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!