161 posts tagged german shepherd
Batman vs. the Fly
I was getting Batman some water at the park. A woman and her three Yorkies, each dressed in pink and purple sweaters, were on the other side of the fence. The Yorkies were all barking at Batman, but he ignored them. (Small dogs mystify Batman, so he generally ignores them.)
Then a Doberman passed by, and Batman barked and lunged at him. I told him to knock it off, and put him in a down stay.
The woman complimented how good Batman was. Considering that he had just barked and lunged at that Doberman, I wondered what her definition of “good” was. But I took the compliment and told her we were still doing a lot of training.
She chuckled and said, “Oh, I never train my dogs. I have three dogs! It’s too much work!”
I looked her right in the face and said, “I am so jealous.” And I sincerely meant it.
I can’t even imagine what life would be like if I didn’t have to train my dog, if my main concern before going to the park every morning was color-coordinating my dog’s sweater — it would be amazing, and not just because Batman looks fantastic in a sweater.
I would have so much free time! I could learn a new language! Teach myself how to play guitar! Take pictures of all my shoes and tape them to corresponding shoe boxes!
Oh, what a life I would have. As it is, we have CGC class on Tuesdays, Precision Heeling on Thursdays, practice and training and exercise every day, and my shoes are tangled up in one giant Rubbermaid bin on the floor.
Guess those guitar lessons are going to have to wait.
After being in the Bay area for a few days, I decided not to take Batman to SF for the weekend, and instead opted to head back home. The thought of checking-in to a new hotel, navigating an unfamiliar neighborhood, finding the best walking route for him to potty, dodging all the hobos and mumblers and yappy dogs of SF along the way — it didn’t sound like a fun adventure anymore. It sounded pretty damn stressful. So we went home to regroup.
Batman has been a little edgy over the last two weeks, and I think being on the road so much is a contributing factor. Or maybe it’s just hormones. My friend reminded me that, at nearly 18 months, Batman is like a moody, hormonal teenager. This is a pretty fair assessment.
My question is, when does it get easy? When can I relax a little? Batman is such a good dog and has a super temperament, but I wouldn’t call him an “easy” dog. He really keeps me on my toes. Some days it feels easy, but lately, it feels hard. It feels like work. I hate that feeling.
For example, going on a walk. Batman was pretty good about loose lead walking in DC. Now, he’s all over the place. So we have to go back and train that again.
Also, reactivity to other dogs. I really thought this was a brief phase that passed months ago, but over the last two weeks, it’s flared-up again. So I have to work on that, too.
I just wonder where all the training and socialization went, exactly. Did it just vanish? Did a Golden Retriever come by and steal it? I’m not talking about a puppy class or two, I’m talking about hundreds of hours of classes and private lessons and socialization, and continual exposure to new and different people, places and things; I’m talking about countless hours of me “being more interesting than X,” and engaging him with fetch and tug and a psychotically cheerful voice.
I have to keep the faith that all of this work is going to pay off at some undisclosed point in the future. I have to believe that my dog is suffering a temporary bout of amnesia, which his breeder tells me is not uncommon at his age. Still, I get the sinking feeling that we’re backsliding, and I can’t help but feel a little disheartened. For now, I’m putting our competition goals on the back burner and working on the basics. Again.
I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m sure (well, like, 98 percent sure) I will, and one day — someday — it will get easy. Or at least easier.
I will let you know.
Batman and i are traveling again this week, and will be away for 4-5 days. Because of his allergies, it takes a bit of planning to get all of his meals together, but saves a lot of time and grief later. I have a pretty good routine established for preparing his meals in advance of our road trips.
Materials: Food and supplements, scale, styrofoam meat trays (preferably all the same size), plastic wrap, Sharpie, Ziplocs.
1. I make all his food, and portion each meal by weight on a styrofoam tray.
2. I add his herbal supplements, probiotics, enzymes, and anything else that doesn’t have to be added fresh, and Saran wrap the tray.
3. I Ziploc the correct portion of Sojos (dehydrated veggies) and place the baggie on top of the wrapped tray.
4. I take a second styrofoam tray of the same size and use it as a lid for the meal, like a clamshell, and wrap the whole bundle. I label the day and meal contents with a Sharpie, noting what still needs to be added. When you’re 4-5 days in, this really helps jog your memory.
5. Finally, I pack everything up in a soft cooler with freezer packs on the bottom. If all your trays are uniform, it packs up a lot neater.
And that’s that. Time to hit the road!
Batman has been doing much better since I took him in to see the holistic vet last month. In the last 4 weeks, his allergy symptoms have almost disappeared, and he’s regained most of the weight he’d lost over the 3 months when his itchiness seemed out of control.
To mark his progress, I did what any normal, well-adjusted, not-at-all-crazy dog person would do. I made a chart.
On the chart, I marked events (yellow lines) that coincided with inflection points, and found a couple interesting patterns.
- Following each round of antibiotics, his itch level (red line) drops dramatically, but then spikes right back up after a few weeks.
- He did really well on Answers Raw Pork. It’s difficult to find here and a little pricey, but I would consider putting him back on it if needed.
The Plan: Since seeing the holistic vet in late January, he’s been on a cooked homemade diet of 1/3 each meat, brown rice and veggies. The meat is either turkey (organic, from the grocery) or rabbit (Stella and Chewy’s), both of which are cooling proteins by the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The brown rice is the kind we get from the Korean grocery, usually organic, but not always. The veggies I like to make by pulverizing greens and berries in the Vitamix; again, these are organic when possible. If I’m on the road, I use Sojo’s.
He’s been on two TCM herbal supplements, GI Tonic and Gentiana Compound, that supposedly reduce the amount of damp heat in the body. Honestly, if you’d told me that this Chinese stuff would work a few months ago, I would’ve had a hard time believing it. But now I’m definitely a believer.
For supplements, he gets probiotics and enzymes, bone meal for calcium, a vitamin/mineral mix, and cod liver oil or flax oil. For protein supplements, he gets a rotating daily mix-in of 4-6 ounces of sardines, beef heart, beef liver, chicken gizzards, and hard boiled eggs.
He’s a fairly active dog and gets around 4 lbs (equivalent to about 2,500 calories) a day. This is a lot of food, but he’s quite lean, and we’re still trying to put a little weight on him. When the vet gives us the OK, I plan to transition back to raw. Right now, he’s doing so well on a cooked diet, I don’t want to switch until he’s 100 percent ready.
We took the Batdog to explore wine country over the weekend. Stayed at the Napa River Inn, one of our favorite dog-friendly hotels ever.
Played fetch in the vineyards.
Do you think he wants the ball?
“Where’s MY chardonnay?”
A Bay area weekend wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Crissy Field dog beach.
I thought Batman might like the waves a little better this time…
… but, as you can see, I was wrong.
“No thank you, waves!”
Packing for our hike last week, I realized that the only first aid kit I had was for the dog. Over time, I’ve accepted the fact that if something were to happen to Batman on our travels, I’d be well-prepared with an 18-piece kit; whereas, if something happened to me, I’d just curl up helplessly and die.
In an effort to improve my fate, I put together a basic first aid kit that the dog can carry on our hikes for the both of us. The whole kit weighs exactly 1 pound and takes up half the space of a gallon-size Ziploc. I used mini travel bottles to store liquids, pill pouches for meds, and even found a good use for those plastic roll thingies that poop bags are wrapped around — they’re great for making mini rolls of duct tape.
My first aid kit includes:
- Assorted bandaids
- Blister relief pads
- Sterile gauze wrap
- Butterfly closures
- Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting if Batman eats poison)
- Witch hazel
- Styptic powder
- Q-tips and cotton balls
- Alcohol cleaning pads
- Wet Ones antibacterial wipes
- All-natural bug repellant wrist band
- Cortizone Quick Shot for itch relief
- Aspirin, Pepto, Benedryl and Gas-X (for bloat)
- Technu poison ivy scrub
- Pawz disposable dog boots
- Emergency whistle (I like Fox40 the best)
- Mini Maglite
- Disposable water bowl
- Duct tape (always carry duct tape!)
- Thermal blanket
I also carry an extra leash that can double as a tourniquet because my war zone medical training has left me paranoid about the dangers of massive blood loss.
On our last hike:
This is a long post about Batman’s allergy issues that I’ve been meaning to write for some time. We’re starting to see some improvement with the help of a holistic vet, using Chinese herbal remedies and food therapy. I know allergies affect a lot of pets these days, particularly German Shepherds, and I hope our experience proves helpful to others.
This all started about 4 months ago, while we were still in DC. Batman developed an ear infection (yeast and bacterial) that spread to his upper body and back. He was treated with antibiotics, and the infection went away. However, he continued to scratch and started developing hotspots, and would stink within a day of getting a bath. He’d just turned 1, and up until this point had almost no health issues.
But after that first ear infection, his health problems seemed to snowball. He started dropping weight, losing 13lbs in 3 months. He kept getting itchier, losing hair on his beautiful ears, and his coat grew dull, flaky and smelly.
It doesn’t seem to be a hereditary issue; his littermates are doing fine. My suspicion is that environmental toxins in DC (bad air and water quality, pesticides, and other pollutants) played a role. I don’t think any of Batman’s littermates were raised in an urban environment, so that seems to be the most obvious explanatory variable.
Since we moved to CA, it’s gotten better, but the infections keep recurring. I get the sense that we’re stuck in a cycle, and conventional veterinary medicine can no longer prescribe us out of it. This is no disrespect to any of our DVMs, I just feel that we need to attack this from a different angle, and we’ve reached the upper limit of what conventional veterinary medicine can do for us.
We’ve taken a long and frustrating route to get here, which I detail below. You’ll have to scroll down to get to the holistic intervention – we’ve had so many vet visits and prescriptions, it’s easiest to list them chronologically:
October 1, 2012 – Weight: 82lbs. Lab tests reveal bacterial and yeast infections in Batman’s ears, likely resulting from his birthday swim trip (this is how I learned that you must always clean out your dog’s ears after swimming). He’s lost a lot of hair on his ears (alopecia), especially on the edges. Vet prescribes Mometamax ear drops and Cephalexin oral antibiotics, and oral Ivermectin for possible mange. I switch his diet from Honest Kitchen Love (beef) to HK Zeal (whitefish).
October 15, 2012 – Weight: 79lbs. Vet gives Batman a clean bill of health. Ear infection is gone, though he still has alopecia on his ears, and mange spots on his muzzle.
November 2, 2012 – I notice that he is itching and chewing himself on his sides, and developing hotspots. I call the vet, and they give me a cone for him, and tell me to call if it gets worse. I switch him from HK Zeal to Primal Raw Beef and Lamb formulas.
November 12, 2012 – Weight: 75lbs. Back to the vet for a skin scraping, which comes back negative for mites. Vet thinks it is allergies and recommends giving Benedryl. Vet prescribes Temaril-P, a steroid, which I (thankfully) do not administer.
November 22, 2012 – Tired of wasting good Benedryl on Batman, I switch his diet to Primal Raw Turkey and Sardines. I also start giving him filtered or bottled water instead of tap water.
November 27, 2012 – IS: 8. I go to a holistic pet boutique and talk to the owner about Batman’s condition. She recommends Answers Raw Pork and raw goat’s milk, so I switch him again. She said I need to be patient, and it will take a few weeks before I should expect to see changes. I start keeping a journal to track his food and supplements, and give each day an “Itch Score” (IS) on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being itch-free, and 10 being non-stop itching.
December 3, 2012 – IS: 6. Itching has gone down a little, but there are five new hotspots on Batman’s back and sides. I consult with a friend for homeopathic recommendations, and start administering thuja and rhus tox on his gums for the next week. I wash all of his bedding in plain water in case he’s reacting to detergent residue, and sell all the rugs in the house (we’re in the process of moving). I also increase his exercise to 90 minutes a day.
December 6, 2012 – IS: 2. The least amount of scratching in months. He has two new hotspots on his thigh, but I see light at the end of the tunnel. Not sure if it’s the raw pork or increased exercise or homeopathic remedies, but something is helping.
December 17, 2012 – IS: 4. We start our cross-country drive, and I have to take him off the Answers Raw Pork. I put him on OC Rabbit.
December 20, 2012 – IS: 7. He is getting abrasions on his ears from itching them so much. I suspect the ear infection is back and administer Mometamex. Switch to Primal Raw Venison since we’re on the road, and I have to get whatever I can find. I thought venison would be a good novel protein (this is totally wrong, btw).
December 23, 2012 – IS: 7. Made it to California. I start him on a 2-week raw pork and zucchini elimination diet.
December 24, 2012 – Weight: 69lbs. IS: 8. I take him to a new vet because his ear infection looks like it’s getting worse. She confirms that he has become resistant to the Mometamex and prescribes Posatex. I’m shocked to discover that Batman has lost 13lbs in the last 3 months. I up his food to 2lbs per day.
January 8, 2013 – Weight: 70lbs. IS: 7. I take him to another vet for his Distemper and Parvo 3-year vaccine, and also for a second opinion on his continually itchy skin. She prescribes another round of antibiotics (Cephalexin) because the yeast infections on his body are back. The vet isn’t concerned about his weight, but I am and increase his food to 2.25 lbs per day. He’s on a homemade raw beef and veggies diet.
January 14, 2013 – IS: 3. Antibiotics are kicking in.
January 25, 2013 – IS: 8. I made the mistake of giving Batman processed treats, Natural Balance Lamb, earlier in the week and he’s paying for it now. I later discover that NB Lamb is the worst possible treat I could have fed him.
January 28, 2013 – Weight: 72lbs. IS: 7. I take Batman to a holistic vet, who is a licensed DVM, acupuncturist and practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). She also has over a decade of experience working with German Shepherds as a U.S. Army veterinarian. We like her. She has a plan for us:
- Eliminate all foods that cause a heating response in the body. This includes venison, lamb, beef and buffalo. Venison and lamb are particularly heating. Since Batman has a condition of damp heat, he should be fed a diet of cooling proteins. She recommended turkey or rabbit. Duck and fish are also cooling proteins.
- Cook his food. The vet recommends the raw diet to healthy dogs, but Batman is not healthy enough to process the pathogens in raw meat right now. Meat should be cooked through slowly at a low temperature and served at room temperature or warmer. Vet recommends Stella and Chewy’s Rabbit frozen patties, cooked at 350 degrees, or cooking organic turkey or rabbit from the butcher. I start with turkey because it’s more affordable and easier to find, but will try S&C Rabbit next week.
- Reduce the amount of meat, and add brown rice and veggies. Feed a ratio of 1/3 cooked meat, 1/3 brown rice, and 1/3 veggies (Sojo’s and Honest Kitchen make good veggie mixes), and feed him more because he needs to gain at least 5lbs. When he’s underweight, it’s even harder for his immune system to recover.
- Hold off on all vaccines until he is healthy.
- Continue to supplement with Omega3s, probiotics and enzymes.
- Wash his ears with a 50/50 solution of Bragg’s apple cider vinegar (ACV) once per week.
- Bathe, at most, once every 3 weeks (the dog, that is).
It’s only been 5 days, and I’ve already seen an improvement. Batman is noticeably less itchy, and his ears are looking better. My parents noticed that he doesn’t smell as bad, even though I haven’t given him a bath in 2 weeks. His skin is less flaky. He’s definitely gaining weight (I’ve upped his food to 3lbs with a target of about 1,800 calories per day, not including training treats) — he’s still very trim, but looks healthier.
I’m optimistic that we’ll kick this thing without the use of more antibiotics and drugs. I made a table to keep track of his food intake, supplements and how he’s doing on the IS scale everyday. We’ll see the vet again in a week for a progress report. Hopefully I’ll have good news after that.
Hey, look what came in the mail!
ESPN’s “The Perfect Issue,” featuring my team quarterback!
Wait, that’s not Alex Smith… Who the hell is that? Colin Ka-Kaep-Kaeper — oh this is too hard.
Maybe I should eat him! Bet he’s tasty.
On second thought, let me sniff his crotch first. Hmm, he seems OK.
Now can I eat him?
Boy, I hope Justin Smith is healthy on Sunday.
One of the many cool people in class got some shots of me and Batman training last week. The first one is my favorite. I love this face — always trying to figure out what I’m asking of him.
ME is helping me with food luring. Alas, there is only so much that even he can do.
Practicing the recall out in the field. It was raining that day. That’s the rule, the one day you do outdoor drills is the day it rains.
I don’t care how friendly your dog is, or where you are, or what you’re doing, if your dog isn’t solid on recall, you need to put a leash on him. Period. If you want him to be able to run free, use a drag line.
I like to use a 6-ft, thin nylon lead with the loop cut out (don’t want to get a paw stuck in the handle) on Batman when we’re training in the park, and other dogs are around. I call it his cat leash.
Sometimes I use a 15-ft drag line that trails him like a ribbon and just practice recall exercises with him. He is very solid on the recall, but no dog is perfect.
What infuriates me is when people let their dogs off leash and ignore them because, “Oh, don’t worry, he’s friendly!”
Um, I don’t care how friendly your dog is, I just want him to stop humping my leg and/or bouncing all over my dog. Also, what if my dog isn’t friendly? Jesus, people are dumb.
For example, the other day, I was playing fetch with Batman in a huge park, and a dripping wet Golden Retriever got super excited and jumped all over me. Which is great because I love being body slammed by a big wet dog, who wouldn’t? Smells awesome.
Batman, as usual, ignored the other dog, and waited for me to keep playing fetch. I did my best to deter the dog by turning my back to him, but those damn Golden Retrievers are so fucking friendly, they just won’t take no for an answer. I mean, have some self-respect, dog.
This went on for a few annoying minutes, while the owners (there were two equally ineffective owners for this one dumbass Golden, WTF) tried calling him back to them, then nervously laughed while he repeatedly ignored them and continued to body slam me. I almost wish he had bitten me instead, so that I’d have a reason to kick him in the face. Sorry I’m not sorry.
Anyway, the Golden eventually jumped up and landed on Batman’s head. Batman then pulled him down on the ground by the scruff, basically telling him to knock it off. The Golden yelped and wriggled helplessly. NOW the owners start to pay attention. I pulled Batman off, told him to heel, and we went to a different part of the park, while the Golden’s owners finally had the good sense to control their dog.
This happens all the time. Dogs love to jump all over me. Maybe it’s because they have doggy sense and know I’m rad. More likely it’s because my pants usually smell like chicken liver. Whatever it is, it’s getting to the point where I instinctively block them to get away from Batman, even if I’m the target, just to avoid any unpleasant run-ins. Because you know if anything happens, it doesn’t matter who started it, it’s always the German Shepherd’s fault.
Batman models his cat leash.
We took Batman to the dog beach at Crissy Field this weekend — it was his first time seeing the ocean. We assumed that he would love the beach since water is his favorite. Nope! Batman spent most of the day approaching the waves, then running the hell away from them. Big baby.
Today, we went hiking up Mt. Tamalpais. We took the long route. It was about 11 miles round trip. I thought my legs were going to fall off. We put a backpack on Batman and let him carry the water. He did great.
I had plenty of treats on me, and I used the hike to help teach him that bikers were cool. Whenever a biker approached, I told him, “WATCH,” and made him watch me. At first I had him stay still while the bikers passed, but as I gained more confidence, I had him watch me while we walked in heel position. As soon as the biker passed us, I said, “YES!” and gave him a treat. We passed well over 100 bikers today (not kidding — Mt. Tam is a very popular trek). By the end of the hike, Batman would spot the bikers before I did and reflexively turn his head to watch me for a treat. This is exactly what I wanted to happen. Victory!
The view from the top of Mt. Tam.
We stayed at the Kimpton Harbor Court. I’d stay there again in a second. I really like Kimpton hotels in general — accommodations are always classy, fairly priced, and they don’t charge you a pet fee. They even set up a doggie dish and bed for Batman. I used the bed for a photo op, then asked them to remove it from the room. Batman sleeps in his travel crate, and I didn’t want him eating the bed.
The hotel lobby had a little chalkboard to welcome the pet guests. Very cute, even though Batman’s name was kinda smushed into the dog’s crotch area.
Today was easily my favorite day of class so far because we began incorporating play as a reward. I am significantly better at playing tug with my dog than I am at delivering food as a reward. (I should note that I’m not actually that good at playing tug with my dog, I’m just exceptionally bad at delivering treats.)
Anyway, ME went over the usefulness of playing tug (or other games like fetch, if your dog doesn’t like tug) in obedience training:
- For dogs that like to play, a game of tug is a high value reward. It’s super motivating.
- It provides interactive physical exercise for your dog. All dogs need exercise. You can let your dog exercise by chasing squirrels in the backyard, taking him on your usual walk down the block, OR you can play a game with your dog that makes you an essential part of the fun, like tug or fetch. These kinds of games are preferable because they’re something that your dog does with you. They help improve your relationship with your dog.
- Through meaningful play, your dog learns to listen while he’s aroused or excited. With toys, you can teach your dog impulse control in a safe way. A dog that has practice listening to you when he’s excited is much more likely to do so in real life. If you can teach your dog to wait while you throw the ball, or to peel off in the middle of chasing a ball to come back to you, it’s much more likely that he’ll listen to you if you need to recall him from chasing a squirrel into oncoming traffic.
I really like the way ME explained all this. (You may want to see some of his video clips for more detail since my typing fingers are a little tired today.) He said it’s important to identify what type of dog you have. Does he like biting and tugging? Retrieving? Chasing? Possessing or holding the toy?
Batman is all of the above. He probably likes tug and chasing the best. I’ve been using his beloved ball on a rope for the last 6 months, but I learned that my technique is pretty crappy (too much flinging), so I put the ball away until I establish the fundamentals. In class, ME showed me how to play with Batman using a leather tug. I was surprised by how much easier it was, and how quickly he got into it, considering we’ve barely played with a tug at all.
ME said Batman was easy to tug with because he already wants to pull back against you. You can just let him pull without using a lot of energy to get him to hang on, since he’s already clamped on for dear life and not moving his mouth around. I didn’t fully understand what ME meant by “easy,” seeing how I was winded and sweaty after playing for 5 minutes. I guess I need to work on my cardio.
I also need to work on my presentations, to jump back and use my arms to jump the tug straight up towards my chest.
Michael: You want to go, “YES,” step back, and at the same time pop the tug with your hands towards your body.
Me: I think I’m just afraid of launching him into my face.
Michael: You’re not really bringing it to your face, you’re bringing it to your breasts.
Me: Oh, OK, that’s much better.
One important mistake I made during his early training was the way I taught the “out” command when he was a puppy. I said “out,” then lifted him up slowly by the collar until he dropped the toy. ME said this technique was designed in police work by people who actually didn’t want the dog to let go. Lifting up increases the dog’s intensity for the toy and causes them to grip harder until they can’t get air, so they must let go. By doing this, you’re actually undoing the out command while you’re teaching it because the dog’s instinct is to grip it harder.
Instead, you should immobilize the toy and take the life out of it, then wait patiently for the dog to take his mouth off it. ME said the longest he had to wait was 45 minutes. Don’t even say “out” when you’re teaching this. Wait until he outs it reliably when you immobilize the toy, then add the command. Otherwise, your dog will just learn to ignore the word “out.” It’s really hard to immobilize a ball on a rope because the dog can rotate it in his mouth and self-satisfy. ME recommends using tugs first to teach the dog the basics.
But it’s important not to discourage your dog with too many rules too soon. There has to be a balance between control (yours over the dog) and passion for play. If your dog doesn’t out the toy immediately right away, that’s OK. You can teach that later. The important thing is to get your dog to want to play with you and find the game rewarding. If there are too many rules too early (i.e. your dog never gets to “win” the toy, he has to out it on an instant, must bring it back immediately, etc.), it’s not fun and your dog might quit. After your dog learns the basics, then you can start enforcing the rules.
This surprised me a little. If you look at ME’s dogs, they’re top performers in ring sports, undertake these crazy-hard tasks, and out their toys beautifully. So to hear that he encourages a certain measure of laxness during play was surprising and heartening. If you watch ME’s interactions with his own dogs, you see that you don’t have to be a drill sergeant all the time in order to get your dog to respect you and compete well at the highest levels.
Finally, ME gave his view on squeaky toys, which I saved for last because it may be the ONE subject where I’ve been doing everything right all along — he discourages using them because the toy delivers a perfectly-timed and satisfying reaction (squeak!) when a dog bites it. If a puppy is raised on squeaky toys, he learns to chomp (not conducive to a firm grip) to get a reaction, so when you start playing tug, you have to teach him not to munch on the thing. I’d never thought of that, I just didn’t let Batty play with squeakies because I can’t stand the noise.
After class, I went to a Rally Obedience run through at a local pet store. I was very motivated today. It was super distracting because they set up the course in the store, like, winding through aisles of cat food and stuff. Batman did fine, but understandably lost focus during the cat food part of the course. The trainer said I should say “NO” to him when he got distracted, but I acted like I didn’t hear her and just tried to get his attention by calling him back with pieces of string cheese. I’ve already desensitized him to the word “NO” with overuse; the last thing I want is to use it in a situation where he almost certainly will not listen. The string cheese worked its magic, and we finished the practice without much ado. I decided not to do a second run-through because both of us were too damn tired. Instead, we took a walk around the less distracting part of the store (flexi-lead and fish food aisles) and did some engagement exercises with lots of food rewards.
ME mentioned in class today that dogs often associate new places with bad things because often when you take them to a new place, they get distracted and don’t listen as well, and you correct them for it. As a result, they think new places suck because they’re getting corrected all the time. Instead, you should do your best to make it a fun experience by giving them treats and playing with them. If you make an effort to take your dog to lots of new places and ensure they have overwhelmingly positive experiences, then eventually they’ll anticipate good things at every new place they go.
Tonight my parents had Bible study at our house, which entailed the cooking of many smelly foods, and the entertaining of many boisterous Koreans.
The first guest came early. I quickly put Batman in his crate in my room, while I thought up a plan for how best to teach to this new situation. My mom decided it would be a great idea to have the new person come into the room right away, while she pointed at the dog in the crate, and encouraged the new person to stare right at him. (In my defense, this all happened very quickly and in Korean, so I was caught flat-footed.)
Anyway, Batman, of course, responded like many dogs would and barked at the stranger from his crate. I suggested that we all exit the room and let the dog settle down. After about 30 seconds, the barking stopped, and I re-entered the room alone to get ready for the rest of the evening. Banishing the dog to the crate for the night would have been fine (he loves his crate), but he wouldn’t learn anything from it, and I wanted to use this event to teach him as much as possible.
I loaded myself up with treats, let Batman out of the crate on a drag line, and had him sit calmly for me in the bedroom while new people came to the front door. This was going well, so after a few minutes, I moved him out to the hallway, about 20 feet from the front door, and put him in a down position while I tossed treats at him. I politely asked our guests to ignore him, explaining that we were training. My goal here was to get Batman to associate friendly strangers in the house as a positive thing.
After a few minutes of this, Batman was doing exactly what I wanted: paying attention to me, and remaining alert, but not reactive, when new people entered the house. So I moved him closer to the kitchen, where a group had gathered to help my mom set-up the Bible study buffet of smelly deliciousness.
He laid down and got more treats. All good. A woman came over to talk to me about her dog, a Jack Russell Terrier, who apparently had bitten one of the church members in the butt during the last Bible study at her house, ripping a big hole through the seat of her pants. The woman was obviously mortified. She pet Batman, and he looked at her, sniffed her pant leg, then totally ignored her in that special German Shepherd way.
German Shepherds, per the breed standard, are not overtly friendly. They’re neutral to strangers — they neither slobber all over them, nor do they bite them in the butt. Once they get to know you, they love you, but otherwise they leave you alone. For example, Batman acts like a big goofy puppy around my dad, who plays fetch with him when I’m out, but he generally ignores my mom, who is afraid of dogs. I really appreciate this about the breed. I don’t want my dog saying hi to every person we meet, but also want a dog that recognizes family and behaves appropriately towards them.
Through the course of the evening, I did some low-level obedience training with Batman (Sit. Stand. Down.), while our guests milled around the house. When it was time for Bible study, I took him back into my room so our guests wouldn’t have to worry about a large German Shepherd patrolling the house.
My room is the one room in the house where Batman is allowed to play with toys. The rest of the house is toy-free. This is to show a clear separation of where it’s OK to be running around (outdoors and in my room), and where he must be calm (everywhere else in the house). I let Batman chase around his Jolly Ball for a while, then he got tired, so I put him back in his crate for the night.
All in all, a good night!
First we went to the park and did some engagement training with food before playing fetch. I used this opportunity to teach Batman math: 1+1 = 2. Batman interpreted this as: “Got one. Want two.”
Then we went to the dog wash because he was getting a little ripe. He doesn’t enjoy bathtime, but he tolerates it. This is his face, tolerating it.
Finally, we went to Lowes, where I picked up some gardening gloves to protect my hands while I do food luring. I’m getting a little better at it, but my hands get too slimy and scratched up; gloves should help. We also looked at some patio furniture.
Lowes is a really good place for engagement training and socialization. It’s big and noisy, with tons of things to look at and sniff, so I made sure to break out the good treats. A good place to proof your commands. Batman did fine.
Now back home in time to watch the Niners game!