Tuesday, January 13, 2009

yum, brains...

We are cute...

We are watching birds...do dee do....

I'm just streeeeeeeeeetching...


I am a dingus.

Griff may be less than brill, but at least he isn't an undead zombie-type animal.

confessions of a recovering overeater

I've battled with food since I was about nine, when I used to go to my friend Heidi's house because we could walk to the grocery store and buy Hershey's bars, and not just the small ones, but the giant ones, which we would then eat with peanut butter from the jar. Since my recent bout with vet-school induced poorness has basically obligated me to drop some weight or go naked, I've given up or altered a lot of my food-related habits. At heart, though, I have a difficult relationship with food, and will have all my life.

I'm glad I'm working on it. I'm glad I'm running, that more of my clothes fit, that I've lost 15 (!!) pounds since September, while maintaining a pretty decent (3.9ish) GPA, taking care of the animals, managing not to drive away my boyfriend, etc.

However, there are days like today when i'm reminded why food is such a big fucking problem. Today nothing feels good. Everything, school, family, pets, friends, knitting even, feels uncomfortable or disappointing. Nothing's wrong, it's just one of those princess and the pea days where things chafe even though they shouldn't.

It's days like this that I miss eating peanut butter m & m's, or barbecue potato chips and cheerios (don't know why the combo is good, it just is). I miss eating them to excess because I know the *satiety* would be so satisfying. It's not happiness, but it's short term gratification. I miss coke, it's sticky security. I miss the Creme Brulee candy bars (those things are freaking good, for what it's worth), and eating way more then I ought.

I don't want to overeat, because I know the consequences, and I feel in control of myself and glad to eat my banana instead. I just feel the edge of that oh-so-slippery slope, and know not teetering off of it will take energy, probably for the rest of my life. Nothing in my life right now is so easy -and- so mood-elevating, at the same time. I know it's temporary, but on days where everything feels like my underpants are two sizes too small, it's very fucking tempting.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Tuesday's class

1. new dog-a little, snarky female min pin. Griff didn't perseverate too badly on her though
2. weaves-6 were awesome. mostly. need to work harder entries, or should I train 12 first? Dunno
3. Front crosses- I hates them. He does rear crosses so well, his turn command is getting great, and I always trip us both up when I try to get in front of him. I know I need to work them, and Barb made me, so that was good. I know they will be helpful. I know, I know. They just make me feel awkward, especially when she tried to have me add 4 into a 10 obstacle sequence, most of them being tight jumps.
4. teeter-solid.
5. contacts--weak. Didn't we practice these? Need to have solid, because I don't want him to start f'ing them up and getting away with it because we're at a trial. If I let it slide, eventually he will launch himself off a dog walk at some point.
6. arosal-higher than I expected. He was really excitable about the advanced class before him, even though he's seen all those dogs before. Eep. May make the trial more interesting than I thought. Need to work on self-control exercises. Especially prior to class, prior to entering the door even.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I just ate a pear

I just powered down an entire pear in little slices with cinnamon. It was nowhere near as satisfying as eating an entire chocolate bar used to be, but alas I gave that up. I think I over-peared though.

Guinness is not doing well. The vet thinks he injured his stifle joint-either arthritis flare or maybe something with the ligaments or meniscus, which means no PT for two weeks at least. And he was doing so well. He's really having a hard time today, and he seems uncomfortable. Not painful exactly, just off. I gave him an NSAID to take the edge off, but he just doesn't seem to want to settle. I've found it to be a really disheartening day, especially after he seemed to be deriving such benefit from the PT and be doing so well.

He's on rest for two weeks, so no beach this weekend. No run at the park, no humping his sister. I hope the vet is right, and it's not a worsening portent of badness to come.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Monkey lays on fat Fidget....

I guess it's cold in the house, because Monkey hates Fidget. Poor Poohcat.

weaves, teeter, and contacts...

Barn this AM was crowded..I've never seen that many people there on a Sunday morning, must be because classes start this week.

Teeter-awesome. He seems to really get having to tip the board and shift his weight backwards. Must watch that he doesn't bail off. Why does he always think of new ways to run obstacles (he jumped on top of the tire again today)

Weaves: 6 perfect, 12 better with me on the right, with me on the left he pulled out at weave 10 so we aborted mission and just did 6 on that side. I still must keep pace with him thru the poles.

contacts: eh. only the A frame was up, and I hate sending him over it repeatedly, so we worked it in sequence, and he was spotty. He's again fine as long as I pause, but if I move he does too. I didn't work his release hard enough in the beginning.

My biggest concern for Feb's trial is that he'll knock a bunch of bars. If my handling is lazy, his momentum slows and he knocks bars. If I'm unclear, he knocks bars. Jumpers may be a nightmare. I need to look into that one jump program....

It's hard being a novice, because I can see the flaws in my handling and my understanding , but I don't always know how to fix them. I hope our instructor really nags my handling this round of classes.

Since we had to wait so much, we practiced stays, heel and "look at that dog". He's so much better when he gets to play that game than when I forget and try to keep his attention only on me the whole time.

So the plan for class is to bring his soft travel crate and have him practice being in there some of the time in prep for the show. I will probably try to crate him minimally, but since I don't really know when I'll be running and since I have to be there early to have him measured, it might be a necessary evil.

Side note: agility people are weird. I guess dog people are weird in general, and luckily people tend to have more fun with agility, so they tend to be less tense and nasty to their dogs, but still. I am used to APDT trainers at conferences, who can still be odd, but are more aware of their own dogs and what potential consequences are. People at the barn think nothing of having their dogs off leash, of walking them really close to a working dog, or letting their dogs drift into other dogs' faces without asking...I don't want to set Griff up for a reactive response since I think he believes that we don't visit with dogs during agility.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Self-fulfilling prophecy? or the story of the botched recall

I have three dogs, and three very different training journeys with each of them.

Guinness was the stereotypical surrendered shelter adolescent "large breed dog". The paperwork said his family was "moving to Florida" and couldn't take him, but the reality of his surrender became apparent as I tried to walk my new dog from the shelter doors to the car and almost ended up on my ass. He was 80 pounds and 8 months of untrained mutt dog, completely unfamiliar with walking on a leash, leash reactive to other dogs, pushy, with zero dog social skills. He was also effortlessly good-hearted, the kind of dog who wants to be kind. I knew next to nothing about dogs and training, in fact embarrasingly I believed that dogs came already "knowing" how to walk on a leash. Our training journeys the first few years of his life consisted of remedial socialization, leash training, and basically me learning how to train. He got his CGC about 9 months after I adopted him, and became the puppy-caregiver at the dog daycare he attended. He continued with classes and training, saw me through my CPDT certification, and became my demo dog for classes, giving class after class of puppies much needed experience with big benevolent but firm papa dog lessons.

Zoe was the dog that I never would have picked. She was 4 years and three homes in when I met her, after she was taken by a co-worker from her neighbor as they weren't treating her well. She was an example of what shy genes coupled with less than stellar early socialization and then prolonged isolation and lack of exposure to the world can do to a dog. She would hide whenever anyone new, especially a man, came into the room. She started at sign posts and pylon cones, was nervous around all children, and spent a lot of our early months in a perpetual state of anxiety. My goals with her were to teach her how to be more comfortable in the world, how to cope with her fears, to socialize her to people and children so that she could cope with daily life better and wouldn't become a risky dog. She got her CGC certification about two years after I adopted her. She went from the scaredy cat dog to a gently social dog with humans, and loves all other dogs. She too came to puppy class when I taught and specialized in getting shy puppies to play. She's fast, agile, and joyful, and although she still startles at large crowds and loud noises sometimes, she's altogether a different dog than when she came to me.

Neither Guinn nor Zoe were picked as performance dogs, and while both did a bit of agility training, mostly for confidence building, that was never their job. Guinness should be certified as a therapy dog, as he's got all the necessary skills, but my education and his illness have ensured that this may not be a possibility.

Griff was the first dog I picked for a specific purpose. He was a rescue from ARPH, who I got when he was about 1 year old. He was to be my agility dog, maybe get trained in rally, perhaps dabble in flyball. He had his own set of baggage, including some bouts of same sex aggression, leash reactivity and general lack of impulse control, but he's also got quite a work ethic, and hopefully will make a decent agility dog. We've already learned a lot together, both about the sport and about working as a team, which is most important.

I feel like I've done a good job with my dogs, and am proud that I've learned so much training them and that I've helped them become good canine members of society, on the whole.

My constant source of frustration is that all three dogs, with their varied genetics, early experiences, and breed traits, all have one thing in common.

They have shitty recalls.

Now, I am thinking that Guinness may have had a history of escape before I got him. His training took forever, and it was a good number of years before I could trust him off leash anywhere. Zoe had years of time to perfect her habits before I got her, and was often seen running around her old apartment complex since going outside to go potty was the only exercise or outing she got on a regular basis before I took her. And Griff was a foundling, picked up as a stray in Saint Helen's, so who knows how long he practiced that behavior before I got him.

It's just difficult not to take it personally that all three routinely blow me off. I can blame some training mistakes (during Guinness's early times I didn't know what the hell I was doing). But really, I have to wonder what it is that makes my dogs really terrible in this area. Is it lack of leadership? Am I boring? Did I just manage to pick three disparate personalities that have this one trait in common for different reasons? I don't know.

I spent so long training Guinness, followed all the protocols I could find, and his was decent for awhile. In his old age, I'm less concerned, because he's too slow now to go far, I only select safe spots for him to be off leash, and he's much less motivated to be far from me than he used to be.

Zoe has gotten worse as she's gotten more brave, and I didn't drill her like I did Guinn.

Griff? The one Aussie in existence that doesn't stick close to his people. I don't know exactly how I botched him up. His recall in the ring is pretty excellent, which is important. I would just like one dog who was reliable in most locations.

I haven't used aversives to train since I tried the ill-fated citronella collar experiment with Guinness, and realized the timing was so off that the collar wasn't correcting the behavior til it was often too late. I don't know enough about the use of electronic collars to feel comfortable using them. I don't think that approach will be one I can stomach at this point unless I find a trainer who uses them without emotion and with compassion, which I've never seen in my experiences with trainers locally.

I just hope I can get a good recall in my next dog, without having to get rid of these three so that they don't teach bad habits.