Enjoying the river

Out of bed and it’s still dark. jammy bottoms, down jacket, and old sneakers on, ready for the morning walk. Dragging in the beginning, force Bear in a short leash walk. Bear takes a long pee. I count to no less than 25 on the first pee of the morning. After a block I unleash him. We walk a loop.

But in the evening, if I get home in time, we’ll go to the river. And it is beautiful. And Bear runs off leash and retrieves sticks. And now he leaps off the squishy dock into the river.

Training

We continue to train with scent samples. Bear is improving with the scent sample. But not so good in the middle of the night. Last night Maggie woke up at 46 and had trouble getting up stairs. We all slept through it. Later on, Bear woke me at 5. We went down and checked Maggie. She had rebounded to 300 after treating the low on her own.

Back to the dog park

Sleeping on the deck

Sleeping on the deck

It was our third annual trip to the Wings and Waves Waterpark in McMinnville. Last year Bear was along for the trip. This year Bear spent the day in his office. On our return I couldn’t help noticing that Bear was not in the office, but out in the kitchen area. I headed back to the office and nearly fell down by the smell, and then dry heaved seeing the mess of brown liquid on the floor. As my stomach turned right side up, I thanked whoever had the wherewithal to get Bear out of the mess, though they did nothing in terms of cleanup effort.

I wet down a few rags to cleanup and reminisced when we had cloth diapers in Eugene. Whether it was thinking about some of those nasty diapers we cleaned in the toilet, or just a sudden solidifying state of my stomach, I did not add my own mess to the already disgusting floor. What is going on with Bear’s constitution, though?

Bowl of Costco hot dogs and cheese sticks a day

Bowl of Costco hot dogs and cheese sticks a day

Is it the anniversary of his parvo experience, needing to somehow celebrate his survival, Bear’s insides are reminding us how far he has come and how bad it was. Or is it the new high value treat he gets for scent work? He’s been getting about one Costco dog a day for the past week. Though I haven’t tried this regiment, I imagine it could do some damage. After I have one I’ll taste it throughout the day. Or might it be the newly instituted lock down regiment is stressing his constitution? Bear only goes on short walks, no running along with the bike, no dog park, and treats only with scent work.

While cleaning the mess I decided to take Bear to the dog park. We’d walk on leash, which would be painful, before heading to the water and enjoying time off leash.

I finished scrubbing and spraying air freshener (it still smelled of poo) and loaded Bear into the car and drove to the park. The park full of dogs and the smell of the river distracted Bear greatly. He whined a bit and pulled quite a bit. Stay tuned on how the yanking develops into Bear’s lack of feeling around his collar.

And then I exhaled, taking Bear off leash and walking along the beach. The leash swung freely from my hand as Bear charged in the water for a stick. He boxed with other dogs. He charged other dogs, faking to the left at the last possible moment and dove into the water.

We came home and he flopped down, tired for the first time in a week.

Sleeping on the deck

Sleeping on the deck

Short Leash

IMG_20130802_074300We picked Bear up from Kristin’s after a week away. While he was happy to see us, he was also as excited, or more excited, to play with the dogs in the Kristin’s backyard. Camp is over for Bear.

And Kristin experienced Bear on a leash. And she said that we need to start over. That Bear needs to relearn how to walk on leash. He is not to pull; he is taken for a walk; he is not taking the thing at the other end of the leash for a walk. He is not to decide that it is time for a potty break and yank the walker over to a grassy spot. Bear needs to walk with the person, following the person.

This has been a challenge from the beginning. And I think the challenge emerged from Bear’s natural inclinations, but also from our lack of consistency in training. Bear is a bullheaded animal. He is not quick to change. In fact, at our last lesson, Kristin was a bit surprised at how stubborn Bear was when we were introducing the “no-scent” exercise. Bear is also very playful. Job one is to have fun. He constantly scans the environment for a playmate, preferably one with four legs, but two will do.

As trainers I don’t think we transitioned from the “get a treat for a trick/behavior” to the “demand for trick/behavior”. It might be the timing of Bear’s Parvo episode that delayed this transition. After getting out of the hospital (and paying that treacherous bill), Bear was still recovering for a month. His intestines were still rebuilding, and we had to be careful with what he ate. He was prone to extreme diarrhea. So maybe we handled him with kid gloves. And coupled with his confident demeanor, the gentle handling really conditioned him to expect special treatment.

I’ve also always had a low-key dog. My former dogs, Duke in Boulder and Annie all over the US, never needed a leash for a walk. They were interested in checking out new smells in the area. We would walk or bike together. They were happy and friendly, but they did not pester people or dogs for attention. I was prideful of their demeanor, laid back, and able to go without a leash. I enjoyed walking the street with Annie or Duke either next to me or trailing a bit behind.

Walks with Bear challenge one’s peace of mind. He sees the leash and dashes away. Not very far, he stands at the back door. And this is likely where the chasm of a trainer and me begin. I walk to Bear, who stands at the back door. He waits while I click the leash. Something inside tells me that Bear should approach me for the walk. Whenever I walk to him, I feel a pang of “I don’t think this is right” feeling. But I am happy he doesn’t continue fleeing from me while I have the leash, so Bear effectively trained me to go to him for a walk.

Bear occasionally got used to the gentle lead.

Bear occasionally got used to the gentle lead.

When we first introduced the gentle-lead I would give him treats when he had it on. I’d put it on him without the leash to desensitize the feeling, giving Bear treats while he wore it, trying to associate yummy treats with wearing the gentle lead. Not sure if my techniques were poorly executed, poorly planned, or were simply not instituted long enough. Bear’s behavior never changed, and I tired of the struggle with the gentle-lead.

And so I would snap on the gentle-lead and proceed for the walk. And Bear still enjoyed his walks. Walking with head up and tail wagging, he would tug on the lead still, but it was simply a bit easier to correct him. And whenever possible, he would rub his nose along some grass with his butt up high, tail wagging, relieving that pesky gentle-lead annoyance on his snout.

Another chasm between dog-trainer  and me: Instead of dealing with the annoying habits of the walk, I found another means of exercising Bear. I nearly completely abandoned the walk. I went for the bike. With the leash in right hand, I rode while Bear ran. We would go to the park to get off-leash time. We would occasionally find other dogs to run with, but usually found an extremely annoying owner yelling to keep Bear away from his dogs, that Bear’s safety was in danger (can’t discuss now, but maybe later). So score another for Bear, he once again taught me behavior in line with his needs.

Dog park by the river.

Dog park by the river.

So now we begin again. With a new Handcraft Collar, we take Bear on short walks. We go up and down the block. We might make it around the block. And why are they such short walks? They are so short because we have about four inches of leash to work with. When he pulls forward or to the side, we pull up on the leash, engaging the Handcraft Collar, sending a signal (hopefully) to Bear to back it up. The challenge involves releasing the leash, disengaging the collar, at the moment Bear gives in. We (myself, Heather, and Bear) are all working on this.

It has been a week and things are improving. Bear walks nicely along a boring stretch of road. He continues to become maniacal when we approach a house or park that has a history of playing with other dogs. The final exam for Bear (and me I suppose) occurs at the dog park, walking nicely on lead in the parking lot. We will try this out today. And just thinking about it makes me sad because I see it as a form of torture. And I vehemently hate torturing things (even though I teach math). In fact, I would rather be tortured than administer the torture.

I love taking Bear to the dog park so he can run and swim. Not only can you see the joy in Bear’s entire body wagging, but he also wears a smile. So I wonder do we go down to the park and walk in the parking lot, returning after that training. Or do we continue to the park after the training? What would a trainer do? If he is horrible on the leash in the parking lot, lunging and crying to play, do you still give play time. Or is it simply a training session, no more. No reward for bad behavior? I’m inclined to let him play, walking in the park, letting Bear run around, feeling for a few moments at least, that I have a dog I can walk without a leash.

Update: Scent training

Scent training tools: scent, no-scent, hot dogs, and cheese chunks.

Scent training tools: scent, no-scent, hot dogs, and cheese chunks.

We continue with the “scent/no-scent” training. Bear does great, signaling the scent and ignoring the no-scent. And then he does not so good, reluctant on the scent and signaling the no-scent.

But then he’ll wake from a nap when I walk by with an open scent sample in my pocket and signal. And he’ll ignore the no-scent in my pocket. I’m still clinging to the time he slept on the couch and I put the scent beaker in my pocket. His head jerked up and walked over to me to signal.

Want to play “Try and catch me?”

IMG_20130129_121642

New bed from Costco

No thanks. How embarrassing, though. I met a friend for lunch at a place called “Shut up and Eat.” I brought Bear along. Other than cleaning the floor with his tongue, he did pretty good. He also liked the smell of the woman’s boots sitting behind me.

After lunch Bear and I went for a walk in the neighborhood. Confined to the floor under the table at lunch, Bear was a little rambunctious, but he did alright considering. I threatened to put on his “gentle” lead by showing it to him, and he calmed down. We found a really nice park on our walk. Rolling hills and open grass beckoned some off leash time.

As we entered the park I took Bear off leash. He went bonkers, charging down the soupy grass. He attempted to stop at the bottom of the hill, sliding in the mud. It was an ideal situation for Bear being able to stretch out in the open and no one around for him to pester. We neared the playground with a toddler on a swing. I called Bear to come. And he did!

Dec, Sam, and Bear play dog-pile on Bear's new bed.

Dec, Sam, and Bear play dog-pile on Bear’s new bed.

Then we came to another off-leash dog, playing fetch. Since the dog was off-leash, I figured it would be fine for Bear to play with him. And they did. Bear had mud up his legs and on his back. Problems began when Bear gained possession of his ball. Bear threw it up in the air, he pushed it around with his nose, and he kicked it with his paw. What he didn’t do was give it up. And what he didn’t do was get anywhere near a person. Catch me if you can, sucker.

And then the other dog’s owner started getting all pesky. “We need to go. I need to get the ball. Can you call your dog?” Not sure if he was mean or just really dim, but at this point I thought it pretty obvious to anyone in a three-block radius that I could not get my disobedient dog to obey. The last thing I wanted to do was chase after Bear, making more of a fool of myself and probably falling in the mud in the process.

I calmly called for Bear, walking slowly to him, as he bounded away with a visible smile pasted on his snout. “Could you please call your dog?” the dog’s owner asked again, clearly annoyed. Not wanting to change the scene from dogs playing to adults fighting, I chose to keep my thoughts to myself.

I continued my slow walk towards Bear, and Bear continued his throwing, pushing, and nosing of the stolen ball. Not wanting the fun to end, Bear kept his distance from any upright animal with an oppose-able thumb. If I had a few bucks in my wallet, I would have just offered to purchase the bloody ball from this guy. The way he coveted the ball I’m afraid he would have demanded twenty bucks for it.

All the fun came to an end when the other dog was finally able to secure possession of the damn ball. We finished the loop of the park on-leash.

Down by the river

Kids learn about traffic in work-zones. Bear not interested.

It would have been a nice walking field trip.  Bear can handle walking with a group of kids, though he pulls on the leash in the beginning with kids running around.  He settles in pretty quick.

I thought the walk to school would take the edge off, settling him down.  Though he is able to sleep through nearly the entire day, I learned Bear has been saving his energy.  We left before eight, and returned at noon, a time that normally would be filled with a three and a half hour nap, which you could actually say about any four-hour chunk of the day for Bear.  Whether from the children surrounding us, or from the destination, Bear was on high alert the entire trip.

Waiting outside the class to depart, each kid greeted Bear as they took turns going to the bathroom.  Bear was settling into nice walking with the class soon after we left.  However, as we neared the park he began tugging on the leash.  Though I would have normally been correcting him by changing direction, crossing the street a few times, and going through some other obedience commands, I refrained since we were on a field trip.  I had to make due with smaller corrections and letting him roam more in the “party” right hand walk.

To be fair to Bear, we were going to the park that he identifies with being off-leash, playing with whoever is present.  We first had to walk through the park that I let him run off-leash.  Then we descended to the dog-park by the river, which was the destination of the trip.  Because the Sellwood Bridge is falling down, they are finally beginning to replace it, including making a detour bridge.  This trip included three interactive stations around the dog park.  Students learned how the old bridge was going to slide over to make the detour bridge; Engineers explained about the layers of the soil and having to drill down to rock; and they learned about challenges of directing traffic around work zones.

While the class learned about moving the bridge, Bear watched (mostly) quietly while other dogs played.

I began to feel a bit like the dungeon master, drinking a hot coffee on a couch while the prisoners shivered on the cold hard stone, restricting Bear to the group of non-fun, non-four-legged, non-furry animals.  As much for Bear’s sake as for mine, we departed from the presentations and demonstrations to wreak havoc with some dogs.

First in the grassy part and later on the beach, Bear ran free, demonstrating so well how he can ignore me when I call him to return.  He is so adept at this.  He actually stops, looks at me, scans the field for something better than the treat he knows I’m holding in my hand, and sprints to the muddy spaniel retrieving a soggy tennis ball.

 

Bear enjoys himself on the beach with a border collie in close pursuit.

Even after gathering Bear back on the leash, I allowed him back off at the beach.  Students learned about landslides with sandpaper, bricks, plywood, and a protractor.  Bear stared out at the river, occasionally whining at the dogs running free.  I felt the students were in good hands with the other four chaperones, so Bear and I went absent again.

Though there were three people with diabetes on the trip (teacher and two students), Bear did not signal any lows other than the scent samples I pulled out of my pocket occasionally.

What I learned:

  • Bear has some work on behaving on the leash.
  • People quickly get used to having a dog with them.
  • There is always one or two dogs that begin to get aggressive with Bear and wonder if it is because he is “intact” still.
  • Bear doesn’t have to sleep seven out of every eight hours.

Rivaling best hair on boys: Dec’s mop and classmate’s well-kept hair. Dec attempted to stay warm with his long sleeve T-shirt in the 42 degree air with a bit of rain.

Dog park

Bear is needing interaction with animals other than our cats.

Now that Bear has all of his vaccinations and has survived a bout with parvo, I took him to the dog park.  There is one walking distance from our house, down by the river.  It is a bit of a walk, and I thought it might wear Bear out a bit, but he was raring to play when we got there.

Our previous dog was one of those annoying dog-park dogs.  The one that found a dog to pester.  She wouldn’t fight at all; she would just bark at one dog.  I am not sure how she chose the dog, but she would stay with that dog until we left, which was usually soon after she found that dog.

Early on with Bear, Kristin warned us about dog parks, that there might be some aggressive dogs at the park, and some timid owners to go along with those dogs.  I am of the belief that people who take their dogs to the park to play know the importance of dogs playing, and, thus, should be well-adjusted.

I got thinking about the dog-park after a walk to the football field that I let Bear roam off leash.  This time there were two other dogs there, and Bear levitated he was so excited to play.  The other dogs put up with the puppy and thoroughly wore him out.  Instead of leaving to chance to see another dog at the football field, I took him to the dog-park.  As it was by the river, it also allowed for a swim, which he hasn’t gotten to do at all.

We’ve been to the dog park twice.  The first time he sniffed the water, not getting in past his ankles, and he ran with a lot of dogs as they chased a ball.  Bear was oblivious to the game of fetch, assuming that it was chase they were playing.  Not accustomed to the constant running, Bear tried to keep up with the Herculean feat of keeping pace with these dogs that just kept running, putting to shame any ultra-marathoner.  Soon it became Bear jogging 30 feet behind the dog lunging for the ball, only to make a U-turn as the dog sprinted past him on his way back to their owner holding a Chuck-it stick.

The second time to the park I let Bear off leash and he sprinted to a cluster of three dogs.  I could see them playing as I approached.  The owner tossed a ball and the clump of dogs chased after the ball, Bear chasing the dogs.  One of the dogs got aggressive, leaning hard into Bear, bearing his teeth, and growling.  Only wanting to play, Bear flopped down to showing submissiveness.  The dog continued lunging at Bear.  As I approached the owner was able to get his dog, claiming that puppy play can be so loud.  I responded that that was not play, that was fighting.

As I redirected Bear to the river, the dog lunged a few more times, jerking his owner.  I secretly relished the thought of a small rotater-cuff injury to the owner’s shoulder.  Nothing big, like a full dislocation, but something to remind him not to bring a damn aggressive dog to the park.  No luck as the jerks from his dog didn’t even dislodge the cigarette hanging from his mouth.

We survived, though.  Maybe I’ll bring my tazer next time to neutralize any aggressive dogs next time.