Nosework and Flea-pocalypse

Hello to both my faithful long-time readers and any new readers who may be popping in!  Welcome!

So Inara’s nosework has been going fabulously.  We transitioned away from sniffing out food and are now sniffing out a plastic container with clove oil scent in it.  I was a little nervous that Inara may have trouble with the transition, but nope!  She acted like she’s been finding clove oil her whole life!  This girl is just blowing my mind!  I’m going to have her assessed to see if she has the potential to become an actual detection dog.  Not sure what I’d want her to detect though – bombs?  Drugs?  Bedbugs???

I’m having a hard time finding places to hide the scent in my living room now, so I think it’s time for us to move on to other rooms/locations.  My only issue is that I can’t put out a row of boxes for her to sniff down because she’ll do the beautiful search, but when she finds the right box she pounces on it and I don’t want her to learn that behavior.  She’s “normal” in class, but at home she goes into search and destroy mode, LOL.

Now, Flea-pocoalypse.  *grrrrr*  Apparently I came home from somebody’s house 2 weekends ago with some hitchhikers.  Biting hitchhikers.  Last week I saw just a couple on Inara so I did the routine of:

  1. Bathe both girls in Chagrin Valley Soap’s Cedar & Lavendar Dog Shampoo.
  2. Wash all bedding – mine and Inara’s.
  3. Vacuum everything well.

In the past that has been sufficient.  But this time was different.  The fleas disappeared for a couple days, lulling me into a false sense of security.  In actuality, what they were doing was GATHERING REINFORCEMENTS.  They came back with a vengeance.  Inara was scratching.  The Piss was scratching.  I was scratching.  And I was angry.  I don’t get fleas.  My animals are clean, my house is clean.  I’m not one of THOSE PEOPLE who has fleas.

So I did some research and took Tuesday off work to wage war on the house and yard:

  1. Pretty much any piece of fabric that was small enough to fit into the washing machine was washed that day in hot water, with lots of Borax.
  2. Area rugs and throw rugs were intensely vacuumed or washed and then pulled.  They won’t be put back down until I’m sure the little nasties are gone.
  3. The Dyson has a flea collar in its canister to kill anything that gets sucked up.
  4. Both girls have Revolution on them.  Yes, it killed me to do this and I deliberated and stressed over it.  I don’t like putting that poison on them, but I knew these fleas were different and needed the big guns.  They’ll get another dose next month.
  5. The house was Vacuumed, with a capital V.  I spent about 45 minutes on just the couch, and then spent a ridiculous amount of time Vacuuming (still with a capital V) the rest of the house, getting every nook and cranny with the attachments.
  6. I mopped with a mixture of white vinegar and water.
  7. I treated the yard with Seven Dust.
  8. I closed the windows and turned the AC on as fleas need a certain humidity and temperature to hatch.  Not sure if my little window unit can reduce the humidity and temp enough, but it’s worth a try.
  9. The girls (and I, I’m embarrassed to admit) are getting spritzed thrice daily with a 50/50 mixture of water and organic apple cider vinegar (ACV).  Inara also gets spritzed on her legs and belly before she goes out, every single time.
  10. I’m vacuuming every single day and doing laundry every two days.

I’m exhausted.  Every time I see a black speck I go all Rambo-like and fly at it to snatch it and kill it if it’s a flea.  I stare obsessively at Inara, watching for any nasties.  If I have a normal itch I get all paranoid.  I DREAM about fleas.  So fingers crossed that my suburban warfare was effective and they disappear.

One of my new fave pics of the pupper
One of my new fave pics of the pupper

Who’d’a Thunk It?

So last week we started an Attention At Heel class with Ginger at Fortunate Fido.  We had class again yesterday and Inara just did great!  We only had to go into the bathroom 2 or 3 times, and once was our normal beginning of class sequestering.  That’s the lowest number of sequesterings yet!  And it’s even more impressive because there was a lot of movement in class yesterday and several times we got within probably 15′ of the other dogs while we were all moving.  Inara barely even noticed!  She’s getting so focused while heeling.  We can even do it without treats in my hand, at least for short distances.  That’s quite a feat, at least for us!

Yesterday we worked a lot on turns – left, right, u-turn, about turn and Schutzhund turn (AKA left about turn).  Inara and I got to show the class how to do the Schutzhund turn.  It wasn’t as pretty as she normally does it, but it’s hard to do on leash.  It gave my classmates the basic gist of what to do, though.  We also worked on finding the pace that works best for our dogs.  Ginger says that normally people need to walk a bit faster than normal, but Inara and I have to do a steadier, more even pace.  We try hard to slow down most everything about Inara.  😉

It’s actually kind of amazing me how much fun I’m having learning how to heel and turn.  Heeling always looked kind of staid and boring, but it’s really not!  It’s fun getting this connection with Inara, and seeing her have fun as well.  She looks so pretty when she heels – she’s got her eyes on me, she bounces a bit and her tail is wagging.  I think she’s actually enjoying it, too.  That, or she’s enjoying the plethora of treats she receives!  LOL

We had a great little training session this evening.  She earned most of her dinner by heeling in straight lines, doing Schutzhund turns, and just learning that the heel position is a Very Good Place to be.  We tried something new tonight since she’s having trouble learning that if she’s in front of me (not in a front, just somewhere in front of me) she needs to come back to me when I say “heel.”  If she’s already beside me she’ll stay beside me, but she doesn’t realize she needs to get beside me first!

So I lured her into a heel position, clicked, and then tossed the treat in front of me.  She ran out to get it and I did a 180 so my back was to her.  As she was heading back towards me, I said “heel” and waited for her to naturally get beside me, then clicked and tossed the treat in front of me again.  It actually worked really well!  I got a bit dizzy from constantly doing 180’s, but I was setting Inara up to succeed as she naturally wanted to come back to me for another treat, so by adding the “heel” command in I’m hoping that she will associate the act of getting into that position with the cue.

So yeah, heeling is actually fun!  Our next task tonight is to work a little bit on getting her accustomed to her new iron basket muzzle.  

I figured she should learn to wear one – it will give me more peace of mind when she can start meeting other dogs.  And, technically, she should have it on anytime we’re not in the city of Cleveland.  I won’t use it for that (I’m such a rebel!) but it’s nice knowing I’ve got it now just in case she ever needs it.  But I want to make sure she thinks it’s a Very Good Thing, so I bought some squeeze cheese because the nozzle will fit through the wires more easily than treats will.  So we’ll spend a few minutes working on that and then we’ll be done for the evening.

Happy training to everybody!

Started new class yesterday!

Inara and I started a new class at Fortunate Fido yesterday – Attention at Heel.  The description is:  “We work on attention and proper heel position.

  • Heel position
  • Find heel games
  • Back up in heel position
  • Attention games
  • Canine freestyle moves

I thought this would be a good class for us as Inara’s loose-leash walking (LLW) is atrocious and this can only help.  This will also help us in our C-WAGS competitions.

There are only 3 other dogs in class – a young yellow Lab (who likes to stare at Inara, not aggressively, just rudely), a Golden that thrashes at the end of his leash and plays tug with it, and another Golden who is very very senior.  Tough crowd for Inara!  Ginger gave us our usual spot by the bathroom so we can easily do our “Sucks To Be You Sequestering” (STBYS) as that has been so effective so far.

Inara was a little more worked up yesterday than she has been, but I attribute that to being cooped up for the past week due to the heat, as well as having been out of class for several weeks.  She did her usual “I’M HERE!!!” barking upon entering, so I just picked her up by her harness and carried her straight into the bathroom for our first STBYS.  It took her a couple minutes to settle down but she worked well once she was relaxed.  She got into a couple barking matches with the young Lab, forcing us to go into the bathroom.  We had to do several STBYS’s, some of them for a few minutes at a time, but overall I was pleased with her behavior.

We worked on “fronts,” which Inara can basically do but often is slightly crooked.  Ginger said that this class is to prepare us for competition so we’ll only be accepting perfection – time for the crooked fronts to stop!  We obviously worked on attention/eye contact, as well as having the dogs sit, down and stand in the heel position.  Inara doesn’t know stand, so that’s another thing we need to work on.  I’ve worked so hard on ingraining an automatic sit that she gets confused when I want her to stand!  I can’t even lure her into a stand from a sit – she just scootches forward on her hiney and stretches her neck real far.  So I have to get her up and walking and then click the split second we stop before she can sit.  I think this is going to be a tough one for us.

She did impress me though because Ginger wants us to teach them to target things with their back feet.  I’m pretty sure Inara doesn’t realize she has back feet most of the time.  But Ginger used us as the example pair since Inara’s done some shaping exercises before.  She put a folded blanket in between 2 ring gates set up to mimic a hallway.  I walked Inara toward the blanket and then backed up a step so she was sitting in front of me, with her back to the blanket.  I then used social pressure to encourage her to move backwards and get her back feet on the blanket.  With just a few clicks she was doing it on her own, and making the other people laugh because she was trying to stretch and reach the treat while keeping one foot on the blanket, LOL.  I was really impressed and it was fun having my dog be the “this is how you do it” dog.  🙂  We then worked a bit on the touch command, which Inara is great at – she can be sitting in a heel beside me and jump straight up to touch my hand and then land still in the heel position.  It was a good class and I think we’re going to have fun and learn a lot.

Outside of class, we’ve been trying to meet with friends 2-3 times a week to walk with another dog.  She’s doing great!  She’ll bark a couple times when she first sees the other dog (shocking, I know), but then very quickly can walk beside it, just a couple feet away, like it’s not even there.  It’s very cool.  🙂

I hope everybody else is doing well with your challenging dogs!

Thank you’s and brags!

Hello all!  I hope this blog entry finds you all well and your dogs healthy, happy and non-reactive!

First of all I’d like to say thank you to Embrace Pet Insurance for featuring Inara as part of their Therapy Pet Week newsletter.  It was so kind of them to contact me and ask to use her story!  So check out their newsletter, leave them a kind comment thanking them for being pit bull friendly and then order some insurance for your pet through them!

Secondly, I’ve been getting some kind comments recently from readers who stumbled upon this blog and I want to say thank you.  I know I don’t keep it updated like I should, but your comments really brighten my day (and make me want to just hug some of you who are struggling!).  I’m so glad that you guys are realizing you’re not alone. Sometimes you feel like the only one with a crazy dog, don’t you?  I know I do, even now.  But trust me when I say there are a TON of us with reactive dogs.  If you’re looking for someplace to get training assistance or just find a sympathetic ear, feel free to pop over to PitBullTalk.  You don’t have to have a pit bull – we welcome all breeds of dog owners.  😉

Now, onto the brags!  Inara and I had been training for a regional competition called C-WAGS.  We were entered in the obedience portion of things (HA!  I know, right???).  Well I was pretty nervous but we got there this past Sunday morning and things could not have gone better.  It was at the center I train at, so I think that helped Inara a lot.  Also, it was CRAZY hot so there weren’t many dogs out.  Most were crated in their cars with the AC running.  So Inara was actually content to lie in her crate in the air-conditioned car, napping, with the occasional foray out to stretch her legs and pee.  She barked at a couple dogs but it was half-hearted.  She was announcing her presence, not threatening them.

Finally it was our turn for our first run-through.  We were second to last, and the woman competing behind me knew Inara was reactive and had agreed to not bring her dog into the building until we were out.  So there were no other dogs in there, which was great.  I had a little trouble getting her focused when we walked in, but I waited until I had some eye contact before we entered the ring.  So we entered and went through the routine – and not only qualified but got FOURTH PLACE!!!!!  There had been probably 15 dogs competing and we got 4th place!!!  I nearly cried with joy.  I never thought my crazy little pit bull would compete, in OBEDIENCE, of all things, and actually beat other dogs.  It was pretty amazing.

Our second run-through we NQ’ed because she was hot and tired and couldn’t focus on the heeling portion.  It’s too bad because the rest of our routine was nearly perfect so we would have ended up pretty high in the rankings again.  🙂  But I didn’t care.  I had gone there with the intention of having fun, seeing how Inara did, and not even qualifying.  But we came home with ribbons.

So please, I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t underestimate yourself and/or your dog.  Believe other people when they say that you can do it.  And above all, make sure you AND YOUR DOG always have fun while training/competing.

Thanks for reading!

Quick update on life!

I know, I know, it’s been a while since I updated.  But we moved so life was consumed by packing for quite a while!  LOL  We now have our very own house, with a fenced in backyard.  It’s exciting and Inara really seems to be happy here.

What else?  Let’s see.  Inara’s mom, Sophie, is safely in a rescue in NY where she is being fostered and loved.  She’s been there for a few weeks now and is apparently quite the energetic dog!

Unfortunately we had to miss the last 2 sessions of our class with “normal” dogs due to car troubles and moving.  However, we are competing on May 30th in a C-WAGS competition.  We had a practice run-thru last night and Inara did SO WELL!  She heeled beside me like a pro, making my instructor laugh because she was obviously having trouble staying with me as opposed to bounding ahead.  She’s got quite the perky heel!  She did her sit and down stays very well.  And perhaps most shockingly of all, she managed to stay in a sit and down beside me while I shook hands with a couple people she’d never seen before!!!  Woot!!!

So with our competition coming up so quickly, my instructor and I are conspiring as to how to give Inara a fighting chance at competing.  We both realize that if she has to navigate through a gauntlet of dogs to get into the building where the competition is being held, she’ll fall apart and won’t be able to get focused on me.  So Ginger is actually doing some research to see if the two of us can come in through a window in the office!  Can you imagine???  I love having a trainer who’s willing to brainstorm and do what she can to help us out.  So hopefully that will work out and somebody will get a video of me hoisting Inara and myself through a window!  LOL

I’ve started a new business making and selling slip leads, leashes, slip collars and martingale collars made out of parachute rigging cord.  They’re colorful and super strong.  Check out my website!  Lead Me On

Pink and yellow 5' leash

Finally, and very excitingly, Embrace Pet Insurance contacted me to see if they could interview Inara for their newsletter!  How cool is that?!?  As soon as I have the link to the newsletter I’ll post it up here!

Anyway, I suppose that’s about it.  Thanks for sticking around through my sporadic postings!

Enjoying the sunshine