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.