At the moment I am dealing with some interesting dog situations. I currently have six of the
mangy bastards most interesting mix of dogs you could hope for.
I have my four, Brockle, the big hairy beast who is 2, Charlie, the rat terrier, 11, Dinah, a corgi/JRT, 16, and Snocone, a clinically insane, puppy mill surviving, Maltese, 10.
Then, I also have the, um, joy, of fostering my daughter's 1-year-old Greater Swiss Mountain dog, Bianca and 6-year-old sociopathic Italian Grayhound/Min Pin, Dobby.
I AM NOT A HOARDER.
I know this because I shout it at my neighbors every morning.
In order to function, I struck a deal with the Kidlette. She deals with her dogs and I deal with mine. I don't train, walk or take on their emotional health. In return, she does the same.
This avoids battles between us about training, exercise, or manners, and stops me from trying to pet six dogs at once.
It's not ideal, but it keeps things manageable.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not mean to her dogs, I feed them, make them part of our regular treks outside to pee and have cookies and tell them they are good when they offer behaviors I'm happy to see. I don't walk them, train them or snuggle them.
I tell myself this is a great opportunity to observe pack behavior and hierarchy, and am studying and thinking instead of sitting in a corner staring off into space. Besides, that's Snocone's job.
I'll write about the pack stuff at a later date, today, I'm hoping some of the dog people out there will help me understand a few things that confuse me and hopefully give me some insight on a few training issues.
One surprising thing I've learned -- if you completely ignore a dog it will go out of it's mind trying to figure out what you want and try to do it. Well, except Dobby, he will only take so much ignoring, then he starts to shake and pee on stuff. Afterwards he sits with Jim and glares at me.
Bianca has cut back on mindless barking because she gets a rare scritch on the butt and a "Good quiet!" when she stops. She has learned to lay down quietly and quit ravaging visitors (she's torn between barking with her hackles up and insane wiggling, wagging, mauling) just to get my approval. She has stopped counter surfing --when I'm home. She no longer walks across the smaller dogs, knocks them over to beat them out the door or sits on them to get their spot. Her general anxiety has dropped. This has all come from her watching what earns approval for my dogs and then emulating them.
Dobby has learned to poop outside, unless it's cold, windy, snowing or wet. He will sometimes make an effort if I have the good gooey treats. He has learned to stop snarling and snapping when it's suggested he move out of a chair by getting dumped on the floor. His preferred method of coping is to hang with Jim because he lets him eat off his plate.
So. On to my questions.
First, let's tackle Brockle.
Brockle likes to line stuff up.
Does anybody have a clue what this is about?
He did this quite a bit during the first few months I had him. He would take shoes, toys, sticks, towels, the TV remote, garden stuff I had left out...and line them up. As you can see, we're talking a pretty straight line, and the spaces in between are close to equal.
Then, he stopped.
Over the last month or so, things have been intense around here and my stress levels are high. He started making lines again. Except now, it's only things of mine, or things I handle and a few sticks to fill things in. So, he takes my shoes, bath towel, socks, the remote, my phone, the spatula, things like that.
Also, during periods when my illness is really beating the crap out of me, he has started making a line along the length of my bed while I sleep. Except then, it's all his toys.
It seems to be a reaction to stress.
He guards his lines ferociously from the other dogs. You can see from the photo he wasn't pleased I was looking at it. He knew I was going to take my stuff back.
He doesn't chew anything up. I never get upset with him.
The conversation usually goes like this:
"Brockle? Do you have my shoe? Whoa, dude, now that's a work of art. Sorry buddy, I need my stuff back."
Brockle, looking miserable, follows me while I get my stuff. Then he sniffs each item as I put them away or on.
The lines aren't always in the same place in the yard, but they are always very straight and even. I've never seen him build one, but I have watched him fill in gaps and move things to make them straight. He lays in the yard, head between his paws, and watches it. Then periodically gets up and moves stuff. He makes them anywhere from ten days apart to twice on a slow afternoon.
I don't know if this is connected, but the other night, Charlie was running around the house with something gray, floppy and about 3 inches square. The other dogs were really interested, he was doing a cross between making sure they all knew he had it, and trying to find a safe place to chew on it.
I went to see what he had. It was a very old, recently dug up piece of rawhide. Since I quit giving my dogs rawhides two years ago, it was pretty gross. Unlike my other dogs, when I tell Charlie, "Drop it" he thinks it means "Clench the gross thing between my teeth and run like hell," which is what he did.
I was tired, he had disappeared out the dog door, and well, I was tired. So I went to bed. I heard some running, growling and complaining from the dogs during the night, but no actual murders. The next morning, the rawhide was laying on the floor next to my bed.
Charlie was pacing and upset. Brockle kept staring him down to keep him off, the other dogs were staying clear.
Charlie doesn't share, so Brockle must have put it by me.
Was he taking care of me or did he give it to me to stop the arguments? Or is all of this some weird dog ritual sacrifice? Any ideas?
My next Brockle question.
He guards me. Not violently, but diligently. If someone is at the door, he runs and leans against/between me and the door. He gets between me and any person or dog who is focused on me. He blocks my access to all major appliances and the kitchen sink (but not the bathroom) when I'm too tired to be working.
He won't eat unless I'm actively engaged in an activity that tells him I'm not leaving the house.
There was some minor aggression to a friends dog, at her house, when her dog crossed his perceived line of protection. Not cool.
I need him to curtail it. But, I don't want to stop his need to care for me. He is becoming a crackerjack assistance dog, and I don't want him to question his role. He helps me up stairs, to get out of bed, leans into me to help me balance when I'm off, and some other stuff I haven't decided to write about yet.He can tell my BP is dropping before I can, and I'm just now learning to read him and listen.
So, how do I get control of his overzealous side, ease his anxiety, but keep developing and benefiting from the positives?
I've been debating using the "place" command. Then I could park him and he could be relieved of his job as my shadow.
Would that help control the misplaced aggression?
Except, from what I understand, once a dog is parked, they have to stay that way until released. I need him to make executive decisions. When I'm tired or overdo I don't always think clearly. Brockle will nuzzle and push until I stop and either sit or lay down.
She is still emerging from her internal tangled ball of yarn brain, 2 1/2 years after we adopted her. She just offered her first communication cue.
I have learned that when Snocone makes tiny little circles (like a dog about to lay down), she needs to go outside NOW.
A few months ago, she began coming within five feet or so to make her circles. She was actually coming to find me when she needed to go out.
When I take her out, I pick her up and carry her, we don't have enough time for her to robot walk out, plus, she forgets she's following and wanders, anyway, I always take the opportunity to give or get a snuggle from her on the way out the door.
Recently, like in the past two weeks or so, Snocone started to come within five feet, do her circle, then, when I picked her up, just melt in and give me the coveted Maltese hug. She started using the "I gotta pee" cue as a "I need attention" cue too. Trust me, this is huge.
Then, just last week, she has started whining when she's hungry, or when she wants me to come find her.
We are communicating!
My question is, how do get her to expand the cues? It would be great if she could actually approach us in a straight line when she wants attention.
We play "Find it." I'll make a trail of tiny little bites of food and let her follow it to her dinner bowl, or a treat. She doesn't respond to the command, but she love, love, loves playing it. She will follow the food trail everywhere, and it doesn't have to be food she even likes. I think she's just having a blast following her nose. That is her only game.
Can I use it to get her to come to me without the circle?
Does it matter?
I would say no, but I can't explain how excited she becomes over each breakthrough. I'd like to get more.
So, there's my questions. Please, please, give me your thoughts, training tips, anything.