Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Amy and Andy - more fittin' in

As I write this, Amy lies on the downstairs couch, doing her yoga. She is currently in her inverted airplane and a half, which makes her look like her rear end is completely separate from the front. Flexoskeleton!

Start with a typical doggie inverted airplane: lie on your back, with legs stretched into the air in split positions. Good for begging belly rubs. Next, turn forelegs until they are lying on the ground, as they would be if one were just lying on the ground, but leaving the rear legs in full stretch into the air in airplane position. There you have it! If she could only do judo, she could be a master!

Progress continues. They have only jumped the fence one more time - when I left them at home to go run errands. Apparently this really upset them, and they were climbing the taller section of fence in order to try and find me. Amy got over. Andy was caught mid-climb, but both came back inside.

They are settling in well to thinking of this place as their new home. That definition of home includes riding in the car. When we go somewhere else, then outside the car is "not-home", and they do NOT like to leave the car. Although today, they DID get out of the car at a friend's house. So small steps!

Amy has tried again to explore beyond the yard when outside the fence. Although I am not overly concerned that she will wander far, in part because of the devotion they show to "home", to wander outside the yard is considered bad manners at the least. We have neighbors who do not like dogs, who are allergic to dogs, and who are afraid of dogs. And we also have neighbors who DO like dogs, and who are doggie people themselves - just so I don't make our neighborhood sound hostile!

But I've taken her with when I go out to the back shed and/or walk around the yard. And reprimanded her for going too far. It is a struggle, but I think she is getting the idea. I may go with the underground fence option yet. We will see.

They are very devoted - so long as I include them in everything I do! Upstairs or down, inside or out, they want to be with somebody at all times.

We had a small interesting experience on our evening run tonight. I mentioned Bandit (a rat terrier, and a nicer one you could not meet!) once before. We were on the road passing the building where he "works". About 20 yards away. Bandit senses us and starts yap-yapping. This is the dog who had both Amy and Andy in panic mode when they first met - because he started barking up a shit-storm. He was only barking up a minor cloud this eve, but Andy went up the street in double time to make sure he got away from the monster causing that ruckus! Amy was quite a bit calmer, but Andy was definitely on the edge of panic. I have to think a small yappy dog has caused problems in their past. 'Cause they normally like meeting other dogs. And Bandit is extremely friendly - so that is not the issue.

They've started playing while we are on our runs. They will chase down and bowl each other over, at full speed. We are moving along fast enough I got out my helmet for the first time in, oh, 3 or 4 years, and put it on. Sometimes they get out ahead of me, and I am not sure they fully understand they need to stay out of the way of the bicycle!

It is interesting what they DO understand. I've been practicing this routine when cars pass: "stopping", then "get right" as I come to a stop, and they proceed to the right of the bicycle. Then "get left", and "let's go" to get moving again. I think they know that the car has gone past, and they are moving in to "get left" before  being told. If they are paying attention to the cars, that could be fine. I would rather they just trusted me to give the orders, but if they can think that far ahead - and if I can see my way into working with their capacity - it could work out.

Btw - Andy likes sour apples. Amy does not. We passed a crabapple tree today on the ride. I picked one to taste it. It was sour! The definition of original "sweet-tart"! Then offered the remains to Andy - he ate it up! I nibbled a bite off two more, and offered one to each. Amy sniffed and turned right away. She said "none of that." Andy ate them both! Funny!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Amy and Andy - settling down, fitting in, learning

Amy and Andy are settling down and fitting in well. They are calmer when meeting people out on our run. Since they were coming home from the run and playing furiously for another 15-20 minutes, I extended the run today to 3 miles. And, unlike my rides in the past few years, where speed was determined by the slowest and weakest member (Sara, old and with a bad knee), where I did not really get a workout, with Amy and Andy I am actually getting some workout.

Coats are coming in nicely. Their weights are pretty optimal atm. I'm watching intake carefully, as I don't want them to get overweight and I have to cut back on food. They have too much tendency to get into things, and the smarts to know they can, and to figure out how to. So TOO hungry could be bad.

They are definitely learning. We still have problems with basic stuff (sit, stay, come, down). But, as I've said, I think this is partly due to selective hearing. I think they have had some attempts at training before - and it included negative reinforcement. Not that I think that doesn't have a place, but I also know how easy it is to overdo it when you aren't making progress with positive reinforcement. I think it may be likely that previous training had difficulty understanding how Amy and Andy respond - they weren't all on the same page if you will. So, we still get "selective hearing" for come and stay especially.

But look at what they have learned on our runs! They have a decent comprehension for all of these commands: wait, clear, let's go, stopping, get right, get left, load up, unload, down, get down, leave it, and mine. Each one of those is a separate command, with a specific meaning. Although "wait" is a soft meaning (unlike "stay"). Still, that is a pretty good vocabulary for a dog, and a REALLY good vocabulary for a dog with such little work.

And they (Andy is better, but Amy is coming around as well) are both trusting us more, and coming around to working with us more as we want.They can intuit the needed behavior at times. Yesterday I dropped a glass bowl in the kitchen, and it broke into deadly sharp smithereens. The door to the back yard was open, and both dogs were in the back yard. At the noise, they came to the door and started to come inside. I (loudly) said "wait!" and some other stuff, I forget what all! But they stayed outside the kitchen, at least for a while!

They haven't gone over the fence since the first week. Amy, when on free-leash (leash on, but nobody holding it) was leaving the yard to explore - but a bit of extra attention from us, and I think we have slowed that down.

I am not overly concerned that either will "run away" - they REALLY prefer to stick with what they know. Including 'where' they know. At the same time - they want to explore a little - natural curiosity, I guess. And they are new enough to get lost, eh? Problem is, Amy goes where I can't see her, and that is a no-go item. Well - if I can't see or HEAR her. Behind a bush or tree, if I can hear her, is still ok. Amy wants a little more freedom than that. I could probably trust her, but she isn't ready for prime-time yet.

When we are on a run, we are mutually focused on each other. When I am just working around the house - I am not focused on them at all, and that is when we have had problems. But, I spent a little time doing things around the yard, while staying focused on them. Caught her just as she was leaving 'territory', and I think we've got a better understanding of limits. We will see!

Anyway, they are having tons of fun! Their appetites are great. They are always looking for more after they've eaten. Since I'm cooking their food, I take that as a compliment! While they both ate from each other's dish readily when they came, they quickly learned that I preferred it if they stuck to their own dish. I can see that they still have the urge - but they confine it. Mostly! Hehe.

So, we are making great progress! Everyone comments on how beautiful they are! And, they are! They are also certainly enjoying their days!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Amy and Andy: caught ya!

I have GOT to get these two into some sort of agility or ball game or something. They are incredibly agile. Today I found out how Andy has been stealing the cat chow. It sits on a buffet - about 40" off the ground. He simply jumped up ON to the top of the buffet! No leap, no start, just POP! And he is on top of the buffet chowing down on cat food!

Of course, that got a good response from me, you bet. Ha. Anyway . . . at some point we will conquer these issues.

Today I also took a page from their book. Having watched them, and trying to work with how they think, respond, and work - we went off-leash on the run. And they had such FUN!

But, pretty scary, right? After all, they've only been home here a few weeks, right? Yup. All true!

But here is what I've watched. In their first days in our yard, we watched them check out the fence, looking at it. We could see in their look that the thought was "Hi fence, no problem! I OWN you!". And, a couple days later they demonstrated exactly that. And then did it a couple more times. So, we increased our vigilance, and changed our patterns a bit to not offer temptation and opportunity.

But they still had opportunity. Every day. If they WANTED to run, they were certainly capable of it. At any time. If they had been our old hound, Sara? They would have been gone and gone and gone and gone. Without either replacing our fence, or walking them on leash whenever outside, they could escape if they wanted. And we have to know that they knew that.

But, when they did jump the fence, the did NOT try to run away. They just explored the yard a bit.

So, today I decided to give things a bit of a test. I loaded Amy up with the e-collar and GPS unit. Put on their leashes. And then walked out the door and told them to come along.

Keep in mind, I've been watching them closely. They do NOT like strange places. When I take them someplace in the car, they do not want to get out when we get there. They are pretty smart about guarding the car - they haven't done that until the situation warranted. Like at a store - they have not alerted to the many people around. But the other day I was harvesting sumac at night on the Cisco parklands. Some people walked by - and they alerted. That level of discrimination is pretty amazing, if you ask me.

But back to the place thing - so I've seen they aren't keen on going adventuring outside the "known". And they much prefer to be moving along under their own guidance. Independent, yet also they strongly want to please.

So, let's see if we can work with that. Let them wander the front yard (not fenced), dragging their leashes. And, they wandered across the street. Ok - call them back. And they immediately respond and come home. Great! We ARE in business! Actually, I did the same thing a 2nd time, to validate the 1st. Got the same response. When they got farther away, they were more willing to come quickly when summoned. Good. Because we are STILL working on simple "stay" commands!

And I said to myself "allright, let's take this out into the field". We went out on our run route to where we have big fields around. They were on leash until then. I drop the leashes, and sprint away on the bicycle. They run to keep up! Excellent!

We went through a couple of miles of similar exercises. Me sometimes going a bit farther. Sometimes I stayed a little closer - it depended on their focus. When they were focused on something other than me, I stayed close.

However, all in all, it was a VERY successful training session. They had much more fun than just a run on leash for a couple of miles. They got to enjoy the "doggie picture show" ("Smells At An Exhibition"). And they got to chase me. Definitely required more from them than usual. And they appreciated it.

I'm happy I get to actually ride a bit. They are happy they actually get to be real dogs for a bit. It works.

Not it is time for their dinner. C ya!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Amy and Andy - an update

Mischievous. They are that. Not terribly so, but enough!  It's a good thing they consider part of their job description playing with each other! Sure helps to burn off some of that energy.

We've been having some slow success retraining them from their bad habits. I hit a new high spot today with a little bit of sit, down, stay practice. I finally got the looks of "This is fun! Let's do some more!"

They've responded pretty well to training, so don't get me wrong. Especially when food treats are at stake. But when there are no treats, we get a lot of selective hearing. We are working on that.

Until today, I thought we had the indoor potty business licked. Today it was raining. And here is a thing I've learned about these two - they do not like water. They won't wade in the pond on the run. They won't drink from the pond. They are afraid of a spraying hose, and they don't like it when the sprinker gets them wet. It was raining today, so they didn't want to go outside. Which is probably why somebody pee'd on the rug.

They are also quite nervous about strangers (strangers to them). When I meet friends while out running them we will walk and talk for a while, and they will move to the off side of the bike, to keep me and the bike between them and the strangers. They aren't outright scared, or maybe they are - some. Mostly it is demonstrated more like nervous sharpness.

I almost find it odd that we got such a good reception from them at the SaveADog meet-and-greet. They were not skittish as so many of the dogs are, we didn't think so at all. We thought they showed a little nervousness, but not more than one might expect.

But since then, I've come to see they have a very strong dislike and fear of new things. So, even more than before, I am not so surprised that Amy acted so sick the first week she was here with us. It was just way too much newness.

For instance, they love riding in the car - they think its great! But they hate getting out of the car when we get someplace they don't know. The park, the beach, a store, no matter.

We haven't had any new fence-jumping acts, fortunately. And given their insecurity when confronting new people and places, I don't think we will. However, I do think if they did - they might panic and be gone too far to feel comfortable about finding home.

I think they've had some hard times. They certainly get very skittish when one of us gets cross with them. As a matter of fact, and I find this very interesting, they run interference for each other. If one has done something wrong and we are trying to deal with that, the other gets all in the way, to act as a focus re-direction. When Amy is being selective about "come", Andy will be there all in my face as if to say "See! We're such good dogs! Don't worry about her!"  Amy does this a little less than Andy, but she still covers for him.

Back to speaking about hard times. I wouldn't be surprised if they'd gotten sprayed with a hose as punishment.

They also have a very high dislike of being restrained. They don't like to be held down or in one spot. For instance, so we can apply ear drops. Or groomed. They don't like being crated. They will do things we want them to - when it is their idea. Not when they are asked.

We are getting over all that. It's going to take a lot of positive reinforcement, still, but it is moving in the right direction. They are settling in to their new home, and they are definitely feeling "at home"! There are still mischief spots - the cat food up on the counter keeps getting robbed, and a couple of shoes still get occasional attention. And I don't dare leave cooked meat sitting on the counter!

But talking about all the problem areas makes them sound bad. They aren't. They are pretty good. They learn quickly. They are a dream on leash. It's just that, like I said, they came to us having learned selective hearing and independent thinking.

Everyone who sees them comments on how beautiful they are together. And I'm glad they are a pair. They are very devoted to each other, both for play, and for emotional support. When we went to the beach, I tried to get Andy out while Suzanne tried to get Amy out a different door. They actively refused to leave the car from different doors. We had to come around and coax them out the same door!