Friday, July 11, 2008

Wow - playing with both Toby and Shelby! At once!

I've always played with Toby and Reba at once. They don't share toys - Reba grew up her entire life without having another dog in the house... so she never learned to share her toys and when we got Toby, that never changed. However, they both want me to play with them if I'm playing with the other. So sometimes we alternate between me setting one aside while I play with the other and then alternating or playing with them both, just one on each side with different toys. It's a bit of a coordination problem but it works. Toby and I play a laid back version of tug, with me shoving up against him with my shoulder to make it harder on him as I tug the toy along the ground, and then Reba and I would play with her chasing my hand.

I've never been able to play with any other dog in Toby's presence, let alone with him on the other side of me. That sends him right over threshold. However, earlier today while he was out I finally got Shelby loosened up back to the happy dog she can be and she started playing. She jumped the first few times mom moved but then settled into chasing a toy that I dragged along the floor. After Toby came in we stopped playing again... I didn't want to risk it. Which was fine by her, she went back to her place on the couch. Then Reba went crazy. Just darting around the room barking after her ball (she'd knocked it out from under the table and it was scooting away from her). This inspired Toby to want to play. I've never gotten him to play when there was another dog anywhere near him... he might bite at the toy if I ask, but that's it. This time he was asking for it even with Shelby sitting on the couch 3ft from him! So I asked Shelby to stay and played with him.

He was completely relaxed (our inside games aren't revved up at all, they're quiet just giggly games we play) so I asked Shelby to come on over to my other side. Which she happily did for cuddles while I continued playing. No problem. He saw her coming but went back to the game. So I grabbed the toy I'd been playing with her earlier with and started playing with her. This one took a bit more concentration than my Toby/Reba games because Shelby is faster and can actually see her target. But both dogs played calmly for quite awhile. It wasn't until one end of Toby's tug toy came loose and zoomed in the midway part that Shelby wanted to see what Toby was playing with. He never stopped playing, he just growled at her and shoved himself around me tucking his head and toy out of the way, but he was still loose. I just slid in between them and refocused her on the other toy. We had no other problem. Once done both dogs just spread out on either side of me for cuddles.

Toby still isn't 100% sure about her with everything... but he's not 100% on anything. Ha! Nor am I. For the most part though he's very relaxed with her. He won't tolerate as much from her as he does Reba - for example, Shelby can't bark without sending him over the edge and he'll pounce/play bow in his rude, lab-full-body slam. But we've been managing it, using a lot of splitting before he can get too close if he looks like he's getting excited and he's staying calm. She can do her happy jig in front of me, jump on me while on the couch, and trot after me. She can't run yet, no noises, and she can't play solo with me (though we're still working on having him relaxed while Reba plays solo with me... so that's a work in progress, I'd never expect it with a new dog). Shoot, I didn't expect any of this but it's awesome to watch his progression. Even mom has been spectacular with this (my brothers too, dad works during the day so he doesn't have to deal with me in the room with the dogs - a good thing because he's convinced my only problem is that I'm not strict enough the first time). Unlike her normal 'bad dog' routine if she has to do anything, she's started just simply stepping between the dogs if Toby gets too antsy. She doesn't lean over him or point at him or anything, just steps in between and continues on. That's normally enough to erase any tension between the two and they will follow who ever stepped in the middle.

Shelby's parents are coming to get her today. A bit depressing all around. She's such a doll of a dog and she's getting a kick out of so many things. She's never had dog toys really... a tennis ball in the backyard and that's it. Believe me, I've asked. I got her one for Christmas a few years back but it squeaked... not a loud squeak but enough to annoy her mom. So she's learned that we have whole boxes of toys! She won't play with them on her own, but she likes to rifle through and pull out some and just set them outside the box. Then of course Reba rounds up all of her balls to horde and Toby takes his tug toy out of the room. But they do leave her the rest of the toys to arrange by the boy. Then I put them back and she does her happy jig and takes them all back out. She's also starting to run around the house with me (when Toby's outside)... it's nice seeing her confidence come out when she does it too. And then there are the trick times. She looked so lost yesterday when I was running our two through a bunch of tricks. She knows sit and shake, but I started luring crawl for her so she didn't get bored doing the same things. It's nice watching all three of them relax and do silly tricks together for me. Though I will say, old dogs learn tricks incredibly well. Shelby's picked up on crawl AND spin so far.

I'm sure she'll be happy to see her family tonight but we'll sure miss her. She's such a charmer.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Well, today was much better.

He needed quite a bit of time to adjust last night... And I wasn't at all sure what to do in the situation. So mom and I made a plan and hoped it worked. For the most part my goal was to stay out of the situation, to go upstairs and just come down occasionally... that way Toby didn't feel pressured to guard me and he would hopefully relax more when I was in the room with him and Shelby. It worked fairly well and I was able to pet them - with both dogs calmer if they were on opposite sides of me (and Toby in a cued behavior). If Shelby however got excited and started to do her happy jig (shuffling front feet and she crowds up against your leg) and Toby got too rough, I'd neutrally tell him "That's enough," and give him a different cue to do - mostly his hand touch one and then a sit or down.

I don't consider 'that's enough' a punishment in this situation. I can't remember using it before, so I'm not sure it's a learned behavior for him yet - but saying his name tended to jazz him up and he just giving him a cue didn't seem to connect with his brain. But normally by the time I rattled on a few words and then cued he was fully capable of listening. And cueing him to come touch my hand got him away from her and calmed him down, even if she followed. It worked well enough for us and I spent most of the night making sure Toby knew he had a job to do any time I walked in the room. That faded after awhile and he got to the point where he would be snoozing on the floor, hear me coming and watch Shelby come say hi before falling back asleep. He did get a little nervous when he saw me getting ready for bed and Shelby acted like she was going to follow me upstairs, but I had mom call her away and then called Toby up for bed. Shelby didn't sleep with us... I didn't want him to think he had to share 'his' sleeping spot too. I figured that was pushing it too far, especially for a dog that's not staying long.

Today, he was tense in the morning but relaxed. I can officially say I don't think I'll ever be able to live with a dog that doesn't have a solid leave it. It'll always be a behavior I train right from the beginning. Toby has never generalized it to live animals, but there is no question in his ability to leave any food, no matter what. Shelby dropped her treat and both our dogs started to go for it. Not good. I've had so many incidents where Toby's leave it has saved him from eating something he wasn't supposed to (half the time he doesn't bother even looking towards whatever fell...) but it always makes me proud. I was able to cue him to leave it and stop Reba mid-go for it so Shelby could resume in peace. I'm not sure how she'd have reacted to having it taken, but it's not worth it. (Although, if anyone has tips on how to teach a dog that's going blind a good leave it... I'd like to hear them. I've tried with Reba, but she can only see it some of the time... it makes the criteria VERY hard to define for her... and since it normally takes her ages to find something I've lived without it. It'd be helpful though).

Outside of course, is a little different. Inside, Shelby can be dancing in front of me and Toby's calm about this. Outside... he tried to entice her to play. They've played before, but he was a bit over the top enthused about his asking today so she told him no. He flopped into a second play bow, hitting her as he did it (he was very loose body wise, just not respectful of her personal space), she lifted her lip. That was enough for him until after he'd chased a squirrel came flying back, tried to ask for play and she refused him again. He'd ignored my hand touch so I was moving in closer to cue him away but I didn't need to. He went to put a paw on her back and she turned and snapped at him that time. That was enough for him. As long as she wasn't crazy running around the yard he ignored her. Or I should say, as long as she wasn't doing that or chasing me up the deck. But overall giving him something else to do and the fact that she wasn't willing to tolerate being tackled calmed him back down again. He's a loose happy boy right now, snoozing up next to her. At dinner time tonight Shelby didn't eat until I started hand-feeding her... our two finished before she was done so I cued them both to my other side and asked for downs. I hand-fed them all together. Both my dogs love hand-feeding, it's a chance to get food from me and do tricks. Shelby just got to much comfortably. And it kept everyone out of her dish while I made sure she ate something today (she's used to being free-fed, which we don't do at our house).

Here's a picture of the pretty girl:

For a 13 year old lady, she's looking grand. Still has the most incredible heart too, but camera shy. This is the only one out of a good twenty shots that I was able to get and I'm zoomed in from a distance. She's a timid dog. I know some dogs are naturally that way, but I also know a great deal of hers it due to her raising. The problem I always find myself in when I get to spend some time with her... is how happy do I make her? Her 'mom' has an unpredictable temper. One day Shelby is allowed on the couch, the next she gets screamed at for it. One day I can play with her, the next day Shelby gets screamed at for even bringing me a toy - even if I've asked for it. Our house is much more laid back (thank Dog!). She's allowed on the furniture and she's allowed to be a wacky girl. We don't care if she dances and runs around in the house when she's happy. And yet, I hate to think that when she gets home she could get in trouble. We're following their instructions as said, but her mom has never been consistent with her. Which is so sad, because I'd have taken this dog a thousand times over... my entire family would have. She's a complete joy to have here, especially now that my boy has calmed down. And I know that her family loves her (especially the kids and their dad), but there's a reason I don't take Toby to that house unless I have to. So as much fun as it's been to see her come back out of her shell, I'm worried about just how far I happy talk her into. She's such a sweetheart.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Well, I've been avoiding this thing lately. Mainly because I'm still avoiding the vet appointment in my memory. I think when I cope better with what happened without falling into that self-hating, depressed mode I'll write about it. But right now... it's almost safer to get some distance from it. I can at least type this without feeling like I'm about to break down, so that's improvement. For the record, no one got hurt.

However, the real purpose of this blog is on the fact that we're watching my aunt's dog today, tomorrow and Friday. It never occurred to anyone in the family - including me - that this would be a problem. Toby and Shelby have always gotten along... no matter where we were at. They've lived peacefully together in campers, at Shelby's house, at any other of our relatives houses... Shelby is one of those quiet, calm dogs whose absolutely no trouble. She's also female... Toby's never had a problem with a female before. Ever. And shoot, to top it all off... They started off great. Their normal calm meet and then they forgot about each other, lounging around the house. My brothers and parents could all play and pet Shelby and nothing changed.

Then I come home. We haven't had any scuffles or anything, but if I so much as look Shelby's way Toby is stepping between us. The only way I can pet her is by putting him in a sit/wait on one side of me and having her on the other and pet them both at the same time. But if I'm not very clear that I want Toby to follow me when I'm done he heads straight for Shelby, smelling her over, sometimes his tail is up, sometimes not. He just has this weird, overly excited look in his eye. If she tries to petition petting from me he splits between us, blocking her access. And heaven forbid if she gets excited and jumps or play bows at me. His eyes nearly bugged out of his head when she did that and the only thing that kept him from rushing over and posturing was the fact that I stepped in between them and told him to back off.

This has never happened before. I've played with Shelby wildly, running around her back yard and he never cared. He'd either watch or join in, completely relaxed. Shelby has always been one of his buddies. Not the over the top, OMG I'm excited to see her type of buddy... but they've always acted like extended housemates. Happy to see each other, petition play when they want... shoot they've always gotten along better than even our little dog Reba and Toby do sometimes. And Shelby's not the problem... I'm fairly certain there. Yes, she's watching me and just waiting for me to cue her to come get petted (she's a very restricted dog, her upbringing was very, very strict...) but that's nothing new. She looks away, arcs around, yields to Toby... shoot, Reba just snapped at her (Reba can't see and Shelby just stepped on her tail, whoops). Nothing.

I'm a bit torn in how to handle this. I don't want to entice a fear response in anyone... I've toyed with the idea of desensitizing the situation. Except, Shelby can't have anything outside her kibble - which she's not in the mood for. And Toby doesn't seem food motivated at the moment. If I'm out of the room, he'd take it no problem, if I'm in the room... we're treading his threshold I guess. He'll take it and it's give or take on whether he'll eat. He did just eat dinner (which I always carefully monitor... him and Reba like to try and switch, even though she can't reach his and that doesn't always go over well). Shelby was in the room and less than a foot from me. As long as I wasn't touching her and he knew what I wanted him to do (to eat) he was fine.

-sighs- Well, I'm not reading my book downstairs tonight like I planned. At the moment I'm relegated to my room while I let things resettle downstairs. I wish I knew if I was doing anything... but when I came home I was confident and relaxed. I'd seen them all lounging about in the house and had no worries. At the moment I'm puzzled but I don't feel too stressed by anything because in this situation Toby seems to be responding best as long as I've given him clear directions and am ignoring Shelby. The poor girl. She loves attention.