Last Friday, my friend Pamela shared an awesome video of a Nova Scotia Duck Toller traveling with his family as they sailed around taly’s volcanic islands north of Sicily. It was so adorable.
I have always adored Nova Scotia Duck Tollers. They are beautiful and active dogs and come with tons of personality. We had one or two at our shelter in the 8+ years that I volunteered there and I loved each one of them. Seeing the one in Pamela’s shared video set me off to explore YouTube for more Toller videos.
In the end, it was the Toller puppies that won my heart. What is it about a ropy-poly puppy that just makes your heart melt?
I hope you enjoy this little moment of cuteness. May it lighten your heart as you head off to the last work day of the week.
Happy Friday Everyone!
Today I am taking another look back to the first year Daisy came to live with me. This is an old blog post from Daisy’s blog, “Daisy the Wonder Dog (and how she found her inner Lab).” It highlights one of the many set backs we faced in those early years.
I think it is a good reminder for those who have a damaged or unsocialized dog. Progress is often made in fits and starts. For every step forward, there are two steps back. Understanding this may be easy, but seeing it can be hard. They key is to never give up hope. You need a lot of patience and understanding. You also learn to learn to celebrate the small successes.
Daisy rarely has a set back any more, but when she does it is usually a small one, and it is often missed by those who do not know her past. Looking back now, it’s hard to believe Daisy was like this once. I first wrote this back on November 10, 2008, almost one full year after I first adopted Daisy.
I was reminded once again this weekend that despite her progress, Daisy is still a puppy mill dog and as such, will still react to new experiences with fear and uncertainty.
While marveling at her progress this past year, I forgot that the old, fearful and uncertain Daisy still lurks beneath the surface. The “new” Daisy is so much different from the old one. The new Daisy is vibrant, energetic, and curious and much more present than the old one. She interacts with strangers at the dog park, even placing her head on a stranger’s laps for a long pet. She often leaves my side to explore new places and smells. She is even confident walking into a pet store, as long as no one looms over her too much. The ”new” Daisy sometimes makes it easy to forget that I need to go slow and introduce her to new situations with care.
A new toy (a stuffed wiener dog with squeaker sounds in it), a towel draping over her body (to dry off the wet snow melting into her fur), a strange new environment, new people or young kids, new doggie friends – all seemed to cause fear this weekend. System overload? I’m not sure, but it all seemed to start with that small toy and only escalate from there. Her behavior this weekend reminded me of what Daisy was like when I first adopted her.
When I first brought Daisy home, one of the things we had to work on was how to come inside the house. The first step always required getting Daisy to enter the garage, which is the only way to get from the backyard to the house, then we had to go through a series of rituals that would eventually take us from the garage to the house.
Daisy was more likely to enter the garage if she was following Aspen (her doggie guide), but only if I met her specific guidelines, which of course, were only known to her. Direct eye contact, a sudden movement, even holding some unfamiliar object in my hands, would frequently send her skittering away from the garage door and back out into the backyard. Often when this happened, Aspen and I would have to start the whole process over again. This meant going back outside, frequently in the middle of winter, so we could all come in the door again – the correct way. I would enter the garage door first, followed by Aspen, and then Daisy – if I wasn’t too close to the door or looking at her as she entered the garage.
However, this wasn’t the end of the process. Once I had Daisy in the garage, I then had to convince her to enter the house. Wood floors have always been a problem because she is afraid of slipping on their surface – something I hear is quite common with dogs who have not been socialized to live in a home. Unfortunately, the first thing Daisy encountered when she entered the house were wood floors. If Aspen led the way, Daisy would follow, reluctantly. But once again, her entering often depended on where I was standing, whether I was facing her when she came in, or if I was far enough away from the door to allow her to enter in a way that she felt was safe.
More often than not, we played a game of chase in the garage. Daisy would run in circles around the car, sometimes in fear, but often in some sort of pacing pattern (very similar to what you see when a zoo animal is confined to a small enclosure), and I would try to head her off at the pass.
Sometimes, I would go slowly towards her from the opposite direction and attach a leash to her collar and lead her inside, but that only worked if she froze in fear. Not exactly ideal. I always felt awful in those situations because it only seemed reinforce the fear, and it did nothing to help me build trust with Daisy. Other techniques included: opening the car door and letting Daisy jump into the car so I could attach a leash to her collar and lead her inside, using treats to get her to approach me so I could attach the leash, and/or using Aspen to lead her inside.
All of these techniques could be, and often were, thwarted when Daisy pulled her head out of her collar – something she did quite often. In those cases, Daisy would begin to circle the car again and I would need to open the car door so she could jump so I could put her collar back on without her running away. After a while, I started putting on her Easy Walk harness while in the garage. This allowed me to safely lead her inside without her pulling her head out of her collar and it short-circuited the pacing behavior that seemed to border on obsessive compulsive.
Why do I share all of this with you? Because this weekend I was reminded again that while a lot of Daisy’s old behavior seems to have gone away, it is still there, just beneath the surface, waiting to come out again. Put Daisy in a new situation or expose her to a new experience, and you can and should expect that she will revert to the Daisy of old. This past weekend, I actually had to use the leash to lead her back inside the house again – several times. Whatever scared her, caused her to revert back to behavior she hasn’t demonstrated in some time. I guess trust is a hard thing to come by when you’ve been mistreated most of your life.
So, we will begin again, my Daisy and I, slowly building trust through positive reinforcement. And slowly, with patience, we will rebuild her confidence. Together. Daisy’s story continues…. stay tuned.
I had trouble deciding which video to share this Friday. Did I want to go with slow, sweet and adorable? Or, fast, funny and suspenseful? Such a decision!
I’ll let you see which one I chose, but I will tell you that the first two minutes of this are my favorite,here’s a chase in the middle that will make you smile too. I hope you like it.
Curious about the one I left out? Head on over to my Facebook page to see it. It’s very sweet.
Happy Friday everyone!
Today, I am sharing another blog post from Daisy’s blog, “Daisy the Wonder Dog (and how she found her inner Lab)“.
Daisy is my former puppy mill breeding dog that I fostered and then adopted in November 2007. Even though I don’t write on her blog much anymore, I still treasure the words I wrote back then because they remind me of how far Daisy has come in the past 5 years.
This post was written on November 17, 2008, nearly a year after I first brought Daisy home.
Friday morning was a cold day at the dog park. The dogs didn’t seem to mind, but I certainly did! I was not ready for the bitter wind that came with the low temperature of 15 degrees. Brrrr! Nothing like having your legs go numb while you watch your dog run and play in the woods. As a hearty Minnesotan I should be used to it, but I’m not. Despite the weather I was still able to enjoy the sun and laugh at the dogs and their antics.Daisy’s buddy, Brutus, a 110 lb. Rottweiler puppy was there, as was her favorite pal, Henry. Everyone seemed ready to have some fun. Brutus was looking for a playmate so the chasing and running began as soon as we got inside the park. Daisy really likes Brutus, but I was still relieved to see that she was okay with Brutus stalking and chasing her. I was expecting her to be a bit tentative or fearful, especially after last week. Thankfully, she wasn’t fearful at all.Last week Daisy got into an “altercation” with another one of her friends over a stick. In past experiences, Daisy has learned that a stick can be a great toy to play a game of tug. Unfortunately, she chose the wrong partner this time. She chose someone who was not open to sharing the stick. On top of it, Daisy thought she would tell the other dog she wanted it and that led to the altercation between them. It escalated when other dogs in our group also joined in. In the end, Daisy ended up with a few bites to her head (just above her ear) and one to her backend (by her tail). She is totally fine, but I think she learned that perhaps she should be a bit more cautious about who to challenge when her stick is taken. It reminded me how careful I need to be when Daisy’s gain in knowledge can be.As her dog mom, it has been fascinating to watch Daisy learn from the other dogs at the dog park this past year. It’s like she’s trying to figure out how a dog should act. Obviously, some things are instinctual, like the constant need to carry something in her mouth (definitely a lab thing to do), but other things she has learned by watching what the other dogs do. She started picking up sticks and chewing on them only after watching other dogs do it first. She learned how to drink out of the spout of a water bottle after watching other dogs do it. She learned how to roll over on her back and wiggle around in the dirt and wood chips after watching her friend Turbo do it. She learned how to chase a squirrel after watching her friends Prince and Princess do it (luckily she has never caught one, but I don’t think she would know what to do with it even if she did!).The first time she left my side to go run through the field with some of her friends was amazing. In the past (and still to some degree today), Daisy has always walked beside me or right behind me. The first time she ran off with her friends was a beautiful moment. It’s like she was saying, “I’m free! I’m free!” Her tail went up, she started bouncing along the trail ahead of me and then off she went flying over shrubs and tall weeds. All of this was learned from watching other dogs and then mimicking their behavior.But that’s also why I have always been a bit cautious with her. In many ways, Daisy is like a tabula rasa, a blank slate, she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know, so every behavior that she observes leaves an impression on her. You can actually see her watching everything the other dogs do and mimic their behavior. She seems to learn from from every interaction. Picking up a stick and then flaunting it in front of another dog so he or she will chase her, is something she learned from watching her friend, Turbo.Unfortunately, not every dog displays good behavior. Sometimes they are aggressive or possessive, or they jump up on people, or they nip at other dogs. And yes, sometimes they think that their stick has magical powers and must be protected at any cost. It is because of this that I constantly watch Daisy to see what or whom she is observing. I encourage her when she acquires a new desirable behavior and displays it, and I gently discourage her when it is a behavior that I don’t want her to display.Overall, I Have to say I am very lucky because she really hasn’t picked up any behaviors that have caused me real concern. But it is something I am aware of each time Daisy interacts with another dog. It made me think that in some ways that my role as Daisy’s owner is very much like a mom or dad’s role in raising their children. Parents are there to set an example for us. They show us what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior throughout our lives. Although my job is much, much easier than any mom or dad’s, it is something I take seriously. I want Daisy to be a good citizen – one that interacts with both humans and dogs in a positive manner.So today, I want to recognize all those parents out there, to both human and animal. Keep up the good work! May your “child” represent the best of you. And, may they make you proud!
A few weeks ago I asked you “What has your dog learned by watching other dogs and you?”
The responses were funny and interesting, and they completely reinforced my belief that dogs are waaaaayyyyy smarter than we give them credit for. We still have so much to learn about them….
One of the things I often ponder is what my dogs have trained me to do, like playing ball when they want or letting them outside for a potty break or cuddling when they demand it. All three of my dogs have behaviors that indicate something they want.
Jasper will wave his paw in the air when he wants me to continue rubbing his belly. Daisy will pace back and forth, between her kennel and the living room, when she wants to go outside, and Cupcake will stand on her back legs and place her paws on my lap when she wants attention. All are behaviors that have worked for them in the past so they know it will likely get them what they want.
Of course, I really do know that my dogs haven’t trained me as much as I have trained them. By giving them what they want when they exhibit these behaviors, I am reinforcing in their minds that this is the behavior they must do to get what they want. It sounds like a circular argument doesn’t it? It is to some extent.
When Jasper wants to play ball and continuously drops it at my feet and I pick it up to throw it, I have told him that dropping it over and over again at my feet will get the desired behavior from me (i.e., me throwing his ball).
We dog owners all have these behaviors we do when our dogs give us a behavior or cue. They have learned from us what works because we reinforce it. Barking at something outside gets our attention, whether it be positive or negative. Jumping on us gets them attention too. Again, it may be a positive or negative response, but it IS attention.
One of the things Jasper has learned is that walks are really, really exciting. When we leash up for a walk in the neighborhood he starts barking and jumping and pulling. Up until last week, I was reinforcing his behavior by giving him attention (“Jasper stop it!” or “Jasper, no barking”). He had learned that barking, jumping and pulling were all behaviors that got him what he wanted… a walk through the neighborhood.
That’s when I realized I hadn’t been taking my own advice, the one I had been giving to clients for years – stop reinforcing the behavior.
So, last week I stopped reinforcing the behaviors by taking away the expected response (i.e., continuing on our walk).. Instead of responding to the Jasper’s behavior with the desired result (to keep walking) I just stopped and ignored him until he stopped barking. When he was quiet for more than 3-5 seconds we started walking again. If he started barking again, we stopped and went through the whole process all over again until he stopped.
It didn’t take him long to figure out that he wasn’t getting the desired response he wanted when he barked and jumped and pulled. I was training him what desired behaviors would get him what he wanted (i.e., walking quietly and without pulling = moving forward and walking). we still have some work to do, but he is getting better about our walks.
I bet many of you have behaviors your dog has taught you to do too. What are you reinforcing with your dog? What behaviors does your dog do that leads to a desired response from you every single time? Have you tried changing your response? What happens when you do?
I don’t know about you, but now that the snow has all but disappeared and the temperatures are starting to warm up (60′s and 70′s predicted for this weekend!), I am ready to get out and enjoy the weather for as much and as long as I can. I feel like a dog with the zoomies!
I want to dog my hands into the fresh earth and make something grow.
I want to clean out closets and do some spring cleaning.
I want to speed walk with my dogs at the dog park.
The truth is… I feel like a dog with the zoomies!
Maybe that is why this video seemed to resonate with me today. A beach, warm sand, a dog and the sun shining brightly down upon us. Ah yes. That is exactly what I want.
Happy Spring and Happy Friday everyone!
Ahhhh! Another lovely spring day in Minnesota. Who doesn’t love days like this?
So is it really any wonder that I chose this for my video this week? Yeah. I didn’t think so.
Happy Friday everyone!
Send us some sun will ya?
Besides the Minnesota Sheltie Rescue Reunion, there was one other event I was really looking forward to attending – the Dog Body Language seminar being presented by my friend Kate Anders. Unfortunately, I let the crappy Minnesota winter (I refuse to call this spring) get to me. It snowed most of the morning and rained the rest of the day. I thought it would be too icy to venture out at night. I was wrong. I should have gone. I love attending seminars like these because I learn so much. (I am so sorry Kate!)
With that on my mind today, it shouldn’t be surprising that this video would capture my attention Monday night. My friend Mary Haight over at Dancing Dog Blog shared it. I was immediately fascinated.
It is a great example of the dog body language of a threatening dog. Some people might find the video funny, but what I saw was all the signals the dog gave that signaled an attack was about to happen. Can you pick out the signs? The most obvious one is the growl (notice how it is almost a panting growl), but there are more signals there. Try listening with the sound off. What do you see?
Not sure? Let’s walk through the many of the signs I see.
First, notice the dog’s eyes. They are staring straight ahead at the dog in the mirror – this is seen as a threatening behavior by most dogs. Two dogs staring at one another (a direct stare) is a sign that trouble may be just ahead (unlike two dogs playing with one another who will look at one another but also look away.)
Also notice how hard the dog’s eyes are compared to say, your dog. They are not soft and liquid. They are hard and focused and most likely dilated. They are not blinking either.
Now look at the body posture. The dog is leaning forward and his body is stiff. These are more warning signs.
This dog also shows his teeth and his upper lip and nose are wrinkled. More danger signs.
Not surprisingly, he did attack… the dog in the mirror.
In most cases, another dog will back down when faced with these kinds of body signals, and offer appeasement signals while doing so, but when faced with a dog that does not back down then it can escalate.
Does this mean this dog is a danger? Not necessarily. But it does mean that when faced with another dog giving threatening signals (and ignoring appeasement signals), he is not likely to back down either.
Obviously, in this case, neither dog could back down since it was the same dog and his reflection. While it may also seem funny to most people, to me it is a great lesson in dog body language.
*****Just wanted to add a few things my friend Dee caught that I missed: “Interesting to see a dog exhibiting threatening behaviors (freezes in place, stares straight at the dog in the mirror, doesn’t blink), interspersed with discomfort/appeasement (lip licking, slow, side-to-side tail wagging, some crouching). When he doesn’t get clear signals the other dog doesn’t mean him harm, the appeasement reverts to threats.” Thanks Dee!