Monday, January 29, 2007

Bitey Face

The contest over who could make the ugliest face took place this morning in my bed.

Abby starts us off with a pretty mild expression
Mia shows her how it's done, and shocks Abby with her added tongue-out move
Abby resorts to her classic wrinkley face...
...but Mia wins that round, shocking Abby once again with the size of her pearly whites.
Abby has one final move to be unveiled, though...the Demon Dog! This move is unbeatable in its ugliness.

Tycho is a Lucky Guy

Tycho got the two pretty ladies all to himself on Sunday! His brother Zeus had to stay home because he gets stiff and sore after this steep trail. I don't think Tycho was complaining!

Mia decided that copying Tycho was even more fun than copying big sister Abby. If Tycho was chewing a stick, she had to find a stick to chew, too.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sheep are scary (and maybe fun)

Abby was put on sheep today! I can see how people get addicted to sheep herding. Even though Abby is in no way, shape, or form a Border Collie, I'm tempted to go back and try again, so I can only imagine how much fun I'd have with a real herder!

We put Mia on the sheep first, so that Abby could watch her and maybe get an idea of what to do. Mia was definitely less intense and crouchy than she is with her ball, frisbee, dishwasher, or buster cube...The trainer said that a lot of young border collies are goofy around the sheep at first, though, and that Mia has some instinct and could definitely be worked. Her tail stayed up the whole time, and she was pretty bouncy, but she was moving the sheep and wasn't too scared of them.

As soon as the sheep started moving, Abby started barking. I kept having to back up further and further, so she didn't really get a chance to watch Mia in action. Once the barking started, I was pretty worried about letting Abby in there with the sheep, but the trainer seemed to have tons of experience, so I trusted her. She had me come in with Abby, who was still on the leash, and walk her up to the sheep. Abby was barking and lunging and trying to sound as vicious as possible to scare those big scary beasts away. The trainer said "let's see how tough she really is - let her off the leash". I let Abby off, and as soon as she realized she wasn't attached, she definitely lost a lot of courage. The trainer and I walked over to the sheep (they'd been across from us previously) and I called Abby to me. I was then told to pick her up and place her on the sheep's backs! I sat her up there and calmed her down, then let her sniff their butts, then put her back on the ground. When she started up the barking, I called her again and put her up on the sheep. After the 2nd time she'd calmed down quite a bit, and started to actually circle around the sheep and bring in any that strayed away. I was very pleased with her! She kept her head enough to listen to me when I called her and when I told her "that'll do" and we left the pen. What a good puppy!

I might bring her to meet the sheep again on Friday. The trainer said that building a dog's confidence around the sheep can really help with their confidence in general. After the sheep experience, Abby was either in shock, or was feeling pretty pleased with herself. She really had this new glint in her eye - it was so nice to see. I think she was probably in awe of the fact that I was encouraging her to chase something, rather than trying to stop her.

The trainer also knows of a good place to train for flyball where the dogs learn one at a time, instead of being thrown into a room full of screaming dogs from the get-go. I may try that again, we'll see. I have to pick and choose here...I do not have the time and money to do agility, herding, flyball, Rally-o, and possibly lure coursing in the spring. My NuttyMutt may be talented, but she's going to make me go broke!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Bad day at the field today, and it was, as usual, due to my own mistake. I didn't have Abby on a long line, even though I've promised myself many many times that I'll keep her on one. I started class late today, though, so I went to the field at the usual time from last term, when I know most of the dogs that are there. Everything was great until the very end - Abby had gone up to greet all the dogs nicely, and there was nobody playing fetch. There was one newish dog - a tiny poodly thing that I've seen there once or twice.
My big mistake was trying to put Abby's leash on while close to the other dogs. I did my usual "Abby, ready to go?", and asked her to "place" so that I could put her leash on. I reached down to attach the leash, and as I was just about to buckle it Abby went lunging towards the poodle, who was a few feet away. I think she thought she was already on leash...and right now she is terrible at greeting dogs on leash. I can easily get distract her while we're walking, but I don't ever let her greet dogs while on leash because it never goes well anymore (and i don't think leashed dogs need to interact, too many things can go wrong). So anyway, she definitely has some barrier frustration/anxiety issues while on leash.
She jumped on the poodle dog, who was about a third of her size, and pinned the poor thing. The dog was screaming and trying to run away with Abby pinning it as it ran. The owner, a large guy, went running towards them to pull Abby off, but luckily she jumped away before he got there (don't even want to think about what would have happened it he'd tried to grab her, but I can't really blame him for wanting to pull her off his little dog). The dog was ok - Abby had some of its hair in her mouth, but I think that was the only damage done. I apologized profusely, and another man on the field said "wow, I didn't know she had that in her". I was obviously in no position to reply with a sarcastic comment like I wanted to (has WHAT in her? the ability to snarl and bite?), so I just kept apologizing and I left.

Ugh. That's about all there is to it. Another lesson learned: Don't put any stress on Abby while she's in close proximity to other dogs. She will find the smallest, weakest one, and bully it to the extreme. I mean...pinning and snarling when the dog did absolutely nothing to her? That's pretty bad. Long line every time from now on. I don't even think this is something I can "work on" - it's just a very low frustration and barrier tolerance on her part. It happened way too fast for me to call her, and I wish I could get her to a point where she could be called off immediately, but that seems close to impossible. Maybe I should bring the whistle to the field again, that might get through to her.

Gaaah! Things were going so well!

On the bright side, she and Mia continue to love each other...and today I taught Abby "pet" by shaping it with the clicker. She has to stick her head up under my hand herself. My last attempt to desensitize her to head touches ended up with her choosing to leave instead of take treats, and this way worked much better. Training is great with Abby when I don't push her too hard, and when I am very precise (that's why the clicker is wonderful). I think we're both perfectionists...

The foster dog is not learning that it's ok to dig, I swear.

Oh, and we go sheep eating on Saturday. Well, potential eating with Nut, and potential herding with Mia.

Annnd we got a Roomba! My dad is loaning it to us to try out for awhile - hopefully a long while. Yippee, robot vacuum!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Mia (=Maya) is here

...and is she ever cute! She's about Abby's height (could be a tiny bit taller, hard to tell), and a lot chubbier. I would estimate her weight to be about 40 lbs, which is 10+ lbs more than Abby.
We went to pick her up at the airport on Friday night. My plan was to have Abby meet her through a baby gate. I knew Abby could jump over the gate, but I assumed (stupidly) that Abby wouldn't jump the gate to 'go after' Mia. So I locked Abby in my bedroom and brought Mia into the house, and I set up the baby gate. Abby heard/smelled her come in and was barking (at 2:00am). I grabbed some treats and let Abby come down the hall to the baby gate. Mia kept her distance since Abby was growling at the gate. I kept calling Abby back and giving her treats...then she suddenly jumped over the baby gate and leaped on top of poor Mia, growling and snarling! I pulled Abby off (she was making lots of noise but not actually 'doing' anything). A few seconds later Abby was prancing around trying to get Mia to play with her. That is obviously an unacceptable way to greet new dogs, but it's a bit late to practice using Mia as the new dog...since they have been playing non stop ever since the meeting.

Mia makes Abby seem like an old lady! I've never seen Abby get tired before another dog, or seen another dog pester Abby to play (she's normally the one doing all the pestering). She is getting a lot better about settling in the house - she is actually sleeping next to my bed right now (I'm dog-sitting while my roommate is in class). I even managed to get have a bit of a nap this morning with both her and Abby in my bed. When I woke up, they started rolling around and chewing each other. It was adorable. It's really good for both of them to be able to tire themselves out by wrestling. I have a feeling that Mia will be adopted pretty soon. She's young, doesn't have any real issues (she barks at things that she's unsure of, but is really friendly with people and dogs when she gets over her initial surprise), and is, I would say (from my very limited experience) a typical young Border Collie.

Abby and I were gone at a trial all day yesterday. We were supposed to do 4 runs, but it was getting late and I was exhausted, so we skipped the last one. It was Masters Jumpers, and I have trouble enough remembering the course when I'm fully awake. The first run that we did was Advanced Gamblers. Abby was in typical first run of the day mode - very fast, a little confused, and definitely not listening well - which was fine for the beginning where we could do any obstacles. She did both mini gambles; one was a hoop -jump, and the other was weaves-tunnel. I was so happy about the weaves! She hesitated for a second on the entrance, but did a perfect weave! Yay! We didn't get the end gamble, but nobody else did in 22" regulars, either - and Abby had the most points. So 1st place ribbon for that!
The next run was Advanced Standard. That was a bit of a gong show...I knew the course really well, luckily, or I would have gotten lost after Abby went up the Aframe instead of into the tunnel. After that mistake I was going way too close to everything, and she started popping out of tunnels and out of the chute. She ran super fast, as usual, and still managed to get a 4th place (obviously without a Q). The third run was Advanced Snooker, and it was flawless (well, practically). She ended up with a 1st and a Q....which puts us in Masters Snooker - scary!!

Abby only missed one target in all the runs, and I made her redo it and she got it the 2nd time, so I think those are coming along nicely. She didn't bark at me too much (only when I wasn't handling very smoothly). She also got lots of compliments for being cute, and someone told us how she was watching our runs and had noticed how well trained Abby was. That made me very happy.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Brain exercise

Tonight I was too tired after my tutorial to take Abby out. I was spoiled by late classes last term, and now 7:30am now seems reaallly early to be standing on the field throwing the frisbee. I did manage to drag myself out of bed this morning though, so I didn't feel too bad about not taking her out this afternoon.

Instead we spend a some time learning a new trick - "stick -em up" (this one was an especially fast one - I used the clicker and she got it after the first try),
practicing yesterday's trick - "take a bow",
and polishing up on targets in preparation for Sunday's trial.
I think Abby's weight is better these days. She was at 29 lbs the last time I checked. I still get comments on how thin she is from people, but she doesn't look emaciated anymore - no ribs sticking out. She definitely hasn't filled out quite as much as people last year were telling me she would by age two. How could she with the amount that she runs around?
She's on raw now, for at least a month. I'm going to calculate the cost this month and see how it compares to kibble. She is SO happy after every meal that I don't think I'd be able to go back, even if I wanted to. She comes over to me and rolls around on her back when she's done eating, falls into my lap..the works. Last week she had chicken quarters , and this week I've introduced pork. So far, no problems. I also gave her some chicken feet as a snack, which she loved.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Testing the camera

I haven't tested my camera for action shots yet, but I definitely like its closeup capabilities!

Foster sister in 3 days!

Abby's new foster sister arrives on Friday! Well, technically Saturday since she arrives at 1:00am. I'm so excited!

My plan for the introduction is different than it was for Tryp. Things were so hectic when he arrived (lots of people, everyone so excited) that I didn't follow any kind of plan. I ended up carrying Abby into the living room from my room (I somehow thought that she would be less scared if I carried her in than if she ran into the living room and saw another dog there suddenly - not really sure where my mind was actually). She was pretty snarky with Tryp, but he was so mellow that he just took it and they were bouncing around together after a couple of seconds of Abby's supreme bitchiness.

Since Mia is younger and a female, I think I should let Abby meet her more gradually, and not let Abby be snarly when they first meet. The plan is to keep Abby in my room when Mia arrives and then take them on a walk together, keeping some distance. Then, I think it would be a good idea to separate them with a baby gate just to see what kind of interactions they have that way, and then hopefully remove the baby gate that same night. If this dog is anything like Abby was at 9 months, they'll have a great time together - all Abby wanted to do at that age was wrestle and play with almost every dog. She still does love to wrestle and play, but mostly with dogs she knows - so these two should get a kick out of each other.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I want another dog.

I want a second dog, and I've decided that in May I'm going to get one. I've been thinking about this for a long time, and I think it would really benefit both me and Abby.

For Abby, the reasons are pretty obvious. She loves playing with other dogs - she would choose playing with a dog (one that she knows) over playing with a person any day. I have to try really hard to be as fun and exciting as another dog. Also, dogs that are outgoing with people really help Abby with her fear of people. When Tryp was here, he'd go running up to any stranger who came into our house as though he'd known them his whole life. It was great for Abby - pretty soon she was running up to everyone too because she didn't want to get left out with all the attention. When she didn't feel like going to say hi, she was more relaxed about it since the focus and attention wasn't all on her. The people could concentrate on Tryp while Abby could concentrate on checking out the people, unnoticed.

A second dog would help me deal with Abby in the ways I just mentioned, as well as helping me with my need to have a friendly, outgoing dog. It is really hard for me to have to tell everyone not to touch Abby - I loved having a happy to meet everyone dog. It really made me feel good that Sam was so great with strangers. There are tons of other things that I love about Abby, obviously - it's hard to find a more velcro or responsive dog. Social butterfly, however, she is not. Having a second dog who was a happy go lucky social guy would be perfect - I'd appreciate Abby more for being so easy to train (some kinds of training...) and for being my little shadow, and I wouldn't feel like I have to make her into the all around 'best dog ever'. I mean, I know that her issues just have to be managed, and aren't ever going to disappear. Having a second dog that kind of fills the gaps that Abby leaves would help.

I'm not sure if I got that out right. I just have this very distinct feeling that getting another dog would really improve everything with Abby.

This imaginary second dog would have to be pretty near perfect, though, so I'm willing to wait to find him. I want a medium sized male (easier with Abby, and in general I've found that males are more laid back and cuddly) around Abby's size. He would have to be fine with cats (because of Peppy and Darla), great with other dogs (but not overly enthusiasic about them - ie no barking on the leash) and outstanding with people of all ages. I don't want a dog that guards resources at all. He doesn't have to be brilliant (like, ahem, Abby), he can be a huge doofus, but he has to be super friendly. He can't be oversensitive to movement (like people running by) or to sounds (like busses, skateboards). He can't have separation anxiety, and he has to ride in the car well.
That sounds like a long list, but I have a very specific kind of dog in mind. Yes, a dog with issues can be trained, but I have a dog with almost every issue under the sun, and I need a break with my second dog. He has to be the kind of dog that you can bring anywhere, that you don't worry about constantly. I also can't have a dog with issues other than Abby's (she leaves few undiscovered) becuase I don't want to take any chances about her learning from a new dog.
I'm still undecided as to whether I would lean more towards a dog with a lot of focus and drive, like a Border Collie type, or whether I'd lean more towards a laid back Golden Retriever type. The BC type could keep up with Abby, and might be another agility dog. A GR type, on the other hand, might help Abby to relax a bit more, and might be a good therapy dog candidate - an activity that I can't try with Abby.
I think as long as I'm willing to wait for him, I'll find my perfect dog.

Oh and the last decision is whether I want a puppy. This dog is obviously going to be rescue, and if I got a puppy I'd want to choose one from a litter that was either born in the shelter or came to the shelter very shortly after birth. I'd want to meet the mom, and see that she wasn't overly shy. I'd love to have a puppy, since I've never had one, but this might not be the right time to raise a puppy since I have such specific needs in a dog. Maybe I should wait until I can have a dog who doesn't have to be Mr. Perfect, and instead go with an adult (>2) whose personality is more obvious.

It'll be four months before I'm even letting myself start looking for dogs. Four months...not long at all.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Back in Action!

Abby and I have been reunited! I got back Sunday morning, and we've had a strange couple of days trying to get back in sync, but I think we're now good to go. The first day Abby was super excited to see me for and was jumping and dancing and spinning, and then she fell fast asleep. I think the excitement just knocked her out completely. The next day she was more standoffish than usual, wasn't following me around the house, and kept running into her crate as if I was about to leave the house (which I wasn't). When I brought her to the field she was more excited than she normally is (didn't know that was possible), and wouldn't stop barking. Luckily, today things are better.

Abby had an interesting 2 weeks, from the sounds of it. The first week she was very different from her normal self, which means that she was very well behaved. She was polite with people she'd never met, wasn't overly scared, and even jumped into Tycho and Zeus's grandad's lap to give him kisses! Normally she's scared of him.
The second week Abby acted more like her normal self. She was at our house with my roommate, and I think that made her confident enough to act like regular old NuttyMutt. There was one bad incident where my other roommate's sister leaned over and put her face close to Abby's, and thumped her rib cage (a major pet peeve of Abby's). Abby bared her teeth and snarled. Other than that, she realized the person to latch on to was my roommate, and she behaved well for her.

I'm going to teach Abby a 'walk away' command. My long term goal is to have the cue for the command be a situation that makes Abby uncomfortable, such as someone leaning over her. I basically want to teach her to resort to flight instead of fight, since she is never actually trapped when she feels she it. I'm going to start my having her walk away from treats, then from my roommates playing with her, then from other dogs. I haven't decided what to call the command yet. I want it to be something I can say easily when people are petting/approaching her ( I try to avoid that situation all together, but it isn't always possible to stop people from petting Abby the wrong way. Most people, I've realized, think that they are the one special person who can pet her in any way they want. Very frustrating, since Abby only tolerates all kinds of touch from me and maybe 2-3 others). Back to the command, though - I don't want to call it something like "Get away from that stupid person that you're about to snap at", even if I'd like to call it that. I'm thinking of "by me" and maybe clapping my hands as another signal.

Abby got lots of nice gifts this year, and so did I! I have a new camera that I still need to test for action shots. I really like the still shots so far, though (it's a Canon SD600). Abby got a new floppy frisbee that she likes to shake so that it hits her in the face, and a new folding crate. The crate is pretty small, but since she only curls up in the back of crates at trials, I think it will be fine. It's nice and light compared to the wire one I've been using (that is way too big for Abby). Abby also got lots of treats, and some packed rawhide bones. She used to like those bones, and I watch her very carefully the whole time she chews them since I don't trust dogs with rawhide (Sam once got a piece stuck in the back of his throat when he tried to wolf it down to avoid having it taken away). She doesn't seem to like these bones, though. In fact, all she does when I give her one is get a panicked look in her eyes and starts crying while holding the bone. She then tries to bury it in my bed, and even used her nose to cover it up with the blankets. After that she shakes herself off, as if she's relieved to have hidden it, and goes back to business as usual. She is one weird dog. Oh, and she also got a new collar that I made her her myself, with her name stitched into it.

Trying to bury the bone in her new crate

My roommate is getting her new foster dog soon! The dog is a 9 month old female. She looks very cute in the pictures, and is supposed to be good with dogs, cats and kids. I think Abby will be happy to have a younger sister to boss around. An older female might not go over so well with, but a younger dog that can be pushed around - perfect in Abby's mind. Hopefully they'll play a lot and use up some energy.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

What I Like About You

I haven't seen Abby in over a week it's new music video time!
I miss my crazy little girl, but apparently she's doing very well and behaving a lot better than she does at home with me! I'll see her in 5 days!