Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Favorite Dog Lyrics Redux: The Happy Suburban Wanderer

SUMMARY: From K-TMEH, only the finest in hijacked lyrics.
As I listen to the growing roar of the wind presaging a tremendous incoming storm, my thoughts meander back to one fine August day a couple of months back on which, as I perambulated for my 2-mile morning constitutional with the Merle Girls, I reconstructed an old favorite song to be apropos to my life (yes, and sang it aloud as I went):

(Semiapologies to Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller)

I love to go a-wandering
among the sidewalk cracks
And as I go, I love to sing;
my dogs don't sing, alack!
Valderi, valdera, valderi, valdera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha,
Valderi, valdera, my dogs don't sing, alack!

I love to wander by the streets
that carry cars along.
So joyously they call to me,
"Come join my busy throng."
Valderi, etc.

I wave my hand to all I meet,
the children wave to me.
The house finch calls so loud and sweet,
from every street-side tree.
Valderi, etc.

High overhead the jet planes wing
To distant lands unknown
And just like me, their engines sing
As o'er the world we roam.
Valderi, etc.

Oh, may I go a-wandering
Until the day I die!
Oh may I always laugh and sing
My doggies at my side!
Valderi, etc.

(Do you know this song? Have you been out camping & hiking enough? Here are the original lyrics and music, oh, and check out this video, sung where it should be, in the gorgeous high mountains! Or, OK, the muppets disaster version. )

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

No Dogs Tonight and Sore Legs

SUMMARY: In which we realize why we shouldn't slack off on the uphill/downhills.

I've been trying to be very good about getting out with the dogs for at least a mile or preferably two every day, like I used to BK (before knee [issues]). It's good exercise; I move at a brisk pace--to the dogs' dismay, because they NEED to minutely examine every shrub, tree, and large weed along the way--and I get my heart rate elevated. But the elevation changes around here are a bit slim: in the two-mile loop down past the high school, I'm thinkin' my elevation change is cumulatively about 5 feet. If I turn right instead of going straight, we can dive under the freeway and actually get in a--what?--30 foot each way? elevation change.

Last night was my first outing with the Sierra Club since it's been light enough to go into the parks with hills (mostly flattish walks during the winter in suburban areas and parks). A brisk 5 miles round trip, up at least 500 feet to the top of Black Mountain above Los Altos Hills. My legs were SO tired by the end of the trip... Lost all that conditioning from last year!

You'd think that, with legs this long, they wouldn't get tired.

We were quite a crew--in addition to my out-of-shapedness, our Fearless Leader damaged her ankle (or achilles tendon?) last year and is still recovering, so she wasn't as brisk as she was last year; the schoolteacher who hikes hundreds of miles in Europe every summer, 20 miles a day, is still recovering from a broken foot this winter and is still in pain although she's up to (she says) about 8 miles she can do in a day. Who knows what the other 16 people were up to, but I am certain it wasn't as brisk a hike all around as we were doing last fall.

View to the northwest from the summit near sunset.

A wonderful friend loaned me her digital Nikon D50 SLR to try out for a while, so I hauled that up to the top with me, took about 6 shots, and then got an "Err" display. We tried all kinds of things but I didn't find the answer in the instruction book until I got home. It's better now.

The air over the valley and bay was too hazy for worthwhile photos.

But it caught the amber light of the setting sun on the view to the southwest, where a deer made a brief appearance on the hill below us, spotted us, and dashed away.

On the drive back down the mountain, a coyote crossed our path and then a deer nearly ran into us. And 10 minutes later we were back at the Interstate with thousands of vehicles streaming by.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Early Start on a Hot Day

SUMMARY: Another 4-mile walk at dawn with dogs and camera.

Today's forecast is for temperatures approaching 100F (38C). Hot. Missed out on most of our exercise yesterday because of the heat. So this morning, starting at 5:30 (temp 68F/20C), the dogs and I took a brisk 4-mile stroll through the neighborhood. With point-and-shoot camera. It was gorgeous--perfect hiking temperature, and although there were no cloudy bits to make for a truly spectacular sunrise, that wonderful morning golden glow suffused everything.

Our 3.5-mile (5.6 km) walk took just under an hour and a half, with frequent stops for photo snapping (mostly me), shrub sniffing (mostly not me), and reminders about not pulling on the leash (community effort). For some unfathomable reason I never thought to take photos of my merle girls this morning. But this well-behaved dog earned a photo.

And, so that you don't feel merle-girl deprived, here are some gratuitous, previously unpublished shots from a trip to the park back in March.

I brought up Boost to consider her leash to be a fun toy. This enables me to always have a toy with us to use as a reward. At this park, the dogs are usually off leash, but we were approaching some small dogs on leash, so I put Tika on leash as well. The only one more surprised than me was Tika, when Boost grabbed Tika's leash out of my hand and started hauling her around the field. Go ahead, Tika, pull on the dang leash NOW!

Now--if you want to see the full 19 shots from this morning's hike, in larger format (you can even display as a slide show), with descriptions, go here.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

History Reappears

SUMMARY: Comparing 2002 to now.

I've saved emails about my life with my dogs since 1994, and occasionally I go back and post them to this blog, dated as they actually occurred (you can do that in Blogger; very cool) and flagged with "Backfill" and the date I really posted it.

Just posted a couple from the first few weeks I had Tika.

Here's a good one for comparison from February 2002.

How are things 7 years later? Tika definitely does NOT sit quietly and wait for her leash to be put on before going out for a walk. She leaps, shouts, runs in circles, jumps, shrieks...

I used the gentle leader with her for a long time but started getting worried about how much pressure it was putting on her neck every time she pulled on it--which was often--so a year or two back (after I had spent the $$$ to get one for Boost, too) I just stopped using them. Tika now has a nonpull harness that works very well. It's not perfect but I think it works better than the gentle leader (AKA haltie)--made by the same company.

And we have NOT fixed the screeching and barking and leaping and yanking when on leash and she sees other dogs. We have times where I think I'm making progress, and times when I realize that I'll never fix it.

And as for those "Down" commands--which we taught the dogs in two different ways to put their front ends down first because it makes for a faster, more direct down? I've noticed that, recently, Tika is always sitting first before going down. I never taught that or encouraged that; never! Funny.

Tricks--she Shakes just fine, with either paw, and does a high 5, too. Never continued teaching her the Crawl. And she can catch treats tossed to her fairly well; her main failing here is that she always leaps and snaps at it in a frenzy and often it just bounces off her nose or teeth and ricochets into some odd place where we have to hunt for it.

And, of course, I gave up within a year on the idea of having her sleep on the floor and only the old dogs sleep on the bed. Tried it with Boost, too, but noooo--all dogs sleep on the bed with mom. Sigh. Dog hair central.

And that was then, and this is now.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009


SUMMARY: Thoughts on the long walk last night with the dogs.

Backfill: Posted Jan 28; for some reason this got saved but not posted on its original date!
I met up with my usual Wednesday Night Sierra Club group for a long walk through the pathways in the neighborhoods near Stanford. The walk's description said it was about 5 miles; my pedometer said 7.4.

This is funny, because the last hike I went on (lots of steep up & down the Saturday after xmas), the leader's GPS said it was 8 miles and my pedometer said 7.4. Really, I do reset it between walks!

Took Tika and Boost with me. They wanted to be out in front of the crowd, but I didn't, so we had the battle of the leash pulling the whole time. Tika wore her newish anti-pull harness for about 2/3 of the walk, and it worked very well at keeping her from pulling. But by then, she had slowed considerably and walked gingerly beside me, and I figured that she doesn't usually wear the harness that long and it might be hurting her. So I took it off, and she perked right up; joined Boost in the leash-pulling battle.

Felt good to be out and moving briskly. But managing my dogs made it tough to actually chat with anyone. One of the dogs was bound, sooner or later, to veer directly in front of the other person, even if I had them on very short leads.

One of the other walkers commented, "Your dogs'll sleep well tonight after this long walk!"

I laughed. I pointed out that they'd have half an hour in the car to rest up while I was driving home, and would want to play and RUN when we got home, and that's exactly what happened. They seemed amused by the idea of dogs who didn't mostly lie on the couch and sleep. We know that they don't have herding dogs!

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Just Stuff To Start the New Year

SUMMARY: Happy 2009

We went for a brisk 1.5-mile walk this evening, the first time since last Saturday that I've been healthy enough to want to do that. The dog excitement level exceeded all expectations.

For Tika, who goes banana-brains whenever we see another dog while out walking, I've discovered an interesting way to get her to cut it out: I just pat her firmly on the top of her head. Not quite a "whap," not a gentle pat but not enough to hurt, just from an inch or so above her head, just pat-pat-pat, just enough to distract her, apparently. It has been working very well for the last few weeks. Not something that anyone has ever suggested to me. Have to apply it several times, but wow after all these years something that works! That I don't feel bad about applying! That doesn't take any special effort or equipment! Yowza.

For Boost, who knocks bars like crazy, I've been threatening to get wooden jump bars for a while because various people from not-US-agility have said "we don't have problems with bar-knocking in [england/australia/fill in favorite country] because we use wooden bars." Lucked out and got a couple of wooden closet rods (on freecycle.org), which I need to paint to look like PVC bars. So what the heck, I'll up the ante for Boost to want to keep her feet up.

Progress occurs on many fronts. Happy 2009!

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Leader of the Pack

SUMMARY: Hiking with the dogs among the rhus diversiloba so green-o.

Dad took me hiking today with the Beasts, and he offered to hold onto Boost while I wrestled with Tika. Boost was OK with that, as long as she checked in with me every couple of minutes.
Tika didn't much care who was holding her leash; she just wanted to get moving. (Note leash spiral indicative of dog spinning back and forth in anticipation.)

Turns out that, if I led with Tika (who pulls intently forward at all times in supreme confidence that she is the most qualified leader), then Boost pulled frantically forward in an effort to keep up. If Boost led, then Tika STILL pulled like she was the most qualified to be in front and kept bumping her nose against Dad's calves, but Boost, although she still pulled a wee bit, was more inclined to stop and look back to see what Tika and I were doing, or push back past Dad to lick Tika's face and to jump on me as if she hadn't seen me in three weeks.

In most places, the trail was barely wide enough for one person, not even a person and a dog, so the dog would have to get its feet, face, and/or tail into the surrounding vegetation to do things like push past Dad or leap up on me.

You might think that it would be OK to let the dogs flounce through the undergrowth, except that about 80% of it was rhus diversiloba--AKA toxicodendron diversilobum--but more commonly known by friends and enemies alike as Poison Oak. Innocuous-looking little guy, isn't he? Until he turns into a giant shrub or vine, sticking tendrils at all bodily levels out into the path.

The trail was surrounded by it. Well--usually on one side, at least, and sometimes both. Trying to steer a dog away from leaves on one side or the other is extremely difficult from behind. I don't believe that dogs can catch poison oak, but people can certainly get it from dogs who have frolicked therein. Fortunately there were a few places along the trail where all I had to worry about was mere foxtails and burrs.

But, still, it was a nice day (much better than the last few, although still warm), and we had a few nice views of surrounding hills. There are a ton of trails in the area that we might eventually hike, too. And it was nice to be out and moving, and the dogs seemed to like it, too.

The Beasts got a good combing for burrs (lots in Boost, none in Tika) and good wet sloppy anti-poison-oak baths when we got home. Whew, that's a lot of work!

A few more photos along the same lines here.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Walking Into A Big Hole In The Ground

SUMMARY: I can do it; really I can.

I have this list. I've had this list for many, many years. It's all the things I want to do or see before I go on to the great parking lot in the sky. Oops, dang, now there's a movie about it, and this kind of list actually has a name, and it's called a "Bucket List." (Things to do before you kick the bucket.) Who knew?

"Hike into the Grand Canyon" is one of the list items. (I have always assumed that Hike Out Of The Grand Canyon is also on the list, but I suppose that's icing on the cake. There's always horses. At $150 a ride.)

Last fall, a friend an I actually made reservations for this coming May at the lodge at Havasu Falls. It's just a little wee hop of a hike. Don't let the bright red "Strenuous!" label on the page fool you. What's 10 miles, anyway? 19 miles of it straight down the side of a cliff and and 35 along the bottom of a never-ending canyon, but really, it's nothing.

If I only were walking 1-1.5 miles daily as I did for so many years until my knee crapped out on me last year and then I also lost Jake, who was a good dog for walking with, and left me with TIKA THE WALKHOUND FROM HADES. Here you see how much fun we're both having while I try to photograph flowers on a little stroll down the path along the local river, which has a vertical change of elevation of about 0.3 inches on a bad day. You should see how much more fun we both have when another dog walks by within 35 miles.

She will not be going to Havasu Falls with us.

But I also made this ToDoList back before I owned any kind of camera except the sort that you stick in your pocket and it's fine until you actually want to take a picture. Like, say, of an Ovis canadensis nelsoni at a quarter of a mile and you wish you had a real telephoto lens.

But now I have multitudes of SLR cameras (approximately two) with hundreds of lenses to complement them (at least 3, certainly less than 4). And as you can see, taking photos as I hike (or as I do just about anything, for that matter) is just as important as actually DOING the thing. Maybe moreso. Sorting them afterwards? Well, sort of liking walking out of the canyon, that's also icing on the cake--the point is that I TOOK the photos. Right? Am I right?

So not only do I have to get myself and 3 days of water and clothing down into the canyon, plus lunch (and sunscreen), I have to carry 40 pounds of camera equipment or I will feel NAKED. (Although I guess I probably don't need to take all two tripods.)

Anyway, the point is, I'm trying to get out and walk a whole lot more to get in shape for this lifetime dream, and I'm not doing it really well, (although perhaps better than I have for a while), and my excuse is always, "because the dogs need the exercise and stimulation as much as I do, but I can't deal with Tika today, so I guess I'll sit at home instead."

And, oh, by the way, on this list (which takes up several pages), the only mention of dogs is one question buried at the end under "miscellaneous," which is: "Where do dogs fit into all this?" You might guess that this was before Remington, Jake, Tika, Boost, and dog agility in general. Back when I wasn't sure whether dogs fit into it anywhere. Look at me now. Who knew?

(P.S. Thanks, Steph, for the photo. Note the stylish backwards baseball cap. I wear it to keep the sun out of my eyes. But pressing a camera against my face works just about as well and it would bump against the front of the cap, so my official photographer cap is backwards.)

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hiking With the Dogs

SUMMARY: Tika is nuts, but it gets our legs moving.

Went for a casual 2-mile-or-more stroll today with a friend along the upper Guadalupe River Trail. It was a cool morning, probably around 60; mostly sunny with just a few high, thin clouds. We marveled at how few people we passed on this suburban trail along the riparian corridor, while along the major roads, just hundreds of feet away up two sides of our traversal area, thousands and thousands of cars and their passengers rushed by, thinking they were in the middle of a city and not taking the time to walk and enjoy our many wonderful open space areas. Their bad; our good fortune.

Tika, as usual, went ape-nuts every time we passed a dog, but as long as one of use could get a hand in her collar before she had a chance to start flinging herself at the end of the leash, it wasn't too bad. Boost was pretty good except for wanting to put pressure on the leash while moving ahead. One group of women stopped to pet and admire the dogs and the dogs thought they were far more interesting than we were, stopping to look at birds and take photos and boring stuff like that.

My friend took her multiple lensed-camera and did a credible job of shooting while steering one or the other of my dogs (here, with Boost). I didn't take my own nifty camera--too much, with the dogs along--but I did take my point-n-shooter, and a few photos weren't half bad. See them here, with captions.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Waiting For The Call

SUMMARY: While Tika's at the vet, we have to do something to keep our mind off it.

I get scared about my dogs going under anesthesia. Especially when we don't know 100% what the problem is. I've talked myself into being reasonably calm while a teeeeny wee voice in the back of my head is screeching "panic! panic!" It didn't help that Boost was up about every hour from 9:30 until 3:30 with diarrhea. Seems OK this morning; no obvious cause.

Funny, got email this morning from a friend whose agility dog was under anesthesia YESTERDAY to have the same tooth removed for the same reason (but no swelling in their case). The tooth is a "carnasial tooth"--the largest upper premolar closest to the molars. I've heard twice today that that's the most commonly broken tooth in dogs and that it is commonly removed due to such damage.

(Image from this site.)

Still, as I emailed another friend this morning: After Remington, every little thing now makes me think "cancer!" and then I find myself thinking, "why doesn't everyone just get cancer and die and then I don't have to worry about it any more!" and then I could just kick myself and this morning I was hugging Tika and bawling about I didn't mean it don't leave me, that sort of pathetic thing. She thought I was a little over the top and didn't want to have anything to do with it.

I'm fine now.


Just waiting for the vet to call.

So Boost and I went for a long, not-too-leisurely stroll along the Guadalupe River. She whuffed briefly at another dog, but by George, I was able to stop and actually chat with another dog owner--something that I cannot do with Tika along and it's so discouraging.
My vet's pyracantha shrub. Those little tulip ears--surely it's a border collie?!
Big white bird thing (my mother would be ashamed of me) standing in the Guadalupe. Even swollen with the recent rains, it's not much of a river any more. But it is dammed in a couple of places. The one we walked past shortly thereafter (maybe 20 feet high?) has a salmon ladder.
Workers need to keep the blackberries cut back to allow flow and prevent flooding. It's a nice urban stroll along here.
So pretty, so calming. Such a nice morning (but cold--my earlobes were developing icicles as I jogged). Maybe we'll actually have class tonight.
--Or maybe not. (Back to the real world, waiting for the light rail to cross.)

And of course, where would we be without Mr. Chia Head, who has had a hair-raising experience!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Walking the Dog

SUMMARY: Training Tika not to pull on the leash.

Just had a brief email discussion about training dogs not to pull on the leash, especially herding breeds when approaching something exciting like sheep.

Strategy that didn't work

[The other blog entry] reminded me of a John Rogerson strategy for fixing dogs who pull on leashes: as soon as they start to forge forward past you, grab the collar and PULL them forward, since most dogs' instincts are to resist whatever direction they're being pulled in.

I tried this with Tika for a little bit, but my miserable back wouldn't stand for it, so I quit. I don't remember why we were supposed to grab the collar and not just use the leash--or maybe we were just supposed to grab the leash at the collar (this was maybe 3 or 4 years ago so it's a little hazy)--but in any event, I can't picture bending down very much with a low-slung dog, and Tika is almost 23 inches at the withers.

Something that seems to be working

Here's what I started doing with Tika that seems to finally have an effect. Interestingly, I got the idea from watching a documentary on TV last year sometime (which is one of the approximately two only times I watched TV last year) where a woman who does sheep & sheepdogs took a rescue and taught it to do sheep with a 12-week time challenge. With mixed success, but that's neither here nor there--what she DID have, and very quickly, was a wild & crazy young shelter-reject Beardie who would bounce & leap & be excited...off leash and walking behind her at all times. It caught my attention.

(About this documentary: "From the award-winning public television series NATURE comes inspiring true stories of miraculous second chances. Henry Winkler narrates "Underdogs," in which two unwanted and abandoned dogs, Holly, an 85-pound bloodhound with a hyperactive and destructive nature, and Herbie, a two-year-old bearded collie who attacks livestock, get a last chance for a new beginning." Also: "For thousands of years, dogs have been more important as working partners to humans than as pets – for hunting, guarding, herding or retrieving. It’s these finely tuned instincts that often turn dogs into problem pets. Holly the bloodhound will destroy an armchair to follow a scent, and bearded collie Herbie petrifies sheep when he relentlessly chases them. To stop them joining the 100,000 dogs in the UK which end up in rescue centres each year, police dog trainer Larry Allen and sheepdog trainer Barbara Sykes have 12 weeks to turn the unruly pair into proper working animals. ")

Anyway, the trainer started with him on leash at the beginning, and as soon as the dog started to race ahead of her, she stepped on the leash to force him to lie down (which he did--eventually); nothing else. Then she'd praise him as long as he was lying down, and if he stayed lying down when she took her foot off the leash, then release him and try moving forward again. All I saw was that one shot, and she wasn't even talking about what she was doing, just that it wasn't acceptable for her dogs to take the lead.

I resolved to try it with Tika, since nothing else has really worked. I discovered that stepping on the leash of a crazed, forging dog isn't as easy as she made it look. So, despite my back, what I do as soon as her head moves ahead of the line of my body is stick my fingers into her collar under her chin and pull her head down (taking a step forward so that she's behind the line of my body) until she lies down. I praise and let go--if she moves without my permission, I do the same thing. There's no verbal, as this isn't something I want on command.

Then, when I'm ready, I step forward and then say "come with me" (I'm trying not to make it a "heel" or a "come", but "OK" is usually a complete release, and I wanted to invent something inbetween). Repeat. Repeat. Repeatrepeatrepeatrepeat. This might work much better on a dog who hadn't had years of experience forging ahead and pulling.

If I'm consistent at this, she stays behind me a much larger percentage of the time than with any other method I've used. (But it's harder to explain.) She's getting better and better over time. Would probably get better faster if I did it *all* the time in *all* situations.

Interestingly, I'm just reading a book by The Dog Whisperer guy (never seen his show), Cesar's Way, and he talks about how the leader of the pack is the one who makes and enforces the rules, and how the nonleaders never go past the leader when the pack is on the move. I knew that already, but that's one of the things that he emphasizes. Actually I'm enjoying his book quite a bit. It's just putting together a lot of pieces that I already knew and/or practiced and/or had thought about.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

And Some Training Notes

SUMMARY: Why don't I ever work on the things I really need to work on?

Taking Tika for a walk with the other dogs is a mighty struggle. I hate it. It has really cut down on how often and how long I walk, more and more over the last four years. If I leave her behind, she shrieks to high heaven and I can hear her up to a couple of blocks away. I hate it.

So, this morning, stymied again by wanting to take dogs for a walk but not doing each one separately or cutting my walk short with Jake, I decided to try fixing Tika's screeching problem. I grabbed the leashes and shuffled the other 2 dogs quickly out the front door (can have Jake & boost off leash; not Tika), gave tika a goodie for not going through, and closed the door. (Note that when I give goodie or treat, it's always praise-treat, but Tika's definitely the food-motivated kind.) Waited 5 seconds, opened door, treated, closed door. Called Boost back who was wandering down the sidewalk, opened door, treated, closed door.

Waited 8 seconds, opened door, treated, closed door. Put other dogs into a sit, put on their leashes, opened door, treated, closed door. Waited 10 seconds, opened door, treated, closed door. Trotted noisily down steps with other dogs, waited, Tika made a bit of a yip; I waited--9 seconds and she yelped again. Waited--9 seconds and yelp. Waited--9 seconds a slight whimper and then I waited a few more seconds, ran back up, opened door, treated.

OK, you get the idea. Gradually increasing the amount of time; noisily leaving the front door but then quietly sneaking back to treat her if she wasn't shrieking.

This also meant putting the other dogs into sits or downs while I snuck back. Jake was good but Boost wasn't comfortable with me doing it quietly and surreptitiously, apparently, because she's usually good but this time got up often. So between Tika treats, I worked on leaving Boost in a sit or down next to Jake, just out of sight. She got better with appropriate praise and attention.

And Boost, Jake, and I finally managed a walk all the way down to the end of the court (one house), across the street, to the end of the block (2 houses), back to the court, all the way around the court (4 houses) and to the front door without hearing a single shriek out of Tika! I hadn't expected it to be that easy. It was SO hard with Remington years ago. Maybe I'm better at it now. Maybe Tika's an experienced, "operant" dog who understands more about BEING trained.

I'm sure we'll have to repeat the whole thing again multiple times, but now I'm wondering why I never tried this before? Or did I? I don't remember...

Worked on Boost's call from a tunnel to a perpendicular jump as in the beginning of a serpentine (the thing we had so much trouble with in class yesterday). Not great, but gradually more consistent.

And, since Tika's been better at doing gambles since I've found ways to practice gambles in my back yard, it occurs to me to wonder why I'm not practicing snooker-type maneuvers in my back yard--and why I haven't been creative enough to find ways to do it. So today, I did. The trick is to get her really excited and revved and covering long distances going around obstacles. Managed to do it, although indeed going around obstacles is hard for her. But she was trying hard to understand what I wanted and didn't give up on me, which she sometimes does when the stress level is high in training. (In competition, that would be biting my feet.) So I feel like we made progress.

Jake... well...


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Friday, September 01, 2006

Physical Therapy and Tika Walkies

SUMMARY: Kaiser needs more PTs. And maybe I have a Tika solution.

Argh, both the Santa Teresa and Santa Clara physical therapy depts are booked solid for 3 weeks or longer. And since my doctor wants me to attend to one joint at a time, it's looking like there will be no respite for my knee or shoulders before nationals, just the ankle (maybe--first session now scheduled for Sept 22 and I leave for nationals less than 6 weeks later). I'm really worried about the knee. If I walk more than a mile or two TOTAL in a day (I'm talking about shopping, walking around the house, checking to see whether any chocolate has crawled into my kitchen cabinets when i wasn't looking, that sort of thing), it gets stiff and swollen. And the nationals site is HUGE; it's about a 3 minute walk from the parking area to the crating area and maybe 5 minute walk from the crating area to the farthest agility ring. I walked a bleep of a lot last year and I expect to do the same this year--if I can. Don't know what I'll do if the knee swells up and I can't walk after the first of 4 days.

Kaiser said to just call back every day and see whether there are cancellations. Just what I need to be spending my time doing.

Meanwhile, I think that taking Tika for a walk is one of many things that takes a toll on my knees and shoulders. I've succeeded in teaching her how not to walk on a leash using several different methods. Primarily I've taught her that, when I step forward, she rushes ahead to the end of the leash, then I stop, then she yo-yos back beside me, then I take a step forward, then she rushes to the end of the leash, then I stop, then she yo-yos back beside me, then I take a step forward...

Anyway, a bunch of people called me one day to tell me that there was a cool dog program on TV about people taking rescue dogs and turning them into real working dogs within 6 weeks or some such deadline. (Don't know why people called me about this one when no one calls to tell me that agility is on. I blame others for not taking responsibility for my TV watching. After all, everyone KNOWS I have no idea what's on TV. But that's another matter.) Anyhow, what I got out of the whole program was this:

A sheep rancher was training a Beardie (Bearded Collie) to behave himself. When she first took him out on leash and he lunged ahead of her, she just brought him back beside her, stepped on his leash until he lay down, told him that good sheepdogs follow their handlers, praised him, and finally released him. We saw her do that exactly once. Then, next thing we see, they're walking around the ranch and he's bouncing left and right, off leash, but BEHIND her the entire time.

Wow, I said to myself, myself being the only one listening at the moment. How did she do that? That's what *I* need for Tika.

Eventually becoming bold (it sometimes takes me a while to get started), I started taking just Tika out on leash and, every time she passed the plane of my body, I pulled her behind me and stepped on the leash to get her to lie down. In the past, I had tried telling her to lie down when she was forging and yanking, but that put me in the awkward position of praising her for obeying when it was supposed to be a consequence of behaving badly. So, no command, just the downward pressure on the leash.

OK, now YOU try getting your foot onto the leash while there's an active dog attached to it, and then pull it so that the dog is lying down. This requires coordination, timing, various assets like that of which I'm not always in great supply. But, behold chillens, it seemed to have an effect! Within a day or two of starting this, she'd be walking calmly at my side for many steps rather than the half dozen max that I think I've ever gotten with other methods. Now, we have to restart every time we go out, but it comes back quicker each time. However, when I have her AND the other dogs on leash, it goes completely to pot.

So today I realized that I have to bite the dog bullet--I took her out with the other dogs and vowed to practice the lie-down thing. Discovered quickly that I couldn't do the step-on thing at all with the other dogs in tow, so I resorted to grabbing her gentle leader right below her chin and leaning down to get her to the ground. Not excellent for back, knees, or shoulder. But, by yiminy, by the end of the walk, the other dogs were a little confused, stunned, and disoriented, but Tika was walking mostly nicely at my side most of the time.

This just might work. I just need to practice it ALL THE TIME. Hate when that happens.


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Monday, July 07, 2003

Walkies and not walkabouts

I still think that probably the prong collar is having a little bit of an effect maybe. I know that sometimes it pinches her because when she really yanks (like 7 or 8 times in a row when walking by a fence with a dog behind it) she throws in a little extra yelp. It feels more like she's trying to figure out how hard she can pull before it crosses the line from uncomfortable to painful.

I almost think I'm having more luck with the walking-into-her method (how many methods have I tried?). That's where, when she starts to get ahead of me, I just step firmly in her direction, expecting her to back off to get out of my way, and if she's not out of my way, I run into her. If she's *really* not paying attention because she's too distracted by something, she sometimes gets her feet under mine while I'm stepped and gets her toes stepped on. I am not attempting to do this. I am just attempting to maintain control of my space and of where the Walk Entourage is heading.

She did a lot of tugging this evening and also a lot of very nice walking not too far in front on a loose leash.

Not gone walkabout
Sometime last week (before the yard guys came), I drove home, pulled into the driveway, and was greeted by Jake before I had completely parked. No, he's not supposed to be loose in the front yard.

A couple of times before, I've found the far (less-used) side gate open, and so I checked it again. Wide open. I don't understand it. I believe the preceding weekend my dad and I had unloaded some bricks through that gate, but since he's the one that got called the last time my dogs got out and had to come over to round them up, we were both pretty careful about the gate. Plus I've been trying to double-check it every time the yard guys are here.

I don't know how or why the gate comes open. I'd hate to have to put a lock on it to keep traffic over on the other side, but if it's somehow coming open in the wind (seems unlikely--new gate, new latch), this is going to keep happening.

Seeing Jake, I leaped out of the car in a rush of panic about Tika--who, you might recall, likes to escape at the slightest gap in your defense of the gate or door if she sees something exciting (cat/squirrel/imagined cat/squirrel) and charge out across the roads. I started calling her name immediately, before I even got to the gate. I stuck my head through the open gate, calling her frantically.

Like a sweet little girl, she came charging around from the back yard, where she was supposed to be, to greet me cheerfully. I was so relieved; thought that maybe she hadn't discovered the open gate.

Yesterday, coming back from our walk, I passed a couple of our neighbors (who don't see my dogs much at all). They sort of pointed and nodded, and one said, "THAT's the dog who was hanging around here the other day!" I mentioned the open gate episode, and they said yes, maybe that was it, because she really just hung around right in that area, mostly near that side of my house, and was a very nice well-behaved dog.


So she DID get out, but (unlike our late lamented Sheba) did not have any real desire to go exploring. I guess that's a relief.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Tika/leash/class, Jake The Master

After 3 walks with the pinch collar, it is my considered opinion that Tika might possibly be pulling less often and less hard, maybe. Kind of like Rem, mostly disdainful of my attempts to discourage pulling. Dang "hard" dogs.

Rachel said that Tika was almost wonderful in class today because she came back to me fairly quickly each time she ran off. Of course a couple of times Rachel tossed large jump bars into the grass near her to startle her first. I, naturally, see that she runs off *every* run, every dag nabbed one, rather than sticking with me. Didn't used to do it nearly so often. All after that family of squirrels tortured her (personally, of course) for a couple of weeks a couple of months back. We haven't seen them since; don't know what she'll do if they ever return!

One of Tika's classmates was injured, so his handler borrowed Jake today. He was such a good boy. Folks commented how good he looks and how well he's running. Got the appropriate satisfying oohs and ahs when I said he's going on 12. BTW, if I didn't already mention it, there's a movie of us doing a moderately fast jumpers course at http://agilityinmotion.com/. Click on Dog Agility Movies, then scroll down to April.


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Monday, June 30, 2003

Working on "Things"

It's all them Things that make training so difficult. If only I had couch-potato dogs!

Leash toy: Tika's just not really interested in leashes as toys. Rachel suggested fastening leash to a toy for a while to get her to think of it as a toy. I've fastened one to her Tika Toy (big rubber ball) that's the only thing she plays with fanatically all the time, but I have to work hard to get her to grab the leash part instead of jumping and grabbing at me and the ball part. Then she'll tug-o-war a bit but her heart just isn't in it, I can tell. Then, when I give her back the part with the ball, she seems less enthused about *that*, too.

Maybe if I got a leather leash, she'd like that more? They're kind of expensive for a decent one--on the other hand, it's also kind of expensive entering a weekend trial and wasting all the entry fees because she's grabbing at my feet. ESPECIALLY after a beautiful complete run when she does it at the end, which is where I need to get her to think about going away from me to get the leash.

Leash walking: We didn't do walks for about 5 days, between the trial & seminar and all. Then ever since, I've hardly been able to get down the street without her yank-yank-yanking on the leash. Jeez. What is it going to take? I think we're there, and then we're almost back at the beginning. I get soooo frustrated. It's been almost a year and a half! If anything I was doing was going to make a difference, I think it would have made the difference by now.

Yesterday I went in search of Rem's old prong collar, which pinches when the dog tugs. None of the trainers that I like and respect are recommending this any more, preferring positive training methods rather than pain-based. But, you know, I don't know what else to do. So I'll see whether that makes any difference today.

Remington Memories: As always, it's the unexpected things. After I couldn't find the prong collar, I decided that Now Was The Time To Finish The Garage. You know--that last little bit of stuff that I never figured out where to put or reorganized after moving in (almost 2 years ago). So I spent yesterday afternoon organizing the garage. Found a stack of stuff from my last compost workshop that hadn't been put away. Sorted through it--and there was a bag of liver treats. Remington had been so ill at that last one (just recovering from a bleeding bout) that I had taken him with me and he had lain on the stage next to me for the whole thing, and I took the liver treats to feed him (liver because it's supposed to be good at helping to replace Precious Bodily Fluids & such lost during bleeding).

It was a little punch to the gut, seeing that bag. Not a huge one, but noticeable.

Last night I dreamed that there was a small circus at the shopping center, and they had a big yellow dog doing tricks. I mean BIG, and heavy-set, and a little ragged-looking. Someone told me they were pretty sure it was Remington. The circus guy said he had found him just wandering around the area, looking lost. I was doubtful--the coloring was all perfect, and the general shape, but looked much more like a giant Labrador than like Rem. I tried calling "Remington!" a couple of times and he turned slowly and looked at me in sort of a disinterested way. Then someone suggested seeing whether he'd do Remington's bag of tricks. Sure enough, he did every trick I asked--except there was something lack-a-daisical and not quite right about the motions--I couldn't imagine another dog knowing everything that Remington knew, even down to the exact commands I used--but it just *wasn't the right dog*.

Jakey wakey (Jakey-Meister, Jakey-mon, Jakey-noodle-oo): You know, I hardly ever mention him here. He's mostly a good boy. But he sure is a copycat, and much more of a follower than he'd ever admit to in an interview. At bedtime, when I used to take the dogs out for one last pee, Jake would wait until Rem marked a shrub, then he'd dash over and remark it. After Rem died, he didn't know what to do. He'd sniff around the yard in a discouraged manner and never produce anything. Then he realized that sometimes Tika pees before going in, so now he rushes over and remarks her spot. Still usually won't pee if Tika doesn't, though.

Also has become a shrieking, out-of-control maniac when people come to the door, just like Tika is. I don't actually know what to do about it. I've taken to trying to keep them behind a baby gate when people arrive, but they shriek and shout there, so even though they're not all over the place underfoot, you can't hear yourself talk. Argh.

HOWEVER--at the last CPE trial, Jake got qualifying runs 7 out of 8 times, which is pretty good. (Two weeks ago, that would've been good for high-in-trial at his level; this time, there were 3 dogs with 8 out of 8 at his level! Holy Toledo!) He's fairly fast even at the worst of times, but he definitely gets much faster if I can get him playing some tug of war ahead of time, which he won't always do readily. I have to tease and coax him into it, which is quite tiring on my old bod. He's more likely to win when I get him revved; also more likely to pop contacts.

Tika's jumping problem areas: We can do serpentines good if they're a long way apart. Can't do them worth beans closer together. Need to work hard on those. Couldn't do a decent 270-degree turn at Greg's workshop 90% of the time. I had to step way out into the turn and work her around it, but often when doing those, you want to be able to move across the 2nd jump to get ahead of the dog. So I've been working on those in the yard this week, along with more weave-pole entries.


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Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Tika Has Improved-- Some--

A friend commented this weekend (after Tika rampaged around wildly & happily, pushy & jumping up & yelping and barking and all): "She certainly has calmed down since you first got her." Yoiks!

I went out to the garage last night to get something, and Tika followed me out to explore. I headed back into the house; she trotted quickly from the corner where she was sniffing right back into the house behind me. Those first couple of months, she just didn't want to come in, there were so many interesting things to smell out there. Even closing the door and leaving her there for a while didn't discourage her. I remember trying to chase her down (because she'd ignore my polite requests for her to "Come" or "Get your furry buns in here!") and having not much luck.

The Yard Guy was here last week, and as usual she put her vocal cords to work responding to that outspoken leafblower. Well, the Yard Guy has wised up, too: He knows to turn it off when I come out to get the dogs so they're not doubly distracted. Used to be that there was nothing I could do to get her into the house after the Yard Guy came--just too many potential excitements. It doesn't seem that long ago at all that I had to chase her down most of the time. Now, she waits a couple of moments, alert and on tiptoe, to see whether that loudmouth blower will speak up again, but then she skeedaddles right into the house at my direction.

Now, if we could deal with walking on a leash--and jumping up on people--and not grabbing my feet in competition--

We did go on a longer walk yesterday. I was *determined* to get my walking in. There was still a lot of course correction occurring, but much less than there has been at other times. When there were dogs barking in back yards, it became difficult to make progress. And she saw a squirrel or a cat or some other furry reprobate once and became almost unmanageable for a block or so. THAT was a lonnnnng block.


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Monday, June 09, 2003

Pulling on the Leash Does It In

On Friday, while we were out for a walk, Tika yanked on the leash (wow! what a surprise!) and the handle loop separated from the leash. I've never had a leash come apart before. For all my previous 4 dogs, leashes lasted pretty much forever, until they'd get so faded and frayed around the edges that I'd replace them. Maybe once for each dog; maybe not. I had just bought Rem a new one last year because the one we bought him 9 years ago was so faded, but still sturdy and functional.

So I bought a new leash that is doubly stitched at the handle.

'Course not of my dogs have yanked as long and as hard at the leash as Tika has. Rem was quite a puller, but our instructor at the time had him on a prong collar within about 3 months after he came to live with us, which reduced his pulling quite a bit more than anything I've managed with Tika. (Mind you, it didn't eliminate the pulling. He always viewed that collar as an inconvenience, but eventually after probably a couple of years he got to where he mostly didn't pull--except when he was excited--and even then, a gentle pop or two on the leash was enough to remind him to slack off.) Nowadays no one wants to recommend prong collars.

But--jeez-- My back started hurting a lot on Sunday (who knows why), and every yank from Tika came like a karate chop on the muscles. To get from our set-up out to the exercise yard required about a 200-foot walk. Tika excited. Step/yank/stop/wait for her to come back next to me. Step/yank/stop/wait for her to come back next to me. Not only painful, but pretty frustrating, too.

I tried John Rogerson's couple of suggested methods, which involve grabbing the leash right near the collar and pulling the dog *forward* (since most dogs resist being pulled forward), but after 2 days of that, my back was really killing me, so those just don't work for someone who shouldn't be bending & twisting like that, at least not for a dog who's had over a year's experience in the Joy of Pulling.

I don't know what happened. After Rem died, I decided that absolutely I was going to fix the pulling on the leash problem and I was going to be absolutely totally consistent with handling her when we attempted to go for a walk. You might remember that within a week or 2 we were actually walking a block with hardly any tugging. And then she got worse again, and I don't think I got less consistent! Wed & Thurs last week, I couldn't even get out of my street again--couldn't complete more than a few steps without her yanking on the leash.

Tune in next week, same tug-time, same tug-channel, for our next failed strategy.


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Friday, May 23, 2003

Another Week of Dog Training / Tika Possessed by Squirrels

Sunday and Monday I'll be doing dog agility in Elk Grove. This is NADAC agility, which doesn't penalize you unduly for training in the ring. (That is, you earn an elimination in the run but can continue. In other venues, they toss you out of the ring on your butt with possibly invective from the judge for being so rude.) We probably need this opportunity for Tika.

Then Tue-Fri I'll be commuting daily to Novato for a dog-training class from John Rogerson, a guru of dog behavior & training from England. That'll be long commute--over an hour each way. Luckily someone else in this neighborhood (a club member) is also attending, so we'll carpool. Can't take our dogs; we'll be practicing his techniques on shelter dogs at the humane society where the seminar takes place. Looking forward to it. Not looking forward to coming home after a long day and having wild dogs say "Let's PLAY PLAY PLAY PLAY PLAY AUUUUUUGHHHHHH!!!!"

There were squirrels everywhere at Tika's training this week. This week, certainly, it seemed like such strong atavistic prey drive that she didn't even care when I left the ring and hid. Sometimes that works. Maybe she's figured out that I'll come back eventually. More likely I think she just didn't care at the moment. We spent the next half hour walking around the perimeter on leash (her on one end, me on the other), attempting to get her to focus on me. She mostly did what I asked, but with a desperate frenzy; have a couple of blood-blisters on my fingers (from treats) to show for it. And her attention was *never* fully on me; one ear or both remained cocked towards where the squirrels were. And if we happened to be near a tree where they decided to dance, she was almost uncontrollable.

Went for a walk Tuesday evening, and a dog came out of the driveway about 30 feet away, just a shy, friendly dog, and she also went nuts. I tried to get her to sit as soon as I saw what was going on, but she really was almost uncontrollable. Even with the gentle leader. I had one hand in her collar, one in her gentle leader, one under her collar with fingers under muzzle for control as we learned in class, one hand trying to hold her mouth shut because the screeching, slathering, snarling frenzy of noise coming from her mouth was painful to my ears, instigating to Jake, frightening (fortunately) to the other dog, and I didn't know what to the people who were standing there with their dog.

OK, I don't think I really have that many hands. I was more than a little disconcerted. She's nuts when there's another dog around the neighborhood, but this is the worst I've seen in a while. This was like the first few weeks or months all over again. After I walked the dogs home, I went back to the house to apologize and to explain that I don't really have a dog-aggressive, vicious (maybe viscous) dog. Fortunately they have 2 dogs of varied training themselves, and we had a nice long chat, and they claimed that they didn't even think twice about the whole thing. Very circumspect of them.

It was a bad couple of days.

Plus I've got a 40-hour work week (plus some commuting) going, first in a while, and I'm exhausted, dogs are neglected, house is neglected, having some bad allergic reactions to something (lips swelling up?!--started with middle upper lip wed morning, moved to upper right by wed evening; thursday morning had moved around to lower right, by end of day lower middle; this morning very slightly lower left, but mostly I think it's gone; an odd progression with no logic that I can figure), don't have rental income and it's the end of the month; but at least I do now have a contract for a couple of months, which I had also been stressing about. OK, time to go for a walk with... the dogs... ba-dum, ba-dum.....ba-dum, ba-dum.... (think sharks)


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Thursday, May 15, 2003

Tika Is a Good Girl/Jake Propels Himself/Cancer Lives On/The Next Thurber

Tika was a very good girl in class yesterday. Got all of her contacts. Ran off only once, and I knew I didn't have her attention when I put her at the start line, and I was dumb and should have gotten her long leash for that attempt. But she did come back fairly quickly instead of running off to the far side. Didn't grab my feet at all, but I'm also trying to make sure she gets some kind of reward when I screw up (which, unfortunately, *I* was doing a lot) instead of making her frustrated.

But she still doesn't walk nicely on a leash! Jeez, it's always back to square 1. Maybe I should just tie her in a cart and pull the cart...nah, pulling stuff is bad for my back.

Jake's back seems to have been doing fine all week. I've been tossing squeakies for him on the ground, not too far, but he still propels himself to them at rocket speed and lands on them full force. So I've been trying to toss them directly in front of him so he can just grab them in the air without jumping or scooping.

We don't have agility this weekend, so that's good for resting up.

I keep getting email from people who find Remington's cancer site on the web and write to say thanks for having the information and the story. So many dogs-- so sad. Worst are the ones who've had more than one dog with hemangiosarcoma. Sucks sucks sucks. I don't know what I'd do.

Just read a wonderful compilation of Thurber dog stories, articles, and notes. Wish I could write like that. I've been thinking for years about how to write the story of *my* dogs in a way that would entertain. I can do it, I know I can. --I think I can. --I might be able to. --Next week. --Or later.


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Monday, April 28, 2003

A Week In The Life--A Musical--You'll Laugh, You'll Cry, You'll Throw the Squeakie One More Time

Let's Go Strollin': Yesterday morning we managed to walk all the way over to my sister's house (about 1/3 mile) with hardly any pulling, just the occasional (every 10-20 steps) pop-turn or stop-wait or walk-into-oh-my-how'd-that-happen? reminder. Walking back was a little tougher because I didn't avoid walking past the fence of a yard with dogs in the back, and we had large quantities of lunging and severe corrections, but we finally walked past without pulling much at all.

This morning we did a more familiar walk, and Tika wasn't quite as bad as square one, but we never got more than half a block in either direction, because the yanking & lunging would get worse the further we went. Hrm.

Tiny bubbles, in my yard... Tried blowing bubbles to see whether Tika might like chasing them as much as Rem did. But no. Taste stupid. Stupid mom. Jake never did chase them. What am I going to do with all this bubble stuff?

Ain't Misbehavin'? Tika was a brat in class Wednesday, too--not staying at start, flying off dogwalk, running away after the geese in the field, sniffing another dog's butt, going to the obstacle in front of her instead of responding to "Teek, come!", and so on.

So when she'd do the wrong thing, I hooked her leash to the fence, got Jake out of the car, snuggled with him & played with him and then did one of the exercises with him--and Lo and Behold!--the next exercise Tika would do perfectly. But then we'd put Jake away, and she's start out OK, and then do some butt-headed thing again.

So it's not a not-understanding-what-to-do issue, it's understanding that she can't decide what activity she'll participate in now (e.g., doing agility vs. chasing squirrels, or doing agility with her mom vs. doing whatever she feels like doing on the course).

SOOO--We'd been discussing this for a couple of weeks, but our instructor now says for sure Tika's too immature to be out doing competitions, especially ones in which I can't correct the problems as they appear. So I've pulled her from everything except Jumpers at next weekend's Bay Team trial; signed her up for 2 days of fun match that I had been planning on skipping, and then the next trial or 2 are both NADAC, where I *can* do some training in the ring, so we'll leave those in place. Will decide later in May about the June CPE trials we're already signed up for.

Can't Get No Squirrelifaction, Though I Tried, and I Tried: Poor little half-grown squirrel got the bejeezus scared out of him on Saturday. Dogs apparently didn't actually catch him, but when I went out to see why they were continuing to bark frantically for hours on end, I found this little guy welded to a branch about my eye level, panting frantically, his eyes about twice the size of his head.

I chased the dogs inside and left him alone for about 10 minutes. Went back out--still glued to exactly the same spot, although he wasn't panting any more. I poked at him with a long stick to get him to move--which he did, around to the side of the branch away from me so I couldn't see him. (Or so he thought--except for his little desperate toes clinging to the bark.) We repeated that a few times, and then he started looking a little more annoyed than scared and went up and down a foot or 2 a couple of times.

So I went back inside for another few minutes, and this time he had removed himself to safer places when I came back out.

Poor baby. He definitely wasn't a full-grown guy. I hate it when the dogs actually catch a squirrel. Nothin' I can do after they've managed to grab and shake a couple of times. At least this guy probably learned a valuable lesson.


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Monday, April 14, 2003

Another Weekend, Another Agility Trial

Agility in the rain is SO much--um--fun. Saturday it never stopped dropping moisture from the sky, sometimes only a drizzle, sometimes closer to a downpour. Not bad enough at any time to cancel the trial, although dogs stopped running briefly a couple of times. Fields remained good all the way through, which wouldn't have been true at many sites. Dixon May Fairgrounds isn't a bad place for agility. And it's only about an hour and forty-five minutes from here. I had planned on camping out overnight so I wouldn't have that drive again early Sunday a.m., but I didn't want to try setting up camp in the rain, so I indeed came home Saturday night & got up again at 5 Sunday morning. Nice thing was that it was a small trial, so I was done running by noon both days.

Jake had an OK weekend. Again I felt as if we weren't clicking on most things. He had a decent gamble opening--not awesome--got his contacts--and missed the gamble just barely; did better than most dogs. I think only one dog of any height got that gamble. A few got it over time, but not many of those, either. He Qed in one standard and won/Qed jumpers; other standard run we were just completely out of synch--he also stopped at the 10th weave pole to sniff at a disturbed spot on the grass, then popped out, and every time I'd try to put him back in there, he'd sniff at the same spot and pop out again. Also big wide turns and missed obstacles and wrong obstacles and jeez what a mess. Snooker was ok except he slipped behind me to take a wrong obstacle. Oh, well.

Tika is such a brat about her contacts. We practiced them all week at home. Did them fine in class. Practiced on the ground and on the trailer ramp at the trial. Came home Saturday night and drilled them. At the trial--flies right off, not even attempting to do them properly. Has been doing her teeters well, but not dogwalk or Aframe. I just put her in a down, asked for her leash, and walked her off the field each time. So that was 3 out of the 5 runs-- In Snooker we didn't get too far; she got sucked in by a tunnel that I was trying to pull her away from, with me standing 15 feet away yelling "Come come come come!" to no avail. But we haven't really practiced running *among* obstacles without taking them, which is a whole additional skill.

Jumpers was a lot of fun--basically a big X across the field joined at the top, with tunnels at the 2 top corners. Holy rocket ship. She did the whole thing in less than 17 seconds; most dogs were in the 20+ range. In fact, she knocked one bar and even with the 5-point penalty added to her time, was fast enough to win her class. One other dog had a faster time--16.08, while hers I think was 16.8--one of those fast german shepherds whose stride is so long that, on a course like this, running full out, I don't think Tika could match him--although maybe, because one leg of the X did curve so that at one point the dog was looking at the wrong jump, which Tika did, although she called off it, she did slow down and change her path a bit to recover. Might have been 1 second's worth.

But to make me feel better, the Shepherd knocked 3 or 4 bars. :-)

She's gone back to pretty much pulling on the leash full time on our walks. Jeez. Now what?


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Monday, March 31, 2003

Life Goes On

At Madera two weeks ago, Tika got every one of her contacts all weekend. At the NADAC the next weekend, she was really good on Saturday & then started flying off on Sunday. This weekend, she couldn't get past the 1st contact all weekend without flying off. I started resorting to taking her off the field on Sunday, after redoing all day Saturday. She did OK in weavers--ran past one set and then took an off-course into a tunnel. Jumpers we had a knocked bar one day and a tunnel suck the next. Tunnelers I pulled her into the wrong end of a tunnel on Saturday and she did great on Sunday. So she got 1 Q all weekend out of 12 runs.

Jake was a good boy and got 9 out of 12 Qs--one miss was a fairly easy gamble that was my fault (to make up for it, the next day he got a really tough one that fewer than 1 in 5 dogs got). One flyoff on a dogwalk, which is HIS fault by now. One missed jump in a jumpers course, again mostly my fault. Despite appearances, we didn't seem to be clicking all weekend. He was taking lots of wide slow turns and starting to miss obstacles (or almost miss them). Not sure what was up with that.

Today Tika's walking on a leash was almost back to square one. Deep sigh.


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Friday, March 28, 2003

Walking--It Could Happen!

Again today we got all the way to the end of the street with only a couple of turn/pops. Needed a few more just near the end with the dogs in the back yard. Needed several when we went around that corner; not sure what that's so exciting. Needed a few off and on after that. Only other rough spots were where there was a dog lying in someone's front yard as we walked by--that took a *long* time and actually required some corrections when she threw herself at the end of the leash. Then there was a dog walking on the other side of the street, which also took some attention as she tried running in circles or towards the street, and one correction when she started her shriek/barking.

But, man, what a difference. Hope this lasts.

This weekend it's NADAC up at Cal State Hayward. Supposed to be pretty warm. Already warm this morning and Tika was dashing into the shade in the back yard every time after I tossed her Tika Toy and she retrieved it. Still ran full out after it each time, but I wonder how she'll do on warmer days.


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Thursday, March 27, 2003

Pulling on the Leash

The thing about Tika that has stressed me out the longest and the most frequently is pulling on the leash. I tried weeks and weeks and weeks of working her alone, then with other dogs, with corrections or with goodies and a clicker, and never seemed to make progress. I taught Rem to pay attention/not pull with the turn-and-pop method--that is, as soon as the dog pulls (or isn't paying attention, or walks past you--pick a behavior and stick with it consistently), I turn on my heel and walk in the opposite direction, so the leash kind of "pops" the dog from the direction she was going. It took a long while--I don't remember how long, any more--but it did work.

But I couldn't do that with Rem, Jake, and Tika all at once. I tried it on my own with Tika for a while, but I was always trying to finish up to get the other dogs so I could do a *real* walk, and maybe I just didn't walk enough distance with her, or something. With all 3 dogs, I couldn't turn and pop without getting somebody tangled up. Also, Rem got the most frustrated of all of them whenever I stopped and realigned her (constantly--the method we learned in class) or turned and popped. So, with Remington gone, I decided that this was enough, Tika was going to learn to walk on a leash. Immediately I went into turn-and-pop mode while walking her and Jake. Jake gets a little confused-looking, because my turns appear arbitrary to him because they're not tied in to *his* behavior, but he seems to manage muchh better than Rem did. So it has been almost 3 weeks since Rem died, and in our 20-minute walks we've seldom gotten further than the end of the court or 2 houses beyond that in either direction.

Late last week (or early this week?), we managed to go all the way down the block (with lots of turns and pops, but slightly longer times between them) until we drew near the house at the end where there's a barking dog in the back yard, and we just couldn't manage to walk in that direction without Tika pulling. Yesterday we actually got past that house to the end of the street--still with turns and pops all along, but many fewer. Today--jeez--she didn't pull going out the front door, OR down the driveway, OR past the house to the end of the court, OR even around the corner. We had to do maybe half a dozen turn-pops before we got to the end of the street, but that was like an entire block with her not pulling on the leash! It was a miracle! And then--we actually walked all the way around the block today! There were about 2 places where we got stuck--turn/pop and then she'd pull again, so we were in a seemingly infinite loop--I think they were both near houses with dogs barking in the back yard--but then she mostly walked without pulling the entire last block and half home again. Yow. When we got to our court, we had to do a few more turn/pops, but not nearly as many as we've always done--and only ONCE going up the driveway to the back gate! It's been a *year*, dag nab it, that I've been trying to get her up the driveway without pulling constantly.

We'll see if this holds tomorrow--

And we're doing it with the gentle leader, still. So as soon as she's doing pretty consistently there, we'll go back to the buckle collar and see what happens. There's hope after all--


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Thursday, March 06, 2003

Depressed Dog

I'm sure that some of Rem's problem is a feedback loop--a bit depressed about not feeling well, not being able to do fun things--which makes him feel not well--

I was gone most of the day. Got home, gave dogs dinner. Offered him the half a can left from breakfast. He was back to looking around, thinking about it. Ate several mouthfuls half-heartedly and walked away. I dug cooked chicken out of the freezer, shredded some up, and dumped that in his bowl. A big dog-sucking-up-the-chicken noise followed.

I had my own dinner, then again took just me & him for a nice long walk. One reason he doesn't get very excited at the moment is that every time he does, he starts cough/horking. But once we're out the door, he is a veritable force of nature, if forces of nature took walks. He heads away from home at the fastest trot he can manage without losing me, putting just enough tension on the leash for me to know that he's a strong dog who could give me a big jerk if he wanted to. It isn't until we're about 2 blocks away that he starts to relax, sniff things, look at what's going on out there, let there be slack in the leash. He still moves at a trot, but not so determinedly. But get within a couple of blocks of home, and suddenly every chlorphyl on every leaf has a smell that must be investigated. He droops. He drags. He can barely lift his feet. This is a dog who does not want to go home.

Unfortunately, I have other stuff to do. Like this. Dumb. He's always been more interested in continuing his walks than in coming home. Always. But now he's elevating it to the master's level of not wanting to go home. So I'm thinking I have to make it more appealing, coming home. Usually what happens after a walk is that I throw objects for Rem and Jake to rampage after. This time I fenced the other dogs out of the living room, and he and I did the Tricks game for more bits of chicken.

Something's not right about his body. I mean, we know that. But remember that limp-wristed thing? Still going on. Still won't do hang 10 with both legs. Now won't sit up & beg with both legs. Lifts one leg off the floor and sort of leans, but won't pick up the other leg. This from a dog who has always had phenomenal balance.

Anyway, after all that fun stuff, I got out a fresh can of dogfood and opened it. He came over to see what was cookin'. I lifted some on a spoon for him, and he chowed. I could hardly keep his nose out of the can, he wanted it so badly. Went through over half a can like that before he started slowing down and I decided to stop before he got turned off again.

But except for walks and doing tricks, he doesn't look like a happy dog. His tail almost never comes up. His ears almost never come up. He stands awkwardly, as if something doesn't feel good. He doesn't look miserable like he has the times the tumor's been bleeding, but he doesn't look happy, either. We're just waiting and watching.


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Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Rem Continues Well/Tika's Still Got STuff To Learn

Not only was Rem happy and active last night, but we actually got an Official Upside-Down Dog in bed this morning, which is a flag that things are going well, and which we haven't had since he started feeling cruddy Jan 22.

Tika's a maniac on the leash. This week I've been working hard on her leash-pulling and, as usual, I can't see that it makes any difference. She also got out the side gate last night when I took the trash out. I *listened* for the gate latch behind me and heard it, so I'm not quite sure what happened, but all of a sudden she went flying past me after a cat that just happened to appear across the street. I grabbed a frisbee and tried waving it--I know that yelling "Tika, Come!" will have no effect & so don't want to get her more in the habit of ignoring it--but she was so involved in figuring out which fence the cat went behind that she never so much as glanced in my direction before heading off around the corner. Fortunately she came back around the corner looking for the cat, glanced my way briefly, saw the frisbee, and abruptly changed direction and charged over to me to grab it. Well--it worked, without her flying out in front of moving cars or me chasing her all over the neighborhood. It's not the best solution. Maybe nailing her feet to the sidewalk would work.


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Monday, January 06, 2003

A Good Weekend

Today's topics:

  • Remington's health and agility performance
  • Jake's agility results
  • Tika's debut agility weekend

Remington's health: He appears to have survived 2 days last week of running amok at parks, plus 5 runs (a fairly light load) of agility this weekend with no ill effects and a positive effect on his mood and outlook. I was afraid I had overdone it when his last run turned slow, and on the way home he was cough-gagging, but he's been fine ever since and this morning is perky, active, enthusiastic, and interested in the world around him. Vet says he looks good & heart sounds great.

Remington's agility: I ran him in veteran's this weekend, which in NADAC is only 16" (he jumps 26" standard in USDAA, in comparison). He was an excellent agility dog:

  • Did one nice standard round for a Q AND 4th place out of 12 dogs in his class.
  • First gamble was nice, fairly fast; missed the bonus obstacle by a bit because he was sight-seeing on the Aframe before the gamble & I couldn't get him moving. But a Q anyway.
  • Second gamble again a happy, pretty fast boy, who popped his Aframe contact during the gamble so missed the Q. (Either sight-seeing or popping contacts--I'm dyin' to ever achieve middle ground with him on contacts.)
  • Jumpers run was in Super-Rem mode, where he leaned into his turns and never slowed down even on 180-degree turns--not only Q and 1st place, but was faster than all except 1 other dog in *regular* (nonveteran) classes! And that's tough in NADAC jumpers.
  • Last standard run was slow and uninspired--last run of the weekend and I probably should've scratched him, but he had looked like he wanted to run.

Jake's agility: For an old man, he did really well in some places. I ran him in standard (16" nonveteran) for his regular classes and veterans (12") for jumpers and gamblers.

  • Standard: He needed 6 full Qs for his O-NATCH (that's a double championship, FYI). Got 2.5 this weekend. Included one 2nd place among about 7 dogs in his class--all quite a bit younger than him (.3 secs behind first place dog), one where he was faster than the other dogs but I managed to push him into an off-course (so even with the off-course he was faster!), one where he was 2 seconds faster than the other dogs but knocked a bar, and the last run of the weekend where we were both a little slow but were still 2nd place.
  • Jumpers: He was SuperJake for both runs--first run he was almost as fast as the fastest nonveteran 16", and second run we had some problems and went a little wild on the course for 110 faults (takes a lot of skill for a champion in 2 org's to get that many--) but MAN he was flying!
  • Gamblers: This was Gamblin' Man weekend; in his first run, he had the second highest total of *all* elite dogs, *all* heights (missed top-scoring dog by 1 pt); in his second run, he had the *highest* total. We just really clicked, and he was flying, and for a change he got all of his contacts. Whatta man!

Tika's debut agility weekend: I feared the weekend would be terrible, but of course hoped she'd dazzle everyone. The truth was tremendously better than I feared, and in fact she dazzled me, although she just missed getting all 3 titles. (In all 3 class types, she could've earned a title with one more Q.) Out of 8 runs,
she got 2.5 standard Qs (.5 due only to a knocked bar), a jumper Q (missed 2nd Q due only to a knocked bar), and a gambler Q (missed second Q due only to a popped contact in gamble).

So pardon me while a hopelessly excited mom brags about the details.


Our 1st standard run was a mess. Chalk it up to First Standard Run At A Trial EverTM. She didn't stay at the start line while I was leading out, so I walked calmly back the start, waited for her to return, and reset her. This is an automatic Elimination, but it's OK in NADAC to do this. Then she stayed--but was light on her first contact and popped her second, so I stopped and put her back on it to make her Touch--which would've also been an automatic E. (She was good the rest of the weekend on contacts.) Then, coming out of a tunnel where I crossed, she missed a couple of jumps, but I just kept running to keep her excited, and we finished fine. But I sure came away thinking, "Boy, I had hoped we were ready, but we sure aren't." Fortunately I was a little wrong about that.

Our 2nd standard run was gorgeous--she didn't stay at the start line, so I stopped and waited for her to come back next to me (but didn't reset her at the start line). She didn't take any extra obstacles, but it wasted about 6 seconds. She Qed clean, and out of 12 dogs in her class, she came in 2nd--just under 6 seconds (note wasted time) behind the 1st place dog, and 15 seconds under SCT.

Third standard run also gorgeous--was sending her 2 or 3 obstacles out and hauling butt to get into position-- she pulled up before last jump, wasting time, so she managed only a 2nd place for her Q (2 seconds behind 1st and 20 seconds under SCT--and she was the 2nd fastest novice dog of any height).

Fourth standard run was awesome, although she knocked a bar (AND stopped before the last jump), for 1/2 Q, 21 under SCT and faster than any other novice dog.

First jumpers run was flawless except that she again stopped before the last jump and came back to me (I have a little problem here). Took about 3 seconds to fix that--and she came in with a Q about 1.5 seconds behind the 1st place dog and 3.5 seconds under SCT [it was a FAST/straight course, so no slop in SCT at all].

Second jumpers run--she was fastest of any novice dogs again, by a second or so, but had a knocked bar.

First gambler's run was a blast. Got a Q, including a ton of opening points and the bonus gamble obstacle--only 4th of 21 dogs in her height, but her opening points were among the highest among all novice dogs, and the other 3 were all experienced novice dogs & handlers. :-)

In 2nd gambler's run, I experimented. I had never done back to back obstacles with her before, but I tried it with 4 different obstacles, and I'm almost ashamed to say that she responded far better than my 2 experienced dogs. Turned on a dime and charged right back to where I directed her. What a doll! I forgot my course, though, so wasted time dashing around looking for obstacles I hadn't already taken twice. She was merely SECOND highest opening points of all novice dogs, by one point. ;-) Plenty of time on gamble, but she popped the Aframe.

I am a very happy handler! If only she'd stop pulling on the leash all the time.


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Thursday, February 07, 2002

Tika Day 17

SUMMARY: Things are going well so far.

Backfill: May 6, 2009
Whew, I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up that level of dog journal for long, but I wanted to capture my initial emotions and impressions and experiences.

She is so smart some of the time, too smart some of the time, and a dork on rare occasions.

My dogs are supposed to sit to get their leashes on when they go for a walk. They know this. We've been doing this nearly every day for 3 years (Jake) to 8 years (for Rem), but they almost always circle around and around until I say something, sometimes twice (even "Hey!" will do it). Tika figured it out perfectly. As soon as I head for the leashes, she sits and stays sitting right there. What a superstar!

She's getting a little better on the walks about other dogs. Even though she's still pulling at the leash, I think that lots of exposure to the rest of the world will be what calms her down eventually. She still gets excited when a yard dog starts barking as we go by, but she's manageable. And yesterday a dog passed on the other side of the street, and although she was on the verge of wild, she never went past the point where I couldn't keep walking and just try to manage the tension on the leash, and no screeching (just whining)! So that's improving.

Next we can work on walking without pulling. Another too-smart thing--she's figured out that she can lean into the gentle leader and, if she hesitates just long enough to shake her head, then the tension relaxes and she can lean into it again. So most of the walk she's still leaning into it, but of course not yanking like she does on a plain collar. Why she can't figure out to *not* pull and then not have to shake her head all the time, I don't know!

She's doing good with the stuff we're learning in Rachel's class, although I don't practice nearly often enough. She really recognizes Tika as her name, and is at the moment among the "advanced" students on the recall (Rachel gave 3 of us permission to go on to the next step beyond what we'd been practicing).

Also Rachel taught us a new way of teaching down (at least I wasn't familiar with it), where you kneel and hold the food in front of your knees and call the name--when the dog comes to you and starts trying to nibble at the food, eventually they'll lie down. Then you say "Down" immediately, let them have the food, and praise. When they're going down immediately when they see your hands with the food, you move to step 2, with your hands up to your knees. Then you move up to sitting on a step with the food at yuor ankles, then halfway up your calves, then to your knees. Then you go on from there. Our assignment for next week is to get to step 2. We learned this yesterday, and Tika's already at step 3 and I just didn't want to spend too much "training" time and burn her out.

On the other hand, the other thing we're learning is an under-my-control down, where when you push on the shoulders, the dog is just supposed to go down. The starting step is to pull down on the collar at the same time as pushing back on the shoulders, from a stand at your side. If the dog sits, you've lost the situation and you go stand the dog and try again. First week, rachel said give them a goodie to distract them and, sure enough, when I give Tika a goodie and push/pull, she goes down pretty easily. But without the goodie she stands like a rock or plops instantly into a sit. I keep thinking I must be missing something.

This evening, I had to laugh when I finally realized where we are--almost the instant we're in that position and I give her a goodie, she goes down! So she's learned the behavior to the wrong stimulus! I'll have to give Rachel a call and figure out what to do next.

She does a "shake" very well and a "crawl" moderately well. I haven't really worked on many other tricks yet. Still discovering that we're missing some basic skills that I took for granted. Have had to practice catching a goodie that I toss. She actually (like most dogs) figured it out pretty fast, but we had to take a break from other stuff to practice it.

Then I discovered that she didn't seem to have a clue about tossing a treat--when I made a tossing gesture, she focused on my hand! So I've had to start with a very short toss, and point it out to her, and we're getting better pretty quickly, but I had forgotten that that's kind of an abstract concept for dogs.

She's out of the pen almost all the time I'm here, now, but I have to remember to watch her when she starts wandering. She can find somethng and tear it up in about 30 seconds flat if I get distracted. So far fortunately nothing important, just packing material and trashy stuff. And she mostly doesn't do that if we've had a good play session and/or a meal in recent hours. I don't want her to start associating being in the pen with me being gone, though, so maybe I shd make a point of putting her in when she's just going to be snoozing anyway.

She hasn't been wanting to settle onto her mat in the bedroom unless I put a gate across that corner of the room. i was hoping that she'd get the clue that that's where I'd like her to sleep. She *does* know it's time to settle down, but she settles down in the hallway or somewhere. Because I don't quite trust her yet, I don't want that. So 2 nights ago I moved the mat right next to my bed (makes it tough to get out w/out stepping on her). Sure enough, when I go up to bed, she instantly settles there on the mat.

The DISadvantage is that at 6:00 this morning, I was sound asleep and in the middle of some interesting dream, when a dog stuck her nose into my arm and shoved, saying, "Hey, I just had a GREAT idea! Let's get up NOW!" I said something bitter and undoubtedly wittily ascerbic, and Lo! she settled right back down onto the mat and went back to sleep, thereby disproving my original thought that maybe she had to go potty. So *she* slept for another hour, but I couldn't get comfortable and tossed and turned and finally gave up and got up around 7, which is still a wee bit early for me. So I'm kinda sleepy tonight.

There is *so* much to learn and practice. I've been trying to do more of the stuff from Rachel's class and so for 2 days we haven't practiced our agility--and today when I tried what we'd been doing before, she was oblivious. So that clearly hasn't patterned on her yet.

I have to tell you about Reminton, too. I've always said he was a quick learner & loved to learn, too. But it's been so long since I've taught him anything new, and now he's watching me work with the puppy and me being excited when she does cool stuff. So I thought I really needed something to get excited about with Remington (other than just doing all the same old 40 or 50 tricks). So tonight it occurred to me to try to teach him to go to a "bow" from a Down position instead of from standing. It was a challenge, but within just a few minutes and a few attempts on my part to figure out how to make that connection for him, he was doing it! Probably not very solid yet, and we'll have to practice it some more, but I think that was a big conceptual leap for him. He's so good!

Remington was actually willing to play in the same room as Tika tonight--so I had all 3 of them with their toys. Argh--exhausting--need 3 hands. Tika's slowly coming around to the idea that, in this house, the current play toy for each dog is off limits to the other dogs. I'm not sure I'm entirely happy about that rule, but I'm looking for a peaceful and stress-free environment. Rem will snarl and even jump on her (or any dog) who tries to take a toy, or the only other choice is he completely loses interest and refuses to play. Has always been like that.

Jake doesn't do that, but in every play session, there is one Official Jake Toy and if I or the other dogs try to switch, jake will *not* play with any toy except the original one. He's always been like that, too. When I first got him, I used to take him to the dog park and throw one of the dozens of tennis balls that were always lying around. If he lost track of which one I'd thrown, he would NOT fetch just any old other ball I'd pick up--he had to check every tennis ball in the place until he found the one we had started playing with. And he was always right, too! He'd be good in obedience if I knew how to take advantage of that scent discrimination. Even now, he has several favorite squeaky toys. But if I try to switch from one to the other during play, he will NOT fetch the new one unless I insist forcefully, and even then he'll just drop it, put his ears back, and wait for me to roduct the original toy.

Oh--tonight I introduced Tika to the Food Cube! Went down to the pet store & bought her one. I've been using them for Rem and Jake for about a year and a half and they're great for burning off a few ounces of energy, especially when I've been away most of the day or don't have as much time to spend with them. She figured it out in just a few minutes and was rolling and pushing and pawing it aroudn to get the food out like an old pro. Rem learned moderately quickly, but he already knew the "nudge" command (push something with your nose), and that's how he originally learned, with my commands; Jake was a little slower I think--maybe I've got the speed backwards--although still within a couple of sessions he was pretty good at it.

Tika did decide that using the dog door was a good thing after all and for several days now has been going in and out sometimes on her own. Still not sure that I competely trust her to potty herself, so I still take her out occasionally, but she's not misbehaving at the fence near the neighbor's dog much at all.

So it's going well at the moment.

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