Tag Archives: skills

Healing and Heeling

I’m so proud of Callie. She taught me a valuable lesson last week, and together we informed our obedience instructor of a new piece of information to add to her large knowledge base.

After the dragging required by our instructor last week (when Callie would stop walking… read more here) Callie was totally afraid of the word heel and would pull back immediately if she hit the end of the leash, as if in preparation for being dragged. She was also a little more fearful of me.

So, I started over. First, I rid the word heel from my vocabulary. Then I refused to drag her along as I walked. For the first couple of days, I would stop when she did, give her leash a quick tug, saying, “come on,” or “let’s walk” show her a treat and call her along. Then I moved to pulling her along for two steps, stopping, calling to her and usually she would start walking so she would get a treat.

I did go get a martingale collar and a much lighter leash to which she responded very well.

Finally, on the day before class, I began reintroducing the word “heel” on occasion, interspersed with the other commands I had been giving. She would stop at first but grew more comfortable as we went along.

Tuesday came, and it was time for class. I spoke to the instructor ahead of time. I tried to explain about puppy mill dogs and how they are only ever grabbed by their scruffs, why that might make Callie react the way she does when pulled on the leash. The instructor listened to me, although I am not sure she fully paid attention to what I was trying to tell her until class began.

Beforehand, I had been smart and stopped for some smoked cheese. I broke it up into little bits in my treat bag and mixed it with her regular Zukes treats so those would be coated with cheese too.

We began class with heeling around the room, Callie started with a pause, a little nervous and reactionary after the week before. Who could blame her? But I got out a little cheese. Suddenly, I had a dog who was heeling perfectly around the room. A few pieces of cheese kept her going, but she was passing other dogs who weren’t behaving quite as well. The instructor’s jaw was nearly on the floor.

We worked on heeling turns next. Callie seems to get really frustrated when she doesn’t know what I want from her, so I had to help her a lot with this, keeping her in place while trying to turn, LOL.

We heeled around the room again, stopping to do heeling turns. Callie did great, especially with the cheese as an incentive, but finally, she hit her limit and sat, refusing to move. I recognized that she needed a break, so I just sat in the middle of the floor with her while all the other dogs went around us.

The last thing we did in class was begin work on recall with the instructor holding the leash and us across the room. Not only did Callie do a beautiful sit-stay while I walked across the room from her, but she ran to me with excellent speed and intent.

Callie was the star student last week. Now let’s see if we can keep it up tomorrow. All I know is that learning with Callie is often following along blindly and stumbling our way through each moment.

Jess and I took Callie to the park this weekend. She made a new best friend, the flying turtle! Plus she practiced her obedience work outside with kids around. My brilliant dog 😊.

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Flying turtle!
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Happy Dog!

Guess what else! This morning I got my first semblance of a doggie smile while giving Callie some scratchies 💖 fullsizeoutput_d7f

Shaking Those Rescue Dog Doubts

I don’t usually respond to the daily prompts, but I was inspired by today’s, “doubt.”

Rescuing a dog isn’t easy. Rescuing a dog who is middle-aged and doesn’t have a clue about the outside world has presented its own set of difficulties.

And the doubt that comes with the experience can be painful.

  • Doubt that you understand their needs at the moment
  • Doubt that you are giving them enough attention or enough space
  • Doubt that they will ever communicate with you
  • Doubt that they will ever play with a toy
  • Doubt that they will show affection towards you
  • Doubt that they might ever come running to the door to greet you
  • Doubt that they may ever fully be house-trained
  • Doubt that you are feeding the right food
  • Doubt that you are doing everything right
  • Doubt that you will be able to guide them past things that cause the dog fear and help them grow.

In those moments of doubt, I try and remember how far we have come.

Callie's ride home from the rescue.
Callie’s ride home from the rescue.
Callie's first day at home
Callie’s first day at home
Callie met her new best friend!
Callie met her new best friend!
Callie started having adventures :)
Callie started having adventures 🙂
Callie learned to use pet steps!
Callie learned to use pet steps!
Callie played Santa
Callie played Santa
She learned what snow was, but questioned why we played in it.
She learned what snow was, but questioned why we played in it.

 

 

 

 

She's started to love walks.
She’s started to love walks.

AND – she’s learning to be silly 🙂

I still have plenty of doubts. All the time. But if I remember the good moments during the frustrating ones, it helps to know we are still moving forward.

Doubt

Tucker – Our Other Puppy

Before we adopted Callie, we had another puppy named Tucker.

I’m about to admit a lot of stuff that I am not proud of, but I think this is a post that is important to share. We talk about getting the right dog, we talk about the dogs that end up in rescues, we write about the dogs we have and the ones we have rescued. But it is difficult for a dog owner, one that cares so deeply about animals, one that rescued her own puppy mill mama and is working hard to introduce her to everything, to retrain her, to admit that they once out-dogged themselves. But it happens. And in our instance, we got lucky.

I should back up to the beginning.

We decided to get a dog, and I had lived with several different bully breeds/mixes and loved them dearly. I previously had a lab too. I was watching Petfinder all the time, but I also did something stupid, I went on Craiglist pets and found an adorable “pit/lab” mix who was 12 wks old. The owners were getting rid of him because he was already too much for them.

It was instant love, and off we went to meet him/get him. img_0142 img_0144 img_0166

 

 

 

 

He’s pretty darn adorable, right?

 

 

 

 

 

Life with Tucker started out fantastic. He was fun, sweet, easy to train. He loved to play in the most entertaining ways. He stole the bottom of the cat tower…

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As Tuck grew, he began to get wild. Puppy wild of course, but intensely so. I became friends with a woman named Erin who has a southern rescue boxer mix named Eos, a tiny chihuahua, and a huge field with a river running alongside it.

We met about 3 days a week and walked in that area where Tucker could run off leash baby-tuck-and-eosand swim in the warmer months. Even after an hour or so of that, he was still wound up.

 

There were several factors my wife and I didn’t consider when we chose a dog. I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, she works full-time and is more of a cat person than a dog one, although she loves dogs. My fibro began to get worse as the added stress of having Tucker grew, and I kept trying to convince myself that everything was all right. Nobody was really happy. The cats hated him, Tuck wasn’t happy, we were stressed, it was hard.

We began to notice something else, too. When we got Tuck, he had these adorable speckles on his nose. One day my wife looked down at him and said to me, “Where did his speckles go? His nose is just black!” img_0384

I took one long look at his face and said, “No, his speckles have just moved back as he has grown.” Along with his snout. He still had a bully head, but not a lab face, and I realized he had to be part Border Collie. That explained the obnoxious herding behavior. It also helped explain the strong reactivity combined with this anxious need to not react badly. Particularly in a dog that was probably an accidental mix.

Erin – the owner of Eos – and I became very close friends, and she began to fall in love with Tucker. Her whole family did, really.

Jess and I struggled with the reality of life with Tucker, but also what it might do to our daughter if we couldn’t keep him. We also agreed that we were committed to Tucker, no matter what he would never end up in a rescue.

Slowly, over the course of a month or so, Erin and her husband, along with Jess and I began to seriously talk about giving Tucker to them. It started as a joke one day. Erin loves animals and always talks about wanting to run a sanctuary, or perhaps doggie daycare. We joked that Tuck should stay with them half the week and with us the other. Not really that funny, but it was our reality at the time.

Finally, we all agreed that it really would be best if Tucker went to live with them. He would be 5 minutes away from us, we would see him all the time, and he would get to run in the field with another big dog several times a day.

It hurt to admit that I couldn’t do it. That I had out-dogged myself. I failed.

Tucker, however, ended up where he needed to be. His dad is his favorite person on earth, his best friend, he still has two kids to play with, and when I come over, and someone says, “Mommy,” if I’m sitting down, he will still climb in my lap. Tuck loves all three mommies. Like any good bully breed – he has a neverending supply of heart.

Photo credit- Erin Yunger
Photo credit- Erin Yunger
Smiley Boy - Photo credit - Erin Yunger
Smiley Boy – Photo credit – Erin Yunger

 

Biggest stick EVER! - Photo credit - Erin Yunger
Biggest stick EVER! – Photo credit – Erin Yunger

 

 

He’s a much happier dog now.

We would have kept trying, but it would not have been great for anyone. As much as it hurts to admit, I out-dogged myself, and the best thing I ever did for Tucker was give him away.

It took our family almost a year to be ready to even talk about another dog.

 

 

So, one very long post later, I have admitted some things I am definitely not proud of, but are part of a discussion that needs to happen. Even those of us who know a lot about dogs, who have a lot of experience and think they know what they are doing, can get way in over their heads. At least I did.

Quick Catch-Up

Hey, friends! Callie writing today 🙂 Mom has been super-duper sick for the last week, so she hasn’t been writing and I have been VERY busy taking care of her.

I wanted to share some fun moments with you because mom says I’m becoming a dog and I think that’s supposed to be a good thing. At least, it feels good!

I’ve learned I can stretch out on the couch:

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Which mom says is both a good and bad thing. She likes that I now think I can take up my “own” space since I am still “good” (what does that mean?) about getting off the couch, but she gets annoyed that sometimes I take up more space than the humans. Ummm, time for a bigger couch, duh.

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Lucky for me, mom says I have nearly perfected the Cavalier face. I’m working on it. Seriously, WHY would you kick me off the couch?

 

Speaking of WHY, my HUMANS gave me a BATH! Seriously. WHY?!?

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I was cold after, they used this loud thing that blew air at me, and rubbed me lots with towels. Not happy. But then they wrapped me in fleece blankets, and I got lots of cuddles… that part was ok. I guess.

 

Ooooh! But on a better note, this is me greeting my BEST FRIEND IN THE WHOLE WORLD when her dad dropped her off. I used to be scared to do more than wag my tail, but now I have learned to dance and play. This time my best friend kind of stole the show, but I think that might have been because she knew mom was filming.

 

Oh yeah, and I’ve gotten a lot calmer about cuddling. My mom makes me feel relaxed.

i-love-my-mommy

Do you see how pretty and long my fur is getting? You can really tell on my legs and feet. YAY! I’m starting to feel like me again. I’ve never been able to grow my hair out before – I think I might want this to be my new look:

longhaired-tri

It can’t be THAT much more grooming, right?

Edited to add:

New favorite things:

DUCK FEET! Well, anything duck, but duck feet, mmmmm.

Playing with the cat toys with the cats

The pet store – I know it now so I LOVE it!

Less favorite things:

Winter coats – why did I have to get stuck in Vermont?

Road salt and that gunk mom puts on my feet – BLAGH on both

The cats still weird me out, they come out of nowhere, they rub up against me then they run away. They lay near me and put their tails over my head. Cats. What?!?

❤ to you all, thanks for continuing to follow along with my story!

Enter the Stairs

Callie got lucky the other day!

animal-planet-pet-stepsI was at a thrift store the other day and found what looked to be a brand new set of dog stairs. Decent ones too. Folding, wooden, with fabric on the steps.

I have been holding out on buying her a set, trying to figure out what is the least expensive, but still solid, option out there but the choices are overwhelming.

I’ve mentioned before that Callie really doesn’t like being picked up but can’t, or rather won’t (I’ve seen her do it before, sneaky girl), get on the couch by herself. She also can’t get on the bed or go down stairs. So pet steps provide two excellent solutions, first regarding the picking up problem, and then training opportunities, both going up and then coming down the stairs.

Turns out the steps aren’t brand new, but I’m not super surprised. The only real problem was that the dowels that held the last support were broken. My wife and I held the steps steady instead until we could get new pieces, and got the cheese ready.

Side-note, nobody in this house can eat dairy, cheese stays because it is the ultimate training tool for Callie. NEVER overuse your dog’s favorite reward, be it food or toy, or it will lose its magic. Save it for the big training steps.

It took a little while, and a whole lot of treat bribes, but she eventually climbed up the steps to the couch. Unfortunately, we didn’t get pictures of her on the way up because of how we were positioned holding the steps, but my wife got several of Callie’s hesitant attempts to go back down.

It started like this:

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“Human, there is not enough cheese in the world to make me go down those stairs!”

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“I MEANT WHAT I SAID, HUMAN!”

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“Mmmm, I do like cheese, though….”

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“K, maybe just ONE paw. ONE.”

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“Huh? What? I was paying attention to the cheese.”

This was, of course, over approximately 30 minutes or so, but I loved the end pics! However, right after they were taken, she realized how far down the stairs she was and immediately backpedaled. That was the end of it for the night.

Overall thoughts on the stairs – I want to buy nicer ones eventually, but as an avid thrifter, I can be happy with my thrift store score for a while. It seems like the stairs get Callie’s vote too, at least for getting ON the couch.

P.S. Promise to return with pictures of going UP, too.