Tag Archives: dog training tips

What do you mean I’m going to school?

 

Hey Fellow Doggers,

It looks like I’m really going to do it. Mama is going to sign me up for school. She’s trying to decide right now if we’ll go Saturdays or take an evening class during the week. She hasn’t called the school yet, but she’s read all of their reviews on YELP and they have more good reviews than bad! So, we’re going to Zoom Room!


Frankly, I think the big draw is that they are right next to Doggy Central, my doggy day care and boarding place. Mama has high hopes for me. She says I’m kind of an advanced student. Unlike the other dogs, I’m firmly on the right track. I just wander off it from time to time. Tee Hee!

You see. I can sit 80% of the time and stay about 75% of the time. Ever since Mama saw Santa and her buddies from I am Santa a Miniature Schnauzer rolling over, she’s been teaching me to roll over as well. I can roll on my back for a tummy rub, but I stop half way. Mama’s a terrible teacher. She gives in when I give her the “Puppy Dog” look (You know the one I mean fellow doggers!) She gives me a tummy rub AND my treat. She’s such a push over.

(The puppy dog look– I can get away with anything with this look!

BOL! )


I’m going to school because mama wants me to be a good doggy citizen. She wants me to be able to go with the family on trips and hang out at outdoor cafes. I’m certainly all for that. I don’t much like getting left home alone. Additionally, as much as I like the all dog partying at Doggy Central, I prefer to hang with my regular pack. If I can learn to get along with folks that aren’t MY humans, not bark too much, and not rumble at men with beards, then that would be just great! We’re shooting for a Good Doggy Citizen certificate!


Mama says I should VISUALIZE my success! Mine will be a little less messy, but you get the idea!

Once my classes start, I’ll be sharing my experiences with all of you.

I plan on being an A student at this school. It’s how the boys in this family roll. Oops, did I accidently brag about my hu-brothers. Oh well! What did you expect? They’re my pack mates – my fur challenged homies!

Do you think I should bring a bully stick or an apple for the teacher?

OR

I’m a little conflicted!

Anyway, have a great week fellow doggers.

I’ll be doing some last minute partying at Doggy Central while Mom and the boys head off for one last little vacation.

Keep visiting my blog. Check out some of my old articles in the archives.

Sniffs and Licks,

Your pal,

Opie


Snorkie Report: Rattle Snakes in My Town? OMD!

A Snorkie Public Service Announcement

Hi all,

Opie here,

Mama was reading an article in the local Culver City newspaper. She’d give you the link, but for some reason this article is not online at their website. The article is about rattlesnakes. Evidently, here in Southern California, we are entering a danger zone regarding these snakes. We are about to enter rattle snake season. I’ve never seen a rattlesnake, but Mama has. She grew up in Texas. She’s seen a lot of scary snakes — Water Moccasins, Rattlers, as well as Copperheads. Lori Fusaro, the author of the article states that “300,000 dogs and cats are bitten by venomous snakes every year.”
Yikes, that’s enough for Mama and me to take notice.


We live in the city, but weirdly, Culver City is very creature filled. We have opossums, raccoons, foxes and the occasional coyote in and around our town. Culver City is also home to several feral cat colonies as well.



I know there are at least two on my street. I have a hard time keeping them out of our yard. Mama says before I came she was usually good for can of tuna for the little grey tabby, who has had about two litters that my mom knows about. Mom is allergic to cats so she keeps her distance. Mrs. W. down the street feeds a big white and brown tom. Bottom line — we have a lot of critters. It stands to reason we have rattlesnakes as well.


Just above the dog park, my beloved Boneyard, the people park is full of hiking trails. It’s very woodsy and isolated up there. Mama says people hike and run up there all the time. It’s a perfect place for rattlesnakes to live because it is quiet and uninhabited – a true mini wilderness with plenty of game and peace and quiet. We won’t even mention our L.A. friends who live in the canyons. They definitely have snakes! L.A. is kind of weird. It’s dry and lush at the same time. Nice quiet hot dry spots for snakes and nice shady nooks for other types of critters too.

Mama’s not a hiker, but she has lots of athletic friends who like to hike and bring their doggies too. Lori Fusaro’s article in the Culver City News was an eye opener.

Here are the key facts from her article. (This would be so much easier with a link! Sigh!)

  1. Rattlers come out of hibernation in the Spring when they first emerge from hibernation and in the late summer. (Okay, clearly entering that period)
  2. Rattlers are active at dusk. Think about the time you and your doggy go hiking!
  3. If your dog gets bitten, take him immediately to the vet (Horn honking crazy time here. If you have a siren – USE IT!)
    1. Carry your dog because the venom effects them quickly.
    2. Smaller dogs are effected even more quickly. (Gulp!)
  4. Do not try to suck out the venom. (Don’t try it on humans either – stupid westerns!)
  5. Don’t put ice on the wound.
  6. Soap and water are good to clean the wound with.

If your Mama or Daddy is a big hiker, you all may need some special dog training classes on how to avoid getting bitten. There are trainers that specialize in this. (Think of this as an opportunity for MORE TREATS!) Lori didn’t have any specific recommendations.

Oh and here’s good news and bad news – Good news –– there’s a vaccination that dogs can get that can lessen the effect of a snake bite. Bad news – yes another &%$@ shot. However, I think I’d rather have a shot than be bitten by this loud viper.

So all you guys be careful out there! Mama and I will stick to the city sidewalks and the dog park, but you nature  freaks lovin’ types take heed. Be careful!

Many thanks to Lori Fusaro, author of “Rattlesnake Season is Coiled to Spring,” Culver City News, 4/21/2011, page 11

Another good source of info is PetEducation.com.

Your Pal,

Opie


Here I come to save the day — Treat Man!

Preparing for “Treat Man!”

Sunday morning was unusual!   At 6:45 AM we got up to walk Opie.  I offered to walk Opie alone if Greg would clean the bathroom. Greg agreed, but Opie didn’t. Opie stood on Greg’s side of the bed,  wagging his tail expectantly.  He nosed Greg’s hand, licked him. It was clear that he was not happy with Greg staying at home for the walk.  Okay now we’re both going.  That was okay, except that I usually return from these walks completely exhausted.  I need good quality time with my coffee and the cross word before I can bestir myself to do any significant work.   Unfortunately, I was not going to get any leisure time this Sunday Morning. We had an early morning  appointment with our trainer/animal behaviorist Larry B.

Weirdly, since we’ve gotten Opie our house has been a lot tidier than normal. The boys have kept up their end of the doggy deal. Their laundry does not migrate far from the hamper and little toys and things are no longer likely to show up on the floor. Fear of Opie choking on it or Opie destroying the toy seems to have created an obstacle free floor. Everything within Opie’s reach is in pretty decent shape.  How many more reasons to love this dog can there be?!!!!

However, there are still some things that have to be done in preparation for our guest.  Dishes must be washed, the floor vacuumed the  furniture dusted, the clear coffee table cleaned. Oddly, there are little doggy footprints on the end nearest the window. I wonder how that happened?

I roust the boys!  They vacuum and dust while I close myself up in the bathroom with the windows open and create my usual toxic cleaning cloud.  Why is it that when it’s my turn to clean the bathroom, I’m wearing black?  Yes, I am using a product that has bleach in it.  The tub is clean, the sink, mirrors and toilet bowl are spotless!   We finish tidying with an hour to spare. We have our coffee and breakfast and I jump in the shower and clean up minutes before he arrives.

We are eager to see Larry. He costs about $90 an hour, but as far as I am concerned he’s already earned the money on his 2 hour session with us.  You may recall in a previous blog post Turning a Corner — Opie Loves Daddy!  that we had some trouble with Opie in those first weeks. Larry is the one who gave us the advice that really turned the situation around.  His phone advice turned Opie into a family dog and not just my devoted dog slave.  I was happy  and eager to find out what great advice and choice information he would impart to us.

Opie still has a problem with men.  We’ve definitely got to get him over that. But first we’d like to keep him from barking incessantly and suspiciously people who come to visit us.  Larry is going to help us with that and a few other things which will be chronicled at a later date.

It’s Treat Man!

Opie acted predictably and growled and lunged at Larry when we let him into the house.  Opie was clearly outraged.  The translation of his barks was pretty clear.

” Who the *&%# are you? Get out! Get out! Get out! Get out!”

Larry was very calm and knelt down and let Opie smell his hand.

Opie: ” Yes, I smell you hand, you smell likes treats and one old dog and one younger dog and some other dogs that are not so close by. Yes, you smell good, but I’m not that easy, buster. I got my eyes on you!”

Opie quieted for a bit and finally contented himself with sitting under Greg’s leg and looking menacingly back at Larry.  We offered Larry a chair and he sat down and pulled  treat out of his pouch. Opie was quiet and came forward cautiously.  He took the treat and let Larry pet him.

I should say that intermittently this treating continued throughout our conversation, but only when Opie was quiet and not growling.

I got my eyes on you!!

Opie’s self talk:” This guy has some tasty treats. He hasn’t tried anything yet. Hmm those treats sure are good. As long as he doesn’t try anything, I guess he can sit far away from my mom and dad. He better not move. Gee those treats were yummy.  Mental growl, I wish I could just have the treats and he would disappear.  I’m sleepy.”

Larry asked us lots of questions. He asked about Opie, about our family. He talked to the boys individually.  I have to say I was impressed.  So far Larry’s advice had been sound. He seemed to have gotten Opie’s number pretty quick and he was doing his homework with us to see what our family was like and how good we’d be to work with and maybe also what Opie’s relationship was with all of us.

We talked about leashes and walking and collars and food and treats. We talked about dog parks and dog behavior and Opie’s behavior and where it probably was coming from. We talked about Larry’s work at the South L.A. Shelter, the sad situation with rescue dogs in general and the need for more people to be better and more committed owners.  He talked about his dogs. He would take them to the dog park after he left us.

Opie fell asleep almost under Larry’s feet during our conversation.  He’d worn  himself out being alert. He’d rooted around in Larry’s bag and found himself a big chew bone. Larry had taken it from him and given it back to him several times, until he’d finally been allowed to eat it in peace.  He’d sampled a few more Larry’s treats during his good behavior.

Larry gave us our homework  and a couple of things to work on.  Opie already sits when asked 95% of the time.  However, he does not stay at all.  So we will be working on Sit and Stay for a  few weeks before we have another appointment with Larry again.  He taught us how to go about it. and clearly does not subscribe to the Cesar Milan dominance theories of training.

However, he’s not a full on positive dog trainer either. He seems to take a middle of the road approach, pulling what seems like the best advice from both streams.

Our Homework!

We are to work with Opie inside the house where there are no distractions.  He is to be on leash at this time.  We will work on the sit command and treat for that.  Then we will work on the stay command and treat for that.

 How do we do the stay command?  First, we ask him to sit. Then we tell him to stay and then we wait  about 20 seconds  before we give him a treat.  We keep increasing the time that we wait and eventually we step back  from him a little bit.  If he gets up before we are ready we start all over again. We’ll have to do this for some period of the time every day.  Since I started writing this particular posting ( yes, I take a few days to write them!), he’s  can wait  about a minute well for his treat.    Essentially, that’s it.  As he gets better at these commands we’ll move out to the backyard which is full of distractions!  So far we are still in side.  He’ is fascinated  with the backyard!

Challenges

I have a tendency to repeat myself and say the command more than once.  This is really hard.  You know how counter intuitive it is to say something once and WAIT for the creature or person to perform the command.  My boys have trained me to say a command about 20 times before I see some action. Now I have to expect Opie to do it after I say it once. YIKES! That’s hard.  I didn’t realize how well the boys had me trained.  Maybe they might be interested in some sort of behavior modification profession. I didn’t even know I’d been trained!

We’ll see if  I can learn this new trick! 

The boys are really ready to get to work with Opie! 

At the conclusion of our visit with Larry, Opie woke up. He didn’t bark at him, but let him give him a goodbye pet without incident. Opie probably isn’t Larry’s greatest fan yet, but that’s okay.  We’re in this for the long haul! Wish us luck!


Turning a corner — Opie Loves Daddy!

I love my Daddy!

In the first days, Opie wasn’t too keen on  my husband.   Whenever  Daddy entered the house or even entered a room, Opie would growl and bark at him.  Ears and tail angled down,  he’d hide under my chair whenever Greg walked around the house.  These were clear indications that he was frightened.  Now, those of you who know us personally, know how ridiculous this is.  Greg may be a sharply intelligent fellow, but he is not scary.  A gentler and  sweeter man never walked the earth!  Greg was not happy with this situation, and the kids were not happy either.  My eldest son was irritated by Opie’s attitude.  There were quiet late night conversations about giving Opie back to the rescue people if things didn’t turn around — and not just among the grown-ups in the house.  In our application, there had only been one thing we’d noted that would make us return a dog — viciousness.  I don’t think anyone really believed Opie to be vicious.  He was too sweet to the boys and to me.  However, nobody wanted Greg to be left out of the puppy love fest. Opie could ignore him, but he couldn’t growl and snap at him. That was completely unacceptable. Opie was supposed to be a family dog.  He had to like everyone in the family!

We tried outright bribery! Greg would give Opie treats if he came to him when called.  This worked a little bit, but just when we thought it was really working, Greg would go to the bathroom and come out and get growled at.  Tail down, head down , teeth bared and growling — this was not some sort of puppy game.  The bribery didn’t work.  It was time to consult an expert.

I put out a somewhat frantic emergency email to the Culver City Friends of Animals. Their response was immediate and the organisation’s head referred us to an animal behavior/dog trainer.  We called other trainers while waiting to hear back from him. That’s when we learned exactly how expensive training Opie out of this behavior might be.  Not only was it a big money committment but a huge time commitment as well for the entire family. I was beginning to feel as if I had bitten off more than I could chew.  

Luckily, our first choice returned our call.  He was of course booked solid until mid August. Luckily, that didn’t stop him from giving us some “homework” that he felt would make an immediate difference.  Here was our assignment:

  1.  Mom needs to disassociate herself a bit from Opie. ( No more gratuitous belly rubs, or other spontaneous “love’!) Mom is over bonded.
  2. Opie needs to have firm boundaries in the house ( So, the living room furniture was now firmly off-limits.)
  3. Dad needs to walk Opie at least twice a day
  4. Dad needs to be the one who feeds and treats exclusively for a while.
  5. Dad needs to hand feed Opie the first part of every meal.
  6. Opie needs to go to the dog park.

I can’t tell you how hard the number 1 task was. I could only look on longingly as Opie was petted and “loved up” by others. I had to ignore him. 

Opie wants a belly rub

Rub my belly! Rub it! Rub it NOW!!!!!

 I did tag along on the walks.  Opie’s walk is the best exercise of my day! I worried that my tagging along on the walk might interfere with the bonding. Opie kept looking back at me on the walk.  However, my tortoise like progress allowed my husband to practice Opie’s “Sit” command several times during the walk. Opie got lots of praise and treats from him whenever he complied.  This had to help the bonding process.

A firm “Off” command over a couple of days and Opie understood that he was limited to the floor.  He was also banned from Mom and Dad’s bedroom.  Dad took over the evening walk exclusively.  Opie learned to “Heel’ and got to cover a lot more territory with my husbands ground eating strides. He was good and exhausted after these walks.  He got lots of praise and treats on his walk for “heeling” and “sitting” when asked.  He reveled in his obedience!

Opie was rather cagey about the food issue, though. We finally saw a complete turn around when we increased Opie’s meal times from two meals a day to three under vet’s orders.   Dad’s hand feeding three times a day seemed to really do the trick.    

Wahoo!

Opie loved the dog park!  The break from the human pack was like the prize at the end of a good week of long walks.

We continue to see improvement in Opie’s attitude everyday. Our behaviorist gave us concrete things that are really turning him around.

Ball? What Ball?

I can safely say that the problem between Opie and Dad is solved.

Opie is slavishly devoted to Greg. He no longer barks at him. Opie  comes when called with ears and tail up, visits him in his office and sits at Dad’s feet adoringly.Opie at the Dog Park He spontaneously rolls over in front of him for a belly rub. He greets him happily at the door when he comes back from an errand or work. When Greg pulls out the leash Opie is ready to go!  He sits patiently but happily at the front door and waits for his leash.  

 One thing Greg discovered while learning to deal with Opie that surprised us all!

Greg has a deep voice.  When he said “Good boy,” he had a tendency to drop his baritone even deeper. Opie’s tail would and ears would immediately drop.  I noticed that our deep voiced male veterarian talked to Opie in falsetto. I suggested this  to Greg and once again we saw another improvement.  Maybe Greg’s baritone rumble sounded like a growl.

In any case, Opie is now a  true  family dog!

I can’t wait for Opie to show off to the trainer.  Maybe we can work start working on his AKC good citizenship certificate! He already knows how to sit, and he comes when called.  We just need to work on the requirements for that good citizenship certificate.  We all want Opie to get a good report card.  Now that he understands that everyone in the house loves him maybe he’ll be more relaxed about our friends and neighbors, and dare to dream….the mail carrier!  I think he’s on his way!