Unfocused

Gwynn and I have been working through some issues recently.  Despite being 4 (!), he’s apparently decided to try out that doggy-teen-angst thing that usually strikes sometime between turning 2 and 3.  He’s a late bloomer, I guess.

He’s started barking at people, and attempting to run towards them (fun! not.) on our walks, and is developing dog-park-bully tendencies (ditto).

I know pretty much everyone says you never just reach a point with your dog where you can stop training, but I kind of assumed that I’d be able to keep adding tricks, agility moves and general improvement on his recall and sit-stays and call it a day.  I wasn’t expecting new things.  Behavioural things.

New things like suddenly, other dogs are really really interesting – in a hard-eyes and rigid posture, jumps over the barrier separating us (mid-agility run) from another dog (ditto, but also with fear-of-dog-issues, of course) like it wasn’t a foot and a half taller than the jump height we’re working on, spend 10 minutes yipping hysterically until I just get the fuck out 20 minutes into class kind of way.

Awesome.

What does all this mean?  Well, apparently the bullying might be a mixture of the herding and poodling (poodles were originally hunting dogs, so I’m not quite sure what instinct it is here, other than… being bouncy) instincts kicking into high gear from his ancestry – lots of darting in and back, barking and general over-excited-not-listening-to-other-dog’s-discomfort-cues.

And his complete loss of interest in running the agility course with me when he could instead go cry and run the fenceline?  Lack of focus combined with the whole over-excited-at-dogs thing.  His groovy ‘do means that his eyes are a thing I don’t necessarily see when training focus-work, and apparently this is an issue, because it means that I’m rewarding the wrong thing.  He’s, more often than not, getting rewarded for face-pointing in my general direction, but actually looking at the treat in my hand/pocket/whatever it is I’m trying to get him to stop looking at.  Instead of actual eye-contact.  Yup, 100% luring, not actual training.  Mea culpa.

Yes, also I high-pitch my voice to try and make him more interested in me… but when that fails… well…

My agility instructor has recommended that I cut all the hair around his eyes, but he’s already got a bit of a mullet thing going on from the trimming I already do, and I love his hair, so I’m going to try out a few alternatives for the interim (until it’s warm enough out that I can get him fully groomed).  What are your thoughts on his style?

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She also said she thought we’d be fine continuing with agility and just adding a dog obedience class (one that focuses on, well, focus, and working on newly developed issues), but frankly, I don’t give a flying… rice-cake… about whether Gwynn and I succeed at doing 6/8/10/etc weave poles, I just want my friendly/happy/not crazy dog back.

All this over-excitement directed at people (barking/lunging), and dogs (bullying, and hard eyes/stiff posture), to my mind, means that Gwynn is not feeling safe, he’s not sure how to act in a given situation, and, for these reasons, not happy.  

this is not a dog moping about and writing emo poetry

this is not a dog moping about and writing emo poetry

On a deeper level, I mean.

He’s also on a bad track towards possibly developing aggression issues (if you don’t already call his occasional barking and bullying a form of aggression), and, well NO.  If you’ve got experience in this type of thing, feel free to link me to useful stuff on the web or leave your best tips.  I’ve already been trolling back through old posts at SUCCESS JUST CLICKS and other dog trainer blogs, but repeated information isn’t bad information.

So I’m going all Mr Miyagi on his poor confused self, and we are going to get focused, and get happy.

Wax on, Wax off.  Click, Treat.

Square 2

This winter’s theme, training-wise, was mostly nothing.

Ugh, it’s raining, let’s get this walk over with.

Ugh, it’s really that muddy… fine, go have your fun, smelly, black dog, but know that there will be consequences.  And those consequences involve you and me in a certain large oblong porcelain-coated-metal bowl, along with lots of room temperature water and something foamy.  Your black and tan will return to orange and white.

Ugh, I give up, you will never not chase cats.  I am the where’s waldo master, if waldo is a cat, and tends to hide in shadows, under shrubberies, on decks, or mockingly in the center of an empty driveway. 

Better to just get from point A to point B on-leash, and try not to think too hard about what you were rolling in just now.

I’ve been inspired, though.  Jodi has been working with Delilah after a bad incident left her feeling like she wasn’t doing so well at dog parenting.  Instead of expecting everything to come at once, she’s gone in stages, and Delilah is back to having freedom to run around, except in areas where Jodi knows there’s too much chance of failure.

That, combined with recently seeing a video on how to store your long-leads so they won’t get tangled (genius!), and a bit of inspiration of my own (use that shortened long-line as his regular leash for the walking portion of the walk = one less thing for me to carry around in my bag), has Gwynn and I back in training mode.

I tie it a bit tighter, and stop knotting it when the total is as long as my usual leash – tucking the long strand through that final loop ‘locks’ the leash in that length while freeing up the clasp for Gwynn’s collar.  It creates a bit more of an elastic version of a 6 foot leash.  for storing the leash, it works amazingly well – you entirely skip the part of pulling a long leash out of your bag when you have to untangle it.

I commented in a recent post that Sadie has a great recall.  Like – whistle her whistle and she will run to you.  All out, legs wind milling, ears flapping, giant grin, run. 

Gwynn… not so much.  Kind of silly when you consider the fact that I have him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and only walk Sadie twice a week, for all of 2 hours each walk.

I generally just make sure to not let him off-leash in danger zones.  The big ones?  Near a muddy pond that I really don’t want him in.  Near the beach/creek when I don’t want him in (or at this time of year, when the beach is littered with dead things).  Somewhere cats might be.

My training goal for the spring is to improve Gwynn’s recall and walking at heel position.

some work on the long line... it is actually longer than it looks in this picture

How am I doing this so far?  If I’m somewhere I really don’t trust him off-leash, I put him on the long line, and practice sit-stays, sit at a distance, recalls, and just plain encourage him to walk near me.  Once he’s good and focused, he gets time dragging the leash.  It isn’t perfect.  For one thing, if he takes off quickly enough during ‘drag leash’ time, he can get out of leash-stomp range very easily (my leash isn’t too long… maybe 15 ft total?).  For another thing, re-knotting the leash into short-form requires a bit of focus/time.  But it’s working, and using the long line in short-form reminds me to take the time on walks to work on these things.

Wish me luck!

Exercise and Training

I found an interesting workout thing online (pinterest, oh how I love thee), and this is week the second of trying to start it.  It’s about an hour (for me) of doing a series of 8 exercises, all of which can be done from your own home, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  So far, I’ve made it through the Monday exercise twice.  Weeknights are busy!

I like it because the idea is to exercise based on your body shape (focus on areas that tend to gain weight, or areas that could use toning).  They explain all the body types neutrally, without insinuating that one body type is the best type.  I (and every single one of my female relatives, curse you, genetics) am in a body type called ‘pear shaped’.  I feel it in my muscles the next day, and I am going to try to incorporate it into my overall schedule.  Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  That link is also where I got all of the pictures below.

I’ve even translated the pear-shape exercises into dog-owner-ese for you.  I’m generous like that.

Exercise 1 – Lift-off lunge.

Hold intriguing objects up.  Lower into position where objects are just out of reach of standing dog.  Push off of front leg, balance on one foot while jerking intriguing objects up very high.  Attempt to maintain balance when dog punches you in the gut while leaping enthusiastically into the air, trying to catch the intriguing objects.

Exercise 2 – Scissor Jump

Crouch down in play-like position.  Jump up, flailing wildly with arms and legs, switching legs in mid-air.  Attempt to repeat jump while Dog prances and leaps enthusiastically.  Manage two more wobbly jumps before Dog decides to see if he can get a treat from performing “bow” with his thick-clawed paws on your front bent knee.  Put him in a sit-stay, get one jump in before he tries to hump you from behind.  Wonder where the hell this humpiness is coming from.

Exercise 3 – Pushup and Leg Raise on the ball

Bring out giant ball.  Feel grateful that dog doesn’t appear interested in it.  Do pushup on ball.  Attempt to lift one leg off the ball, causing full-body tremors.  Die.  Repeat exercise one-handed, as you ward off doggy kisses and attempts to jump onto your back.

Exercise 4 – Hundred on the ball

Hold a crunch position with your legs up and resting on the ball, while breathing loudly and counting to 100 – out-two-three-four-five, in-two-three-four-ten, etc.  While Dog alternates between attempting to sit on your arm or stomach for pets, and curling up in the space under your head and shoulders.  That second one actually makes the exercise much easier.

Exercise 5 – mermaid

Lie on your side, supporting arm resting on the most fascinating blanket on earth.  Swing arm above head intriguingly.  Fight off doggy kisses, attempts at blanket thievery, and attempts to curl up on the small piece of blanket directly by your head in order to get the ‘air pets’ you’ve been doing.  Get knocked over by enthusiastic bum-wag when someone comes into the room.

Exercise 6 – Boat curl and press

Done on the floor, challenge of exercise is increased by dog attempting to latch on to one of the fascinating objects you’re waving around at low and high dog-level.  Consider it ‘adding resistance’.

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Exercise 7 – Triangle Lat Raises

Perform first few iterations, causing great excitement in dog.  When he runs over to stand directly beside you, attempt to fight through the distraction (just one more exercise after this!) by deviating from direct up-and-down route of arm, wagging and dodging doggy attempts to rob you of weights.  I strongly recommend against this particular doggy modification – I think I screwed up one of my shoulders doing this.  Nothing too serious, but best avoided all around.

Exercise 8 – Dip and Knee Raise

Integrate dog training into exercise, because the only way you’re going to get through this without having your legs humped by the sexual deviant your dog has become is by convincing him it’s worth his while to sit-stay.  Suspect that sweating all over a fistful of dehydrated beef liver is both rehydrating it and causing your pores to suck up the unappetizing smell of beef liver.  Second suspicion confirmed later, give the relatively healthy bowl of air-popped popcorn to someone whose hands don’t smell of beef liver treat.

I figure this series of at-home exercises will both increase my overall strength and drastically improve Gwynn’s training at the stay command.

Failure to Man-Up

I clearly lack protective instincts.  I am no momma bear.

We’re having issues issue at Dog Class.  Yes – the dog class we love, the dog-sport class.  But we’re having an issue.  And that issues name is Rex.

One of the things the instructors in this class say regularly is that, when you’re doing training, you should be entirely focused on your dog.  If you aren’t, you’re likely to miss a reward-worthy effort on the part of the dog.  And timing of rewards is key.  Great lesson.  And I’m following it, both in class and in the real world, which is great, but also relates to our issue.

Rex has issues of the dog-aggressive kind.  I don’t know if it’s just when on leash, if it’s a didn’t-get-early-socialized thing (that’s my guess…), or if he got bitten as a puppy.  I don’t get the impression that he’s a rescue or the product of a puppy-mill.  I don’t know why he’s like this, but I DON’T BLAME HIS BREED.  Gwynn’s favourite neighbourhood buddy is a German Shepherd that’s got about 50 lbs on Rex. 

The first class, he freaked out.  He burst out in loud barking every few minutes, the entire class.  He lunged on his leash, he cried, he kept trying to get to the other dogs.  This set all the other dogs on edge.

First class:  One by one, we’re testing our stay command and our recalls (come command).  Great, this is something Gwynn can do.  Unless, of course, there is a dog going ape$%*# right near him.  In which case, his response to me putting him in a sit and saying “Wait” and walking away is, “Wait for me!”

Second class… same thing.  Rex hasn’t recovered from the barking frenzy, and if any dog gets within about a 10 foot radius of him, or the wind goes the wrong way, he freaks out.  We are asked to do the same stay-recall thing, and Gwynn and I have been practicing all week at various distances in various locations.  We’re on the opposite side of the line of dogs from Rex.  But Rex freaks out as soon as I start to walk away from Gwynn… Hey boss, wait up!  Don’t leave me here! 

Rex is also lunging and snapping at dogs (mostly Gwynn, I know not why) if he is walked past too close to them.  Rex is moved by the instructor into the far corner of the room for when we all spread out along the walls of the room to practice our own thing.  He gets to go in the supply cupboard whenever he starts freaking out. They’re really working on getting him to focus on his owner, and really encouraging her to practice that a lot at home.

Third class: Half the class is walking around the room practicing Heel Position, the other half (my half) is practicing the “It’s Yer Choice” game.  Gwynn and I are on the floor up against the wall, while I add treats to the piles on the ground around him, he ignores them, and then he gets a treat.  I’m entirely focused on him, because I have to treat-reward him any time he looks away from the treats, and I have to be ready to prevent him from getting any of the treats from the floor piles.  And then Rex is there, growling and snapping at Gwynn’s face (right next to my face, not that this is the most important part.  But, speaking of teeth… have you ever seen all of a German Shepherd’s teeth at once?  I don’t recommend it.), having wrenched himself away from his owner long enough to make a beeline for Gwynn.  Owner gets him back under kind-of-control and takes him to the closet to calm down.  I try to find something to entertain Gwynn in a play-type way, to distract him from cowering behind me.

... out of nowhere

The instructor ‘reminds’ everyone that they have to pay attention to Rex, because he has some issues.  I question how I’m meant to pay attention to him and my own work with Gwynn.

He tries to get Gwynn again when we’re practicing on the small teeter totter thing, and his owner is, bafflingly, walking him down right near it, going away from her closet-corner and towards… nothing in particular.  Apparently she just felt the urge to meander.

Instructor reminds everyone to pay lots of attention to Rex.  I seriously question how I’m supposed to keep track of him, when his owner likes wandering aimlessly while waiting for her turn on the other equipment.

Most recent class: half the class is practicing dogs walking across a ladder on the floor.  The other half (my half) is taking turns running through the tunnel.  Yay, Gwynn loves the tunnel, he’s doing awesome.  Except that Rex’ owner apparently felt that this would be a good time for Rex to walk through the ladder without her holding on to the leash(?), so Rex felt the urge to meet Gwynn just as he was coming out of the tunnel.  Darting around me to get there, and trying to savage Gwynn’s face when he arrives dragging his leash.

Awesome.

And now Gwynn pauses at the mouth of the tunnel every time, before cautiously turtle-poking his head out.  I would, too, if sometimes the tunnel leads to terror and teeth.  Especially full in the knowledge that the boss can’t protect him.

It’d be like getting in the swimming pool when nine times out of ten, it’s fine, but that 10th time, there’s a hungry shark that you don’t see until you’re in the middle of jumping in.

Later in the class, the instructor tells me that I’ll get a lot better responsiveness from Gwynn if I am really enthusiastic/happy during practicing, and intersperse with play time.  Too bad that my dog can read my body-language, and isn’t focusing on the training because I’m on super-duper-hyper-alert, because my dog nearly got a chunk ripped out of him by a dog that is still in the damn class.  No, I’m really not this wooden most of the time, it’s just that a dog just ruined (hopefully temporarily) the tunnel for Gwynn, and took about 10 years off my life, having proven that I can’t protect my dog.  It’s either ‘be wooden and appear to have no connection with my dog’ or ‘sob hysterically on the floor’.

In summary:

I really like this class.  The instructors are starting to piss me off with their failure to handle the Rex issue  effectively.  He and his owner should be uninvited.  They have full reason to tell her that this is not the appropriate class for a dog-aggressive dog.

I don’t blame German Shepherds – I blame the owner of this particular German Shepherd.  Though I had never noticed before just how much more wolf-like they are than Gwynn is.  That face-to-jaws encounter, with the big shoulders and black face and deep growls… scared the crap out of me.

I don’t think Rex should die (except for the few minutes right after he attacks Gwynn, and at that point, I want to snap his neck and use his pelt as a doggy bed.), but I also don’t think Rex should be in a class where dogs are going all over the place, and dogs sometimes are off-leash, especially not with a ditzy owner who apparently can’t keep a strong hold on the leash.  Does she really think he’s got a chance at participating in dog-sports right now?  There are DOGS around for all of the sports.  Maybe more obedience focused classes where he can learn how to interact with dogs in a more structured environment.

I have no spine.  What should have happened after this Monday’s incident, and after I’d run Gwynn through the tunnel a few more times trying to get him over his spookedness:

Me: “Get him out of here.  And give me a refund.”

Instructors: “… um, but… you should have paid more attention to Rex?”

Me: “HIM.  OUT.  MONEY REFUND!  NOW!”

make the mean dog leave my dog alone, or i'll cry on you!

What would have happened midway through any argument along these lines:  Me crying in rage and upsetness and fright and ‘omg confrontation, waaaah’.  Like I said, I have no spine, and I am a coward.  But at the first sign of anything next class, screw it – I’ll tear a strip off them, while crying and hyperventilating and snotting all over the place.  And if it doesn’t prove effective, I’ll unleash my Momma-Grizzly mom on them.

Also, a few of the other people in the class have asked if Gwynn’s fixed.  One – he is fixed.  He is entirely ball-less.  ‘Dominance and alpha behaviour’ isn’t the issue either.  And Two – that’s like trying to figure out why an abused child deserved the beating. My dog isn’t the one running across the room to snarl and snap and growl and try to bite.  It isn’t his balls that are the problem, whether they’re present or not.

Sorry for the long, long rant.  If you all have any solutions or suggestions, please do leave a comment.  Also, do you think I’m reasonable in thinking this isn’t the right class for Rex?  The entire scenario stresses me out.  Three days later and I’m still halfway to tears (the rage-ey kind.  Dammit, I hate how non-confrontational I am) just writing about it.

I’ve Been Up but Mostly DOWN

On Wednesday, at the end of a long walk that included some beach time, some time in the woods, lots of time playing with dogs, and a bit of re-training the come-command, I had the wind punched out of my sails.

I’ll admit… I’ve dropped the ball in terms of training Gwynn for the past month or so.  Things have been getting in the way, and I’ve focused instead on making sure he gets enough exercise, stays cool in the heat, and gets a chance to play.

At some point, in the past month, the ‘come’ command dropped by the wayside.  I still used it (or tried to)… but I wasn’t exactly getting the right response.  Check out this link for a post about why this ISN’T my dog’s fault.   And I believe this to be true.  It isn’t his fault that he does EXACLTY what I expect when I let him off-leash – he runs off away from me and finds something gross to eat and ignores me.

"Is the boss calling for me? more importantly... is this something dead that I can eat before listening to her?"

In response to this indifference to the command that was once so effective, I started using the long-line in parks.  I’ve been… foggy.  Muggy… blurry, exhausted, apathetic.  Whatever the word, it translates to this: too blah to actually try consistently to fix the issue.  I’m sure it’s partly to do with general tiredness, both mental and physical, but I just haven’t been able to muster the necessary… anything… to get my act together, get in gear, DO something.  And, like a complete dunce, I’ve gone on almost an entire walk without letting him off the leash – long or short – and then, in a spurt of “what a good puppy you are!”… I let him off-leash, at which point, he does exactly what I was preventing by keeping him on leash.  And further use of the come command would just reinforce that he doesn’t have to listen.

Back to Wednesday.  Nearly two hours into a walk in which Gwynn actually got a bit of time dragging the leash to frolic in the waves with a beautiful weimaraner (and then ran off and tried to eat an old animal skull… shocking, I know… who could possibly have predicted that?), we were on our way out of the park.  Just to be clear – I NEVER let Gwynn off here.  When he was good and listened to the come command, I’d still leash him up just before entering this part of the park.  Partly because this is where 99% of the goose poop is (and he luuuuuves it), and partly because it’s a big field-ey area with lots of non-doggy people, and NOTHING between that big fun-to-run-in field… and a road.

I was kind of surprised to see a man and his two (gorgeous, red) golden retrievers playing fetch on the far side of the field, right next to the road.  These dogs, however, were perfectly in tune with this guy… they were listening beautifully and running around, having a great (and obedient) time.

Inhabited by evil spirits… he went from sweet puppy to this!

Gwynn flipped.  He went nuts, struggling against his leash, desperate to go play with these dogs, desperate to run straight towards the road, to chase the ball, to frolic in the grass.  Having just pulled a rodent-skull of some sort out of his mouth, I wasn’t buying it.  Especially not when he was dancing on two feet at the end of the line, lunging and making mad-dashes in an attempt to break free.  It was like having a mad gorilla on the end of a leash.  This is not how Gwynn usually behaves.  Then again, he also answers to the come-command, so, really, how could I be surprised at this new and highly uncharacteristic behaviour?

Since the man and his dogs are on the other side of a soccer field, I tightened up and shortened up on Gwynn’s 6 ft leash, and kept walking down the path.  He’s had lots of exercise, and play today… and he doesn’t earn anything by behaving this way.

Summary to this point:  Mentally dead Alex knows that she needs to work more on training, knows that this isn’t appropriate behaviour for her dog, and really doesn’t feel capable of doing much more than just get home, and try practicing ‘come’ off-leash, in my fully enclosed backyard… and then sleep.  Yes this post is biased to my side… it is, after all, my blog.

Man with really well-behaved, really pretty dogs, from across the field – “Does your dog bite?”

Frustrated at Gwynn trying to pull my arm off – “Nope, he’s quite friendly, just not good off-leash near roads” (yes, fibbing… the truth:  right now, not good off-leash, at all)

Snarky wannabe Dog Whisperer – “You should try training your dog”

At this point, Gwynn is still crying and lunging, but from a very short leash being held onto for dear life by his owner who is having a mental breakdown.  I realise what it looks like, from a distance, and from the viewpoint of someone who has never seen how Gwynn usually is.  I couldn’t muster the ability to deal with this comment, so I didn’t respond… just smiled vaguely (from across the field, which he is now crossing with his perfect freaking dogs… the perfectly groomed dogs he’s walking with, over to me and my scruffy looking, sand covered dog that smells of swamp from his time in the lake) and kept walking.

The guy laughs (like the snarky snark he is) when he sees that my answer is a non-answer, and jogs to catch up to me.  His dogs come up, the dogs all exchange sniffs and Gwynn calms down immediately.  Friendly to them, but not the demon-spawn I had hooked to the end of my leash a moment ago. As the other dogs tried to initiate play with him, while he’s on leash, he considered it, and then went “meh.  Not now, guys.  I’m not supposed to pull on my leash.”.

The man dog-whisperers (yes, it’s a verb, now… one I clearly don’t deserve to conjugate in the first person) both dogs into sits (literally, touches the one dog on the muzzle and does a very Cesar-like doggy-mind-meld thing to make her sit), and repeats, “You should train your dog – then he’ll listen to you.”

Miserable, embarrassed, pissed off-but-too-polite/ashamed/embarassed-to-actually-tell-him-what-I-want-to-say … and jealous as HELL that his dogs are so prettily trained and not satanically posessed – “He did listen, but he’s not right now, so he’s on-leash until I can work out his come command enough again that he responds.”

Satanic Dog Whisperer wannabe says, condescendingly – “How old is your dog?”

Wants to go home and sleep and maybe cry for a bit (yes, this is an over-reaction, but I’ve been having one of those… months… since about mid-June, and at this point, I’m really frustrated and exhausted, and my hand
smells like dead thing and fish) – long pause to remember what month it is and what month my dog was born in…because I’m a terrible dog owner…“A bit over a year”

Which gets me a kind of pitying superior look from him, as if to say, “over a year old, and not perfectly trained?  What a failure.”  “Also, how do you not know your dogs’ exact age, right now?”

I bet his dogs were born house-trained (he trained them while they were in the womb as well), and this obedient by the time they were 6 months old.

I’m not even sure if I said anything else, to be honest… I just left.  I spent the remainder of the walk home stewing over this guy, thinking of snappy comebacks that I can never think of when actually faced with someone who is making me upset.  I am more of an angry-cry-er than a snappy come-back-er.  And, in the midst of my stewing, ridiculously upset that this stranger had, from what I could tell in my highly emotional state, hit the nail on the head.

How could I be such a terrible dog owner?  I take him to classes… I try to practice… but I don’t have a wonder-dog of any kind, and what the hell other explanation could there be for the brief appearance of hell spawn at the end of my leash just a few minutes before.  I’m just a terrible dog owner, ruining the life of my beloved pooch.  I should give him to someone who can properly train him and make his life fulfilling.  Like I said… it has been that kind of a month, and I am over-emotional.

Doodle could very well be pondering on what to do to exorcise Gwynn’s demons, right this moment. Or she could be cleaning out-houses… one never knows.

Meanwhile, Gwynn walked calmly and loose-leash beside me, even when we walked past some other dogs on the other side of the road from us.  Apparently ‘good dog’ fought off the attempted possession of Gwynn by Hell Spawn.  Not in time to stop me from moping and being generally down in the dumps for the rest of the evening, unfortunately.  And, with my walking buddy embracing her inner wolf-child for the summer, working in the Great White (or Green, since there isn’t any snow in the summer… or black, what with all the mosquitos) North, I had no-one to vent to, or practice training with.  MISS HER!

Before I leave off with this ridiculously over-long post:  Yes, I’ve recovered from this wallowing in ‘failed dog owner’ misery, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to write this as coherently as I did (cue laugh reel).  I’ve got a post on a timer for sometime this weekend for the upward trend part of the story.  A sneak prevue – I totally kicked Debbie Downer out of the drivers’ seat of this mental rollercoaster.

Also… love LOVE LOVE the whole Dog Whisperer thing… I am quite positive that Cesar Milan wouldn’t have been so condescending and jerk-ey… he’d have given suggestions beyond “don’t be a loser- try not to suck so much at life”.  This guy was a false-whisperer, and clearly a wannabe… and a hater.

Also also… the title is from the song “New Low” by Middle Class Rut, and it is a great song, very catchy 🙂

Dog Obedience and Gender Neutral Names

Firstly, a bit of a change to my blog.  I have come to the realisation that keeping dog names general is rather silly (yep, sometimes I can admit that I do stupid things.  Not often, but… sometimes)… though I maintain my opinion on keeping people names personal.  I started that a bit in the last post, but figured I’d wait until this post to more formally introduce Dog, since his name elicits a wide variety of reactions, ranging from “Wha…?” to “That’s a girl name”, and I might as well give you all the explanation I rarely bother giving to the average person on the street.

Gwynn, much less hairy than he is today

Dog’s name is Gwynn (though he does get called Dog as well, especially when he’s hovering under the cutting-board, doing his best to levitate the chicken onto the floor), and yes, he is a boy.  No, it isn’t only a girl’s name – it is Welsh, and a boy name, as well as a girl name.  Neither he nor I really care if someone calls him a pretty girl, though, but I do find the response of, “That’s a girl name” to be kind of rude.  Is that statement a challenge of some sort?  Maybe you think I mis-named him, or lied when I said he’s a boy?  Are you requesting the opportunity to see his bits?  That would be awkward.  Gwynn is pronounced like Quinn, but with a G instead of a Q, though I rarely correct people when they do mishear me and call him Quinn.  Similar to the ‘pretty girl’ thing, he really doesn’t care what you call him, so long as you’re behaving suitably adoringly.  He was named after Gwynne Dyer, a very interesting public speaker and journalist who I highly recommend going to hear if you have the opportunity to do so.  He is the first pet I’ve owned that got named by me, and, while I entirely ignored the strong suggestions of many ‘how to name your pet’ sites, I think I did a good job.  His name might not end in an ‘y’ sound (Sadie, Fluffy, Jesse) or have two syllables (Sadie, Fluffy, Jesse), but I did avoid naming him something that would be embarrassing to shout across a field to catch his attention.  I also refrained from calling him Apricot, a name one ‘how to name your pet’ site used as an example of what they would consider embarrassing to shout across a field.  He is apricot coloured, and it sounds like such a cute name, but I felt that shouting AAA-Pri-COOOOT! would be time-consuming(though not embarrassing), and wouldn’t necessarily sound at all like his name at normal decibels, so he might not answer to the shouted version as well as the ‘good-boy-apricot’ version. 

Moving past the name issue, Gwynn had his last dog obedience class this past Friday.  He is so much more obedient than he was before, and I have decided (uncertainly) not to enrol him for the spring session.  For one thing, my obedience instructor said that she gets a lot of new puppies in the spring session.  Both classes I took were technically titled beginner, but she was able to do more intermediate things in the winter term, because most of the dogs in the course were in their second enrolment in the course.  Spring, the season of acquiring new puppies and dealing with the over-due training of Christmas-puppies, will probably see the class back at an actual beginner-stage of things.  I’m kind of hoping that she will start up an intermediate or advanced obedience course run through the city, because the city-run courses are considerably more reasonably priced than the other courses available.  While her courses come out to about 10$/hour long class, the group courses run by dog-training companies run a fair bit higher in price (22 to 40 dollars per 1-hour long session at the places that are relatively close to me).  However, in checking up on these prices, I am beginning to think that 20-ish isn’t that bad a price, especially if it allows me to keep upgrading Gwynn’s skills in a social environment (i.e., with distractions).  Bear with me, I’m kind of making up my mind about this plan as I am writing it.

I do realise that price shouldn’t be my only working point in the search for intermediate type training, but it is one of the aspects I am using in my consideration of courses.  Something I’m also finding is that a lot of the places near me seem to require you to have completed one of their beginner courses prior to enrolling in an intermediate course.  I’m not willing to start from scratch in my training, especially for a higher priced course in which I’d be basically doing review.  We’ll see whether they’re willing to test his obedience, or just plain accept us into an intermediate class without the prerequisites. 

Also, I kind of want to see what it is I’m paying for prior to starting.  With the city course, if I had been unhappy, chances are, I could have easily gotten my money back – even if I couldn’t, I could deal with losing $80 more easily than $200+.  These companies all have strict no-refund policies, it would seem.  So, I’ll have to check to find out if I can sit in on a class or two, to see if I like the instruction style before putting my money on the table.  I’d want to see what the teaching style is, how the dogs are behaving in the classes (ie, is Gwynn obedient enough to join the intermediate class here, or should I, in fact, go to the beginners), how much time is spent on different things and what types of things the course will cover.  I realise it is silly, but in my mind, I have this vision of arriving at a dog obedience class and finding some awful tyrannical monster instructor who screams and yells and hits the dogs and has all the dogs being unnaturally obedient out of fear.  Gwynn was such a timid guy when we first got him, so I’ve been doing my absolute best to keep him out of situations that would make him turn back into that fearful thing again.  One of the many reasons I’m so careful to ask the ‘is your dog friendly?’ question.  Our instructor with the City gets better obedience out of him than I do, but definitely not out of fear – he is hugely excited to be used as a teaching example, or just for her to stop and say hello to him.  I want to find an obedience class that is both effective and a chance to let him socialize with people and dogs from outside my circle of people.

Regardless, I think I’ll be waiting until the summer or fall sessions to start a new session of obedience, though I’ll need to start looking now if I want to actually go to a few of their classes to research them.  If you’ve got experience taking or teaching obedience classes, leave me a comment – what do I need to look for in a training company?  What should I be looking at when I’m visiting a course?  And is it reasonable for me to be asking to sit in on a lesson at all?

Until then, I’ve got a four-week trick training course starting this week, with our obedience trainer, and I’ll have to make sure I practice and improve on his obedience commands while he’s not in a course at all.