Tag Archives: Pax

Some pictures for your viewing pleasure

River had a play date this weekend, but I totally forgot to bring along my camera. Too bad, because Jake — a 15- or 16-week-old Daschund — is totally adorable, and they had a great time together. Then Mr. River settled in his crate and chewed a chewie while I got a facial. What a lovely afternoon!

In lieu of pictures of puppies playing, here are a few of my own brood I shot in the last couple of days. I really love this first one.

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Who’s training who? (or “How I taught my dogs to give them a cookie for eating breakfast”)

Long ago, we used to let the dogs out into the front yard — the area between the dog fence and the road — for a good airing after meals. At the time, the area was *mostly* dog fenced, but there was an area, if the dogs ran to the northeast side and allll the way down the length of the dog fence, where they could get into the horse pastures.

With Pax or Rain, this was never a problem. Great recalls. Heck, I can call Pax off a deer. (Or at least I could in the past. Been a long time since I tested that.) Aslan was another story. There was a certain imaginary line on the way to the horse pasture. If I called him before he got to that line, he would come back. If not, he was gone. And gone meant gone. Over half our property is populated with thick woods and swamp (and various wild animals), and once there, he had no desire to come back to the boring people and the irritating fence.

So every day (weather permitting, which means it wasn’t every day, but this is my story and every day sounds better) we would let the dogs out to have a good run. The area in the front of the house is big, and since the horses occupied it occasionally, it always had lots of fun things to smell and entertain them. They would play for five minutes, and then I’d call them in with the never-fail recall word: “Cookies!” The dogs would RUN back to the house, and we’d have a ritual handing out of their favorite cookies as a reward for the lovely recall.

This was a great ritual until Aslan ran away once too often. (It was probably the time he ended up in the middle of the swamp at laste dusk, and Jay not only had to crawl through a dark swamp to find him, but then we had to lift the muddy smelly [giant] dog over the fence to get him home.) I declared that he would never, ever have free run of the front area again.

And he didn’t.

But somehow the cookie tradition didn’t change. The dogs would eat their meals, go out to pee, and then come back and demand cookies. And I… gave them to them. Eventually, smart dog that they are, they skipped the whole go out for a pee part, and simply demanded their cookies at the end of their meal.

And that’s how my dogs trained them to give them cookies for eating breakfast.

Things are better with River. Starting Wednesday night, things got really, really hard. He wanted nothing to do with that new crate, so sleep-time became protest time. I’m working a lot of hours, and I just can’t handle significant lack of sleep. On top of the sleep issues, the housetraining took about a dozen steps back. It seemed no matter how hard I tried to watch him, how many gates I set up to keep him contained, he was peeing and pooping everywhere but outside. That last straw was the lake he peed in my bed at 2:30 Saturday morning. I broke down. I’d had it.

Jay is the best husband in the world. He had a doctor appointment on Saturday morning, but when he got back, he took over puppy duty. Really took over. He watched River with 100% focus. He made sure River went potty outside every time and was rewarded mightily for it. I went back to bed and slept, Pax curled up beside me. (Pflouff takes care of River, and Pax takes care of me.) In the afternoon, after my nap, he and I took turns with the puppy. I have a big project due Monday morning, and without complaining, Jay took more than his share of puppy time so I could work. When he wasn’t watching the puppy, he was running errands — like driving to town to bring back Mexican food for me.

He’s the best. Really. (Did I mention that he’s doing all this while SICK?)

By the end of yesterday, I was feeling a lot better. I had slept. I had accomplished a fair amount on my project. River had had no potty accidents in the house. We had even done a few (very successful) training sessions. But I dreaded nighttime. I knew we would be back to screaming in the crate and no sleep.

But it was perfect. It was like the prior three nights had never happened. He barely whined, even when brought in after peeing in the middle of the night. He slept in the crate until 6:30, then came up on the bed and let the family doze (more or less, as much as possible with a shark in the bed) until 7:30. And the morning has been easy since.

Do I think our problems are past? No. Tomorrow Jay will be back at work, and I expect the backslide in housetraining will begin anew. But maybe he’ll surprise me. All I can do is take it a day at a time. Puppyhood *does* pass, and soon I’ll wonder where my baby went.

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Day 4

Today was Pax’s turn at the vet. We got a “senior” package for him this year that included x-rays and a teeth cleaning. Since I’m home on vacation, I figured this was a good time to get that done.

His teeth and x-rays were terrific, but they found a couple of weird things. First, he had infections in both ears. Now, before you think I’m a horrible pet parent, he showed ZERO sign. No scratching, head shaking, sensitivity — not even a weird smell in his ears (and yes, I do check). Not only were his ears infected, but they were impacted with hair! Icky. They did a deep cleaning and said he never showed any signs (head shaking, sensitivty, etc.) even after that!

Second, when they went in to clean his teeth, they found two long gouges in his tongue — also impacted with hair. How gross is that? The vet said that he probably cut his tongue on a bone or a sharp chewy, and then got hair stuck in it when licking himself. He grooms himself a lot, so I can totally see that. Still… oogie.

He’s home now, and sleeping. He hasn’t eaten yet or showed interest in anything except sleeping. Poor guy.

River had a hard day too. He fell on his head — twice! Let’s not go into these bad parenting moments. Sigh. (He’s fine.)

His day wasn’t a total loss though. With Pax at the vet, River finally got some quality time with Pflouff. They’re not playing, exactly, but there’s definite positive interaction. Lots of it, actually. Wish I had pictures, but I drained the camera battery last night.

The only problem is that Pflouff plays really rough, so I kept having to shut her down (by cautioning “gentle”). Her play style is very physical — lots of body slams, jumping and punching with the feet. She jumped at River twice and scared him. He’s just not up for that kind of play yet. She outweighs him… just a little bit. 😉

What did we train today? Mmmm… mostly I did sessions with the target from the Manners Minder. I LOVE that target. Being able to send him out to a target will be critical in teaching him handling for blinds in field work, so I wanted to get a jump on it. I also did a few reps of sit in heel position, some informal puppy recalls, and a few puppy retrieves with stuffed toys.

Housebreaking is going fabulously. Really, really well. (I have to get my brags now, because next week when I have to go back to work, all this early work will go to hell in a handbasket.) We have a VERY high success rate outside. Whenever I see him get distracted and start sniffing, I scoop him up and carry him outside. The only mistakes have come when I’m distracted — hence the reason things will go badly beginning next week! A couple of times he has even gone to the door to let me know he’s thinking about going outside. Good boy!

To be clear, though, at this point, he is NOT housebroken, and the success is due much more to my vigilence than his bladder control. He is learning to hold it, but that’s a relatively new conscious capability for him, and it will be a while before he gets it all figured out. In the meantime, it will be up to me to ensure he experiences success outside, not inside.

Sorry I don’t have any pictures today. Hopefully I can get a picture of the dogs together tomorrow. I’d like to get some video too. Wonder if my camera is charged up…?

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Toys, Toys, TOYS!

My dogs have a lot of toys, most of which are shredded, de-stuffed, de-squeaked versions of their former selves. Dead stuffies. Old bones. Frayed tug ropes. All of it filthy from being buried, dug up, and buried again.

Since the new baby is coming, I decided to do something radical and replace all their old toys. Jay and I went on an enthusuastic (and expensive) shopping spree at PetSmart and bought way too many cool things. The dogs watched with wide eyes as I stood at the kitchen table and removed allll the associated tags and packaging.

Next came the painful part. I took a giant, contractor-size garbage bag to the dog room and went through their toy box. The wide eyes grew very worried! Undamaged toys were tossed back in the toy box. Everything else went in the trash. (I could barely lift the bag when I was done!)

Then, finally, the fun part. I loaded myself up with all the new toys, brought them downstairs, and dropped them in a pile in the middle of the dog room. Dog heaven! Pax and Pflouff didn’t know what to do with themselves. This one! No — I meant this one! Oh, oh, this one too! Pax is especially attracted to a cow that moos when he bites it. (He was less impressed by the frog’s ribbits.)

I’m not going to leave all those toys available all the time. A few puppy-sized toys will be set aside for special play with River. I’ll leave a few of the favorite types in the dog room, and then the rest are going in a drawer. Each morning, I’ll let each dog choose one toy to have for the day. I’ve done this in the past, and it has worked beautifully. It’s amazing how carefully they choose, and how valuable a trip to the toy-drawer becomes.

Here are a few pictures from this morning’s joy. No good pics of Pflouff, I’m afraid. Just as well — she desperately needs grooming.

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My first Great Pyr was Satch, and he was an amazing dog. What I didn’t know was that he was anything but a typical Pyr. So I was woefully unprepared for Aslan. He was different, and he was difficult. But I loved him. God, I loved him.

Aslan was dog aggressive, and he was a severe resource guarder. Fighting is hard-wired in his breed, but in-pack fighting like that likely is not normal behavior. Normal or not, it was part of him, and when you put those tendencies in a guardian breed, it’s a dangerous combination. I knew it, but I thought if we could just keep him from practicing the behaviors and manage the heck out of his triggers, we’d be okay.

And mostly we were. As he aged, he gained more self-control. You could see him struggle to control himself, see him calm himself, see him choose to leave rather than escalate. We were so proud, and we reinforced the hell out of those behaviors. But still, management can never be perfect. There were incidents. We’d gotten to the point where the incidents were about a year apart, but they were escalating. The last time he’d fought with Pax, they both ended up in emergency care. The last time I pushed him over something he was guarding, he lunged at me and went up my body to force me away.

99.9% of the time, he was fantastic. But that other tiny percentage, he was dangerous. I knew it. But I loved him.

Friday afternoon, management failed. It was my fault. I broke my own protocol, and I fed them in close, uncontrolled quarters. Aslan felt crowded, and he jumped Pax.

I was home alone.

Neither wore a collar.

All I could do was scream while they tried to kill each other.

It finally occurred to me to open the door into Jay’s office, hoping that Pax would try to escape, and I could separate them. Ironically, it was Aslan who ultimately tried to flee. (Twice he has taken on Ghandi, and yes, twice Ghandi kicked his ass.) As soon as I had the gate closed, I knew. I knew I couldn’t do this anymore. His chances had run out.

Pax will be all right. He’s beaten up. He has a bunch of punctures, and he’s all gimped up. He’s terribly sore — has to be helped up and down from the bed, and he can barely get down the stairs. But he’s alive.

Aslan isn’t. I hate playing God. I hated taking a healthy animal into the vet and holding him while they pumped blue juice into his veins. Some friends have said that he got more chances with me than he would have with someone else, and that’s probably true. And they’ve said that he probably wasn’t very happy in his own skull, feeling like he always had to guard and control. I don’t know about that; he was a hard dog to read, but he didn’t seem unhappy.

I know that I hate myself because I’m as relieved as I am sad. I know that I miss him. I hope Aslan can forgive me for what I did, though I can’t forgive myself. I hope he’ll be waiting at the Bridge for me, but somehow I doubt it.

I love you, Azzie. I’ll always love you. And I’m very, very sorry.

Aslan, 9/30/2004 – 12/11/2009

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