Thursday, October 10, 2013

Update on the birthday girl!

I've been on a bit of a hiatus from writing about Olive recently, which I feel terribly guilty about.
We left the country for a bit and Olive got to stay with her Aunt Fiona and Uncle Gus.  Of course her main objective is to annoy Fiona as much as possible and steal Gus's toys.  We were all the way home before we realized she had snuck one of Gus's nylabones into her own crate.  Luckily my mom was 100% on board with Olive's training and kept her behavior in check.  If anything she was behaving even BETTER when we got home! 

We decided for Olive's birthday to take the plunge and sign her up for some CGC prep classes.  The CGC test (Canine Good Citizens) is the first step in therapy certification.  We really couldn't have made a better decision in regards to classes and the trainer we picked.  Our trainer, JanNean, comes to our home and works with Olive privately and soon she will be offering group CGC training at a local park that we will be attending. I'm amazed at how well she works with Olive!!  At her evaluation Olive was a champ - she was totally nuts, clowning around until JanNean pulled out the treats and then she was all business.  She passed her evaluation with flying colors, including learning and responding consistently to a new command with only one repetition!  She's a smart girl - too smart.  
JanNean came for her first class this past week and we learned how to do a proper heel as well as some work on sit/stay with distractions.  Remember how I have been complaining because I couldn't get Olive to stop pulling on the leash?  After ONE class with JanNean (where we didn't even get to go outside on the leash as it was late in the evening) Olive is walking in a true heel and even sitting and looking at me when we stop.  She is still breaking the heel when she sees another dog and sometimes when she sees children, but she is certainly getting better.  If the children don't seem interested in her she is able to walk by relatively calmly (though her little tail nubbin wags away) but when they scream her name and run up to her she has a way of trying to run to them as well - and god FORBID a child try to run away from Olive.  The sheep must be kept in a herd!  She absolutely can't handle kids scattering. 
We are looking forward to our next class where we will go outside and work directly with her on a lead with JanNean. 

Olive is making amazing progress and we are aiming to do her CGC test in November.  This is step one of two to our goal of therapy certification.  We will be attending a CGC at the end of the month with Olive to practice all of her cues in the testing environment (read lots of people and dogs milling around) but we won't sign her up for the test as it may be a bit ambitious to test in the same month we began classes. 

Olive celebrating her birthday (she got more presents than just her CGC testing of course!)

Olive with Fiona (left) and Gus (right)

Olive and Gus.  Fiona has little patience for Olive's antics but her Uncle Gus is always down to play.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A tired dog is a good dog

Ok so I haven't been on here writing in a while and I feel so guilty.  Not guilty that I'm not writing, but guilty that I don't have any new positive progress to report on.

As I prepare for a big music competition that my students and I are all competing in and everything that goes with that (flying to Ireland, leaving Olive behind for a week, figuring out the bus system in Ireland, which is NOT easy! etc), knowing that I come home to a really important audition for school and the start of the semester, I have been so stressed.  I will admit that in this time I haven't been giving Olive the attention she needs, I have been expecting her to give me the attention I need.  I'm starting to realize that isn't fair.
She has been so rotten the last week.  Asking to go outside every few minutes, wrestling way too hard when I try to pick her up for a cuddle in front of the TV, stealing things, running away when she is called.  The worst thing has been this uncontrollable play biting.  She doesn't break skin but she really just gets way into wrestling and makes horrible noises while pretending to bite if you try to pick her up or pet her belly.  She is not upset, she is definitely playing, but it's just unacceptable behavior. She has just been miserably terrible and I started to get so frustrated. I thought "I have put in hours and hours into her training and suddenly she is just so awful, so rotten, I can't do this, she'll never behave!  What happened to my reliable, well-mannered pup?!"

But today I read a sentence that I know well, that I've said to many, but that I hadn't really considered this week - A tired dog is a good dog.  She isn't getting enough exercise!  I used to take her for at least two long walks a day.  Now she's getting probably 0 long walks in a day.  She begs and cries to go outside.  She will even squat and act like she is going to have an accident if we don't get out the door, but when we get outside she just runs and runs around me in circles and won't use the bathroom.  I couldn't figure out why on earth she would so clearly ask to use the bathroom so often when she doesn't need to go.  She doesn't need to use the bathroom, she wants to play.  She knows she is hilarious, she runs around and around me knowing that she gets to either tie me up, make me spin in circles, or make me walk her out of it.  She has me trained well.

Yesterday I got Olive a new toy to destroy in hopes that it will keep her mentally and physically occupied for a few days until she can go spend a week with her cousin corgis and my parents where she will have more play time than she'll even know what to do with.  So far so good - but her dragon has already lost all of his spines and teeth in only one day...

She has such a goofy, wild-eyed smile when she is hyper.  Who wouldn't want to play with this pup non-stop all day?

Run run run as fast as you can around and around in circles!  Everyone thinks it's so hilaaaaarious!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Context makes all the difference

This weekend Duncan and I had a bit of a wake up call with Olive - not a behavioral problem, but an awareness of how great we have it.
Some neighbors of ours had to go out of town over the weekend and their two little chihuahuas needed a place to stay and since they had always been friends of Olive's I didn't hesitate to offer to care for them. We see these two dogs outside almost every day and they wrestle and play and are just as friendly as can be.  Their owners dropped them off at our place and went on their way and a few hours later I texted to ask how often they like to go out.  Their response was the worst thing I could have anticipated - they aren't really potty trained because they don't like to go in a crate so they just go everywhere inside.  I don't even want to go into the ethics of dropping off a dog without disclosing this to the sitter or the fact that these dogs were beyond old enough to be potty trained.
So I set up some baby gates at the kitchen door and hoped that Duncan would be ok alone for the weekend as I loaded up Olive and took her with me to teach at a music camp in PA.
Olive drove me nuts the whole trip - of course she was so popular with the kids and she loved playing outside with everyone, but she KNOWS she is hilarious and she uses this to get away with misbehaving.  All weekend she was pulling on her leash, digging in the mud and then running around like a lunatic when I told her to stop, trying to eat the cat toys, and begging for food.  Just terrible behavior all around for Olive.  She is generally such an angel, but at this new house with kids everywhere she was just a nutter, totally misbehaving with a giant smile across her face the whole time.  When I went to teach a class and put her in her crate she whined for a few minutes - this is so unlike Olive.  I just felt at my wit's end, unable to keep her under control without giving her a cookie for every good deed done.
But then I returned home to Duncan and the chihuahuas and BOY did I learn how good I had had it.  Sure, Olive was pulling on the leash more and it made it awful hard to walk her over to a cafe to eat outside - but these chihuahuas weren't leash trained at all and were apparently falling all over each other and tangling each other up constantly and then crying about it.  Olive had an accident over the weekend because she panicked when we all left the house all at once (she's a shepherd - her herd MUST stay together with her guidance!) but these chihuahuas were being taken out every hour and still soiling themselves constantly.  Olive didn't prefer staying close to us and I would have to constantly remind her to come back and sit with us on the porch, but the chihuahuas were jumping over TWO baby gates stacked on top of each other to escape the kitchen and soil the carpet.
Every once in a while I think I need to take a step back and realize that Olive is a very good dog - she's just still a puppy herself.

At the camp Olive was so great with the kids.  This is her at an outdoor cafe where we all had dinner together.  One of the kids thought Olive needed a bonnet and she sat so well for the whole thing.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Beating the DC Heat

It's been awful hot here in DC so we are always coming up with ways to help the animals stay cool.  Olive is always parched after her afternoon walk so yesterday I made her an ice treat to enjoy this afternoon.
I simply took some water and chicken stock and poured it into one of those flimsy travel bowls (I used the one that came in Olive's Bark Box yesterday) and put it in the freezer over night.  Popped it right out of the mold and onto a plate and she's been enjoying it ever since.

Too Much Tongue

I posted a picture yesterday of Olive with her tongue sticking out and wanted to show that this is not an isolated incident for her.  Ever since she was a baby her tongue has just been too long for her mouth.  She can never keep it tucked away.  Here's a collection of pictures with Olive's tongue hanging out.

Day 1 - NiLiF

It's been less than 24 hours since we began "Nothing in Life is Free" and it's already making a noticeable difference in Olive.  Really the biggest thing has been keeping a stash of treats on me at all times.  She has no idea if I do or don't have the treats so she's pretty eager to do whatever I say right away because of that chance that she'll get a surprise.
This morning we did our morning walk routine, with the stopping and the sitting, but adding in the treats as well.  She quickly stopped pulling, began sitting sooner and always looked at me the whole time she was sitting.  She also began making eye contact with me if I said her name, which means I was able to slow her down if she got the least bit ahead since looking back at me eough to make eye contact generally means not being way ahead.  We still had some pulling when she saw people walking, BUT I could get her to stop and look at me easily and I could even get her to sit without holding her still if I asked a couple of times.
The most striking part of that article I posted yesterday, to me, was the opening story about the dog who constantly nudges your hands and the newspaper until he gets your attention.  That is 100% Olive behavior.  She had me trained so well with the computer - if I sat on the floor or the couch with her and had my computer out she would immediately get a toy and start whacking my hands with it over and over until I threw it.  And if that didn't work she would walk all over the keyboard and touch the screen with her nose.  Needless to say I do not enjoy writing papers with Olive around.
So today I started using some of the method to work with this behavior.  My first move was to take the toy from her right away (as she wanted me to) and as soon as she got out of my space and sat down (at request) I would throw it.  I did this for a few minutes and then started lengthening the time I would make her sit still.  I would praise dropping the toy and sitting on her own especially highly, but that doesn't happen much (it's only the first day, after all!).
I will say, though, as I've typed this whole thing she has been lying down next to me and watching me calmly instead of trying to smack me with her new toy over and over.

                                          [Olive's rude behavior at the computer]
          [Bonus video showing how Olive thinks it's hilarious to misbehave... and maybe I do too.  If I didn't laugh she wouldn't do it]

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Nothing in Life is Free"

We are about to embark on a new training method - the Nothing in Life is Free method.  I began learning about this method when I posed a question to a training forum about my willful puppy's unwillingness to do what I say right away.  Olive knows a ton of tricks 100% but she won't do them right away.  She thinks it's much more hilarious to shake her head and make little gremlin noises as she runs away from me before returning to do it all over again.  
Reading the article I noticed two things- 1) This misbehavior (the nudging for attention and play time) is Olive.  She is manipulative for attention every day.  Even if it's cute, it's manipulative behavior and she has me trained well.  2) we have actually been doing this training method for a couple of things since she was a baby and on those particular commands she is 100% responsive 100% of the time.  For example, if Olive wants to eat dinner she has to wait until I say "OK."  I may ask her to come to me, go away from me, lie down, sit down, roll over, it doesn't matter - if I didn't say "OK" she won't eat the food and she will do whatever I say right away because she knows if she does it quickly she eats sooner.
Today marks the start of our 'Nothing in Life is Free' days.  If Olive wants a toy she must do something for it. What it also means is I am going to carry around treats 24/7 and when I ask her to come to me or sit or do anything at all there is at least a 50% chance in her mind she will be magically given a treat for her good work.  
So I loaded up my baggie of cookies and manipulative little Olive got right to work on trying to train me.  She recently got a new treat seeking toy (the kind of toy that's a puzzle you can put treats into and they have to work to get them out) and when I made up my bag of cookies she brought her treat seeking toy to me, put it in my lap, and nosed at my baggie of treats.  Nice try, Olive.  Nice try.

                                                                  [Olive waits to eat]
                                                              [Olive with her puzzle toy]