Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Happy birthday Teri!

9 years ago my parent's dog Teri was born. Teri's still one of my babies, even though she's really my parent's dog. I helped pick her out. I was there when we first brought her home. I helped train her that first summer they had her before I headed back out to Indiana to school.

Teri, unlike my Dahlia, was bought. I know. Horror of all horrors! I'm sure if my parents could go back they wouldn't do the same thing again. She came from a backyard breeder who bred mutts. Teri was supposedly a Whoodle (a Wheaten terrier/poodle mix) and while I suppose that's possible, she doesn't really resemble one. She's only 20 pounds (both of the parents, who we met, were much bigger than that) and I wonder if the parents we met really were her parents. The BYB was not the worst one out there though. She socialized the pups very well and Teri is a good dog, even if she is a spoiled brat (fault for this lies squarely in my parent's lap!).

So happy birthday Teri! Many dog biscuits to you!


Wordless Wednesday


Lessons learned

It's hard to believe it's been over a week since I last posted. I vowed to be better, to write more, to keep up with things, but it doesn't always happen.

At any rate, this has been a rough week for me and most of it centers around a new training class I recently signed up for. Dahlia is a fantastic dog. In fact, if I were a normal pet owner I probably wouldn't ever have taken her to one obedience class. She came to us completely housetrained (in the almost two years we've had her she has had only a couple accidents in the house and both of those times she was ill). She didn't jump up on people, walked fairly well on the leash, was able to be left alone in the house with nothing untoward happening, was good with other dogs and people and kids and cats. Really, for the average pet owner, she's a dream.

But I'm not average. And I enjoy doing things with my dog. To date, I've been fairly careful about finding places that focus on positive training. Or, if they don't specifically focus on it, are open to working with Dahlia in a positive way.

I took classes at Petsmart (as much as some people "poo-poo" big box store training, we had a great experience there and they do promote positive training), a CGC class at the local SPCA (the instructor was mainly positive but willing to work with those who were less so), and then an Agility for Fun class at Blue Prints Dog Studio (100% positive). I hadn't done anything with Dahlia like that since last May and decided it was high time to get back involved.

I wanted a place that did real agility, maybe rally. I want to have fun with Dahlia and I think those classes tend to be more fun. I'm not so into the obedience side of things. It's too strict, too structured for me. It was difficult finding a local place that did agility and/or rally. I found some really nice looking ones 45 to 90 minutes away from the Syracuse area, but around town? Nothing.

Then I stumbled upon a local school, just a 10 minute drive away from me. I was somewhat hesitant as their website didn't list any sort of solid training philosophy. At least at the Syracuse Obedience and Training Club (SOTC) they straight up tell you they require "training collars" (read: choke chains), so I knew that was a place to avoid. This new school I found mentioned something about working with each individual dogs to meet their needs.

It left me feeling a little bit nervous, but I signed up anyway, hoping for the best.

Instead what I got was a class with three dogs on choke chains and prong collars, owned by three people who wouldn't even look at me much less speak to me. The first day in class was so utterly unwelcoming that I felt a little bit lost. Where was the camaraderie I had experienced in previous classes? Nowhere to be found. One of the dogs was severely reactive to other dogs, even from 20-30 feet away, and would bark and snap and snarl at any dog that so much as looked at him. Every time he would bark at another dog, the owner would yank him hard on his prong collar. Every single time. And every single time he would bark more and whine more until he finally would stop after a particularly hard yank.

No one stopped her.

The instructor approved and pointed out why it was "working."

I cringed but continued on, trying my best to ignore what this woman was doing with her dog. The other folks were continually jerking their dogs as well. And Dahlia? She was getting more stressed all the time, which worried me. A lot.

Then I discovered that the room itself was distressing to my dear, gentle, super soft and sensitive dog. There were mirrors across the back of the room and Dahlia was freaked out by them. When we would walk near them she would shy away from them, try to pull me away from them. The instructor told me to keep going and drag her along, that she was controlling me by acting fearful. Acting. Yes, my dog is acting fearful to dominate me. She didn't use the "d" word, but I think the concept was the same.

And the next time we walked around by the mirrors, she sort of forced me to walk closer to them and drag Dahlia past them.

This is a technique called "flooding." It's not something I agree with and I was uncomfortable with it. All week it bothered me that allowed her to manipulate me in such a way. The choke chains, the prongs, the flooding, the leash pops. It all culminated in me walking out of class the following week after only 10 minutes. I had begun the class that day with the honest intention of giving it a second chance. I tried to show Dahlia the mirrors weren't scary but I was unable to continue with my positive training as the woman with the reactive dog insisted on coming to the back of the room and standing on one side of it. I'm sure it was clear that I was trying to acclimate Dahlia to the mirrors, but she didn't seem to care. Ultimately, the instructor told me to drag Dahlia again and I stopped. I told her no. And then said I couldn't deal with a class that was so completely the opposite of all I stood for.

And I left.

It was the best decision of my life.

So what lesson did I learn? I learned that if a website doesn't state up front that they do positive training, then they probably don't. In the future, I'll be avoiding any place that I'm hesitant about. I'll go with my gut.

Lesson learned.

In the mean time, I found another place slightly outside of Syracuse, just about a 20 minute drive from my house, called It's All About the Dogs. They do all positive training, no chokes, prongs, or shock collars allowed. It's all about fun. It sounds like the perfect place! We start there in June.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How time flies!

Two years ago today I set out on a transport which changed my life. I had no idea when I signed up for it that it would, but I should have known. I'm not so sure I believe in the concept of "fate" but if it exists, then it was certainly fate that I went on this transport.

I had been signed up for two transports for April 20, 2008. The first one got switched to the day before and due to a gig, I was unable to do it. Someone else took my spot and the transport went on without me. The second one was one of those cases that always makes me a little peeved. Someone had asked me to do a leg of a transport, I wrote back and said I could do it, and then never heard back. When I finally wrote, it turned out they had someone else for the leg but hadn't bothered to write and let me know (most unfair since letting me know frees me up to transport another dog!).

With those two transports lined up, I wasn't able to transport the BBD someone contacted me about. When they fell through, I wrote to the person to see if they still needed me for the leg. They did. I ended up saving someone from driving over 160 miles each way to help this dog. Good all around!

At this time, David and I were getting ready to move and were setting up to welcome a dog into our home. I had been looking through petfinder, found myself drawn to several dogs, and was keeping an eye on many different dogs so we could start pursuing one when we got into our new apartment. But then I arrived in Rochester, the person I was meeting opened the back of her SVU, and there sat this beautiful black dog (who was more "medium" than "big") who leaned forward and licked my cheek.

And I guess it was all over at that moment. I knew I had met the dog we were looking for. As luck (or unluck) would have it, my cell phone was essentially dead. I was unable to call David to tell him to meet me there to check her out. So I spent time with her alone and decided we had to have her.

Luckily for me (and Miss Dahlia!), David was most amenable to it. He trusted me to find the right dog. We immediately put in an application to adopt her and a month later we brought her home.

So while this is not her "gotcha" day, it's still an important day in all our lives! Happy "first meeting day" Dahlia!

Here's Dahlia and I on the transport two years ago.

And here we are just a couple weeks ago.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chair stealer!

I arrived home yesterday from visiting my father, who had been in the hospital after having some heart stents put in, and stopping by the grocery store. When I walked in the door, there was the lovely Miss Dahlia, just so happy to greet me.

Ok maybe she wasn't so happy to see me so much as she was happy to smell the big roast beef I had in one of the bags. No doubt she would have been all too happy to dig into it and then look up at me with big, innocent looking amber eyes to ask "And so what are you going to have for dinner?"


After fawning all over my dog for a few minutes, I proceed to head to the kitchen to put the groceries away. Usually Dahlia is at my heals, hoping for a handout...if not from the food I just brought home, then from the goody bags in the hall closet.

But not this time...

The groceries get put away without 50 pounds of black, fluffy dog underfoot. Thank God for small favours.

Then I return to the living room, ready to kick back in my recliner, throw on my electric blanket (yes it's spring; no it's not warm here in Central New York, why do you ask?), and continue reading the very interesting book I've been reading (The Raindaldi Quartet by Paul Adam, for those who are interested in murder mysteries, violin making, or both).

And what do I spy when I get into the living room? This:


"I'm sorry Mom, but what did you say about kicking back in my recliner?

The obvious solution at this point is to remove said dog from the recliner. It's my recliner after all, isn't it? But solutions are never really quite that simple.

I ended up on the couch.

At least she didn't steal my electric blanket.