Yesterday yielded a good block of time to take the dogs out for some serious water retrieving. We went to a slow-moving waterway - although with the wind yesterday, the dogs may argue that it was fast-moving - and retrieved all by our lonesome. I sat down at the edge of the bank and fingered the grass and dying blooms of the fall. The dogs seemed to love coming up right beside me, dropping the ball, and then shaking the cold water off on me! Normally I avoid this by backing up as I say, "Release!" but since I was being a lazy bum, I guess I had it coming!
Trooper completely dominated the water retrieves yesterday. I could NOT wear that dog out. Usually it takes about 20 throws and he starts to swim more slowly and becomes more lethargic when coming out of the water. Not yesterday, though. I threw the ball about 50 times and not once did he slow down! Cosette wasn't her usual rockstar self, but she managed to get a few balls in. She's taken to waiting until Trooper is fully in the water before she dives in, which gives him a head start which she just can't compete with. I have no idea why she is waiting, and she only does it some of the time.
I then brought them up on dry ground and had then retrieve in an empty field. That seemed to finally tire them out. Once they were marginally dry, we headed back to my car. They were tired enough that they just walked peacefully beside me, sans leashes.
I love my water-lovin' dogs. =)
I took Trooper to the park/lake today to do some work out in an open field. We worked primarily on heeling and long stays. It was blustery and windy, so there was no one accompanying us at the park - save for a drunk group of people that showed up, posed for pictures, and then got back in their vehicles (weird).
Trooper did well, but I wasn't really in the mood to give him my full attention, so after about thirty minutes I unleashed him and spent some time water retrieving. He had been acting squirrely yesterday after being cooped up all weekend long, so I thought he needed a bit of a release. I worked him hard and he came home and willingly climbed in his crate to rest.
I didn't take Cosette, primarily because I wanted to work on training with Trooper and that's near impossible to do if I'm trying to keep my eye on another dog. Cosette is becoming more content to lie around without having to work too hard - Trooper, however, is still in that big puppy phase where he needs some hard-core exercise often. They both retrieve every day and I spend time working with each of them, but I devote more time to Trooper right now. Cosette for the most part knows how to behave herself.
Well, I’m very happy to report that our work yesterday went well. I took both dogs out to a field behind our house and worked with them.
I worked with Trooper for an hour and a half – I was surprised when I realized what time it was when we came back. We walked squares on the long lead, worked on heeling, sits, and long stays off lead. He did very well, considering the amount of traffic that was driving by on two sides of the field. I felt a little silly walking around in squares in front of cars, but it proved effective.
I worked with Cosette for about 30 minutes. We also walked squares and worked on long stays. She’s not as skilled with the stays which is ironic, considering how calm and still she can be when she’s around the house. She is much more likely to break her sit. I was also working intensely with her on nosing ahead of me when she’s heeling.
The long time with both dogs paid off in the evening. Joel and I both settled down to do some computer time and grading, and the dogs curled up in the living room next to each other and chewed on their bones. There was significantly less dog rough-housing, which I don’t tolerate for long periods.
I was very happy to read about this article, reporting that it is National Dog Walking Week. I liked this excerpt:
"With more and more people becoming sedentary and gaining weight due to a lack of exercise, dogs don't get the necessary outlet they need to stay physically and mentally healthy. I feel that part of the overpopulation of dogs in this country is hugely associated with our growing waistlines. Generally, the less a person exercises, the less a dog exercises. Having trained thousands of dogs in the last twenty years, it's my estimation that at least 75% of dogs in shelters are there due to a lack of exercise, which has thus resulted in serious behavior issues such as aggression, destruction and separation anxiety issues. Often, dogs run away from home because they're kept sequestered all day long in a crate or a small yard, says Paige, which only exacerbates a dog's destructive, aggressive or anxious tendencies. This, coupled with too much fatty food, leads to obesity, as well as medical issues like pancreatitis, diabetes, heart disease and the number one killer of dogs – cancer. October is a beautiful time of year everywhere to get outside. Walking your dog on a daily basis not only increases the endorphins in both human and canine brains but it improves the bond between the two.”
I’m looking forward to working with them both tonight.
It turns out that being unemployed keeps me busy! Well, I’m not completely unemployed - I have a long-distance telework arrangement with the winery, and I teach a graduate class on Fridays. Both of those are occupying some of my time. The other parts of my time are filled up by editing my dissertation, preparing a follow-up study to my dissertation, creating additional studies, and a few other academic pursuits. The dogs are enjoying the house. I find myself wishing that I could take them for more walks or do more water retrieving, but doing so involves us out and about in public. Both dogs have small issues I have to work on, and taking both by myself just seems somewhat insurmountable sometimes. Well, not insurmountable, but more difficult. And if I only take Cosette, Trooper howls and yelps up a storm (separation anxiety – which is an issue unto itself). Cosette is in need of a few retouches on her heeling – she regularly walks with her shoulders ahead of the line of my hips, which is a no-no. I’m considering going back to basics with her, and restarting. Trooper is just in general all over the place, so he needs attention 100% of the time when we’re walking together. Together, they are a little too much to handle – especially if there is another dog crossing our path. The other day we were having a bit of a challenging walk and there was a dog standing in his own lawn minding his own business, and Cosette and Trooper saw him and just went nuts and ran in front of me to start barking. Luckily I had a good grip on their leashes and gave them a quick correction and walked away from the distraction. But, it still stands: I don’t have as much control over my dogs as I want.
This is a several part problem: (1) not enough exercise, (2) not enough training on my part, (3) not enough consistency. It’s very much an avoidant thing – because it’s bad, I avoid it, and by avoiding it, I make it worse. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they aren’t terrible or anything, but they certainly are not laid-back Labs.
Sigh. I should go walk them some more. I’ll go walk Trooper now, and Cosette later when Joel gets home so Troops has some company. Peace!
Yesterday it rained in the afternoon, so I decided to bring the dogs outside to enjoy the slightly cooler temperatures with a good game of fetch. After nearly an hour of retrieving, Trooper decided he was hot and done. He walked over to a puddle in the yard and laid down and splashed around in it. He couldn't be convinced to get up and play fetch anymore. That's when I decided to grab the camera. So, may I present: Splish Splash!
So, I realize this blog has become less and less about my dogs, and more about me. Which I guess is okay, seeing as how I'm the one who suffers - hard core - from Labradoris.
Here are some recent pictures of Trooper (5/23/10). He's 1 year and 2 months here. He is SO TALL. I need to get a picture of Cosette and Trooper standing together to show you exactly how tall he is as a reference.
Ain't he pretty?
So, the past few months have been a little, uh, busy.
HOW IS IT ALREADY APRIL!?
I'm going to back up and go back to the beginning. Back in January, Trooper's tail started bleeding. I thought it was a little sore on the end of his tail that would heal up. Unfortunately, the bleeding kept going, and my walls became SPLATTERED with what seemed like gallons of blood. I did weekly clean-up on the walls to try and keep everything clean, but I was getting tired of it.
I took Trooper (now 1 yr old) to my vet and she shaved the tail and diagnosed it as "happy tail." This means that he becomes so excited that he quite literally bangs the shit out of the end of his tail, so much so that it has created a wound, and every time he hits it again it reopens. So, we wrapped it up in a lot of bandaging material, with the instructions to keep his tail wrapped for up to 3 months.
We were warned that if it didn't heal, there wasn't really much else to be done except to (1) keep bandaging it, or (2) amputate it.
I didn't like either of those solutions. I contacted a trainer that happens to be located near me. She owns her own (large) business and trains police dogs to do various tasks (attacking, scent dogs, etc.). She also takes on harder clients - aggression problems, red-zone dogs, and teaches private and group classes on basic obedience.
I had Trooper on a pinch collar when we first went, and he was nuts as usual. He didn't jump up, which is what we had been working on, but he did bang his tail around in every direction - which is the reason why were there. She realized that even when he was focused intently on something (e.g., another dog), he would still get distracted when someone - like his handler - pet him or gave him any sort of attention. So much so that when she ran her hand down her back, he kind of reared back and bounced around. She concluded that he had touch sensitivity, which was causing him to be quite reactive in his environment.
It explained a lot -- why I couldn't pet him without him going balls to the walls nuts. Many other things as well. So, she had us take him off his pinch collar and start again with a choke chain.
We met with her several times a week for four weeks straight.
I diligently led him through his daily activities, which usually equated to a full hour of just training (not to mention other sorts of play time). So, every single day, we would go to an empty field, he and I, and we'd "walk squares" which is the activity we were focusing on the first week. Squares allows the handler to keep the dog on a 15-ft leash and work with them one on one. It also teaches the dog to be mindful of the handler, and to stay within a reasonable distance of the handler. This went on for days as we slowly began to shorten the lead to 12, then 10, then 8, then 5 ft of lead.
Then we started working on heeling, sitting, staying.
Four weeks later, he is almost a different dog. He still gets hyper (like most Labs) but he has learned to control himself and calm himself down.
He listens, pays attention, and follows commands beautifully.
He is now up to a full two minutes of "stay" (probably longer, but I get impatient!) and can maintain his sit/stay even if I am wiggling around or crouching down in an inviting manner. He waits at doors, looks us in the eye, and is generally calmer.
When he is calm, his tail is manageable and he slows it down. When he is hyper, like when he hasn't been worked for a while, he grows antsy and starts reverting back to his old tricks. So, I realize the importance of training him every day, consistently, without fail. Every moment is a training opportunity for him (and me) and so far it's working out well.
You know, it's funny. Just as sometimes my ovaries mysteriously and with no apparent warning sing out, "MUST HAVE KIDS. SOON!" I experience the same thing with my brain when I see puppies, especially Lab puppies. I don't think you can get any cuter than Lab puppies. I know I'm so very biased, and I fully admit it. There's a big temptation in me to want just.one.more, perhaps a yellow, to round out the furkids. But! And this is a big but!, not unlike my own, we don't know what the living situation will be in the next year. Have no clue. Both Joel and I are coming on to the job market, and we are looking internationally as well. Some international appointments have restrictions on how many dogs you can have, so that is a current deterrent.
Alas, I will have to deal with the mental anguish of not having another for a while, and love what I have. And boy, do I love them. =)