'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

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


Blog's going to be quiet this and next week - I've got a LOT of university stuff to sort out. I might post a little, but unfortunately I won't have much time to go through everyone's blogs and comment. I'll catch up as soon as possible though.

It's awesome having so much work that needs doing and being ill at the same time, too. Yay!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Need to Please: or why my dog is a suck-up.

Today we played fetch with the frisbee, rather than with the usual balls. Lola didn't know why--and she didn't care.

Lola is a dog that is very, very driven to please me. After coming from Jess (who couldn't care less if I sank into the earth tomorrow, as long as someone was there to feed her and occasionally pet and walk her), it's a huge thing.

On one hand, a stern word from me can stop Lola in her tracks from doing something Wrong. This means Lola can be off lead pretty much anywhere, even around strange dogs and people, as long as they don't come too near. On the other hand a too-sharp correction can destroy her confidence in an instant, and stop her from doing anything but wiggling pathetically at me for the next couple of minutes.

For a terrier (a type of dog that isn't exactly well known for its ability and desire to work closely with humans - unlike herding dogs, for example), Lola is strangely in tune with what I want. As the photo caption said, today I decided we were going to play fetch with our frisbee, rather than with the ball. We've only ever played with the frisbee three or four times, and all of those indoors with Lola competing with Jess to bring the Thing back to me for food... yet within two throws when we got to the field my little dog was rocketing off after it and bringing it back reliably enough.

(Her ability to hold the frisbee correctly, however, still wasn't great! She tripped a lot, and I laughed every time.)

I said that Lola is driven to please me, and by that I don't mean the 'traditional' dog training idea that a dog should only work to 'please their master' or whatever (i.e. working to avoid punishment). The ratio of positive punishment (applying something Lola doesn't want--such as a verbal correction) to positive reinforcement (applying something Lola does want--such as praise, a toy, a little bit of cheese) and negative punishment (removing something Lola does want--such as the opportunity to be with me, or the chance to get some food) is probably something like one instance of P+ to every fifty of R+/P-, if not a lot less. And we never use negative reinforcement (removing something Lola doesn't want--such as pinching her ear to make her fetch).

I feel comfortable, therefore, in assuming that Lola doesn't work to avoid punishment. She works to earn her wage (food, praise, play, cuddles) primarily: and I think this is a large part of why she's so into listening to me. Ever since she's been a puppy, we've used most of her meals in training--meaning that if she didn't want to listen to me, she didn't get food. The message, apparently, sunk in well.

I am the source of all good things. Don't listen to me? Don't get what you want.

Lola isn't a stupid dog. She's figured out that if she does silly things, I'll laugh - and she gets a happy, full body wiggle when I laugh because she knows that sometimes I'll give her food for being so funny. She's opportunistic at every level, and although she does often push her boundaries (how far can I get into the kitchen without mum knowing? is apparently a question she asks herself every other day), she's also barely a year old, crappily bred, and a terrier.

She wants to please me--because she wants to get things for herself, and that's the best way for her to get what she wants.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Mice: Catch-up.

I keep forgetting to update one blog or the other, so I'm bringing mice stuff back over to here. So you guys don't have to look at mouse pictures and information if you don't want to, the mice posts will begin with the 'Mice:' tag.

- On Wednesday, me and Kinkajou hung out for around two hours, with her scampering in and out of my sleeves. She was a very happy mouse.

- Today I cleaned out the mouse tank as part of my weekly mouse husbandry task. The mice got a new spray of millet, and I've moved things around for them to make better use of the vertical space in the tank. (I'm currently trying to get ahold of some acrylic persplex sheets so I can make some shelves/levels in the tank, but it's proving very difficult--nobody wants to sell me any in triangles, and I have no way of cutting them from squares to triangles myself. Very annoying.) I made a Very Stupid Mistake whilst cleaning and thought, oh, it won't be such a bad idea to pour this freshly boiled kettle full of water into the mouse water bottle. It just sort of melted inwards, and I ended up having to go and get two new water bottles (one as a spare!) from the shop. This means I'm now on my third water bottle. Heh.

A Whole Lotta Jess.

Silly old girl.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Sleep on, Ollie.

Yesterday I went with my friend to get his nine ish year old, terrified of everything, reactive as hell, dog put to sleep. It was the first time I'd ever seen a dog PTS, and it was pretty awful.

Ollie struggled and panicked when it happened, but he isn't scared anymore now.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


A ball thrown, whizzing through the air.

A cuddle in the morning, when it's too cold to emerge from under the covers.

A lazy afternoon passed in drowsy bliss.

A lick on the nose when you get home from a long, hard day.

Sunday, 16 October 2011


This dog?

This is a dog who it is nearly impossible to get a coat for. To keep her fully warm, she needs a 14'' coat (which ends juuuust before the base of her tail)... but she's so damn slender that the velcro straps for the coat don't work as needed. The shop had no 12'', and she really needs a coat before it gets colder, so I ended up getting a 14'' and adding my own velcro straps to it. Sheesh, dog, you're lucky I love you.

Speaking of which: I shouldn't be allowed to go to the pet shop. Alongside the creepy chicken foot pictured above (I got two--Lola carried home the one I'm holding in the photo and ate that when we got back, and the other is for some other time), I got two pig tails, a water bowl, a treat ball, a ten pack of 10'' rawhide, a dog coat and reflective dog vest, and a wooden chew/climbing thing and a 3l tub of mealworms for the mice.

I shouldn't be allowed to go to that pet shop.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Driving Test.

I passed. :)

Two minor faults (fifteen minor faults is a pass, sixteen is a fail). No major faults.


Sunday, 9 October 2011

Look behind you, Lola.

There's a mouse on a ladder!

I've moved the mouse tank into the living room (where the computer, tv, dogs and me generally live), which seems to suit everyone. Mum says as long as the mice don't smell, it's fine--and since I can't smell anything but bedding when I clean it out each week, they'll probably be permanantly here now. It's great: I can watch them while I do other stuff, they get more used to me being around, and both mice and dogs get used to each other more.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Fretting over here.

Not very dog-related, but I'm feeling pretty anxious at the moment.

I have my practical driving test on Thursday (and a two hour lesson on Wednesday--eek!). I don't do very well around exam times, and it's worse because this isn't something that I can revise for. If I don't pass, I'll have basically burned away £100 just on the test and the lessons of the test and immediately before on the day (not to mention all the lessons leading up to it... jeez).

Expect not a lot of updates or blog comments this week while I panic, guys! But don't worry, I'll be back before y'all know it. :)

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Traumatising Thursday.

This was decidedly NOT taken today.
Well--traumatising if you ask Lola or Jess.

Jess was most unimpressed at the weather. It's been very fickle lately (sunny one minute, thick black clouds the next), and today when I took the dogs out, five minutes into the walk it started to lash down with hail. Oops. Jess started cowering and trying to drag me back; Lola wanted to play ball still but equally fled under tree-cover between throws. I ended up taking them back after an eight or nine minute walk, and then that was it until it fined up a little in the evening. (And even when I took just Lola out in the early evening, we got soaked. British weather!)

Another thing of note was the visit of my mum's best friend, who used to live with us. She moved out in February (when Lola was around four and a half to five months old), and she hasn't been back since. She and Lola never really connected, either.

Said friend let herself in - I hadn't known that was her plan, or I'd have had Lola out at the time she was going to arrive. Lola freaked out at this "stranger" suddenly entering the house; barking and growling and dashing away with wide eyes. I took her out to the (rainy) yard and sat with her for a few seconds until she was a little calmer, then we went back in.

It took Lola a few hours to get used to Mum's friend being here again; but around half an hour before the friend left, Lola crept over to her and gingerly wagged her tail. It was something, at least. It definitely didn't help that the friend uses big gestures and has a very loud voice, and that she bent over to pat Lola when she arrived.

I'm chalking this up as an experience on just the wrong side of neutral. Poor Lola. (And poor Jess.)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Quick Words Wednesday.


I've finally gotten round to updating the 52 Weeks of Lola post. There's a photo for once every week (or as near to that day as I could get). It's strange to see how much she's grown and changed since the day she was born, and again since the final day of November last year when I brought her home.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Children and Dogs - Not So Different.

I've been guilty of watching a lot of Supernanny lately, and it has solidified some thoughts for me.

Positive reinforcement and negative punishment work on every and any animal. If it has a mind, it can be taught - and positive reinforcement (R+, the addition or application of something that the animal wants) and negative punishment (P-, the removal of something that the animal wants) are the quickest, most long-lasting, and most humane ways of teaching a behaviour.

On the other hand, you couldn't slap a choke chain on a whale, and you wouldn't fit your child with a prong collar. These are both examples of tools of positive punishment; just as standing on a dog's paw or pinching their ear until they open their mouth is an example of negative reinforcement. We can bully our dogs, and so a lot of people choose to do just that--but you can't bully something bigger and scarier than yourself, and if you are taking your child out in public on a choke chain or prong collar, or slapping them and screaming at them every time they do something Wrong, you are liable to find social services being called quite quickly.

Back to Supernanny. Basically, she is a trainer. She might not think of herself as such, and she might not describe herself as such, but like dog trainers, her role is to teach the parent (parallel to the handler) how to get their child (dog) to behave. She uses reward schemes to support good behaviour, and time-outs as a consequence for bad behaviour.

And it works.

There is no screaming (other than children throwing tantrums, before they realise it doesn't work anymore), no hitting; no harsh treatment. She understands that children need a firm, but patient, calm and kind, hand in order to be raised successfully. A lot of dog trainers and owners could do well to take a leaf out of her book.

I mentioned a few posts ago that I tried something new with Lola, and it worked. That thing in question was an outdoors time out.

Lola has previously demonstrated that time outs (the removal of attention by the removal of her from my presence, or the removal of me from her presence) work HUGELY in shaping her behaviour. For example: if not for the use of consistent and timely (no pun intended) time outs, Lola would likely still bark at my friend Kelly. Instead, the two are slowly forming a trust-based relationship. It's definitely not perfect yet, but Kelly is the first person that Lola has allowed to get so close to her, to be in the house with us, to sleep in 'her' bed, to throw her ball, etc, that she hasn't known since a very young puppy--which is pretty massive for her

Time outs allow my dog (and, according to the Supernanny program, children, too) to refocus and calm down. With time outs, I don't need to challenge my dog, to ramp her up with physical corrections. I just quietly remove her. Since she values my presence, my time and my attention so much, she works actively to avoid being removed from me.

The situation that presented itself, as an opportunity for a time out, was Lola barking and lunging at an absolutely massive (trigger!), fluffy (trigger!), black (trigger!) dog (trigger!). I wasn't able to get away, without picking her up and running and dodging past the guy with his dog, and tried instead to just shovel treats down her throat. When she barked and lunged at the dog, something in me just clicked, and I looped her lead over a very close-at-hand fence, and walked away.

The dog and his handler were stopped a few metres away for the half a minute or so I was gone (inc. ten seconds out of sight), but Lola, from what I saw, didn't glance at them once after that. Her attention was fully on me. When I returned, I ignored her, and we quietly followed the dog.

She was able to sit about three metres away from the dog when they stopped, just getting food and cuddles. She didn't lift her hackles or stare at the dog. She didn't shy away from it (or me). She glanced at the dog a little, but she was no longer bothered by it - the positive reinforcement she was getting from me, and the brief time out, had completely turned her around in regards to that dog. If I'd have dared, I might have even chanced getting closer still to the dog, but it was a strange dog and although it seemed placid, I didn't want to risk it (or risk annoying the handler, who was being a good sport about my very weird behaviour).

I tried the time out method again at the park when we were leaving and some dogs were staring and leaning toward her down their leashes. She barked, and she was immediately tied to a pole and I left. The entire time, she ignored the other dogs (at one point one dog was only a metre or two away - if she'd lunged and it had lunged, they might have even been able to meet) and just stared after me until I returned.

I haven't had the opportunity to practice this since (she's been a good girl, and we also haven't seen that many dogs when on leash) but it seems to be working well.

Positive reinforcement and negative punishment. If it's good enough for a kid, it's good enough for my girl.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Mousey Monday.

So, the mice have been here for just shy of a week now, and they are settling in great. The dogs are still both fairly interested in the tank and it's glorious substrate and rodent smell, but Lola is able to relax and nap in her crate when I have the mice out in their handling tub. It's only if the mice are on direct eye level for a period of time that she starts to get whiny and intense about them being there. But for a decently prey driven terrier who hasn't before encountered non-prey prey critters, she isn't doing bad. The mice are all becoming increasingly confident; today, two of the mice took food from my hand (with one--Tosca--sitting on my hand to munch the seed) when said hand was in their tank. They are more nervous of the Hand when in the tank, because I've spent less time hanging out near it (something I'm hoping to change asap) so that was nice. I've gotta say though, so far it is pretty clear that mice are a lot harder to photo than dogs when you have a camera with a very crappy shutter speed!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

One Year Old.

Taken the day after she came home.

Taken today.

Lola has, over the course of the last ten months with me, been a huge source of delight, frustration, happiness and despair.

Yes, she's been here ten months now, and despite the above I've somehow not managed to leave her in a ditch or dropkick her, as I've threatened to do so many times when it's one in the morning and she's refusing to pee because it's cold and wet.

She's a pretty awful example of a terrier - both inside and out. Her pricked ears, arched back, and bowed legs would get her laughed out of the ring; and her shyness toward people, aggression/guarding toward dogs (though the latter is hardly atypical of 'dog hot' breeds like terriers) and lack of a huge prey drive or any real gameness wouldn't be much approved of either.

But she's my girl.

She's clever, quick to learn, and quick to apply what she learns. She can problem solve in a way Jess never could. She LIVES to do some of her tricks--to leap at me, for instance--as much as she lives to run, to fetch, to cuddle under the covers at night and lick my eyes and ears in the morning.

Right now she's led in my arms, snoring. She doesn't know it but I'm so grateful that I got her, all those months ago.

Here's to many more celebrations of this day, sweetheart.