Friday, February 27, 2009

I Don't Know How I Did It, But It Sure Is Awesome

Somewhere along the way in Theo's potty training, I managed to teach him a very effective way of letting us know he needs to go outside to potty.  Or maybe he taught us...I'm never quite sure.  Anyway, as I've often mentioned, Theo is a bit of a crybaby.  Crying is his go-to method for telling us he wants something, and it can be hard to distinguish what he's whining about since he's pretty darn needy and usually downright demanding.  If we took him outside every time he cried, we would probably decide to just leave him out there after a day or so.  So when Theo is insistently crying Husband and I will ask in a clear voice "Theo do you need to go out?"  If yes, he always gives an adorable emphatic bark (with full on "do my bidding" eye contact).  If no, then he just silently pouts because you're standing there asking questions and not seeing to the needs he is crying about.  We always make sure to ask a couple of times because sometimes he needs to go out, but for whatever reason didn't feel like responding the first time we asked (probably because he got distracted by something shiny).  

I am so happy we have this system worked out because this way we're both happy.  Theo doesn't have to bounce up and down uncomfortably in a corner, holding his knees together because he has to go and no one will take him out, and I don't have to neurotically wonder every 30 minutes whether he's going to have an accident in the house if I don't take him outside.

Now this isn't full-proof.  Sometimes Theo will "say" he has to go, when really he just wants to go outside and play fetch with the tennis ball in the backyard.  Sometimes he'll say he has to go because he knows it'll get me off my butt and he has a better chance of enticing to a game of fetch (it's always about the darn fetch with that boy), but I'd say at least 8 times out of 10 it results in a successful pee.  I'll take it!

How did we teach him this?  I have no freaking clue.  But we definitely have taken steps to make sure we don't mess it up.  First off, we don't ever use the word "out" with him unless we're talking about pottying.  I'll say outside if necessary, but usually if I'm referring to going outside I'll just mention the activity we're about to do.  For example, when we're about to go on a walk, I'll say "Let's go for a walk!" rather than "Let's go out!".  Second, the minute we're outside after he's proclaimed he needs to go out, I tell him to make his business so it's clear why we're there.   Theo won't go in the backyard anymore.  I played too much fetch with him out there and now it's officially living space.  So when I take him out to go, I snap on his collar and leash and walk him across the street and wait for business to happen.  If it does, it does, if it doesn't, it doesn't.  Oh well, false alarm.  Sometimes I'll fetch play with him after, otherwise back in the house we go.  But if I ask if he needs to go out and he says yes, then across the street we go.  I think that really helps reinforce what I'm asking.

There have been times that I've wondered if Theo actually understands what I'm asking him, or whether he's just responding to my tone of voice.  I've actually tested it a few times.  I'd say "Theo, do you need to go [some random one-syllable word not rhymning with out in any way]?"  Nothing.  That dog knows what I'm asking, and he's darn smart about it.   

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New Friends

Bailey the Beagle's owner the other day asked me if there were certain breeds that Theo tended to get or not get along with (apparently Bailey has a complete disdain for all things Poodle).  I had never quite thought of it that way, but yes, there definitely are!  Theo is a lover, so he likes most dogs, but I will say if he's not a fan, then the dog is probably either a Lab or a Boxer.  I think Labs are a bit too exurberant for Theo's taste.  There's a lab the same age as Theo named Max that we often see on our walks in the evening.  Despite the fact that he's played with Max on several occasions when they were younger, and they've smelled each other on dozens of times, somewhere along the way Theo decided he didn't like Max.  Now whenever Max comes bounding up to him to say hello, Theo snaps and growls at him.  I think he's afraid he's going to get stepped on.  Max isn't exactly a graceful dog, and he's big.  As for the Boxers, I have no idea why, but whenever he comes across a Boxer it's all snapping and growling again.  I think, like Labs, he's just afraid of getting pummled.    Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, such as the Lab that lives next door to my parents in Reno.  He was mellow and gentle enough that Theo tolerated him.  I wouldn't say he has a problem with big dogs in general because there are several big dogs we know that he's fine with.  For instance, Theo just loves Sanook, the 150lb Malamute that we often encounter on our walks.  A gentler giant I've never seen.  

While Theo mostly likes all dogs there are definitely breeds that Theo likes more than others.   Of course, that would be the herding breeds.  It's amazing how herding breeds really seem to prefer each other!  Obviously, Theo likes other Corgis best, but after that I definitely think Australian Shepherds are his next preference.  They have such a sweet and playful temper that Theo just eats up.  He hadn't really played with any Border Collies until recently, so I wasn't sure what he thought of them.  Of course, now I know that he loves them too.  A neighbor of mine just rescued one a few weeks ago named Brody and they are becoming fast friends.  Theo even jumped on Brody's head a few times the night before last.  I haven't seen him do that to any dog besides another Corgi in a long time.

Has anyone else noticed this?  Are there any breeds your dog doesn't take to or any that they can't get enough of?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

She Blogs!

Wow, so much for taking a week off!  It's February!  Egads!

Well I knew it had been way too long since I had updated my blog when my mom called asking if I was ever going to update again.  I didn't even know she read it!  Hi Mom!

I have to admit, part of the reason behind the silence is...well...we really haven't been that interesting lately!  We've fallen into a pattern that I have been loving, but it's nothing really to stop the presses for.  There has been lots of morning jogs and evening walks, still a heinous amount of fetch, and even some cuddling thrown in.  But between this cold and rainy winter and my serious homebody tendencies, we haven't gotten out much since Reno.  Here's a bit of an overview of the last few weeks.

First, Theo is still loving agility class.  I got to work with him off leash a bit and he did amazing!  He flew over all the jumps without being hindered by the fear that he would run out of slack on the leash mid-jump.  Where most of the dogs take a leasurely pace going over the obstacles, Theo races!  My trainer is always telling me to run and keep up with him.  He's a fast little devil!  He still hates the teeter totter, but I've gotten him to do it a couple of times.  Like all the other dogs, he treats the yellow area (that's the area at the beginning and end of some of the obstacles, like the A-frame, that the dog is supposed to have two paws touch or it's a penalty) like it's made of acid.

I cracked the whole class up last week trying to get Theo to do the weave poles off-leash.  He was all over the place, going through every pole out of any kind of order, trying to figure out what I wanted so I could give him the treat I was holding.  Hehe.  I finally gave up because he was being too ridiculous.  He's going for class clown.  He really impressed me by always staying with me and responding to my commands.  When we are done with a course, he always makes his way back to our seat without taunting the other dogs still on-leash.  What a gentleman.  I spend the 30 minutes between when doggy daycare closes and when class starts walking him around so he's not quite so hopped up doing class.  That has helped a lot with the barking, but I still have to hold him in my lap for most of class to keep him quiet.   I think we have one or two classes left, but I'm definitely going to repeat the class as long we we're having so much fun.

We've gotten into a nice routine at home.  I've been running with him in the mornings.  He's still nuts about it.  He tries to run full speed the whole way, refusing to slow down to my speed.  So basically he kind of strangles himself.   I can't figure out why he's so intent on it, but I've been trying to work up to running faster so I can give him a bit of a break.   Any command I give him those 10 minutes is basically useless because he won't listen to a word I say.  If I slow down to a walk, he still tries to run...the whole way.  Sometimes my arm is sore from holding on to the leash so hard.  But on our evening walks he's an angel.  He heels great and listens to all my commands, so I try not to give him too hard of a time on our runs, since it's obviously something beyond just teenage disobedience.  

I've been walking farther and faster!  Thanks to a handy iphone app (love it!), I know that we've been walking just about 2 miles a night.  Plus I always run around with him in the little park in our complex so he has a chance to really stretch his legs.  Lately he prefers me to chase him, rather than him herding me.   I can tell when he's tired because he runs in very small circles, rather than all over the place.  Hehe.

Unfortunately, the rain has gotten in the way of a few of our walks and runs the last few weeks.  Don't get me wrong, I love the rain, but I've gotten so used to all the exercise that I feel terrible when I can't do it!  Hehe.  When it's only lightly sprinkling I'll throw on Theo's jacket and drag him along with me anyway.  He really hates the rain, but he doesn't usually complain once we're walking.

I've really been loving our peaceful evenings together.  Usually after our walk I'll curl up in the comfy armchair with a book, and play a little fetch with Theo.  Thanks to our longer walks, the fetch sessions don't last nearly as long.  Usually after just a few minutes he'll be off chewing an antler, and before long he'll jump up on the ottoman and fall asleep on my feet or leaning against my legs.  He's gotten much more cuddly in his teenage years.  I'm totally loving it!

So there's boring old me and our boring old routine.  It may make you fall asleep at your computer, but it makes me happy.

Theo really has been an angel for the most part lately.  We're still leaving him home two days a week while we're at work, and that's usually the only time he really does anything troublesome - not that I blame him at all.  Some days I'll come home to find bits of cardboard everywhere because he got bored and chewed up one of the boxes storing junk in the loft.  Husband was annoyed by it at first, but I told him that if chewing up an old cardboard box is the worst destruction we get, then we're lucky and he's still awesome.  Husband readily agreed.  Last week he had an accident, and again Husband was annoyed.  I asked him if Theo had done his business before he left for work that morning and he said he Theo wouldn't go.  Well it turns out lazy Husband wouldn't walk Theo to the bushes across the street (that's the place he likes to go), and just waited around in the backyard for him to go (he rarely will go in the backyard anymore - it's living space!).  So since Theo hadn't gone all morning, of course he had an accident after being home alone all day!  I scolded Husband instead of Theo for that one. 

I hope everyone's dogs are being little angels too!