Clicks and Tricks Class One: Shrill Barking is NOT a Trick

Today Maizey started her Clicks and Tricks class.

The class is awesome, only three other dogs and based on a combination of shaping, luring and some capturing.

Today we covered basics: hand touch, spin, twirl, backup, and settle on one hip.

Backup is the only one we have never worked on. Our homework is to get multiple touches for one c/t, get her spin and twirl on verbal cue only, start backup and refine the settle.

Settle I have to think about a little bit, I currently use a settle cue to mean, “lay down, chill out and quit bugging me, but you can move when you want.”

I’m not sure with this being a trick if I want to cue something different, something clever. . . of course I’m not feeling too clever right now so I’ll have to think about it.

For backup I have a similar question of what to cue. I think for a trick “beep-beep-beep” like the backing up of a big truck would be funny, but that’s not a cue I would use for a more formal backup like they use in Rally, so do I need two cue’s? Is it two behaviors? Again, I don’t know, so it looks like I have homework to do!

We were given a list 24 tricks to choose from and as a class we chose a total of 12-15 to learn over the next six weeks. Some are very basic (roll over), some are more advanced and require a behavior chain (moon walk, which is a play bow where the dog walks backwards in the bow.)

The class is going to be great, but right now I’m exhausted! Not because of the class, but because my Princess Of The Shrill Bark lived up to her name today.

After her success in Petite Pals I really wasn’t expecting today to be this hard for her. I didn’t see an abnormal amount of stress before class, we followed our routine and she seemed fine. We had the same set up as her last class: us in a corner behind an x-pen with blankets covering it to reduce stimulation.

I’m super proud of her, this is her first class with no play time so she doesn’t meet and greet the other dogs and it was hard for her. It was like she could work for me as long as it was very basic skills she already knew, then something in her head would trigger and it was like all of sudden she was thinking, “Oh crap there’s dogs out there! MOM! MOM! MOM! DOGS! DOGS! DOGS!”

Then she would reorient and be like, “Oh yeah this is the coolest game! I’m so good at this, I’ll offer you anything!” Then the alarm in her head would go off again and it was back to reacting for a second.

Honestly I almost just quit half way through, the most important thing is that she not be traumatized. It’s also the hardest thing to tell at this stage. It used to just be she was constantly reacting and couldn’t even think. She was obviously over threshold the whole time around other dogs.

Now it’s more like she just needs impulse control and experience to keep her brain engaged. The trouble is it’s my job to read her and know when enough is enough and it was easy to know before, now it’s just harder to tell.

I got to the point that I thought, “She’s just not going to pull out of this today, we just need to go to the park and shake it off.” I picked her up and snuggled my face into her face and just breathed with her. I felt her relax, that has never happened before, I was so glad to experience that. It was as if my breath cued her to take a deep breath and after that I just stayed on the floor with her and we mostly just c/t for quiet while we worked very basic skills.

By the end of the class she was laying quietly, even if I wouldn’t say she was relaxed. So I’m glad we stayed. I dont know how she will ever learn to get through that anxiety if she doesn’t get a chance to ride it out, and let me help her.

But it’s so tiring for both of us. The mom part of me kicks in and I just want to snuggle her and make her feel better, but that’s not the answer. We both have to work so very hard to keep our brains in gear and keep the anxiety down.

I know it certainly doesn’t help her if I just get to feeling bad for her so mostly that part just comes after, it comes now. The human part where I feel so sad that this brillaint, eager, clicker savvy, offering, loves to work dog can’t enjoy this fun class ’cause her brain is short circuiting hits me hard and it’s hard not to second guess every choice I made.

The other human part is similar to what I felt for meeka when people would judge her for being a Rottie, there was so much beauty and grace in her that they never got to see. When you have 14 pounds of barking, lunging Cavalier people tend to look at you funny.

I can’t blame them, if I saw her coming towards me and my dog I’d go the other way too. But it’s still hard not to let it hurt a bit. Not personally for me, but for what they are missing in knowing the true her and what she’s missing in getting to live a full life.

All I can do is keep trying, be thankful that I have good trainers to help me and remember she is a happy girl, and even if she never overcomes this she has a good life, even if it’s one with limitations.

Therein is today’s 4legged lesson: Modesty means being aware and accepting your limitations. Modesty is hard, it doesn’t mean you don’t try to overcome your limitations, but it does mean if you have a Princess Of The Shrill Bark and she may always be a Princess Of The shrill Bark you help her as much as you can and love her twice as much. She doesn’t judge herself for her limitations why should I or anyone else?

As for Tricks and Clicks class? I defer once again to Sue Ailsby, “It’s all tricks, relax!”


This, That and Tiny Furry Sumo Wrestling

It seems the only thing I write about anymore is the Walking Challenge. Which is exciting since today I finished my goal of 30 miles in a month for the first time! So click treat for us on that one, and we still have tomorrow, we might actually get caught up a bit.

We are doing other things around here. Today we took in Charley and Chloe for two weeks, so we are temporarily a four dog household. . . Whew! Four dogs, two of whom are adolescents, really keep you hopping!

Today it looked like it might stop leaking slush from the sky for a bit so I thought we should all go to the park, but of course by the time I had them all loaded into their crates in the car it was blizzarding slush from the sky.

So we drove to the park and I thought I would use the time to work on Chloe’s car fears. After c/t her for quiet and downs and other relaxed behaviors we drove around some more c/t’ing as we went. By that time I felt like it would be cruel to not let them out for a run and the slushing had let up a bit. Of course by the time I had them all out and leashed up it was back to blizzarding so we all got thoroughly soaked.

Can we please have sunshine now?

Magnus’ loves having Chloe here. It’s like a 24/7 little furry sumo wrestling match. Those two are so funny. I have video to put up, but am having technical difficulties so movie making is on hold. If you remember this WW, it pretty much sums it up though.

I am so excited for tomorrow, Maizey starts her Clicks and Tricks class. I’m not even sure what we will be learning, but I know it will be a combo of shaping and luring and. . . tricks, of course!

I decided not announce exactly what the prizes for the Walking Challenge giveaway will be until closer to the giveaway, but I will tell you the prize packages have themes and I think they are all cute as can be! Some of you have already completed posts about the Challenge and I will be posting links on Monday with the “Monday Miles” post.

So other than the new car, the fabulous gift we got from Reilly (great big thanks and a post is in the making), the new washer and dryer (it actually has a cycle for pet beds, could it be anymore perfect for me?), the fact that we might be moving, and about 26,000 other random things I haven’t posted about you are all caught up now! Okay, not quite, but at least I fit in the important things-the dogs!


Not Wordless Wednesday: Magnus’ Dilemma

"Will someone please tell my Crazymomlady this is NOT how my bed is supposed to go?"

"I tried it like this, but it's not comfortable."

"Why would my bed be on a box anyways? She is so confused!"

Even my favorite bed is too small for me! Doesn't she know I'm a growing boy?"

"Ahhh. . . now that's more like it!"


Walking Challenge Update: Introducing “Monday Miles”

We are doing amazing!!

As of tonight we have walked 905.5 miles plus Beth and Chispita’s impressive 40 (yes I said 40!) hours! Congratulations everyone, that is a truly impressive number!

We have two new participants: Kathy and Buksi, who have done their own impressive 200 miles this year and Gretchen and Kendall who are going for 150 miles by the end of the year. Welcome to both of them!

Since the book keeping is getting a bit complicated I’m naming Monday the “Monday Miles” report day. If everyone could leave me a weekly total of their miles each Monday I will update them and post a new total, and that way I will be able to keep track of when I’ve updated.

As always a comment here on the blog or on our FB Page is fine.

It’s been mentioned in comments before but I thought I would let you know how much I’m enjoying using Map My Walk to track my own miles. It’s very interactive and you can actually form a group and see the area’s everyone is walking if you use it. If anyone wants me to I will form us a group there and we can all follow that way. Our user name is Katienthems 2011 Walking Challenge.

The giveaway is getting exciting, remember you are all entered just for being part of such a great challenge. But you can also win by doing a post of how the Walking Challenge is going for you and linking back here. And of course for those of us that are a bit behind lets get our there and march since everyone on track with their personal goal will be entered in a third drawing.

Thanks to all of you who are really getting ME going which was my selfish motive for doing this in the first place. Because of The Challenge I have found two new friends locally to walk with and now have a standing Tuesday morning walking play date. Which also means Magnus has made three new 4legged friends.

This Challenge is not just about miles, it’s about time spent with our 4legged friends, and even making some new 2legged ones too! So thanks and lets keep it up!


2011 Walking Challenge: Walk For Fun and Prizes

Don’t you and your pups love getting new stuff? I know mine do!

"We love getting these white boxes they always have goods in them!!"

Announcing the first ever Lessons From and For 4 Legs give away!

We are all doing so wonderfully with our walking goals for the 2011 Walking Challenge I wanted to give every one an extra boost by giving everyone a chance to win a walking related prize for their efforts.

The rules will be simple. (I’m not too into rules as those of you that are part of the challenge are already aware of.) But there will be some simple guidelines.

All winners will be drawn by a random number generator.

How do you enter? It’s simple! Everyone who is participating is automatically entered in the drawing for a great prize.

For a second chance to win a another prize all those that are on track with their personal goal will be entered for a second drawing.

A third prize will be awarded to those ambitious bloggers that do a post on how the 2011 Walking Challenge has helped them get out and about with their 4legged friends. Please include in the post the challenges you have faced and how you’ve over come them.

"Com'on over and join our Face Book page fun!"

One request I will make is that if you’re a Walking Challenge participant you hop over and “like” The Lessons From and For 4 Legs Face book Page. If you haven’t liked the page yet you’ve missed some exciting news, like poll on what is the highest reinforcer for you dog, how to help your 4legged friends pitch in for earth day and if you get your like in this week and you may be able to get a deal on pet friendly soy candles. A lot is going on over there!

I know normally a giveaway would be held as soon as possible so we all stay excited, but so we all have time to catch up on our miles the cut off date for entries will be July 1, 2011 at 12:00 AM Mountain Time, exactly 6 months into our challenge. That gives us exactly 10 weeks and four days to get caught up. We can do it!

The drawing will be held and announced on July 7, 2011 so that I have time to tabulate the results and put together a post.

What will you all be winning? All prizes will be handmade and fun tested by my own 4legged friends. In the running are a hand braided fleece leash, a leather collar, a treat/jackpott bag, a hand braided fleece tug, and a fluffy fleece mat. I’m still brainstorming what would make the best prizes for all of your hard work. I will post pictures as I decide what the prizes will actually be so you can all see what your working so hard for!

I truly believe the best prize of all is the extra time we’re spending with our 4legged friends, but a little incentive never hurt anyone! So I hope this will help us build excitement and motivation for our Walking Challenge.


"Seriously! Who could not love getting free goodies?"


Got Miles? We Finally Have a Few!

"We're wet! Our Crazymomlady made us walk in the rain!"

Spring must be here since we walked in a huge the rain storm today.

Still with warmer temps and the sun actually shining once in a while we are making progress with our 2011 Walking Challenge miles. Already this month we’ve walked 17.5 miles!

We are enjoying our walking so much. Today we walked two and half miles in the rain and loved every step of it! I’m happy to announce as of today we are at 43 miles. Which ups our daily ante to 1.25 miles per day. Since we still have 257 days left to complete our goals even those of us that are behind have a fighting chance!

So how ’bout you all? Got miles? So far the group has 601 miles total! That is an impressive number, we are all doing great.

In fact we’re doing so great I’ve decided to do the first ever Lessons From and For 4 Legs give-away. The details will be revealed over the next few weeks. A hint though: One of the prizes will be only for those that are on track with their personal walking goal.

So lets get out there and walk, you never know what you could win!

(Post Script: If you haven’t ‘liked’ the Lessons From and For 4 Legs Face Book page you may have missed out on some exciting Walking Challenge updates, it’s a great way to keep me posted on your progress.)


More Than Just a Name: Magnus

Reilly the cowspot dog is having a contest about how everyone got their names.  I think it’s absolutely fascinating what makes humans give their 4legged friends the names they do.

I think Meeka has the best story, and Maizey’s story is one that is close to my heart, but Magnus’ story has a few twists of its own.

Magnus name came from hours of searching those baby naming websites, which in itself just doesnt seem that great of a story. But bear with me it gets more interesting.

When we knew we didn’t have long left with Meeka I started the search for our next 4legged family member. Daily I would troll through the depths of Petfinder and any rescue site I could find looking for that perfect pup.

As I found puppies that looked like good potential family members I started compiling a list of names I loved. This was at the time when Meeka really couldn’t get up very much anymore so we would lay in bed, and I would tell her the names.

I know it’s crazy, I know it didn’t mean anything to her really. But the sound of my voice and those hours we spent together seemed to soothe her, so I just talked to her about what was on my mind. What was on my mind were puppies and names.

That is a wonderful 4legged lesson of dogs: They don’t hold your grieving process against you, even if it looks sort of crazy. I think she knew I was just spending time with her, but to get through those hours I had to look to the future too, and our future turned out to be Magnus.

Well, thats only half the story. After we lost our Big Girl I kept up the search until I met Sally from Flawdogs Adoption and she felt Magnus was a perfect match for us. She said he was recovering quickly from his puppy mill days and that he was a “corker”.

"I don't have a name yet, but it's not Solomon, I'm too brave!"

I had always wanted to name my next boy Rottie Solomon. It is the big, robust name of a wise gentle and kind king. In ancient Hebrew it means peace. I still love that name. But even for a corker it seemed a bit much of a name for a Cav, especially a four pound barrel shaped boy with stumpy legs, as he turned out to be. Still I held onto that name.

When we left for the airport to fly to St. Louis to get him I was armed with the options that my little blenheim boy would come home named: Solomon, Felix (meaning happy), Flynn, Henry (meaning ruler of the household and which ultimately became the name of Kathleens’ Henry).

My top two choices were still Solomon and Magnus, meaning great.

Magnus The Great on the airplane

We met Gene from Flawdogs at the airport and I spent the day getting to know my little boy but it wasn’t until we were back on the airplane and half way home that he told me his name was Magnus. All day in the airport he proved himself intrepid. He wasn’t fazed by anything, he immediately started playing with toys, and meeting people, even the jostle of going through security didn’t faze him.

Then in that moment on the airplane when the flight attendant suggested I let him out to play and he toddled out of the carrier onto a potty pad and started chewing on my shoelace I knew- this dog is great. He is Magnus The Great. I picked him up and started telling him how great he was and he promptly fell asleep in my arms for the rest of the flight home.

He didn’t stay named Magnus The Great for long, as he soon started show me he was much more of a Magnus The Intrepid Destroyer. So that is why Magnus is more than just a name-it’s a story!