Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Walking off the Wiggles

Tuttle is a busy little guy and when a person isn't entertaining him then he finds his own fun, which often isn't an activity I'd like him to be doing. He also will start to bug the other dogs, barking in their faces to get them to play with him. Don't get me wrong, he's a very sweet guy, but he's all terrier and can be a handful.

"Wanna play?!"

Today it got to the point where I was a bit concerned someone was going to strangle the little guy - either Chima, Sal, Frodo or me. So I decided rain or no rain Tuttle and I were going for a walk.

I can't say he was super excited about this. He loves to sniff though so off we went at a snails pace, him inspecting every blade of grass and fallen leaf and me doing deep breathing since I really don't like to walk slow.

Reading the "p-mail"

But this walk was for Tuttle, not me. While us humans love to walk in straight lines at a brisk pace, that's not how dogs walk. For them a walk is about exploration and all that sniffing and wandering and experiencing new things uses all of their senses, working their brain and really wearing them out.

Another leaf to sniff and bark to walk on

Checking out one of the many waste bins along the route

Along with all the sniffing and licking of things, Tuttle worked on being brave as garbage trucks and cars drove by, dogs barked at fences, and strangers walked down the other side of the street. He sniffed the trash cans at each house which probably had a load of interesting smells, and walked on a bunch of different textured surfaces: grass, various grates, asphalt, moss, beauty bark and wood chips.

Tuttle went all the way under this hedge and then popped his head out to get a sniff of it

About 1/2 mile into our walk the rain really picked up and Tuttle started to drag. He was no longer having much fun or even doing much exploring - he was just cold and wet. By the time we reached the 3/4 mile mark he was really done so I picked him up and carried him the last 1/4 mile back to the house. There he practiced more bravery as he experienced the garage door opening near him and the recycling bin being wheeled into the garage.
Hitching a ride home after deciding he was too wet to move his legs. 

Hopefully we'll get some nicer weather so Tuttle will get to walk in the sunshine. Then maybe it won't take us a full 30 minutes to get around the block.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Fine Art of Dog Play

With some dogs there is an ultra fine line between play and fighting. The reason for this usually is that the dogs get ramped up so quickly that they become pretty reactive and they don't know how to stop and give themselves breaks before that happens.

Both Chima and Tuttle really struggle with this problem. They start to play, the intensity quickly ramps up (by quickly I'm talking about 15 seconds here) and if I don't step in I have a fight on my hands.

At a seminar I went to once I remember the speaker talking about how dog play should be like a boxing match - every three minutes everyone is forced to take a time out and rest for awhile. And if you watch two dogs together who play well you will notice that they naturally will take these breaks, backing off and waiting until the body language of the other lets them know they are ready for round 2 or 3 or 20.

When dogs don't naturally take breaks the intensity will build until fights happen and so it's the human's job as the guardian in the situation to manage this. Some dogs will never be well matched to play together because one will end up being bullied by the other. Neither dogs are bad, they just aren't a good match. But when two dogs are pretty evenly matched in temperament but struggle with giving themselves breaks, the human can facilitate this by creating distractions and interruptions to the play that cause short little breaks for the dogs.

I will call out their names, walk between them, pick up a treat bag, etc. Anything that causes them to pause and take the attention off of each other. After a bit if they seem to have taken things down a notch then the human ignores them a bit so they will start up again. When it gets to a point that the dogs struggle to bring their intensity down during the breaks then it's time to end the play and try again another time.

I do this often by a break in their crates with a treat and a favorite chew. This reinforces the play time, gives them a chance to fully calm down, and the chew is a way to work out some of that intensity as their body slowly returns to normal.

Chima and Tuttle and I have been working carefully on this over the week. I started noticing that Chima was interested in playing with Tuttle but she was quickly overwhelmed by him and then it would turn into a scuffle. By teaching them to take breaks and relax a bit, they have slowly started creating the breaks by themselves, Tuttle jumping up on a couch or chair and lying down. Then Chima will back off and watch him, wagging her tail until he attempts to jump her from the couch and the game is back on. It's been slow going - initially I would step in soon after play was initiated but by now we've worked up to a full 3-5 minutes of wrestling punctuated by short little self-initiated breaks to calm themselves down.

The video above shows them playing and taking small breaks and it was taken after about 3-4 minutes of play. After this session I stepped in and ended the session so it would stay a fun experience and everyone could rest and take down their intensity. Chima is very loud, vocal and intense in her play so a short session goes a long way for most dogs.

Tuttle says "will you play with me Sal?" and Sal says "NO". This time Tuttle took no for an answer. Yay, Tuttle! You are learning to be more respectful of your elders. 

Monday, October 13, 2014


Who's adopted? Salinas is! And where is she going? Nowhere. We have thought long and hard about this since we really never wanted to add another dog to the pack, but the reality is that Salinas has pretty much been ours for awhile now and so we are making it official and adopting her.

The longer she was with us, the clearer it became how strong the bond between Sal and Chima was and how difficult a time she would have if she had to be separated from her, even to go to the very best of adopters. Unlike Chima, Sal is pretty brittle when experiencing new situations and environments and although we work on this she's never going to be a dog  who happily embraces change without her sister by her side. She finds life a bit scary and having Chima there to blaze the way gives her a bit of resiliency that she doesn't naturally have on her own.

And Chima would have struggled with the loss of Sal as well although she is more resilient so would have eventually bounced back, I believe.

We didn't just adopt her because it would be tough for her to manage life without Chima, though. She's a wonderful, sweet dog who is full of love and snuggles and does great with other dogs so she is a wonderful "addition" to our family.

So for those followers of "The Great Adventures of Chima and Sal" there will be many more posts to follow with I am sure, many more laughs. They are definitely a couple of very silly girls.