Friday, September 28, 2012

Choosing a Training Class

When we first adopted Badger, the thought of choosing a training class overwhelmed us so much that we simply gave up. So for the first year of his life, Badger was "homeschooled" off information we found on the internet and what L and I remembered from training our families' dogs. He did manage to learn the basics, but when we adopted Mushroom, we realized how much more we could have learned if we had enrolled Badger in formal training classes.

We also missed out on watching this cute puppy play with other puppies

With Mushroom's reactive dog class coming to an end, we have been trying to find another class to attend, preferably with Badger too, because we feel bad leaving him at home. Here are a few things we did that helped us in our search:

More classes mean more treats!

Visit the Class
We've found that while websites, e-mails, and phone calls can give a lot of information about a training class, nothing is as helpful as sitting in on a class itself. In watching the trainers interact with human and canine students, we were able to learn about the training philosophy, the pace of the class, the goal of the class, and the types of dogs the class was geared toward. We were also able to talk to the trainers before or after the class and ask questions.

Know Your Dog
It was important for us to be honest about whether Badger and Mushroom would succeed in a given class. We had hoped that we would be able to enroll them in the same class, but in the end, we realized that, with Mushroom's reactivity, we would be taking a huge risk by putting her in a regular class. So we are enrolling just Badger in an intermediate-level class that works on staying calm, and we will continue looking for a class that fits Mushroom better.

Wait, you're not taking meeeee?

Go With Your Gut
If you visit a class and don't think it's the right place for you, keep looking. Early on in our search, L and I talked with a facility whose training philosophy didn't completely line up with ours, and we left thinking "maybe" but feeling a little uneasy. In retrospect, I am so glad that we continued to look for other training classes, because we found a place that makes us feel relaxed, comfortable, and happy. And I'm sure the good vibes will transfer to Badger once he starts his classes.

Somehow, we have to teach this dog to be calm

What tips do you have on choosing a training class?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Recap: Training

Back in August, we started reactive dog classes with Mushroom. This upcoming weekend will be our final class. I can't believe how quickly time has passed! We've also seen a lot of improvement.

Yay, improvement. I can barely hold in my excitement.

When we started the class, Mushroom would whine, bark, and jump whenever we saw another dog on our walks. We would then have to duck behind a building or a car and wait for a few minutes until she calmed down.

Some of the main concepts of our reactive dog class were to introduce the dogs slowly and allow them each a comfort zone by using barriers. We would reward the dog for looking calmly at another dog, with the eventual goal of teaching a "look" command where the reactive dog would look at another dog and back at the human.

I wouldn't say that Mushroom's reactivity is gone, but over the past few weeks, her reaction to seeing another dog has diminished to a quiet, frustrated whine at worst. Several times in class, she was able to look at a dog and then look back at me.

We know that training isn't over once a class finishes, and we have to continue practicing calm behavior with Mushroom. As the class winds down, we're looking at several options going forward: Do we try to find more challenging public spaces to practice in? Do we enroll her in a "normal" group training class? Do we do something else entirely that I haven't thought of?

Ideally, we'd want Badger to participate too

For those of you with reactive dogs, what have you done to maintain good behavior after the class finishes?

P.S. If you think you might have a reactive dog, check out this great post by Love & a Six-Foot Leash!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Recap: Family Time

Oh no! I blinked, and I ended up not posting for two whole weeks! So what have we been up to, other than being really lazy?

My parents and sister came up to visit, and we all went to the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival. We had a lot of seafood (and one really badly-made lemonade) and watched a parachuting show.

The US flag is attached to the parachuter. There was also a parachuter dressed as a lobster.

Even though there were signs at the entrance saying that dogs were not allowed, we saw quite a few non-law-abiding canines, including a boxer, a golden retriever, and these three small dogs. (Note: I'm guessing service dogs were allowed, but none of the dogs I saw were wearing service dog vests.)

*yawn* It's tiring being an outlaw. Might postpone that bank robbery til tomorrow.

Pug: Hey Scruffy, keep an eye out for the fuzz, will ya?

Also, the fact that my family needed a place to stay while visiting finally prompted us to clean out the spare room (after a year and a half of living on our apartment). We threw out about half the boxes we had in there and moved the rest downstairs to the garage. What we ended up with was a computer room / exercise room. After my family left, we also moved the dog crates into the spare room to clear up some space in the joined dining/living room.

This is where we spent our entire Saturday.

Morning. Note the lack of the adjective "good".

Where's my breakfast, human?

If your dog has a crate, where do you keep it and why?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Everyone Loves Mushroom

It is a universal truth that people love things that are tinier than they should be. Miniature horses. Bonsai trees. Backyard-sized scale models of cities.

And of course, Mushroom. Since she looks more like a pitbull than Badger, and people are sometimes wary of him, we thought Mushroom would face even more discrimination. We were wrong. Everyone loves Mushroom. We get comments like, "Awww, she looks like a tiny pitbull." (Yes, she does.) "Is she a pitbull/chihuahua mix?" (We don't know. Maybe?) "Is she fully grown?" (Yes, she is.)

Also, (and I may be biased here) she has an adorable little face. Just look at these pictures from our last play group. Who wouldn't want to say hi to her?

"Hi there! I'm Mushroom"

"Is that a treat I smell?"

"I'm not usually into politics, but your candidate has some great ideas"

On the other hand, I think people shy away from Badger not because he looks "pitbull-y" but because he looks like a mouth on legs. Way. Too. Intense.




Do you have a dog like Mushroom that everyone loves? Or do you have a dog like Badger that people tend to avoid?

(Photo credits: Best Friends Tyngsboro)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Badger is Okay!

We took Badger to the vet last night, and basically nothing is wrong. The vet said that it's usually nothing to worry about when young dogs throw up, as long as they don't keep throwing up. We got some prescription canned food that is easier on his digestive system to feed him for a day. (Boiled chicken and white rice works as well.)

I was feeling a little under the weather today and decided to work from home. On the bright side, these were my coworkers for the day:

Where are those TPS reports?
And a teaser for tomorrow...

Mushroom sprouted another head!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Terrible Tuesday

UPDATE: The vet thinks Badger is getting over whatever he had. We've been given some prescription food that's a little easier to digest than regular food. Badger loved it!

Just a warning, this post is a total downer.

I hope I'm overreacting. Badger threw up on Sunday and has been eating very little since then. We've scheduled a vet appointment for tonight. I'm crossing my fingers that they'll say there's nothing wrong, and he's just being a picky eater.

I just wish I could ask him what's wrong

He's still eating treats and the pumpkin topping on his food. He'll even eat his kibble if we're doing a training session. He just won't eat it in his bowl or food toys. His poop has also been normal, though less frequent because he's eating much less.

The reason I'm fearing the worst is because my family's dog Betsy stopped eating and died of organ failure less than a year ago. I really hope Badger is okay.

Betsy: 2001-2011