Saturday, December 17, 2016

Barley and Rye: Week 2

Despite slow progress during Week 1 of training Barley and Rye, the progress was also steady and I still felt good about where we were at going into Week 2.

Day 8
During our breakfast training session, Rye was more stressed than usual when I put her in the kitchen. We did a little relaxation work before I let Barley out and it seemed like she was calming down a bit--I had her sit at the gate and I'd walk 1 step away and come back and give her a treat. Then I'd do two steps and if she stayed calm, I came back and gave her another treat. Eventually, I could walk halfway down the hall to the room Bar was in without her freaking out, but as soon as I walked all the way away to get Barley, she lost her mind again--even trying to jump the gate a couple times. She never really calmed down and I didn't want to continue training with her so stressed, so we swapped sides early and she calmed down immediately when she was on the same side of the gate as me. The biggest success was that Barley finally rotated her hips to a relaxed position by the end of the session. She hasn't done that yet--she's been calm, but she's been ready to pop up at a moment's notice, so it was so nice to see her finally shift positions.

After dinner, we did a little relaxation work together. I had to modify our trainer's instructions to have them both on leash on either end of the couch. I knew that was setting us up for failure--with Rye's bounciness, I knew Barley would want to pounce on her. I know it's likely that at some point in Barley and Rye's lifetimes, Rye will be pounced--Barley can be crabby, even with dogs she likes--but I want them to have a strong, positive foundation before that happens. So, I set up our ex-pen, which Barley will choose to relax in if I have it set up in the living room with the door open, at one end of the couch. I put her bed in there, and when she snuggled up, I leashed Rye and had her at the other end of the couch. I was more comfortable knowing Barley couldn't easily get to Rye, and by being more relaxed myself, I could keep them relaxed. We kept the session short and then we had individual dog freedom time.

The boss supervises and makes sure nobody steps out of line.

Day 9
Honestly, I think we're all getting a little bored doing the kitchen gate work every meal. The dogs know they are supposed to lay down and have gotten pretty consistent with it. Sometimes, when Rye's on the opposite side from me, she gets up and paces or picks up a toy or puts her feet up on the gate and barks, but all I have to do is give her "the look" (I guess even though I have no desire to be a human child parent, I still picked that up from my mom) and she settles right back down. When Rye and I are on the same side, she lays down and stays put until we're done and Barley's a dream on either side (as long as Rye doesn't prolong the feeding process with her nonsense for too long). So, I thought we'd try a new approach to the crate so we could do a breakfast feeding with the crate and dinner with the gate, just for a change of scenery. I thought that if I put Rye in the crate with the same routine I use to put her in when I leave for work or for bedtime, she might be more relaxed at the beginning of the session. I was wrong. As soon as I walked out of the room to go get Barley, she started barking and bouncing again.

At dinner, we were back to the kitchen gate. I decided to distract Rye by giving her a couple carrots as I left the kitchen to get Barley. She was silent the entire time I ran upstairs and let Barley out of the bedroom. She was still a little stressed during training, but not as much as previous days.

Day 10
This was the first day of finals week, so training time was really limited. Rye had been cooped up much longer than usual, so she was wound up and had trouble focusing. The dogs were ok, but it wasn't our best training session. I eventually called it quits early because I didn't want Rye to practice being so distracted during a training session.

Barley understand that sometimes finals week means you just have to be still.

When Barley was tuckered out and curled up asleep in the ex-pen again, I brought Rye out for a bit. Rye was especially playful, which Barley tolerated for a little while, but when she started getting annoyed, I knew it was time to give everyone their separate spaces again.

Day 11
Another busy day of collecting final papers, but I did better at getting everyone out for more play time before training. Rye ran up to visit Barley in her crate as soon as I got home from work again. I took some treats up and rewarded calm behavior from both of them. After a few minutes, I just sat next to the crate petting Barley as she leaned against the side and we watched Rye play. Rye kept bringing toys over to Barley and bowing--Barley hasn't quite figured out what to think of that yet. Rye barks occasionally when Barley doesn't respond and that makes Barley a little crazy. Barley has played with other dogs successfully on exactly two occasions, so this is going to be a challenge for us.

Day 12
Our road had been a sheet of ice for almost a week and Barley hadn't gotten a walk in several days. Rye's yard time was limited because of insane wind chills of -12 degrees. I was afraid we'd have a rough day with everyone having been cooped up so much, but I also didn't have to go to work since I just had to grade all of the final papers I'd collected on Monday and Tuesday, so everyone had had more indoor play and snuggle time and we actually had one of our best training sessions yet with dinner. I've been trying to come up with different ways to keep Rye calm at the beginning of a training session--her panic seems to have more to do with me walking away and less to do with Barley's arrival, so I tossed a few carrots around the kitchen before I left to get Barley and Rye was silent as I walked away and when Barley appeared.  I was really pleased with how well the girls did.

I thought our trainer was crazy when she told me to feed them nose to nose like this, but I haven't lost a hand yet.

Day 13
We did our breakfast training with the crate again. I want Rye to be comfortable and calm in a crate no matter what's going on outside of the crate. If she ends up liking agility and is not too reactive to go to trials, she'll need to be able to stay in a crate while I walk the course, so this is a good way to practice those skills. To keep Rye from freaking out, I put her in her crate when I left to do the dog swap and give Barley some freedom (which was going to happen anyway because she'd eaten part of a quilt on Monday when I'd let her have some unsupervised freedom in her room on Monday). Usually, when we get ready for training, I'll take Rye out of her crate to go out to potty and then put her back in the crate before going to get Barley. This time, Barley and I just walked into the room with the bowl of dinner. Rye sat up in her crate, but she was completely quiet and as soon as Barley laid down in front of the crate, Rye laid down, too. Dinner was back to the kitchen gate for a change of scenery and we continued to have success.

Day 14
Barley woke up a little barfy (of course, I was downstairs with Rye when she barfed, so she ate the barf before I realized it had even happened, so I couldn't see if she'd eaten something--like a rock or a penny). She wanted to eat, so I gave her half kibble with breakfast training with the crate and then everyone ate the second half of breakfast separately so she could have some sensitive tummy wet food. Then we split dinner into two meals, too, because I had to go to graduation that evening and Barley doesn't think she's had dinner if it isn't dished up after I'm in for the night. We did half of dinner by the gate before graduation and after I got home, Rye and I went up and did the other half with Barley in her crate. For the first time--although I'm sure it happened in previous days--I noticed that Rye didn't freak out if Barley got up and moved. In week one, if Barley got up and walked away or got up and moved closer, Rye would bark her head off. This time, I noticed that if Barley got up and went after a kibble that had fallen out of my hand and rolled across the floor, Rye notice and watched, but she didn't make a peep.

We're looking forward to have some helpers over the holidays so that we can get in some walks with all three of us together and maybe try to relax with dogs on leash beside either end of the couch since there can be more humans dishing out treats and more bodies between them than just mine.


  1. Gosh, I got tired just reading this! :) It sounds like you are making great progress, and all your hard work is paying off (and you are being incredibly patient which I know isn't easy for you - like me). I think maybe having some extra help might help to get some big steps forward. I always read that "pack walks" can be key, so that might make a big difference too.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

    1. Patience is definitely not easy! There have been plenty of times when I've wanted to open the crate door/gate just to "see what happens," but I know that if something negative happens, it will take much longer to work past that than it has to build this good foundation so far! We've gotten a few walks in--Barley and Rye totally ignore each other on walks, but Barley also ignores my brother's dog, who she tries to eat if they are loose in the house together, on walks, so I'm not sure that really counts as progress.

  2. It sounds like things are going really well. I am sure more exercise before training would help, but this time of year it is hard to exercise the sufficiently. I bet you are excited to get some helpers.

    1. I don't think there are enough hours in the day for more exercise before training! Usually, I take Rye out and throw a toy in the yard for her for at least 20 or 30 minutes before the dinner training, but our best days have been the days have actually been when we've had the least amount of exercise!

  3. You're so dedicated! I love these posts and seeing the progress you're making with the girls. It's inspiring. I have to admit that I am really grateful for how easy Lachlan's transition into the family was. Hope everything keeps going smoothly!

    1. These pups are definitely teaching me a big lesson in patience! Thankfully, Rye has fit in beautifully with my parents' dog, so we don't have do quite as much swapping over the holidays as I was afraid we might have to do.

  4. Yay progress! Keep up the good work :)

    1. I'm just looking forward to our nephew getting here so he can wear Little Bit out.