Posts tagged Pax

Nice morning

Aslan and Pax have had ups and downs in their relationship in the past, and so, not surprisingly, Pax isn’t often willing to play with Aslan. And when he does participate, Aslan’s play style isn’t particularly fun for him. Aslan plays very much like a lion — grabbing at back legs and other moves that would be practice for later hunting and fighting behavior. This makes sense, since Great Pyrs have, for two thousand years, guarded sheep flocks from bears and wolves.

Today, however Pax and Aslan really played — and they played in a way that was clearly fun for both of them. It’s not often that you see Aslan willing to roll over on his back, but each of them took turns in that vulnerable position. Their play was quiet and — for them — remarkably gentle. It was truly PLAY.

Pflouff very much wanted to be part of it, but the other dogs didn’t want to play with her right then. Since letting her continue to try to butt in would have ended the play session between Pax and Aslan, I held Pflouff at the sidelines and tried to convince her that she wasn’t being abused by being left out.

When Pax and Aslan took a break, Pax lay down with a toy called a Kong Wubba (which is my favorite name for a toy EVER). That was Pflouff’s invitation. The toy can be both a chew toy (with an awesome squeak) and a tug toy. Pflouff grabbed one end, and they played a delightful game of tug. Pax doesn’t always want to share his toys with her that way, but he was totally into this.

After a couple of minutes of tug, Aslan came back. They tried to all three play together, but without the tug toy, Pflouff was going for Pax’s ears. At the same time Pax was trying to “defend” himself from Aslan. It really wasn’t fair to Pax, so I took Pflouff onto the sidelines again (much to her vocal dismay). Another round of gentle, fun play between the big dogs ensued.

A couple minutes later, Aslan went outside. So Pax and Pflouff played together again. When Aslan came back this time, I took Pflouff upstairs for a drink of water — Hey! She learned how to drink out of the toilet! My, she is a big girl! — and her first heeling lesson.

Now we’re all downstairs, and everyone is crashed out at my feet. I do love it when there are happy dogs in the house.

Ow!

I knew when I decided to get a puppy that doing so would add a significant level of stress to the household for a while, and that would likely create issues with Aslan. When Aslan is stressed, he redirects his stress onto Pax. I’ve worked pretty hard to minimize this problem since it began about three years ago, and at this point, both because he rarely gets to “practice” acting out and because he has matured, we rarely have an issue.

When we do, the issue is potentially serious. The last real fight we had was last February, but that one resulted in trips to the vet for both dogs. More than that, it created tension between the two dogs which lasted for several weeks. During that time, they had to be separated, and their reintroduction was phased and carefully monitored.

Since we brought TenTen home, I’ve watched Aslan carefully, particularly when Pax is around. He has been great with the pup herself, but there have been moments where he growled at Pax. Until yesterday afternoon I’d had enough time/space to redirect and jolly Aslan out of his reaction, or to remove him so he could calm down. I could, however, see that his stress level was building — which is predictable and expected. I’m surprised he was able to be “in the general population” this long!

Yesterday afternoon, I was playing with the pup on the stairs to the basement. Aslan was at the head of the stairs. I think Pax ran into the middle. Aslan growled, but Pax was RIGHT THERE in a small space. Aslan jumped him, and I reacted by standing and reaching out to separate them.
Aslan nailed me at least three times. To be honest, I don’t remember exactly how many times he bit me. I know I was darn thankful that I was wearing a heavy long-sleeve fleece. Great Pyrs have a very hard, crushing bite — he’s a livestock guardian breed used for predator control. His bite style was developed to be used against animals that were going to fight back and try to kill him.

I got hold of their collars and managed to separate them. Aslan didn’t bite me “accidentally.” Dogs know EXACTLY where their mouths are and what they’re doing with them. He was telling me to get out of his way because he was going after Pax. I was able to get them apart though, and neither redirected their aggression to me. (That’s really important. Had he redirected to me in that situation, not only would I have been injured far worse, I would be truly frightened of him and the situation. Our problem would be much, much more serious.)

Adrenaline or endorphins kept the bites from hurting much. I was actually surprised he broke the skin, but he did. He got the side of my hand at an angle, so there’s a groove, rather than a puncture. I went down to my doctor’s office and got it cleaned up. He wanted to put in a couple of stitches, but I opted for the tape stuff. I’m not worried about a scar, and I want it to be able to drain.

It bled a fair amount initially. I still had Aslan’s collar, so my white dog had blood all over him. I told Jay on the phone not to be worried by the blood on Aslan — it was mine, not his. Somehow, that didn’t reassure him.

Anyway, I’m not terribly concerned. I’d hoped to avoid an actual fighting incident, but I stopped it quickly. Now the big dogs are separated. Aslan is very stressed, and we’ll work on that. It will take some time for the household to return to normal — it’s stressful on everyone when a new one comes home — but it will happen. I just need to take steps to minimize stress and prevent incidents until then.

I suppose the worst of it, from my perspective is that I got nothing accomplished yesterday. I worked until 3, and then almost immediately got bitten and lost the rest of the afternoon dealing with it. By evening, I was mostly concerned with keeping the puppy awake, so we’d all get some sleep last night.

Guess what? It worked! TenTen and I went to bed at 8. She slept without needing to potty until Jay came up at 2:30. He took her out, and she slept until 5:30. I took her out, and then took a chance on putting her back to bed. She slept again until 7!

Working in drive

I found that when I introduced toys into the equation, any memory of working with the poles flew right out of Pax’s head. All he was focused on was the BALL. He was more than willing to run out to get me to throw the ball — I taught that a long time ago — but the concept of running through the poles just seemed to elude him. He was getting really frustrated with the low rate of reinforcement. I realized I was going to have to start from scratch if I wanted him running through the poles in anticipation of a thrown toy.

Then I started wondering… Is that what I want? I am not ever going to be competitive at agility. I am overweight, clumsy, and slow. I’d like to qualify, yes, but I don’t need really fast times. In fact, I’d be running mostly AKC agility (because that’s the most common around here), and AKC favors precision and control over speed anyway. The last thing in the world I need is a really fast dog!

So do I need to train Pax to blow through the weaves at top speed? Do I need to use a thrown toy? Will it bite me in the butt later if I don’t use a thrown toy for this obstacle?

Honestly, I don’t have a good answer to that. Clearly, I can see a HUGE benefit to using thrown toys as reinforcers in agility.

In the meantime, I found a happy medium between food and tennis balls: a tug toy. Yesterday I went up to Monroe to get some food for the boys, and I found a great tug toy. It comes in various sizes, but the puppy size seemed absolutely perfect for tugging as it’s done in agility. Pax went absolutely nuts for it. So nuts that I heard him whining during the evening, and when I went to find him, he was lying near where I’d put the toy, gazing longingly in its direction. And yet, when I used tugging as a reward with the poles, he was better able to concentrate than he was when I used a thrown tennis ball.

I *still* need to start from scratch, because his arousal level is totally different than with food, but it seems like it’s a more manageable level than it would be if I continued using tennis balls.

Just wish I knew whether that was going to bite me in the butt later.

Equipment on the cheap and fun with toys

Lots of people build their own agility equipment using PVC, and there are plans for jumps and such all over the Internet. I was surfing around yesterday, and I came across an idea I can’t wait to put into use.

Instead of using different fittings and different lengths of PVC to build each jump standard and make it steady, I’m going to stick a spike in the ground a few inches and then put a length of PVC over it, so the spike makes the PVC stand straight. Make sense? So one spike and one 36″ length of 1″ PVC is all I need to make the side of a jump OR a weave pole AND I can also use a 36″ length of PVC as bars on the jumps.

So… Last night Jay and I went to Lowe’s. I bought ten iron spikes and four 10′ lengths of PVC, which I will cut into 12 (3 each) 36″ poles. From that I can use six spikes and six poles to make a set of weave poles, and then the remaining four spikes and six poles will make two jumps. (Each jump has two standards and a single bar.)

So I got a set of weave poles and two jumps for $50!

Those jumps, you might note, have no jump cups. No problem! I found online a product called “jump cup strips.” They slide onto 1″ PVC, and have premeasured, affixed jump cups. The cool thing about those is that I can slide them on and off, which means I can choose to dismantle my weave poles and create two more jumps and then just as easily convert them back into weave poles!

Jump cups are on order. Hoping Jay will cut my PVC for me soon.

Also did some training with Pax yesterday. I had Jay buy some tennis balls for me. Tennis balls don’t hold up to a lot of chewing from the dogs, but I plan to use these ONLY for agility, so they should be fine. I set up my “weave pole entries” outside. In the first session, Pax was more focused on those balls than those poles, but clearly he thought about it last night, because this morning he had it figured out: Run through the poles, and Mom throws a ball! He was even bringing the ball back to me.

I think I’ll wait until I get my PVC poles before I introduce the second set. I need to “reproof” going through the poles at different angles now that I’m using the toy because his drive is so much higher. I probably can’t do sharp angles until I get the PVC poles, because the ones I’m using now can be easily knocked over.

Oh, I watched a video called “Agility Foundation Training” by Greg Derrett. Loved it! I need to rewatch and take very specific notes. It introduces some awesome behaviors I can work on before starting my class in September. There’s another video series by Susan Salo on jumping that I’d like to work with, but it costs $70, and I’m not ready to spring for that yet.

Weave pole entries

The first step in Susan Garrett’s method of teaching weaves is to teach the entry. She does this with two poles. Just two, set 20 inches apart. She shapes the dog to run through them, and then varies the approach and her position relative to them.

I worked on that with Pax last week. We worked down in the basement… I just sat on the steps and used food. It took him a little while to figure out exactly what I wanted, but he started catching on, and the mistakes got fewer and fewer. Friday was a really good day… but then I was busy all day Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday night Pax was begging for attention, so I grabbed the tuna brownies and headed to the basement. He was soooo excited! He was RUNNING those poles, and making almost no mistakes. It was so cool! He did so well. My brilliant boy. He was in such a great mood and so happy that I had time to play with him.

I don’t have a second set of poles to use in the basement, so I couldn’t move to step two in Susan’s method. So I decided to move the poles I had. Early this morning I took them outside, and we did a session on the deck. Then at lunch we went out into a section of the front yard.

Front gate was standing open AND I put the poles right where a herd of deer had run through a little while before, but still he stuck with me. He was distracted, yes, but it wasn’t a bad session at ALL considering the level of distraction. I’m going to get Jay to buy me some tennis balls I can throw as rewards until I condition a good tug toy that he’ll bring back to me. One or two more sessions out in the yard, and then move to step two.

I need a good place away from the house to work occasionally. I’m pretty sure Joene wouldn’t mind if I popped over and practiced in her yard. I need to start practicing basic obedience stuff in shopping center parking lots and at PetSmart again, just to get Pax’s mind back in the training game when we’re away from home. I don’t know any good off-leash places to work him though. I’m not a fan of dog parks. I don’t hate them, but they’re not especially safe. There’s a private one in Duvall though. Maybe that would be okay — fewer dogs, more supervision (I hope), and better screening.

I think I’ll start on the target training for the contacts today too.

A PAX for Pax?

Last weekend I attended an agility trial and found out there’s an agility title called a PAX — Preferred Agility Excellent. Excellent is the highest level of AKC agility, but Preferred is a lower jump height. I would soooo love to put a PAX on Pax. Wouldn’t that be seriously cool?

I’ve attended enough of these things that I’m finally convinced to take a class with Pax. The two classes nearest me both start their foundation classes in September. I sent in a registration for Pax at The Dog Works. Haven’t heard yet if there was space in the class. Hope so!

I don’t know how they teach weaves and contacts (and they, annoyingly, haven’t returned the e-mail I sent that asked). I want to use Susan Garrett’s and Greg Derrett’s methods. Joene told me today that Argus Ranch down in Auburn teaches according to their methods, but that’s wayyy to far for me. I’m hoping Joene will transfer down there, and then she can teach me what I need to know!

Since I have a couple of months before Pax’s class begins, I’m going to work on teaching weaves and contacts the way Susan Garrett outlines in her book, Shaping Success. I’ve been working on weave entrances down in the basement. At this point I’m just using a set of two poles. I’m varying their angle relative to me, their distance to me, and my position relative to them. I haven’t been keeping formal records — bad me!! — but it has been fun watching Pax figure out what I want him to do. He just wasn’t getting it initially, but his correct percentage is much, much higher now — consistently so.

Eventually I’ll add a second set of two and teach the “2×2” method that Susan Garrett invented. (At least I think she did. That’s certainly where I learned it.) I’m going to wait until I have the two pretty solid in the basement before I take it outside. When I go outside, I’m going to be working on speed using a thrown toy.

That’s another thing I need to work on before the class: I need to condition a motivating toy and teach him to play with it *with me*. That’s the crux — he likes to run around with his toys. This has to be a toy we play with together, even if I throw it. And he needs a solid “take it” and “out.” It’ll be fun!

Agility fun!

I had the BEST time today. My friend Joene and I went to an agility match in Monroe. We’re both new to the sport. She has been taking classes with her Australian Shepherd for about three months, and I’ve never taken classes — so though we’ve attended a few matches together, we’re newbies.

I tell you — agility people sure are friendly and welcoming. Everyone we spoke to was just super! They were more than happy to answer questions or talk about their dogs. Lots of different breeds of all shapes and sizes were represented — and all different shapes, sizes, and ages of handlers as well! There were lots of handlers as overweight as I was, and many, if not most of the handlers, were over 40.

The highlight of the day was meeting Ric, the man who owns Agility A Go Go, a local (to the area) business that sells agility equipment. What a nice, generous man! He gave us lots of insider information, sat ringside with us and told us more about the dogs and handlers, AND put us to work! Joene and I both took a turn at being a timekeeper for a class. Let me tell you, that’s a great way to learn more about the sport and to meet even more people.

Well, Joene finally convinced me — I’m going to enroll Pax in an agility class. There’s a place in Monroe called “The Dog Works” that was highly recommended at the show. Their next beginning agility class doesn’t start until September, but they have an obedience class starting July 14. That will get me and Pax back in the swing.

I’m looking forward to it! Now I just need to figure out how to convince Jay that we NEED agility equipment….

Pax

I have stressed out my family.

Pax spent most of Saturday afternoon outside. I noticed he wasn’t around, but didn’t think anything of it until he came in around dinner time. All I had to do was look at him to see that he didn’t feel good. He lay down and didn’t even lift his head when I called him for dinner. This is NOT normal. My dogs don’t miss meals. So I called the emergency vet, and they said to bring him in.

He was vomiting and had diarrhea, and he was dehydrated. They elected to keep him overnight to give him IV fluids. They did a fecal test, and he had a bacterial infection. They also did blood work, and it was normal except for one muscle something-or-other that the vet said could be elevated due to trauma — like getting jumped by Aslan.

While the vet and I were talking about trauma, the conversation somehow got around to stress, and he asked if Pax had been stressed lately. Are you kidding? Let’s see…

  • Massive dog fight with injuries about five weeks ago
  • Two weeks of constant management because Aslan wanted to eat him
  • A week being boarded while I was at my screenwriting class
  • A puppy brought into the house for 24 hours

On top of all that, I told the vet, I have been more stressed in the last six weeks than I’ve been in ages and ages…

  • Finishing up my job
  • Managing fighting dogs
  • Getting ready for class
  • Having to move downtown for the class, even though I really didn’t want to
  • Having to board Pax, even though I really didn’t want to
  • Long class hours
  • Bronchitis
  • Dropping class
  • Problems at work that are keeping me from getting back to work in a timely manner

The vet laughed and said that dogs don’t have issues that their owners don’t give them. I won’t go *quite* that far, but in this case, it could very well be true that all of the problems with Pax and Aslan have, ultimately, originated with me.

Of course, Pax being in the hospital didn’t help my stress level, especially when he wasn’t better on Sunday. They did x-rays… and then didn’t call me with the results. I was totally freaking out. A blockage can be life-threatening, and I really, really, really needed to know the results of those x-rays. I finally got Jay to drive over to the hospital with me.

It was good decision. Pax was fine — nothing on the x-rays — but it gave us a chance to take him for a walk and be with him for a while. Not only was that good for me, but it was good for him. He hadn’t eaten since he went to the vet, but he was willing to eat a little for me, which made the vets very happy.

They considered letting him go home with us last night, but he was still having some diarrhea, and they didn’t want us to have to manage it. So they kept him overnight one more night. He was doing well — the diarrhea tapered off, and he ate a little meal in the middle of the night… but then about two hours later he threw it up. So they were worried about sending him home again.

In the end though, we decided to go ahead and bring him home. They weren’t worried about his health — they think he’s fine, just a bug that needs to get cleaned out of his system — they were just worried that we wouldn’t be able to handle vomiting and diarrhea. Well, no worries. He has thus far been fine since he came home. He was a little subdued in the car, but when we stopped for breakfast, he was all over that idea! We gave him some bread, and then brought him home and gave him a little kibble. And a rawhide flip (which may not have been especially god for him, but he was begging for it). It’s about 1:20 now, and he has been sleeping soundly — no diarrhea or vomiting or even subdued behavior.

I’m sooo glad to have him home. Having Pax here makes me a lot less stressed!

Baby steps lead to great strides

The last few days have been wonderful.

On Saturday, I took Pax to the vet to have the sutures removed. When he came back, Aslan greeted him enthusiastically through the fence. I put a leash on Aslan, just in case, and then let them meet. They were friendly and relaxed. After a minute or so, I separated them again. I let them meet for another couple of minutes later that day, ending it when *I* got nervous. Again it went well. I went for a third time and got a little growling because Pax had a toy. Lessons learned — go slow and make sure there’s nothing high value to argue over.

Slow again on Sunday. More on Monday. By Monday evening, I was feeling pretty secure about their interactions. Though I wasn’t — and am not — ready to just turn them loose together carte blanche, I started pottying Pax by simply opening the door, not taking care to segregate Aslan first. I had to laugh though. I called them in after a run together and gave them high-value chewies. My plan was to have Pax eat his in the kitchen, but before I could direct him, the dogs took off down the stairs together. By the time I got there, they were lying, face to face, inches apart, with their chewies. I still separated them, just to be sure.

I’m still careful with some things. For example, I’ll let them into the “big” part of the kitchen where my desk is, but I block off access to the area with the food and counters. I won’t let them both in the bedroom. I feed separately, and intend to keep giving high-value chewies separately.

A little while ago I opened the front door and let them choose where they wanted to be. Pax settled on the front porch, and Aslan settled inside near me. It was cold, so I shut the door. After a few minutes, Aslan got up and went outside through the dog door. I peeked out the window to supervise his interaction with Pax. Pax remained lying down and Aslan sniffed him thoroughly — paying special attention to the places he had bitten. Then Aslan lay down beside him. I wished I had my camera! I went and sat back down and a few minutes later, they came tearing into the kitchen, just like they used to. They’re settled now — Aslan in the chair and Pax at my feet on his heated mat.

Life is getting back to normal, and I’m grateful. Only one obstacle remains. I leave on the 8th for my screenwriting class. Normally, I’d leave the dogs with Jay with no problem. However, Jay is gone 12 hours a day, and I’m not ready to turn the dogs loose together full-time. Nor can I leave Pax shut in the kitchen for 12 hours. SO… I’m going to board Pax while I’m gone. It will be stressful on all of us (except Aslan, who will be more stressed by Pax’s return than his absence), but I think it’s the best choice. It’s likely that they could be together just fine, no problems, BUT — if there were a problem, no one would be here, and the result could be tragic.

Speaking of my class, I’m going to be blogging about it, but it looks like I’ll be able to upload the posts only on Sundays. So each Sunday, there will be a week’s worth of posts. I’ll put up a reminder later.

It

Pax is an “it.”

I had Pax neutered on Thursday. Aslan was — and still is — growling at him every time he saw him, loathe to give up the dispute. I’m hoping, though, that once the testosterone is completely out of the picture, life will get back to normal between them. I hope. Especially since, as my manager said, Pax had to lose his manhood over it.

Pax was neutered on Thursday, spent the night at the vet, and came home on Friday. He spent that day sleeping under my desk, calm and quiet. He didn’t seem especially sore, and he wasn’t licking the incision site, but he was a bit subdued. Last night he willingly crawled up to cuddle with us before going to sleep. This is remarkable because Pax is NOT a nighttime cuddler. When he goes to bed, he wants to go to sleep. He will, in fact, get up and leave if you insist on petting him after he has gone to bed.

But last night, he crawled up and asked for cuddles. And then, when we were done, and I tucked my arms back under the blanket, he punched me with his paw. I reached out and petted him again, and then took my hand away. Punch. Okayyyy. I shifted positions so I could comfortably rest a hand on him. This neediness was the only sign of stress I’ve seen.

Today Pax announced that he was BORED with lying in the kitchen. I actually got out some treats and did a short training session with him, and that sacked him out for a while. This afternoon Jay and I went shopping, and I bought the dogs some new toys from PetSmart and some marrow bones. Pax is pleased with his big red Clifford dog, and he spent some time with a bone, but he says he’s still bored.

I really hope these two dogs forget about this fight soon, so the house can get back to normal!