Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Way #389 Tess has got my number

I've been running with the stroller and if I'm perfectly honest running, with the dog AND the stroller is a bit of a hassle. So when I headed out this morning to do hill repeats with the stroller AND it was windy I had every intention of leaving Tess behind. 

That is until she started screaming at the top of her bloody lungs indicating that she absolutely knew I was going out for a run and she was being left behind. We are in the process of moving and yes, the poor dogs are getting ignored more then usual, which she long as she gets to go running. Tess absolutely lives for runs. 

A fact I can ignore when she remains obediently quiet as I make my ex

So as a reward for her atrocious behavior (dogs should be seen not heard) she went with me. 

Tess 1
Mel 0 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The dogs are fine

Three dogs, three personalities. A very bored Mel with too many days off work and a camera phone for amusement. 
Golden Retriever in his natural habitat.
*I* was up at 5am. 6am was apparently still too early for Reed, whose main goal in the mornings is to wait until husband goes to work at 5am, and then creep onto his side of the bed and claim his pillow. On good days this is endearing. On bad days (such as being nine months pregnant with a UTI and WIDE awake at 5am for no discernable reason after a less then solid night's sleep) this picture gets comes with a caption of #whydogsgetkickedoutofspite

You are sucking the joy out of my life, one picture at a time.  
Some day I will be able to take a cute posed picture of Tess withOUT her looking stressed. As usual, Today is not that day. Tomorrow probably isn't that day. The day she had to pose next to the GIANT puppy stuffed animal that she wanted as a chew toy (but was not a chew toy) DEFINITELY was not that day.
The epitome of "obedience" according to the letter of the law (sit with implied stay) with ZERO joy.

Is this a female thing? Because I'm pretty sure my mare does this too. Does 2 "X" chromosomes come with 2 lists? The list of things that will be done exactly as asked with not an iota more effort then absolutely necessary, and the list of things that will be done at 120% capacity through mere suggestion of the task?
Is here ANYTHING else I could POSSIBLY be doing right now that would make you EVEN happier then simply just doing what I'm told? 
This concept is taken to the extreme in the female GSD. Harley as usual is trying too hard. See the slightly manic expression, the worried eyes that even though she has done exactly what she is asked that it is somehow not enough? She could be doing BETTER. She just KNOWS it. And now....combine that with a lack of impulse control, and what you have a dog for which there is no lists. Just a list of things she not actually capable of doing and so it's not fair to ask, and the list of EVERYTHING else in which she tries and guesses at SO HARD until her brains leak out of eyeballs with the effort and NO ONE IS HAPPY. Including the dog. *headdesk*. 

Three dogs, three personalities. A lot of dog poop to be cleaned out of the back yard and a LOT of dog hair to be vacuumed of the carpets. And yet.... a reason to get out of bed at a reasonable time in the mornings, a reason to get out of the house on daily walks, and a reason to stop rushing through the days and take a little time to sit on the floor and be silly. 

I may not self describe as a dog person, but that doesn't seem to matter much anymore.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Before and After

I'm a sucker for those photo spreads that show young pets with their favorite toys or comfort spots, and a recreation of the photo years later. 

I saw this and knew I had to do my own with Tess. There were a couple of excellent candidates but I went with the easiest one being a little short on energy and time. 

The color version reminded me that Tess used to have green eyes, that gradually morphed into yellow, and now a true brown.

Our activities have been much more sedate of late, out of necessity for my increasingly gravid condition. The 4 1/2 year old Brittany Dog is handling it remarkably well but I know we are both looking forward to resuming a more active lifestyle in a few short months. 

Tess is thoroughly convinced that I am permanently broken and runs will never happen again. And so, has been testing out the virtues of a couch potato life. It does not agree with her. 

"I don't see the attraction..."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Tess: this is a tesst

This is a: 
a. Ever fresh refilling water bowl
b. A toilet
c. A training device for my human - if I stare at it long enough the lid is lifted. 
d. a and c


It is acceptable to open the lid and partake of the contents when:
a. The human isn't looking
b. The human is looking but the contents make it worth your while
c. Never, just bump the lid and make noise to make the human think you are getting into it. 
d. something to be ignored at all times.


Getting on the kitchen counter
a. Is fair game if there isn't actually food on it. 
b. Is off limits. 
c. Is totally OK if the food can be snarfed without a sound and the human is in the other room.


Stuffed animals that have been placed in a hard-to-access-location are: 
a. Not for puppies
b. Only for puppies that earn the stuffed animal through superior problem solving abilities. 
c. A challenge
d. an opportunity to stare and bark in an attempt to train and communicate with the human.


True or False: Left over food in the lower tray of the bird cage is a snack for dogs.


When the automatic help-Mel-wake-up light comes on at 5:00am it means
a. Mel wants/needs/intends to get up and therefore appreciates white puppy help.
b. It's the start of a process that results in Mel getting up at 6am when the actual audible alarm goes off. 
c. You can play with Reed the Golden Retriever, preferably on the bed, the louder the better. 
d. If Mel doesn't get up in a timely manner, it's OK to chew paper, socks, or shoes that have been left on the floor.

When the neighbor's cat sits on our patio, you should: 
a. Ignore it. 
b. Whine and put nose prints all over the front window glass. 
c. Bark and put your feet on the sill of the front window.
d. b and c

That doesn't work

Food appears as a result of: 
a. going to your kennel and waiting patiently.
b. what time the clock says.
c. the result of being outside, being let in, and making the choice to go directly to your kennel. Thus if you are in the house, you should ask to be let outside, so you can go outside, to immediately come inside, and go into your kennel thus completely all steps of the magic spell. 
d. randomness.

True or False: 
Mel likes picking up dog poop in the beginning of every single run, so don't bother doing ANYTHING when you are let outside in the backyard to play and poop and pee for an HOUR pre run in the mornings

The couch in the front living room is: 
a. Dog-free couch only when Matt is in the room
b. Dog-free couch no matter who is or isn't in the room.
c. What does "dog-free" mean?
You too!

As a reminder - this is what obedience looks like.

Seriously, you look just as happy and comfy on the floor.

What couch? I don't see a couch in this room?

The couch in the back living room is:
a. Dogs allowed anytime
b. Dog-free
c. What couch? There's a couch in the back living room?

Just say no to nail trims

Toenail trims are: 
a. Entirely optional
b. the purest form of torture
c. routine and harmless

When on leash the dog:
a. Doesn't have to look at the handler for direction - that's what the leash is for. If something needs to be said, the handler will yank the leash. 
b. is free to sniff and criss cross the sidewalk because the leash keeps the dog out of danger. 
c. has a higher probability of being yelled at for something that is not the dog's fault. 
d. should act the same as if it's off leash - attentive, offering to heel, checking in with visual eye contact.

You can't be off leash all the time!!!!!
During selfies the dog's role is to: 
a. look cute
b. be in blurry movement
c. photobomb
d. stress pant
e. all of the above except a.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The thinking dog

I’ve started to allow Tess to set her own meal times. If she brings me her bowl (and it's close enough to meal time +/- a few hours), I will feed her. The trade off is that meals happen in her kennel and she chills in the kennel for several hours post meal time.

In essence she is making a choice to give up her freedom (which is her most precious commodity) and spend a couple of quiet hours in her kennel when she decides she wants food more then freedom. 

Recently I’ve allowed her to end her own training sessions too. Instead of making it a point that *I* am the one the initiates and end training and play sessions and thus *I* am the one that controls resources, attention, and routines - I've given that control back to her when I can. 

What have I learned in this experiment? 

Foremost I have learned that given options and a way to control significant aspects of her life, Tess makes good decisions with less stress then if those same choices are imposed on her

I want to emphasize that Tess isn't allowed to go wild without any type of structure or regulation even though she has increased autotomy. Pleas for a lunch go ignored (and there isn't much opportunity for her to ask at the "wrong" time anyways since I'm home in the mornings and evenings mostly), and ignoring cues isn't allowed. She still isn't allowed on the counter, or in the trash, and bolting through the door to chase the neighbor's cat that suns itself on our front patio is still off limits. 

However with less extrinsic psychological control on her (I'm telling you to do something so now you must decide whether to obey or be naughty) she seems more capable of practicing instrinsic control (I know the right answer for the situation is to ask by sitting instead of asking by pawing), gives me less stress signals, and seems more capable of willingly following extrinsic requests when I do make them (leave a very stimulating play session with her best friend and come over to me). 

In conjunction with giving her more autonomy I've also started giving her less in other areas. It's well documented that humans suffer from decision making fatigue and depletion of willpower, and I believe this also occurs in horses and dogs. Thus I limit the number of times I have to ask her to use self control so she has more left over for when I need it. So, I'm mindful of when I'm asking her to do things that require her to decide to make the right choice when she would prefer not to (don't scarf food off the plate that I left on the floor), and if I know it's going to be a HARD choice for her to make, and there's no reason to have her practice that level self control (we aren't training, she isn't going to get a gold star/awesome reward for making a good choice, the reward of being naughty is so much greater then any risk of "negative" from me) then I remove the choices completely. Such as putting her on a leash while I sit in my chair. By doing so, I have set her up for success by not leaving her with any sort of option for a "bad choice", both preserving her willpower, her decision-making ability, and lowering her stress level (and mine!). 

This combination of spending time on either end of the spectrum - removing choice and setting her up for success, while also giving her more autonomy for other things she cares about - and minimizing the time "in the middle" where she's obeying commands and having to  to work really hard to ignore what she really wants to do is working well. 

Overnight I have a dog that is more likely to stay in the house then dash out the door after a dog or a cat if the front door is accidentally left ajar. A dog that is more likely to ask to go outside by sitting by the door instead of pawing at it. A dog that no longer attempts to figure out the trash can lid in order to get to the contents. A dog that doesn't scheme to drag whatever poor stuffed animal she's currently obssessed with out to destroy it the minute the spare bedroom door is left open. A dog that is more likely to look at me and sit if she spots a bird or a cat that she wants to stare at and chase. A dog who is excited to follow cues and commands when I do ask. 

In summary, I have a dog with impulse control that is more likely to go to great lengths to communicate me her wants and needs, rather then demand and then take matters in her own hands. And this is a very good thing indeed. 

I don't think I could have necessarily done this without the previous foundation of training that Tess had. But I do think it's a natural progression of that training. Much like my 16 year old proven endurance horse enjoys a different sort of relationship and freedom within the partnership then her 3 year old half sister has, the 4 year old Tess enjoys certain priveleges that her 2 year old self could not have been successful with. Training dogs and horses never completely stops but what happens when once things like down, sit, stay, come, and other commands are mastered, training moves beyond "commands" (and "tricks") or other behaviors done "on cue"? For my animals exploring concepts like what I've written in this post is part of that ever evolving training journey. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

I don't think that is a good idea


Something I reiterated when they then both tried to exit at the same time and Tess caught her paw between the bars and screamed bloody murder and made me think it was broken for a whole 30 seconds.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dear Tess

Dear Tess.

Just because you appear to have opposable thumbs does not mean you get to use them to gain you life rewards. Just because you CAN doesn't make it acceptable, even if you think the benefit risk ratio is stacked in your favor.

Sincerely, Mel



I've been pretending not to notice your predilection to for sleeping next to OTHER people's feet, even with your lousy excuse of being able to better see me watch me stare at me creepily...but today, when I found you under my husband's desk even as I was working at mine I found myself at a loss for words. REALLY??? Is it THAT hard to sometimes act like you like me for more than cookies and lifting up the toilet seat for you to drink out of your preferred water bowl?



Matt agrees that it's scary creepy how you stare at me from across the room. Just come sleep at my feet and under my desk please.