Friday, July 22, 2016

We're Still Here

It's been a while. This summer has been a little rough for the blog, but I wanted to let you all know we're still here.

There's just been a lot of sadness in the world lately and a lot of my friends have been hurting, so it's been hard to put my heart into silly stories about the pet siblings or lament our training woes. 

But we're still here.

We're still enjoying the backyard, taking long walks, taking longer naps, drinking good beer, watching baseball, and reading (if you have the Litsy app--find me: eedevore).

I went on a quick trip to Denver for a wedding. Barley went on a quick trip to her trainer's for boarding. Soth got to have the house to himself while a friend visited him and made sure his bowl didn't go empty for long.

My sister had to get kisses from the dachshund.

I survived a flight back to Cleveland the day before the #RNCinCLE started. I was only minimally cranky about all of the extra people milling around baggage claim and impeding my progress back to the parking garage and delaying my reunion with my darlings.

So, we're still here. But my heart's still just a little heavy. I've got several silly pet stories and some training celebrations to share, but for now, we're going to continue to take a little more time off and spend some time with my human family.

We're thinking of you. We miss you and can't wait to catch up on all of the posts you shared while I was traveling. We'll be back in August.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Mid-Year Update

I'm not sure where this year has gone, but somehow we've reached the halfway mark! It's been two months since our last resolution update, so I thought it was a good time for a quick update on where we're at going into the second half of the year.

In May, we upped our mileage a bit and got in 109.65 miles--we missed two days of walking while I was on vacation. We both walked separately those days, but only miles we do together count.

In June, we walked every day--twice on most days--and logged 118.14 miles.

Most of the walks in both months were in our neighborhood or my parents' neighborhood, but we got in a few walks at the state park, a few visits to our deer friends after agility class, and a couple visits to the arboretum. Despite the fact that we were in our neighborhood for most of the walks, neither of us are getting bored. We're feeling really lucky that we can easily get 3 miles in our neighborhood without repeating any streets and there are two very different halves to our neighborhood that make it easy to take different walks in the morning and the evening.

We reached the halfway point of the year with 568.66 miles so far, which is 51.7% of our goal--that means we're a little ahead of schedule! Technically, with the mileage we've already earned in July, we only need 2.88 miles/day to reach our 1,100-mile goal for the year. We'll still be striving for at least 3 miles a day, especially since we have a couple travel days together and I'm taking a long weekend to go to my cousin's wedding--and it never hurts to get ahead so that when winter arrives we don't have to feel obligated to be out in the cold for a full hour to get our mileage in.

We're looking forward to working in a few more adventures in the second half of the year as well as seeing how our new neighborhood transforms with each season.

We've already learned the neighborhood lines the streets with flags for Memorial Day and 4th of July.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Turf Wars

Last month, I wrote about our training plan for dealing with the dogs on the other side of the fence. I wish that I could write this month and tell you that we have overcome our struggles and are enjoying our yard. Unfortunately, we haven't made much progress yet.

One of the attempts we've made to make it harder to get her nose under the fence.

But we have been training. A lot.

I mentioned that there would probably be a lot of trial and error--and I wasn't wrong.

First, our training plan went out the window. There's no warning of when the dino-dogs will come out in their yard, so when we were outside relaxing, I usually couldn't get Barley leashed to go back to the basics of our reactive dog training--even if I brought a leash out with us--because she'd notice the dino-dogs before I did and lose her mind. That isn't the best starting point for training, so we'd go back inside and try again later.

Then Barley started running towards the fence as soon as I'd open the door--even when the dogs weren't out. I'd call her to me and reward her from coming away from the fence. Pretty soon, Barley started running at the fence all of the time and then turning to me to see if she'd get a treat. All of the sudden, I heard our agility trainer's words from when Barley was running to check out the windows in class: Don't reward her coming to you after visiting the windows because then she'll learn that she gets a treat for running to the window before coming back to you. You have to reward her for coming to you instead of going to the window. I realized I had to get Barley's attention before she had a chance to go to the fence. Timing really is everything.

We've made a little progress with that. When I let her outside, I call her to me as soon as she gets down the stairs and if she doesn't go to the fence instead, she gets her snack. If she does start to go to the fence, she just gets a quick nope, usually she puts on the breaks and I praise her, and then we try something else. If she runs the fence while I'm reading or doing yard work and I can't stop it with a quick nope, I'll call her to me and pet her and praise her, but she doesn't get a snack. She's starting to spend less time charging towards the fence and more time exploring the rest of the yard or playing with a toy--as long as the dino-dogs aren't out.

When the dino-dogs are out, though, her inner hellhound comes out. If I see them before I open the door, I'll put her on leash and we'll do a little work that way, but more often than not, they come out after we're already out in the yard. A few times, I've seen them before Barley has and we've immediately gone into the basics of our reactive dog training--just without the leash and long lead I'd planned to work with.

Some days, she does better than others. If I have a steady supply of treats, she'll stay in a down and do some of her relaxation work--but the treats have to come every few seconds, so we can't keep that up for long. Every time I've tried to increase the time between rewards, she springs up and races over to the fence and does her snarling routine and tries looking for ways to get through the fence.

We try to take breaks from the relaxation work to give her brain something different to think about, so sometimes we do off-leash heeling exercises around the yard with regular treats. She's doing surprisingly well with that as long as I don't wait too long between the treats. We can do serpentine patterns, diagonals, circles, sits, downs. We can walk towards the fence and she can be on the side of me that's closest to the fence. Then we head back to the patio and go back into relaxation work. I wasn't sure she'd be able to do this off-leash when the dino-dogs were present, but she's impressed me.

We've also done a lot of "it's your choice" work. Our very favorite version is the treats on the paws game and that's the one that takes the most self-control for Barley. We'd worked up to 14 treats on her paws in the past, but when the dino-dogs are out, we have to start from scratch. She can't stay in a down long enough to get that many--she'll give up and abandon the treats to charge the fence. Each time we start with one treat on each paw, just to warm up. We've worked back up to 4 or 5 on each paw regularly, but I can tell it's really hard for her to hold her focus that long, so we're taking our time.

And sometimes she refuses to give you both paws, so you can get 8 on one paw.

I know we've made some progress, but we're nowhere close to where I'd like to be. I'd like to be able to sit outside with a book and not have to stop between every sentence to see if the dino-dogs are out or to give Barley her snack for staying down. I'd like to be able to drink a beer and watch the Pirates games on the back porch and not miss half of an inning because we're doing heeling patterns around the yard. Even when the dino-dogs aren't out, I still can't full relax because I have to be on the lookout so I can attempt to get Barley's attention before they do if they do come out.

"Who says I don't know how to relax?"

Our reactive dog trainer reminded me that this type of freedom is something that is completely new for Barley--she's spent the last 5.5 years of her life on a leash (and who knows what her first year of life was like), so we really are starting over. It took months of training for her to be able to walk by other dogs on a leash without lunging and she still has her moments if the other dog is really wound up. It was a full year of training before we were at the point where we could take the Canine Good Citizen test and pass the portion involving another dog. So, it's unfair for me to expect her to be able to relax off-leash while the dino-dogs grumble and sprint along the other side of the fence after only a month of training. Of course, that doesn't make it any easier to accept that this summer probably won't involve much relaxing in the backyard and it's even harder to feel like all of the work we've done over the years has gone out the window (even though I know that's not true).

Barley will be in boarding with her reactive dog trainer soon, so I'm hoping we have a chance to chat with her about our fence issues and can further develop our game plan. In life before Barley, patience was never my forte--she's helped me get better, but this has been our biggest training challenge in a while and it's hard not to try to rush the process or to feel frustrated.

We're linking up with Rubicon Days, Cascadian Nomads, and Tenacious Little Terrier for for the Positive Pet Training blog hop that starts the first Monday of each month and runs all week.

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