Friday, December 23, 2016

Barley and Rye: Week 3

With the holidays, we're doing our weekly update a little early--and since I haven't had a chance to sit down each day and type a quick summary, things will be organized a little bit differently than weeks 1 and 2.

We've been continuing with the hand feeding at meal times--Barley and Rye are both more relaxed. We've had a few different places to do the mealtime routine, so Rye's getting more comfortable with the routine in a variety of different locations.


Rye's crate has been moved to the bedroom so that we can all sleep in the same room at night. Even though she doesn't like to relax in there during the day (although we're making progress with that as well), she goes in after I take her out at the end of the day and curls up and goes right to sleep--even if I stay up and read for a few minutes. Barley has had no problems staying in the bed with me all night and not bothering her sister.



There are still some times when someone is shut in the bedroom/crate all alone, but there's less of that time now and it's nice to all be able to be in the same room even if there are some barriers between us. Barley's also been much more tolerant of Rye bouncing around near the crate when she's in it. There are moments when she's had enough of Rye's bouncing and doesn't hesitate to snap in her direction and bark, but those moments are fewer and farther between.


We've also had some help with taking walks together. Barley is definitely always aware of where Rye is and what she's doing, but she's pretty much ignored Rye on walks. Her ears are usually a little more pinned back than I'd like to see, but she hasn't been pulling and there are a few times when I have been able to walk close enough to her with Rye to give both of them treats side by side. Rye is far too busy sniffing and checking everything else out to even notice Barley.

Rye's been getting some solo walks, too, so she's getting better at loose leash walking. We still have a long way to go, but we're getting there.


I'm pleased with the progress they've made this week, but I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that we get that moment of the legends where animals can talk on Christmas Eve so we can all sit down together and have a little chat in a language all three of us can understand! 

We'll be taking a bit of a break for a few days to enjoy some family time, but we're wishing all of our friends the very happiest holidays! We hope your days are filled with good food, good friends, family, and peace. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Visions of Pet Treater Danced in Their Heads

Somehow, our Pet Treater box seems to know exactly when we need it to arrive. Our beautiful, fun snow turned our street into a sheet of ice and the more trampled our snow got, the more slippery the yard got. I also had 5 classes worth of finals to grade. By Thursday, both dogs were going a little stir crazy. Our mail usually comes towards the end of the day, but for some reason, as I was finishing dishing up the pups' breakfast, the mail carrier rang the bell!

After our breakfast training session, it seemed like as good a time as any to dive into our box. Barley's the head dog around here, so she gets the first look at all new packages. 


Santa definitely came early for us. This box had quite the haul! And once again, there was something for everyone in this box.


Barley's favorite item was the Multipet Loofa Dog Santa Toy. We have quite the collection of these--including Barley's very first toy. We call the first one Cosmo (that's a story for another day) and all of the others are [insert color or theme] Cosmo--and Barley can get all of them on command. Santa Cosmo was a hit from the moment the box was open.


Another favorite item was a Siesta Time Pet Throw. This is a nice, soft blanket with a pretty gold cord around the edge. Soth immediately claimed this one. He was fine with letting Rye keep it warm for him when he was off doing other things, but this blanket belongs to him. 


Rye got a Grriggles Crab Ball. She's been running around with this in her mouth for days. It squeaked really nicely the first day, but somehow she killed the squeaker (even though the full ball seemed to be the squeaker) and now it just sounds like a creepy heart beat as she squeezes it. She loves it, though, so I can deal with creepy noises. 

Can you tell we've been working on stay?

There were also several edible items in the box. We got a Santa Cookie that the dogs haven't tried yet since they had been so cooped up for days and didn't need extra calories, but considering how much Barley loved the turkey last month, I know Santa will be a hit, too.

We got a Cookie Mix with a a bone cookie cutter inside. This immediately got packed up in our box of things to take to my parents' for the holidays so that we can share with all of the other dogs in the family. 

Rye and I have been working on a few commands this week: stay, shake, and roll over. The Exclusively Dog Sausage Bits treats we got were a big help in this. I don't usually let the dogs have pork since I've read conflicting things on how easy it is for them to digest pork products, but I figured in small doses, I could make an exception. I personally hate sausage and these treats smell exactly like sausage (probably because pork liver is the first ingredient), which doesn't thrill me, but it thrilled the pups. 

Rye also got to expand her wardrobe a bit with a Santa's Little Helper bandana and a set of antlers.  I was expecting our dress up session to go poorly, but Rye was so patient and really showed off how good her stay is getting while I snapped a few photos.



As always, there was something just for me in the box, too: fuzzy socks! I cut the tags off and pulled the on right away. They stayed on all day long and my feet were warm and happy all day.

This box was one of our favorites so far! Everything in the box was something that we can use and love. If you're still trying to find the perfect holiday gift for the pets in your life, we highly recommend getting them a Pet Treater subscription. In addition to giving your pet a great gift, you'll be giving a gift to a shelter pet because Pet Treater sends a blanket, toy, or bag of treats to a shelter pet. 

Don't forget that with any 3, 6, or 12 month subscription plan you can use code FREE-PTBED to get a free bed for your pup! Or, you can use LOVE-PT5 to get $5 off any subscription. 

DisclaimerWe were provided with a Pet Treater box in exchange for our honest review, but all opinions are my own and we only share information we think is relevant and valuable to our readers. Pet Treater is not responsible for the content of this post. 

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.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Curing the Oldest Sibling Blues with Wellness Kittles

With so much of the day being dedicated to training Rye and training Barley and Rye together, Soth's not getting as much attention as he's used to. He's pretty independent and as long as he has food, he doesn't ask for much, but I feel bad that he isn't getting quite as much snuggle time, especially since Rye has eliminated afternoon naps. As the oldest of three siblings, I know the struggle Soth is having (he should just be glad he doesn't have to chauffeur anyone to and from baseball practice!).

cat in dog bed
Don't worry, I'll just steal Barley's bed.

When our friends at Chewy.com asked us if we wanted to review Wellness Kittles cat treats, I jumped on the opportunity. Kittles are Soth's favorite snack. For a long time, Kittles only came in three flavors: chicken and cranberries, tuna and cranberries, and salmon and cranberries. I try to limit Soth's seafood intake because he seems to have fewer problems with his FLUTD when he eats less seafood, but he also likes variety, so we didn't have many options before. Recently, Wellness added three new flavors to their Kittles line up: duck and cranberries, turkey and cranberries, and whitefish and cranberries. I was so excited that Soth has more non-seafood options!

He was not happy I was taking a picture instead of dispersing Kittles.

Chewy.com sent us a package of duck and cranberries Kittles to review and it's safe to say that Soth likes these just as much as the chicken ones. He couldn't wait to dig in--he chooses his breakfast each morning by rubbing up on the can he wants when I hold out two flavors; he immediately rubbed on the package of Kittles. We had many photo bloopers while trying to take a picture because he kept rubbing on the package and knocking it over!

cat rubbing on wellness kittles

One of my favorite things about them is the calorie count. They have less than two calories per treat. Soth also has fewer problems with FLUTD when he is at a lower weight, but he gets hangry and when he's hangry, he's destructive. If he needs a snack between meal times, I don't have to worry about giving him a few Kittles to tide him over.

Wellness Kittles

There are also a lot of treats in each package. The Chewy.com website says there are over 150 treats per package. I haven't ever counted them, but these packages last Soth a long time when he gets 5-7 treats a day.


The ingredients are ingredients that I trust. The first ingredient in the treats is duck. Cranberries are also good for bladder health--even though they are 7th on the ingredient list, every little bit of extra bladder health support Soth can get is good in my book.

The company cares. Wellness not only cares about their customers, but they also care about giving back. Between Dec. 1-Dec. 19, for every Wellness product purchased at Chewy.com, Wellness donates a pet food meal to the Jackson Galaxy Foundation to feed pets in need. Even better, for every Chewy Influencer that chose to review a Wellness product, Wellness donated 5 cases of food!! 

It's rare for me to place a Chewy.com order without including at least one package of Kittles. Now that we have more flavors to choose from, Soth will be even more excited to see Chewy.com packages showing up on the front step!

Cat on top of Chewy.com Box

There are still a few days left to help Wellness help shelter pets, so be sure to add a package of Wellness cat or dog treats or food to your cart today. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

First Snow Fun

If you follow us on Instagram, you know that we had our first snow of season on Thursday. This first snow was extra special, though.

Even though it has snowed since we bought our house, we didn't have a fence until June--so Barley had never been able to play off-leash in the snow, so in a way, this was Barley's first snow.



We didn't have much snow in the morning before work, but it was starting to come down, so Barley and I got to have a lovely snowy walk. Barley loves to catch snowflakes on her nose and there was plenty of opportunity for that.

blissful dog in snow

I had to laugh because the snow was covering her back except for one tiny spot where the tip of her curled tail kept brushing it off.

You can kind of see the edge of her clear spot.

We got to see the lift bridge go up in the snow, which I thought was quite lovely. It's always fun to watch in the summer with a line of boats waiting to go under it, but it seemed extra pretty with the snow coming down.

bascule lift bridge in snow

By the time I got home from work, the backyard was covered in a couple inches of snow, so it was time to play. Of course, Barley got to be the first one to romp.

She had such a blast chasing her toys around and grabbing mouthfuls of snow to toss up in the air.



Once Barley and I went in and I warmed up with some hot chocolate, it was Rye's turn. Rye was born in mid-March, and her tags from her previous life say she's from about 2 hours away, so I don't know if they had snow when she was old enough to go out in it. From her first steps into the snow, I have the feeling she'd never seen the stuff before.

But she quickly embraced it.

puppy in snow

puppy in snow

On her first few outings, she had to play on a long line I looped around a tree because she's tiny and the gaps under the fence might look too appealing to a puppy that hasn't learned much about recall yet. After a while, enough snow piled up that the gaps weren't visible, so I let her play off leash. 




For the first time in the three weeks I've had her, I saw Rye fall asleep. It didn't last long, but it was long enough for me to whip up a batch of peanut butter and banana training treats to get us through a few training sessions.

If you haven't entered our giveaway for a $50 Wag.com gift card yet, be sure to do that before the 19th! The giveaway post is about cat litter, but you can use it on any of the great items Wag.com has--like winter boots or toys for playing in the snow!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Operation Litter Box: Why I love Scoopable Cat Litter (GIVEAWAY!)

When you have a cat with Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), you quickly become an expert on all things litter boxes. When Soth first got diagnosed with FLUTD, we did an experiment to see if I could make his litter box more appealing to him. With sites like Wag.com, it's easy to find a variety of  different types of litter that might not be readily available in the stores in small towns like ours.

We tried a little bit of everything: recycled paper litter, pine litter, corn litter, clumping clay litter, non-clumping clay litter. Some, like the pine litter, Soth wouldn't touch at all. Others, like the recycled paper, were hits for a little while, but Soth always ended up preferring his clumping clay litter. During my research, I found many vet clinics that pointed out that most cats prefer unscented, clumping litter. With Soth, that definitely proved to be true, so we ended up narrowing our litter box experiments to different types of scoopable litter.

cat sitting like he's on a throne
I'm not picky. I just know what I like.

A lot of litters and litter box designs are created to make humans happy: hooded boxes keep the odors from traveling through the house (but trap them in with the cat), scented litters mask the smells for humans (but might be off putting to cats), flushable litters are easy to dispose of, biodegradable litters help the environment. One thing I've learned about litter box issues, though, is that it doesn't matter how much the human likes the litter or the box; if the cat doesn't like it, he won't use it. With FLUTD, cats have pain when they urinate and they start to associate that pain with their litter boxes, so it's especially important to make the litter box more appealing with a litter box makeover.

In addition to being Soth's favorite type of litter, scoopable, or clumping, litter ended up being my favorite, too, for two main reasons.

It lasts longer. When we use clumping litter, as long as I scoop at least once (usually 3 or 4) times a day, we can use the same litter for about two weeks before Soth decides it's undesirable. With the non-sccopable litter, we had to empty the box completely every week (which some people recommend doing anyway). Even though I'd remove the solid waste, there was no way to remove the urine-soaked litter, so it started to smell pretty quickly--a week was as long as either of us could stand it. Having to replace an entire litter box full of litter every week gets expensive, so if there's a litter Soth will use consistently for longer periods of time, that's a big plus in my book.

It's obvious when the box has been used. Long time followers of our blog know that I'm a bit of a hypochondriac and that doesn't change when it comes to my pets. One of the risks of FLUTD is a urinary blockage, which can be fatal to cats and is most common in male cats. When we tried some of the non-scoopable litters, I would hover over Soth as he used the litter box to see if he was still actually able to go. Even though Soth and I have shared a bathroom from the beginning, he likes a little bit of privacy and my hovering did not make the litter boxes any more appealing. With clumping litter, there's no question if he's had success in the litter box or not, so I don't have to hover and wonder if I should be rushing him to the vet if I don't see signs of urination.

The only downside is that clumping litter works quickly and clumps as soon as something wet touches it!

dog with cat litter on nose

Between scooping after Soth's frequent litter box visits and Barley helping herself to clumps, we have to refill the box regularly. Shopping for litter is never fun, but with free 1-2 day shipping on orders of $49+, Wag.com makes it possible to restock without ever leaving the couch.  

Soth and I are excited to announce that we're partnering with Nakturnal to host a giveaway for a $50 gift certificate so one of our friends can check out some of the great products at Wag.com. All you have to do is fill out the widget below and comment on our post, but you'll get more entries for sharing and connecting with us, too! The giveaway runs until December 19, 2016 at 11:59 p.m. EST. 


$50 Wag.com Gift Certificate
Disclaimer: I was compensated for helping Nakturnal spread the word about Wag.com; however, we only share information we feel is interesting and relevant for our readers. Neither Wag.com nor Nakturnal is responsible for the content of this post.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Barley and Rye: Week 1

Last weekend, I wrote about our first day of training the sisters to live together in parts 1 and 2. Rather than doing daily posts and overwhelming everyone with posts that say almost the same thing every day, I'm going to do weekly posts with cliff notes versions of our progress for each day with bigger posts on anything major that might happen.

Day 2
We resumed with our hand feeding starting with Rye in the crate. She was very reactive again while Barley was much quieter. It didn't take as long for Rye to settle down this time, but any time Barley moved any closer to the crate, she'd start all over. Barley loves meal time, so she was not happy about these delays in being fed. Finally, she stood up, snarled, and walked away. Rye was silent after that. Shortly after that, we switched so Barley was in the crate. Rye decided she was scared of Barley after that and when it was her turn out of the crate, Rye wanted to lay down in the hall around the corner from the crate. Eventually, I got her back in the living room and she'd come take food close to Barley, but as soon as she ate it, she'd back away a couple feet again. I'm happy to see she's respecting Barley's space, but I don't want her to get in the habit of running when she sees Barley because Barley will chase her and pounce on her. Dinner went equally well and Rye was more comfortable being closer to Barley.



Day 3
With the weekend over, we just didn't have any time for hand-feeding breakfast before work, so we only did one session. There wasn't much new to report. Rye was still unhappy during her turn in the crate, but she settled down much more quickly. She still didn't love when Barley moved, but it didn't take as long to get her focused again when Bar did move.

Day 4
We had an unscheduled training session with awesome success from both dogs. I got home from work between my classes and went to take Rye outside. She's quick, though, and now that's she's mastered the stairs, that's where she wants to be. Barley was upstairs in the bedroom in her crate--but the bedroom door was open. I wasn't too worried about Rye going up because I knew Barley was secured, but I was worried about how Barley would react. I stood at the bottom of the stairs for a second and held my breath. There was no snarling, no barking, no growling. Just silence.

I grabbed a handful of treats and went up the stairs. Barley was in her crate with a toy in her mouth, wagging her tail. Rye was romping around the room after one of Barley's treat dispensing balls. Normally, Barley doesn't like for anyone--even Soth--to go near those, but she seemed unfazed. I told them how good they were and everyone got treats.

Rye continued to show a lot of stress in the crate during our dinner training session. She panted and barked. Eventually, she calmed down, but she was far from relaxed.

Day 5
I emailed our trainer a progress update. She was also concerned about Rye's stress in the crate, so she suggested we move to Phase 2--using the gate between the kitchen and the living room, swapping who was on the same side as me. When Barley was in the kitchen and Rye and I were in living room, Rye was fine. She ran down the hall and went upstairs to look for a toy, completely ignoring Barley and the food. Then she came right back and plopped down in front of the gate ready to work. When I put Rye in the kitchen and went to get Barley, Rye got very frantic--bouncing up and down, barking, pacing. Barley was so patient and sat calmly by the gate and then laid down to get her kibbles. It took less than a minute for Rye to settle down.



Day 7
Fridays are work from home days, so we got to do a breakfast and a dinner session again. I started doing some relaxation games with Rye in the kitchen before letting Bar out, but they didn't seem to make her any more relaxed when I went to go get Barley. Otherwise, it was more of the same from Day 5. It didn't take too long for the dogs to settle.



Barley occasionally snarked at Rye when Rye would get distracted and delay handing out of kibble, so once the dogs have calmed down at the beginning of a training session, I've started waiting a few seconds between dishing out kibbles. Usually, Barley wants to stare at Rye during those countdowns, but she's starting to realize that when she looks away from Rye and looks at me instead, she gets another kibble and we get back to feeding.

Our trainer has given us a few other things to work on via email, but right now, they're not things that I feel comfortable trying--like having both dogs on leash laying down and relaxing on either side of the couch while I give periodic treats. Rye doesn't know how to relax--I've literally only seen her sleep in the mornings when we snuggle back up in bed after I take her out early in the morning; she's never just fallen asleep in the living room. I'm hoping that when we're at my parents' for the holidays we can do some of that work with an extra set of hands to dispense treats so we can have a little more distance between the dogs.

The progress is slow, but I can tell both dogs are becoming more used to seeing each other and Rye's definitely learning to respect Barley's space. More importantly, though, Barley's learning that she can reprimand Rye for being an annoying puppy without putting her mouth on Rye and Rye will cut it out.

Friday, December 9, 2016

To My Heart Dog on Her 7th Birthday

Dear Barley,

You're not my first dog. Or even my second. You won't be my last dog. But you are my heart dog.


When we met, I thought I knew a lot about dogs. You proved me wrong. I knew nothing.

You've taught me that dogs need more than just food, water, shelter, and love. They need jobs and mental stimulation.

You've taught me that there's more to training a dog that sit, down, and shake.



You've taught me that not every dog likes other dogs--and that's ok.

You've taught me to find the beauty in winter.


You've taught me to notice things.


You've taught me how to prepare for your little sister and that cats and dogs don't have to fight.


Sometimes, I wish that we'd met each other earlier, that I'd had a chance to know you as a tiny puppy. But whatever happened in that first year before we met made you the dog you are. I wouldn't want you any other way.

You will always be my very best girl.


I love you more than zombies love brains. Happy birthday, baby girl.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Puppies and Positive Training

I learned about positive training when I first started working with Barley's reactive dog trainer. It was clear from the beginning how much Barley loved it. Everything was a game and everything involved lots of praise and lots of snacks. Eventually, it became second nature and we just quit thinking of it as  training.

Now that I have my 8-month-old puppy Rye, I'm learning to appreciate positive training all over again.

The biggest area where positive training has been coming in handy has been introducing Barley and Rye. Thanks to positive reinforcement games like It's Your Choice, the One-hour Down game, and What's That have already provided her with a strong foundation for staying relaxed and looking away from triggers. Now, we just have to keep our fingers crossed that that foundation plus the right combination of treats and praise helps convince her that the little hellhound that's moved into her house isn't that bad. Rye, of course, has to learn all of those basics on top of learning that her sister is the coolest thing in the world.

This is how big dogs show self control.

This is how baby dogs show self control.

I'll be having weekly updates on how that's going for us, but there are a lot of other ways that positive reinforcement is making Rye a better puppy and helping us connect more.

Loose Leash Walking
This is a big deal for me. Barley and I obviously walk a lot. I'd like to be able to walk with Rye, too. However, I'll never be able to walk both of them together if Rye doesn't learn how to walk loosely. Barley does not tolerate breaking the rules and will pounce on Rye if she doesn't listen to me, so it won't be safe for Rye to walk with her sister if we don't master this. Thankfully, we have a game for that. When we're out walking, I drop a treat behind us and keep walking (slowly since Rye's leash is short), and Rye gets it; then when she catches up to me in heel position, she gets a "yes! good girl!" and a treat beside me. Then we repeat. This game helps build value for staying at my side. Eventually, we work up to more and more time between dropping treats behind us as she gets better at staying beside me. After she gets the hang of it, we'll be more unpredictable about when she gets the treat for heeling, but since she's still a baby, right now, she gets lots of rewards for doing the right thing.

This is how walks start out with Rye.

When you don't have enough treats to convince your puppy to look at the camera and to walk nicely, this is what you get.

Not perfect, but much better than the start of our walk.

The Halti
Even though the shelter didn't list hound on Rye's breed description and the shape of her nose is very collie, the inner workings of her nose are all hound. She loves to sniff and walks with her nose to the ground (until something exciting like a leaf catches her eye). I'm not sure we'll ever completely master loose leash walking, but my parents' dog is a hound mix and got much better when they started using a head collar. Right now, I'm using positive reinforcement to help Rye think her Halti is a great thing.

Give It
Rye is very toy motivated, so we're also using toys as rewards. When she's playing with a toy, I'll walk up to her, tell her to give it, and take the toy. When she gives it up easily, she gets a "yes! good girl!" and then I immediately toss the toy for her to chase, so she starts to learn that giving me the toy doesn't mean she's never getting it back. She's starting to bring them back to me on her own now.

Stairs
When our trainer was here, we discovered Rye didn't know how to go up the stairs. I knew she wouldn't do the basement stairs yet, but those are a little scary looking. However, she was terrified of going up the stairs to the bedroom and library. With a little positive reinforcement, she got over that quickly. Following a trail of treats made it easier to go up, but she still wasn't crazy about the idea. She'd make it up a few stairs and then turn around (even when she only had one step left to go!), so we took baby steps and worked on having success with 3 steps several times. Then we added a couple more. Eventually, she made it to the top--and now I can't keep her from running up and down the stairs.




Positive reinforcement makes training fun for Rye. It's so fun to see her start wagging her tail as she catches on to what she's being asked to do. I'm so excited to see her confidence grow as we continue our training. In the 2.5 weeks we've been together, Rye and I have bonded and she's become more relaxed in the house.

We're linking up with Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop that begins on the first Monday of each month and continues alls week. Be sure to check out al of the great posts to see what training everyone else has been working on.