Friday, November 26, 2010

"Don't worry.......He's friendly!!"

It is a rare dog owner who has not heard these very words, or something similar, as an offleash dog comes barreling straight at you with no signs of slowing.

Some might be thinking, "No big deal", right?

Unless you are the owner of a fearful or reactive dog, or even just a dog in training.

Despite the fact that all towns, cities, and parks in Prince Edward Island have explicit leash laws, many people still allow their dogs to run free and to approach other dogs and people uninvited.

Many dogs do not enjoy meeting other dogs while on leash, as it is very limiting and does not allow a dog to express its full range of communication to other dogs. Yet others do not enjoy interacting with other dogs much at all, and may even be fearful of the approach of other dogs offleash.

Dog owners who have dogs with issues try to be proactive with their dogs to keep everyone safe, through leashes, training, and managment, only to be run upon by offleash dogs that cause a reactive outburst. Then the owner with the reactive dog is blamed, when in reality the offleash dog rudely interrupted the dog's space which is a no-no in dog-speak.
Also, many people without dogs are not interested in having all manners of uncontrolled dogs running at their dogs, without knowing the true intent of the oncoming dog's actions. Some people think that anything other than fighting is "friendliness", but there are many other pushy, overbearing, and bullying things that these offleash dogs do that go unchecked. Even people walking without dogs do not always enjoy the assaults of offleash dogs running at them. And letting an offleash dog run up to others without invitation may result in undesirable consequences for your own dog, if for any reason the other person/dog thinks there may be a threat and responds accordingly.
Being a responsible pet owner means keeping dogs on leash in leash-law areas, and if in an offleash area, under control with training so that your dog will leave other dogs and people alone unless invited to interact. Being responsible involves acknowledgment that others use the same areas and may want to be left alone.

Just remember -your dog may be "friendly" - but not all others want to make friends!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Family Matters

Last night I had one of those nights where I was reminded of the depth that a relationship between people and dogs can reach. I've always been open in saying that of all of my dogs, Gaci is my true heart dog. We have a bond that surpasses mere training, something that cannot be put into words. She has taught me more about patience, trust, and understanding than any other person or dog.

That said, Gaci is an independent, sassy, self-thinker. Extremely clever, she figures out easily how to get what shw wants, and as a bit of a control freak sometimes let's her dismays known. Those who meet her fall in love with her, despite the fact that the last thing SHE wants is to make friends with strangers! She has that effect on others, and her lot-of-dog-in-small-body cuteness just aids that.

She's not a cuddler. She likes to do her own thing most of the time. So when I was greeted last night with a very upset gal, who looked for me and stood by my side with pleading eyes and shivering like mad, I knew something had frightened her. Without question, upon invitation she crawled into my lap and sat there for some time. I stroked her ears, massaged her cheeks, which helped to calm her. Eventually she laid down and with a big sigh finally fell asleep. After about a half hour she awoke as though nothing were wrong. She gave me a final lick on the nose and hopped off my lap to do her own thing.

I don't know what frightened her. She doesn't get scared at environmental things. But the other night the power went out in the middle of the night and flickered several times, causing the smoke detector to make some strange beeping sounds. That startled her, although she settled back into sleep. I can only think the oven timer, which sounds similar, may have triggered a scare as it happened not too long before.

Regardless of why, it once again reminded me that while she may prefer to do her own thing, and definitely has her own opinions on things, when it comes down to the serious stuff she looked for me, for acknowledgement, for comfort, and for company. A trust that cannot be expressed in our language, and stronger than any description can even begin to measure. It's something you just know when you experience it, and it makes your heart feel as big as the world.

Gaci may not be perfect. But there aren't too many things that feel more right than that bond that we share.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Looking Back......

I recently attended the Grand Opening for a local pet supply store, Blue Ribbon Pet Supply, in which I was invited to attend to answer questions, help out, and put on training demonstrations. The weather wasn't the greatest, it would rain on and off, and the ground was quite wet in general, so we were limited in what we could do outdoors, but we made the best of it. But, it was a super-busy time and there were lots of people out and about!

Shimmer and Zipper were pretty model citizens in terms of being greeters. They would practice their down/stays on mats while customers milled about, stopped to see them, and asked questions - the biggest one being "how did you teach that?". It was a nice segue into clicker training and how to teach behaviours that will hold up in even high distractions.

Shimmer practiced some of her Rally-O behaviours, some heeling, fronts, pivots, etc, and some fun tricks that she knows. She is a fun demonstrator because she gets quite into it and really bounces around. Gaci had the opportunity to show off some of her tricks as well. She practiced cleaning up her toys, opening/closing cupboard doors, climbing/perching on various objects, as well as some other tricks like Take a Bow, Spin Left/Right, etc. Gaci found the situation a bit stressful at first and was distracted by all of the folks looking at her, but eventually she settled in to work.

It's hard with Gaci though because people are so drawn to touching her and interacting with her, and she really doesn't enjoy it, so I had to balance the fun stuff with putting her to bed before I had to do too much of the "She would prefer not to be petted, but you can give her a treat!" routine. I am still torn on pulling her from public demonstrations altogether because of that, but at the same time she does enjoy the working aspect as she loves to work. 

All in all, it was a good demo weekend. There are some things I would have done differently, although the weather did dictate what we could and couldn't do, but not bad for a sort of last-minute planning situation. Here are a few more photos from that day.

Cleaning up toys!

Taking a *perch*!

Shimmer practicing some Rally obedience! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Successful Rally Weekend!

This past weekend was an eye-opener for me, in just how much Shimmer has progressed from the sensitive little girl that she was, to the wonderful girl that she is today and continues to become. We entered our second Rally trial together this past weekend, a total of six trials. She had two Q's from her last trial, so she only needed one more to get her Novice title, which she got in her first trial along with taking High in Class and a score of 94.

At that point she moved up to Advanced. The biggest difference is that it is all off-leash, and there are several new behaviours to learn. We had been training at that level, and was pretty confident that we would do okay. There was only one skill that we hadn't yet perfected, and I told myself that if we faced it I would take the 10-point loss rather than have her attempt to perform a semi-learned skill in the ring. Anyway, her second trial came out with her first Advanced Q and another High in Class with a score of 96! That ended day one, in which we were all tired and headed home to crash for a few hours.

Day Two yielded a busier day, as there was also obedience and conformation going on and there was a lot more going on in the arena than there had been on Friday. It was a much louder morning. Shimmer showed a little bit of stress-sniffing and some other calming signals, but she handled herself well and came out with two more Q's that day and a second and third place (her third place was a result of that 10-point loss that I mentioed above, that I knew I would likely run into), which I was very very grateful for considering that I knew she was showing more stress the second day.

After having gained two new titles in two days, I knew we were not fully prepared for the Excellent Class, so I decided to pull her from her last two trials. I'm sure we could have gotten through it with a Q, but I would prefer to take the time and work through the exercises to a high level of skill and get the good scores I know she can achieve, rather than just *get the Q* with a lower score. I also didn't want to frustrate or confuse her with things she hasn't faced before and risk having that affect her trialing, as it wouldn't have been a fluid performance like her other ones, so we enjoyed our third day at home. Shimmer slept most of the day, as she was quite tired.

All in all, a fabulous weekend and I could not be more proud! She did so well, continued working in the face of some stress, and came out with a great weekend and great performance. I'm excited to see what the 2011 Rally season brings, and it gives me a focus to work towards over the slower winter months!