I Created a Monster

I created a monster and I love it, big faster steps.

Moving from treating on my foot to get Ms. Honey used to getting treats from me to taking treats from my hand, either one left or right, only took from December 17th until February 11th and fast 59 days.

This is an example of “patience shown” results in behavior modification.  As she became used to my smelly foot thing on the top step of the back porch, we moved ever so slowly to different steps on the same porch.  After a few weeks of moving around the porch, I finally sat on the top step and placed treats on the next step down, while staring off into the wild blue.  Another week or so, I placed first one finger by the treat, then two fingers.  We progressed onto a palm up placement on the step and a high valued treat nestled in the palm of my right hand only, nothing from that scary left hand yet, thank you very much.  The next try was to stand placing a treat in the palm of my hand on the top step and after a couple tries SUCCESS.  As I slowly moved my hand away from the sanctuary of the steps and more time, she got the idea, “hands aren’t really that bad” at least from the old guy.

She has progressed and is now happily, with tail wag and all, taking treats from either hand and anywhere those awful hands happen to be, yard, car port and even inside.

She has become the “Cookie Monster” I knew she could.  The side benefit is I now have a new shadow, Ms. Followtail always near watching those nice hands and that bearded old face, the face makes funny sounds like “Cookie” or “Yes” if there are no cookies present.  She’s checking in to see if the face will magically make a Cookie appear if she stares at it long enough, and it does.

I was told, “you have her now” by a expert in these matters, however I know it’s the other way around.

She Did It

Yesterday, at 371 days, She took treats from my hand!

HURRAY!

YES, Yes and a bigger YES

What Dogs can Teach Dogs

I received my copy of A Guide to Living With & Training a Fearful Dog written by Debbie Jacobs, it should be required reading before we humans start to live with any fearful dog.  When I stared living with Honey there wasn’t much information available, lots of trial and mostly error on my part, but we now have the “guide book.”

I’ve noticed over the last 367 days Honey learns faster from my other two well socialized laid back dogs then from me.  I had to first learn to speak and think dog, the international language of dogs.  She didn’t need to learn anything, at the first meeting, she knew which dog to hang with, by just a sniff, she picked Dexter.

Dexter taught her which was the best bush to nap under in the yard, to come by hand signal, Dexter dog was deaf.  Most importantly, people who come to visit aren’t really that bad.  Honey may backup a bit at the first site of a visitor, but if the “D” man was okay with them and lays by our feet while enjoying the weather, Honey will come and lay down a couple feet from us too.

Maggie taught her to come in the kitchen in the morning, good treats are available.  Honey is currently studying Maggie as I brush, wipe feet and trim nails.  Honey just sits a couple feet away and watches what’s up with interest.  I have recently started using Maggie as an example for Honey to sit on command, with some success.  My wife will tell Maggie “you’re being USED” whenever she sees what I’m up to.  Maggie seems to reply, “yep, but I get treats too.”

I’m not sure, it would be a interesting study, but I believe fearful ones learn more from other dogs than I gave them credit for.

Those who live with these fearful ones, what have you noticed regarding other dogs you may have taught  your shy ones?

Happy Anniversary

On January 30th, it will be the one year anniversary when Honey and her kids came here to live and become part of the family.  I thought this would be a good time to review what has been accomplished, the good and bad, the decisions that have been made during the past year regarding the new life I envision for her and my new commitment to helping fearful dogs.

Upon her arrival, I had no clue what to expect or do regarding her except to get the pups handled, socialized and ready for adopting to deserving homes.  I can say proudly “Mission accomplished” (I’m not stating that in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier) with that first major goal.  I can’t take all the credit, Honey was a great mom keeping them all well fed and allowing the handling of the pups anytime, she could have objected but didn’t.

During the 8 weeks of puppy raising the wonderful internet was searched and re-searched looking for information on living with fearful/feral dogs.  If you are here on this blog, you know who the people are I am indebted to for all the help, Debbie, Mary, Amy, Kevin, Ute, Joan and Dr. Warner.  Now if I had listened to all the great advice, I don’t think there would be any bad stuff to report.  Being of German ancestry, I’m stubborn and get told so frequently, therefore I can blame some of the poor discussions made on my linage.

The good:  I no longer refer to her as a fearful dog but a very cautious, inquisitive dog.  All the indications are, 2011 will be a great year, if I remember to move slowly with her progress.  She now follows me like a shadow albeit 2 feet away, but very interested in ‘what’s up’ when I’m with the girl.  She now comes when called, by name, whistle or hand sign (thank you Dexter my deaf old Cow Dog, she picked that up on her own from him).

The bad:  That can be summed up in a few short words, I moved too fast in working with Her, period.  A great example of this is, when she started to come inside on her own and after only a week of her doing so, I closed the door to the outside preventing her escape. Bad move she wasn’t as ready as I was for that action.  I regret that still, but we’re working slowly on regaining the trust to come back inside.  Tiny and slow steps are my suggestion to anyone looking for advice on working with these awesome K-9s.

The biggest change in her has been the change in me!  Somewhere I read, change can happen in people who love these lost souls, it’s true.  I read Kevin Myers’ “A Fearful Dog Speaks” several times then decided to simply make a phone call to a local Shelter asking if there might be a need for someone to evaluate and work with any fearful dogs on site.  Not only was the answer “yes” but a resounding “Hell Yes.”   At a meeting called the very next day, we began a program to do just that.  More will come, as this fledgling program gets its wings.  In the month I have been going to the shelter 3 dogs were moved into foster and 1 onto the “ready for adoption section”.  Thank you Honey and Happy Anniversary.

Try It A Different Way, Barefoot

Albert Einstein once stated, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Somewhere I remember reading, either in a book about dogs, Debbie Jacobs’ fearfuldogs site, or Mary’s Dogs blog, if something isn’t working one way, try it another way!

For many months I have been doing everything and in every way possible to have Honey take a treat from my hand, to no avail.  She will, most times, pick up a treat I dropped on the ground with my hand directly over the morsel, but not from that scary hand thingy.  Fingers pointing down, fingers open, closed, sideways, thumb in, thumb out even with clean fingernails, not interested.  I believe I need her to take the treat in order for the next step to happen, touching.

Taking another quote from Einstein “A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new” this morning I tried something new, and it worked, sorta.

First it is cold here in the Northwest, at least for these bones, but I was outside trying the some old, same old with Honey.  I was dressed in my sweats, slippers and coat, when the silly idea hit my, only one cup of coffee, brain, to put the treat on my barefoot.  Off came the slipper and the treat placed on the top of my foot, bare foot standing on the cold cement.  To my surprise Honey came right up to my foot sniffed the goody, the foot then took and ate it.  20 minutes and a frozen foot later of treat on the top, or stuffed between the toes, she continued taking the treat.  I know I have nice looking feet, but why the feet and not the hand.

I don’t really care why; it will become the first step to the hand.  Please no cameras allowed while I put my hand under or around my foot, I know I’m going to crash.  Placing my hand by my foot is going to be interesting, because I think I’m getting taller as I get older, it takes me a lot longer to get up from the ground than it used to and my arms are futher away from my feet.

10 Months to the Day

It has been exactly 10 months today since I received my girl Honey.  Sometimes I think, albeit not often, her progress is too slow to suit my fancy.  When it does cross my mind I remind myself, who I’m I to judge how fast we are progressing, it’s in her time frame not mine.

Today on our 10 months anniversary she surprised me with a wonderful anniversary gift.  The day started like any other day, up at the crack of dawn, opened all the gates to the place so she could run, left Maggie out to do her thing, prepared breakfast for both dogs and cleaned the mess in the kitchen while they ate their fill.  After the morning meal I treat Maggie and Honey some extra goodies in the kitchen, which results in Honey coming inside to retrieve the treats.  Then I go feed the Blue Jays and my personal favorites Sky Monkeys (crows) while Honey watches at the front gate.

Day in and day out we do the same, but not today, Today I got my special gift.  When returning from bird feeding I turned to close the main gate and received the surprise gift.  Honey came up behind me and I felt her sniffing my leg intently, both legs to be exact, and for the few moments I froze she seemed to be in no hurry.  Nothing special about my jeans, hadn’t been anywhere special or touched any new item, I think it’s just she finally wanted to get a good and proper smell of the guy who keeps bugging her, an excited YES was the required response and maybe a small treat was accidentally dropped.

Happy 304th day Anniversary Girl.

Trust, Earned or Learned

I may be totally wrong on this, correct me if I am, but I believe trust is earned.  If trust is learned, then when do you click and treat and what response is to be looked for when teaching trust?

Honey usually runs off to either her sanctuary or to the furthest recesses of the yard when something abruptly scares her.   She will return to whatever we were doing after a short timeout and she realizes whatever the scary thing was, it wasn’t going to eat her, plus there may be a treat waiting her return. (Is this the training part? hum)

Last evening after dinner and prior to lights out and during a hellacious rain and wind storm, we were out in the covered side yard talking and working on stuff, the usual hand targeting, treating, etc. stuff, when a major gust of wind hit.  I leave her kennel door open 24/7 so she can cruise the place, it didn’t occur to me to secured the door in the open position, lazy I guess.  The wind gust grabbed hold of the gate and slammed it shut with a vengeance and clang so loudly I jumped.  Honey could have run off to one of her hiding places behind the car or recycling bin, but didn’t.  She jumped at the sound and scooted right behind me then peered out to check on what the heck that was.  She most likely thought “hey, I may be able to run a lot faster than you, but you’re bigger, handle that will you.”  As I fixed the gate, never to be blown shut again, she watched with cautious interest, again from behind me.

This is, as I believe, the first time I earned her trust in protecting her from a scary event, but then maybe she learned I will protect her the best I can.

What Do Dogs Dream About?

It is said humans dream all the time, we just don’t remember them all, only a few.  How do dreamologists, or whatever they are called, know that?  If we don’t remember them all, how do we know we dreamt?  I seldom dream or at least remember them.  Maybe the dreams I don’t remember are dreams I dream about not remembering them.

Are dogs dreaming when they are sound asleep whining, moving their legs, twitching and sometimes seem to be running?  Do they remember them when they wake up, I hope so.

When I remember a dream it’s very detailed and vivid, last night I had one, a good one.  Whenever I’m with Honey and sometime during the interaction, I tell her softly or think to myself, “All I what to do is pet you, you’ll like it I promise”.  The dream I had took place in the nice summer weather, me sitting in a lawn chair, Honey’s head in my lap and me petting and TTouching her ears, just the two of us.

If Dogs do dream I have the following note to Honey.

Honey, I hope you had a good night last night alone, snuggled in your bed dreaming.  If so, I hope it was the exact same dream I had, “You’ll like it I promise……”

Old Men, Fat Fingers and Gutters

What do old men, fat fingers and gutters have in common?  Not what you may think, it has to do with Blogging, posting and keeping my fat fingers away from the delete, move to trash thingamabob on the right side of the posting page.  I’ve written more in the last few days than possibly the last 15 or so years.  When trying to add to, edit or post more, the fat fingers alway find the “get lost” button and off it goes  to Never Never land not to be seen again.  Of course if I would stop and read the “how to” instructions I may be able to work it out, but then I’d be admitting, men don’t need to read instructions is wrong.  I believe most men, me included, like to operate with the “trial and error” method, try this, try that, try some other way, now we can take it back to the store because it doesn’t work or it’s broken.

So there are the similarities, if I had a owner’s manual which came with Honey, I most likely wouldn’t read it anyway, I’d go with my gut feelings. After the Sid encounter, Honey really wasn’t too interested in what I had to offer in order to get her to do what I wanted or thought best for her.  She would come to the back door, then sit with her back to all inside looking off into that Never Never land, trying to find the “undo” button.  This morning was no exception, “feed me, treat me, and I’ll pacify you by sitting backside to the door for you.”

Later in the day, it finally stopped raining for the first time in 5 days so outside I headed to clean the gutters before the next rain hits tomorrow.  I love fall, as the kids now say, “not”.  Beautiful colored leaves, yellow, orange, red all jammed in the cold wet gutters half full with water.  Into the garage, get the extension ladder, look for the green bucket to collect the leaves in, unwind the hose, I’m ready.  Set up the ladder, hold onto the bucket and climb, clean 3 feet, down the ladder, move the ladder, back up the ladder.  All during the operation “gutter clean” Honey moves closer, and closer to get a better view with her nose.  Sniffs the ladder when I climb, sniffs the ladder after I descend.  By the time this ordeal is accomplished she had become a pest, as I came down for above she’s there right under the last step, almost stepping on her head.  I’m hoping she’s forgiven me for not properly introducing the cat.  If not, it was sure fun cleaning the gutters today with my girl, I may just go jam the gutters full tonight so we can clean them together again tomorrow.

Now if I save this prior to posting I may not need to re-write it again, I’m reading the instructions but there aren’t any on how to move to trash the “move to trash” button.

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