Thursday, 21 July 2016

Things I Have Learned About Dogs: the Charlie and Scruffy update

We're cute. What more could there possibly be?

2 dogs are so much more than the sum of their parts! Multi-dog management is a thing. Other than knowing their individual quirks (assuming owner has them on the same routine), you have to manage their relationship as well. I don't know if other packs of dogs coexist utterly harmoniously or whether Charlie and Scruffy's relationship dynamic is common.

Some dogs smell more than others. From my experience the non-shedders (poodle-type) seem to smell more doggy. Experiences?

Different dogs definitely have different habits. Energetic Scruffy takes himself to bed straight after dinner and nothing will get him up -- except his brother getting a treat.


Dogs generally want to be where the people are. Out of the limited sample size that has come through my house, every dog, even those without separation distress, has chosen to stay where the people are.

So are you coming back in now?

Being firm is a good thing. So far, being firm with dogs hasn't steered me wrong. I'm not using any positive punishment* past a firm NO, but using negative punishment** like turning my back, ignoring, time-outs and just plain not letting the dogs get away with stuff seems to work on these guys, on Penne, and so on.

Some dogs are definitely rougher on their toys than others. Guess I'll have to make another USA trip to get Ava a new Peep.

If you think this toy is still alive, you'd be... mistaken.

Having non-reactive dogs on walks is a wondrous thing. Even Ava reacts more than these two do, because she wants to greet every human and dog she sees. These guys pay no attention at all to passers-by and I love it!

Operant conditioning crash course:
* positive punishment = giving something the dog hates as a result of their behaviour, to make them less likely to repeat it
** negative punishment = taking away something dog wants as a result of their behaviour, to make them less likely to repeat it

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

A Morning: Featuring Sunshine, A Success, and Pink Combat Boots

dog head ears silhouette in morning light
Scruffy: ere's to winter sunshine

It seems to be tradition that on the last morning of a dog's stay with me, we are out early enjoying the morning sunshine (and tolerating the cold!). I use my camera to get a few decent shots and to keep me from getting antsy, as I am wont to do when things are quiet. 

I had a lovely game of fetch with Scruffy this morning! It feels really satisfying to have found a way to play safely -- even if just for this time.

See, 7-year-old Charlie is nervous of his boisterous little brother. To be fair, Scruffy is clearly the dominant one and will sniff Charlie periodically to remind him who owns the toys, and even lunge at/hump his brother on occasion. But it has created a little fluffy fun police. Any time there is any kind of arousal level from a dog in the vicinity, be it Scruffy bouncily fetching a ball for a human, or Scruffy and Ava checking each other out -- Charlie reacts, barking and growling at the 'threat'.

I understand it, since his brother is known to redirect arousal onto him -- but it's still frustrating that I can't help 4-year-old wire fox terrier Scruffy work off his energy with tug or fetch because Charlie will react. Note that Charlie reacts when none of these high arousal levels are actually directed at him... if Scruffy happens to find a tennis ball and begins to bat it around with his paws, my eyes will be glued to Charlie!

little fluffy labardoodle resting chin next to person's side
Charlie: always by your side

Now, the shoes. I mentioned that Scruffy pulls off shoes -- this seems to be an excitement behaviour. If he is trying to hump or play fetch with a human, he may suddenly and very deliberately grab a shoe in his teeth and pull it with such force he pulls it off. (You can imagine my shock the first time he did it -- there I was, sitting on a chair, when out of the blue Scruffy came up and started humping my leg. I pried him off me and he grabbed my shoe and pulled with the unyielding grip and force of a terrier -- which instantly set off quiet Charlie, in the doorway of the house, barking and growling! Boy, was I wondering what had hit me...)

But I've learned a thing or two since then.

So this morning I put on my trusty combat boots and grabbed the toy. I then recruited my dad to help out. His job? Call Charlie over to him and sit with him while I threw the toy for Scruffy. And you know what? Scruffy fetched, Gave and Sat for me to throw again, and when he grabbed my boot in his teeth I planted my feet and yelled "NO!"

My boot didn't budge, of course, and Scruffy actually let go, so I firmly commanded him to Sit and turned my back on him for ten seconds. When he was calmer, game resumed.

This is basically the same method I used to teach puppy Ava bite inhibition  -- yelp and turn my back to stop the game when she used teeth. Only the Scruffy method requires you to a) steel yourself, figuratively and literally (okay, my boots are actually rubber-capped, but did I mention they're pastel pink? So nyeh!) and b) keep Charlie well enough away/occupied so as not to interrupt the training with his panic.

But this morning I managed it, so I am super happy.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Simply Scruffy Saturday

Happiness is a dog and his toy.

I challenge anyone to watch this and not smile!

Thursday, 7 July 2016

A Development: In Which We Get Even More Official But Melon Learns How Much She Really Has to Learn

So this little dude is Charlie.

mini Labradoodle
Charlie the mini Labradoodle
He's quiet and independent.

And this goof is Scruffy.

Wire Fox Terrier
Scruffy the Wire Fox Terrier
While younger, he is bigger in size as well as enthusiasm --  boisterous and playful.

As brothers (ie. from the same household), they couldn't be more different, but they are both staying with me this week as their owner is on a trip.

During the day, I feel like a boss keeping them on a good schedule and walking two dogs at once. I'm also marvelling at their overall cooperation, ability to settle and solid housetraining (touch wood) in an unfamiliar environment. I've got this, I'm doing awesome. (It's also been pouring rain and I have a cold, so I must be superwoman or something.)

In the evenings, though, I go to bed freaked out after humping and scuffles -- anxiety in my stomach and praying it won't happen again. What if something happens that I can't control?

I have so much to learn -- how to recognise a 'normal' household scuffle vs. what is likely to escalate, how to react, how to read behaviour (I'm totally flummoxed by a strange repeating sequence where Scruffy humps my leg then forcibly removes my sock/shoe, triggering quiet meek Charlie to suddenly bark warningly at Scruffy), how to compromise for two dogs at once while also not compromising individual needs, the list goes on. I know most of this comes with practice, but... any advice?

And can anyone drop me a line to talk humping? (There's one for 'things I never thought I'd say'...) 

I really have no experience with this and would dearly welcome some better understanding and advice!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

A Return: In Which We Ponder The Keys To Happiness

I'm back from my travels. Holidays are lovely, but I'm also happy to be home, because, luckily, things are generally looking up for me recently. After all, I have a couple of things to keep me busy and to look forward to.

What's that old saying? To be happy you need something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to? Well, then:

Keys to Melon's Happiness

♥ Something to do: Get my driver's licence, to make my life work approximately 547, 629 times easier

♥ Someone to love: Little Miss Ava, of course!

puppy zooms around with toy in mouth
New toy! New toy!
(It's hard to justify buying souvenirs when you're travelling, sometimes. But the puppy clearly needs a Marshmallow Peep-tug toy.)

♥ Something to look forward to: New jobs! I have 2 fluffies boarding with me from tomorrow, in fact. Stay tuned...

Ava Cavalier pup lies under cafe table
If you really loved me, you'd share your lunch.