'Not only is punishment risky, but it also fails to teach the dog an acceptable alternate behaviour. The dog does not learn what to do the next time he is in the same situation. He only learns to fear the situation.' Emma Parsons, Click to Calm p73

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Recap of Christmas.

Well... this post is a bit late, but I might be slightly addicted to Skyrim. Might be. And if that were the case, I might be spending all of my time on it. Maybe.

So for six days over Christmas, my friend, Hatter, was here. She's been here once before for a weekend, so I was anticipating being able to move past the 'just deal with the person being here' stage quite quickly. And we did just that. For the first day, we did some simple shaping (go see scary "new" person), and although there was quite a lot of vocalisation and worried stares, she settled easily and didn't freak out too bad.

I forgot to take notes at the end of each day as I'd intended, but over the course of the six days:
- Vocalisations and hard stares grew less frequent, to the point at which during the final few days she barely made a peep unless startled.
- She played fetch with Hatter quite a lot, indoors and outdoors--though didn't bring the ball back to her.
- She nudged her boomer ball to Hatter, several times over the course of several days, so that she would throw the ball again for her to attack.
- She licked the filling out of a hoof that my friend held, rather than taking the hoof away as I'd expected to do (day five?).
- She played tug with Hatter! She regripped it and dropped it a lot, and certainly didn't want to engage in her usual high state of excitement, but it happened, on the final two days.
- For the final three mornings, Lola woke up Hatter with facial licking and nipping (the excited way in which she used to wake up me, and the way in which she still wakes up my mum if I take her in to see her in the morning). The first time she did it was very tentative; and then by the time the final day swung around, my friend informed me that Lola had woken her up several times during the night by licking her face.
- Starting from maybe the third (?) day, Lola licked my friend's hands and arms several times a day.
- On the final two days, Lola (very cautiously) licked Hatter's face. AND she also went up to her to actually initiate (light, non-confrontational) petting. Awesome.

Some things I learned (and in some cases, was reminded of) about Lola's specific reactivity:
- Hands coming toward her are scary; hands that are already petting her are lickable.
- People returning from the bathroom/hallway/getting changed are suddenly a new Threat that needs to be barked at.
- Excitement can very quickly become reactivity: the arrival of a Favoured Person turns someone she is tolerating the presence of into a Threat.
- People that just show up in "her" bed when she doesn't expect them to be there are a horrifying Threat. Similarly, people that get out of "her" bed when she has forgotten they are there (after a night's sleep) are, again, a Threat.

By the way, guys... Happy New Years Eve

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas recap.

The dogs are very tired, and very happy. I'm happy too.

Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos on the day, of the dogs unwrapping (read: ripping apart) their carefully wrapped toys, but they had a blast. They got two new collars each; they got the big box of toys we won from Bert (every toy individually wrapped); they got two water buffalo hide dog toys from my friend who stayed over; and finally, Lola got a brand new, much smaller, boomer ball. She's in love with it again.

I shoved a lot of leftover cooked chicken bones and meat from Christmas dinner into a pan, boiled for maybe five hours, and ended up with a lot of stock (and a lot of remaining meat). The dogs have had half a cup of chicken stock, half a handful of chicken, and a handful of food for dinner last night and breakfast this morning. They are in doggy heaven.

I got some dog-related stuff too (books: Brian Plummer's The Plummer Bible and Practical Dog Breeding, and Michael Brander's Breeding Working Dogs). I'll be writing up a big old post on how Lola and my friend got on (since said friend was here for six days over the Christmas period) tomorrow probably, and I'll also swing around and catch up on happenings in blogland  For now, some quick photos.

The collars are all absolutely gorgeous. Three are from fairytailcollars on etsy: the Dinosaurs on Lime collar, the Red Birds collar, and the Makin' Mischief collar. The other is from eBay. I'm extremely impressed with the fairytalecollars especially - they are just so beautiful, and the lime colour of the Dinosaurs and Mischief collars is really fantastic and vibrant.

Sunday, 25 December 2011


Merry Christmas, everyone! The girls have had a blast today. Hope you all have too!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Mostly Wordless Wednesday.

Photos are from a couple of days ago, when my secret santa gift arrived from a forum I'm on.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Get the Thing.

I've been thinking somewhat about my dogs' different play styles, and why they play like they do. They are fairly compatible when playing, which is good, but sometimes one will confuse or annoy the other. (Thankfully Jess is too tolerant to beat up Lola when Lola is being an annoying little idiot - which happens a lot.)

As shown in the last video, Jess is very into getting her teeth on a thing and holding it. I've only had limited experience with non-Jess staffies, and none with other beagles, so I don't know if that's a "breed thing" or a "Jess thing". To increase Jessie's excitement level and drive to get a thing, I push it in her face, smack her (lightly) with it, and when she has it I yank her away, nudge her with my feet, and generally force her apart from it. Whipping the toy away (a la flirtpole) doesn't work as well, but pulling her away makes her want to get the thing even harder.

I experimented, and when she and Lola were at the tail end of playing tug together, I grabbed hold of Jess and held her so that she eventually lost her grip. She stared hard at Lola, and when I released her she shot forward and almost trampled the pup in her desire to geddit. Not bad for an old dog, eh?

Lola will also hold onto a toy if she gets it (and has done since puphood - at six/seven weeks old, I played tug with her when none of her littermates were interested). But Lola regrips much more than Jess. Lola, when hanging from something, is much more likely to twist around and shake to try and rip/kill the thing. She's very much a terrier in that respect.

Playing flirtpole works amazingly for her because she wants to catch it, rather than hold it. It sounds like the same thing - but if I push a toy in Lola's face, she'll usually move away; if I move the toy away from her, she'll drive toward it. Jess tends more to be the opposite. Flirtpole allows her to rush after a thing, and to dislodge her from it, I pull it hard and whip it away as soon as possible. I think this is why Jess isn't hugely interested in flirtpole - because it moves away too fast, and Jess waits for it to come back to her.

Another note is that if I'm playing with the dogs with my hands (bad!) as opposed to a toy, the difference is pretty obvious. Lola will push her face into the floor, and then lunge at my hands to gently nip them. Jess, on the other hand, will open her mouth and sort of... swing her big head around trying to "catch" my hand. She's very unlikely to make contact with the skin, but she will grab and hold clothes if she doesn't have a toy that she can hold.

For Lola, excitement = chase, nip, shake and hold. For Jess, it's open mouth, grab andhold. I wonder why?

Sunday, 18 December 2011


Maybe it's not Christmas yet, but it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Wait, Lola. I'm supposed to light up the tree, not the terrier. Jeez.

Maybe Jess has been feeling Christmassy too, now the tree is up. Either that or the supplements (Yumega and Seaweed Conditioning Powder, alongside an increased dose of fish oil) I give her each day have helped loosen her up. (It's probably the latter, unless Santa is responsible, as she's been gradually getting more and more excitable lately.)

The old girl played enthusiastically for quite a while! She played tug with me and with Lola, chased her old cat chaser toy (she doesn't get nearly as excited for Lola's flirtpole as she does for her cat chaser), hung from a football like a pro (see: video); and she also nearly knocked me over when playing tug, bit my sleeve whilst we were playing the slowest shark, and nailed my knee with her dumb staffie face when I was walking downstairs and she thought it was prime time to zoom upstairs.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Best Spot.


The spot right in front of the heater is the best spot in winter. As soon as it is turned on, both dogs slink immediately over. They often resort to nudging each other out of the way, or just stretching out enough that they can take up most of the room (ahem, Lola).

If you're a human and want to get warm quickly, your best bet is to hug one of the dogs after they've been near the heater. You're shit outta luck for getting anywhere near it yourself.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


This was yesterday.

And this is today.

It's not easy to see, but Lola's nose (and muzzle) started to scab over... and then she decided it'd be totally awesome to rip it open again while I was trying to exercise her before university this morning.

I'm working on an essay at the moment that's taking up pretty much all of my time. The good news is, it's due in on Friday - which means after that, university is done until mid-January. Phew. I'm looking forward to catching up on everyone, and getting back into more regular posting.

Hopefully I'll also have actual stuff to post about, too. :)

Friday, 9 December 2011

Boosters and Bruises.

(Well, not so much bruises as cuts... but you'll see.)

Yesterday I had to take the dogs to the vets for their yearly boosters. This was the first time taking them both in together and... it was an experience.

Lola didn't behave as badly as I thought (she was very responsive to food, and only barked once at a boxer pup whilst we were waiting to go in; she didn't vocalise at the vet, and though she squirmed like crazy and tried to climb up me, she didn't try to bite him), but after we got out, whilst my poor friend held onto their leashes and I attempted to pay for the injections, both dogs were being awful. Jess was yodelling and howling and trying to scratch her way across the floor, and Lola was alternating between staring miserably at me and doing her whiny clucking noise. It was extremely embarrassing, to say the least!

But aside from that, Lola also managed--whilst I was trying to exhaust her in the awful, heavy rain and crazy winds (which left my legs and feet literally dripping water, once I got home), before we went to the vets--to slice open the top of her nose and one side of her muzzle. She also has a red bump above one eye, and a cut on the pad of one of her front paws.

The way it happened? Simple: I let her off lead outside with her have her boomer ball. Apparently the puppy can't control herself anymore with it, so once she's healed up she'll only get her boomer ball after a certain amount of time during her exercise, not at the start of it. Silly puppy.

Lola was feeling totally sorry for herself last night (booster vaccinations, a hurting face and sore paw will do that to even a Jack Russell), but she's fine today, and her muzzle and nose already look much better. Jessie's only trouble was that I didn't let her eat the boxer puppy or the budgie in the waiting room, or let her lick everyone to death (though she did get in a sneaky kiss to the vet when he unwittingly brought his face close to hers).

I also found out the dogs' weights from the Much More Scientific Than A Wii Balance Board weight machine: Jess weighs 13.75kg (about 30lbs) and Lola weighs 6.5kg (about 14lbs). As Jess is getting on in age and very rarely "plays" outside (she's never been big on playing outdoors, as it is), she has very little muscle, but she's nice and trim at the moment so I'd say 30lbs is about ideal for her. Lola has huge muscles in her back legs at the moment, but a tiny little bit more padding than I'd like on her ribs. I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt as it's winter and she's less manic in the winter, but I'd say 14lbs would be her ideal if she had a tad more muscle, and a tad less chub. She's okay for now though (as I have the sneaking suspicion her currently longer, harsher, scruffier coat is hiding just how slender she still is), but we'll see!

I'll catch up with everyone in blogworld tomorrow!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

What's in the Box?

When I came home yesterday from spending the night at a friend's, I was greeted with two things: Lola, being ignored until she laid down, wagging so hard that she actually vibrated across the floor... And presents!

The photo of Lola wearing a hat (and feeling very sorry for herself about said hat) got second place in Bert's hat contest. Her prize and card arrived yesterday, so I opened them up when I got home. I apologise in advance for the dog hair all over the carpets - I forgot to vacuum the carpets before I opened everything, and didn't realise until afterwards that there was hair everywhere.

Inside the card:
Dear Lola, we didn't get this in your package so, now you get two things coming in the mail. First we wanted to thank you for entering the Hat Contest + secondly we wanted to wish all of you a Merry Christimas
Bert, My Vickie & the Crew

(Thanks so much guys!)

Even more exciting, for Lola, was the big, strange-smelling box.

What's in the box, puppy?

In the box was toys! A whole bunch of awesome looking toys!

Unfortunately for Lola, she won't get to play with any of them until Christmas (she was most unhappy about this fact). I'm going to wrap them all up individually, and they'll get them on Christmas day with all their other things. At this rate, the dogs are going to have more for Christmas than everyone else in the house combined!

Thanks so much for hosting the contest, Bert and Vickie!

Sunday, 4 December 2011


It seems like we've been a bit quiet lately! I didn't even realise it's been so long since I posted, oops. But there's nothing much happening here with the dogs, mice, or even with me.

Lola is working, verrrry slowly (because I'm super lazy now it's getting colder), on 'hold it' because it makes her happy. She gets all wiggly and dopy when I ask her to hold a thing.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Insatiable Gamer.

Okay so maybe it's me that's being playing far too much on the xbox* lately, but Lola with the controller is much cuter. :)

We should be picking Tricky T-day back up again soon. I really miss doing it! I'll be finishing uni for the christmas holidays soon, so if I don't get back on track before then, I'll definitely start in my (nearly 4 week long!) holiday.

I'm also hoping to get through some very intense socialisation days, with the hope of doing it once a week when I go back to university. Doing uni work makes me loathe to do anything else, though!

* For any xbox gamers out there, I've been playing:
Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead 2
Dead Island
Dead Rising
Dead Rising: Case Zero (100% completed)
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, part one
Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing (100% completed)

(Except for the last two, I think it's obvious I have a problem when it comes to zombie games...)

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Mice: Taking a Moment...

...Out of doing essays essays essays so many essays to say hello to the mice.

The entire time I was with the mice (just hand feeding some lovely, sickly-sweet-smelling mealworms), the dogs were loose in the room.

Yup, two pretty prey driven dogs spent all their time lying down and staring hopefully, rather than circling like sharks as I'd have expected.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Exercise and Reactivity.

Over the past week and a half or so, we've been spending a lot less time playing fetch. It wasn't so much a conscious decision as it was me choosing to do things that would tire Lola out faster so that we could get back indoors, and some of those activities are things she loves so much that I'm keeping on doing them.

This is just context. I don't know if it is actually responsible or not, but maybe it is. Regardless, I've noticed, yesterday and today, a marked decrease in Lola's dog reactivity. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know she's a moderately reactive dog: she's shy around and fearful of humans, and seems a mixture of excited and aggressive around dogs. Because she's a terrier, she reacts to anything she likes and doesn't like in one way - by barking at it.

We've been working on her reactivity since I couldn't ignore it any more in summer. We did a lot of work in my months off of university in summer, but then when I went back again after the holidays it quite fell to the wayside. We use Look At That! games primarily to keep her focus, and I do these daily with anyone we pass on our walks. I try to do a longer conditioning walk/session at least once a week, which means we go up town or similar.

She's becoming very good with other people at a distance. She is still likely to react to certain triggers (people walking behind us; people bending over her; people speaking to her; people trying to talk her; disabled people; people with "wrong" silhouettes (e.g. carrying huge backpacks); loud people with exaggerated gestures), but by and large we can walk through town with a few handfuls of kibble and a blissful silence. She's still very uncomfortable about people coming to the house (barking, then growling and keeping her distance), but she is getting better with that, too. It's slow going because university is taking up a lot of my time, and most of my friends that do come round are people she has no problem with now.

If we see a person, she will bark maybe once every hundred encounter. But if we see a dog, she will bark once every five or so encounters.

It doesn't help that, naturally, we don't see nearly as many dogs as we do people; nor does it help that I have my own hang-ups about other dogs, thanks to Jessie's dog aggression. I socialised Lola well with other dogs (admittedly, I did not socialise her well with people: I know that, accept that, and feel awful for it), but at a certain point she ceased to view other dogs as potential best friends, and more as a thing to remove.

Lola's entire system tells her to "get a thing". Terriers, especially Jack Russell Terriers, tend to be very 'dog hot'; they often see dogs as competition to get their thing, or as something in the way of getting it, or as the thing that they ought to get. They are the dogs that never give up - by and large, terriers are filled to the seams with gameness. (This gameness, driviness and inherent 'dog hot' nature is, in my opinion, the reasons why the bull and terrier crosses could so easily be used for pit fighting.)So when Lola hit a certain age, that dog hotness turned on. She is often very competitive with other dogs, and she redirects easily onto Jess when she's excited (though oddly not when she gives an aggressive display).

At first, I used a mixture of Look At That! and Behavioural Adjustment Training to try to get Lola's attention back on me around other dogs. It seemed to work, so much so that we primarily went with BAT... until I realised we weren't progressing any more but backsliding, because, it seems, that going away from the dog is not what she wants. Obviously, I can't be one-hundred-percent certain that there is no fear driving her behaviour to other dogs; but whereas her reactions to people are very much rooted in fear, her reactions to other dogs don't seem to be. If there is any fear to her dog reactivity, I think it is, at most, a secondary aspect of it.

All the time this was happening, we spent most of her exercise time playing fetch - and Lola had a lot of encounters with dogs who had no recall whatsoever, in which she learned all the more how to make them go away when she was doing a thing and didn't want them to join in.

Back to the present day.matter: since we've stopped playing so much fetch (and going to other places than the park with the awful, no-recall dogs and owners), I have noticed some differences in her dog reactivity. She would calm down faster, react slightly less, and be a smidge more responsive during.

I didn't pay much attention to it until yesterday, when a woman walked by on the other side of the road with a lunging, barking Patterdale terrier, and Lola gave it only a few glances whilst otherwise giving me full focus. I would have expected her to bark or growl back, at the very least. And then today, we nearly met two different dogs head-on, and each time Lola turned her back on the other dog and moved toward me (away from the other dog) for her reward.

At this point, naturally, I can't make a link between the different exercize schedule and activities and her apparent reduction of reactivity: two days isn't enough to go on, and correlation is not causation. But I find it interesting, nonetheless.

Both times today that Lola saw the other dog, she was pulling on the leash already. Yesterday I made up a quick 2'' collar so that we can do some hand-walking*, and I slapped the collar on her today and let her pull a lot. As of yesterday, she's also been wearing a doggy backpack** with nothing in it, to tire her out. Other exercise we've been doing has primarily been flirtpole*** and "springpole"***; then, secondly, some fetch of balls/frisbees and some playing with Lola's Boomer Ball.

*Hand-walking allows Lola to build muscles better than loose leash walking (LLW), and will be a better way of tiring her out in winter (when an hour of hand walking would be superior to two or three hours of LLW). It also gives her a reward other than food--if she behaves, she gets to pull. It's a very simple reward that uses the Premack Principle pretty well.

**Next: wearing a backpack will again increase her fitness, and it gives her A Job To Do. As a neurotic terrier, this is a very important thing. Lola's reactivity has always been noticeably less when she's given A Job - e.g. carrying a ball or tug toy in her mouth.

***Flirtpole and springpole both allow Lola to indulge in her prey drive, in ways that fetch doesn't permit. Our springpole isn't set up yet, so "springpole" here right now means tugging at a toy hung over the doorframe. It's pretty crappy but it does the job. Flirtpole lets her catch a thing, Springpole lets her kill a thing.

Where are we now? I'm interested to see how our changed exercise schedule affects Lola's reactivity long-term: at the moment it's just something happening at the same time as something else, so I can't draw any conclusions. I'm also planning on having a number of friends that Lola has met only once or twice before to come over during the Christmas holidays, to see if I can't help her learn more that sometimes scary people can become her buddies, too.

Lola's temporary 2'' hand-walking collar and backpack.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Moody Monday.

(Post-bath terrier fur. Both she and Jess are moody right now.)

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Busy Bee.

Stop what you are doing and cuddle me
I've been pretty busy today.

Lola has been out for about two hours (fetch/flirtpole); I spent an hour and a half or so sawing some wood; I went to town with two friends (Jenny and one whom neither dog hasn't met before - the puppy barked a lot, but calmed down quickly and just grumbled at him from a distance, and Jess of course tried to climb onto his lap repeatedly) for a couple of hours; and then when I got back, I sorted and stuck together the wood lengths to make a new frame for the mice tank (which has to seal overnight), cleaned out the mouse tank, and then adjusted Lola's backpack (using some webbing to make a different strap for the chest) so she can actually wear it.

I also managed to not spend anything when we visited Pets At Home, which has to be a first for me. I did, however, identify a few things I'll no doubt pick up in a couple of weeks for Christmas presents for the dogs. Yes, I fully intend to spend more on my dogs at Christmas than on everyone else combined.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Flirtpole Fun.

Small things amuse small (terrier) minds. The awesome thing is that flirtpole tires her out more than two times the amount of time she'd be playing fetch for - so ten minutes of flirtpole is equivalent to like twenty five minutes of fetch. Very nice when you've got university work to do. (But I should be popping around to visit and catch up again tomorrow or Saturday!)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Snoop(y) Dogg.

I have some better quality, nicely made collars coming from Etsy, but in the meantime I saw this darling thing on eBay and couldn't resist.

Back to being active and commenting and stuff again soon. This week has been a nightmare: on top of normal university work and reading, I've got an 1000 word essay plan and a 2000 word essay due Friday, and then a 1000 word presentation review the following Monday. After this week it'll all calm down though, as I have one thing due on the 28th November, then one thing in the whole of December and two in January after my awesomely-long christmas break.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Mice: Update.

Lola can now be tethered in her crate, with the door open, whilst I handle/clean out the mice. She doesn't stare at 'em nearly as much. The little cuties will take mealworms from my hand inside the tank pretty consistently now, and I haven't been nipped in days.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


I'm still working (slowly... slowly...) on increasing Lola's tug drive, and her general desire to get things. Part of this involves playing a lot of tug (general tug toys, tugs covered in rabbit scent, flirt pole), and I had a brainwave this evening of making her watch Jess play first. Use that competitive jealousy for good.

(You might want to mute this video! I had music on, didn't realise it was so loud!)

(Only the growling sounds come from Jess!)

Unfortunately Jess wasn't quite up for it, but even though Lola was pretty tired (she pretty much had a drink and collapsed after the first video, and I let her lie for a few minutes before crating her and letting Jess out to play) she really dived for the tug.

Now my hands are aching and rubbed raw.