Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Nose Biter

There was an incident with Theo yesterday. I was taking him out for his morning walk when we saw a neighbor and her dog, Bear, walking by. This neighbor is a big dog lady, she has like 5 rescues, and Theo has met them all. They're not the most friendly, but they've never been mean to Theo. Bear and Theo have even "played" before. I say "played" because Theo was still in his terrified of other dogs phase and Bear is very dominant. Basically in the past Bear just kind of stood over Theo and Theo just kind of sat there under him. But he never snapped at him or growled or acted unfriendly or threatened.

So, naturally, I walked Theo across the street to say hello to them both. Theo, in all his butt wiggling excitement, ran up to Bear and instantly went into a "let's play" position. Bear in one swift motion leaned over and took Theo's entire muzzle inside his mouth, gave him a small bite, and then let him go (kinda like this picture to the right). It happened so fast I almost missed it. I couldn't possibly miss what came next, though. Theo ran away squealing like a piglet! He ran straight to me and started jumping up on my legs as if to say "Help me Mommy! The bully is gonna get me!!!" I quickly scooped him up in case Bear decided to run after him for more (and PS: I was so pleased that he ran to me rather than in some random direction). He didn't. All he wanted was Theo away from him. A few seconds later Theo seemed to have forgotten the whole thing. He acted indignant that I would dare try to hold him when there were objects of play right below him. Instead of crying to be picked up, he was crying to be put down. Ah, puppies.

The incident itself wasn't really a big deal. I was more affected by it than Theo was. It was the aftermath that really gets me. Somehow while biting his nose, Bear managed to rip a small patch of fur off of Theo's muzzle. It's very small and hardly noticeable, but that dog ripped out my dog's fur!!! I don't think I can ever think very well of Bear again. Even though I think this outburst can be explained by the fact that he had a severe sinus infection (I found out later that day). For those not of a faint heart, here's a picture of the "injury"
See that tiny red patch right between his eyes? It looks kinda wet because I put some Neosporin on it. I know it's nothing, but I still couldn't help feeling terrible for him. I hope it grows back soon!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


PS: When you tucker out your dog to the point where he's too tired to even eat, there are consequences. Namely, if you let your dog sleep all day, then he's most likely not going to sleep through the whole night too.

Theo used to let out a few quiet cries when he wanted to be let of his crate in the morning. Lately, he's discovered that a loud bark carries his point across much more efficiently. Somehow he learned that while quiet cries are easily ignored, and mommy can easily fall back asleep for 10-15 minutes before actually letting him out, a loud bark gets her out of bed in a quarter of the time. Damn, I've been trained by my dog!

The circumstances described in the two paragraphs above combined to an incident this morning in which Theo started barking to be let out of his crate at 4:00 this morning. Ack!

The Mind Is Willing, But the Body Is Squishy And Mortal

Yesterday I took Theo to the dog park by my house again, and it was one of those magical days where everything was just wonderful. I decided to let him in the "all dog" pen, so he could play with the bigger dogs. He's not really a small dog kind of Corgi, which the usual Corgi way, as I understand it. At first he acted like his usual self, he seemed to enjoy the scene while sticking close to me and not really playing with any of the other dogs. That all changed when a Golden Lab from his puppy class came in. It was a dog he knew! He immediately went and jumped on her head, the typical Theo greeting (see the picture for an example).

From then on he was open to playing with all the other dogs. I really lucked out because all the dogs at the park yesterday were friendly, playful, and sweet. I couldn't have asked for a better group of dogs there. Theo took a real liking to an Australian Shepherd (pictured), and they played together for at least 30 minutes. They had rounds of play. When they would get tired of one round they would separate, rest for a few minutes, and then resume for the next round. It was so fun to watch. Most of it took place at my feet.

Theo was so pooped that he kept plopping down on the ground to rest. All the other dogs would see this blatant display of weakness and come running to make fun of him. If you check out the picture to the left he's actually under that group of dogs, looking embarrassed and heartily ashamed of himself.

An hour and a half at the dog park left him sleeping the rest of the day. He was so pooped that when I set down his food bowl with his lunch, he looked like he was seriously contemplating whether he would rather eat or sleep. The eating won in the end, of course, but he actually had to think about it! I was amazed at how long he played at the park. His body was obviously tired, but he was so excited to play that he managed to find the energy somewhere.

I've finally updated my Flickr pics. Check 'em out to see the last few weeks of fun. You'll notice a huge increase in volume due to playing with the new camera. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Theo The Hiker

One of the things I love about having a dog is that Theo inspires me to get out of the house and do all the things that I've thought about doing the last few years but never got off my butt to do. Lately I've been actually meeting some of my neighbors now that I'm walking around the neighborhood twice a day. I've lived in my house for four years now, and I'm just now meeting the neighbors. What can I say? I'm shy and previously was never home. :p

Our latest enjoyment is the park right by our house. There are some gorgeous walking trails that go up in the hills and along the lake. The lake was actually dried up the first year we lived here, but one rainy winter cleared that right up. Now the lake is beautiful and since the fires last year took out all the brush in the area, the trails are actually walkable (they were a bit overgrown before). I walked the trails a couple times when I first moved into my house, but I hadn't been there in years, which is pathetic because they're only about a mile from my house. A few weeks ago we decided to take Theo there and all three of us had a blast! And blast me for not remembering my camera that day! I'm going to try and take him again next weekend, with the new camera in tow. The trail we took was about a mile and half (at least that's what Husband claims, it felt more like two miles to me!), and Theo almost walked the whole thing on a scorching hot day. In the middle he plopped down under a bush and wouldn't move for the world. He was more than happy when I carried him part of the way, though. Hehe. One thing I hope I can get a picture of are the half-burned cacti along the trails. They are half melted into these grotesque shapes, and to me they are as interesting to look at as art pieces in a museum.

I think one of our next endeavors will be one of the dog beaches in my area. Theo doesn't like baths or rain or wet ground, but I still wouldn't be surprised if he ends up liking swimming! I encourage anyone stuck in a rut to get out and do something fun with their dog(s) this summer! I've noticed that since I've been active with Theo, I've been more active with myself too. I've been getting out and doing more fun things, seeing more friends. Life is just better with a dog!

Puppy Love For The Sick Girl's Soul

As I mentioned in my non-dog blog, I was sick at home all last week and it was the first time I've been sick since we got Theo. I have to say, having a dog when you're in pain and feeling miserable at home is awesome. He was just what I needed. I was afraid he would be constantly barking and begging me to play with him while I was trying to sleep, and while he did that some times, most of the time he was so mellow. Mostly he just hopped up on the couch with me and we napped the day away together. He gave me my space, but also gave me comfort. It was so wonderful.

It's hard to believe Theo has only been with me a few months. Already I can't imagine my life without him. Dogs are just the best!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Nightmare

Sorry for the lack of posting (see my non-dog blog for lame excuses). This story is a couple weeks late, but it's good so I'll tell it anyway.

There I was, one night two weeks ago, heading home from work. I had left Theo out of the pen, but still confined in the family room/kitchen area, as we had been doing the last week or so. What I came home to that day was the stuff of nightmares. He had gotten sick...again...everywhere. There was diahrea...everywhere. He had thrown up. He had peed. It was disgusting. But the real nightmare was the poop. I almost wish I had taken a picture so I could show you all, but I'm sure you're glad I didn't. Hehe.

The poop...there were piles of it all over (only the carpeted area, of course). Some of it was bloody and looked like jam. Eww! There was some on the couch (thankfully leather!), smeared. I can only imagine him standing on the top of the couch pooping and then riding the poop down the couch cushion like some kind of sport. lol.

My husband and I spent the better part of the evening cleaning it up. It was by far the most disgusting thing I've ever done. Thankfully I still had some of his anti-diahretic medicine from the last time he was sick, so I gave him some of that and fasted him for the rest of the night. With a careful diet the next few days he was fine. Now that I've experienced it once, I don't think I need to spend $1000 each time. Hehe. I'm all over it now. But man, anyone getting a dog, know what you're getting into!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Biting Thing

The biting thing was a big issue we had with Theo. Notice I say had, thank goodness! Thus far, his biting was the most frustrating habit to break him of, but thankfully, I think we've done it. When I play with him, he'll open his mouth, and touch my hand, without actually getting my hand in his mouth or biting down. When we're playing and my face is near him, he'll rest is open mouth beside my face, rather than biting my nose. It's like mock puppy play, and it's so cute! As long as he's allowed to pretend bite, he's fine with not actually doing it. How did we train him? It was tough, I'll tell you that much.

First off, you have to understand that the puppy is just playing with you. If you get bit, it hurts, sure, but it's just your puppy's way of saying s/he's having fun. Puppy teeth are sharp, but they don't last forever. Of course, the way to train your puppy out of biting is to teach them that it's not acceptable behavior, even if they think it's fun. I ended up using a couple different methods depending on the situation.

I started off with what I heard worked: saying "ouch!" really loudly and ignoring Theo for a few seconds. He only ever got more excited by my reactions to him, which is the opposite of the desired affect. I even tried what my trainer suggested which was, during training sessions, putting my finger in his mouth and saying "ouch!" when he bit down at all. Naturally, this didn't work either. It just confused him, since I was the one putting my finger in his mouth. Of course he's going to bite down! My trainer also suggested just shoving a toy in his mouth when he got nippy. That didn't do much either.

Here's the combination of things that did work for me: The first thing we did was teach him "no bite". Now that we've taught it to him, if he starts to get nippy, I say "uh-uh, Theo, no bite", and he stops! Believe me, it was a slow process. Hehe. Next, I started to gently hold his muzzle closed while scolding him for biting. It stopped the behavior right away and immediately got his attention. And the third technique I used was what I call "the reverse timeout". If he was being especially nippy (in the beginning, all nipping was especially nippy), I would leave the room, but stand somewhere he could see me and not get to me, and not give him any attention (including eye contact!). The gate between the family room and living room worked perfectly for this in my house. I would sit on the couch in the living room and watch tv for 2 minutes, where Theo could see me the whole time. This drove him crazy! He would cry the entire two minutes. When I came back in, I would gently let him play with me again. If he got nippy, I would leave again. It was a tiresome process, but it worked! Make sure you don't stay away too long or too short a time. Too long and the dog will loose interest, too short and it's not punishment enough. Next, don't forget to praise the good behavior! I also taught Theo "gentle", though I don't use it much now since he's always gentle. When he would play nicely, I would praise him heavily and say "good gentle, Theo! good no bite!"

When we got further along with the training, I didn't need to do the reverse timeout. I could just give him a verbal scolding, and he would stop (and then praise!). As of today, he rarely bites us, and when he does, he knows he wasn't supposed to, and looks all apologetic. It's so cute. It was such an imperative thing to teach him because now I can actually play with him (see previous post) without getting my nose bit or my hands all cut up. I can't say this is a tried and true method for everyone, but it sure worked for me!

Crazy Play

I've got a question for the general reading population. How do you play with your dog? Is there always a toy or object involved? Or you use your hands and tickle them all over? I get right down there on the floor and play with Theo...with my whole darn body! When Theo wants to initiate play, he gets down on the floor, looks right into my eyes, and kinda darts his head forward playfully. So I started doing it back to him...and he loves it! If I look him in the eye, he looks at me expectantly back, waiting for the play signal. When I do, what I like to call the "pigeon head motion", he lunges forward and the play begins.

It starts with him jumping up in my head. He does this with all people (when he can get to their head), and dogs too (sometimes he jumps on their backs rather than their head). He pants happily, sometimes chewing my hair, sometimes trying to get the hair tie in my hair out (he's successful more than I'd like). When I pick my head up, he rests his front paws on my shoulders while haunched up on his hind legs. It's so cute!

If I nuzzle my nose on his neck and make a noise, he'll make a noise back. He's very vocal during playtime (well, and ever other time for that matter). If I roll him onto his back and kiss or scratch him tummy, he'll playfully "push" on me with his paws with a big smile on his face. If I put my hand on either side of his muzzle, he'll shake his head side to side, playfully trying to get at my hands. Sometimes he'll run a few feet away and bark at me, but if I stick my butt in the air and put my head low to the ground, he comes bounding back. It's really a lot of fun (though my hair rarely makes it through).

Am I a crazy dog woman, or is that kind of what other people do as well? I'm curious.

The Aftermath

So it's been a week and a half since the ER incident, and Theo is 90% back to normal. Unfortunately, there's some characteristics he's displayed since we brought him back home from the vet that haven't quite gone away. Those two days we were separated were apparently a little traumatic for him. A word of advice: quickly grab a t-shirt from your drawer if you're running off to the vet for an emergency. That way if s/he has to stay overnight, they'll have something to remind them of home. I think Theo would have been much better off if we had thought of something like that.

So the first characteristic is something I've mentioned before: the separation anxiety/clingyness. If we let Theo have free-run of the house, he would probably just sit by the door all day, waiting for us to come home. He doesn't like us to be out of his sight (or direct control), and when we are, he freaks. The other day I was sitting about 2 feet from him, but the gate was between us, so he started crying and barking. Even though he could see me, he didn't want to be separated from me. Now if I go upstairs and leave him behind the gate, he paces, he cries, and eventually he barks. I'm hoping that time and a schedule will get him used to us coming and going again.

Another example is on Sunday night I was in one room playing the Wii while Husband was in the next room playing the XBox 360. Theo was in a chill mood, so he just laid down at my feet. Twenty minutes later he got up and sat down at Husband's feet. About twenty minutes after that, he came back to me. He divided his time between us like that for about 2 hours, until we went to bed. It was adorable, but definitely not something he did before.

Next is his eating. He's always been a food monger, but ever since the vet, he eats like he's never going to eat again. Before he wasn't a big fan of kibble, and would usually leave it behind in his food dish. Now he gobbles it up with the rest of his food. He hasn't left a single morsel in his bowl ever since he was on that i/d diet, when were only allowed to feed him 1-2TB of food at a time. I mean, he licks his bowl clean every single meal. It's crazy.

Surprisingly, the week that we weren't able to take him for walks completely destroyed a lot of what we had accomplished with him. We've slowly been getting it back though. The first few walks he would just dart forward and wouldn't walk by my side for the world. Now he's much more mellow, though the stretch of street our house is on, he still doesn't do so well. Last night's walk was actually really good, as good as before. It felt really good to know that we hadn't ruined him somehow. Hehe.

I have to say, even though some will disapprove, that we got him a "choke collar" a few weeks ago (before the ER incident). First off, it's the nice kind with nylon weaved through so it doesn't catch on his fur. And second, it's been like magic ever since we got it. We had just reached a brick wall in his walking training with his buckle collar (and I won't even mention the harness debacle!). He would just pull and pull and never listened, never learned. I mean, we're talking weeks and weeks where I tried a bunch of different things. I tried refusing to walk if he didn't heel. I tried the constantly changing directions so he had to keep up with me. None of it worked. It was like he didn't even feel the pressure on his neck. In the first 5 minutes of walking him with the choke collar, he was a dream. He walked right by my side and when I stopped or turned, he responded accordingly. Now that he's gotten used to the new collar more (I only use that collar for walks, nothing else), he's not as responsive, but it still works wonders.

The only thing I have to be careful about is stimulation. When Theo sees a person, or a car, or especially another dog, he jets forward. I've finally trained him to stay by me when a car drives by, but I haven't been able to make a dent with people or animals. He tries to jump at them as they go by, or if they're ahead of us, he pulls me like a Husky pulls a dog sled, and since he's tethered to the leash, it usually involves the collar tightening very hard around his neck. I try and just hold him back so the collar with loosen, but that doesn't seem very conducive to the training. Any tips on how to deal with a dog who won't sit nicely to greet people? Hehe.

Other than that he's back to the old trouble-maker Theo.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Escape Artist

Don't look at me that way you trouble-maker!

The little trouble-maker lived up to his name this weekend. Hehe. I decided that Theo is getting to be too big for his pen, so I told Husband that I wanted to either buy the the expansion pieces for the pen to make it bigger, or ditch the pen and let him in the kitchen/family room area with the rest of the house blocked off with a gate. He agreed to use the gate instead of the pen. So on Sunday we tested out the new arrangement. We left the house for about 3 hours and left Theo behind the gate. When we returned home, there he was to greet us at the door! WHAT? How did he get out!? My husband and I pondered for some time. The gate was still closed, so he hadn't busted through it. The only other way out, that I could see, was over the gate. Husband thought there was no way our hobbit dog had jumped over a gate that high, but I didn't see another way.

We passed it off as a possible fluke and tried it again later that day. When we came home, there was Theo to greet us at the door...again. How is he doing that?! There was still no sign that he had disturbed the gate at all, so we were at a loss. We put him behind the gate again, and then went upstairs to cut Husband's hair. 2 minutes later, there he was again in the bathroom.

I had finally had enough and just had to know how he was getting over/through the gate. I put him behind the gate again and then called him to me. It's mean, I know, but I had to see it for myself. I ran upstairs and called him some more. He freaked, he barked, and eventually, he got out in a way I never expected. I could see from upstairs that he jumped up on the chair against the wall in the family room, jumped through the hole in the wall (architectural archway thingy?) between the family room and the living room, hopped down onto the couch in the living room on the other side of the wall, down to the floor, and then ran up the stairs to greet me.

I felt so stupid, I didn't even consider that opening in the wall as an escape route! All this time we were pondering the gate and how he got over/through it. The gate did its job and kept him in, it was the chair that was the problem! Tricky bastard! I'm glad we experimented on Sunday because yesterday I knew how to head him off. I put his pen on the chair! It looks like arse, but at least it keeps him in. Of course, that didn't stop the little trouble-maker from living up to his name anyway. When I got home from work, he had managed to get the ball of yarn attached to the blanket (afghan? I'm not sure what's the difference) I'm crocheting, and had unraveled it all over the place into a knotty mess. I spent the better part of the evening untangling it and trying to redo the work he had undone on my blanket (afghan?). Ugh! But I do have to say that otherwise he did fantastic! No damage done, no accidents. He's a good boy! *knock on wood!*

Also, yesterday was the first time I saw Theo do the poo dance! I got home and he apparently had to go really bad. The new cry I heard, there was no mistaking the meaning: "I have to go now!" Hehe. He did it again this morning. Dogs are so cute.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Walking The Dog

*ahem* In the literal sense, I mean. ;)

It's interesting how many different ways people walk their dog. Mouth has a big chow/retriever mix, and he just holds the leash firmly at his side a few inches above the leash, so she has no choice but to walk by his side. I've seen people let their dogs walk them. And I've seen people let their dogs walk in front of them, but while in control of their actions at the same time. My method of walking Theo is next to me in a "heel". I don't hold the leash tight and make him walk next to me, because to me this defeats part of the purpose of a walk. Walking Theo isn't just about exercise, it's also about teaching him proper manners when we're out of the house. Theo's job while we're walking is to walk next to me, but to also let the leash fall completely loose. If he walks ahead of me, the leash pulls tight and I stop walking. I wait until he sits down (which is now immediately after he realizes I've stopped), and then we press on again until the next time he pulls. This was a long, arduous process in the beginning, and I still have to do it often, but the benefits have already shown.

When I was in Reno my mom asked me to take the garbage can back in from the street. I decided to test Theo walking with me off-leash. Look ma, no leash! It's not a busy street, so I was confident I could control the situation enough to feel safe enough to attempt it. And he did great! The whole way walking out (my parents have a looooong driveway by the way) Theo stayed right by my side. He would have on the way back too, except he was scared by the sound of the trash can on the pavement, so he ran on ahead. Hehe. But it made me trust my training with him.

If I made Theo walk next to me by holding his leash tight, I wonder if he would have stayed by my side, or instead have seen it as an opportunity to finally be to run free. Training can seem so daunting and impossible while you're doing it, but when you see it pay off, it makes it all worth it.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Doggie Speak

It's been a while since I actually had a non-Theo specific post and today I think I found a good topic for one. I was perusing Kaley Corgi's blog and I saw this link on how to talk to your dog. I thought it was neat, so I'll share to 10 steps to better communication:

1. Keep commands short and simple. Dogs understand human speech by taking cues from distinct sounds. Short words ending in a clearly enunciated consonant are best.

2. Don’t repeat yourself. Voice commands should be said just once for maximum effect. Most dogs have better hearing than humans and will remember a word for up to two minutes. If they don’t respond, it’s not that they don’t hear you—it’s that they aren’t listening!

3. Expand your dog’s vocabulary. Dogs can understand hundreds of words, but each should be linked to a specific object or action. Dogs cannot understand complete sen-tences. However, they will pick up on your tone of voice (happy, sad, concerned) and respond accordingly.

4. Use your body. Recent studies show that dogs understand our gestures and body language. If you point at an object, your dog will not think you are imitating the Statue of Liberty—he will look toward where you are pointing.

5. Listen closely. Dogs’ barks mean something. Many dog owners say they can tell by the tone of their dog’s bark whether a friend or a stranger is approaching the house.

6. Check the tail. A new study shows that a dog wagging his tail with a bias to the right is excited and happy to see you. A dog wagging his tail predominantly to the left is excited but unsure or fearful. Since it can be hard to tell the difference, interpret all tail-wagging in context: If a dog is wagging his tail but also growling, it’s best to back off.

7. Look into his eyes. Rapid blinking is a sign of nervousness or deep thought. A dog that blinks rapidly after being given a command is deciding whether or not to obey.

8. Get your licks. Pups lick their mothers’ lips to get them to regurgitate food. When dogs lick people, it’s a sign of submission or deference.

9. Let him lean. If your dog leans against your leg, he is asking you for protection in a threatening situation. This is good—you should be in charge—but understand that your dog is counting on you to make him feel safe again.

10. Read the “writing” on the wall. Call it pee-mail or canine graffiti—urine marking is an important method of communication for dogs. It may indicate territoriality, possessiveness or hostility. If you notice where he marks, you may be able to understand and address his concerns. And if a dog nudges you in the crotch or other pheromone-rich regions, he’s just trying to get to know you from your scent.

Theo totally does that blinking thing and unfortunately, more than half the time the decision is not to obey! Hehe. Unless it gets him a treat or what he wants.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

He Pooped!

I'm sure you're all wondering about now "What am I doing reading a blog that covers the bowel movements of someone's dog?" I've got no good answer for you! Except to say that this blog charters the territory of puppy raising, which unfortunately entails lots and lots of poop.

For those of you who aren't offended by the racy subject and are brave enough to read on, the long awaited poop in question arrived on my grassy lawn this morning. It was quite large, but very healthy-looking. I've never been so excited to see a piece of poo my whole life, and I hope I never am again. Hehe.