Friday, August 28, 2009

Train the Trainer

So Wednesday night we attended our first dog training session with the Gentle Dog Training company.  I thought the training would be more interactive, but turns out most of the time is spent sitting and listening to the trainers and then we get to go home and practice for a week.  This first week we were taught (at first it looked like that was spelled completely wrong) 3 things to work on.

1.  Never let your dog go out the door first. 
This is for a few good reasons.  The first being that you should go out first to check the environment to make sure it is safe.  Example - you don't want your dog hitting the front steps and immediately chasing after a squirrel or the neighborhood cat that is 5 feet away.  Second, you want to show them that you are the Pack Leader.  Showing your dog who's boss helps make them more apt to listen and follow commands and tames aggression.

Now Porter has been pretty good about this so far.  We make her sit at the door when we put her collar on and she stays sitting until we walk through the door and "release" her to go outside.  She wasn't so good at this rule getting out of the car or going doors that weren't attached to the front of our house. 

So, to train for this it's actually VERY easy.  If a dog starts to go out a door when you haven't told it to do so, you simply shut the door in its face (not hard...come on I'm not that mean).  The trainers demonstrated this technique in class using Porter as the example.  The put her in a kennel and when they opened the door she attempted to bolt out (and actually managed to do so 1 time).  As she was trying to sneak out, they gently shut the door in her face.  They had to repeat this about 8 times before she finally "got it".  After that when they opened the door she would just sit there until the training waved her out.  Note ** we've found this extremely useful when letting the dog out of the backseat of the car when we're parked on the street.

2.  Teach your dog to come. 
Porter only comes when we call her in the house.  Outside she pretends to be deaf.  We know better.  The trainer said we should reinforce this by randomly popping in front of the dog throughout the day and saying "here boy" (or girl) and giving the dog a treat.  This teaches the dog the association of "calling it", getting a treat as a reward, and most importantly seeing the owner in front of it.  Supposedly next week they'll associate the act of the dog coming to the master (instead of the flip side).  Porter has this one down pat, granted all she has to do is sit there and eat a treat.

3.  Walk your dog, don't let it walk you.
This last one has proven the toughest for us.  Dogs should always walk at or slightly behind their master's side.  Porter does not.  She pulls and pulls and pulls and tries to take us on walks.  As per my previous >post, we've tried harnesses, choke chains, and the Halti.  The trainer recommended we use the Halti, so Halti it is.  We've had her using it for less than a week now and she seems to be doing better and better.  By this I mean she doesn't claw at her face nearly as often.  We can practically make it a whole block at a time before she lays down and rubs her face in the grass.  She does NOT however get the part where we're supposed to be leading her.  The trick to this is making random turns through out the walk to get her to understand that she is to follow.  If she doesn't follow, you yank on the leash 3 times each time progressively a little harder.  This is supposed to teach the dog that the first time is a warning, the second time sucks, and the third time...well you don't want to get to the third time, so listen up when I tell you once.  The trainer gave us a long leash (10 feet) to try this technique.  We need to be more dilligent about practicing and I am committing myself to working with her in the yard tonight.  Again, pull 3 times, each time a little harder, and then let the leash go slack.  At that point they should be walking right by your side rather than wandering around somewhere else. 

Round 2 of training class is Thursday at 8pm. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To Halti or Not To Halti

So we got our dog Porter from the animal shelter almost 2 months ago. She has been a very well behaved little girl for the most part.

A couple accidents in the house the first few days we had her, no chewing on furniture or shoes, very temperate around other animals, loves babies, etc....

We do however have what we see as one big problem..."Crittering". She loves to chase squirrels, birds, leaves, basically anything that moves. Now in the back yard, that's not so much of a problem. However, when you're walking her, chasing after a squirrel poses a few issues, one being that she could easily chase the animal into the street and quickly be run over by a car, or two pull your arm out of its socket and in the process, practically strangle herself on the collar. I vote no to either option.
So, to combat this issue, we've invested in a multitude of products. The first being the front hook harness. This is supposed to help prevent the dog from pulling. As the dog runs away, the front of the harness pulls together. This worked to successfully pull her feet out from under her as Porter would take off running. It didn't seem to deter her from trying over and over again. So we returned it...
The second attempt to squash all bad habits has been a try with the Halti. We've been easing Porter into the contraption similar to torture gear found in the middle ages. This works by leading the dog using the restraint on the face. The idea being that where the dog's head goes the body will follow (I know...complicated logic). It's also much easier to pull/turn a dog's head than it is their body. We've consistently been putting it on her any time she eats. This gets her to associate the Halti with something she Then you begin with taking her on short walks and eventually she "should" be okay with wearing it all the time. The issue is that she hates the thing being attached to her face. When it's on her she continually paws at the side of her face. The first time we walked her, she pawed every 2 or 3 steps and only got a block away before taking it off. I've since walked her 2 or 3 times using it and she seems to progressively be getting more used to it. Don't get me wrong...she hates the things and paws at it, but now it's every 5 or 6 steps. Progress.
Another attempt to quell the pulling on the leash has been the common Choke Chain. Porter has now worn this on 2 walks. She still pulls, but the choking part seems to make her give up the chase a little sooner. Stu thinks this is the way to go.
I'm still torn.
Feel free to vote for your opinion on the poll at top right of page -->

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Night Shift

So I'm working nights this week. By that I don't mean that I've taken to the streets, but rather my company implemented a big project that needed 24x5 coverage so for Monday - Friday this week I'm on a 2am-8am schedule.

My sleep/work schedule so far has been to try and go to sleep at 10pm, wake at 1:30am, work from 2-8am, then go back to sleep until noon. I mean if Da Vinci could do it, so could I, right?

Well I'm currently on day 3 of 5 and so far it's easier said than done. Monday morning I slept after my shift, and got a LOT of stuff done that day. Tuesday morning came, I slept until noon then found myself needing another nap (assisted by a glass of wine) from 2-4pm and then went back to bed at 10:30pm only to be shocked into wakening by my alarm clock at 1:30am early Wednesday. As I drove into work I passed by Waldo Bar & Grill and noticed all the people still up and going at it. I was instantly jealous that the reason they were awake was to partake in a beverage and would soon be going to sleep.

I digress. So far, this wacky sleep schedule has given me slight headaches at times, and my vision is seriously diminishing so I've resorted to wearing my glasses while driving and staring at the computer. And of course I'm tired most of the day. I did find an article how working the night shift can also screw up your metabolism and cause problems like diabetes and heart disease. I seriously doubt that after 3 days of work I could have screwed up my body too much, but I do know it would take a serious raise for me to take on a job where I permanently work 3rd shift.