Our mostly good dog

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Resource Guarding

One of the most difficult things about Dalton so far has been his resource guarding. We learned fairly quickly that he was going to be a resource guarder when we he started to get possessive over his toys and food. Thinking back, I believe that the way the puppies were fed and socialized with each other before we got him was part of the problem. All 9 pups were fed from one bowl, and had to fight for whatever they could get.

 At first, not really having any experience with this sort of thing, my first reaction was to gently put him on his side in a submissive position and use what Cesar Milan refers to as the claw. We tried this a couple times when he would get possessive, but it didn’t seem to work. Then we started trying the trade method. This is where you give them a low value object, such as a toy they don’t really care for, and trade it for a higher value object such as a treat, or their favorite toy. It worked fairly well, but we found it harder to be consistent with this method, especially if we were frustrated with Dalton already.

 We also realized that just handing him a new toy or bone right away was a bad idea. If we weren’t diligent about making him think it was “our” toy/bone he would immediately become possessive. They way we established it was ours was by allowing him to chew on the bone or smell/tug on the toy while we held onto it. We would never play with the object, but sit on the floor and hold onto it calmly while he chewed/sniffed etc. We would introduce it slowly, never letting him take whatever it was until he basically became bored with it. Once he got to that state, we could give it to him and take it back whenever we wanted without a problem.

The “ours” method has worked pretty well; the only problem we still have is if the object can break into smaller pieces or rip apart. The other day he ripped the tail off one of his toys and when I tried to throw it away he snarled at me, this is where we are still sort of at a loss. If it can break up, or rip, he thinks that the pieces in his mouth or the pieces that broke off are now his, and we have a really hard time getting them away from him. It’s also getting to the point where he is big enough to hurt us if he were to get to the point of biting. This is especially unnerving for me since out of the two of us, Nate is the “more dominant” one. I am still above Dalton, but Nate has a much easier time getting him to do what he wants than I do.

The one area he has improved almost %100 is guarding his food. The way we accomplished this was by hand feeding him most of his meal. After filling up his bowl, we would have him go to his kennel, sit, and feed him small handfuls at a time out of the bowl. We read that if they have to work for their food (going to the kennel and having to sit) and if the food is coming from you (hand feeding small bits at a time) the dog eventually learns that you control feeding time, and they have to behave a certain way to get what they want. Eventually we would feed him smaller and smaller amounts by hand, but we would make him wait in the sitting position before he could start eating. Then we would set the bowl in the kennel, and by hand, put a small handful in the bowl, working our way up to more and more food. Now, as soon as we have his bowl filled, he’ll run to the kennel sit, and wait to be told “okay” before eating.

I think this is something we will always have to work on with him. I still can’t decide if I think the cause is how they were fed/socialized as puppies, or if this is something he inherited from his parents, but either way he is getting much better, and we are continuously finding new ways to fix the issue that work for him and us!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

It is possible

This is what doggy daycare does for us!

Too tired to eat? 

Even when tired, he is always up for bothering us.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Desert Dog daycare.

Have I mentioned how much I love doggy daycare? Yesterday I brought Dalton home from Desert Dog Daycare, and he didn’t move all night. Usually when we give him dinner he will get excited and come wandering over, but he didn’t even lift his head. And if you know anything about Siberian Huskies, they will do basically anything for food, so this is a whole new level of tired. (though we are hoping he’s back to eating normally today.)

 It’s such a great feeling to know that Dalton is getting to play and be a dog (plus 9 to socialization!) He’s less anxious during the rest of the week, and he’s only home alone 3 days instead of five. So far the benefits are endless, and the only concern is that he is too tired, which may not actually be a concern.  

 Photos to come!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Our Savior.

Last week when we were house sitting for Nate’s sister, we had the opportunity to put Dalton in doggy daycare with her two dogs while we were at work. Not only did we come home to 3 tired dogs, but when they got a little energy later in the evening they would bother each other instead of us! After we discovered that we could actually tire out our dog by putting him in DD, we thought that we could look into it a couple days a week for our sake and his.

After a little searching and looking over reviews we found an amazing place, Desert dog Daycare. I printed off the application (yes, you have to fill out an application) and being the spazz that I am, went into way more detail than was necessary. They ask you questions like: “has your dog ever been possessive over food, toys or water?” “How does your dog get along with other sizes of dogs?” “Does your dog have an aversion to any other breeds of dog?” “Has your dog ever bitten anyone?” Now I know why they ask these questions, and I know that Dalton is a good dog and has never had any problems besides resource guarding, but for some reason all those questions made me nervous and I found myself justifying things that didn’t need to be justified. For instance, on the question that asked whether or not Dalton got along with small dogs, the answer should have been “Yes” but I went into this big long thing about how he liked small dogs, but played better with bigger dogs because he liked to roll around and bite and paw, and he probably would do great but maybe he’d do even better with dogs his own size…… and on, and on.

Then there is the interview. You get a “trial” day where you bring in your dog, they take them in the large playroom and have you wait in the lobby/viewing room. The reason for this is so they can observe your dog without you, since dogs act totally different when their owner is not present. And if there are any problems you can take the dog home and cry because you have an inferior animal. Thankfully, the level headed Nate went to the interview instead of me. I probably would have cried like he was my kid, and it was his first day of school. After about 10 minutes, the lovely woman told Nate that Dalton was doing great, and he could stay the rest of the day.

It was a thrilling moment when we found out our dog had “passed” and would be allowed into doggy daycare. The heavens opened up, the sun shone a little brighter, and whatever religious deity you believe in, gave a big thumbs up! This would mean that for 2 days out of every 7, we wouldn’t have to try and run our dog to death. And if it worked like we hoped it would, it would be easier to tire him out on the days between going to doggy daycare. I am not a religious person, but if there was a way to pray to the god (anyone ever notice that god is dog backwards? Just sayin…) of doggy daycare I would thank him or her every day for the generous thoughtful gift of daycare, and ask him to continue blessing us with a dog that we could stand to be around and not want to strangle.

Yesterday was Daltons first official day in doggy daycare. When I picked him up they told me how great he did, how he liked to play with smaller dogs (go figure), how he got in the pool (water is not his favorite thing), and how friendly and good he was. I was so proud, if I had a gold star I would have put one on his forehead.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sit, stay, don't eat that.

Training a dog to do anything can be a difficult process. Most owners will pick up a dog training book or two when they get a puppy/adopt a dog for the first time, and they usually do alright if they follow the tips and guidelines. The terrible part about most of these dog training books is that most of them were not written with training a husky in mind.

Training a husky is probably the most frustrating, grey hair inducing thing you can do besides maybe raising idiot children, or making your living being a crash test dummy. We bought a few husky specific books, and the one thing they all agreed upon was that we were fucked. One of them said that it would take 6 months before our dog could sit consistently; others said that you basically needed your home and yard to be Fort Knox so that your dog couldn’t escape, and others just told you to buy a bottle of scotch and hide in the basement. Okay, not really, but I wanted to. All in all, we were a little disheartened. We had bought this little guy, and were trying to prepare the best we could to bring him home and turn him into a happy, well-adjusted dog, and now we’re hearing that it’s basically impossible.

Both Nate and I were committed though, so we each took a substantial amount of time off from work, in fact, we took off more time than most fathers do for the birth of their children. Take that, dads!

Between the two of us, that dog had someone with him for over a month before we were both working again. And even then, Nate was able to swing half days so Dalton wasn’t locked in a kennel, holding his wee little bladder. I honestly would do it all again too. Dalton learned to sit in a few weeks, and we had him doing it consistently in about a month and a half. He knew how to lie down, and knew what stay meant. (still working on that one, all in good time….)

Even though we were able to spend all that time with him, we are still working on consistency. Especially now that we are entering into adolescence (that’s where puppies forget everything you taught them, and think of cool ways to make your life a living hell.) we have to work every day to get him to think doing what we want him to do is cool. I think we have spent more on treats the last 3 months than we have on groceries.

Our dog isn’t perfect, but he does listen most of the time. He hasn’t chewed anything expensive (yet), humped our neighbors leg (yet), killed a cat (yet), or run away (yet), so were taking the small victories.
                                               On his best behavior.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dog park people, Part 2

Another one of my favorite dog park people is the know-it-all. These are the people that, especially if you have a puppy, like to tell you all the ways you are doing things wrong. Generally I wouldn’t mind a little helpful advice if someone saw me struggling, however the advice they give is either totally the wrong thing to do, or involves some radical supplement, doggy acupuncture or water boarding.

After Dalton had all his shots we started taking him to Memory Grove to mix things up. There we encountered the “unwanted advice lady.” Every time we ran into her, she always had something to say about how we were doing things, and how everything we did was going to make him a terrible dog. The worst part about her is that she is this obnoxious mix between know-it-all, anti-pit, and rescue snob. I think she has a place in hell down the block from every serial killer that ever lived.

Anyway, when we were “off leash” training Dalton, we would have him on a 50 foot lead attached to his harness and let him run around willy-nilly. We found it much easier to get within fifty feet than five, so we figured it was a good compromise, he could have some freedom, and we could catch him. Unwanted advice lady thought that it was all wrong though, she would say things like: “Now is the perfect time to start off leash training, when I rescued Biscuit and Muffin, I would let them off leash from day one. They have never run away, and I think it’s because I am magic, and have hands that smell like chicken livers. You shouldn’t need that big leash; he will totally come back if you just call him. I know everything because I rescued my dogs, and that practically makes me Jesus.... ” 
(please note, that the above is not a direct quote.)

Well Miss unwanted advice lady, (I am assuming its Miss, because I can’t think of anyone who would want to be in her company for any substantial amount of time) you have obviously never tried to raise a husky. And your dogs are stupid. They are smaller than most cats, and should probably be considered rodents, not dogs…. So there…

The end.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dog park people: Part 1

A good friend once told me “I love dogs, but I hate dog people.” I think the worst kind of dog people, are dog park people. They are the ones who go to the same park, at the same time every day.

The first group of people you will encounter are the rescue snobs. They are the first to greet you because they want to be sure you rescued your dog too. And if you didn’t, they want to immediately start judging you. The first thing they ask is:

 “Where did you get your dog?” which is code for; “I hope you rescued that dog, otherwise you are contributing to the growing number of homeless pets. You may as well have birthed a litter of puppies yourself and left them in an intersection. You are an awful person.”

These people can be identified by their “Who saved who?” and the equality stickers on the back of their Subaru. Be warned.

Then there are the anti-pit-bull people. Most of the time, they are women over 40 who have small lap dogs and terriers that were never properly socialized. Their dogs are usually the instigators  and when it inevitably picks a fight, they like to say things like:

“Oh, my dog is just playing!”
“My dog has never acted like this before!”
“No, no fluffywuffykins don’t gnaw on that dogs face...”
“My dog could never pick a fight, it’s too little.”

The moment a pit-bull enters the park though, they scoop up their dog, and act like the world has come to an end. They’ll scooch close to the nearest person as they are leaving and say something along the lines of: “I saw that awful dog here last week, it’s so aggressive, it went after my little fluffywuffykins, and I thought that it was going to kill my sweet baby.” Any time a pit-bull is present, they make it a point to be within ear shot of the owner, and explain to anyone who will listen how dangerous they are, and how they should all be put down.

Then there are the first timers. They can be identified by the terrified look on their face, and the fact that they follow their dogs everywhere. Usually they don’t really understand how dogs play. We encountered one of these people on Saturday in fact. Her and her man had an adorable 4 month old Golden retriever. Their dog’s tail was perpetually wagging in circles, but this woman seemed like she was going to cry every time another dog approached her and the puppy. At one point, when Dalton went over to play, she frantically picked up her dog and said “You dog bite, play too rough!” We then had to explain that puppies could handle roughhousing, and that the biting, growling and running was all part of the fun. When she finally let her dog play (under her watchful eye), a man and his daughter were standing nearby, and the daughter said to the woman “This is your first dog, isn’t it?”

Out of the mouths of babes.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Porch sittin

Trying to figure out the best way to tire out your husky is like trying to rock climb without any fingers or toes. When Dalton hit about 5 months old, we were unable to tucker him out sufficiently. About an hour after we’d do a lap on rollerblades around liberty, yeah, we fruit boot, what of it?

p.s. What’s the worst part about rollerblading?

            Telling your parents you’re gay!

            Ha…… ha….

Wanna know who told me that joke? Not a twelve year old, but a 29 year old man…
Anyway, after a little snooze, he’d be revved up again and barking at us to give him our undivided attention.

Eventually we would be doing 3 laps on the roller blades, to no avail. We tried different things too. Going to memory grove, but he’d wander off and not listen, so we couldn’t do that anymore. We’d try doing the 3 running laps around liberty and a structured walk after, two laps around liberty and a trip to the dog park, and finally 2 hours of dog park time, and a structured walk around liberty. Nothing works! It’s impossible. It can’t be done.

 Finally we realized he was just getting bored in our house, and all he wanted to do was sit outside and people watch. Nate, the beautiful, talented man that he is rigged a 35 foot rope so that it was attached to our couch. Dalton has the whole porch, can still come in the house and has about 2 steps down the porch before he can’t go any further. The dog will sit out there for hours contentedly chewing on a giant root he found in the garden. HOURS! These are hours that he’s not bothering us. Sweet Jesus!

He still bothers us, but it’s not nearly as often now. The only real problem at this point is pissing off our neighbor who shares the porch with us, and having to leave the door open while he’s out there. Were just glad it’s not 90 degrees outside yet!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

That's the scoop.

Poop. It’s a nasty thing. Nobody wants to smell it, touch it, or have to deal with it in any way. When you have kids, I suppose it starts losing some of the stigma because you are often covered in it. But when you get a puppy, you generally don’t have to deal with poop unless you are picking it up, or, if there is the occasional accident while potty training.

Not so for us. Dalton was so little and unbalanced that he would often step in his poop. And by often, I mean every other time we let him out. To make it worse, he had diarrhea for a good 2 months because of stress and food changes. When we first brought him home, we were carrying him up and down our stairs, one, because he was so little, and two, because he often had shit on his paws. So around 3 or 4 in the morning, we would groggily get out of bed, put on boots and a coat, and stumble outside. Dalton would step in crap, we would carry him inside, and struggle to clean his paws as he squirmed and cried. We often were waking each other up in the middle of the night to do a “poo paw check”, not that we were sleeping anyway.

After a few weeks of this, while we should have been teaching our dog his name, we had taken to calling him “poopy puppy paws”. The worst part was that he was growing fairly rapidly, getting harder to hold, and less interested in being held. We did a lot of laundry, and used a lot of hand soap…….

Once Dalton was around 3-3 ½ months old, I think he figured out the whole balance while dumping thing. (Praise Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Satan, whomever) But oddly enough, we still spend about 10% of our time dealing with his shit in one way or another. We are either talking about it:
“Did Dalton poop when you let him out a while ago?”
“Well, I found pieces of plastic/tennis ball/ shoe/ the rug in his poop again.”
“I stepped in dog shit.”
“How are his poops?”
“He finally shit out the other half of the rope toy…”
“We forgot a poop bag again.”
“It’s off the trail, nobody’s looking, just leave it!”
Cleaning it up, or wishing he wouldn’t do it so much. I never thought that dog owners had to spend so much time focused on fecal matter, but here we are. Please tell me we are not the only people who spend so much time thinking about what comes out our dogs bum…..

Coming Home

Before we brought Dalton home, we spent a lot of time researching huskies, reading Cesar Milan books, and pouring over websites that had anything to do with huskies. We bought toys, a kennel, treats, food, and chew toys. We hid wires, closed up cupboards, and removed anything from the immediate area that was expensive and easily breakable. We offered to buy our neighbors (thankfully all of them dog owners) earplugs, which if you have crate trained a 7 week old puppy, you know they are mandatory.

Both Nate and I took a substantial amount of time off. I took two weeks, and he took a little over a month. We knew that huskies had a propensity to be stubborn, so we wanted to have plenty of time to work on potty training, sit, stay, down, as well as general manners. Everything we read told us it would take a week or so for our husky to learn sit, but it would take 6 months for them to do it consistently on our command.

When Nate called me around 9am that Wednesday, I was sitting at my desk. It was the day before Thanksgiving break, and it was fairly slow. I picked up and Nate said, something along the lines of “lksjdfosdi puppy aldkjfosidng pick him up today!” the first thing I did was run into my boss’s office and say “we can pick up the puppy! Can I go home!?” he thankfully is a badass, so he let me go. I drove home and we paced until about 11am, the guy we were getting the puppy from would be home at 11:30, so we were there at 11:15……

On the ride home, all Dalton did was cry. Nate was sitting in the back with him, trying his hardest not to coddle him and eat his cute little face. I was trying to drive while continuously looking in the rearview mirror at this adorable little nugget of fuzz.
When we arrived home, we went potty, and came inside. I don’t think he really did anything the rest of the day but sleep, pee, and eat, but we couldn’t have been happier.