Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hey, pretty girl, won't you look my way?

I know you've all been waiting on the edge of your seats to find out what the fake dogs were in Saturday's class, but there have been so many Barley-related things on my mind lately that I didn't even know where to start.

So, I guess, I'll just start with what you've all been waiting for: fake dogs!  Sadly, the fake dogs were a disappointment.  They were not like my dad's fake coyote or the robot dog I got one Christmas.  They were not taxidermied dogs.  Instead, they were just regular old stuffed toys.  A toy Boston Terrier and a toy Pomeranian.  Barley was intrigued by them for .2 seconds, but once she sniffed them, the charade was over.  First, our trainer pulled blankets off of the fake dogs and had their backs turned to the class.  Barley's ears perked up immediately.  Then we took turns walking down a path towards the dogs, practicing our "what's that" command as we walked by the real dogs in class and as we got closer to the fake dogs.  Then our trainer would turn the dogs to face us to take things up to the next level.  Then we got close enough that Barley could sniff them, but after a quick sniff she was no longer interested in them.  Our trainer said she's bringing a fake Jack Russell for us to work with next week.
Doing her best impression of a fake dog under a blanket.
So, we spent a lot of time working on "what's that" during class.  Every time a dog walked down the path to the fake dogs, we did "what's that."  Then we worked more when it was our turn to walk.  Barley was doing a great job.  She got to the point by the end of class where she'd look at the other dogs and then look at me before I even said "what's that."  On the way to class, we heard Kip Moore's "Hey Pretty Girl," which seemed appropriate for a class that was totally focused on getting my dog to look at me.

We also did some more mat work, but I'm still not exactly sure what we're supposed to be doing with it other than feeding them treats when they step/sit on the mat.
Enjoying her mat in the sunshine.
Sibling kisses on the mat. Barley's good at sharing.
Class really seems to be paying off.  Having other dogs, including one that is very barky and has to stay not only behind a partition but behind a sheet covering the partition, in a controlled environment has been a great opportunity to practice things that we have been doing on walks for two years.  It's a lot easier to get Barley used to being in high stress situations when all of the other dogs are under control.  Getting Barley to focus on me is a lot harder when there are off-leash dogs (or even tethered dogs) barking and lunging at us with no owners around to help diffuse the situation.  After just two weeks of working with the other dogs in class, Barley's been a lot more focused on our walks.  An off-leash Pomeranian charged at us on a walk on Sunday and Barley stayed with me and Barley glanced at the dog (and I threw treats behind us to get the Pom to stop for a second so we could get farther away).  Yesterday, a dog got away from it's owners and ran up to us on our walk (and just wanted to play, but Barley doesn't understand that).  I didn't want to keep walking because it was a busy road, so I didn't want the pup running any farther away while its owners were trying to get it, and Barley sat and watched me (uncomfortably) while the pup sniffed her until its owners could collect her.  We even saw a Jack Russell (not the neighbor's) running with its owners at the ball park we walk by all the time, and even though Barley was super interested, she didn't lunge or bark.  SUCCESS!  It's a beautiful feeling.  Barley was even relatively under control during agility class on Monday night.  She even laid down next to the keeshond in class--and WAS NOT in sphinx position!  She was relaxed!
She hopped up to see what was making noise in the parking lot, but didn't bark!
Saturday's class got started with some sad news, though.  One of the dogs that had been in our first Saturday class had a seizure and died a few days after class.  It got class started off on a somber note, and then made my hypochondria go crazy later in the night.  Barley's dishes are under a counter in my kitchen and her bowls had gotten pushed back farther than usual.  In her dinner excitement, she slammed her head on the counter and was a little off for the rest of the night; I was convinced she was concussed and was on edge all night watching her.

Even though we had a lot of success in Saturday's class, Barley was incredibly stressed during the end of class.  The dog behind the sheet is set up in the partitioned section next to us and is very reactive, not just to other dogs, but to people.  When the trainer walks up, she barks and jumps and pulls (although by the end of each class she has been still and quiet when the trainer approaches, so she's making progress, too!).  The fake dogs really pushed that dog's limits--she didn't even walk near them; the trainer set them up in front of her section, first just one dog, then the second, and kept their backs turned toward her; then she turned them one at a time and gradually moved the closer, but the other dog barked a lot.  Barley was so nervous.  Every time the dog would bark, she'd pin her ears back and look for a place to hide.  Her tail was wagging non-stop--but not the crazy Barley wagging, it was stress wagging.  It's so hard to see her stressed out like that.  Eventually, after we played the one-hour down game, her tail stopped moving and her ears were a little more normal, but it breaks my heart to not have a quick and easy way to let her know that everything's ok.  On today's walk, two dogs behind a fence were barking and her ears went back and she slinked along and then a loud car drove by and Barley jumped back and cowered.  While it was funny that one time seeing her jump back from the rock at Meditation Point at the arboretum, it was tough to see her doing it out in the real world with cars and dogs, things that actually can be scary.

Barley had a fun visit with her Uncle Ben on Sunday night, though, so that hopefully outweighed some of the other trauma she went through with off-leash dogs, barking dogs, and loud cars.  My baby bro had an interview nearby on Monday, so he spent the night on Sunday to avoid having to leave my parents' house at the crack of dawn.
Uncle Ben is here!!
Barley's only favorite uncle.
Ben had barely made it in the door before Barley herded him into the middle of the room and then started tossing toys in the air.  Then she pounced on him for some snuggle time.

I also had an exciting adventure on Thursday.  One of my favorite poets, Billy Collins, did a poetry reading, so I met up my parents and went to see him.  I got a few books signed and we had a lot of laughs listening to the reading.
Laughing with Billy Collins--no big deal.
Soth's also doing really well.  He's been sticking to the litter box, eating like a pig, and climbing like a little monkey.
How did he get up there with a wall of clothes blocking the shelves and a tiny spot to sit?
Hope that everyone's having a wonderful National Poetry Month and that you're all getting a little sunshine and warmth to soak up!


  1. So glad Bar is doing well! Mad Dog gets stressed when the other dogs bark, too, but once the treats start coming I think he feels a little better about it ;-) I'm proud of our pups! I'm also glad my nephew is feeling so good! Maybe he just needed sunshine in his life.

    1. I'm glad she's doing well, too, but sometimes I wish there was a surefire, easy way to let her know that she's ok. Sometimes she gets so upset she doesn't even want the treats, so it's hard to see my crazy, food-motivated pup that way. I'm glad that my nephew is also enjoy class and learning a lot! Sothy can't wait to snuggle in the sunshine with his Aunt L!