'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, 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.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Tricky Tuesday.

Hey, balancing a wriggling dog on your shoulder IS pretty tricky!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

End of the Tunnel.

First up, for those of you who couldn't see the video on yesterday's entry, it should be working now.

It seems like my pile of university work is never ending... but the end is in sight. I've spent pretty much the entirety of the last four days doing work for a presentation, which I have to do tomorrow. Blegh. The dogs have been very well in keeping themselves calm and quiet whilst I've been busy. They are good dogs.

Now it's getting colder, Jess is less and less energetic. The cold affects her more than the little yappy rat, so today I spent some time blocking out all the draughts in the living room. It's now become practically a bat cave. Jess is happier to lounge around in the living room now it's warmer, and Lola is happy as always to just snooze away on my lap.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Not Just A Pretty Face.

By this point, Lola has done so much shaping, indoors and out, that she flicks over very quickly to 'work' mode.

I've been making a point lately of cuing her to interact with things she finds scary - there's been a lot of roadworks in my area, which means 'scary' bags of... something, signs on the pavement, etc. She's gotten to the stage where a 'go see' (our cue for inviting her to start offering behaviours, which I didn't use in the video) will have her immediately moving toward (sometimes even going right to targeting with her nose or paws) something she finds Scary. It's a pretty big leap forward.

We're also well at the point where, when I take Lola out in town, she's more likely than not to be very well behaved. She's still reliant on food for it, but it's all reinforcing the good behaviour. She is still triggered by people walking behind us, people talking to me/her (why is it that people will try to talk to you when you're very obviously busy?), and by dogs, especially those that stare at, lunge toward or bark at her, but she's getting better and better.

She's also pretty much ignorant to the fireworks tonight. (Yet the sound of my shoe hitting the floor on the other side of the room sends her running...)

Jess is wearing her jumper, with a reflective dog vest over it (the student's version of a Thundershirt) and that's kept her happy enough that she's just lying down quietly and trembling occasionally. She managed to fall asleep for a while too after I put on the jumper and vest, which was awesome. She definitely prefers to be 'wrapped up', and is snoozing by my foot right now whilst Lola is asleep in the crate.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Sound Sensitivity, again.

A few months ago I posted about how my dogs were reacting to storms. Right now there's some fireworks being set off.

Lola is asleep on the back of the chair. Jess is a trembling, creeping mess, even with music turned up LOUD on the television.

For a dog I'd generally describe as 'sound sensitive', Lola is really not bothered by storms or fireworks. On the other hand, my stable, patient, calm old dog is reduced to a mess at least twice a year (Bonfire Night and New Years Eve). Friends that have been here whilst fireworks have been going off know that she turns into a "creeper", just wandering around trying to find comfort that somehow doesn't magically solve the problem for her. Poor dog.

Tomorrow is Bonfire Night, and I'm interested to see how Lola reacts to a whole night of fireworks. I'm also going to try and prepare some sort of den for Jess to hide in, and see if I can coax her into there.

If any of y'all have Bonfire Night tomorrow (it is a British thing, I think), good luck with your pooches!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Wordless Wednesday.

(This is the face of the dog that loses at least one ball a week.)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Mice: Pimp My Cage.

Over the last couple of days, with the help of this page, the mice's home has changed quite a lot. I'm not great at DIY stuff, but I think I did pretty well. The little tails seem happy too!

Photo taken after a LOT of their usual stuff was removed.

Shelves made from acrylic perspex sheet added.
This is where the mice stayed whilst I was sorting everything.
A day in a tub less than half the size of their tank--the mice weren't too thrilled.

Shelves added... but something seems missing...
Fleece shelf covers added and some rearranging done.

Maus haus.
The big ol' sleeve is a present from a fellow animal-loving friend.