Monday, November 30, 2009

Ellie the Night Swimmer

Sometimes, you just have to let the dog be the dog. Kitties were in the house, so we let Ellie out in the back to play on her own after plenty of clicking sessions. She and Kafka are managing fine together, because Kafka ignores her. Socks? Well, we keep practicing.

Back to the night swimming...

Most of our backyard is a cement pond, some plants, some cactus. Ellie gets her ball, tosses it into the pool, and goes in after it, over and over and over again.

And over and over and over again. She can be a bit obsessive about that ball, but, you know, sometimes you just have to let the dog be the dog.

The picture with the mural? That's Ellie's pool.

This isn't our backyard, but you get the drift of doggie joy.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Loose Leash-Sniff Walk, Let's Go, Close and Hello Schatze

I'm loving our loose leash walks, and so is Ellie. We still get a few pulls if we pass the dog park and it happens to be busy, but all in all, the leash is mostly loose.

I tie knots in the leash for the different levels of walk-attention that might be called for. No, I was never a sailor, but it seems a pretty effective way to establish space requirements under differing situations.

The longest leash is 'sniff-walk' where the only rule is that the leash stays loose. Ellie can sniff, roll, leap, play, and basically do whatever she wants, as long as that leash stays loose. She's on her own reconnaissance here, and doesn't need to check in with me. However, if she does check in, I'm still clicking and offering her a food reward. She doesn't take the food reward often here, as the roll or sniff is high value.

Knot1 is "Let's Go". This is our let's move ahead together, focusing on what is coming up. This is for walking around the park, around the neighborhood. I am clicking and rewarding for every check in, holding her food reward close to my side for her to come and get and telling her 'Good Girl." Moving is as much of a reward to her as eating, so I just make sure that I have the food as an offer.

Knot 2 is "Close". This is somewhere near the obedience 'heel', although I'm not expecting automatic sits upon stopping at this point. This is for walking on sidewalks on busy streets like Broadway, when another dog who isn't under self control is close by, or simply for when I want a closer attentiveness from Ellie. She is doing great on sidewalks, and we have some practice to do when passing the busy dog park.

Speaking of, why don't I always have my camera with me? Ellie met up today with Schatze the Rottweiler. Schatze is a big girl, and very patient with our playful Ellie, who has a hard time taking no for an answer. I was glad for her to have this kind of encounter with Schatze and grateful for Schatze's willingness to be a good teacher to Ellie. And, I'm grateful to Schatze's person for his understanding and interest in watching the dogs be dogs. Namaste.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

horse poop, road kill, kitty barf - What's your dog's..?

favorite yum yum?

Your dog's idea of a yummy treat is not likely to be something you want to carry around in your pocket.

Yes, they may eat the cereal or day old popcorn, they might go for those 'healthy' dried bits, they might even eat the occasional vegetarian biscuit, but, well, it's been my experience that when they do, it's because they are appeasing you, not because it's what they really, really, really want.

Now, it's true that not every dog thinks fresh steaming horse poop is the equivalent of flourless chocolate cake with ganache, although I haven't run across that dog yet. And, my big Gilly (may she rest in peace) gave me the "have you lost your freakin' mind?" look when I gave her a nice beefy thigh bone. But it's been my experience that, from a dog's point of view, the smellier, the nastier, the more yummy.

I'm off to make another batch of grisly carcass brownies, which actually are pocketable, or at least treat-baggable. These seem to be a good compromise.

What gross-out yummies does your dog really, really, really like? Use the comment feature and let us know.

And for a good and funny take on doggie goodies at Thanksgiving...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Carcass Brownies: Yummy Dog Treat Recipe

Ellie loves these treats, and it's a frugal way to make carry-able treats for your treat bag.

Take one critter carcass (turkey, chicken, anything with bones) and put in stock pot.
Cover carcass with water.
Cook it down.
Cool it off.
Skim off the fat. Set aside.
Take any skin that isn't
Cook it again. You want it jelly-like, cooking all the good stuff out of the bones.
Cool it off - again.
Scoop off the meat stuff into a bowl.
Add 1/4 c. cornmeal. A pinch or two of anise seed and garlic powder and a pinch of salt.
Add in the saved fat.
Mix in spoonfuls of whole wheat flour (or other flour, if your dog or cat has wheat issues) until the mixture pulls away from the bowl. You can add more corn meal here if you prefer.
It's a bit gross, as you'll still have some bits of gristle and connective tissue, but the dogs will love it.
Spread mixture in a jelly roll pan.
Lay the skin over the top.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes and check the texture. Should be like brownies, but it isn't crucial. The skin will be crispy - let it cool and cut into pieces and add to your treat bag.
Score the brownie mixture, turn off the oven, and let them dry, then break into pieces.

Serve some fresh to your dog. Cats like it too. Put some in the frig, and freeze the rest.

For more great recipes ...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Hiking, Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Ellie

Another milestone, Ellie's first hike and she was one happy dog. We headed to the Green Mountain Trail in the Catalinas, where we had the whole trail to ourselves early in the morning. Ellie clearly knew something was up, she could hardly contain herself as we puttered around getting ready.

Once at the trail, I didn't do much clicking, the joy of walking in the woods and smelling all the good smells and going up and down, experiencing exposure was pleasure enough for our girl. She's a rock climber too, although she is going to need to learn how not to tramp on packs and ropes. At one point, she and Tim went on ahead at a fast pace as I got used to the altitude and the fact that it's been way too long since I've been hiking. All in all, we got in about 4 miles of moderate trail.

It was neat to watch her navigate the trail, and it was gratifying when, as we were heading down trail she would moderate her pace over scree, checking in frequently to make sure we were there, and stopping to wait on us.

She even likes to drink from the camelback.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ellie, Buddy the Beagle, Ginger, Franko and Treat Bag Lady

I should have had the camera.

Ellie curbed her enthusiasm when we went by the dog park this morning. We continued around the park, loose leash, some water fountain drinking, a little play on the playground and there we were, back by the dog park.

Franko, Buddy, and Ginger have been there every morning. A nice group who have been inviting Ellie through the fence these past mornings.

Today is the day, after our successful play with Toby. We clicked our way into the ante-park area where I let Ellie loose to sniff noses. Then it was in the gate where she made her acquaintance with the regular morning crew.

What I should have anticipated and didn't was my own popularity! I am, after all, the treat bag lady and I have very good treats.

All the pooches hung around me, quite politely, sitting, watching, giving meaningful glances to my treat bag. But, I told them we had to ask permission, and permission was not given, so I zipped the bag and watched Ellie work hard to entice someone, anyone, to chase her. Apparently, being chased by a dog ties ball catching for high value play.

Ginger and Buddy have become my new best friends, even though I can't give them treats. Ha.
Because of their high level of interest, I was able to quietly gather Ellie in to put on her gentle leader and take our leave.

Another morning, another hurdle accomplished. Thanks Franko and the gang!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Walk: Ellie crosses the dog park hurdle

The photo shows what has been Ellie's usual behavior near the dog park - but not today!

Happy, happy lunch time walk. The dog park had two dogs, a big red hound and a Weimaraner. Now, usually, when Ellie sees the dog park dogs, she lunges and stands on her hind legs and basically makes herself look pretty darned scary. My criterion for when I was going 'do the dog park' was when Ellie could self manage enough to walk past it with me. She sat and watched the two big dogs, so this looked like a good opportunity.

Since the little dog park adjoining was empty, I decided to let Ellie loose to sniff noses through the chain link fence. She had played so nicely with Sarah I knew that she really isn't interested in confrontations. She came when called, was calm and didn't pull on the leash, so we decided to head into the big dog park.

Weimaraner was leaving, and did some heavy growling and teeth showing as we made our way to the gate, and Ellie ignored her. (Yay!) Weimaraner person asked us to wait, so we walked a distance away, where Ellie proceeded to sit and watch while the Wei went on her way.

We went in. Toby the red hound swarmed me - my treat bag smells pretty good, but he minded his person, I let Ellie loose, and the two didn't do much at all. Unlike Sarah, Toby wasn't interested in chasing Ellie, which is how she wanted to play.

Toby went home, Ellie came to me, and we went on an Ellie walk - she gets to cruise on benches, sniff to her hearts content and roll on the grass. The only rule is loose leash - and she did admirably well.

Hooray. Many chicken brownie bits for reward.

Ellie Making Choices

Great walk around the park this morning. We saw the papillon, and Ellie looked to me and got a click, and a delicious chicken brownie reward. Cruised around the perimeter, with her doing her own check-in rather frequently. She saw a guy on a bike, and made a move to leap, then stopped, looked to me and sat. Good choice! Ellie - a quick click and reward and moving forward again, and have some sniff time.

I'm rewarding her for checking-in, as she's walking mostly on loose leash (except for when we are near the dog park when dogs are there, calling for her to join them). I'm also starting to raise the criterion, clicking for her walking 'straight' rather than her tendency to angle and so get in front of my feet.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

German Shepherd Beauties take over the dog park

Ellie, I have to say, is flat out exhausted - hooray! And she had a great time getting that way. Today she met her new best friend, Sara, and they played for two hours with the whole dog park to themselves, while Stacey and I got to absorb pooch behavior and talk dogs and horses - a great afternoon.

Sara established quickly that she was the girl in charge, and Ellie figured that was irrelevant as long as Sara played. Later Ellie gave a little half-hearted thought towards maybe, just maybe, seeing if she could one-up Sara, and was promptly informed that wasn't going to work. Quick, sharp, lets' play.

You've got to love the clarity of dog language.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Liver Perfume and Beef Bread Glue...

It was supposed to be a simple 1 hour project. 3 hours later, and I haven't gone to the barn, my house smells like liver, I have to throw away the beef-glue-bread pan, I smell like liver, but...I have plenty of dog-yummy smelly, small, differentially flavored and textured clicker treats...

Back to the grind...

(Check out this site for good recipes for doggie treats.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bizarro Dog World...

When Ellie and I leave the house, she focuses intently on just about anything except me. When we are in the house and I'm trying to get work done on the computer, suddenly I'm the most interesting thing in the world to her, and she'll do anything to get my attention, including tossing toys at me, grabbing my hand in her mouth and diving for my heels.

If I'm puttering, doing dishes, moving around, Ellie sits or lays quietly, watching me. Once I get quiet, she revs up. If I absolutely have to work on grading online papers, she gets almost frantic with wanting me up and moving.

It's like living in Bizarro World.

But here's an asute observation from my husband; He says Ellie is mirroring my emotional state, and I realize there is something to this. Truth be told, there are about a million things I'd rather be doing than grading papers, but I rather grimly set to the task. And there is Ellie, frantically working at a kong, and it doesn't look like she's having the least bit of fun. hmmm.

Emotions are subtle things, requiring subtle practices to address.

Next time, flower essences, or how Ellie chooses Vervain and I get the Lotus Cosmos.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dog Walk Meditation - The Real Deal

Ellie's walks tend to be rather exciting. She directs all of her attention and subsequent energies outward, towards anything that moves. I might as well be a post, and she'd really rather I wasn't there, or, at least, that's my take on it.

Today I tried something different. I'm committed to training in The Yoga Way, which requires a different languaging from me, and checking in with my own habits. I realized that I need to adjust the way that I use the dog training technique known as 'racetracking', where dog and person move in a circle, person as 'moveable post', until the dog self-manages.

What if, instead of calling this racetracking, I call it Walking Companion Meditation? How does that change the way that I view what is happening, and how might that affect Ellie's behavior? How does Walking Companion Meditation affect my expectations and how do my expectations affect the outcome of these training walks?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thanks, Spanky for Ellie Dog Play

Spanky, the chihuahua, lives across the road and he's blessedly fearless. So Ellie had the chance for some semi-controlled interaction. She acted a little confused by Spanky not running away but coming in for a friendly genital sniff. She wasn't interested, just kept whirling about and then went into a play bow.

Thanks, Spanky.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Still a ways to go...

There is Kafka, spying from around the corner as Ellie demonstrates what it looks like when she's completely disconnected from me and focused on her external object - in this case, Mr. Socks.

All is not lost however.

And so it goes...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Can our bond be just around the corner?

There a few hints of Ellie starting to settle in; the occasional deep satisfying groan while stretching out on the floor, stretching out on the floor closer to us, and today, instead of mouthing my outstretched hand by the chair, some gentle licks without her body in high arousal state.

We've been struck, up to now, by Ellie's intensely 'away from us' focus, not just with her cat chasing, but in general. So these small signs that she is getting comfortable are immensely gratifying.

Small things...

Friday, November 6, 2009

MadGrrrl Ellie, When "Park" goes South

Mad Grrrl Ellie. Observing Ellie over the last weeks, I see how she's nearly always in a state of arousal, a hyper alertness. I have elected to back off going to the park during busy times and work on our loose leash walking near the house, where it's busy enough, but not quite so stimulating. She has some creative and quite devious-seeming tactics for trying to up-end a person while grabbing the leash and running that I suspect worked rather well for her in her past. More on my strategies and tactics for that problem in another post.

My bright idea for Thursday evening was to put Ellie in Park as we were watching television. This training technique works pretty well in a dog training class situation. For clients with disabilities, we can tether the dog to a bolted ring in the floor, and then just leave the dog to it's own devices until the dog makes the choice to settle down. It's been demonstrated that it helps a dog self-manage, which is what I want for Ellie.

She chewed through the nylon leash several times pretty handily. I knotted the broken leash, tried again. After the third chew-through, I finally (sometimes I'm slow) could see this wasn't working at all. I had an old leash with a leather handle and chain, so I tried that. She couldn't chew through it, but she gave it her all, for a long, long time. I sat still and ignored her antics as she gnawed, flipped, wound around, worried, pawed, and basically worked herself into a tizzie.

What to do.

I'd committed to this path, and if I simply gave in, then it's quite likely that this high energy obsessive behavior will continue, or get worse. Once again, I suspect that she was able to outlast her previous owners under quite a few circumstances. I bided my time until I could find one moment of respite where I could reward her by removing the leash restraint. Finally, 45 minutes into the activity (did I mention that Ellie has the ability to be intensely focused for LONG periods of time?), she stopped, and I casually reached down, took her off the leash and we went into another room and just had a little bit of toy toss play time.

That night, she went right into bed, slept late, and has seemed 'quieter', not so manic.

Where's the yoga in this? That's for another post.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yoga with Ellie: Dog Yoga that's Something Different

Yoga citta vritti nirodha:Yoga is the ability to focus the mind on a chosen object, without distraction. (Reflections on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, T.K.V. Desikachar).

Ellie can be intensely focused, on her toys, on the cats, on passing bicyclists, on dogs far in the distance. In turn, I have to be intensely focused on Ellie's behavior, ready for that 'clickable' moment that rewards Ellie for turning that focus towards me - changing her object of focus.

She does that, and the intensity of the focus ratchets downward as well. I'm still not nearly as interesting her as that passing stranger. Do I want, or need, to be 'the cat'?

Lots of mulling, and many hours, Ellie is helping me develop what it means to be in the Yoga of Relationship with a dog who doesn't understand relationship, whose life has been about, well, we don't know.

Hasta luego. We'll be back.