A Park It, Mat Work Triumph

It’s late and I’m tired. . . but triumphant!

Mat work with Magnus has really barely started, but tonight he made his first real life application. Let me lay the stage.

It has been a long, but good day. It’s time for bed and mehusandy is snoozing away.

But not my mutts! They, of course, have their typical night time zoomies. And the zoomies in this house are not quiet.

I have two choices: put them to bed and hope they settle in quick and quiet, or whip out their mats and see if they can settle.

I love their mats. Cute and square, Maizeys’ orange with pink squares and Magnus’ green with blue squares. I have visions of them parked on their cute mats, ears flowing and tails softly wagging while the breeze ruffles their hair and sends the scent of new grass through the air. . .

Okay, that’s taking it a little far, but seriously mat work is invaluable.

So as I set out to do my dishes I put one mat behind me to the left and one behind me to the right. Maizey immediately parks it, she loves this game. Magnus’ version of mat work up till now has been to get on Maizeys’ mat with her.

But not tonight! Tonight he CHOSE his mat! Well okay, it did take one lure the first time to get him there, but after that he CHOSE wisely! Repeatedly! While I loaded the dish washer, walked around the kitchen and changed the laundry, he CHOSE his mat! By the end he also CHOSE to lay down and stay on his mat for an estimated two whole minutes!

Imagine! What a smart boy!

And my Maizeymaymay? She stayed in her park it for the whole time! Well, she broke twice when my treat throwing aim was off and the treats landed just out of reach, but each time she CHOSE to immediately return to her perfect park it.

Imagine! What a smart girl!

So the 4legged lesson? I love it when my pups make good choices, I love training and there really is nothing small about small triumphs!

. . . Tomorrow, puppy class. Sigh. I’m glad Magnus isn’t nervous, cause I sure am!


How To Prepare For Puppy Class

So after all of your wonderful encouragement I enrolled Magnus in Puppy Prep.

This class seems to meet all of my requirements for a puppy class.

The list was:

  • All positive based instruction preferably using the clicker.
  • Strictly supervised play time, with dogs that were similar size to him.
  • Small class size, not more than eight dogs.
  • An environment that I was comfortable and could learn in.
  • Instructors with experience in spotting fear issues (Both mine and his.)
  • Instructors that would not take issue with my training a skill using my method, not theirs.

How Puppy Prep Measures up
The Calling All Dog’s program claims to be “the first (and only) positive reinforcement dog training facility” in the area. Though the puppy class is not specifically a clicker class the instructor, Nicole, does not mind if I use the clicker. I felt her reasoning, that most people in our area are not familiar with positive methods and are intimidated by a clicker, was fairly accurate to what I too have observed.

The class is 8 dogs under 18 weeks. Four are small dogs and one is a Cavalier, which I admit, I am excited about. Each class has an instructor and an assistant.

At play time the small dogs are put in a sturdy x-pen with the bigger dogs separate. (The x-pen at Maizey’s class was so close to falling over that it was as much of a danger to her as the other dogs were.) However, at the class I observed there was a very mild, beautiful Husky they allowed in briefly to play with the small dogs. Each group of dogs has their own instructor during play time so it was closely supervised.

My Concerns
Of course being me I still have concerns. The main one being, ME. (Insert my own eyes rolling here.) I am such an introvert, I don’t like crowds and to me the 8-16 people that will be there is a crowd. One reason I joined the puppy class was for my “socialization”. I know that to help Maizey I need to be more relaxed myself, and I think the puppy class environment, where I already know much of the info, may give me that opportunity.

Another concern is the fact that they have already done two of the six classes offered. Based on knowing me and meeting Magnus last week, the instructor isnt’ worried about us knowing the info. And I have the option to make up the classes in November when the next class starts. She felt joining late was the better option since over 50% of the dogs in that class are much larger than Magnus and we would both would worry about him playing with them.

Preparations and Conclusions
Now I am left with the next couple days to prepare. Treats, and I am sure a new treat bag are absolutely critical to have! (Insert mehusbandy’s eyes rolling here.) Practice of the skills Magnus knows and his vaccination record is also on the to do list.

But once again I beg the benefit of your expertise! What do you do to be prepared for puppy’s first class? I read a lot of your agility blogs and you talk about calming ring nerves, well I think I need to calm my class nerves! Any suggestions for that?

I know you all have much experience to share and I look forward to hearing it!


The Issue of Puppy Class

I know I have mentioned before that I feel puppy class was one cause of many of Maizey’s reactive issues. And since I think I can teach the basic puppy class skills at home I thought I could focus on socialization enough that I wasn’t going to take Magnus to a puppy class.

I really feel like dog classes should be about training humans to train dogs. So while I can think of masses of things that a class could teach me, I am not so sure puppy class is the one that I have the most to learn from.

Much of puppy class is about socialization and play time is part of that. But I am terrified of play time now, it did Maizey so much damage. So depending on what puppies were in the class there is a chance I would not even let him do the play time part. Plus I do feel I am giving him enough play time with other dogs that play time is not that critical.

Unfortunately as much as none of us wants it to be a consideration funds are an issue. I have only so many dollars to spend on the dogs and I want them to go to the best purpose possible.

So with all that in mind I thought my mind was made up. But then I read about Henry’s first puppy class and it got me thinking. Am I depriving Magnus of a valuable learning experience?

There is no doubt in my mind Henry is getting the possible education at home. Better than my pups get by a long ways! But the lessons Henry learned at his first puppy class are some that I am not sure I am providing Magnus.

There is such value in a dog learning HOW to learn in that busy environment. Is there ways I can provide this at home? Maybe. I can do more formal learning on our socialization outings. But is that enough?

And so the questions continue!

What about you? Did you do a puppy class? What benefits did you feel it provided for your 4legged puppy? What benefit did you find for yourself as handler? What would you recommend in looking for a new puppy class? Are you pro puppy class or do you feel you can provide similar lessons at home? If you do, how?

Please lend me the value of your experience so I can quit feeling indecisive! (Oh ya and if not for me then please do so for Magnus, he is already handlercapped as it is!)


In Other Non-Bodily Fluids, Farm Animal and Reactivity Related News

Socialization Continues:

Magnus first baby

Magnus first crazygrandmalady hug

Magnus first crazygrandmalady hug

Friendships Grow:

Snuggling in Maizey's crate (don't worry the dangerous electrical chords were immediately removed from the area!)

Snuggling or smothering? You be the judge!

Due to aforementioned bodily fluids Magnus gets really good at baths:

A 4legged friend visits for the weekend, and Maizey doesn’t have an “Holy Cow there’s a dog!!” meltdown:

"HEYA! I'm Kona, Magnus like me!"

And finally Maizey is still the Princessface as always:

"Some things never change!"


The Rest of the Cow, Goat and Horse Reactivity Story

As promised here is the rest of the story with this weekends reactive journey.

In Truth I Think I am The Reactive One
I must start with the admission that I am a reactive person. Go ahead laugh, but it’s so true! I am a chronic, anxiety addicted, over thinker. Because of my tendency towards feeling constantly alarmed it wouldn’t surprise me a bit that Maizey learned that from me.

I only bring it up because I think that one of the biggest challenges to teaching Maizey not to react to everything she sees like it is a big scary monster that she is going to out scare is teaching myself that. Or at least acting it convincingly enough that she is reassured.

My Then and Now Reaction to Maizey Reacting
Based on my own reactive personality, what is my instinctual reaction? Well picture her jumping out of her skin, lunging and barking. Then picture it in human form: me jumping, lunging and barking- at her! Not helpful to say the least!

Thus the 4legged lesson she is teaching me? When she reacts I don’t. And I mean literally DON’T, at all. For every symptom she shows my goal is to show the opposite. I think in the psychology world they call this “modeling the correct behavior.” I think in the real world we call it “fake it ’till you make it.”

So it used to look like this: she jumps and lunges, I would jump and lunge to grab her and keep her safe, or tighten the leash or whatever other startled physical reaction possessed my body. Now I stand still. Unless I need to move to keep her safe like backing away from a dangerous dog.

It used to be she barks and alarms go off in my head and my instinct is to bark at her, “MAIZEY! blahdy blah blah.” Or what ever. She can’t hear me over the alarms going off in her head so it doesn’t matter what words come out. It’s the tone, which is never one of anger, but surprise and alarm that gives her the message, “OH NO! Even my crazymomlady is alarmed so I better be bigger, badder and meaner to get this scary thing away from me!”

The Effect
Honestly time will tell the total effect on her, but I can tell you the effect on me is huge. I feel more in control because I am, or at least look to her, more in control.

(Although I must admit to people not in the “reactive know” tend to look at you like, “Why are you not waving your arms and screaming at your dog to stop throwing that god awful fit!?!” I just try to let that one go as judgmental ignorance not worth my energy.)

Another benefit I feel this is having is I feel like a refuge from the storm that Maizey is trapped in and I think that has contributed to her being able to return and reorient to me better.

The Anecdotal Evidence
This weekend provided a great chance to see all of this in action. We traveled south for a fall getaway and encountered many things that Maizey has seen before and not reacted to at all. The aforementioned cows, horses and goats.

This time was a different story. These pictures are presented with time stamp in the form of hour:minutes:seconds. You’ll notice it takes only seconds for things to change.

1:34:22 Immediately when arriving at the goat and cow pens she showed no reactivity to them, although the tail position indicates perhaps slight hyper-alertness.

1:34:56 34 seconds later she got startled by something only she knows and lunged over to the cows.

1:35:05 She really didn’t like those cows!

I immediately knelt down, and gave a quiet “Maizey, leave it” it took her a few more seconds then she came to me. Looking back I should have left the area right then. She appeared to calm and move on, but I still should have left at that point. Lesson learned. Again. Sigh. . .

1:38:08 and 1:38:09 She startled again and this time to both cows and goats.

1:38:09 This is a whiplash turn where she tried to come to me, but literally in the SAME SECOND her fear overrode her sensibility and she went back to reacting.

I was so scared she would just charge right in with the cows and get trampled I basically herded her back from that and worked on her reorienting to me, which she did okay with.

At that point that my friends mom, who ranks as one of the most wonderful women in my world, quietly made a statemtnt that will be my reactive episode mantra from now on, “Let’s move on to the next thing.” So we did and hopefully will continue to do.

For now, as you give me the benefit of your thoughts and insights I will work on the next chapter of this reactive maymay novel: Maizey and Relaxation Protocol.


Training Challenge #10: Cows, Goats, Horses and Sticks

This weeks Training Challenge is a “reactive maymay” challenge. I find posts on reactivity very hard to compose probably because it is one of the rare things I can’t seem to find good enough language to describe. Usually, as is the case again here, I end up with these mile long posts that no one can slog through and understand. I apologize in advance.

The History
Maizey was taken from her litter and Mom at seven weeks, I was not told this by her breeder until several months later and now believe it could have been even sooner. She was in a house with many other dogs, but I think that being taken away at such a formative period robbed her of valuable learning she needed to know in order to not only be confident around other dogs, but even know how to play and interact with them.

Of course knowing what I know now and looking back I can see so much that I missed as early warning signs.

Things like the slight fear she showed towards Meeka on the day she came home, the way she was so sensitive to her space and getting “trampled” even at nine weeks really mean more to me than I gave them credit for at the time. I knew nothing of reactivity and little of raising a puppy and feel I chocked too much up to, “well she is little and they are big, she is young and they are older” type of excuses.

What I See Now
Now with Mangus in the house it is as if Maizey is not only leaning how to play with another puppy, but how to play LIKE another puppy. She play with toys she was never interested in before, she entertains her self with them instead of needing me to entertain her. She is more content to be alone, granted for very short periods of time, but alone still. She plays chase and tug games, another difference.

I am so happy to see her enjoying regular dog things that way now and have hope that the things she is learning will continue to help her grow confident.

The Reactivity Progress/Non-progress
As for her Reactivity I am, as usual, stymied. In some ways it seems so much better. She will call off and return, or reorient to me when surprised by most things. Her matt work is getting stronger, in the moment of a trigger she seems to move on from it a little sooner, though I still see the after effects of the trigger lasting. She is responding to new operantly conditioned cues in an episode, not just in training.

However, In some ways I wonder if she isn’t moving to some new levels of reacting. This weekend she reacted to cows, goats, horses,and twice to men that were outside the car. In order to break it down in more detail, and hopefully get some insight from all of you, I included the pictures of this in the next post.

I am trying not to make too much of these things, as I see a generalized nervousness in her that I think is due to high levels of stress hormones from all the life changes she has experienced these last few months. At the same time I am trying to learn from missing the early signs when she was a puppy and help her work through these issues sooner than later.

As For Sticks
As for the sticks part of our challenge? Well really not a challenge at all for Magnus, as long as he can find one! Magnus attitude to life at this point seems to be, “Sweet! A stick! Oh cool, look a leaf! Wow! This stick is awesome, I think I’ll lay here and chew on it! Oh my Sisser? She’s freakin’ out over there, but I’m all good cause I got a stick!”

"MMMMM sticks are so good!"


There’s More There Than Just Magnus

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Geile Leon. All opinions are 100% mine.

Being born at a puppy mill in Missouri is perhaps not the most auspicious start to life. But it doesn’t seem to have bothered Magnus any.

Then at eight weeks he was rescued by a wonderful lady who runs Flawdogs Adoption, a rescue who is committed to saving as many 4legged friends as possible and is seeing success. At least we count Magnus as one of their success stories!

They even brought him to me at the St. Louis airport, which was great since it let me fly in, pick him up and fly home all in one day. However it also meant I went all the way to Missouri without seeing more than the inside of the airport. Turns out I missed more than you may think!

Branson Missouri may not be some peoples first thought for a vacation destination, but if you do go there for a weekend getaway check out Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing. Not only is it a beautiful place to stay they have a great Fall in The City Package that includes dinner on the Showboat Branson Belle.

That’s not all you can enjoy at the Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel. Is shopping your thing? Then check out their deluxe shopping package, not only will you get a buffet breakfast for two maybe you can buy your 4legged friend a treat with the $25 gift certificate to the Tanger Outlet Mall.

I guess next time I fly to Missouri I will have to actually leave the airport and check out some of these great deals for myself!
Visit my sponsor: Enjoy an exhilarating weekend getaway in Branson!