Thursday, June 27, 2013

Big Losers: Getting to the Goal

Salinas and Chima have been managing with smaller portions, tiny little training treats to help shed the extra pounds they came out of the shelter with and it has paid off.

Chima and Salinas from above. Looking good, girls!

Salinas has some great news! Her portions will be getting bigger! Well, that's what she is going to be excited about. I'm excited because she's down to 16.5 pounds after arriving in foster care at 20 pounds. She is officially off her weight loss plan and moving to a maintenance diet: same high protein, low carb food, just a bit more of it.

Salinas, looking muscled and trim.

Salinas and Tilly, sniffing at something and showing off their  sleek physique.

Chima has more weight to lose so she is still in progress, but she also had a successful two weeks. She's down to 24.5 pounds. That means she's lost a full 4 pounds since arriving here. I'm guessing she has just a couple more pounds to go and she too will be at a good healthy weight for her structure.

Look at the nice waist that Chima has now!

I wanted Frodo to show off his waist too but he was not amused.

It's not a lot of work to get started on the road to helping your dog lose weight. Upgrade their food to a higher quality food that is low in carbs and high in a quality protein. Measure portions and remember to limit treats to tiny ones that don't have a lot of calories. Terriers rarely say no to a meal so it's up to us to help them stay healthy.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The hunting continues.....everywhere

Now that they've flushed out some mice and barked some raccoon up a tree the girls are sure that evil critters lurk in every corner of the backyard. Most of the morning and afternoon it was dry out so they had plenty of time for hunting sessions...with me supervising of course. I'm fine if they want to catch some mice but there's no way I want them following those mice over our fence into the neighbors unfenced yard.

First Salinas searched high...

And Chima searched low...

Then Chima searched high and Sal searched low.

Frodo waited, keeping his feet clean and dry, finding the whole thing  somewhat low class and trashy. There was plenty of nose work for treats that could be done in the clean, dry house.

Chima had a great idea.

If she perched herself up on the wall she'd have a good view of the yard and any potential hiding places. Salinas soon joined her...

That totally paid off for Chima when she found the grill and had the drip pan cleaned out and was working on removing the cover by the time I was onto her.

Then the weather changed.

Wet, wet, wet! But we still stayed outside for awhile. After all, it's Western Washington and if you let rain keep you inside, you'll lead a boring existence. We headed inside, a wet and muddy crew, when the thunder arrived.
 I'm glad that their hunting has become more generalized and they have forgotten their desire to tear down the shed to find the mice underneath. It was a nice, soggy, summer afternoon and I'm guessing tomorrow will be more of the same - hunting and playing and messing around in the rain.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

When it's good to be "bad"

So many times I've rewarded somewhat inappropriate behavior by laughing, or worse, laughing as I run to get a camera. I know better, but dang if it isn't hilarious to see Frodo standing on his hind legs slurping a cup of coffee, or former foster dog Hobbs looking up at me happily from atop the kitchen table after emptying the dog treat bowl I'd set there.

Typically they get a chuckle the first time they do it but then I try to rearrange the environment so it doesn't happen a second time.

But my number one goal when working with a foster dog is not a well behaved dog - don't get me wrong, it's high up on the list, but not at the top. My number one goal with my foster dogs is to get to where they are able to be relaxed around people. So many of the dogs who come through our door have been yelled at and punished and even at times hit. To them, humans are inconsistent, volatile beings and I want to help my foster dogs change that point of view since they can't be relaxed as a house dog if they find humans frightening.

But back to the rewarding of "bad" behavior. One of the things that I've been working with Salinas on is "four on the floor" - basically not giving each human she meets a frantic love attack trying to reach their face for licks.  She's doing great! Smart girl has picked up quickly that a calm approach is much more rewarding than a frenzied one.

Well, guess what I just rewarded her sister Chima for? Yep, jumping up on me. I couldn't help it. This is the dog who didn't want to get within 10 feet of me and when I headed outside (with some deliciously smelly treats in my hand), she stood on her back feet, paws on my legs and looked me in the eye. I was stunned for a moment, but I had the camera in my hand and actually got a shot of it. I was torn because while I know better than to reward jumping up this was Chima! Chima, choosing not only to come close to me but to jump up on me in excitement - a completely normal, excited terrier thing, not a fearful under-socialized dog thing. So I'm telling myself that I rewarded her choice to interact with me, not the jumping up part. With Chima, I'm working on basic manners stuff later. Right now we'll continue to work on that number one goal - relaxed interaction with people. Not that I'll actively train her to jump up on me, but at this point, any happy, positive attempt to interact with me is getting reinforced.

Monday, June 24, 2013


When some terrier's find a mouse, there really is no such thing as terrier proofing the area where they want to hunt. Still, you have to try.

When Samish was fostered at our house last year we learned right away that there was a mouse living behind our shed. In fact he flushed the thing out and it skittered up and over the fence about 12" from where I was leaning against us. Very cute little guy, but still startling. We attempted to Samish proof the area and soon Samish was adopted and that far, lower, hidden corner of the yard was pretty much forgotten.

Enter Chima and Salinas. Like Samish, the girls live to hunt and will stop at nothing to get to their prey. They've been regularly checking the trees for scents in case the raccoons have come down to play at dog level but today they found the shed and its mice. The precautions we had made for 10 pound Samish to keep him out from behind the shed where not really enough to stand in the way of 25 pound Chima. Luckily she was too big to fit behind there but Salinas managed to shimmy in there sideways, and that's when I knew we had to create some stronger terrier proofing.

The girls were beside themselves, attempting to climb over or dig under, or better yet, dig through the fence. After about 5 minutes of them compulsively digging at the area and attempting to wedge themselves behind the shed or knock it down, whichever came first, I rounded them up (on leashes) and took them inside for some crate time so they could calm down. Chima had tried to jam her nose through the fence, from the look of the lime dust lichen on her nose.
"What's that? There's something on my nose?"

"Are you sure?"

We dug around for old pavers, rocks, whatever we could find that was heavy and would at least somewhat block the girls from behind there. It's a temporary measure but hoping that it will last for another week or so while we find some nice rocks to line behind there with.  Clearly, a doggy door would not be a good option for Chima who would have happily dug down under the fir duff to get under the fence and follow the mice as they made their escape.  My neighbor's young adult children are visiting and they are camping out in the back yard. Let's just say the dogs' last pee break of the night at 12 am was a leeeetle bit noisy. However, I think it will be the 7 am wake up hunting that the neighbors will be unhappy about.
Attempt at blocking the side of the shed to the dogs

Creating a base that the dogs can't dig through or hurt themselves on. Not pretty but no one but the mice and the dogs have to look at it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Barkbox inspired photo shoot

The dogs got their monthly happy surprise box in the mail - our Barkbox - and it was a really cute summer themed one. It was complete with Beefy Beer, burger treats, puptato chips, BBQ bones, and some calming treats for the dreaded coming of the fireworks. We are going to donate the beer (beef malt flavored glucosamine supplement drink), the bones and the calming treats to the Northwest Rattiefest Raffle, however I did keep the Whole Life burgers and the sweet potato chips.

In fact the dogs were so excited about the treats that I decided to rip open the sweet potato chips and we headed outside for some fun. At first they were just having to sit and be polite. Frodo succeeded on one part of that goal.

Frodo demand barking. How'd that work for you Frodo?

Salinas trying to keep the chip and Chima in her eyesight at all times

But then I realized they were so engrossed by the chips that I might be able to get a good 4 dog photo out of the deal. This photo continues to be a pipe dream of mine but at least we did get some cute shots. It's a good looking crew so hard not to get cute photos. I know I'll get that polite 4-5 dog "sit" photo line up, but it just wasn't the day for it this time.

They were all being so calm here that it gave me the idea to attempt the "4 dog shot"

So we called Frodo...

Of course, Frodo had other things on his mind, namely the squirrel family in the fir trees.

This is the closest we got. One second earlier and I would have got Salinas standing  with the other dogs.

And here the dogs let me know the photo shoot was complete. Tilly was still hoping for that extra sweet potato chip though.

If you are interested in getting a monthly Barkbox subscription use this link and you'll get $5 off the subscription and the foster dogs get an extra box.

Friday, June 21, 2013

State of the Pack Address

So sorry. Nothing insightful, deep, educational or witty today. Just a "State of the Pack" address because the state of the trainer is exhausted and sleep deprived. 

Tilly: My sweet, old little girl is doing great. Her hearing and sight still seems pretty good but she's developed this weird little tilted dance after she eats dinner that seems neurological to me. Probably time for a trip back to Dr. Sperlich to check things out. She's still the grossest little dog in the West and proved it yet again this week when turning to try to eat her poop (as she pooped it) and she fell over. Well, since she loves rolling around in the grass so much she just stayed there rolling around in the grass AND THE POOP, and slowly sliding down the hill in it. Then she righted herself. Marched back across the yard and told off all the dogs who dared sniff her brown streaked hide. Ah, my sweet Tilly, Texas trash. Love ya, girl.  I'm quite proud of myself because I didn't yell once at my fearful little gal. The restraint had me gasping and making weird noises, but I didn't yell "STOP". The worst I said was a quiet, "oh, Tilly."
This isn't a photo of THE infamous poop roll but just is a less gross stand in photo. Trust me, it wasn't pretty. 

Frodo: Frodo had his second nose work class and is really getting into using his sniffer. Thanks to my state of sleep deprivation, I brought him in early for a search during class so he got to sit in the hide room while our instructor Dorothy talked to us about something. During this time he was so discombobulated that I'm pretty sure he leaked anal gland on my pants because when it was the next dog's turn to search he was greatly interested in my knee where Frodo had been rubbing his ass for the last five minutes. Sometimes I wish Frodo had more difficulty expressing his anal glands.
Frodo, practicing his nose work at home

Langley: I've been so busy talking about the girls lately that I've left poor Langley out of the blog. Have no fear, he makes his presence known in our house and isn't being forgotten. We've continued working on integrating him with Chima and Salinas and today I took this video which shows him playing happily with a Kong Bounzer on the couch while the girls were loose in the room. Frodo also makes a cameo in his familiar perch on the arm of the couch. I'm still super careful about supervising all the foster dogs' interactions because so far I've managed to keep everything positive between them. Well, except for the time Langley slipped past me like a horny ninja and humped Salinas. And Salinas had to tell him off because being humped is one of her least favorite things in the world. 

Langley and the Bounzer. This toy has been around for over a month and no one had even looked at it let alone play with it. Langley has decided it is awkward but awesome. He struggled to do a good terrier death shake on it though.

Salinas: This girl continues to grow more and more independent and doesn't seem to rely on Chima as much in new situations. Good girl, Sal! She learned "spin" this week and has perfected it to the point that she nearly pirouettes like a little ballerina on cue. This will be a great trick to help keep her distracted when she's feeling a little nervous. Those "high fives" and "spins" and "sit pretties" aren't just parlour tricks - they are great games to play with your dog to keep their mind busy and to redirect them if they are starting to fixate on something that frightens them. 

Chima: Big Mama Chimayo (her current full nickname) has been working on spin as well but thanks to my beginner skills at "shaping" behaviors it's gone slower with her. I typically lure a dog into a spin and then slowly take away the lure and replace that with the cue. However, a spin lure means moving my arm over the top of Chima's head, and leaning over her which freaked her out a little. So I did this kind of awkward partial lure with her and she came to my rescue by watching her sister and finally understanding what all my bumbling was about. Last night everthing clicked and she started doing full spins. Phew! I love it when my dogs manage to help me hide my training inadequacies by figuring things out on their own. Of course, this renews my realization that I really need to make my way through some basic clicker training classes and shaping classes. While I've done pretty good with books and videos and lots of practice, there's no substitute for a good class. Of course, being the introvert I am I tend to avoid these like the plague but it really is time for me to take some training classes. 

And that is the state of the currently large Brown Family Pack right now. Everyone is getting along (as long as Queen Tilly's reign is respected) and tonight will be the night that I start catching up on sleep so I can come up with some posts with some substance for you. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

When training and life collide...

Before we get started, an explanation of the pictures: after you read this you'll understand that neither Chima or I were in an emotional place where pictures would have been appreciated. So instead I'm resharing a few photos of Chima being social as a reminder of how far she's come over the last five weeks. 

Sniffing someone at the meetup and hoping for a treat

Yesterday I took Chima in to have her nails trimmed. They were getting really long and starting to turn her toes a bit and so it had to get done. It was a health issue. I usually trim all my dogs' nails but I've been working so hard to gain Chima's trust and while she will let me touch her feet and was getting comfortable with the nail trimmer, holding her to get even 1 or 2 nails cut wasn't happening. 

Last week when I took both girls to the vet to be microchipped, Salinas did fine having her nails trimmed. But after 2 nails Chima started throwing all 25 pounds of herself around in panic and the vet tech said she didn't feel right forcing her when she was so terrified. I totally agreed with her. So the vet suggested a med cocktail to relax Chima both physically and mentally - both some Acepromazine and Xanax. While I really don't like using Ace, I figured it was worth a try since I was getting nowhere fast at home with even getting one nail trimmed. But damn, I was conflicted. All of my work with her has been about not pushing a timeline on her and yet here was this physical issue that has a timeline. Nails grow and need to get trimmed. They don't wait for the dog to get comfortable having their feet handled and their body confined.

Maybe not in the middle of things but sniffing the edge with interest.

So yesterday was the day. I gave her the meds two hours prior to the appointment and when it was almost time to leave she was tearing around like I hadn't given her anything. The vet said to push back the appointment thirty minutes in case it just was slower to start acting on Chima. Sure enough, I started to see some clumsiness in her movement. But instead of calming down, she was afraid - this girl who was all about having control of herself could sense that control leaving her. God, I felt horrible. I could really empathize with that panicked feel of losing control of one's body. I felt like a horrible person to have knowingly done this to her. Regardless, I packed her up in her car crate and off we went.

The last visit I had not wanted to be in the room when they clipped her nails since I didn't want her to associate me with the trim. I thought she would connect me with  the scary thing and it would damage her trust in me. Now I see that was wrong. This time I figured if I stayed that at least there would be one person in the room who she new and had some connection to. If she connected me with the fear, then we'd work through it but I hoped that I could offer some comfort to her.

Resting her head on my knee since she knows I have a pocket full of kibble

The tech came in and I held Chima against me and slowly, a couple nails at a time with breaks in between, we got it done. Chima surprised me and instead of her typical avoidance of touch she did the opposite - she buried her head under my arm and pushed herself against my body, trying to make the room and the stranger disappear. I like to think I was a comfort to her. Never once during the ordeal did she growl or even curl her lip at us - that's how amazing this dog is. Not that I would have blamed her in the least if she did since that's just the way a dog communicates they want something to stop.

I took her out to the car after it was over, going out the back way to avoid any more new people and animals. She jumped for her crate - a place of safety, and I gave her a freeze dried tendon to chew on while I went back in to pay the bill. It took her about 5 minutes of the drive home to finish the tendon and then she started this most heart rending forlorn howl that you have ever heard. It went on for the rest of the 20 minute drive and I cried along with her, horrified to have caused her such distress and momentarily feeling frustrated with myself for not being able to magically make things all better for her. How could I help her when a nail trim was this scary?

At the right of photo: meeting another foster parent and taking treats

At home she slept off the last of her drugs in the crate and by early evening she was back to her old self, tearing around the back yard, sniffing out squirrels, attempting to free a very large root from were it laid on the ground still attached to the tree... being beautiful and adorable and fully terrier. 

Then she gave me a big gift. While I was sitting on the steps she came over hoping for a treat and let me rub behind her ear and stroke her back without any tensing up in trade for a few bites of puppy kibble. No steps backward. No loss of trust. I was still her trusty old kibble dispenser which is exactly what I want to be right now. Thanks, Chima.

Playing a game of tail teaser/tug with me

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

On Patrol

Some poor, unfortunate critter made a very bad real estate decision and moved into the fir trees in our back yard. About two days ago the girls spotted whichever critter it happened to be and they have been obsessed with one corner of the yard.

Every morning for their first pee of the day they tear through the door and off the deck to the corner of the last sighting. All day long this hunt continues until the last trip out around midnight when they take their last, long, addicted look of the day.

What they are staring at...

There is also a huge brush pile on the other side of the fence in that corner and Chima is sure there are some rats over there and I'd guess she's right. Because she's so sure and because she is also sure she MUST kill them, I am always back in the girls' corner with them in case Chima decides to try to dig her way under. She hasn't shown any signs that she will, but I've seen that intense, glazed over look in a terriers eyes many a time and it means that the humans need to be very watchful since pretty much all parts of their brain except the MUST KILL PREY part has been turned off.

Chima sniffing something in the brush pile on the other side of the fence

These girls definitely shouldn't go to a family with small animals or a cat even. When this first started I couldn't even get them to break their focus long enough to pee and getting them back inside was a nightmare. However with a couple days of reinforcement and Premack, they are able to leave the trees to check in with me occasionally and also to pee before they head back for a last look before racing to the sliding door for the jackpot they know they'll get if they come inside on their own.

It must be a dang good find since they usually get over squirrels as soon as the squirrel runs off. I'm guessing it's raccoons since we've had babies in those trees before.

Past inhabitants of our fir trees - these two drove Frodo to near insanity a few years back

Anyhow, that's what this pack has been doing the last few days. Critter hunting, critter obsessing, and working on refocusing on a human when there are much more interesting things across the yard in a tree.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Two Little Socialites

Yesterday the Seattle Rat Terrier Meetup group held a meet up at Robinswood Park in Bellevue. I'd been going back and forth the whole week about whether to bring both Salinas and Chima since I'd have to get both dogs on leash from the parking lot back to the off leash area and I didn't really know how Chima would react if we ran into another dog on leash - especially a large dog.

I decided to go for it, and I'm so glad that I did. We arrived 20 minutes early so that there would be minimal dogs around when we made our on leash trek down the trail to the dog area. Both girls were pretty apprehensive but did well other than lots of crazy crisscrossing on leash, weaving around me like I was a Maypole. Below is a video of the girls soon after they arrived at the park, getting their bearings while there were still just a few dogs and people there.

When we first arrived it was just Salinas, Chima and some fluffy dogs that the girls found quite interesting
I knew that Salinas would do well at an off leash park after last week's experience but I had no idea how Chima would fare. I definitely underestimated this girl because she was amazing! While she didn't want anyone petting her, she was fine with sniffing hands and enjoyed walking through the crowds, sniffing people and accepting the many treats that were offered to her. Her experience with humans at the park was 100% positive and that will go a long way in helping her realize that humans are not all scary. 
Bottom to top: former fosters Hobbs and Willow with Salinas and Chima. Check out  Chima just sticking her  head on  the lap of a person she's never met before! Of course, good treats always help. 

A sniff line. Top to bottom: K(just her rear end showing), Salinas, Nash, Willow, and Chima.  Willow is an adopted NR dog and the other 4 kiddos are current NR foster dogs.
The fact that this ended up being one of the biggest meetup crowds yet made it even more exciting that she did well. The off leash area has been divided in half with a fence so we were scrunched into half the area as well. There were lots of people milling around and close to 30 dogs in attendance. That is a LOT of socializing and the girls just took it in stride like they attended meetups with that many dogs and people all the time. Here's a video showing a panorama of the dogs and people attending:

Chima likes to ease up behind a person to sniff them carefully before meeting them. She later took treats from this very gentle girl. In the photo NR's foster boy Will is sitting nicely for a treat.

Salinas (L) and Chima (foreground) were completely fine with just  milling around the areas where people and dogs were  congregating. These girls weren't wallflowers at all but instead were right in the midst of things.

We were there for over 2 hours and by the time we headed home the girls were plenty tired but also plenty happy and relaxed. I can't wait to take them to another meetup. Good job girls!

The girls were tired and kicking back at the end of the event - full bellies and plenty of exercise.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Ultimate Tranquilizer

Sunshine is such a prized thing here in Western Washington. Its rarity makes it quite a treasure and us webbed footed humans are not the only ones to appreciate it.

Check out the girls out catching some rays on the warm deck. I think that is the most relaxed I've seen Salinas since she's arrived. There's just something about a warm deck and sunshine that can tranquilize any dog. Even Langley kicked back for awhile and Frodo sat there but he doesn't lie down on anything but blankets, dog beds or furniture. Ever. Don't ask me why.

Salinas got things started by plopping down for a snooze while the other dogs were all still sniffing around the yard.
Then Tilly decided to join her.
And then surprisingly even Chima joined the  club. She typically won't  lie down when I'm so close but the warmth  of the deck was too much to pass up. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Frodo works on rebuilding confidence

Frodo: happiest when he's either eating or burrowed away somewhere soft
Frodo can handle the foster dogs but Langley's not your average foster dog and over the last year that Langley's been with us I've seen the signs of stress in Frodo steadily increase. And as Frodo's stress increased, my guilt increased because fostering is not supposed to make my dogs miserable. I mean, they don't have to love the dogs but I don't want them to be frightened in their own homes.

Langley and Frodo sharing couch space - a new thing this last month

About a month ago Frodo went on a low dose of fluoxetine, an SSRI, to help with his anxiety. His veterinarian and I made this choice after behavioral work, natural remedies and Chinese medicines prescribed by his vet weren't alleviating his stress enough. And it's helping. Finally I'm starting to see a bit of the old Frodo I know and love and he's no longer marking the area where the fosters sleep. I mean, he's still a snobby asshole but hey, that's part of what I love about him.

Long suffering Frodo during puppy duty: Zuni was a pup who liked to push, push, push
Frodo is good about telling puppies to mind their manners,

Along with the medicine, I decided to take an Intro to Nose Work course with the wonderful Dorothy Turley, CPDT-KA. I have a friend who's been taking Nose Work classes with her extremely timid dog and it's really been a confidence builder for him so I decided to try it out with Frodo.

We had our first class the other night and it was a great experience! Frodo is so obsessed with food that I honestly didn't think he'd do very well. I mean, a food drive makes it easier to get them started but Frodo's food drive is so intense that I didn't think he would have the self control to slow down and sniff. I know he's timid in new situations but I thought the food would overpower that. Nope. On his first try he really slunk around, low to the ground, ears back, tail tucked. He was afraid to put his head in the box to get the treats out and just stood there shaking, conflicted between his desire for the treats and his fear of the box. But pretty soon he realized that Dorothy couldn't be all that bad the way she was flinging food around and he started to move faster, tail still tucked but not slinking so much.

Frodo, worriedly hovering near a favorite ball while Zuni considers whether to go for the steal or not
When he came out for his second search he forgot to be afraid and got his terrier on. He went straight up to Dorothy and started demand barking for treats. He figured why look for the freaking treats when this lady is standing here with a bag full in her hands. When that didn't work for him he sat in front of her, hoping some belated politeness might get her to hand over the bag. Nope. That didn't work either. I swear if he could have given a big sigh and said "FINE" he would have. He then turned around and looked and sniffed his way around the boxes, turning abruptly when he caught the scent a couple times. This time he didn't even pause when the treats were inside the scary old box. He just stuck his head in and vacuumed them up. His one fault is that when finding a treat he likes to lick and polish the cardboard until he has gotten every molecule of food off of it so Dorothy had her work cut out for her to keep him moving and working.

Frodo never misses one of the foster dogs' training sessions  since treats are involved. Here he is with Neah and Langley
For me it was great that the class was so pressure free. It was okay that he was shaky and that he was a bit of an asshole to the teacher over treats. She has some Chihuahuas at home so I figured she was totally used to that kind of stuff. When we left for home it was like a little of that weight of guilt was lifted off. It's been too long since Frodo and I did something together without the interference of the other dogs. There were no touch sessions for Chima, or self control work with Langley or exercises to build Salinas' independence and confidence. No desensitization or counter conditioning. It was just me and Frodo with nothing hanging over my head and we both enjoyed it immensely.

If you have a dog who has some social deficits, is reactive around other dogs or is timid and fearful, I highly recommend that you try an intro class. It's pressure free, no special equipment is required, and is a great way to get out with a dog who normally might not be welcome in a group class. The dogs each work one at a time and never meet each other so you don't have to worry about reactivity.