Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Paws of Fury - Turns to Kitty head bump !?!

There he was, Socks the dog crusher, strolling under Ellie's chin, and giving her a little head bump like he used to do with our Gilly.

It's official, Ellie can win anyone over with her joyful exuberance. Still in a bit of shock.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Paws of Fury and Something Else...My Story, Sticking to It

Ellie has made a shift in the nature of her relationships to the cats again. At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

It isn't that, if she is outside and she spies a cat out of the corner of her eye she doesn't rush towards it. Her drive instinct is REALLY strong. Kafka just hunkers down and ignores her, and Ellie will just move on to something more interesting, which is usually Socks. Socks might run, might jump up on the wall, sit and stare at her from the wall, or maybe walk along the wall. So, he's way more fun, and one might interpret this behavior as Socks having fun, egging her on.

We humans have changed our rules a bit, since Socks made the decision that he wasn't giving up his place in the house to a DOG. With Kafka, we use the cue 'Leave Kafka', should Ellie forget that Kafka is off limits. However, we just let Ellie and Socks work things out for themselves. What typically happens is that Socks will sit, staring at me, on the left side of my work chair, and Ellie hangs around her run on the right side of the chair. Or, Socks will sit in T's lap and stare at Ellie.

Both understand the clicker game very well. I click and reward for each minding their own business and I have gradually lengthened the amount of time required for compliance. I will say however, that Socks does tend to be the initiator of this clicker game.

Socks has the patience of Job, so sits until Ellie can't stand it anymore and leaves her spot to see what he's up to. He might ignore her, he might give her a warning stare, or he might leap up and smack the daylights out of her. I half believe that the fun for her has been his utter unpredictability, and how swiftly he shifts from stone buddha cat to paws of fury.

We've noticed how she has shifted from intense drive behavior to more of a play behavior. She tries play bow, she tries to get him to chase her (which is not currently allowed in the house, since it's a wild game).

This morning, something new. Ellie loves her Bunny, a small soft toy with long dangly legs. We play house fetch and house catch with Bunny. Today, she offered Socks her Bunny. Of course, he ignored her. But, she offered Bunny again, and then gave me Bunny. We had a few Bunny tosses, and Socks retired to a chair for a morning nap. She's been hanging close to me, just hanging out as I prepare for the day.

It's subtle, but she's gained a little something in how she understands how relationships work.

At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

From the Barn to PetSmart -Good Girl Ellie!

Ellie's second trip to the River Valley Ranch, a horse facility on the east side of Tucson. Her first trip was maybe too exciting, what with barking at those big curious creatures, but today? Calm as a cuke, curious, enjoying meeting with the riders warming up for their lesson, and she likes watching the riders on their horses. Watched a lesson, met some old friends (human). Movement is calming for our Miss Ellie.

Stopped at the bank, and there was PetSmart across the way. What the heck, let's take care of another milestone. Clicker, check. Treats, check. I decided to just go in and pick up a small bag of treats and leave, and that's what we did. Ellie got to meet and greet with store clerks, young children, all the great scents of the treat aisle, and another dog barked a greeting at her, and she calmly watched him.

A good day.

The 80/20 'rule' and Downward Dog for Ellie

The 80/20 rule applied to dog training new behaviors goes something like this; at home, Ellie is about 80% reliable with two of her new shaped yoga dog behaviors. Get ready to show the husband the new behaviors being on cue, and that 80% turns to 20%. Or less.

I've been casually capturing and shaping Ellie's doggie play bow to put on cue as 'Puppy Stretch'. The play bow is the dog pose that gave rise (we think) to a common yoga pose known as Adho Mukha Svanasana, otherwise called Downward Facing Dog. In people, it's a great release for stress in the back, especially when done with attention to the action of the pelvis and hip joints in line with opening in the shoulder area.

Dogs already know this, which is probably why they do it on rising from their nap. So, it's a great spinal and hip release for the dog - why not put it on cue and encourage your dog to 'take the pose'. And, since Ellie's job is to be a Yoga Dog, what better asana (pose) for demonstration?

I prefer shaping behaviors whenever I can, so we've shaped puppy stretch. All this means is that, whenever Ellie would do her own stretch, I'd start with clicking and rewarding. Then, I added 'Puppy Stretch' as a cue as she was going into her stretch. Since I wasn't in a hurry to teach her the behavior on cue, I just kept doing this whenever I was there to see it.

Then, I started to ask for the behavior, and I started to do this when I could see that it was a likely behavior for her to do on her own. This is where we are, where I can ask for the behavior, when there are no distractions, and 7-8 times out of 10, she will Puppy Stretch on cue.

Her other behavior, by the way, is 'chin rest', which means for her to place her head on my upper thigh, with some weight. This can be a useful behavior for people in chairs and people who have general pain issues. This is an element of the SynergYoga program I'm working on with my friend, Laura, of Equality Dog Training, where we address chronic pain with the aid of the dog. More on that to come.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Who is teaching Whom?

I thought I was educating Ellie...turns out, I'm the one learning from her utter free spiritedness.

Here's a dog, supposedly 3 years of age, who acts as if she is still a puppy, bringing with that all those behaviors that we train out of our puppies so they are socially responsible citizens.

No jumping, no mouthing, no chasing cats, no getting on the furniture, be careful with that wagging tail. mind me when that interesting other dog goes past. She manages now to maintain some control for minutes at a time around the cats and she tries hard not to jump (mostly). She only gets on the furniture when I'm not looking, and she does like to show off her good behaviors when at home. But, dare I say, she accomplishes her self-management with a bit of a wry grin and look towards the pool - can we go swimming now?

There's a part of me that envies her complete abandonment in the joy of being a puppy who is an adult dog. That part of me is growing. I wonder how she got to this age with this joyful spirit intact but I sure am glad she did.

Who is the teacher here?