I have a (semi-) dirty secret. That I dont really like to talk about, but it’s bugging me enough—and few enough people will actually read this—that I have to get it out. Phineas, the super-star all-around-awesome, “perfect” puppy, is reactive. Yep, there it is. I said it. It has been burbling to the surface for a while, but I’ve been in denial. I was hoping it was just him going through his fear period, or being a puppy, or whatever other excuse I could come up with at that moment, but it has now gotten to the point where I am realizing its not going away.

He is great with most other dogs, loves-loves-loves children, good with women, and hit or miss with men. I am still figuring out his exact hot button in the male department, but I do know he does NOT like older people, particularly men with grey hair. I also think he reads them and makes a snap judgement, depending on what else is going and and his general arousal level. He is okay in crowd situations—he can be anxious but he keeps it together. However when we are somewhere relatively isolated and a male or designated “scary figure” comes into our space, he may lose it. He growls, barks and lunges at designated scary person. And especially being that he has a “bully” look about him, it is not cute… At all.

(As I am writing this my boyfriend just let two guys into the house without giving me a heads up. All the dogs went apeshit and Phin growled at one of them. Awesome. Luckily they are young {in the “good” category for Phin}, relatively dog-savvy , and followed instructions, so it all settled very quickly, but I’d prefer them not to rehearse these scenarios… Ugh.)

I am really horrified about this. Horrified at myself. I was so convinced that I did the right things by having him at work everyday, taking him to agility trials and friends’ houses. I sit in puppy class weekly and lecture people on the importance of properly socializing their puppies early. Do as I say not as I do, I guess. Apparently what I did do wasnt enough.

His reactivity hardly is debilitating like it is for so many dogs. But I am technically these days a “dog trainer“. Note the italics. I was hoping/planning to have a bomb proof dog to teach with. That is not impossible at this point, but this situation is a very large, unanticipated speed bump.

Really, I should not be surprised as he is very high-energy and easily aroused. He does bark at the drop of a hat, and is super-aware of his environment at all times. If I had wanted a mellow dog in the first place, he wouldnt have been an option.

I guess when we choose puppies with specific purposes in mind, we may only focus on the traits that fit our purpose and be blind to those that may not be so practical. Or at least thats what I did.

So now, all I can do is work to solve the problem the best I can. I was really upset about the whole situation this morning, so as much as I was temped to dwell on it, I just dove in and we went to the fancy mall near us that allows dogs. It went really well, no issues at all, but I was on edge almost the whole time, stuffing him with cheese every few seconds. He was greeted by two different families—and very carefully managed by us. He was cautious about the first; mom, dad, and three boys, but luckily they were more interested in Forest than him so he had time to assess them before they wanted to interact. He was appropriate with them, even giving dad a very quick lick. Thankfully, he was joyous with the second family–grandma, mom and young daughter. He loves him some giggly little girls and we ended on a high note with that.

I am coming to grips with the whole scenario and I’ll just have to manage it as it happens. I also am thankful that BAT came into my consciousness right at the perfect time, so that has already proved a useful tool along with the usual Control Unleashed stuff. We’ll keep on keeping on, and who knows, maybe I can find some cooperative agility folk to work with us as well. Wish us luck.


Whirlwind weekend; chickens, ballrooms and tunnel phobia

We’ve had a busy last few days. I got to go to two days of the APDT conference, which I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about. I enjoyed clicker expo back in January, but wasnt sure if I’d go back, and I expected this to be similar. Except for of course the chicken part which I was fired up about. I was fortunate to sign up early enough to get a spot in one of the Click a Chick workshops. It was awesome–those buggers are fast and furious and make you realize how atrocious your timing actually is. I am at the point where I am clicking dogs literally, for four to six hours a day, and none yet have been even close in speed and accuracy demand to my chicken Bertie #5. The poultry are not into messing around apparently. I would do a chicken camp in a heartbeat if the time and funds ever allow.

Also got to see some great speakers and overall really enjoyed my time there and felt it was well-spent. I am marinating on some other thoughts I hope I find time to write about later, but I’ll leave it at that for professional stuff.

On Sunday we squeaked in one day at a local AKC trial at my favorite five-minutes-from-my-house location. Forest was a super-star again, winning his Ex A JWW class (technically I should have moved up but I didnt realize it until last minute then forgot about it til too late… oh well). He also was so great in Standard–nailing all contacts and his weaves, but I had another tunnel discrimination freak out and totally over-handled/over-thought it, blowing his mind and sending him off course onto the dog walk. I am so freaked out by tunnel disciminations these days that I go into analysis paralysis mode and end up making things way more complicated than they need to be. Lucky for me he at least humors me and soldiers on. Hopefully now that the pendulum has swung from me not handling them at all to me over-freaking about it I can get back somewhere in the middle.

As Laurie said not long ago, he is a very “honest” dog, now especially that I (usually) do a better job of telling him where to go. He also saved my ass in Standard by blasting out of a tunnel full speed and having to crank back hard to make it over the next jump–lots of dogs would have just run around and punished me for not calling him earlier, but he knew what his job was. Such a good little rabbit to put up with me.

Phin and I had a very frustrating running contacts session today. I had put the plank up for the first time on the table and I dont think he made a single contact except for one where he slowed down because he was choking on a treat. Awesome. He hits that thing full blast and flies off the end. I think Silvia would say he needs to run more, which I guess is possible, but the thought of him going even faster is rather terrifying to me. I need to get out the video camera and see what the hell I can do to make it better.I am kinda on my own with this fun little project… I could be crying uncle and crapping out eventually but I am going to put it in writing here that I will stick to my guns on this. As long as it doesnt kill me or my dog. Which it could.

At least his weaves are coming along great. We arent exactly on Susan Garrett’s 12 poles in 12 days or whatever, but its coming along. He is hitting the entries for the most part from most any angle and we’re up to 4 poles. Almost ready to add another set of 2x2s.He has not yet learned to collect, so unlike his honest brother, he will blast past the entry if he is going too fast. So, no need to rush things on that front.

And as usual I need to scale back and work more on the basics. His swing/pivot still isnt where I want it to be and he can always use more stimulus control work. My dogs, not so great in the Stimulus Control department. I wonder whose fault that is?

– photos by Matt Miller

Mad Scramble

Again it’s been too long but I am not giving up! I had to call in sick on Monday and found the opportunity to do day-to-day shit I hadn’t had time to do. Like sit at the DMV and write blog posts.

In the last few weeks we’ve been backpacking, at 2 trials, and I took my CPDT test. Life has been nutty but basically centered around the dogs, lucky them.

I wrote a draft post about the backpacking trip and still need to upload photos so I’ll get to that eventually.

My test went well, I think. I studied a lot but there was some seriously random stuff in there that came out of left field. Like how/why you should deny wolf hybrids from an obedience class… Bizarre. I should get my results within 3 weeks or less. Then I should have a few letters to put after my name and my life will change! Ha.

On the trial front for the most part Forest continues to steadily get better. That doesn’t mean we’re getting more Qs but that he does continue to impress me with his attitude. He went thru 3 classes for 2 consecutive days this weekend, and we spent the night at my friends house where there was mad dog craziness going on. While I wanted to leave the trial and go home to sleep on Sunday he was still raring to go at the last class. So happy with him. Even though I lost track of where I was and effed up our gamble, our opening was speedy and beautiful and one of the best runs we’ve ever had. If I hadn’t blown it we would have had almost 20 more points than the next person. Ah well.

Phin is doing great. He is still a spaz but his little brain cells are finally all beginning to align. Our running contacts are coming along slowly–I have no reason to rush them. He’s also started running the Aframe very low–aka hitting it and super-manning over the apex and maybe or maybe not landing in the yellow. His enthusiasm actually cracks me up. I am just excited to have a fearless wild man of a dog.

Something pretty cool happened last weekend at the usdaa trial we were at. A woman who I didn’t know but whom I had seen running her dogs quite professionally throughout the weekend came over to me as I was playing with Phin.  She asked, “Who is he?!?” She was so funny. She told me he reminded her of her dog Elvis. Apparently Elvis was a very, very fast mixed breed who did quite well in the early days of usdaa (confirmed by her other expert friend and googled by me after the fact). She showed me a few pics and he does look like Phin. She told me she thought Phin looked great and that she was excited to watch him grow up. For me that was very cool.

Also looking into taking another class somewhere, somehow with yet another instructor. Laurie has cut back the amount she is teaching and between that and the fact that I now have 2 dogs to worry about, one class a week is not enough. How my bank account or current minimal free hours a week are going to jive with that concept I am not yet sure, but I am forging ahead anyway.