Sunday, 29 January 2012

I Pity the Fool

So there I was, finally making some progress with my 9 month old pup.  Both Cesar Millan (via TV of course), and our doggy trainer had told me that in order for me to gain the respect of  my dog, I would have to ignore him.

And I did.  I ignored him for about 1 1/2 weeks.  He had finally started listening to me in the house.  Finally, he'd drop a cushion when I told him, and finally he'd stop chewing on our plants and towels and dish cloths.  Finally.  Of course our walks were a completely different story.  We still hadn't mastered that yet.  The walks were still a nightmare, and yes, today I bought leash #9 even though we've had the pup for under 8 months!!

But, for a while, things started to take on a sunny appearance.  Then, the inevitable happened.  One perfectly normal evening, long after the last walk of the day was taken, long after he had been combed and his teeth had been brushed, he developed a limp.  It could had happened while he was chasing his tail and he slipped on the rug, or, maybe when he was taking those flying leaps off the stairs from the forth step up.  But somehow, he developed a limp out of nowhere.  He was still able to go up the stairs, and still able to go into the backyard to relieve himself, but you could tell that something was not quite right.  He slept quite well that night, but the next morning when we took him out of his crate, he would not put his foot down.  Hubby just walked him to the end of the street and back, just enough for pup to do what he had to do, and then pup slept at the top of the stairs as I got ready in the morning.

I felt really bad for the little guy, and all the "ignoring" went out the window.  All I did was pet him and kiss him and let him sit on me.  I called the vet later that morning and they suggested I keep him off his feet for the day.  If the limp persisted the next day, then I would have to take him for x-rays.  So, at lunch time, when I came home from work, instead of walking him, I let him out into the back yard, and then spent the entire hour just petting him on the floor of my living-room.  He sat on me, I held his toys while he played with them (heaven forbid the toys slipped away from him), and just spoiled him rotten.

After work, I let him sit on me again and I just pet him and pet him.  Both hubby and son told me to stop showing him so much pity.  They both told me that pity does not exist in the canine world.  Deep down, I knew they were right...but pup was just so darned cute!!!  And the poor thing, he had a limp (which, by the way, was barely noticeable by the end of the day).

The next day, the limp was all but gone.  Hubby was able to take him around the block that morning (we decided to ease him back into his long walks).  When I came home for lunch and let him out of his crate, pup was super happy to see me.  He ran up the stairs knowing that he'd be going out soon.  I decided that his walk would also just be around the block.  I didn't want to aggravate his healed limp.  The walk was terrible, one of the worst one in weeks.  Pup was pulling me and biting the leash.  He was uncontrollable.  Back in the house, he grabbed every pillow he could find and ran circles around the dining room table.  He wouldn't listen to me ordering him to drop what he had in his mouth, nor would he listen to my commands to stop.  In fact, pup wouldn't wouldn't listen to anything at all that I had to say!!!

That evening, my son and hubby gave me knowing looks.  They knew the truth...the truth that I had fought hard to resist.  By showing my puppy sympathy and pity, by caring for him and allowing him to sit on me, by showering him with affection.....I became that lesser being in pup's eyes again.  I now had to start ignoring  him all over again.  Once again, I have to start right up again...trying hard to gain his respect...

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Sunday, 22 January 2012

My Dog: The Goat of the Canine World

Hubby, son and I are the perfect dog owners!!  We've read every book, watched every Cesar Millan episode, even uploaded every Youtube funny we could see on PWD's.  In short, we've tried to do everything right!!!  Never, ever having had a dog before, somehow we found ourselves giving advice to people that had grown up with dogs!!!  (What the heck were we thinking!!)

But, there is one thing we did wrong....through no fault of our own.  But, we'll get to that later!

So, back to being perfect...faithful readers of this blog know that we walk our little 9 month old pooch a lot.  We've come to believe that we are the 1st PWD owners in history that can actually tire out the dog before we even get tired.  We try to walk and run him as much as possible.  We also have him very socialized.  He knows how to play with other dogs very well.  He can be rough when the Berneses  whack him with their giant paws, or he can be gentle when playing with the littlest Bichon Frise in the neighbourhood.

Inside the house, I have begun to encroach upon Lord and Master status.  He does listen to me MOST of the time.  However, I have noticed new baseboards being eaten up when I'm not on him 24/7.  He only eats the wood in the house when I'm home alone with him.  He does this because he associates me with wood.  Huh? You ask?  Well, I am definitely NOT lord and master on our walks.  Far from it.  When he's not biting the leash or pulling me down the icy street, he always has wood in his mouth.  In fact, he chews so much wood when he's with me, that he just sees this as normal.  Of course, the only reason I let him chew wood is because if his mouth is full of wood, then he does not bite the leash.  I know, I know, this is a terrible reason to encourage his love of the branch, but I have to tell you, at 52 lbs, he almost broke my pinky finger biting and pulling the leash.   Somehow my finger had got caught in the loop of the leash and when pup pulled hard, my finger either broke or got sprained.  Either way, it HURTS!!

So, back to the exercise.  We live in an area with many green spaces.  Now, green spaces mean lots of places for pup to run about in, but it also means a lot of vegetation.  Different types of vegetation from fir trees, to low lying shrubbery.  Now somehow, this low-lying shrubbery seems to be a favourite of my puppy. He walks up to the bushes and sniffs, tries to bite, and jumps on them.  Problem is, a lot of this shrubbery that he likes to jump on is covered in burs.  Well, take one curly coated Portuguese Water Dog, add a bush full of burs into the equation, and that equals 1 1/2 hour worth of trying to brush out all the needles.  Luckily, pup is used to being groomed because hubby brushes his coat and teeth nightly.

Now....earlier in this blog, I mentioned that we did one thing wrong through no fault of our own.  That one thing we did was use the WRONG brush on our pup.  Because pup is out a lot and gets full of burs....because pup hops through the snowbanks like a bunny....because he's always wrestling and tumbling with other dogs, and most importantly, because his puppy fur is now slowly weaving into the adult fur coming out, our little pup, the one that is so meticulously groomed every night, that same pup had to be SHAVED.  Had we used the proper brush, we would have averted this.  His belly was so full of knots, the groomer said he'd look ridiculous if she trimmed his locks but had a shorn stomach.  So, all the fur is gone.  He looks like he has a buzz cut.  Luckily, the groomer left the little poof at the end of his tail (the only tell-tale sign that he's a PWD).  So son comes home from school that day, takes one look at pup, and says, "Ugh, he looks like a goat!"  And you know, after hubby and I heard this, we've come to realize that not only does he look like a goat, but my little pup also has goat-like tendencies...eating the house room by room.

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Sunday, 15 January 2012

I'm at the End of my Leash!!!!!

So here I am again, hapless puppy owner..ooh sorry, I meant Clueless puppy owner.  We've had our 9 month old for 7 months now.  He's gone from being a terror to being one of the family (well, within reason of course..most of the humans in our family don't chew on the sofa or the baseboards..well, at least not when they're sober).

Inside the house he's a little angel.  When he's not in a deep sleep, he's usually playing with one of his toys.  Sometimes he'll curl up next to one of us and lick our hands and legs.  He loves to get pet..a lot.  Occasionally, he'll run circles around the house and try to annihilate a pillow or bedspread, but for the most part, he's pretty good.  Even when I'm alone in the house with him, he's really calmed down from that biting beastie he use to be.

 But, outside of the house, things aren't as smooth.

When hubby or son walk him, he is a dream dog.  Other owners stop and marvel at how well behaved such a young pup can be.  Total strangers stop to talk to them and ask them for the secrets to their success.  When I am holding the leash, but still walking with either hubby or son, pup may pull a bit and try to get onto every lawn within a 20 km radius, but he's still pretty much OK.  A quick tug on the leash and most times he's beside me again.  The real problem is when I walk him alone.  Without the comfort of testosterone, pup goes completely nuts.  The second the garage door opens, he tries to make a run for it.  I've learnt over the months, to make sure we don't leave the house unless he is in a completely submissive state.  Sometimes, I'll just stand there, leash in hand, the garage door up, pup and I standing on the threshold.  I won't leave until he's calm.  Luckily this no longer takes too long.  Luckier still, because with the windchill, it's been minus 30 this week.  Occasionally, my hubby will open the door leading from the garage into the home, and he'll scream out something about the house freezing up.  Of course, with my hat, earmuffs, hoodie, and hooded ski jacket, all I hear is a muffle that sounds a bit like a squeaky toy.  It's not until I notice his red face and his hand pointing to the thermostat, that I've realized I've been letting minus 30 into the house for about 10 minutes!!!  But hey, I figure that's the price to pay for leaving the comfort of my home with a calm dog.

This calmness does not last very long!!  The second the garage door is down, the leash is in pup's mouth.  There is absolutely nothing I can do about it.  He gets into this trance-like state.  His eyes glaze over.  All he sees is the leash and he must bite it.  He wraps it around his head so that I can't pull it out of his mouth.  He just growls and barks and pulls.  The only time he lets go is when he takes a moment to relieve himself.   Then it's back to all the biting and pulling.  I can't stand it.  He gets so hyper and excited when he's doing this that he will not hear any command.  I'll try using the words he knows..I'll try snapping it out of his mouth.  Nothing.  He pulls and pulls and pulls.  He pulls in front of me, he pulls next to me, he pulls behind me.  Actually, I think he's either broken or sprained my pinkie.  This happened when I was holding the looped portion of the leash and he quickly pulled without any warning.  My little finger snapped back.  This happened a week ago and it still makes a little snapping noise when I move it around.

Our walks are barely around the block.  To do the math, I'm 130 lbs.  Pup is close to 53 lbs.  When he uses all his might to yank, he propels me in every direction conceivable.  The only thing that stops him from going any further is that once he reaches the end of the leash, he flips back in the opposite direction, turning me back and forth like a weather vane!!!  When I try to reign him in, he just pulls the leash over his snout and grabs the rest of it in his mouth.  This happens every single time we go out!!!  I have come to the end of my leash at this point.  People walking past us blush when they hear the names I call him.  Logically, I know that dogs don't understand words, so my screaming at him is useless.  Also, I know that dogs sense when you've lost control, so I know it's in my best interest to remain calm.  But I just can't!!  This adorable ball of fluff has turned me into a blubbering idiot on the street.

Finally, today I had just had it!!  I knew that due to circumstances in my home (namely football!!), the men in my house would not be walking pup today.  I knew that I'd be walking him for 3 of his 4 walks.  I was bracing myself for the worst.  Well, that 1st walk I had was horrible.  I came home 10 minutes later in tears.  Once inside the house, pup became that adorable family pet that we all loved.  A few hours later, I started dreading that second walk.  Well, once again, as soon as the garage door went down, pup had leash in his mouth.  I walked just long enough for him to void and then I started heading for home.  He began pulling and pulling.  I couldn't take it (plus broken finger was throbbing).  I just stopped walking, turned toward him and kept walking toward him, into him.  The more he hopped away, the more I kept walking into him.  At one point I had him cornered into some bushes.  Still I kept walking into him, changing his path with my body.  Then I noticed that the leash was no longer in his mouth.  He was walking where I wanted him to go!!  By then, we were home, but I was curious to see what our last walk would be like.

Well, I just got home from our last walk.  Yes, he pulled quite a bit, but, there was absolutely no leash-biting. We walked about 40 minutes and I almost enjoyed it!!  Now, it might just be a coincidence, but, just to be sure, tomorrow afternoon, when I take him out, I'll see if I can use my body again to make him stop biting the leash.

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Monday, 9 January 2012

Sigh, NOT the Sharpest Tool in the Shed

Way back, before hubby and I decided on a PWD, we had done research on the breed.  Lots and lots of research.  We knew about the high energy level, the kind of coat they had, their fondness for water.  We knew well in advance about their need to have something constantly in their mouth, their agility, and of course, their very playful personality.

We also read up on training.  Every piece of literature on PWD's alluded to the fact that this breed was so smart, that you constantly had to outwit them before they outwitted you!!  We read that because of their brilliance, you always had to assert your place in the hierarchy, because, if a PWD sensed you were not in charge, well then they'd walk all over you and completely destroy your home and environment.

Well, anyone who's been reading my blog since July, will know the struggles I've faced with this adorable little pup (9 months) of mine.  They'll know how I took him to puppy school, gave him lots and lots of toys to keep him from getting bored, and I give him tons of exercise.  (I don't know this for a fact but I suspect that dogs that live in the country only get half the exercise of this city pooch!)

So, you can imagine my frustration when, at every turn, this pup constantly outwits me.  We've gone through 8 leashes, hundreds of dollars worth of toys, shoes, clothes, bed comforters, sofa seats and cushions.  I still can't walk with him without him pulling me down the street (he's over 50lbs), without him jumping in front of me pulling the leash, and without him shredding the leash with his lovely bright white well brushed teeth.

So, like any PWD owner, I turned to a friend who also has one.  Hers is older, so I always look to her for advise as to how to break certain bad habits.  So there I was, sipping a tea and venting my frustrations over the phone, when I said to my friend, "Well, if I'm going to be outsmarted on a daily basis, at least it's by one of the top 10 smartest dogs in the world!"  Hmmm, over the phone I heard a noise that sounded suspiciously like my friend spitting out a liquid, choking, and then laughing hysterically.  I did not like the sound of this at all.  After she got herself together, she said, "I hate to break it to you, but PWD's are not in the top 10....not even in the top 75"!  I couldn't believe it!  Everything I had read told me the opposite.  Then my wonderful PWD-loving friend pointed out that the only lists or magazines that place PWDs in the top 10 are actual PORTUGUESE WATER DOG MAGAZINES AND LISTS.  Fearing the worst, I opened up a couple of links she sent me.  There it was, in black and white...every list not sponsored by the PWD association listed Boarder Collies first, followed by Poodles second, etc. down the list it went.  List after list, it was always almost the same.  Then after about the 6th or 7th list, I went to the PWD site.  There it was, in black and white, Boarder Collies and Poodles were always #1 and #2.....but somehow, PWDs had sneaked onto the list at #10.

After the shock wore off, I realized that I was not getting outwitted by a genius, no, no, no far from it.  This university educated snob was being outsmarted by a moron (but I mean it in the nicest possible way ;))  All this time, I accredited his wily ways to his smarts.  Now I realize that I'm just a bad trainer with a slow learner!!!

Oh well, I'm off to buy him yet another leash and go on yet another disastrous walk.  And, maybe on the road I'll stop by a magazine store and pick up a PWD magazine....not to learn anything new about the bread, just to make ME feel better about my brilliant dog that's smarter than me...

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Sunday, 1 January 2012

My Dog Hates Me

Pup turned 9 months old today.  I still can't believe that I've had him for 7 months!!  I never, ever had a dog before, so I never had any idea what my life would be like.  People with dogs always made it look so easy.  They'd walk their dogs, feed, their dogs, and play with their dogs.  Everyone always told me how dogs were their best friends.  Everyone said that having a dog would be the best thing ever....

...I'm not so sure....

Of course I see the benefits to having a dog immediately.  Because our dog is so high energy, hubby, son and I walk the little fella a lot.  Whenever possible, we run him, take him to parks and socialize him.  (Pup actually has a 12 month old girlfriend...a pretty Golden-doodle that has the same energy level as he does)  We walk him morning, noon, and night.  This puppy has forced us to go from being sedentary people, to being real out-doorsy kind of people.  I love what all this exercise has done for us.  Hubby has lost close to 30 pounds just by walking.  I look GREAT in a skirt!!!  For the first time ever, I can honestly say I love my legs.  Also, walking right before or after meals has many health benefits too.  So, for this, I am very grateful for my little puppy.


Pup hates me!!  He does not see me as alpha at all.  In his eyes, the chain of command is "Hubby", followed by "14 year old son", followed by the pup himself,... followed by various twigs, rocks, and toys...maybe followed by a few other dogs, an afternoon nap, his favourite meal...and maybe, just maybe, I might be hiding in a little corner of his mind as an afterthought!!  Pup does not respect me not one iota!!!  When he was 3 months old and we took him to puppy school, the trainer actually had hubby and son sit in a corner of the room.  She worked hard to get the pup to listen to me.  A few times before and after the classes, we had the trainer come over to the house so she could observe my relationship with the dog.  This dog just would not listen to me.

So, fast forward 6 months after the courses were over, and pup still won't listen to me!!  Whenever I'm alone with him, he'll jump up on the furniture, hump the cushions and eat our shoes.  Pup does not DARE do this when hubby and son are around.  The worst is our walks.  I come home from work ever day at lunchtime to walk him.  Well I gotta tell you, the walks have been getting shorter and shorter.  The reason being is that as soon as I put the leash on him, he jumps in front of me, puts the leash in his mouth, growls and pulls.  It makes no difference if I put the leash on his collar or on a harness...the outcome is always the same..he pulls, barks and growls at me.  We went from taking 40 minute walks to only one quick walk around the block.

Last week I was in tears!!!  I couldn't believe that this is what my life had been for the last 6 months.  I saw no end in sight...and sadly, pup's behaviour with me was really hindering me from bonding with him.  It's not that I didn't love's just that I really didn't like him all that much...and I'm absolutely certain the feeling was mutual on his part.  Finally, after another disastrous walk, as I sat on the stairs in my house, sobbing, when hubby told me that he had left a message for the trainer.  Almost on cue, the phone rang and there was that comforting voice on the other end of the line.  All she told me was one thing, "Ignore the dog".

So I did. I acted as though there was no dog in the house. I walked right past him, I only paid attention to the humans in the house.  Also, instead of telling him what to do, I only used silent cues, finger snapping etc..  Three days later, a miracle happened.  Hubby was asleep and son was in the basement watching TV.  Pup was alone with me.  I saw that twinkle in his eye as he went for the Christmas tree.  I snapped my fingers and blocked his way with my body.  Seeing he couldn't get to the tree, he ran for the cushions on the couch.  Once again, I snapped my fingers, blocked his way with my body, and put my hand out indicating that he should sit.  3 days ago, had I done this, he would have barked or growled at me all the while ignoring my commands and going for the couch.  But, because I had ignored him for 3 days, all of a sudden my status was elevated!  He sat down at my (silent) command, and then lay down next to the tree.  He started whimpering.  He was not happy.  This went on for about 10 minutes.  When he saw that I wasn't going to back down, he just lay there until I walked away.  He then went to the top of the stairs, whimpered some more, and fell asleep.

I felt strangely liberated that night.  Like a huge weight was taken off my shoulders.  Now I'm at 5 days of ignoring him.  Our walks aren't perfect but they have gotten better.  Time can only tell.  The only thing I am looking forward to now, is that bonding sensation so many people have told me about.  I'm hoping that in time, he too will become my best friend.

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