Friday, May 29, 2009

My Dog Barks At Walls

Yes, yes she does. And I'm really not sure what to do with that.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Deaf Dog Myth #254

Last night in obedience class, Jun and I were working on a "stand" command (very difficult for Miss Perpetual Motion). There is a guy with a giant black Newf in the class and he was working right next to us, apparently not holding his dog's leash. So at some point the Newf (who is a very cool dog with a very cool name, Romulus, or something strong and manly sounding like that) decided that standing was boring and he was going to come over and check out what Jun was doing. Of course, as always, Jun noticed this before I did and started giving the Newf the stare of death. I noticed in time to step in front of Jun and try to block her view and block the Newf(emphasis on the trying part), yet the Newf kept coming. And despite the fact that the owner was about 3 steps away, he apparently didn't feel the need to grab his dog. So the Newf gets within about a foot of Jun's face and of course, being up against a wall with a giant dog bearing down upon her she goes Cujo on his ass. It was then that the Newf's owner decided to grab him. None of that is particularly remarkable, but what really got me was, after Jun got snarky, the instructor commented to the whole class "oh, she's deaf, so that means she can't read dog language very well."

Um . . . what? Now, I understand that there are lots of misconceptions about deaf dogs (number one being that they are harder to train than normal dogs--a misconception which I had already dispelled about six times that very night), but this is not even logical! Certainly not coming from someone who is supposedly educated about dogs and dog behavior and training. Dog communication is nearly 100% NON-verbal, i.e., it can be interpreted VISUALLY! There is nothing wrong with Jun's eyes, nor with her brain, so I'm really not understanding how her deafness affects her doggy communication skills. In fact, Lok is incredibly subtle in his communication style, but she understands and listens to him just fine (when he chooses to communicate that is, and I wish he would more often, rather than just giving me the "why, oh why, does she still live here" look).

I can't decide whether it's the illogic or the ignorance that is more aggravating. Not only can Jun read dog language, in this situation she DID read dog language and responded appropriately! She had a giant dog very rudely approaching her head-on with her back against a wall. The dog very stupidly ignored the clear "go away, I don't like you" message in her stare and her stiffened body posture. I think at that point it was clear which one of them was not adept at reading canine body language. Jun had no choice but to spell it out for him.

Sigh. The people who call themselves dog trainers.

On another note, I think tonight we may try an obedience fun match. That should be interesting.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A perfect night

I decided to take the dogs with to run an errand last night. Then after we all got in the car, I decided there was enough daylight left to get in five minutes of disc with each of them. So we went to the park. It was a perfect temperature out, a beautiful night with very little wind, we had the field to ourselves. Just the right atmosphere for some disc miracles! Our best jams always happen when there is no one else around, nobody watching, nobody to impress, just feeling each other's movements, sensing each other's thoughts, no plan, no agenda, just feeding off each other's passion and creativity.

Lok did amazing, considering that last week he ran full speed ahead into a chain link fence, and a couple days ago ran into his crate door which I forgot to leave all the way open, and yesterday ran smack into my great big wooden privacy fence in broad daylight! He was even catching long throws in a little impromptu game of Catch 22. Jun did amazing also. She hasn't been sticking on discs at all lately and we've been working on some new moves. Sometimes I'm tempted to just work distance with her--her speed in chasing down long throws and her leaps to catch them are awe-inspiring.

Five minutes of heaven with each dog. Happy tired dogs. Happy me.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Careless Driving

If the legislature really wants to prevent accidents, they should forget about drunk driving and crack down on what I was doing yesterday!

Jun likes to keep me on my toes. She can't make life too easy for me, because, well, what fun would that be? Jun is now wonderful in her crate at home and in her crate at comps. She used to be good in her crate in the car. She decided that was too boring. So after enduring a couple months of shrill, ear-piercing deaf-dog barking in the car I finally decided I had to do something about it.

Step number 1: Figure out why the dog is engaging in the undesirable behavior. In Jun's case, it turned out to be overstimulation from watching all the cars pass by and wanting to chase them. Typical border collie behavior, a-typical Jun behavior, but like I said, she likes to mix it up. Oh well. As I always say, you work with the dog you have today, and today I have a motion-reactive dog.

Step number 2: Develop a plan to manage the behavior so the dog will not be practicing bad behavior while you do step number 3. This one was easy. Cover the crate. She can't see the cars outside. No barking! Now I have an unsightly blue packing blanket covering Jun's crate in the car. Not to mention, when it gets a little hotter, she will be roasting in there. So management is not the ideal permanent solution here. On to Step 3.

Step number 3: Develop and implement a plan to addres the root causes of the behavior. Jun needs to learn to be calm and settled while riding in the car with cars and other things zooming by outside. The plan, basic but effective. Reward good behavior. Prevent to the extent possible and otherwise ignore bad behavior. Classic positive reinforcement training strategy. Unfortunately, not so easy to do when you have to do it while driving (and unlike many car issues, I couldn't work on it while stationary, because she's quiet when the car's not moving). So we start the drive with two sides of the crate un-covered. Jun starts barking, I reach back to cover the crate. Jun is quiet for a minute or two, I reach back to uncover the crate. Jun is sitting or laying calmly and quietly in the crate, I feed treats every 15 to 30 seconds or so. Jun barks once. I cover the crate. Rinse and repeat. While trying to remember to watch the cars in front of me, lest they slam on their breaks, stay in my own lane, stop at stoplights, etc. Easier said than done. But I'm happy to report that Jun had a very successful trip to class and back last night!

So, I'm realizing my blog is seriously lacking in pictures. Too bad I'm not more of a photographer, but here are some black and whites I took with my crappy little point and shoot last night. Taking picture of a black dog in low light is really hard. Especially when the dog's pupils are reflective and take up his entire eye, due to PRA.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Random Jun Stuff

I really thought when I started this blog that I would have more to write. Apparently I was wrong. So since I haven't posted for awhile, here are some random things Jun does that are funny, annoying or both:

1. Scratching corners. Apparently she finds this thoroughly entertaining, especially if she injures me in the process. Our most challenging time of day is the hour in the morning when I am trying to get ready for work and not directly entertaining her, so most of the things on this list are things she has made up to entertain herself during that time. This particular game involves laying down with her face in the corner that is made up of the bathtub and the vanity and sniffing intently, as if there is some particularly desirable treasure hidden in the crack (which there is not) then scratching frantically with alternating paws. Generally, this involves scratching my bare feet/legs as I stand at the sink. All the better to her, as that gets a reaction out of me faster. I got sick of this and now laying down with her nose in the corner is grounds for immediate expulsion from the bathroom.

2. Opportunistic fetch. Tuesdays suck for the dogs. I am gone for 10 hours at work, home for 45 minutes (during which they get to play for maybe 20 minutes) and then back to work for 5 hours, getting home about 10pm. I force myself to stay up until midnight to play with them, but last night I HAD to clean my house, so I gave them each a ball and set about with cleaning. If I am not directly involved in playing ball, Jun knows exactly where to put the ball so that I will either accidentally kick it as I am walking, bump it with the vacuum, push it out of the way of where I am washing the floor, etc. If all else fails, she'll drop it on top of my foot so it will bounce and roll or just throw it for herself. Yes, she is quite ingenuis about her fetching. Lok on the other hand will just lay down and squeak his ball if I make it clear that I am busy and not going to be throwing it. My two dogs are such night and day opposites!

3. Spinning. Jun likes to spin/chase her tail. I used to think it was OCD. However, I now know that she just does it to get attention, because she NEVER does it when she is alone, only when I am in the room. The closer to my legs, the better. The more she steps on my bare feet with sharp nails (because she won't sit still long enough to let me clip them--yes, we are working on it) the better. She has even been known to spin around my legs with her tail in her mouth.

4. Squeezing into small spaces. Jun likes to be squished. If I am standing close to an object, you can bet that she will be between me and that object. The tighter the squeeze, the better.

5. Sniffing the garbage. Jun does not actually raid the garbage. Actually, I think she did once--for an empty can of dog food that I had thrown away! But I can have leftover meat, cheese, all manner of smelly, tasty things in the garbage and she doesn't touch it! Not even if she is home alone and loose! She does however, enjoy sniffing it. She will walk over, bump up the lid with her nose, sniff for a minute, and walk away. Strange, strange dog.

6. Stealing paper bags. Every once in awhile, in the morning, when I am not entertaining her, Jun will go and ever so daintily grab a brown paper bag from the place they are kept next to the garbage, and then bring it to the living room and have a blast ripping it up! Being the good dog owner/trainer that I am, I NEVER let her get away with this. After all, it could lead to stealing and chewing up other random paper objects that I don't want destroyed! Therefore, I always take the bag away, make her sit, THEN give it back to her and let her rip it up. LOL!

7. Getting kicked in the head. Jun likes to get kicked in the head. She considers it "petting." BF will be sitting on the couch, feet on the ottoman, moving his foot back and forth, and Jun will come up and put her head right next to his foot so she is getting repeatedly kicked in the head. She enjoys this. Really.

8. Conversations with her tail. Yes, she has them. She will lay on the ground, staring at her tail and waiting for it to move, "talking" at it all the while. Then when it does move, she snatches it and goes sommersaulting around the floor with it in her mouth.

9. Jealousy. The dogs aren't allowed on the couch (except for front paws only when invited so it's easier to pet them). Jun was getting obnoxious so I stuck her in her crate in the living room, then invited Lok up on the couch. She saw that, sat bolt upright, and I swear the intonation of the bark she gave sounded just like a whiny kid saying "What! Not fair!"

10. Inconvenient potty schedule. Every time I sit down at the table or on the couch--EVERY TIME--she runs to the door needing to go out. Every. Time. Without fail.

11. The "help, it's stuck!" Game. Toy are put away unless I'm playing with the dogs, but rawhides are always out. Several times a night, especially if I am trying to just sit and watch TV, Jun will either drop her rawhide in the crack between the couch and ottoman or push it under the couch, then sit and scratch at the couch until I relent and retreive it for her. Then she will do it again, but she will try to be sneaky about it. She'll put it on the edge of the ottoman and nudge it so it moves a little, then she'll nudge it again, and again, until it falls into the crack. Then she'll give me a look as if to say, "honest, I had NO IDEA that would happen!"

That's enough for now. More Jun-isms to come another day.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Lok has been in flyball for about 8 weeks or so. He adores it! But last time, he knocked over two jumps--like, ran into the jump standards at full speed and sent them flying. Not good. :( I may have to take him out of it. We'll see how he does next week.

Jun is finally back to where she was three weeks ago in flyball. She regressed for a bit and started trying to play fetch with the box loader (or anybody standing on the sidelines) again. Last time, she was back to business, running the full course again! Good dog!

This week Jun starts level 3 obedience. I'm going to work Lok for 15 minutes or so and then Jun will get the rest of the class. I'm finding that the more I challenge her, the more she stays focused in class. When she gets bored, she goofs off. She's is doing excellent with her heelwork! Pivots both ways, sidepasses, backs up in heel position! She is so much fun to work with!