Saturday, April 30, 2011

Out in the Garden

Spring is finally here! It was the first beautiful spring day we have had, and everyone was out and about enjoying it. People were eating lunch outside and a lot of people (us included) headed out to home improvement and garden stores. I saw (and definitely heard) more motorcycles, dirtbikes and convertibles go by today than I can remember from all of last year.

We took advantage of the beautiful sunny weather to get outside and clean up the lawn and garden. We tied Oscar out so that he could keep us company and enjoy the outdoors. He was very well behaved and only barked at a passerby once. Good dog! He did trample some of my new tulips, but I'll try to keep teaching him to stay out of the flowerbeds so hopefully that won't last too much longer (and the tulips bounced back okay).

Guarding the front yard.

Exploring the garden - and thankfully not
trampling anything (at least not in this picture).

Enjoying the sun.

It's so nice to finally see plants coming up!

Tulips!  Several of the ton that I planted in the fall.
I can't wait for them to bloom.

Sniffing around - that's Oscar's specialty.

Posing for pictures (after tangling
his lead around a poor little plant).

Oscar was apparently trying to be helpful by
digging up the rocks around the flowerbed.

I was too slow to get a shot of Oscar trying to eat
the rake. He hates the rake as much as he hates
the vacuum, broom and shovel.

Oscar was very calm outside.  Good dog!

Hens and chicks.

We took him on a walk this evening and we were out for about an hour. Oscar's blurry in these pictures because he was full of energy, and was very busy sniffing absolutely everything. He was pretty tired when we got back - it's been a busy day, after all.

Yay for spring!

The Off Switch

Oscar only has two settings: on and off. On means he's running around, chewing things, playing, and generally just being an energetic miniature schnauzer puppy. When he's awake, he's quite a handful. Then he falls asleep, and he's dead to the world. There's really no calm middle ground. That means I really enjoy it when he's switched off. It gives me a welcome break...not to mention he's adorable when he naps!

All snuggled up!

He can't get in trouble if he's sleeping!

Apparently face-smooshing is comfortable.

We woke him up to put him in his crate...

...but he's still half-asleep.  So cute!

"Forget it, I'm not going anywhere except back to bed."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Dreaded Second Chewing Phase

I blogged a while back after I discovered that puppies actually go through a second chewing phase. I didn't look into it too much at the time, but after he tried to eat our house, I started thinking about it again and decided to see what I could find out about it, if only to try to get an idea of how much longer this will last.

I have read that the second chewing phase can kick in anywhere from 6-12 months. Apparently it can last quite a while in some dogs - up to several months. (I have this sinking feeling that Oscar might be one of those dogs.) I have read that it is a part of them exploring their territory more, but I have also read that it has something to do with their teeth getting set in their jawbone. I'm not sure what it is, but it's no fun - for us, at least. Oscar is having a ball!

The saddest thing that I read is that this second chewing phase is not well-known by many owners, so some people give their dogs up because they think that the dog is having behavioural issues out of the blue. That's apparently one reason why there are so many dogs in shelters that are around this age. I can understand why owners get so confused and frustrated when this happens (though I couldn't imagine giving Oscar up because of it). While Oscar was already a bit of a troublemaker before this second chewing phase started, it was like a switch flipped and he got so much worse, literally overnight. It was crazy! What a shame that dogs are abandoned because their owners don't understand the source of their behaviour - especially when it's something that many dogs naturally go through and which will eventually pass.

It is recommended that dogs, if they're not already crate trained, be crate trained rather than being given the run of the house. That way, if you can't be around to watch them at every moment, you know they aren't off shredding something that they shouldn't. Oscar is crate trained, but he is not used to being in the crate when we are home. I am working on leaving him in his crate when we are busy around the house. As soon as he's out of sight, he's usually doing something bad. He has a short attention span and he's quick, so he can get up to no good pretty fast. Right now he hates being in the crate during the day, frankly. I put him in there with a stuffed Kong and he's good for about five minutes, and then he starts his frantic barking (really high pitched, with a hint of whine) and shakes the crate. I wait until he is quiet before giving him a really good treat and letting him out. He's not in there very long at a time - maybe fifteen minutes - but it drives him crazy. He still has no issue getting into the crate at night, so I don't think there are any negative associations with the crate - he just wants to come out and play. However, I want him to be able to sit quietly in his crate, even when he can hear us moving around, so that he gets used to being on his own when we can't watch him.

I also think it will help him with his focus, which I think we really need to work on and which I think is the root of a lot of the other behavioural problems we experience with him. When he gets excited, he's all over the place, and I don't think we wait long enough to ensure that he's truly calm before we do things like pet him or open the door or whatever it is he wants us to do. We consistently make him sit before he goes through doors or gets his food, but I think we need to start asking for longer sits so that he has to work on controlling himself more.

Apparently dogs are pretty much guaranteed to be fully over the second chewing phase by 18 months. That's over half a year away! I am hoping that if we can work on calming him down and working on his self-control that some of the destructive behaviour might slow down a bit. We are trying to go back to basics with training, like correcting when he chews something bad by taking away the object and giving him something he's allowed to chew, rather than just correcting and taking the bad object away like we have been doing. It's so easy for us to slip into lazy training habits! We're also going to work on picking toys up off the floor rather than just leaving them around. I saw on a forum that someone thought that leaving toys around might lead a dog to think that anything lying around the house is up for grabs, so leaving just one or two toys out is better. We're also going to focus on keeping him active. A tired Oscar is a less destructive Oscar...but even then there are no guarantees!

Oscar enjoying his antler, which we have
since lost. It was a great chew - no mess
and long lasting. I have to find it again!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Some Dog Owners Need To Be Trained!

We took Oscar on a walk today in the parkland near our house. There are walking trails, but the rest is just long grass and bushes. Everything was fine and Oscar was having a good time sniffing around.

A future butterfly maybe?

Well, I wish I could tell you that this was just a post about what a lovely walk we had, but it's not. (You could probably tell that by the title). Anyway, as we were walking, further down the path we saw a guy and his dog approaching us. I am working on trying to get Oscar to remain calm and quiet when people or dogs approach, so I was watching Oscar and getting a treat ready to give him for when we passed them. I didn't realize the guy's dog was off leash. All of a sudden, it rushed at us from the side. I'm still not sure what it was - it was light brown and the face looked a bit like a boxer or a similar type of dog, but to be honest I was too surprised to notice much more than that. My husband and I didn't see it at all, or even hear it coming. I had no idea it had left its owner's side. The dog's owner had been walking straight toward us on the path and hadn't called his dog back or gone after it, so I had thought that they were together, in front of us.

The dog lunged right at Oscar and bit Oscar a few times. It all happened so quickly! I have never heard Oscar's scared bark before, but he pretty much freaked out (understandably). I managed to get between Oscar and the dog, stood up straight, looked right at it and said "no" very loudly, but that didn't do much. By that time, the dog's owner was shouting at it to stop, but even as I stood between the dog and Oscar, it lunged between my legs to get at Oscar. I picked Oscar up, and as I did, the other dog was in the midst of biting Oscar. My husband and I were checking Oscar over to make sure nothing was wrong, and by the time I looked up, the guy and his dog had taken off! Absolutely no apologies, and definitely no waiting around for any negative consequences of his own dog's behaviour. I suppose he's okay with his dog attacking another dog, but he's not okay with the prospect of paying someone else's vet bill. Charming. Anyway, we were too in shock to stop him, as we were worried about Oscar. Luckily, Oscar was fine, and we headed on. I think maybe the dog was playing, but I'm still not sure. It was pretty intently going after Oscar, and it didn't stop. If it had been intent on attacking though, given the size difference, I think Oscar would probably have come out of it with an injury of some sort.

As we continued on, we saw another dog. We were hesitant, but saw that it was on leash, so we continued towards it and its owner. I also didn't want Oscar to be scared every time we saw another dog on a walk, so I was hoping that a good experience right after a bad one would help him. The owner said hi and the dog seemed calm and a bit playful. Oscar approached the other dog very slowly. The dogs sniffed each other and then moved on. That is what an interaction between dogs on a walk should be like! We treated Oscar for being so brave and saying hello to another strange dog, and we finished our walk.

I still can't believe that jerk just walked off (correction: rushed off) without so much as an apology. He clearly didn't want to get in trouble if Oscar was hurt. I can guarantee you that if I had seen any blood or cuts on Oscar that I would have run after him. People like that should be fined. The parkland that we were in is not an off-leash dog park. Dogs are allowed, but the sign clearly shows that dogs should be leashed. Not to mention the owner clearly wasn't in control of the off-leash dog, which was not near the owner when it attacked Oscar. Argh! I am so mad that that even happened. It's a relief that Oscar wasn't hurt. For that matter, it's a good thing that my husband and I weren't hurt either. I suppose it wasn't the smartest thing for me to get between the big dog and Oscar and look it in the face while raising my voice and saying "no" - that's pretty aggressive behaviour on my part - but I wasn't really thinking. I just wanted to get it to stop attacking Oscar.

It's right there on the sign. Dog on a leash. Oh, and
pick up your dog's poop. People don't do that either.

I was thinking about it and wondered if that ever happens again if we should drop the leash. My husband was trying to get Oscar away from the dog, and he also was thinking that he didn't want the dog to chase Oscar if Oscar ran away, so he didn't drop the leash. I was doing some reading after we got home, and haven't found many helpful tips. Many sites seem to suggest that you carry a big walking stick with you, but I'm probably not going to do that. We may just stick to the sidewalks for now. That way the dogs are going to be on-leash (at least I would hope so!) and we could just cross the street to avoid people. It's easier to see a dog coming on the street, too. I hope I never find myself in that situation again. I'm not going to lie - it was scary!

We came home and I gave Oscar a bath. I didn't see any cuts or anything, though it's hard to tell through the fur. I'm happy to report that he's running around as usual (though he's a little tuckered out), so I think he came out of that little encounter okay. I bribed him with a bully stick to let me brush him after his bath, so now he's handsome as ever!

Oscar: the Drowned Rat edition.

Our brave little guy!

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Risky Experiment

AJ over at PupLove posted what I thought was a very interesting video here. In the video, the woman cues unwanted behaviour, which in her case was her dog jumping up as she holds a food dish. By cuing, I mean that she actually clicks the unwanted behaviour, then attaches a verbal and physical cue to it. The dog learns to perform the behaviour when the dog sees or hears the cue. Then she teaches the dog over time that the dog only gets a reward when the behaviour is cued, not when the dog does the behaviour spontaneously. After a while, the behaviour only occurs when it is cued. Counterintuitive (for me at least)...but brilliant!

The most annoying behaviour that Oscar has (besides chewing...enough said) is barking. I think it's starting to scare the neighbour kids, who are out more often now that the weather is getting better. He can see them when they play out back because the pen is right next to the window and he pretty much barks at them incessantly. I really hate to think that Oscar might make them nervous, not to mention the barking is annoying, so I really want to get rid of his barking. Nothing that we have tried so far has worked, whether it's shaking a pop can full of pennies, spraying him with water from a mister, or treating him when he's momentarily quiet in the middle of a barking spree after telling him to be quiet. When it comes to the last option, I think he gets confused and associates the barking with a reward because of the timing. The other two options just agitate him, which makes him bark more. Not useful.

So, after seeing the video, I figured I'd try cuing the barking to eventually get rid of it. I managed to teach him the Bark command in about ten minutes. It's easy to train a behaviour that comes so naturally to him! Now the tricky part will be getting him to learn that he only gets treats when I tell him to bark, not whenever he feels like barking. I really hope this works, because otherwise I'll just have a dog who barks whenever he wants treats, which is pretty much all the time!

Now that he's associated the word "bark" with actually barking, I have started to ignore him when he barks spontaneously (which he was previously rewarded for, when I was trying to teach the command in the first place). I have instead been telling him "quiet," and then rewarding when he stops barking. I continue to treat  when he barks on cue. Do you think treating "Bark" and "Quiet" together is confusing? Has anyone tried this, and if so, what worked for you and what didn't? If this works, I'll feel like a genius. If it doesn't, I'm buying earplugs in bulk.

Oscar thinks getting treats for
barking is the greatest thing ever!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

On His Own Again

The visit is over, sadly. We dropped Mia off at her house tonight. She was a lovely houseguest! She's so calm and cuddly. We loved having her! We'd definitely dog-sit for her anytime. I don't think much of her calmness rubbed off on Oscar this visit, unfortunately (as you can tell by my previous post), but she did do us a favour by tiring him out. She also got him to use his pet bed a lot more - mostly just by trying to use it herself. He's a bit possessive about stuff like that. I'm happy that he likes it now though. I hate spending money on things for him that he just ignores! Right now he's napping like a good dog, all curled up in the pet bed near my feet. He's so tired that he didn't even move when I got up. Usually when we go anywhere, he's right at our heels. He looks so cute and calm. I'll enjoy this while it lasts!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Definitely Not Half the Work...

But maybe double the destruction.

I said in my last post that I had read that having two dogs was half the work - I suppose the theory being that they keep each other company and entertain each other. We're dog-sitting a little cockapoo named Mia. We rearranged the main floor of the house a little, since we planned on leaving the two dogs out during the day together.

The first day went pretty smoothly. When we came home, the dogs were tired (probably from chasing each other all day) and the only damage was our chewed-up blinds. I wasn't crazy about them anyway - they were here when we moved in - so I wasn't too upset about the damage.

That doesn't look right...

Mia wasn't really extra work. She does have quite different eating habits than Oscar. She is a grazer, and eats just a tiny bit at a time. We couldn't leave her with food all day though, or else Oscar would have eaten it in a heartbeat, so we separated her from Oscar several times that evening to try to get her to eat. The extra time we spent with her was more than offset by her having tired Oscar out so much with all the chasing and games of bitey-face that he pretty much just lay around rather than trying to play, being rambunctious or causing trouble as usual. We were feeling pretty good about things.

Yay sleepy dog!

The pups are tired out.

Then came Wednesday. My husband got home first, and immediately called me to ask me to come home, because the dogs had chewed the baseboards in our living room. Great. There was quite a pile of wood bits all over the floor, so I got worried and called the vet even though they were running around and seemed totally normal. I was told to wet and soften their kibble and see if they could eat and swallow properly, check the roof of their mouths for splinters, and check their poop for blood. If they could eat, and there were no splinters or blood, they were probably just fine.

I didn't see splinters and there was no blood anywhere. Mia ate all her kibble at once, which I thought was a very good sign that she was feeling fine - and actually hungry for once. Oscar ate all of his as well, as usual, which was also good. They both pooped more or less right away, and there were only wood splinters in one dog's poop...I'm sure you can guess which one. Sigh. Oscar is such a troublemaker. We cleared the entire room of anything that we thought he could eat before we left for the day. We definitely didn't think he'd go and eat our baseboards!

Note the entire top strip is missing.

This corner has been nicely gnawed on too...

I wish I could tell you that this is his remorseful
pose, but it's not. No remorse whatsoever.

Lucky for us, he was feeling okay. There were still long pieces of the baseboards that were intact (although no longer attached to the wall), and a big pile of wood splinters and chips, so I don't think very much of the wood actually made it into his system. Most of it has gone through him and he's been doing fine since then. Mia was fine, but that's because I don't think she did any of the chewing. I suppose this means we'll be making a trip to Home Depot and will teach ourselves how to install baseboards. It's probably going to come in handy, because now that he knows he can do it, he's tried to chew them on two more occasions. The baseboards are all over our house - on the main level and in the basement - so we really have to keep an eye on him now. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of this new habit, sadly.

I think having two dogs could actually be half the work (or at least no more work than having one), if only one of those dogs wasn't a chewing/destruction machine. Even now, after running around for the entire evening, Oscar's been going to town on his Everlasting Treat Ball for the last hour (which, might I had, he had pretty much no interest in before Mia decided she liked it) while Mia is lying quietly on the couch, sleeping. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - he's lucky he's cute!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Adventures in Dog-Sitting

I'm back online! I've got some catching up to do with my favourite dog blogs - I'll hop around when I have some free time this week. I hope you've all been doing well!

We're starting a new dog adventure this week. I've often wondered what life would be like with two dogs. I've heard that two dogs is half the work, but my husband is not so convinced. This week, we'll find out who's right, because we're dog-sitting for our lovely friends who were kind enough to take Oscar on last week when we were on vacation. They've left us with their adorable cockapoo, Mia.

Oscar is usually in an e-pen during the day, but Mia usually wanders the house. We figured we shouldn't keep Oscar in his e-pen while Mia got to run around, so we did some reorganizing. We bought an extra baby gate to close off the kitchen, and closed all the doors to the rooms in the house, so they've got the run of the living room, dining area and hallway during the day. We did another (major) round of puppy-proofing, since we don't know how Oscar will be when he's out during the day.

I figure they'll keep each other busy enough. This should be interesting - it's our first dog-sitting adventure. The pups have pretty different temperaments, and different habits, so we'll have some learning to do. Right now we've left them upstairs to see how they do before we leave them for the day tomorrow, and all I hear is them running around. They'll probably tire themselves out soon. Wish us luck! I'll let you all know how it goes!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Offline for a Week or So...

We are heading off on a trip, so I won't be blogging until I'm back. Yay for vacations! Work has been crazy for both of us, so we're really looking forward to a break. Oscar will be staying with some friends of ours and his cockapoo pal, so I'm sure he'll get a lot of playtime in. Hopefully he doesn't chew up their house! In the meantime, I'll leave you with this picture of Oscar in his younger, shaggier days. I love this picture. Take care everyone!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...