Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 28

Group Class 2 – July 1

When we arrived at the facility, I put Spur’s muzzle on. Again, as much as we hate to see him in it, and as pitiful as he looks, it’s still just to make the other participants more relaxed with him, knowing they cannot get bitten if he acts up.

Sam ran the group lesson, but Courtney was also there working a private lesson with another client. When we got there it was similar to a dog park, or doggie social. A few dogs were off leash and one approached Spur. I didn’t know who the owner was so I called out, “Please get your dog! Please get your dog!” The dog was removed before any issues could pop up. But then, another dog came to greet Spur and the greeting wasn’t as nice. It didn’t last long and didn’t mar the beginning of the class. Although for a while there, Spur was sitting all by himself since everyone moved with their dogs to another area of the driveway. “Spur, you’re the one who gets to sit in the corner all by himself.”

As the class started, Spur did great with weaves, stays, comes, running comes. When they started an exercise where they rounded a circle, Spur got distracted by another dog and Doug had to pull him out of the line. The exercise then turned into “Spur-in-the-middle” and he did fine. Doug said Spur was so focused on him that he probably didn’t realize what was going on around him. I said, “That’s the entire point!” Doug was surprised; almost as if it finally dawned on him, that if there was going to be the chance of an incident, Doug needed to grab Spur’s attention and keep it. How many weeks have I been telling him this???

The class ended with a game of Place Board Tic-Tac-Toe and a group picture. Spur did not have any loud outbursts the entire class. And afterward, he got to visit with his favorite trainer, Courtney and even give kisses without his muzzle.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Personal Observation Regarding Shock Collars

Personal Observation, July 1

Oh, a few months or so ago, a friend on GooglePlus (G+) who is also a dog lover made a post on his G+ account. It said something to the effect of, “People who use shock collars on their dogs should be tazered to see how they like it. Makes me sad and pissed.” One of his friends responded, “I don’t understand it either. It’s for lazy owners who don’t want to train.” That was the only comment my friend had regarding his post. I’m sure this was not directed at me; however, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Especially since I am now one of those people he thinks should be tasered.

At the time he posted it, we were only a couple of weeks into our training with the e-collar. We were still not totally on board with the whole e-collar solution. And we hadn’t really seen much of any results by that point. However, his post made me sad and angry. Would he look down on me for putting an e-collar on my dog? What should I care? He hasn’t lived with the issues we have. He may not realize the amount of money, time and training we’ve already put into this dog, without result, and how much money, time and training we’re still putting into this dog. AND, the “shock collar” is a valid method of training for a dog with these issues. Lucky for him he had a dog that could be trained without NEEDING the additional tool called a “shock collar.” He doesn’t realize that, if not for us, looking for every solution we can find to help Spur, this precious dog may end up in a place where he may not be appreciated the way we do, nor treated as well.

Let’s just say that Doug and I were totally fed up with Spur’s antics and decided to return him to his breeder (which the breeder, as a GOOD breeder has offered to do.) I’m sure the breeder would make every effort to get Spur placed in the “right” home. But finding a “right” home for a dog that acts like ours is most likely few and far between. Doug and I have often thought the “right” home for Spur would be one out in the country, on a farm, where there are few “visitors.” Where Spur’s owner does not take him to town to meet and greet; where Spur can love and protect his flock and never have to be bothered with anyone other than his flock. Really? How many homes like that are there?

So, even if Doug were to decide to do that, we felt it was in Spur’s best interest to be civil enough toward a stranger so that that stranger would indeed take a second look at him, rather than being scared off by Spur’s aggressive-like lunging and barking. We needed to do the best we could by him before turning him over to someone else, because the next person may not be as patient and understanding. Spur may not give his heart as quickly to the next person before that next person gets fed up with him. What if…? Doug LOVES Spur, even if he realizes that maybe he’s not the right owner for Spur. Would that next owner also decide to give him up because of his antics? What about the owner after that? Where would it end?

So, Doug LOVES Spur. And Spur LOVES Doug. And even with all the work that still needs to go into Spur, I seriously doubt that Doug will return him to the breeder.

That being said, we continue trying to “help” Spur. We tried the positive reinforcement training for 8 months with little success. We tried a Cesar Millan method of jabbing him in the shoulder and “Shhhoosh-ing” him when he became out of control. When we consulted with several “behavior modification” trainers, each of them suggested the e-collar. The first trainer that told me this, well, I cried. I still get choked up when I think about what the e-collar really is. The first two trainers only wanted to tell us our risk for having a dog with his type of attitude. The third, Turk, was the only one that told us that he liked what he saw in Spur.

Back to my friend’s post. We’ve been working with the e-collar on Spur for three months now. He’s not fixed, and we have much more work to do, but I think he is better. It’s time for us to immerse him with the public. That’s going to include taking him to places with lots of people and other dogs; restaurant patios, public parks and dog parks, eventually dog sports trials like herding, agility, Frisbee and such. Spur is getting to a point where he understands much more quickly that a little tingle at level 20 (out of 100) and us calling out AAAAaaa means he needs to readjust his attitude and refocus on us. We may not be there this week, or next, but it’s coming and we’ll be there soon. And if I meet up with my friend at the dog park, he should know that I will have the e-collar on my dog; it’s for my friend’s safety as well. I just wish he could also know the road we’ve taken to get to this point; to be able to comfortably take my dog out in public, without fear.

Really, I’ll be doing it for my dog’s freedom, so he CAN go out in public, and not be hidden away on some guy’s farm or who-knows-where.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 27

Dinner with Erica and Jalyn, June 30

Expecting Erica and Jalyn for dinner, we put Spur’s collar on him, ran him (and Denali) around the back yard for a bit, then crated him because sometimes they just knock on the door and let themselves in. Ian heard a car door in the driveway and went to go check. Another car door and Denali barked. They were here. Denali barked some more. I could hear Spur stand up and get on his “ready” inside his crate. Denali quieted down when they came in. We immediately headed into the kitchen, where they ignored Spur, but he was good. No barking. Maybe an “oof” or two, but nothing more than that. We gave them a small bowl of little treats to feed Spur through his crate. We encouraged Jalyn to talk to him. Ask him to “sit” and “down.” Treat! Lots of treats! He did really well!

After we ate dinner, we let Spur out of the crate. He was very pleasant! Sniffing everyone, wiggling his nubbie, sitting patiently for treats! “Paw” and “Other Paw” were also requests made of him and he performed perfectly. Erica commented many times that this was a completely different Spur from the last time she’d seen him (two months ago.) The only time he got loud was when Erica sent Jalyn out to the car to get her purse. Jalyn came in the back door as we were all in the kitchen. Spur must have been startled by the “intruder.” His outburst caused Jalyn to jump. We called out to him. He quieted quickly and allowed Jay to enter. We had no other issues with him the entire evening. Good job, Spur.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 26

First Official Group Class, June 29

We picked up a muzzle for Spur at the Petco. I made the executive decision to put it on Spur for his group class. I knew it would make the other participants less nervous around him; therefore, they’d be more relaxed and less likely to set off something in him. Doug was feeling too sorry for him; shock collar AND muzzle. I’ll admit, Spur did look rather pitiful, but at this point, I think it was definitely the right thing to do.

When we walked up to the class, Spur didn’t make a bark nor “oof” at any other dogs or humans. Introductions were made and there were three other dogs there that were dog aggressive. (As the class continued, a few late comers showed up and several of their dogs were also dog aggressive.) They started with a weave exercise, through the other dogs/handlers. Spur did great, no noticeable issues. It seemed like he knew that, with the muzzle on, trying to act up with the others would have been moot. He acted just as sane and well-balanced as all the other dogs. The ONLY issue we had was while the dogs were taking a break (it was getting rather hot) and “Daisy” (a known bully) was standing beside the relaxing Spur. We were chatting with the other owners in the shade when I looked down and saw an odd look in Spur’s eye. And then his lip quivered. Just as I said Aaa-Aaa, Spur jumped up at Daisy and Daisy didn’t back down. Both of them, up on their hind legs! Both of them with their mouths at each other’s necks! Lots of noise! Doug was able to pull Spur away and take him for a walk. Daisy’s mom apologized and claimed she didn’t see any of it start. After Spur’s walk with Doug, he was back into the class and ready to work as if nothing happened. Except for the incident with Daisy, Spur was awesome!

After class, Sam asked if we had questions, concerns, comments. I explained that when we started, Spur was human aggressive. Now it seems he’s got a mix of Human and Dog aggression. Sam explained that really, he’s just dog aggressive with dogs that are not balanced. I agreed, but still voiced my concerns about the turn of attitude. She encouraged us to keep coming to group classes (which we were planning, anyway, because we know that all the exposure he can get can only help him,) and that if it doesn’t get any better, we’ll schedule a private class at a dog park.

As we were walking to the car, Daisy’s mom drove up and stopped to let us know that the incident was not 100% Spur’s fault. She explained that, while Daisy will not bite, she is a bully and will not stand down. She said Daisy likes to play and was most likely staring at Spur as an invite. Spur took it the wrong way, and Daisy didn’t back down. Hence the incident. I stood in that parking lot for a good 30 minutes talking with Daisy’s mom about all sorts of stuff. She was the one who, at an earlier class (May 18,) told us she had had a human aggressive shepherd and encouraged us back then that it wouldn’t be cured, but it would get better.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 25

A trip to the Petco, June 27

I needed to run to Mooresville to pick up some kitty litter from the BJ’s club. We decided to take Spur because of the proximity to two large-chain pet stores and he’d have the opportunity to practice his manners.

We stopped in the Petco. We hadn’t planned on purchasing anything; just a quick walk around the store to see if we could run into people and work on his training. Spur was doing wonderfully, heeling at Doug’s side, looking up at him when Doug asked for his attention, sitting at the appropriate times when Doug stopped. We made a round about the store and picked up a fleecy mat for the kitties and tried on some muzzles. We opted to purchase one to use on him at group classes, just to give the other participants some peace of mind.

As we headed for the register to pay, we met the same trainer from 6/19 (and one time previous.) She recognized Spur and approached us without looking at him. I handed her treats. She told us how happy she was to see us and Spur out practicing. Spur was curious about the treats he saw me hand to her. He was much more friendly with her than his previous visit. The trainer spotted another couple that she knew from her training classes and asked the man to help us by offering a treat to Spur. Spur took the treat, tentatively, but without barking. We also asked another male employee to help. Spur really liked this guy and sniffed for more treats. Even a passerby shopper was curious about Spur and we were able to get her to offer a treat. Spur gave a lip quiver and small growl, but the woman didn’t seem to let it bother her and was able to give Spur the treat. We praised him for all his good manners!

As we got up to the registers, Spur caught sight of another dog that he felt he needed to exclaim something. Bar-rahr-rah-rar… Oh, Spur! Doug had him under control relatively quickly. After I paid and we headed for the door, another dog came in that Spur decided he did not like. Bar-rahrah-rah… Jeez, Spur! We just had a very nice trip to the pet store and you behaved beautifully! Why do you have to go and ruin it? We got him outside to the sidewalk, still near the door so we could still practice. Other people and children came out and walked in. Not a peep from Spur. We had him “down” on the sidewalk to chill out and relax. A couple walked out and the man eyed up Spur.

“Have you taken him to see Dogs By Andy?” the man asked in a thick southern accent.

It took me a while for my brain to decipher what he asked me. Then I answered, “Oh, well, we had a consultation up there but we didn’t like him.”

“Oh really?” the man was curious.

I told him we found a place down in Pineville and we’re working with trainers down there.

“That’s a real long drive,” the woman said like we were nuts to go that far.

“Yeah, but it’s the place we felt was best for him.”

Thinking back to our consultation with Turk… there is video out there. I’ve seen it. Spur, in the back seat of the Civic, windows rolled all the way up, maniac, barking, an uncontrollable dog tearing at the back window. I remember taking him across the front of the animal hospital to the side entrance for the Training Company; Spur, lunging, barking, acting like he wanted to eat anyone that wasn’t Doug or myself. Not once did Turk say “oh, you have a real problem on your hands. That, there, is a liability.” NOPE! Instead, Turk said to us, “Oh! I LIKE it! What personality! We can WORK with THIS! I LIKE it!” And that’s pretty much how we decided that Off Leash Training was the place for us.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 24

Class Day 12, May 22 – Graduation?

We knew the day was coming because of the many mentions of Graduation in our last class. At the facility, we were the only ones present (there were no other private or group classes going on.) Turk and Sam greeted us. I got Spur out of the car and immediately took him into a brisk walk. A couple of times up and back and I felt we were ready to go greet Sam and Turk. Spur was a little wary of Turk, but didn’t bark. Doug needed to use the restroom, so I had control of Spur for a bit. We tested him on some of his obedience. Two place boards, placed about 20 feet apart. Walk Spur to one of them; place; drop leash; walk to other board (with Spur in a “stay.”) Call Spur to the second place board. He did everything PERFECT. The obedience was hardly ever an issue. Even tried having him Heel with the leash dropped and dragging on the ground. PERFECT. Doug got back and Sam got her dog to add distraction. We walked the sidewalk up toward the AutoBell. Spur did Great! We walked back to the facility. No issues. We decided to go off in search of distractions. We drove to a ball park that was deserted. No distractions here; so we drove to another park. This one only had a hand full of people. There was a small lake with a path all the way around. We walked the path, Spur being distracted by goose poo. When we got to the side with the children’s playground, a man with his toddler showed up. Spur ignored both of them! Next up, the gaggle of geese. Sam and her dog went first to clear the sidewalk of the geese. Spur saw them, but didn’t feel like he needed to investigate them. We heard one slightly hissing at us but kept going without incident. There were turtles in the lake. Spur was curious about the turtles, but Doug was able to get his attention back. We continued… at the end of the lake, there was a man sitting on a swing bench. Spur didn’t seem to notice. We continued on the path. When we got back to the side where we began, there was a man with a walker and his caretaker. Doug said Spur didn’t like the walker too much, but he didn’t make any movements toward it, nor did he bark. Our last challenge was walking by a bench that had a person with her Chihuahua. The person and the dog were still, so Spur didn’t have any issues with them, either. A very non-eventful trip to the park, for sure! As we headed back to the cars, a few more people with large items (boxes, plant hangers, Boston ferns) had arrived at the covered shelter. Spur walked by them all without a second look. If only ~all~ our outings were this non-eventful!

We drove back to the facility. Same gave us the lecture that we need to start taking him to more places where ~we~ feel uncomfortable taking him. More morning trips to the park(s) while they’re still quiet. Then, gradually finding more people. And, oh, by the way, Stand over here for your Graduation Picture. LOL! Next up… Group Classes! Oh jeez!

(if I ever find a copy of that picture, I'll post it here.)

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 23

Saturday, June 22 – Quick, Pre-Class Visit to the Vet

Spur is due for his Heartworm medicine. The vet’s office opens at 8:00 am on Saturdays. We decided to run Spur up there to pick up his pill then head on to class. As we pulled up in the parking lot, a woman with two black Scotties was headed from her car to the entrance. I decided to go into the office, first, to announce that Spur was here (in case they needed to weigh him) and we just needed a pill. It took a while for the Scotty lady to get dogs weighed and checked in. Then, the receptionist needed to pull up Spur’s records. She verified his weight and pill and went to the back to get it for me.

By this time, outside, I hear Spur barking. The vet had come up the hill from her house and Spur got wound up. The barking set the Scotties off inside the lobby. I turned around to look outside after the vet came in, and Spur was carrying on about a statue; he barks at this statue every time he comes to the vet. Doug was trying to lure him to the statue with treats. Only feeding him when Spur would sniff quietly. But after the treat, Spur would back up and begin barking all over again. He really hates this little statue.

When I got the pill and paid, I went to exit the office and Spur, not realizing I had gone in the building, began barking madly at me (to him I was now some random stranger.) Even calling his name and approaching him didn’t calm him down. It took longer than I had expected but he finally realized I was mommy and quieted.