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.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 22

Trips to Petco and Tractor Supply, June 19 & 20

On a Wednesday evening, we took Spur to the Petco. When we arrived in the parking lot, Doug walked him around the non-busy portion of the parking lot to get his attention. Spur did well relatively quickly, so we headed inside. Doug has really been doing a great job, trying to grab and keep Spur’s attention when we know there are going to be distractions. We headed to the back of the store to pick up some food for the kitties. Then we ventured over to the other side to look for doggie snacks. There were employees with carts and doors to the stockroom banging. Spur did great! We stopped to look for a toy, but nothing really grabbed Spur’s attention. So we headed for the rest of the toys at the front of the store. He did well when he spotted other people. Doug kept his attention and Spur didn’t bark or even oof. We saw the Petco trainer there. We had spoken to her before when we were shopping for a Thundershirt for him. Back then, I felt she was competent, so when I saw her this time, I gave her some treats to share with Spur. She kept her side to him and didn’t look at him and was able to feed him. His curiosity earned him more treats. We talked with her for about 10 minutes. She was finally able to look at him in the eye without any issue. We were close to the entrance of the store and there were maybe two times that he got loud, but I corrected him with the collar, and Doug corrected him with the leash. He quieted quickly. The trainer reminded us to praise the good behavior when he calmed down and looked at Doug again. When we were done talking with the trainer, we headed for the checkout. The cashier was also able to feed Spur treats without any incident. Pretty good trip.

On Thursday, we took him to the Tractor Supply. It’s amazing how busy this little place can get. We walked him in the parking lot and he was pretty relaxed. So we headed into the store. He didn’t bark or even “oof” at anyone. We picked out a stuffed trout dog toy because we felt he’d earned it. As I stood in line to pay, Doug took Spur outside. Still, Spur behaved very well.

He was pretty proud of his trout when he got home. LOL! He’s already gnawed off the fins and is currently working on the tail. Hah! Denali likes to squeak it. And they both love to play tuggie with it, too!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 21

Class, June 15 – cancelled (by me)

Terrible storms came through our area on Thursday before class. We didn’t have any damage, but a friend of ours in Albemarle did. She had an 85 year old oak tree fall in her front yard, luckily missing her house and any neighbors. I volunteered Doug and Ian to go help her clean it up. So, I cancelled Spur’s class for Saturday, June 15. I am sad to say that we did not take him anywhere new to practice over the weekend, either.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 20

Quick Walk, Monday, June 10

I got home at a reasonable time, so Doug and I went out to eat. When we got home, he debated mowing the lawn, but it was still too wet from storms we had earlier in the day. He opted to saw some limbs off our dying pine tree.

I strapped Spur’s collar on him, packed a snack baggie with bite sized treats and headed off on a quick walk. On our trip away from the house, we encountered nobody, nor any distractions. A neighbor had some beautiful Clematis growing on their mailbox so I asked Spur if he wanted to stop and sniff. Uh, wrong thing to ask an intact male dog. He dove into the Clematis, turned and raised his leg. Just then, the resident dog came barreling up the driveway wearing a similar collar to Spur’s; I assumed, since the dog stopped in his driveway, it was part of an invisible fence system. I’ve heard how sometimes dogs with invisible fences will bear the punishment of the fence to go after something they’re intent on getting. Spur answered back “BAH-RAH-RAH-RAH-RAH!!!” I wanted to remove him from the incident, worrying that the resident dog could still come through his “fence.” I looked to see if the road was clear. A dump truck was coming in one direction; a large pick-up was coming from the other. I could not back Spur up into the street and he was blocking my way for me to continue (dragging) him in the direction we were headed. “BAH-RAH-RAH-RAH-RAH-RAH-RAH! I! WILL! EAT! YOU! FOR! DINNER!!! BAH-RAH-RAH-RAH-RAAAAA!” The remote had been set on 20 and was not affecting him. I was too busy keeping hold of his leash, trying NOT to get hit by traffic and trying to move him to a safer location that I could not increase the level on his remote. When the trucks passed (I was a little miffed at the pick-up as it had been in the lane that I was walking in. I’m sure he saw I was having an issue with my dog, yet he barely slowed down, nor gave me any additional space) I was able to get Spur to walk on beyond the Clematis house. I then was able to turn up his remote and I gave him a few extra corrections as well as a few choice words. I had planned on continuing further down the street but then decided to pass the Clematis house several times, looking for the resident dog to provide additional distraction, but that dog seemingly disappeared. Two houses away (back in the direction of our own house) a man with a chainsaw was trimming limbs from his trees. The chainsaw was noisy, so I walked Spur several times back and forth in front of this house, too. Then, in the yard between Clematis and Chainsaw, a little girl came across her front yard. She saw Spur, but she was more interested in talking to the man with the chainsaw so she was not a problem for Spur, either.

Spur and I continued our walk back toward our own house. Beyond, on the road, I spotted another neighbor who owns a friendly Bernese Mountain Dog. Walker was unleashed with his owner. When Walker spotted us, I noticed his walk became more of a trot. I pulled Spur into a driveway and we practiced puppy pushups. The neighbor waved to me from the distance. I waved back. Then the neighbor took Walker across his front yard. Spur and I continued our walk. As we passed Walker’s home, he was already put up and the neighbor and his wife were getting into their car. Spur didn’t have any issues with this.

As we got even closer to our home, our other neighbors, the Smiths* were out for an evening walk. MK and John had never personally met Spur, but MK has seen his photos on Facebook. “Awwwww! There’s Spur!” MK said to John. I waved and had Spur sit in a driveway as they approached. I cautioned them that Spur is not people friendly, but let them know I had treats that they could throw at him. Spur sat quietly with a few tiny “oofs.” John and MK stood at mid-street and threw the treats at Spur. He did well and John was able to hand the treat bag back to me at the end of our visit. Spur did great with the Smiths! I told him so as we walked the rest of the way back to our house. He heels so nicely and I love it when he looks up at me while we’re walking. Dang he’s cute!

(*names have been changed for privacy)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 19

Class Day 11, June 8

Our private class time coincided with a Group Class in Huntersville. We made arrangements the week prior to meet with our trainer in Huntersville and work our private class alongside the Group Class.

When we arrived, Spur seemed wound up. He didn’t misbehave too badly in the car. A few barks, but I corrected him and he quieted down. As I got him out of the car, I immediately headed into a heel, walking quickly with him in the deserted portion of the parking lot, trying to gain his attention with the remote. He did not seem to be responding.

Our trainer, Sam, walked over to greet us. Spur was on rather decent behavior to greet her, though he still wasn’t focused and ready to work. Doug took his leash as I held his remote and we headed toward the class. Sam’s instructions to us went mostly ignored or not heard by Doug and Spur went nutso when he came in contact with several dogs. This group class had at least two dogs that were not dog-friendly; I turned his remote up to try to correct him, but he didn’t seem fazed. We walked past the Group Class, Spur having a nasty reaction to approximately 4 or 5 dogs in the class. Past the Group Class, we had him “place” on a sitting bench. Sam tightened his collar (though it was pretty snug when I placed it on him.) We then heeled him around the quiet portion of the building to get his composure together and get him relaxed. Sam informed us that Turk had expected us to “graduate” this day. Doug and I were doubtful, especially after seeing his attitude with several of the dogs in class. Actually, it seemed like he had more issues with dogs on this day than he had with people. She also asked us again to reiterate his history. Then she asked us if we considered using a prong collar on him. We were pretty adamant about not using one on him. We reminded her that the e-collar was still a difficult thing for us to approve of and that’s as far as we wanted to take his correction(s.)

As we came back around the building toward the Group Class, a German shepherd set Spur off again. The Shepherd didn’t seem aggressive, but he did seem like he was going to stand his ground and protect himself if Spur were to try to harm him. Another dog was highly dog aggressive and wore a muzzle. Spur also tried to start something with that dog. I could see, by the twitching of Spur’s scruff, that the collar was working and working well, but Spur seemed to ignore the corrections as Doug dragged him past the class.

So disappointing. So frustrating. So discouraging. As of last week, I was hopeful that we were on the right track. This week seems like a disaster compared to last. We walked around the quiet part of the building again and came back to the class. We tried walking past the group again and this time, Spur stayed a bit quieter and more focused on Doug. Once Doug was able to get Spur to walk back and forth in front of the class, we came to a gathering area where Sam wanted to test Spur’s obedience skills he would need to “graduate.” Honestly, Spur’s attitude had Doug and I pretty sure that graduation on this day was out of the question.

A “place” board was set out and Spur did his place and stay. Doug could go to the end of the 10 foot leash and walk all the way around Spur and Spur stayed put. Sam really wanted to “graduate” Spur today because that’s what Turk had expected. We were not ready.

We let Doug practice handling Spur with the remote. I held back to watch. The Group Class took a break; they gathered around a patio table for a photo op. After that, they played “Spur-in-the-Middle.” Spur did well. So then the Group Class lined up, two lines facing each other. Spur was supposed to walk down the center. But his little attitude toward some of the dogs showed it’s ugly, nasty head again. Oh, Spur!

Our homework for this week: 3x… Go out and find trouble. Take him to places that are uncomfortable, work through his issues, correcting him as necessary, repeating until he calms down. Sam continued to press the “graduation” thing. We have already scheduled private lessons through the end of June. She and Courtney stated they want us to begin attending group classes, even if we have to sit out to the side, or work with him alongside the group until he can be included back in the group. Try a Group Class and if it ends up horribly, we can drop back to a Private lesson. I don’t know. And, while I thought he did much better with people this class; he was much worse with dogs.

When, Spur? When will you snap out of it???

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 18

Another Visit with Aunt Jann

Jann had called Doug on Friday, to offer encouragement. She was happy with our visit with Spur last weekend and wanted to offer another opportunity to visit again. So we took her up on it. Again, we pulled up behind Jann’s garage. Doug took Spur and his remote while I went to knock on Jann’s door to give her some treats to throw at him.

Jann had a mobile vet come Friday night to care for her cat Toby and the vet ended up staying for 3 hours, talking to Jann about all sorts of issues; from caring for Toby to how to approach a fearful dog. A tip the vet told Jann was for us to offer the dog something with Jann’s scent and then treat him. That way he associates Jann’s scent with yummies. So, Jann handed me a pair of her socks and told me to have Spur sniff them and then treat him. I did.

When we brought Spur around the garage into Jann’s back yard, Spur was a little bit curious, but still stand-offish. Jann called his name and threw a treat. Spur liked that and looked for more. Not once did Spur bark or even “oof.” Jann stood for a while until Spur began to relax. Doug ran into the house to use the bathroom and Jann sat down. Spur was anxious about his daddy disappearing, but I re-directed him with some “puppy pushups.” “Spur sit, Spur down, Sit, down, sit, down,” treat! “Free dog.” He walked over to Jann, sniffed her and put his paws up in her lap, looking to see if she had treats. He didn’t stay up long; he got down pretty quickly. Typically, I don’t let the dogs up like that. But I felt we were all in agreement that we were in a period of training for Spur, and if that’s what he needed to do to become more comfortable, I was okay with it. Besides, he seemed rather relaxed, and so did Jann. It was quick, and it turned out good. Jann got Spur a big bowl of water. He drank most of it then went over to the grass to lie down in the shade. He was so relaxed, it looked like he was actually going to nap. We stayed about an hour. Chatting, letting Spur know all the things he was doing right, “Good Boy, Spur!”

Wow. Just Wow.

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 17

Class Day 10, June 1

Private Class at the animal hospital. We were the only ones. There was no Group Class going on. We talked to Courtney about our homework and our progress. So, we decided to take a field trip to the closest pet shop. It wasn’t a major chain that had its own trainers, so Courtney felt like she could enter with her official training t-shirt on and not get chased out.

We practiced heeling down aisles with all the food distractions. We practiced sit-stays and comes. We had the cashier throw food at Spur. We discovered that since he already knew the command “touch” we were going to change it up. Wedging a piece of food between our fingers, we’d hold our hand, straight, and down in front of his face. “Touch” now meant he would need to place his nose to our flat hand receiving the food as reward. We tried this with a couple of the store employees. We tried this with a couple of store patrons. As it was still before 10:00 am, the store was slow, so we took him out and down the shopping center looking for other dog-likers.

“Do you like dogs?” I’d call out.

A couple of people held up their hand and said, “I don’t want to buy a dog!”

“Oh NO! I’m not trying to sell him. I’m trying to *train* him.” I’d explain to them that he’s afraid of people. I explained how to hold the treat and call “Spur, Touch.” I forgot to explain to ignore his bark and he ~did~ bark at one woman. But she explained to us that she had shepherds and she didn’t back down to Spur. Actually, as soon as he began barking, she reached her hand out to me to get more treats. She was going to do this until he calmed down. Which he did. She will never know how grateful I am for her assistance! From then on, I remembered to tell people to ignore Spur if he barks. Everyone we asked was so willing to help us! We probably had about 5 people help us out and this was in front of a grocery store!

We headed back to the pet store and had a couple more people ask Spur to “Touch.” He didn’t bark at anyone. Courtney suggested we start taking him everywhere. Including restaurants (with patios) that allow dogs. I’m reluctant to do that until we have more success with Spur. She offered some advice on how to get him to lie still at our feet; step on the leash very close to the clasp where you attach it to his collar. If he gets up, he cannot move anywhere. Most likely, he’ll just lie back down. Yeah… I’m still not ready for that. Maybe one day soon, though. What a great class!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 16

Trip to Petco, May 31

Not having met our 5 person stranger quota, when I got home from work, Doug asked what was for dinner. I told him we needed to run up to Petco so Spur could meet two more strangers. When we got in the car, I realized that what Doug had thought to be doggie treats was actually a package of kitty treats. So, the plan was, when we got to the Petco, Doug would practice some heeling in the parking lot while I ran in to get some cat food and a package of doggie treats. When I came out with the goods, I headed straight for the car. Doug was practicing a heel and walked Spur right by me, keeping his attention so Spur wouldn’t come toward me as I passed. It really was beautiful!

I put the cat food in the trunk and opened the dog treats. We walked back up toward the front entrance of the store. Doug and Spur stopped in a grassy median in the parking lot, closest to the entrance. As I spotted people, I’d call out, “Do you like dogs?” If they said, “Yes,” I continued, “My dog doesn’t like people and we’re trying to train him. Do you have a moment to help us out?” Everyone I asked was willing to help. I’d tell them not to look at my dog, and to ignore him if he barked. “Just stand straight and throw this treat at him.” I think Spur “OOF’d at one or two, but didn’t do his normal crazy, frenzied barking. When the groomer came out for her smoke break I asked her, too. I figured she’d had a lot of experience with shy, crazy dogs. She ignored my plea to stand and throw; she bent over and held the treat in a flat hand. Spur took it from her and backed up quickly. As she stood and talked with us more, Spur approached her again to sniff for more treats. I gave her more and she offered them to Spur. He was getting much more comfortable about sniffing people out to see if they had food. It was a slow night at the Petco, but I was able to get 5 people to throw (or hand) food at Spur! What PROGRESS!!! We were feeling confident, and since the store wasn’t busy, we decided to try to venture in with Spur. We found the (replacement) beehive with squeaky bees was on sale. We decided he’d done such a great job, he’d earned it. When we got to the checkout, the girl at the register remembered Spur from his last trip in and how he’d gone off on one of the store managers. She was able to feed Spur some treats and remarked on his progress. When we left the store, there were a few more people I could have asked to throw food at Spur, but we wanted to end on a good note…

We also stopped at the gas station to fill Doug’s tank, get a soda and a couple of soft pretzels. Spur hasn’t had a lot of good luck at gas stations, so while Doug filled the tank, I held Spur’s remote and tried to re-direct and distract him with treats. Another vehicle had a small yappy dog and Spur heard it. He didn’t immediately bark, but I was ready. He began to focus his sight on a man filling his car in front of us. As he began to really focus, I nicked him once. He barked once so I nicked him again and he barked one more time. That was it, so I didn’t tap anymore. And really, I don’t know if he barked because he was going to bark anyway, or if he barked because I tapped his remote. When Doug finished filling the tank, we pulled up to the convenience store for that soda and pretzels. I went in for those and Doug said Spur didn’t bark at anyone while I was in the store. What a GREAT night! What progress!!! I’m still skeptical, but I hope we’ve turned a corner!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 15

Trip to Tractor Supply, May 28

I kept reminding Doug of his homework… so he took Spur out on Tuesday night. They went up to the Tractor Supply. From what I recall, Doug said the store was not all that busy that evening. Spur had some issues when they arrived. But Doug got him to calm rather quickly. Doug was able to talk two people into getting some of Spur’s treats and throwing to Spur.

Three down, two to go.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 14

Post Class visit to Jann’s, May 25

Before class that day, we dropped our son, Ian, off at Doug’s sister’s house. Jann only lives a couple of miles from the animal hospital where classes are held. Ian was going to help his Aunt hang some shutters on her house. After our class, we returned to Jann’s to let Spur meet (again) Jann and to collect Ian. Jann’s neighborhood is one of those Neo-Traditional ones with narrow streets, the little cottage-size houses on tiny pieces of land with alleyways and garages behind. We pulled up behind Jann’s and I took Spur, and his remote, off on a quick exercise in “Heel.” As we walked the sidewalk back toward Jann’s, he spotted a stranger; it was Jann was looking at the progress on her house. He began to bark loudly and aggressively. I nicked him and reversed direction. He was really interested in the “stranger” down the sidewalk. We did a lot of back and forth walking on that sidewalk before we were able to finally make it all the way down to Jann’s. We practiced “sit” and “down.” Doug had briefed Jann on not looking at him and ignoring his bark. He gave her some treats to throw at him. Spur noticed his dad there, talking to the “stranger” and he also noticed Ian. I think those two things calmed Spur down some, but he still wasn’t too sure of that “stranger.”

The “stranger” walked into the street and called to him, “Spur, sit!” He did and she threw a treat at him. “Spur, sit!” Again, he sat and she threw another treat. He was getting used to this “stranger” when Jann’s neighbor came out to water her plants and sweep her porch. As I said, the houses in this community are spaced very close together, so really, this neighbor was not that far away from us. I worried that Spur would act up. But we held his attention with some re-directs and treats. Spur made no noise with this stranger close by.

A little while later, on the other side of the street, a man with a small dog (possibly a Maltese) were walking. The Maltese spotted us and barked, setting Spur into a terrible aggressive barking frenzy. He took off toward the man and Maltese, jerked my arm and the leash was loose. I tried grabbing the leash with my other hand and it zipped right through my fingers giving me a nasty leather burn. Luckily, Doug and Ian had been right next to me and each of them was able to grab the leash before Spur made it even ½-way into the street. The commotion caused several other dogs, inside their homes, to start barking. We could hear them all. OOPS! One across-the-street neighbor poked her head out of her front door to check on the excitement. Jann assured her that everything was under control; that Spur was visiting and in training. Really, that was the last of Spur’s negative antics for this visit. We stayed about another ½ hour to 45 minutes. Ian and Jann finished hanging the shutters on Jann’s house. We chatted. Jann got pictures and was able to feed Spur from her flat hand. He was becoming more comfortable with this “stranger” and we were able to leave on a good note.

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 13

Class Day 9, May 25

Our Private class with Sam (female) was held at the Pineville location at the same time as a Group Class was being held. Since Spur needs so much of this desensitization, I love that we have a chance to work with the extra people, dogs and distractions. It’s also such a help to have a trainer there with us to guide us when Spur gets out of hand.

We did the normal, walk around the entire Group Class while they’re practicing their activities. We walked down through the middle of the class when it was separated to two sides. Additional spectators were there (most likely also co-owners of the dogs in the Group Class, but sitting out while only one owner works with their dog.) We gave the spectators some of Spur’s food and treats and had them hold it out in a flat hand for Spur to take from them. Spur seemed to get pretty comfortable with these three spectators and continued to approach them to sniff them and see if they had more food/treats.

Probably one of the BEST activities we’ve done to date was Spur-in-the-Middle. LOL! It was similar to musical chairs for the Group Class. The class walked around a ring of place boards. When Courtney would call for them to put their dog in a sit, that’s what they had to do. Then, once the dogs were in their sit-stay, they (the owners/handlers) had to go put their foot on an empty place board. At the call of Courtney, they would call their dogs to them. All this was done with Spur, on a place board, in the center of the ring of place boards. Doug would have to keep Spur’s attention while the chaos of running, excited owners would come toward him to their place boards, and then as the dogs would also come running toward him. We did about 4 or 5 rounds of this exercise and Spur (and Doug) did an awesome job.

Homework for the week was to get at least 5 new people/strangers to throw food/treats at Spur. This would teach Spur that the sudden hand movement was not threatening, and that strangers offer good things/Yummies.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 12

Vet Visit, May 20

Doug needed to take Spur into the vet for some vaccinations, a heartworm test, etc. Doug didn’t know what the vet’s stance on e-collars was, so he opted NOT to have Spur in the collar for this visit. I was so worried about how Spur would behave. Sure enough, there’s a little (like, no more than 18” tall) bronze statue outside of the vet’s entrance that Spur just HATES! EVERY TIME I take him over there, when he gets sight of it, he begins barking furiously at it. I’ve tried to ease him over to it with treats, so he can sniff it and see it doesn’t move. It just doesn’t matter. He hates that little statue.

And this day was no exception. Doug said he tried to get Spur to sniff the statue, but Spur backed right up and kept barking. I’ll have to see if I can get a picture of this little thing. I don’t have a clue what makes Spur so wary of it.

Doug said, when they got inside, they put a muzzle on Spur. He still barked nutso and the tech asked for Spur’s leash. The tech took Spur outside for a little, calming walk so Spur wouldn’t have to feel like he was protecting Doug. The little walk helped his demeanor. The tech took him in the back for his vaccinations and HW test and he came back to the room without the muzzle. When the vet or another tech walked in, Spur would give a warning bark, but Doug was able to quiet him more quickly than usual.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 11

Class Day 8, May 18

Our class had originally been scheduled for 11:00 am, in Pineville at the Animal Hospital. However, a few weeks prior, I saw that there was going to be a group class, at 9:00 am in Huntersville. I asked on the FB page if it would be OK to bring Spur; not to participate in the class, but to work him on the side so he could get used to the distractions. At our May 11, class, Courtney agreed that she could be present at the group class to work with us in lieu of attending our 11:00 class.

Upon arriving, still in the car, Spur saw the people and dogs and began his normal, “HEY! I NEED YOU TO STAY AWAY FROM ME, MY CAR, MY PEOPLE!!!” We were able to settle him down and remove him from the car without too much display from him. Once we walked over closer to the class, he started back up. Courtney took his leash and remote and began a brisk walk away from the class, working on healing and looking at her.

As the group class lined up on the sidewalk beside the animal hospital, Doug walked Spur along the curb. Spur would pick out one or two dogs or people to go nuts on. So Frustrating! So Disheartening! When will this boy learn??? Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap… And CONTINUOUS when he goes nuts! A few more rounds of walking back and forth beside the group class, and he was beginning to ignore the excitement from the class with fewer Taps. Even when the group class practiced stays and comes (with running dogs) Doug was beginning to realize what I’ve been telling him about keeping Spur’s attention during a period of distraction. If Doug can keep Spur’s attention, Spur will ignore the activity going on behind him. It’s a wonderful thing.

There was one man there with an Australian Cattle Dog that has been known to be dog aggressive. Evidently the training is working very well for them. Spur didn’t pick up on any cues from this ACD. While practicing “Place” the man asked if he could practice walking his ACD around Spur while Spur stayed on “Place.” The man circled Spur while Doug kept Spur’s attention. The man circled closer. The man changed direction so his dog was closer to Spur. Spur did GREAT! The man then offered to take Spur’s leash and handed his ACD to me. He practiced walking around the back of Spur and stepping away. Spur stayed on his “Place.” The man, feeling more comfortable with Spur, bent down to pet Spur and Spur did his normal jump up in excitement and bumped the man’s nose. However, this time, the man, used to aggressive dogs, didn’t jump back, didn’t flinch and Spur didn’t go into any aggressive motions. The man’s family came over to see what was up since they didn’t see them in the Group Class. The family had two young girls. Spur didn’t seem to have any issue with them, even as they were fidgety and flailing arms. We all talked about our dogs and their issues.

During the class, Spur had an opportunity to join in the activity that the group class was doing. He did well. We also talked to a woman that previously owned a people aggressive shepherd. She knew exactly what we were going through. She assured us that, while it won’t get cured, it will get better. All in all, even with the few outbursts by Spur, here and there, it really ended up being a good class. The distractions were just enough to help Doug realize what he needs to do when we know Spur’s going to have an outburst.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 10

Class Day 7, May 11

I had some work to do at the office, so I drove separate from Doug. When I got there, there was another couple with their dog. Our classes were going to overlap. When Doug arrived with Spur, Spur gave his normal, loud, aggressive “Hello” to the other students. Will he ever get over it??? The other students headed up to work inside the garage. It was a sunny day and warmer than it’s been in a long time. More typical for May.

We introduced “place” to Spur. We tried to work in the garage, but Spur was still too interested in telling the others to stay away. We worked just outside the garage, still within earshot of the others that were inside the garage. About mid-way through the class, we tried entering the garage again. By now, Spur was hot and tired enough, and more used to the other people that he didn’t seem to mind them in his space. We worked place, getting closer and closer to the other people. At one point, the others were standing, talking and their large dog was lying down relaxed. Courtney took Spur’s leash and remote and tried getting Spur to go “Place” on the place board right next to the relaxing dog. A little tiff ensued, but Courtney got Spur to settle pretty quick. And she tried again. This time with much better results. Then, it was my turn. He did pretty well. We also practiced “come.” Courtney and I would try to distract him and Doug had to call Spur to him. Everything was going pretty well. The other couple left with their dog so Courtney had Sam come over and take Spur’s leash and work with him. Spur had absolutely no problem whatsoever with this “new” person. Courtney had Sam go ask one of the vet tech’s at the animal hospital (where we have classes) to come over and work with Spur some. Spur did great with this “new” person, too! We were told that this vet tech was awesome with all types of dogs and had a way to read them. She agreed that Spur has a “look” in his eye that says, “I’m still not too sure about you. You need to keep it under control, lady, or I might eat your face.” Not what you want your dog to demonstrate. We were given a “Place” board to take home and practice with.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 9

Class Day 6, May 4

Brrr! It’s awfully chilly for May in North Carolina! We decided to stay at the training facility and work on obedience commands that will be needed to join Group Classes. We headed inside the building (basically a 4-car garage) and began training on the command “Come.” We also worked on “Come” with distractions. At one point, Courtney had a tub of peanut butter (barely any left in the container) and I sat on the floor with kibble in my hands. She and I would get Spur’s attention and Doug would have to call Spur to him. The object is to get Spur to come on the first call, have him sit in front and stay until released. Courtney was surprised at how loving and snuggly he was with me. Spur was acting calm and relaxed like he is at home. Spur is getting much more comfortable with Courtney. We determined that he’s truly fearful. We stomped around the garage and he would turn quickly and bark.

Class was going well. Then, near the end, Courtney released her mini Aussie, Berkley, from his crate. Spur and Berkley were having a nice time getting to know each other. Berkley also has fear issues, but he avoids and cowers instead of acting aggressively like Spur. Courtney grabbed an antler off a table and let the dogs have a look at it. Courtney was still holding it as Spur started to chomp a bit on it. Berkley came up to see what they had and Spur got nasty; aggressive, mean. Shortly after that, Turk (the owner of the training company) abruptly opened the door and loudly came in (Turk has a big personality, anyway, and his greetings are always exuberant!) Spur began barking loudly and somewhat aggressively; Berkley, who’s typically afraid of Turk, came close to see what the commotion was and Spur turned and grabbed at Berkley’s back, getting a mouthful of Berkley’s hair in his mouth. I felt so bad. Courtney had a hold of Spur’s leash and was correcting him while Berkley cowered and looked for someplace to get away from Spur. It was a terrible end to a decent class. Sigh.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 8

Saturday & Sunday, April 27 & 28

Most of Saturday, we left Spur in the crate as we were busy cleaning the house. We had Doug’s daughter and granddaughter come to visit on Saturday. We had Spur crated, with his collar on. We reminded them to ignore Spur’s barking and Spur, in general. Spur barked loudly when he heard them enter; we had to “nick” him quite a bit to get him to settle down. Erica didn’t stay long; she had an event she was going to attend. However, Jalyn stayed overnight with us. Saturday night, as we watched a movie, Doug kept Spur on-leash in the den with us. Spur didn’t seem to even notice there was an extra little person in the house with us; he seemed pretty comfortable having Jalyn with us. When he was crated, if she needed to walk past the crate, she had a difficult time relaxing and walking “normal” past him, but he didn’t bark at her.

On Sunday, when Jalyn got up, Spur was crated with his collar on. He gave a small “oof” when she walked by. I don’t think we needed to correct him for that as he didn’t continue barking. We left the house to go get some breakfast. When we got home, we let Spur out off leash. He seemed to not notice Jalyn there on the couch. When he did, he gently put his paws up on the couch and stretched to give her kisses on the face. We told him “Off” and corrected him and he got down. After a while, I sat on the floor to play with the dogs and Jalyn came to sit on the floor with me. Spur trotted over to give her lots of kisses on the face. Not once was he inappropriate with her. For the most part, Spur and Denali were busy playing with a tug-toy and kissing Jalyn was just a quick, “I’m passing by; you need a kiss; see ya!” The only times on Sunday that Spur needed correction was when Erica stopped by to pick Jalyn up and once when I was holding a cat that Spur tends to regularly torture.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 7

Thursday, April 25

When nobody is home to be with Spur during the day, Doug’s been taking him to a cageless boarding facility/ doggie daycare called Barkin’ Buddies. Spur loves it there. They have a pool where he can go swimming, other doggies to run with, and girls to snuggle on. This particular morning, Doug arrived around 6:15 am and the girls were late. When they arrived, Spur went nuts. We scratch our heads. He ~knows~ these girls; he loves these girls; yet, he still acts like a total mean dog when he sees them outside the car. Sigh. Plus, since he was going to doggie daycare, he wasn’t wearing his collar, so Doug had no way to correct him except with his voice; which, when Spur gets into that crazy aggressive mode, he doesn’t hear.

Later that night, I was flying back into town. My son had parked my car in a remote lot and took the ticket with him when he left for Boston earlier in the week, so I needed Doug to come pick me up. He decided to bring ~both~ dogs with him. He waited in the Cell Phone Lot for me to arrive and I think he may have needed some correction on Spur while there. When they pulled up to where I was waiting a boy on the curb spotted the dogs in the car and started calling, “Hi Doggie, HI DOGGIE!” As I was putting my luggage in the trunk of the car, I warned the boy, “The blue dog is not very friendly. The red one is very nice, but the blue one is not.” Another woman asked, “Is that an Australian Shepherd?” “Yes,” I replied. “They both are.” Doug had a hold of Spur and I held my hand flat to the window and called “Stay.” I hopped in the passenger seat and was completely overcome with dogs! Spur couldn’t help himself but to climb on my lap. Denali stretched her tongue from the back. “Hi mommy! Hi mommy! Hi mommy!” I never heard Spur bark or even “oof!” at any of the other people standing crowded on the curb. As we drove away from the curb down the exit lane, I heard a slight “oof” and I grabbed the remote to correct him if it got louder. He was so happy to see me. Denali was, too, but she reserved her demonstrations until we got home.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 6

Class Day 5, April 24

(I was absent, out of town. So all I have is information relayed to me by Doug.) On the way to class, up in our hometown, there was a license check on the on-ramp to the highway. Spur went nuts, barking aggressively at the cop that came to the window asking for Doug’s drivers’ license. Doug apologized to the policeman, explaining they were on their way to class. Doug reached for his wallet and flipped it open. He was immediately dismissed by the cop, “That’s Okay. I see your license. You can go.”

Courtney, Doug and Spur headed over to the mall again. Doug said he did well. He didn’t mention that Spur barked at anyone. He said they worked on having people stop and feed Spur treats. People stopped to admire him; two girls stopped to snap a photo of him. People asked to pet him but that’s where Courtney and Doug said, “No.” That’s about all I know about Spur’s class this week.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 5

Class Day 4, April 17

When we parked at the facility, Courtney approached our car, setting Spur into a frenzy. I had the remote and had turned it up to 80 without success in getting him to settle down. (I really need to remember to bring along earplugs. Cooped up in the car with a wildly barking dog is quite painful to the ear drums.) I rolled down the window and gave Courtney the remote when she asked for it. She had it turned up to 100 and he still wasn’t settling, though I could see the muscles on his chest jumping at the stimulation. Sad, sad. When Doug got out of the car, Courtney told him to tighten Spur’s collar. Spur usually only needs an 18 in calm situations, 40, ~maybe~ 60 in stressful situations. If we needed to go to 80 or 100, the collar, simply, was not tight enough.

As we got out of the car, I told Courtney that I needed to run up to the mall to pick up some new glasses and that I’d be back before the end of the lesson. She suggested we all go over to the mall. We found a muzzle for Spur and put it on him. In the short trip to the mall (less than a mile) he thrashed in the back seat trying to get the muzzle off his snout. He managed to give himself a little raw spot in the matter of a few minutes. He was heeling erratically, trying to get that muzzle off, so Courtney took his leash. He did finally manage to pop it off his snout so we just took it off. We walked him toward the entrance to the Food Court. I left them to go in and get my glasses.

When I came back, I could see them out the windows, with a black woman standing close. Spur was just sitting by Doug’s side, all relaxed, panting with his tongue hanging to the side. Doug and Courtney would reach down and feed Spur little treats. He was just hanging out. Relaxed. Wait! Is this Spur???

I headed out the doors to catch up with them. The woman has two unruly schnauzers that need guidance. So she was getting Courtney’s information. When the woman left, we discussed Spur’s progress. He had barked at two people sitting on a bench just after I went into the mall. And as they walked him over toward another area, he startled another woman and that set him off. But in the time that I spent with them, he didn’t bark, lunge, or really zone in on anybody. So many people remarked on how good he was and how pretty he is. A few kids came up and asked if they could pet him but we said, “No. But thank you so much for asking.” Spur did great! It was such an amazing experience; I didn’t want the class to end! Toward the end of our time, a couple exited the mall and the woman said to her husband, “Oh look, a sheltie.” I called out, “Actually, he’s an Australian Shepherd.” The man turned and began to approach. We put our hands up; Courtney said, “He’s not people friendly.” I said, “We’re in training.” So they kept their distance, but stayed and talked with us. Courtney gave the man a treat that he could toss to Spur. I gave him a few pieces of kibble that he could hold out in a flat palm and Spur gladly and gently ate from his palm, stopping to sniff the man’s dog scent. After a few seconds, Courtney instructed Doug to pull back. She didn’t want Spur to lock focus for too long; it could turn into a jump or leap that could be misinterpreted. We thanked the couple bunches for helping with Spur’s training.

Good days, bad days. I’m getting ready to go out of town for about a week. I really hope Doug can keep up the progress while I’m gone!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 4

Homework between Classes

Doug took him to the Tractor Supply on a busy Sunday. Spur went nuts in the car and Doug turned up the dial. Doug said at some point, Spur came up to the front seat and slammed his head against Doug’s chest as if to say, “Daddy, it hurts. Make it stop.” He said after that, Spur was a perfect role model for an Australian Shepherd. They got out of the car and heeled without issue toward other people.

Monday’s trip to Tractor Supply was not as bustling. Not as much distraction in the parking lot, so we decided to head inside. Upon entering, about 4 men and one woman were gathered at the front checkout. They got sight of Spur and all wanted to greet him. Spur was wary and started barking. I had control of the remote and initiated the “nick;” when he didn’t immediately settle, I switched to continuous. We perused the dog products aisle. I found something to purchase so we headed toward the front of the store. A young boy spotted Spur and Spur started barking at him. We veered off in another direction. Doug directed Spur out the front door while I made my purchase. At the checkout, one of the customers asked me “What happened to him?” Sigh. We wish we knew.

Tuesday, we tried a trip to the Petco. A fantastic job at heeling in the parking lot, we decided to try along the sidewalk. He spotted a couple of Indian people and began loudly barking at them. Correcting him with the remote was a little more difficult. But he didn’t seem to have issue with any of the other people, kids, carts, etc.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 3

Class Day 3, April 13

When we arrived at the facility, there were a lot of cars there already. Come to find out, there was a group class going on at the same time as our private class. Spur was over stimulated and over anxious. He barked uncontrollably in the car. He barked uncontrollably outside the car as we prepared to start our class. Courtney told us she was helping with the group class, so Seth would be working directly with us this day.

Seth asked for our remote and told us to walk Spur toward the group class and turning at a safe distance away to return to Seth. Around and around we went. I could tell Seth had really turned up the dial on the remote; as I walked the wildly barking Spur, I heard him yelp a few times. This made me tear up, but knew I needed to keep with the walk. Back and forth, back and forth. When I gained enough composure, I handed the leash to Doug. Doug walked him a bit before Seth asked for the leash. He walked him alongside the group class and back. Then, he walked him along the back side of the group that had their dogs sitting next to them, in a line. Spur walked by about 9 humans and their dogs without issue until he got to the last dog. I didn’t see any indication, but Spur went nuts and LOUD at the last dog. That dog responded with the same. The owner of that dog pulled his dog out of the line and over to the bushes to get control of it. As Spur kept barking at that dog, it cowered in the bushes. Seth continued to keep control of Spur, using the remote as necessary, and trying to continue going near that dog to get Spur to realize he needed to settle down. It was a tough exercise for Doug and me to watch. But Spur settled down and Seth returned to us. I told Seth that I didn’t see any movement or cue from that other dog to set Spur off. Seth admitted to us that that dog is a problem, anyway, so it was good practice for all Spur, us and the other dog’s owner to practice some methods to get the dogs to settle down.

The other owner directed his dog over to the sidewalk and Seth told Doug to walk Spur along the far edge of the group class. Seth had control of the remote still, so this was just an exercise of heeling. Another pass along the group class, about 5 feet closer; and another pass, even closer; and another pass, right in front of the line of owners and sitting dogs. Spur didn’t make movement toward any of them! Next, it was my turn. 4 passes and Spur did fine. I handed the leash to Doug.

By this time, the owner of the “crazy” dog had walked it up to the other end of the parking lot and they stood in the grass, watching their group class. Seth had Doug walk Spur up the covered sidewalk next to the building toward “crazy dog.” “Crazy Dog” would lunge at Spur, barking when they got close and Spur would respond in same. Seth still has the remote at this point, so he’s controlling Spur’s collar. Doug would walk out into the parking lot toward the group class, around a few cars and back up to the covered sidewalk to make a circle toward “crazy dog.” It was good practice for all. They probably did this about a dozen times. Until the reactions from both dogs simmered down to a more reasonable “oof” and sometimes Spur wouldn’t respond at all.

By this time, the group class had split into two, each lined up facing each other; leaving their dogs in a sit-stay, they could walk to the other side and call their dogs to them. We were able to weave Spur, at a heel, through this group class and it’s activity, with no issues from Spur (again, Seth had the remote, so we really don’t know how much he was having to use it while we walked.) But, it ended a very rough class on a very good note. Our instructions for the week, get out and find places with people, dogs, distractions and get him used to it (it’s not like we haven’t been doing this for the previous 8 months, but now we have a way to give a quick correction without having to choke or yell at him.)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 2

Class Day 2, April 6

When asked about our progress at home, Doug and I both admitted that we’re still not 100% on board with the e-collar and probably didn’t use it as much as we should have.

There was some construction going on along the sidewalk, with some workers. Spur didn’t seem to notice them as we practiced walking through the parking lot. We then headed for the sidewalk area without construction. Spur seemed to do well. All this time, Courtney held our remote and we just walked Spur. The only problem I have with this is that we really didn’t know, for sure, how much Courtney was using the remote on Spur; he just seemed to walk really well with us. He was doing so well, we decided to try walking past the construction workers and equipment. No issues!!! Courtney then admitted to us that he’d hit the “nick” button probably about 100 times to get us through that worry zone. But he did so without seeming to notice the workers or barking! So we continued up the street to the AutoBell Car wash. We weaved between cars and headed up to where the customers wait. It was a beautiful day and lots of people were getting their cars washed, so it was very busy. Spur didn’t seem to notice the customers waiting for their cars, nor all the AutoBell Car workers scurrying around. He was just heeling with Doug, and doing a great job at it!

Admittedly, we were in the way at the AutoBell, so he headed back to the facility. Such a great class! So inspired! So hopeful!

Doug and I came to the realization that if we want to use the remote on him less, we really need to use it on him more at this point, until he learns what is acceptable in public. During the week, until the next class, I did use the remote on him more. Doug is still having his own issues with using it.

Friday, April 5, 2013


When I started back at this firm, nearly 3 years ago, we occupied 2 floors (levels 3 and 4) of our 5-story building.  The economy bit us and we had a few layoffs.  Several other employees left and their positions were not filled.  A year and a half ago, we condensed our space and renewed our lease for only one floor (everyone moved to the 3rd floor.)  The 4th floor space sat vacant for over a year.

Now, someone is getting ready to rent the 4th floor space.  They have contractors in there, up fitting the space, setting off fire alarms, creating unbelievable amounts of dust, drilling into the concrete structure sounding like an extra long day at the dentist…

The elevators for the building can be controlled by an electronic key fob.  Our office is automatically locked from elevator access between 6 pm to 8 am.  The 4th floor space now requires key fob access 24 hours a day.  Why?  I'm not sure.  Especially when they have workers in there all day long… unless it’s to keep the dust from traveling to the other floors via the elevators.  I think the workers are *supposed* to walk the stairwells, three flights of stairs to the 4th floor work site, with all their ladders, tools and equipment.

Some of the workers discovered they can ride the elevator to our floor between 8a-6p, and then walk the stairwell one flight to get to their work site.   We have dusty footprints across our floors and carpet showing the tell-tale signs of their shortcut.  When it first started, some guy with a ladder asked my co-worker, “where are the stairs?” and my co-worker pointed the direction.  Now they know and most of them just depart the elevator, tuck their heads down and make a quick beeline for the stairwells.  I typically don't realize what just happened until I hear the stairwell door latch behind them.  We've contacted the building manager and he’s not happy to hear about this from us.  He’s on our side.  We have a private office and construction workers should not be using our space to use for their shortcut.  My boss keeps telling us to let him know when we spot any coming through and he'll go tell them not to, but typically, they buzz through too quickly.

Earlier this week, after a lunch and learn, as I was passing the elevators, the doors opened up.  Three guys, dusty and wearing safety vests and hard hats, had that “deer in the headlights” look as I peered at them. 
“Are you trying to get upstairs?” I asked.
“How to get ups?” one asked me in broken English.
“You need a key.  You can’t come through here.  This is a Private office.”  I responded.  They punched a button and I stood watch as the elevator doors closed.

This morning, we had a bold one.  As the elevator doors opened, his voice boomed as he spoke on his cell phone, “yeah!  If you just take the elevator to the third floor, that'll be easier than carrying those ladders up all those stairs.”  He wasn't quick about it either.  I popped up out of my chair, ready to go stop him.  My boss was quicker than me. 
“You can't come through here.  This is not a public space for you to walk through.  You need to go back downstairs” my boss commanded. 

The guy turned around and headed back for the elevator.  As he got back on the elevator to go down, we could hear him reconnect on his cell phone with the person he was just speaking, “Huh.  Well, I just got told I couldn't go to the third floor on the elevator… Yeah…”

SMH... guess his momma didn't teach him about tresspassing.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 1

Class Day 1, March 30 (one day after Spur’s first birthday)

We arrived at the facility and weren’t sure where to park or go. Doug parked alongside the building and I went to go find people to get started. We worked with two trainers, Courtney and Seth. Courtney was our main trainer, while Seth was tasked with circling us, unobtrusively, while shuffling his feet, loudly organizing the garage where we were training and stomping as he walked from area to area.

We crated Spur for a bit while we discussed Spur’s new birthday gift, the actual e-collar. It’s a Dogtra 300M. The remote has three buttons; vibration only, nick (quick tap,) and continuous (but only for 8 seconds max.) It also has a dial to adjust the level of stimulation from 0-100.

We worked on loading our “YES” with treats (trying to get him to associate the word YES with good things) and walking at a heel.

By the end of the class, we were tasked with practicing the following at home: YES, FREE DOG (have to retrain ourselves from our 5-year release word of “OK.”) walking on a loose leash, and COME resulting in a front sit without command.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, the prequel

I haven't posted much of anything about our life with Spur. If I can say anything, really, at all, I can say it's been challenging.

He was supposed to be our "Show Dog." But, most likely he'll never see the inside of a show ring. We are heartbroken in coming to this realization. He was not the friendly, happy-go-lucky kind of puppy we were expecting.

As soon as he turned 4 months and had all his puppy shots, he was out! We took him to his first dog show as a spectator. It all started in the parking lot. On leash, as we walked from the car to the building, he began barking at other people in the lot. As we got closer to the building, he barked at the other people out taking their dogs to potty. Once we got inside, he was a different dog, though. It's like, he just knew that he needed to be on his best behavior and didn't make another peep until we left. He was shy and wary in meeting new people. Our friend Carson was the only one that was able to pick him up and hold him. And that was after bribing him with lots of treats. After the show was over, we took him to some other friends' RV set-ups. One friend had short hair that she had styled to stand up on top of her head. Spur BARKED! She bribed him with treats and he still barked! He was more accepting of the other people at the RV's.

He began puppy kindergarten. He would bark at the other participants as they arrived and class would start. After 6 weeks of classes, he was much more comfortable with the people and earned his AKC S.T.A.R. puppy certificate. He also started beginner agility. Also, he'd greet the other participants in a manner that was less than friendly. But after the course of 6 weeks, also became more comfortable with them.

We took him to doggie daycare during the work week since he wasn’t housebroken and really too young to stay home while we were at work. This helped with his dog socialization. But he’d still bark at strangers as he was arriving and leaving.

Over Thanksgiving week, Spur's normal doggie daycare was closed, so we asked our Puppy Kindergarten and Agility trainer, Deb, if she'd keep him. The first day Doug took Spur to stay at her house (mind you, all the training classes have been in her backyard; he knows the yard, he knows the trainer) Spur barked and carried on like Deb was going to harm him or Doug. Deb kept him some again at Christmas time. Her husband Carl would come home from work to a frantic, scared, aggressive Spur. Carl worked on Spur, throwing him treats; lots of treats until Spur finally learned that Carl was Okay.

Deb is a trainer that uses techniques of Positive Reinforcement. We tried clicker training. For us, it just didn’t stick. Denali had been food motivated and was so easy to train compared to Spur. Spur is stubborn and scared. And he’s not the ‘shy away and hide behind daddy’ kind of scared. He’s the ‘in your face, I told you to get away or I’m gonna eat you’ kind of scared.

With Denali competing in agility, we’d take Spur along, crate him on the side when we needed to, and had him out to socialize him when we could. Some of our friends knew that Spur had issues and they were very calm, quiet and patient with him. At one venue, one friend set up her crates alongside ours in a horse stall and sat with us for hours. Spur got to hear her voice, smell her scent, and her dogs’ scents, and get fed by her through the crate. Yet, when it was time to come out and greet her in person, he leapt up, bopping her in the forehead with his teeth (really I think it was more an act of excitement than aggression) and left her with a huge goose-egg bump and migraine.

At Christmas time, Doug’s sister came to the house. Spur acted up and we kept him crated for most of her visit. His barking was annoying. We told her to ignore him. After we had a meal and wanted to move into the den, I leashed Spur and we used treats to bribe him for good behavior. We moved closer. Jann was nervous. Spur was nervous. Jann fed him treats. Spur got excited and jumped at Jann’s face. Jann got spooked and tensed up. Spur went nuts. Spur went back into the crate for the rest of the visit.

He’d act up at the vet’s office. The vet, before even putting a hand on Spur, handed us a card for a reputable, local trainer. We called Christen who came to our house for a 3-hour session. She ended up staying 4 hours. She gave us some techniques to use that included jabbing Spur in the shoulder to grab his attention. Months of trying that, along with the positive reinforcement, just make him tougher, more bold.

As I looked online at my Facebook account, many of my Facebook friends are dog show people, Australian shepherd people, and agility people. 2012 and 2013 were the years of the puppy, it seemed. Everyone posted photos of their sweet, cuddly, precious, FRIENDLY puppies, out and about, at dog shows, meeting strangers, loving people and life. Then I’d look at Spur, who only loves three people in his life; Doug, Ian and me. So loving and sweet at home, just like all those sweet puppies on Facebook. But, take him out to do his business, and if he spots a neighbor (that he sees EVERYDAY when he’s doing his business) he becomes Mr. GET-OUTTA-MY-SPACE-OR-I’M-GONNA-EAT-YOU. And the thing is, they weren’t even in his space. They were in their own space.

By the time Spur was 11 months old, he was getting bigger, more muscular, and sounding even more fierce when faced with strangers. The techniques we knew weren’t working. Something had to be done.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

BIG A... little r

I use a software program at work. We’ll call it “Software R.” “Software R” is owned and developed by a large company we’ll call “Company A.” I actually use a few pieces of software from “Company A” but this post is more about the actual name of “Software R.”

“Company A” has an online forum for its users. I have a valid/active username in that forum and visit it only rarely when I need help from other users with “Company A’s” software. Over the years, they changed their format and it’s now very difficult to use and find information if you need help using their software. “Company A” also holds an annual conference where users can gather and learn about all the software that “Company A” offers. I’ve attended the conference for 7 years; several years, on my own dime because I felt the education I received there was worth it to me and my career.

Another online software-user-based organization actually has the name of “Company A” in its name; they also claim to be “International.” I also have a valid/active username on that site and use to use it primarily for all my software help requirements. (Recently, this organization shifted from a free online organization to a fee-based membership. I’m not sure I see enough benefit from switching my username from a “Basic Member” to something that would require an annual membership fee.) This online organization was (mostly) friendly and helpful and somewhat easy to use.

In 2010, while at “Company A’s” annual conference, “International” user group had a foul up with their site and data and lost YEARS worth of user-based help. Upon returning from the conference, needing additional help using any of “Company A’s” software, “International” user group simply had nothing to offer. It took months for “International” to gain access to all the legacy data that they had lost.

“Software R” was hot and (relatively) new. Users were coming on line with “Software R” in droves. Those users were searching for help and couldn’t find it in the usual places. So, a good guy in Denmark, an architect got fed up with “International” and their lack of duty to their users; he enlisted a group of pals that shared a passion for “Software R” and they created and footed the bill for a new online resource called “RevitForum.org.” The castaways from “International” found it when they were searching for the help they needed with “Software R.”

(By this point, you may have figured out that “Software R” is in the domain name of the new online resource.)

“RevitForum.org” has grown over the past 2 years to a community of “Software R” users 17,500+ members strong. They don’t advertise. They don’t sell their product. They are completely non-profit, running a completely voluntary fund-drive just before the web-hosting fees are due. Once they’ve collected the amount they need, the fundraising drive is closed.

Now, along comes “Company A,” hiring a group of lawyers to send off a letter to “RevitForum.org” and any other website that has the name of “Software R” in the name saying, “Give up your website name. NOW!”

Hmmm. Those 17,500+ users that signed on to “RevitForum.org” looking for help and guidance? Those are ALL customers of “Company A.” Those 17,500+ users all got an email today to let them know what “Company A” and their lawyers are doing.

In the Architectural and Engineering world, the name “Software R” has become so commonplace, sometimes it’s used as a verb; “hey, that conceptual plan? Will you revit-ize it for me?” Meaning, place the information into a Building Information Modeling (BIM) program so we can better visualize it. In our industry, the “Software R” name has become common like Xerox, Kleenex, Coke and FedEx; all brand names, but used in common language to indicate copy, tissue, soda and shipping.

So, “Company A” wants “RevitForum.org” to give up their name because it has “Software R” in it. What do you think?

More information can be found here: