'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

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Impulse Control: "Project Epiphany."

I spent Lola's dinner yesterday and breakfast today on It's Yer Choice. We only had one minor problem with it, when I accidentally threw a piece of kibble almost squarely at her, and barely had time to squawk out a 'leave it!' (too harshly) when she, quite rightly, bent to get it off of the floor.

Other than that, Project Epiphany (as I'm calling our new regime of regular impulse control games) is going fantastic. Whilst out walking today, Lola was doing a lot of down-stays and releases for her ball, even up to the point of staying still as I very gently pretended to throw the ball.

And then to make matters even better, towards the end of the walk, a Jack Russell came running up behind us. I quickly veered onto a different path--thankfully, I had the ball in the launcher and Lola beside me--and for about fifteen or twenty minutes it just followed us, whilst the owners totally ignored it. At one point, Lola half-turned toward it, her lip curling back slightly; I told her to leave it and instantly she gave me her full attention, and didn't look back again until it finally left us alone. I jackpotted my clever girl so much with bouncing, squealing and ball throwing immediately!

I did have a moment of weakness ('oh, should I let her meet it... they're similar size...') but decided against it, and with Lola's slight lip curl as she turned to it I'm glad I did. I think the owners were pretty put out by my behaviour--they probably thought I didn't want my ickle baby princess to get hurt--and while I hate that I'm adding to the conception of small dog owners (and their dogs) being idiots, I'd rather that than risk a fight.

Lola has been a good girl today and I am very proud of her. :)

Saturday, 28 May 2011

My Dog Is People.

Lola and the Flirt Pole, and Saturday Pet Blog Hop.

I made a bit of a mistake when getting the lunge whip for her flirt pole - it's way too big to use indoors, as the top keeps scraping the ceiling when I flick it! She seems to enjoy playing with it outdoors though, and we still (just about) have the cat chasers for indoor play.

Friday, 27 May 2011


I had an epiphany today.

I need to stop thinking of Lola in past terms. She was a dog social puppy, she's maturing into a dog selective/reactive young adult. This is something I tried my best to get around--I socialised her so much to other dogs when she was younger--but I need to stop thinking of how she used to be, and start thinking of how she is now.

So for now, no more encouraging her to go and play with other dogs (it can end with lots of snarls). I am going to work on self control exercises, and we are going to work toward her being able to ignore other dogs; when she can be near them without showing too much interest, we will work on making her more social.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Silly Lola!

Lola l-o-v-e-s cat chaser toys. I had one for Jess before we got Lola, and that has since been ripped apart; and since the shooting of this video (yesterday!), the poor purple snake has been decapitated and had its stomach ripped open in several places. Lola still loves playing with it though; I think it just stimulates her prey drive too much for her to be able to leave it alone for long once I get it out.

Our intended tricky t-day video is going to have to wait, possibly until next week! Neither dog is cooperating with it, but I'm persistent so we'll get there eventually. It doesn't help that Lola's been getting a lot of her meals spent on treibball and crating, which doesn't leave much time for trick training!

So, in lieu of a tricky t-day video, I'd like to share a quick video of Lola's 'blitz', which has been shown before - but we've never to this extent. She gets treats for 'blitz' maybe one in six or seven reps, but she doesn't seem to be any less enthusiastic about jumping at me, does she? :)

Monday, 23 May 2011

Crate Training V3 and Treibball.

I decided today to try crate training Lola... for the third time. I brought the crate back into the living room (where it was when we first started, and where we spend the majority of our time), and decided on different rules: no whining allowed at all, the door is constantly unlocked, and the crate is a Great Place To Be.

Because of her habit of going to the toilet in the crate (often regardless of whether I was sat right next to her or not), I took her out generally every six or seven minutes. We started out with a kong stuffed with nuked cheese, which kept her quiet for about eight minutes, and then I let her out to the toilet. As she'd finished the kong, I made a fresh one with bread soaked in liver stock, and gave her that - and she loved it. She had about three of those the entire time, and was in the crate (including the minute-long breaks to toilet outside) for almost four hours!

About an hour into the training, she started whining quietly, and rather than let it escalate by ignoring it (which is how I've ended up with her full-blown howling when she goes in, in the past), I just told her 'no', which we use as a 'this behaviour is not going to get you anything' marker. She immediately settled down, and after a couple of minutes of lying there and staring at me she sighed, put her head down, and fell asleep! She was asleep for about half an hour, whilst I sat on the couch trying not to vibrate with excitement, as she has only ever once fallen asleep in the crate outside of when we first started and I slept by the crate with my fingers through the bars.

After she woke up, I took her outside to the toilet, and then we had a half-hour break to play fetch and tire her out some more. She went back into the crate, and only whined a couple of times when she was bored because she'd finished her kong - and she immediately shushed up with a soft 'no'. I also intermittently praised her for being a good girl when she was quiet, and especially if she was lying down or licking a kong.

Today has shown me, however, that I'd obviously in the past skipped some steps between being in the room with her in the crate, and leaving - at one point I went to the toilet, and as soon as I was out the door she started screaming. I called down 'no', and she shushed immediately, and that happened three or four times throughout the nearly four hours that she was in the crate. The fifth or so time I left, to take some washing upstairs (and was gone for about three minutes), she stayed quiet the entire time - she didn't whine, howl, scream, bite the bars, scratch at them, etc. When I came back, I praised her, let her out after a few seconds, and took her outside, and she pooped: which meant she'd held it! It was only a few minutes, obviously, but this is from the puppy who has previously peed and pooped in the crate when I've been in the room and just taken my eyes off of her.

Just minutes before writing this post, too, the scuffling noise of Lola digging through their toybox (which is currently in the crate) ended, and I glanced over at the crate to see her laid down in it! Voluntarily! I'm super excited that we might finally have cracked it.

So for now, crate training means putting her in it for at least an hour a day, shushing her if she whines, and making my leaving the room for around two minutes something she doesn't even notice. I have all summer to get her used to it, and hopefully by the time I go back to university in September she'll be able to hold it for three-four hours between me leaving, my mum letting her out halfway through the day, and then again til I'm home.

In other news, we spent Lola's breakfast on some 'hit it' treibball training. We aren't using the mat right now (though we spent dinner on directional cues around the heater and hoover to her mat) because I want to get her enthusiasm up for hitting the ball - which shouldn't take too long! Hopefully, I'll soon be able to send her to the mat, and then release and reward with being allowed to hit the ball. My main issue with treibball right now is making the damn ball stay still, I think I overinflated it! She's also not too great at hitting it in a straight line, but right now I'm more interested in getting her excited when making contact; in future we'll probably play in the narrow hallway, to make it easier for her.

I think she likes it so far! Three times now, she's nudged/scratched open the door to the front room where the ball and mat are kept and sat by them (they are stored with the mat on top of the ball), watching them.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Treibball Update.

After taking a couple of days out to work on going in different directions around different objects (left and right around a stool, a lamp and the vacuum cleaner), I took a handful of Really Great Food today and got out the ball again - with the hope that having Really Great Food (corned beef, mushed up in my fingers) would help Lola keep her head when she was actually touching the ball.

Of course, I'd forgotten when I got everything out and ready that... Lola doesn't actually know how to target anything other than my hand and a target stick. Five minutes with post-it notes and blutack helped, and it only took three or four nudges against the ball with the note stuck there for her to "get" what I meant, and start gently touching the ball, pretty low down, without the note there.

She'll go a couple of steps with it now, happily nudging it toward me, in a straight line. I'm marking and treating when the ball hits my legs (sometimes an inch away, sometimes two feet away, etc), and I think she's getting it. We only had one crazy moment, when she hit the ball a little to the left and then frantically tried to bring it back around to me - and then lost her mind and started pawing at it and bouncing it around the room. She minded me when I called her away, and went right back to it despite the (mild) correction, which was great! I'm hoping playing with treiball helps build her confidence; agility will likely help, too, when she's older, but treiball is great especially for now because it also doesn't require getting utterly filthy outdoors like agility does.

In other news, I've broken my clicker. I can press the button and get a click, but then it "sticks" and won't un-click for a few seconds or until I shake it (resulting in two clicks a few seconds apart). I'm going to have to have a trip to Pets At Home to get a new one (or two!) - I can use and am using my verbal marker with Lola, but I do find that she "gets" what I want slightly slower than with the clicker.

Social Life.

Me and Jess - and jealous Lola!
I've been a very social person today, seeing two of my friends (one of whom I haven't seen for a couple of months because of university pressure) for film and tv watching.

Lola was not very nice to the friend I haven't seen for a while, even though last time she was here Ro warmed up to her within about ten minutes. This time, she barked quite obnoxiously for a couple of minutes, until I lost my temper and, rather than shouting at her, put her in the kitchen and firmly shut the door on her. She scratched the door, and I waited until she stopped then let her out.

She was very wiggly when she got out, and only re-offended once about half an hour later (growling very softly when K leaned across me to put her drink down), and back into the kitchen she went. I didn't force any interaction between them, and told my friend to just ignore her, and I think not having to have eye contact with my friend helped. I don't think the situation was helped by my friend's lack of dog-savviness, but Lola did alright. Jess, of course, was her usual attention-loving self.

I think I'll try the time-out method again in future; she can be quiet and avoid my company, but barking obnoxiously at them is going to make her go away, not them. In future, I'll also put her harness and a long line on, so I don't have to pick her up (and transmit my irritation to her). The difference between being told to shut up, and being put in a couple of seconds' time out, was pretty fantastic though.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Jean Donaldson - 'Mine.'

Highlights from Jean Donaldson's excellent book on resource guarding, 'Mine.' (Which everybody should read, especially if their dog has any resource guarding issues whatsoever.)

'Our expectations of dogs are very high, actually. The standard we have set for them is one we would considre absurd for any other species of animal, including ourselves. We want no aggressive behaviour directed at humans, of even the most ritualized sort, at any time, over the entire course of the dog's life. This is exactly like you going a lifetime without ever once losing your temper, swearing at another driver in traffic, being rude to someone in a line-up, writing a hot letter to the editer, defending yourself from what you perceive to be a threat, calling a lawyer or saying something mean to your spouse that you later regret. All species-normal, even highly ritualized aggression is forbidden.' (2)

'Similarly, there is a big difference in ritualized and non-ritualized conflict resolution behaviour in dogs. Hard stares, growling, snarling, snapping and biting without maiming force are the "legal" conflict resolution behaviours in dog society. They are ways for dogs to settle conflicts - to say "back off!" if you will - without the high price to all participants of flat-out uninhibited aggression. Dogs are equipped with maim-force jaws, capable of crushing bone and tearing flesh. They carry these heavy weapons with them at all times, yet have managed to not self-annihilate as a species, in spite of lots of arguing about bones, mates and carcasses.' (3-4)

'...a geriatric, couch-potato dog has a reaction time better than an Olympic athlete. When dogs intend to bite, they bite. When they intend to snap, they snap.' (5)

'Our vision of dogs is filled with images of dogs soliciting patting, and enjoying tummy rubs and ear scratches. And, while we can relate to a dog being nervous or irritable when in pain or when having a scary veterinary procedure done, we are thrown for a loop by dogs who do not relish being touched or handled when our motive is benign or even affectionate. The reality is, however, that we would not expect to easily handle adults of any other species of animal if they had not been systematically and extensively handled and gentled as infants and juveniles.' (12)

'...there are clear learning rate differences between dogs. In many cases these can be traced to a more enriched environment, particularly when a dog has been taught other things and is benefiting from a "learning to learn" effect.' (20)

'First and foremost, ensure that the dog has adequate physical and mental stimulation on a daily basis. There is now evidence that aerobic exercise raises serotonin levels, which is good for the cauce. Good choices are jogging, dog play, sustained games of fetch, long hikes, swimming and organized sports like Agility and Flyball. ... Physical exercise is part of the battle. The other part is tiring the dog out mentally.' (85)

[When working on a program to remove resource guarding...] 'Check for and suspend any use of aversives, including hidden aversives, in the dog's life. The concept of "hidden aversives" speaks to the relativity of stimuli. A dog with a high pain threshold may not find a harsh leash jerk to be aversive, whereas a dog with a lower pain threshold may find simply being tugged on a flat collar to be aversive. Even more commonly, a dog who is emotionally sensitive (i.e. a "soft" temperament), may find raised voices or impatient handling to be aversive.' (86-87)

Reactive Girls.

Lola had a mini-meltdown today.

She wasn't walked yesterday or the day before, because I was out drinking with friends on Tuesday and was incredibly hungover on Wednesday: and it showed today. Within a couple of minutes of us leaving the house, on the five or six minute journey from our home to the park, Lola forgot all her 'don't bark at me when I'm holding your ball' training, and barked and lunged at a man who bent to stroke her whilst she was watching me/the ball (she was amped up and excited, and he moved too fast out of the corner of her eye - as a terrier, Lola meets "threats" with reactive displays).

We got to the park, and everything was fine, except Jess being a silly idiot (posturing and glaring at other dogs), until a beagle pup came flying out of nowhere. Jess freaked out completely, snarling and lunging and twisting to try and bite it; she hasn't had such a display in over six months - she's gotten a lot better than she was, and can usually control herself. The beagle's owners were useless, just shouting after it and strolling in our direction, as Lola, amped up by the fact that I'd only just picked her ball up, that the beagle had slammed into her when she was staring at me, and by Jess' huge display, snarled and snapped and chased the other dog away.

Thankfully, once my brain kicked in and I shouted at her to 'leave it', she left the beagle and came back to me, and I was able to walk quickly away, leaving the owners to fumble for their dog. It was incredibly frustrating and embarrassing - my dogs were making nuisances of themselves, and since I was fumbling with Jess' lead, Lola's ball and ball launcher and my bag, it was hard to try and get away whilst the other dog kept on chasing us.

Despite today though (and I know it will set us back; an episode always does), Lola's reactivity is coming on in leaps and bounds. She's gone from barking at strangers several times each walk to once in nearly a fortnight; she still has issues barking (and sometimes nipping) at other dogs, but we mostly manage that whilst I work on her problems with strange people, by avoiding other dogs when she's on-lead. I'm not too bothered by her freak out at the beagle, since the dog did hit several of her triggers (coming 'out of nowhere'; running into her; distracting her from her ball when she was still in the fetch mindset; being overly obnoxious and insistent; and running away when Lola snapped, thus egging her on to chase and snarl more). Having Jess there only made the situation worse, since Lola was "backed up" by Jessie's aggressive displays, and since I couldn't quite get a grip on what was happening and just carried on walking away as quickly as I could, dragging Jess with me.

Hopefully today hasn't set us back too much!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Tricky T-Day: Place.

Tricky T-Day: Place.

Not a 'new' trick, but just a quick recording from a couple of days ago, during Lola's crash course in "this is a mat, and this is what you do with it." We're working on something for next week that should be pretty adorable, if it works!

Monday, 16 May 2011

May I Remind You You Live in England?

The weather has really taken a turn lately - I'd all but forgotten that I live in rainy ol' England, before the last couple of days. My plan to take the girls for a nice long walk fell flat after my last exam (all exams are finished now!), because neither likes going out in the rain (and it's pretty heavy rain, with wind to match).

I got an exercise ball a couple of days ago, to start playing treibball with. The day I got it, I gave Lola a crash-course in 'how to go to your mat' because she'd basically forgotten how to do just that, and so far she'll ignore the ball if it's just far enough in the center that she has to just veer around it to go to the left. I'm having trouble thinking how to teach her the other direction - the site I was using said to teach one way first, and then I lost the link to that site, so yeah. We're using 'go by' for a clockwise movement around the ball, and I'm planning to use 'counter' for counterclockwise (since away/go away/get away is reserved for making her leave us alone when we're eating, if she's begging too much). I'm not sure whether I should carry on building up her 'go by' first, and then do 'counter' so as not to confuse her, or whether to try and integrate 'counter' in too so that she doesn't become too focused on going clockwise around the ball.

So far, she's not too fussed either way. I've had to call her off the ball twice, which I'm shocked at - both times were immediately after I'd touched/moved the ball, and it's understandable considering that our shaping sessions usually begin with me moving or setting down an object I want her to interact with, but I've moved it four times now and she's pretty ball-obsessed, so I'm surprised she hasn't gone to play with it more.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

From Jessie's Perspective.

Jess thought I should stop revising for my exam and walk her and her annoying sister, so I did just that. In just over twelve hours I'll have my final exam, and then I'm free for summer!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

A Day in the Life of Lola, and Saturday Pet Blog Hop.


"Huhhhhhh. Throw the ball?"

"I'm an idiot."

"And grass tastes good."

Friday, 13 May 2011

All About Jess.

Today marks Lola's eighth month of life, which means I've had her for just shy of six months. We didn't do anything special today for her though, as Jess decided the day should be all about her, culminating in a vet trip to have her anal glands expressed.

She's happier now and seems fine, and Lola doesn't know that it was supposed to be a Lola-centric day so she's not bothered either. Now let's just hope that the girls can stay nice and healthy, at least until my final exam on Monday.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Tricky T-Day: Take A Bow.

Tricky T-Day: Take A Bow.

This has taken far, far too long to get her to learn, but we've got it pretty good now! After I took this video, I experimented to see how well she knew it by giving the cue from an upright kneel, then from standing, and then giving the cue amidst other cues to see how well she could discriminate. She did great, with about 95% first-time response, so I'm calling this done.

I also looked yesterday at one of the local dog shelters connected with my area's dog warden, and saw that a certain tri-coloured chunky Staffie cross has been adopted. Fantastic! I hope her new home treats her well.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Promise to my Girls.

I'm so, so sorry for screaming at you both today. I promise I'll never take my stupid anger issues out on you both again.

Not A Fish.

It's true that Lola isn't a fish...

However, for the right motivation (her beloved boomer ball), she will wander around the new swimming pool.

The only problem was that the water was too cold for her at the time we were playing (about half 9 in the morning), so I intended after she'd had her fill to get her in again at about four when the sun had been on the water for a while. The weather decided not to work with me though, and at two or so it started raining heavily. So that pretty much puts swimming off until tomorrow!

Jess is not impressed with the pool. I carried her in once, and she just stood there and stared pitifully at me until I let her come out again. Jess doesn't often do water.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Nothing Like It.

There's nothing like a leisurely walk through a quiet park with the girls. (Well, leisurely for me and Jess, anyway.)

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Yesterday and Today.

For Lola, despite the good news in regards to her legs, yesterday was a Bad Day. She had three barkfests at people - two were understandable (young child very nearly running into us and woman appearing 'suddenly' out from behind counter at vets after the vet had been flexing her legs), one not so much. The last episode happened when we were out on a walk; after Lola had had the zoomies trying to get one of her boyfriends to chase her, she barked at his owner, who she usually just watches without much fuss.

I intended today to take her out into town and work hard on Look At That games, but the weather was atrocious, so when it cleared up I headed quickly out to the park to play fetch. She ignored several screaming children in favour of her ball, which was nice; but then we were caught out in a sudden heavy rain/hailstone blast, which wasn't so nice. We were both soaked, and at one point, when she kept pulling when holding her ball on the way home, I shouted at her. She cringed the rest of the way home, and I gave her a huge cuddle to say sorry. My poor baby girl is very sensitive.

If it's nice tomorrow, we're going to go out and do some agility foundation training again. She seems to have forgiven my bad mood, but I still feel guilty. Jess can handle anything I dish out, whilst Lola sometimes comes creeping over even if I interrupt their play with a quick 'hey.'

Friday, 6 May 2011

Last Post Today, I Swear!

Patella Luxation follow-up.

According to the vet, Lola's back legs (including her hips and knees) are absolutely fine. Barring accident or injury, she's very unlikely to have any problems with them; the vet is pretty sure she won't get Patella Luxation or Legg–CalvĂ©–Perthes syndrome, as both usually set in by seven months. The vet also mentioned that Jack Russells in general do do stupid things with their back legs - it's apparently not uncommon for a perfectly healthy dog to lift one back leg up and zoom around with their stride otherwise normal.

We had two reactivity incidents while we were out: the first one occured when a boy was running around the same corner we were turning, and stopped only a foot or so away; the second occured after the vet had been pulling at Lola's legs for three-four minutes and was the first person she saw (a receptionist stepping out from behind the desk and passing by us very closely whilst staring at Ro). We're still working on that though, but in the meantime the girls are celebrating the good news by having a nice new raw bone each, and Lola even has a cheap cuddly rabbit toy to rip up.

Free-Shaping Friday 1.

In order to stretch Lola's mind, I've decided to spend one or two meals a week on free-shaping. Some stuff will be shaped further and developed into 'proper' tricks, other stuff (probably) won't ever be put on cue. I'm interested to see if she gets faster at understanding what my criteria are as she does more of it.

This week is pretty obvious, but: what am I shaping in the video, and when did it click (no pun intended) for her?

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Old Photos of Jess 2008-2009.



May 2009

June 2009 (Jess used to get chubby every summer)

July 2009

November 2009

December 2009

December 2009

Zombie Jess.

Jess doing her best zombie impression in celebration: two exams down, one more to go. I've got a couple of days before I need to start revision for the last one, and although I've got the vets for Lola tomorrow the girls will otherwise be getting a whole lot of walks, cuddles and love over the next few days for make up for my slacking!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Not Quite Tricky T-Day.

I've been way too busy the last couple of days to get Lola much further from where we are with her 'take a bow' (luring with air-cookie, introducing the verbal cue still), and I don't have time to work on anything else, so here's the girls showing off their phenomenal 'tug' tricks!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Moody Monday...

...For me, anyway - the girls are happy to just steal my spot as soon as I move (or lie on me whilst I'm trying to write - Lola's head on my neck, Jess' on my waist). The sofa and table have basically become the center of my life for the last few days.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Patella Luxation.

Lola has been doing her 'bunny hop' (both back legs moving simultaneously) more and more lately when we're playing fetch... or maybe I'm noticing it more (I hope it's the latter!). It could just be her preferred way of moving fast--she seems awkward/odd when she has her back legs moving at different times when she's flat-out running--but the same-moving back legs can apparently be an early sign of patella luxation.

Since PL is one of the main issues for Jack Russells, I've got her a vet appointment for Friday, so that the vet can have a feel of her legs and see if everything's fine. I'm hoping that it's just her fast-moving run, and not a sign that she's got PL. It should be fixable if she has it (and easily fixable if it's still in the early stages - later stages require surgery), and if she does have it then I do have all summer to work her through any stringent exercise programs... but I really hope she doesn't have it.

I'll know more on Friday (I'm assuming there's a test to check if she has it by simply touching her and feeling), but in the meantime it's just one more stress on top of exam anxiety.