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.


Diego’s Dramatics–aka the Good Dog Gets the Short End of the Stick

Poor little Diego. He has it tough being the Good Dog of our household. He doesnt get all the trips and training and attention that the Wild Child does. Usually he’s a sport about it; as long as he’s somewhere in the fray, he’s fine. Yesterday however he had a total meltdown.

I came home from work at lunch to grab Forest and his crate so we could blast off to CU straight after work (its only 25 miles away but takes an hour in traffic–the joys of SoCal). When I was lurching out the gate with Forest, and the training bag and the huge crate, I told Diego to “wait”, which usually he does with a sad look on his face. Yesterday however he had other ideas. He scooted underneath the crate I was using as a blockade, out the gate, down the walk, and launched himself into the open back of the wagon. Which on most days no amount of cajoling–unless there are delicious treats involved–can get him to do. He was a dog on a mission, not to be left behind. I got Forest in the back, and scooped out Diego. He screamed at me, literally. Crying and screaming like a toddler. It was so funny and so sad at the same time. I held him for a minute and carried him back to the gate and placed him inside.

I called Pete to warn him of the drama and request that little D got some special time. He laughed at me but said he would take care of him when he got home. He was only a few minutes away, but apparently Diego was still crying at the front gate when he got home. Poor little man!!! They went on a walk, unleashed because thats how Good D rolls, and all seemed better.

I would love to do another CU class with Diego, but that drive is kind of killing me. I think he’d be a quick CGC study (just need to work on the dog greeting part), and even maybe a therapy dog candidate. However I am also trying to balance my own sanity with the training commutes… maybe we’ll take a session off and see if we are feeling more motivated in another 6 weeks. In the meantime, we’ll make sure he gets some private time of his own.

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.

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.

Fun Match Take 2

Yesterday we drove out to BFE again (ie. Riverside) to run our second Fun Match. First time I coerced my sister into being my wingman, this time P was the lucky accomplice. This may sound tacky to some, but we went out before my grandmother’s wake. I felt a little weird, but at the same time, I know she would want us to carry on with our normal lives, so I think I did it in honor of her. Plus I know she would get a kick out of watching me run around like a maniac with my dog, not too dissimilar to our horse shows from many moons ago… The wake was beautiful, by the way.

So, Fun Match went okay, not as good as the first time. The venue is funny. A rinky dink little place with a lot of, um, “stuff” laying around, but a nice agility ring, plus three seperate practice rings in the back, which is cool. Most of the people I have encountered there are very nice, one woman in particular I have seen both times dotes on Forest. Which is nice, it makes me feel a little less alien from the whole scene. Which I might just be okay with staying that way… we’ll see.

So, theyre not exactly speedy at this joint–I guess its not “fun” if someone is barking at people to hurry up, right?–so we only got two runs in before we had to leave. It didnt go that great. Poor Forest. We have had the worst last month or so–between the move and the holidays and my grandmother’s passing, its been utter chaos and not a lot of stability nor training time. I am wondering if my epic stress levels transferred to the feild yesterday.

Our first run was just short of disastrous. We made the first three jumps, then missed the entrance to the tunnel. No biggie–a few tries, got him through, over the broad jump, then a solid, brave teeter–yay!. Missed the weave poles first time, got them on second, got to the table–then the shiz-nit hit the fan. Off the table and to the tire… and HOLY CRAP A FAMILY OF UM VERY NICE LATINO PEOPLE WATCHING THROUGH THE FENCE  AND OH MY GOD TOTAL MEXI MELTDOWN!!! It was at least 3 full minutes–which seemed an eternity–til I could get him through the tire and up the dog walk. The judge (whose place it is) was extremely nice, helping me out and being encouraging, but man, that sucked. He was barking at those people ala bloody murder and I could not get him to focus on me at all. Apparently we need to work on some distraction for distractions cues. So, we sorta worked through it eventually. Made it up the dog walk, through the chute, jump, tunnel, A-frame (he loves him some A-frame, weirdo), and the last two jumps. P was stunned when we got out of the ring… like “Whoa. That was interesting. Why is our dog such a racist? He hates Asian people too.” Ugh.

Second run was better, we ended up going in the 12″ because we had to get a move on and get on the road. Again in the beginning he was a little spacey. Got him over the 3 jumps–missed the tunnel again–but I know that was due to my horrific front cross this time for sure–broad jump, another great teeter, weaves (first time–yeah!), table was good, tire, dog walk, chute, another horrid front cross by me and almost biffed it but he saved me, tunnel, A-frame, jump, yet another spastic horrible (front/rear?/I have no idea) cross and a save by him. I didnt pick up my paper after to see my score but its possible we may have Q’ed on that one?? Not sure if the tunnel was a refusal or not…

So, poor guy. I feel bad for him that he (and Little D) have had to endure all the mayhem of the last two months. Then again, what is it like for dogs that go to trials every weekend? I assume they must adapt to chaos on the weekends eventually… maybe just with stabillity for the rest of the week? Would love to know.

Hopefully the chaos has mostly subsided and we are well on our way to Mellowsville. We sure as heck could all use some down time.