Mille Part 4

Millie is now 2.5 years old. I would say who she is is now pretty solidified. 

Our previous obstacles in the last post were:

  • Issues recovering after a scary event or thing.
  • Uncomfortable in new environments.
  • Resurge in crate barking in new locations only.
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Millie Part 3

In an effort to not repeat much from the previous Millie posts, I will simplify that the good stuff is still good. We have overcome more things, learned more behaviors and ran into new challenges. Millie is now 14 months old.

Overcame

- I can dremal, brush, bathe, and even clip and strip with no issues.

- She will now let me carry her more and jump on my lap when invited.

- No longer barking at vacuum.

- Less nervous of strangers.

New Behaviors

- Backward crawl.

- Distance cues.

- Agility obstacle familar.

- Better fetching.

- Hand stand.

- Freestyle foundations.

- Tandem tricks with Lex.

New Challenges

- Nervous in brand new environments.

- Resurge in crate barking IF crate is located in a new environment.

- Trouble recovering from "scary" events.

Millie Part 1

Thu, 10/02/201

I have been meaning to write a blog post about Millie, but I am so busy each day, that there just hasn't been time! Millie is my poodle terrier cross that is currently 5 months old. I have had her about 7 weeks now and I will be honest, it is tough work raising a puppy correctly!

Millie came to me as a client's board and train dog. She hadn't been with the client long and was exhibiting massive separation anxiety in the crate, tormenting the client's small breed dog and wasn't fully potty trained. I had her 3 days and we got through most of her crate issues and separation issues and had started working on her rambunctiousness with dogs when my client and her spouse came to the conclusion that Millie just wasn't going to fit into their schedules. They made a very wise choice knowing that they couldn't give her what she needed and we had an unexpected opportunity to take her on ourselves!

I will be honest, Millie was a job, a client job I was performing. I wasn't attached to her, but my kids were and it was lovely seeing them have a positive relationship with a dog that reciprocated the feelings! My father kept saying how it would be HIS dog seeing as Harley was gone. My husband kept repeating that 3 dogs wasn't a good idea, but he never said no. So we decided to keep her and she got spayed (against my wishes so early, but had to do as rescue contract said) and chipped and tested for a UTI while we went shopping at the pet store....

Her spay went OK, though I did have to pay extras for "normal" comfort measures and dissolvable stitches that I still ended up needing getting taken out! She did fine with her cone, came to be her normal self in a few days time and took pills like a champ.

The dark cloud though was the potty training and my husband. In his defense, he didn't raise Lucy and I kind of did all the work when we got Lex. So he didn't really have the most realistic expectations of a puppy. He kept saying, "you are a trainer, train her." I was, but potty training doesn't happen overnight! Millie did quite well, too well that I would forget she was so young and I wouldn't put the gate up. Low and behold, she would urinate in a different room we weren't occupying. It wasn't until I consistently had the gate up in whatever room we were in, did the accidents stop. Then I started expanding her areas slowly. I took her out on a rotation of potty, physical play, training, mental games, training, chew time, potty, crate time and repeat. She could only be out of her crate 3 hours before needing to go out and needing a rest. Now she can be out longer, but she still gets crate time during the day as well as time in the yard with the other dogs or alone. After 2 weeks of being consistent with the barriers, she began to "tell" us she needed out by waiting at the door! We only use the gate now upstairs during kid bedtime when I am busy with them for a while and can't keep track of her. 

Once she was potty trained, I saw my husband like her more. He likes that she doesn't shed. He likes that her and the kids are close. He sees she makes me happy and sees the value in her being my demo dog as Lucy has retired. I do catch them playing occasionally, but he still makes jokes asking our friends if they want a puppy!

As for training, at the begriming, I worked with Millie on all the basics several times a day in 5 minute sets: sit, down, sit, stand, leave-it, stay, heel, off. I added tricks; high five, paw, spin, other way, bear, bow, crawl. I started doing indoor socialization to boxes, toys, pots and pans, treats on novel things, lots of brain games. It wasn't until she could  heel indoors and was good with the harness and leash (2 weeks after having her) that I even took her off our property. We went on a short walk up and down the street rewarding good heel with the clicker every 5 feet! I am really glad I invested so much time in her walking well. 

Then I began arranging doggie play times in my yard. At first, I was very selective in making sure it was the right size, the right temperament. Now she is good with all the dogs and we do our doggie play dates 2-4 times a month! I also took her to some other ones and into the small side of the dog park once with some clients. She loves when we have friendly day train dogs too.

We still kept up with crate games and go to mat work and then I began using her for private client sessions, then group class. 

She barked a lot during her first group class, crated. Thankfully, it was all very good clients of mine that understood the process and now she stays quiet and I have figured out how to secure her crate so she doesn't unzip it!

So all and all, she has been a good fit for our family. She is a high maintenance dog though and I am glad she has us because I don't know many others that could handle the stimulation and training she has needed! We have had yucky days of poop messes, muddy dog running in the house, fear of the nail trimmer, fear of the bath, suddenly getting reactive toward people. It is just part of the package. 

I plan to write more in Millie Part 2 about where we are in training now and how we are dealing with her human reactivity and fears.

Saying Goodbye

Today I had to do a very hard thing. I had to put down our family dog. I am still in a bit of shock. The whole scenario is a bit odd for those on the outside looking in. I didn't see Harley as my dog, yet for all intents and purposes, he was for the last year and a half.

Harley, as all dogs, has a story. I feel I would honor him by telling it.

13 years ago, my dad decided that it was time for us to get a new dog. He had been divorced from my mother a few years and was finally back in a house and felt that my autustic brother would benefit from a dog because he always missed the dogs that were at my mom's when we came to visit my dad every other week. We had always gotten puppies from breeders, but for some reason, my dad decided we should check out the shelter. We drove to Antioch to look at the dogs in the pound and my dad gravitated toward the one dog that he was sure no one would want. A large black dog that was bouncing off the kennel door. He was a BBD, Big Black Dog, and I learned later, those are the dogs that don't have the best chance of fidning a home. It seems Harley was around a year of age and dumped by his owner when he kept getting larger and destroyed a lot of their home. His bio said he wasn't good with cats or other dogs. I tried to talk him out of the dog, but he was sold, especially since my brother adored him. He paid $50 for him and was given a leash, large bag of Nutro dog food and a bright neon pink gentle leader that we thought was a muzzle at the time.

We took Harley home and the very next week we embarked on a motor home vacation with our new dog. He ate all my books I brought with me, slept in the bed with my dad and had a few days of not going to the bathroom till we figured out he would only do his business off leash! He scared quite a few dogs at the camp grounds, swam in many lakes and rivers and swalled a fish hook with no repurcusions. Thus was Harley's life. He ate chocolate, porclein figurenes, decks, chairs, hoses and never was sick. This dog was a dog of steel! He never did have an issue with our cats or other dogs that came into our lives, but was always a huge reactive mess on leash and only my dad could walk him with the dreaded prong collar. Be that as it may, he went on many outings and vacations and really loved life. He was the only dog allowed his own leather couch and basically had no rules.

He was always in the background of my life. He wasn't my dog, Lucy was my dog, but Harley was always there and usually causing some trouble of some sort like eating the Thanksgiving turkey off the counter one year. He was never really in trouble though, my dad adored that dog.

When we all decided to move in together (keep in mind I went away to college and lived with my nuclear family for a few years), Harley was a bit of a strugle for me. This was a dog that had been induldged his whole life and I am a dog trainer! It didn't take him long to learn my rules and after a few months, things were harmonious. However, in the last 6 months, we had stopped joking that he would outlive us all. We knew he was declining. He was having accidents in the house several times a week. Sometimes on the couch he slept on, sometimes just all over the downstairs area. He couldn't make it outside in time. He couldn't take in enough food to sustain his body. I tried to feed him more and he would only eat so many cups of food a day (even meat and rice and homemade diets). Harley slowly needed more pills and meds each day. He spent most of his time laying on the couch or laying in the grass. He didn't bark when I played with Lucy anymore, didn't try to compete with her and would fall down frequently. I beleive my dad kept hoping nature would take it's course and I remember feeling upset that he couldn't do what needed to be done. That was until it became my responsibility. My choice.

I know now why my dad didn't want to make the choice. Why he didn't want to be in the room. Didn't want to load up his dog for his last ride. Having a 14 year old dog stare up at you while he slowly drifts away and you feed him treats is a heart wrenching experience. Even if he wasn't "my" dog, even if I resented him at time for making epic messes, it is incredibly emotional when one of god's creatures is alive one moment and not the next. Even if I made the right choice, it was a painful choice. Rest in peace Harley.

Multiple Dogs

I have been meaning to write a blog post about having multiple dogs for a while now, so here it is!

Tips for having multiple dogs;

1. Crate train your dogs! It is of vital importance that your dogs have their own space and crates are a great way to rotate dogs for special solo time, utilize as a cool down spot if a scuffle occurs, feed in the crates if you have resource guarders and prevent fights when you are not home.

2. Feed on a schedule. Rarely do I find a group of multiple dogs that free feed together peacefully. Each dog in your home should have his own bowl and know where his spot is to eat. You should measure out the food and feed at the same designated times or as close as possible, each day. You may have to space bowls far out, stand in the middle to supervise or do feedings in different rooms or utilize crates for peaceful meals.

3. Insist on obedience. With any dog, but more so with multiples, you should have a clear routine for feeding time, coming in the house, going outside etc. and insist on manners. Dogs can sit/stay/release for their food, wait/release at the door and get called independently to go in or out and sit politely to get leashes on or get toys thrown or get a special bone or treat.

4. Have special solo time. Each day, each dog should get some time with just you. Maybe you play a game of hide and seek or fetch and maybe you work on commands. It could be as short as 5 minutes. I used to rotate 5 mins for each dog until I was done or the dogs were. Some people may do a whole outing with one dog and leave the others behind and the next day, it may be dog B's turn to go on an errand. It is very important each dog has a relationship with the owner independent of the other dogs. For highly trained dogs, you can do mat stays while working with the other dog. For beginners, you would utilize the crate or a pen.

5. In addition to special solo time, I also advocate that each dog (mostly young dogs), get time to chew a bone or work on a kong or brain toy in peace. If your dogs have very good relationships, all of them can have a goodie in the same room. However, if there is stealing, growling or stress, it is best to isolate them while they enjoy their game, toy or chew. You don't have to do it all at once, you can pen one dog in the room you are in and the others are free to roam while one is using the pen to work on his kong. Some dogs won't eat when they are alone, so be creative in figuring out what works for your household.

6. Respect the natural hierarchy. Dogs have fluid hierarchies. We used to believe there was an "alpha" but that has since been proven false as dogs can change who is leader in a variety of situations. In reality, we all know each of our dogs have different personalities and talents and wants. Dog A may be willing to share food but not affection and Dog B may share affection, food and toys, but not personal space. If you have a dog that always dives for the toy first and the other doesn't care, then go with it! Don't force one dog to defer to another. They have already made their choice.

7. Teach new commands one dog at a time. Take Dog A and teach sit, or heel or insert whatever command here, and then Dog B separately. Once they both have got something down pat, then do tandem. Nothing is worse than taking two novice dogs out and attempting to teach them both to heel at the same time!

8. Speaking of heel, decide where you want each dog to walk. Two dogs of the same height may do well on a coupler on one side or one dog on each side. If you have three dogs, you may not want to walk all at once or you may do couple on one side and other dog on the other side. Each dog should know where they are expected to walk. Do not walk reactive dogs with your other dogs ever! Not until the reactivity is under control as it can actually cause your non-reactive dog to become reactive or you can get a nasty redirected fight on the end of your leashes.

9. Find a flow or routine to your day with your dogs. I always had a routine for workdays and non-workdays. The dogs knew what to expect and I could plan accordingly. We may have done different activities or training exercises, but for the most part, they occurred at the same time on those days.

10. Try not to worry about equality too much. Some of us are lucky enough not to have a favorite, but most of us do. It's okay if only the poodle is allowed in the bed and your lab puppy sleeps in a crate. It's okay if your senior dog gets massages and your adult dog doesn't. It's okay if you only take one into the pet store or to the dog park. Dogs aren't kids and they aren't going to compare notes or go to therapy later because they think you favored one!

There you have it. A list of 10 tips that are hopefully helpful in creating a harmonious home amidst multiple canines!