Break Time

So… I’ve calmed down. Somewhat. In between spazzing out at foster dogs eating my favorite sandals and cleaning up after darling cousin dogs marking all over my house. Everyone is all nestled up in their crate right now, we all needed some “apart time” to diffuse the chaos.

I couldn’t contain myself to wait a full 24 hours to write to NT (New Trainer) about my freakout, but I did try very hard to not sound like a total freak OCD crazy dog lady. She wrote me back a note saying yes she agrees that I get overwhelmed, but that I am okay staying in the class I am in. And that if I can swing it, some private lessons with her, or seminars with other specific trainers would be a good idea too. I agree. *Big breath.*

We dont have class next week due to the holiday, which I think is actually a good thing. Some time off to breathe and not obsess about agility, or behavior, or whatever. I am going back to basics with all three dogs, and will be focusing on managing everyone. Just having everyone quietly crated this AM when I left the house was something of a relief. Usually they are like a pack of wild monkeys loose out in the courtyard trying to crawl under the gate as I leave them (forever this time!!!). It was probably nice for them too.

In other not so good news, my coworker’s gorgeous-but-doofy Golden got into antifreeze—or some derivative thereof—while here at work yesterday. He is currently at the vet in dialysis, working on beefing up his already existing $6,000 vet bill. Ooof. He is as bad as my dogs in eating everything in his path, but we cannot for the life of us figure out what he found/ate. We have scoured the parking lot and suspect areas, but no obvious puddles that we can figure out. We did have the mobile car wash people here yesterday… Could they have used some products that he lapped up? Fortunately my dogs are contained and not wandering when they are here with me, but that still freaks me out, and I feel absolutely horrible for her. Thinking healthy thoughts for Elmo…

And calming, positive thoughts for Casa de Chaos.


Failuretown, Meet Overwhelmed City

Having rescue dogs is one of the most—if not the most—trying things I have ever done. Not that I really know what its like in my adult life to have a non-rescue dog, but having dogs pre-conditioned with certain issues and trying to overcome those on my own really has tested my willpower, patience, temper and resolve, among many other things. At this point, I honestly don’t know how I would handle having kids—these “cute” 15lb animals send me into a frenzy whereupon I have to use every sheer ounce of willpower in my being to control myself…

We had a really horrible incident this morning. Pierre got back yesterday with my aunt, and was added back into our pack. As I wasnt able to do any training with him over the last few days, and we had to re-integrate him back into our herd, it was rather chaotic. He is really pushy with my dogs, and will take their toys away, push their buttons, etc. He is not bad, I just think having access to resources sends him into overdrive, so we will need to manage that carefully. We finally got them settled down later in the evening.

I got up this AM super-early to take everyone to the huge dog park to hopefully burn off some steam before I went to work. This is the best dog park as it is massive, but the downside to it is that it is on a really, really busy road that people drive really fast on. I was fully aware of this when I pulled up, and parked in what I thought was the best place in case of disaster. My dogs are trained to stay in the trunk of the wagon until their leash is on and I say “lets go”. This morning, I was extra cognizant of grabbing Pierre as soon as the door opened as I knew he would be the biggest liability. My dogs are laying down like they are supposed to as I open the door. Pierre comes shooting out at me like a rocket into my arms. I caught him, but his blast released Forest as well.

I dont know exactly what happened really after that except for shortly, the Min Pin duo was barreling down the side of the road while cars are racing by at 40+MPH. Diego—bless his heart—managed to stay in the car so I slammed the trunk back shut and ran, (I hate to admit) screaming down the road after the dogs. Pierre actually has decent recall, but my hysteria and Forest’s mission to run the opposite direction of whatever way I was going didnt do anyone any favors. At one point Pierre actually got into the street and was running parallel to the traffic and I about had a heart attack. I did not keep my composure in any way, shape, or form. I corralled them back into a side street away from the main road. At this point Forest knows he is in deep shit, and there is no way I am going to catch him. Somehow I managed to grab Pierre. After chasing Forest, screaming/yelling/crying like a lunatic for another few minutes, he somehow managed to corner himself at the entrance to the dog park. He is SO lucky that that’s where he stopped—if we had not been in full view of dog people, I may have done something really, really inappropriate. Not so R+ if you know what I mean.

I grabbed him and put him back in the car by himself, took Diego and Pierre into the park, and tried to calm down.

This was one of the more traumatic incidents I have had yet with the dogs. It was horrible and I am still shaking hours later as I write this. I feel way in over my head, and again, Forest specifically is pushing me to the point of no return. This is the second time he has RUN away from me since we have had Pierre. Is there more training I can do with him? Absolutely. (We worked on exiting the car when released on the long line this morning when we got home.) But after almost a year and a half of constant work with this dog, I still cannot trust him. I am so, so, so frustrated. Pete and I had a heart to heart about it the other night—the fact that I/we have worked so hard and that it seems to barely be making an impact—and he is frustrated too.

I read dog training blogs, buy books, go to classes, and spend hours of every waking day obsessing over this stuff, and I still cannot manage my own dog. Every time I feel like we are making progress, I get knocked back down, and hard.

We know in the end that he will come around, and it will be so incredibly rewarding when it does. If he doesn’t become a road pizza first.

“Once I Wanted to be the Greatest…”

Last night at agility was good. Well really it wasn’t that good–we had some serious tunnel aversion (random), gradually deteriorating weave entries, a solid crouch on the table–neither sit nor down–and other shenanigans.

However, I was calm throughout. Maybe it was the glass of wine I had beforehand. Or the fact that I am just learning to calm the eff down. I dunno, but it was fine. And I was fine, and Forest was mostly fine (except for the part where he knows we are screwing up even though I am trying with all my might to and maybe kind of even succeeding in keeping it together and happy happy positive time but he still knows we’re screwing up and gets all wormy squirmy and wont let me grab him for a reset).

I was though blowing it on my rate of reinforcement. Being kind of lazy plus stingy as I forgot his treats from home so was feeding him turkey taken off of my dinner salad. I don’t think that helped our cause. Did the mat work though in between goes, he is definitely getting better with that.

So even though it wasnt pretty, I still felt it was a learning experience. Which is good. Right?

I was also excited to find out my friend Cat is also going to be going to her first trial right alongside of us in April. She and her Swap Meet Poodle Alfie (thats what she calls him, I think its funny) will be there with us for the inaugural Mixed Breeds Alongside the “Real Dogs” AKC Match. We agreed it is historic–even if only in a silly dog people history kind of way–and that we should be there for the kick off. She rescues mixed breeds and is a complete blast. Alfie is an amazing little dog. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I get jealous of Alfie sometimes. All dogs have their issues but damn that little dog is just so easy. He is a happy camper bouncy bouncy, never quits, never sniffs, never gets over it. He will sometimes get mad at her and bark and growl as they’re struggling through something, but man he is a good dog.

So anyway, only four more classes ’til the trial! Eeek. And one Fun Match and one Club Practice. I think we’ll be ready. And if not, then hell, we’ll be fine. And calm.

Mental Case

Ummm  yeah. Thats me. I had a rough go at agility on Monday. Forest was an absolute Super Star (except for the part at the end where he took off after another dog—over a jump. Embarrassing to say the least.). He really was though. No meltdowns, no wandering off, no sniffing/eating of grass, no running off up the A-frame to survey the lay of the land… he was great. Funny thing though was how truly annoying he was being in between our runs. He was being a total head case, then was fine. So odd. Maybe I’ll bring the crate instead of the mat next week so he doesnt cane himself being tied to the fence. Yikes.

Anyways, I was a complete hot mess. I kept forgetting the courses half-way through–well not really forgetting, but pulling him the wrong direction momentarily due to brain fade then missing whichever obstacle was next and having to re-set. I seriously am stumped by this becasue A, I am really “on it” spatially in general, and B, I grew up riding and competing hunters and jumpers. I dont think I went off course once. Seriously. So I am stumped.

A few ideas (aka excuses?). One, I ate really crummy before class (like so embarrassingly crummy I wont say where, lets just say it was full of sugar and carbs and empty calories).  I dont think that helped my mental state at all. Two, agility moves a lot faster than jumping horses, oddly enough. Plus there may be something about you being “on” the horse as opposed to directing the animal from the ground. Three, I think what my main problem is that I am fixating on the obstacles independently instead of mapping them out in my brain as little mini-sequences. That’s what my trainer and I talked about after class. So break up a course of 12 obstacles into 3 or 4 little sequences in my brain…

Other items of note (aka more excuses) are: our courses are definitely above Novice level, for sure. That combo’ed with the fact that its 8pm and just above pitch black out there (she really needs better lights) makes me think that on an actual Novice course in broad daylight that I just might do okay…

Still need to find some sort of Motivational Mental Focus books on CD for the car ride down. I think I have adult ADD. Hah.

CU#3 tonight. I do really think it is helping, a lot.

Stressing Low — Travel Aversion?

So I think I’m showing signs of stressing low. I am not eating grass, or wandering around sniffing, but am definitely having my own very special melt downs.

(Pete is in the same boat, but I will spare the gory details and his dignity by not listing the plethora of certainly stress-induced maladies he is currently hosting on his person. His are manifesting physically, mine mentally…)

I was supposed to leave for a work/personal/too hard to explain what the heck it is exactly trip yesterday. A few hours before I started freaking out. I got nauseous and super-cranky. I’d been kinda cranky all day but when it got close to go time I slammed on the breaks. I dont know if I freaked out because I didnt feel good, or vice versa, but all I knew was the last thing I was about to do was get on a plane. (And get a cab to friends house, sleep on couch, then wander around today chatting with a million people but no real game plan.)

So, I rescheduled. I actually like to travel. At least I used to. But not this time. I am still leaving tomorrow AM, but that leg of the trip will be easier. I dunno what my problem is, but I do know it wasnt bad for me to have an extra day to sleep in, and walk the dogs around the peninsula with Pete, and maybe go to the bank and manage some bills.

We’ll be missing agility on Monday since I wont be back until late that night, but CU #2 is on Wednesday. Pete and I worked on some of the focus C/T’ing today with Forest, hopefully he can keep it up while I am gone. He even said he was interested in coming to class with me, which would be great. I think maybe he’s finally feeling a little left out on this whole training of his dog thing! He is coming around to it all, especially since I think he sees the results. Positive reinforcement seems to work on people too.

Oh the Timing. And the Rain…

So just Friday I wrote my woes about registering Forest in the ILP/PAL program for the AKC. That night I filled out the forms in resignation; height, weight, proof of nueter (which fortunately I figured I’d have to wait on til Monday), and a check for $35–all in an effort to dupe the AKC into believing my dog is a “purebred”. I didnt feel good about it in multiple ways.

Well lo and behold, that same day they issued a release stating the Mixed Breeds now will compete with and get titled the same as the “real” dogs. I didnt believe it and assumed someone misread between the lines on the local agillity email group, but that doesnt seem to be the case. We are now able to be legit!

I will continue to support the other organizations as much as I can, but with 4x the amount of AKC agility events around here, this really is going to make my life easier. Forest is already signed up as a mixed breed (male, brown, age 3–that’s all the detail they wanted. Interesting. I guess to the AKC once youre a mixed breed thats all you are, who cares about the details. Whatever.).

On another note things are going to get stir crazy around here. El Nino finally decided to show up all at once this week. We didnt pay attention to the impending storm yesterday and by the time it showed up we still hadnt exercised the dogs. So they got a damp two block walk in the rain and are now going bonkers. Sorry guys.

Also, its looking like no agility this evening, so we really are going to have a frenzied Forest on our hands. However, as I said last week, maybe we were due for skipping a week.

Then again, it doesnt look like it will be my problem–P is taking them both with him to Mammoth for a few days. Which I am glad he’s taking it upon himself to do (I will be in SLC for Oh Arrrrgh!), but I am worried about them being crated for too long and becoming crate adverse. We already disagreed at loud levels about it, so what will happen will happen. I have to choose my battles and will just pray this doesnt undo what little proper crate training has been done. Maybe I’ll make him promise to buy me a copy of Crate Games if things dont go well.

Breathe in, breathe out… I could be in Haiti, or Kabul or Sudan or….

Meltdown Take 2

It was going so well… and then.

Well as in… we made it down to class last night (which a feat within itself–leave work early, rush home to grab agile gear, toothbrush, athletic-type shoes, frozen dog treats–all while on phone w business partner ignoring real life partner; cram dog into car, jump onto toll road and I-5 South; drop and call back biz partner multiple times; make stop by tenants house to load in 50 lbs of my succulents and pots into car; stop by Mexi restaurant and accidentally order Chimichanga burrito; get to Agilitee, stuff face with deep-fried burrito while getting on athletic shoes, digging out leash and treats, forgetting poo bags; rush into class just on time). Phew. I wonder why my dog(s) may have stress issues…

So, it went really well in the beginning. We were doing a jumpers course. Which seems pretty advanced to me for us being delegated to “Pre-Novice” and all. The first go was reasonable, but the second was chock full of nasty front crosses and I would have predicted that I would have made a total hot mess of the whole thing, yet somehow we pulled it off quite well, front-dizzying crosses and all. Forest was so good, flying along, happy little guy.

Then we got to the course. I’ll spare the details save that we progressively screwed up on more and more obstacles and finally it devolved into him running away from me up the dog walk, or A-frame, and staring blankly at me. Obviously, he is not happy with me.

I am not sure what is going on, but I think its a combo of a few things;

– the stress level is not helping our cause. I need to seriously get a meditation CD or something for the drive down so I am not all wired when we get there. And I need to plan ahead better so I am ready to leave right after work and not rushing around the house like an idiot then jumping into traffic wondering what the hell I am going to eat. Pack my clothes, agility bag, snacks, etc. on Sunday night. Get it together.

– I think what might be happening on the field are two things simultaneously: One, I dont think he likes it when we mess up consecutively. Or maybe I just dont and I telegraph it to him. We get frustrated too easily. Its either gravy or ever-crescendoing disaster. Two, I am not sure if maybe we are rushing into the “whole course” thing… I havent been treating him as much on his contacts, though I have been treating him consistently on the teeter ever since we kinda skipped that whole “here’s how you ride it down all by yourself” part. Regardless, he “Sticks” on any contact obstacle. Does it, well, then stares blankly at me as I try to move him off of it and away to the next obstacle… I havent been treating him after the weaves either–at least as part of the course anyway. During practice I always do.

So, not sure how to handle exactly, but have a few ideas…

– working at home how to “break!” off of sit, down, then contact obstacles

– maybe treating randomly/intermittently during course at class (not sure about this one, need to talk over with trainer). Would treating in between obstacles and/or for moving off of obstacles help or confuse the issue?

– working on relaxing and not stressing during class

– reading Control Unleashed

Or I could just chuck it all out the window and keep slogging away at it. I dunno. I am just tired and I think Forest is too. We will be missing class in a few weeks due to my work travel. Maybe it will be good for him to have a week off instead of me rescheduling. We’ll see how the next two weeks go…

I do need to remember the good parts. Beautiful jumpers, good weaves (all 12!!!), brave teeter. And a good quote I read on the  Levels Group this AM:

“A partnership means that each is aware of what the other needs, not ‘you should keep working for me’.  (If the dog is not ‘in the game’,) the game needs to have its rules changed, so he/she can play it. A game means ‘something you enjoy playing’, I would say. A thought:  Less is more.”

Meditation tapes here we come.