are for Chima and Salinas and by doing that they've made some great strides this week.

Sweet Salinas tends to turn into a wild, crazed, jumping beast when she is first out of the crate and we've been working on the concept that the attention she's craving doesn't come until she can keep "four on the floor". A couple days ago I witnessed that awesome lightbulb moment when she caught herself mid jump and then stood there calmly and looked up at me, awaiting the pets that she's learned always come after she slows her self down and keeps four on the floor.  I never forced her down, or put my knee up to stop jumping. I just didn't give her the reinforcing reward of pets and attention until the moment she stood on the floor. She made the choice to change her behavior based on learning that jumping up on her foster mom gets nothing but standing calmly gets pets and kisses. Good job, Sal!

With Chima, I decided to slow down and use a trick I learned at a T Touch seminar and use a long handled artist's paint brush to help Chima get desensitized to touch. Of course, at first she was wary of the paintbrush even so we made the paint brush a great thing by ending play sessions with brush touches on her sister Sal, and then her getting to eat treats off the bristles of the brush. In fact we did that for two days, about 5-6 times a day. Pretty soon the brush wasn't scary and then quickly she was willing to allow touch behind and between her ears with the brush. As she gets more comfortable then we'll work on doing brush touches on her body, but I'll wait until she lets me know she's ready for that.

Then just yesterday we had what felt like a massive breakthrough. After working on the brushing a bit and seeing that she wasn't bothered by it, I decided to try using my hand again and see if she was willing to take that step without discomfort. She allowed it and I kept it to just about 5 seconds worth since I wanted to stop while she wasn't bothered. She got a jackpot reward after that and since then seems to be warming up pretty fast with the brush. I only do 2-3 reps of the ear touches with my hand if she seems comfortable enough for that and she remains pretty comfortable. If she seems uncomfortable or moves away, I let her and we stop. While I certainly have an end goal of her being more comfortable being touched, we are doing this on her terms. And each time I respect her in this way, it builds a trust in her that I'm not going to force her to do something that makes her uncomfortable.

One of the things that I think has kept things moving forward, is that the training we are doing isn't in a once a day set training session. Instead it has become part of every play time that we spend together. After every potty break when we come inside and have some freetime playing in the living room, the training is just part of that playtime. We keep things short and sweet - lots of play with several little 1-3 minute training times worked in that are always followed by more play and fun. The girls stay engaged and Chima is starting to learn that interacting with a human can be a pleasant and rewarding experience. Salinas is learning that she doesn't have to approach each play session like it will be the last time someone ever pays attention to her. She's learning from experience that after her crate nap, the fun will just happen all over again.

So that's what I mean by stupendously, amazing, wonderful baby steps. Each one of those steps forward is a   tiny bit of a journey away from fear. And that my friends is worth celebrating.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dogs' are plenty excited for Barkbox day!

I had completely forgotten that it was getting close to the arrival of our monthly Barkbox to arrive.  Frodo, Langley and Tilly know the drill by now and were plenty excited but Salinas and Chima were wondering what all the excitement over a box was.

But then they saw what was inside and they understood  - TREATS!!!

I've used the Barkworthies treats before and Langley was pretty excited that he scored the 6" bully stick. Chima, Tilly and Salinas split the chew stick and from the speed they devoured it, it must have been pretty good. 

Of the two bags of treats, I decided to open the bag of green biscuits. The biscuits are made of spinach, kale, apples, spirulina, mint and flax seed. I broke the biscuit into 4 pieces since a whole one was much too large for my little dogs. I was thinking that my dogs might be a little blase about these since they are used to getting all meat treats for the most part. Of course, my pack of terriers is the opposite of picky so whether a dog who actually chews things would like them is beyond me, but my kiddos loved them. 

Salinas and Chima await their Green Juice biscuit

Frodo: "what are you waiting for? This berry isn't going to throw itself!"

Frodo, who is still loving the fetch and glow ball that he got in last month's box and this month there was another great toy for him and the foster dogs to enjoy. We love Planet Dog toys here and have a few lying around. In fact the peppermint candy toy has been around for years and is still a favorite of Frodo's for games of fetch. So of course Frodo took off with the Planet Dog Raspberry. It smells like mint, like all their toys, and has a nice gummy texture so he can chaw away at it. 

Frodo is hoping for a few more treats
If you are interested in having a monthly box of fun arrive in the mail for your dog use this link to get $5 off the subscription. It will earn this crazy pack of terriers an extra box if you use the link and they will surely send a kiss of thanks your way.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Langley loves to snuggle - seriously!

A lot of people have heard tales of Langley's energy and playfulness; how he can go-go-go.  But did you also know that this boy loves to snuggle?  Seriously, I'm not making this up!

I'll admit, at first we have to lure him into snuggle time with his favorite water buffalo horn to chew on and he will gnaw away intensely while you cover him with a blanket and set the stage for him to relax.

Then, like magic, it happens. Mid chew he will freeze in place and the horn drops from his mouth and then he lets out a big sigh, rolls on his back, and then looks up longingly at you, requesting a belly rub. After a couple minutes of belly rub he's out.
Langley snuggled next to me in his comatose snuggle state

In fact he will be so deeply asleep that he'll occasionally let out loud snores. When in this state he can be moved from one person to the other and while his eyes are open, he's essentially comatose.

Langley uses Frodo as a pillow while being cradled in his foster dad's lap
The photo above is amazingly rare. Frodo doesn't trust Langley in the least bit and typically if Langley touches him like this he will jump off the couch to get away. He's not a Langley fan at all. However even Frodo sensed that Langley was so relaxed that it was safe to let him touch him.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


While Salinas can't get enough touch, Chima is quite the opposite and she avoids touch if at all possible. She doesn't go so far as to be growly or snappy if she is touched or someone reaches for her, but its very clear that it makes her uncomfortable for a human to have their hands near her.

I think a year ago her complete avoidance of touch would have seemed to me like an impossible thing to ever help her overcome, but thanks to my year with Langley, I've learned to see behaviors like this as a puzzle to figure out and not an insurmountable problem.

Because of how uncomfortable she was with touch, the first things we worked on didn't involve touch at all. My initial goal was to help her relax enough to approach me. Since she was interested in sniffing me she was rewarded anytime she sniffed me. At first she just sniffed my back as I sat on the step and I would slide my hand back with a treat in it for her, never even glancing back at her. Well she loved that. The way to this girls heart is through her nose and her stomach - she loves to sniff and she loves to eat.

Once she was seeking me out to nose at my back and get treats, I changed the game a bit. she had to sniff or touch my side to earn the treat. We did this with me standing and sitting, in the house, on the deck out on the lawn... And we kept at it until the fear was pretty much gone and all she cared about was getting that reward.

Then it was time to take another step forward. This was where touch was added. I would hold a piece of kibble tightly in my fingertips and gently touch the side of her leg with the back of my hand while she worked at the kibble. At first she would flinch a bit but for allowing 1 short touch without retreating I would let her have the piece of kibble. As we worked through this process I was moving my hand with the kibble closer to me and gradually increasing the pressure and the length of time the touch happened.

Well, I'm happy to report that earlier this week Chima and I made it to the point where she was standing on my lap and letting me stroke the length of her body and even the top of her head between her ears - all that for just a measly piece of kibble! We moved from having to coax her into the house using a 12' long lead that I had on her, to her nose bumping my legs for attention and standing in my lap for kibble all over the course of a week and a half.
We usually start with my hand with the kibble resting in the hand  that will  be petting her.  This way to reach the kibble her head  ends up resting in my hand

Sliding hand over so I can massage her ear a little; note that I'm leaning over her and  she's  doing great with that

Ear massage moved to stroking her the length of her body; with any dog a long, slow  stroke is much more relaxing and pleasant to them than a patting motion. Most dogs are just tolerating "patting"

I'm pretty proud of both of us! One of the things that I struggle with is impatience and looking too far forward at where I want to be rather than where I am. By just focusing on what the current behavior was that I reinforced, we moved forward much more quickly and my frustration didn't slow the progress. But honestly, even this progression was probably faster than it needed to be and we are backing up a bit because the goal is to get her to feel like the touch is her choice, not just because she is super motivated by the food. I didn't do enough desensitization and I didn't chunk up the process into small enough pieces. Buy, hey, I'm still learning and I've come light years from where I was in my training skills a year ago.

In this VIDEO you can see one of our short touch sessions. Here we've worked up to the beginnings of some of the way non dog savvy people might approach. In this sitting session she has to approach me face to face (which she isn't especially fond of) and you can see that I am leaning over her to stroke her fur and rub her neck. She's doing great! The fact that she chose to sit during this was pretty exciting to me as well because typically she likes to be on her feet so she can get out of there quickly if she needs to. She's gotten to the point where she's relaxed enough to be sitting during the exercises. At the end she startles a bit so I stopped but then sat there with the treat in my hand and after the video stopped she came back to try it again.

While it may sound like we put in a ton of training time, this was all done during short 1-3 minute sessions and usually when we went outside for their potty breaks. It was not a big structured training session. Instead I just made sure that I was super clear in my head of exactly what behavior earned the reward.

So now my challenge is going to be to back up, slow myself down again and let go of my agenda. The more I let her lead the process, the more that change in her response to touch will be locked in.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Anxiety Takes Many Forms

With some dogs it's impossible not to know that they are afraid or anxious. You reach for them and they cringe, crouch, pee on the floor, maybe roll over and their eyes get big and round. That's what we humans recognize as "fear". But the reality is that dogs, just like humans, have many different ways of showing their anxiety and it isn't always what we expect it to look like. It's not always that obvious.

My foster girls Chima and Salinas show fear in pretty opposite ways. Chima's anxiety shows in a somewhat obvious way. She is very careful around humans and somewhat stand offish. But I have heard people call this type of behavior "defiant" and that is definitely not the case. When a dog or a person is fearful their focus and ability to learn things is compromised. They aren't refusing to do something because they think they are better than you or because they rule the house. They are afraid and the last thing they are thinking about is a "sit" or a "down".  They are thinking "how the hell do I get through this without getting trapped/yelled at/hit". Heck, they could be thinking something else even but it's definitely not "I'm the boss of you."  I digress.

What I want to talk about today is a way anxiety is shown that is probably toughest for people to understand and relate to as true anxiety. It is the clingy, hyper, crazy playful kind of anxiety.  I mean, there is such a thing as a hyper dog that has nothing to do with anxiety. I foster terriers for God's sake - I've met these dogs. But sometimes that non-stop movement is not playing, it's pacing. Sometimes that panting is not from laps around the yard, it's a sign of stress. The pulled back lips that look like a happy smiling dog? Look at the full picture - could just be a tight tense face combined with panting.
Sal  when we were working on training, which is a little stressful since she  is so worried about making sure she pleases her person. I've also learned since this photo was taken that she is afraid of the clicker.
Salinas after her first short walk - quite anxious! Look at her tight  face, ears pulled to the side and panting .
And here's a rare photo of a relaxed Sal. I only have a few. Note how her  cheeks aren't all full of tight ridges and  check out her cute folded ears, mostly flipping to the front.

Unlike Chima, when Salinas gets nervous she seeks out comfort from people. She can't stop moving and rolls around, mouths your hands and feet, play snaps at faces, kicks around, all the while trying to keep as much of her body plastered to you as possible. If her human moves into a space that is inaccessible, like when I go into the gated kitchen, panic can ensue. She paces, runs about the room, and constantly checks in with Chima for reassurance until I come back into the room and then I get a double dose of her love attack.

It's not that I don't enjoy being appreciated, but I sure hate to see her in such constant worry and with such low confidence in herself. So while I'm rewarding Chima for coming close to me and seeking out attention from me, Sal gets rewarded for relaxing or kicking back when she's not next to me. I'm rewarding separation in a sense. Because at this point she is unable to relax for the most part we are breaking it down. We start out with her next to me on the couch, wiggling and twirling and flailing away. Then I start some massage - first a belly rub which she both adores but is also worried about - but that slows her down enough that I can then massage her ears. And that seems to be really help Sal settle, relax, and be able to just hang out next to me without needing to be velcroed to me. At least for a little bit.  Below are some photos that show the process we go through right now.
Lots of jumping and rolling around and constant movement
And lots of mouthing - not biting or snapping but play type of mouthing like a puppy would do 
Wanting a belly rub but still worried.; she's slowing down and still now
After some ear work she's starting to relax a little more
Back on her tummy but still a little mouthy
More ear work
And finally she is getting settled. Just hanging out and chilling for a while...

Treats seems to get her more hyped up so really here the reward is the emotional response of feeling settled and the reward of attention and touch. At least, as a beginning trainer that's what I think is reinforcing the behavior.  As she begins to be able to settle apart from me I will bring treats back into the mix.

She's got a long way to go, but with help and continued training, her confidence will grow and her need to pace and constantly move will slowly subside. She'll always be a playful sweet girl, but the goal is to get her to a place where her she's free of the anxiety that currently is a big part of her day.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Rescue Railroad: Four New Foster Dogs in Washington NR Homes

Our Washington foster homes have four new foster dogs arriving late tonight and we are anxiously awaiting their arrival. Here are the new kids on the block:

K, named for K Vintners in Walla Walla, WA, is tiny little blue tuxedo coated female Rat Terrier mix who weighs about 8 pounds and is about 10-12 months old. She was rescued from the Central California ASPCA shelter where she had come down with an upper respiratory infection and was struggling in the shelter setting. She's been in temporary foster care in California and now that she's healthy was able to head to her foster home in Seattle. You can follow K's adventures on her foster mom's blog.

Nash is a sweet and playful little one year old tan and white Rat Terrier mix who was found as a stray and taken to a shelter. He's friendly and loves everyone he meets and we are sure he's going to love the house full of dogs that he will be living with in Snohomish, WA while in foster care. Watch him hanging out with his foster siblings on his foster family's blog.

Sabrina is a 2 year old sweetie who was so happy to be sprung from the shelter. She's great with other dogs and we're told she's very friendly so we're sure she's going to find a forever home pretty quickly. Sabrina will be headed east to her foster home in Yakima, WA. To follow her adventures in the Yakima sun be sure to check out her foster mom's blog.

And last but not least is Dallas. This 4 month old puppy was a stray who has been recuperating from his time in the shelter at a temporary foster home. He's feeling much better now and has enjoyed playing with the dogs and people in his home. He'll be fostered in Marysville, WA and you can follow him on his foster family's blog.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Crate and Rotate: Langley's free time

One thing that can be really difficult with dogs that need very slow introductions to other dogs, is that it means that while the intros are being worked on, the dogs need to be kept separate. This means "crate and rotate" time - meaning some dogs are crated while some get play time and then the roles switch up. That way everyone gets time with the people and time to play while still carefully controlling interactions between dogs so they don't practice behaviors that I'm trying to extinguish.

This is easier said than done in an open floor plan house like mine. It means we have ex-pens being used as long gates, and crates as part of the living and dining room decor. It's a careful dance, full of extra dog equipment, but since the end result is no dog fights and eventual friendship between dogs, it's worth it.

What is difficult is that the dog crates are in the same area that we typically do training and playing in. As you can imagine, the dog who is having crate time, even if it is with a delicious food toy, is not happy about sitting there watching some wild dog tearing around in shear joy while they remain crated. Langley is actually fine with being crated while other dogs are out, but Chima - not so much. She gets anxious, likely because she feels cornered and vulnerable in the crate when other dogs are loose - stuck there while wild child Langley is tearing about and nearly levitating in excitement for whatever new toy has been brought out for him to try.

We are doing exercises with Chima and Langley trying to help her not feel so freaked out by this, but when not practicing, I take Langley downstairs for his playtime. Yesterday he helped supervise the folding of laundry but was soon distracted by an epic battle with Piggy and socker bopper.
Langley regularly uses his bed like this, resting his back end in the bed while he hangs out of it to play with a toy. This bed is his favorite and was a gift from the adopters of our former foster, Whidbey.
Both ends are a whirling blur

Things just got ugly: Langley must take on socker bopper and piggy at the same time

Piggy lies dead while Langley finishes off socker bopper

By the time he moved on to the stuffingless Tuffy Ring he was exhausted. I had finished the laundry and was ready to download these photos so it was perfect timing for Langley to get a nice massage, followed by curling up on my lap while I worked on my laptop.
Winding down with Piggy and the Tuffy Ring
It was a perfect day in his mind and because Chima and Salinas got to chew on their new water buffalo horns in peace, they thought it was pretty great too, even though they were crated. Plus, they now know from experience that later they will get their turn to tear around and have epic battles with squeaky toys.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Huh?: The Head Tilt

I don't think there are many things in this world that are cuter than a terrier tilting their head quizzically. I love when I have foster dogs who do this and while both Chima and Sal do the cute head tilt, Chima's is hilarious and can be quite dramatic, depending on how perplexed she is by my behavior.

This is her typical head tilt, accompanied by her  "what the...." expression 

And here's her very dramatic tilt where she seems to be channeling an owl

And here's a better look at that expression which I'm pretty sure  is her thinking "Lady,  you are every kind of strange."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Landscaping with the terrier in mind

While I love pretty plantings and flowers as much as the next person, due to having limited time and a pack of wild terriers we've had to adopt a rule here: if it can't live through the dogs, it wasn't meant to live here.

I'm not saying I am okay with blatant destruction and I supervise the dogs in their outdoor play since I always try to keep potential diggers redirected.  But my mostly native PNW landscaping is pretty tough, needs very little time and water, and lives through the majority of the abuse dished out on it by the dogs.
Chima takes a shortcut through the day lilies and into the giant allium plantings 
In spite of that toughness though, my poor landscaping was not prepared for Chima and her love of plants. Maybe it was her time as a desert dweller and all the green here is pretty novel but unlike most dogs who are happy to just sniff a plant and then move onto something better, Chima  needs to fully experience the plant. She needs to stick her head into it for deep sniffs, then she needs to rub her body along it to see how that feels. If it feels good then she likes to fully wade into it and maybe even take a roll in it for a full experience.

And when she gets her 28 pounds hauling through the yard at full speed, if the plant is under 4 feet tall she goes through it and not around it.

Chima sniffing at her very favorite plant: lemon balm. She  will stand there for minutes  with her head in the plant, sniffing away
My poor Western Sword ferns, majestic mature 4' diameter masses of fronds, are looking a bit on the rough side. The big hardy fuchsia is doing wonderfully but the bleeding heart put on a beautiful show for a week and then was heartily trampled. The giant alliums are hanging in there but are tilted horizontally at this point and I don't know if the Yarrow will actually mature this year since it lies along one of her favorite paths. The junipers have taken their beatings well and her very favorite plant of all - a big clump of lemon balm - looks great. That's to be expected though since the stuff is impossible to kill.

After taking a questionable "shortcut" through a patch of 15' tall bamboo and over the top of a small woodpile, Chima jumps up on a table to inspect the Weber grill.
I try my best to bite my tongue and let her romp and play, occasionally attempting to move the game out onto the lawn. Since the other smaller dogs get overwhelmed by her exuberance she has to have something to play with and I think that her uninhibited joyful play is much more beautiful than the blooms she stampedes through.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Chima wants to PLAY!

At 28 pounds, Chima is a big rat terrier but beyond just her size, her play style is pretty big as well. She slams around and trash talks to an extent that the other dogs, including her sister Salinas, pretty much steer clear of her. If I could get Langley to the point where he could relax around her I'm sure he would love this because Langley enjoys nothing more than having a big female slamming him around. But it could take weeks before he's that comfortable with her and in the meantime, Chima wants to PLAY!

Frodo say "BACK OFF!"

Salinas (right) is not buying into Chima's gentle attempts to engage her in play.

I feel bad for her because clearly she is a pretty young dog and needs some good play time with other dogs. Occasionally she can convince her sister into playing a game of chase, however, Salinas quickly gets intimidated and will do her best to get out of the game. When all else fails, Chima will search out the rotten old rope toy that has been marinating in the back yard for over a year now. I don't have the heart to throw it away as it has some special rotten funk that all the dogs find even more magical than treats at times. She throws it and races around with it like she's found the most incredible prize in the universe as you can see in this video below:

The more she trusts me, the more playful she gets and I am loving this process of watching her true personality start to emerge.