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Posts Tagged ‘Mini Schnauzer’

Little Bear finds a shady spot

Little Bear finds a shady spot

When it’s hot its hard to keep dogs properly exercised without the risk that they’ll over-heat. Little Bear especially finds the warm weather quite tough and although he knows his limits, it still leaves us with a problem: One very bright, very active little dog who has no outlet for all his get up and go.  As we know ourselves, being happily tired after a good workout is very different to the lethargy that sets in when it’s just too hot to move.

Putting the fun back 

So this morning , before the day had chance to hot up, we booked the local agility course with a friend of ours. LB has done agility before. We had a couple of one-to-one lessons and then joined a group class. Given his anxiety levels, the group class was incredibly challenging, but he coped admirably and seemed to forget about the other dogs once he was doing the course.

Teaching resilience

He’s loved agility from the off and proved that although he wasn’t built for speed or endurance, he’s a brave little chap.  To my utter amazement he tackled a full height A frame on his first ever session (see the video here).

Taking a break at the end of the session

Taking a break at the end of the session

I was reminded of this today as he lost his footing on the walkway but pressed on regardless. Then again when he misjudged a jump and took a tumble. He picked himself up and with a bit of lighthearted encouragement took the same jump again and again as if to prove it hadn’t beaten him.

 Building confidence

Nervous dogs usually lack confidence and depending on their temperament, use either aggression or retreat (fight or flight) as their only means of coping with the things that scare them.  Watching LB face his fears today and overcome them so swiftly was a timely reminder of how I need to be constantly finding ways to build his confidence and boost his resilience. The other bonus is that before the sun had had a chance to take too much of a hold, Annie and Bear were back home, happily tired, mentally stimulated and quickly snoozing.

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Little Bear the dog snoozing

Little Bear snoozing

The good news is that after frightening us all half to death, Little Bear is making a good recovery. A third X-ray on Saturday revealed that things were moving as they should be through his intestine which rules out any kind of obstruction and as he was eating and generally brighter he was allowed home on Saturday afternoon!

He’s not yet back to his old self, but compared to the pitiful little dog we took to the emergency vet on Wednesday night, he’s miles better.  We took him on a short walk yesterday evening and although he enjoyed his runabout, he abruptly ran out of steam meaning I had to carry him part of the way home.  I swear I started off carrying a Mini Schnauzer and ended up with a Newfoundland by the time I reached the front door!

He’s still taking antibiotics and has easy to digest prescription food until we get the results of the blood work back in a few days. So we’re taking it easy, letting him sleep as much as possible and generally just keeping an eye on him. The most important thing is that he’s here, he’s well and he’s getting better by the day.

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Comb-over Bear

Comb-over Bear

Little Bear sporting a very fetching comb-over beard

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Seriously cute Schnauzer

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Shameless excuse for a post I know, but I love this shot of Little Bear so much that I just had to share it.

That’s one unimpressed Schnauzer!

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My gorgeous boy

Little Bear and I have clocked up our fair share of trainers and behaviourists over the past five years.  The first trainer turned out to be a major part of the problem with her ‘yank it round the neck till it behaves approach’ and subscription to the ridiculous dominance theory.  From there I sought help only from qualified APDT registered trainers but even then had mixed results.

One just told me to keep him away from all other dogs and refused to explain any of the theory to me on the grounds that I wasn’t a professional and wouldn’t understand.  The next one was good, if a little superior but so busy I had to wait literally months between appointments, which was little use to me.

Lack of people skills

There were others in-between and classes too but a thing I’ve noticed about a lot of professional trainers is their complete lack of people skills. Yes, we, the novice dog owning population can be ignorant idiots and I do appreciate that when you love dogs enough to devote your career to them, it must be hugely frustrating to see them so mis-managed by people who just don’t understand them.

Click

After five years of looking, I’ve finally found two trainers who get it. Specialising in aggression issues, they use kind, effective methods and focus on helping dogs learn appropriate behaviours through socialisation with teaching dogs who have impeccable canine communication skills.

Little Bear has been going to the fortnightly Shy Guys group for a few months now and he’s making real progress.  Their kind effective approach extends to both ends of the lead and the results seem to speak for themselves. The groups are really popular and I think that’s down to the fact that the trainers obviously understand that in order to help the dog, they first have to help the human.

Find out more at http://www.dogcommunication.co.uk/

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Little Bear the Mini Schnauzer

Little Bear

I’m thinking of writing a stiff letter to Life.  I think I’ve been incredibly tolerant up until now but something really has to be said about the way it relentlessly interrupts my training plans. And please, don’t even get me started on its effect on my blogging schedule…

I’m joking of course, but it’s a nice thought isn’t it?  ‘Excuse me Life, but can you just butt out for a while? I have dogs to train. We’re on a schedule you know.’

Curve ball

My mother was taken suddenly and critically ill recently and in the space of one phone call everything changed. Life jumped on us from a great height and we had no choice but to let it.  Thankfully she made a remarkable recovery and when I returned home nearly two weeks later, (to a thorough telling off by Little Bear and what I can only describe as a giggle dance from Annie) the dogs and I picked up where we left off.

Surrender

I’ve used Churchill’s famous quote about ‘never ever giving up’ many a time and it’s still something that inspires me and spurs me on when I’m tired and down-hearted. I’ll never stop striving for the best for my dogs, but I am willing to give up on something – the idea that I have to do it all perfectly and that if I don’t, then I’m somehow letting them down.

If you have a reactive dog, let alone two, you know what hard work they can be.  The dream is something most other dog owners take for granted; a quiet stroll in the park, a coffee at a pavement cafe without it causing a scene. It’s not a big dream but getting there takes a lot of work.

Little Bear and Annie have come such a long way. The work is working and we will persist, but I’m going to tear up that draft letter and tell Life that it’s okay. I understand. It has to do its thing and that’s fine. Whatever it throws at us, well, we’re just going to work around it.

 

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Hands up if you’ve ever ended up in tears as a result of your dogs’ behaviour.

If you’ve said no I’m willing to bet that you either have a well-balanced dog & stumbled innocently upon this ode to the reactive dog while getting your canine net hit (you’re very welcome by the way :-)) or you’re a man. Sorry to stereotype here, but our dogs have pushed Other Half to the limit and he’s not blubbed once, so I’m assuming it’s a predominantly female thing.

Yep, today I blubbed.  In public.  As I trudged through the woods while rummaging in my dog walking bag for tissues without bits of dog biscuit on them and failing miserably to put on a brave face.  The incident which sparked this bout of self-indulgence was wholly avoidable, but I got it wrong. So did the other owner but she must have a hide like a rhino as she didn’t seem to give a damn that her dog had just caused utter chaos.

Dive bombed

The scenario played out like this. We’re wandering through the woods when I hear a woman call her dog. I can’t see the dog but call Little Bear to me and seeing her bend down, I assume she’s put the lead on her dog so I did the same.

There’s nothing worse than letting your dog run-up to another one that’s newly tethered – not only is it rude, but if that dog has been put on a lead for a reason, your dog is now in possible danger.

Lead aggression is a common problem and is if you think about it, a logical, if not desirable reaction. We all respond to stress with a split second ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ decision, but leads take away the flight option, which for a stressed dog only leaves one course of action.

Three guesses how Little Bear reacted when a super excited Mini Schnauzer raced straight into his face through the ferns. Yep. He went nuts. Lunging, growling and barking and all the while this little dog kept on coming back. His owner wasn’t a bit bothered and didn’t even try to recall him!

Unable to fend him off, I had to resort to picking LB up, something I hate doing as it’s further confinement, but while being relentlessly dive-bombed I was left with little choice. Said hooligan then started jumping all over me while his owner just puffed on her cigarette and shuffled off without him – charming!

Getting it wrong 

There are so many things I did wrong. I should have turned tail and headed in the other direction. I should have called to her to check if she’d put her dog on the lead. If she hadn’t, I would have let LB off the lead as he’s met this dog before without incident. I should have thrown some chicken on the floor for the marauder and run with LB the other way. I should at least have given her a piece of my mind… but of course, in the stress of it all, I did none of those things. Instead, I ranted and raved and then cried hot tired tears while wondering if I was ever going to be able to get my darling boy to a state of calmness.

The whole incident is in such stark contrast to the progress he’s been making lately that I think it was even more upsetting than it might have been. It’s left me under a cloud and kicked off a headache that looks like it’s settling in for a long stint, but we’ll plough on. I may get it wrong frequently, but the biggest mistake I could ever make would be giving up.

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I write all day. I’m lucky in that my day job is in corporate communications so I’m paid to write speeches; copy; briefings; articles and press releases. And yet when I finally turn off the PC for the day and get on with the usual chores of eating dinner (notice I didn’t say cooking  ;-)) walking, playing and feeding the dogs and then trying to create  some semblance of order in the house, the itch to write is constantly with me, pulling at my sleeve like an incessant toddler.

I’ve often pondered on this. I doubt decorators come home from a long day and get the urge to get the paint rollers out again and I’ve known many a teacher who bolts the door for fear of even seeing another child in the next twelve hours so what’s going on?

Expression

My only conclusion is that most writers are driven by a need for expression.  The need for people to read what I’ve written is nowhere near as important to me as the need to commit my thoughts to paper or pixel.  A purging almost of the mind and soul, it doesn’t need to be read in order to matter as far as I’m concerned – I just need to do it.

I may write all day but on the whole they’re not my words. I’m a ghost stepping into another’s shoes to write speeches; I’m a saleswoman pitching an idea in my copy; I’m a teacher marking the homework of the agencies whose work I edit with a bleeding pen through clenched teeth. I’m many people, except of course the most authentic one – Me.

Writer’s block

I sat down this afternoon desperate to write. Dogs walked; laundry done; ironing ignored for another day, I opened up WordPress and – nothing.  Not a single idea for the Little Bear Dog blog.

My creative writing teacher once told us the only way to overcome writer’s block was to write.  His was a generous take on the problem as he saw nothing wrong in including shopping lists in his suggested cure for the dreaded block.  I’ve not veered that far from the path today, but it has helped – I hope regular readers will forgive the digression.

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Mini Schnauzer Little Bear sitting in a field

Little Bear in his Spring clip

As anyone with a reactive dog knows, a walk is anything but relaxing.  I go out kitted up with clicker (+spare clickers should the first one break or get lost), treat bag (+ back up treats just in case) squeaky balls (+back ups) and a pet corrector for real emergencies.  Thats as well as the poo bags, ball chucker, wet wipes etc etc. I know all of the fields and parks in the area and a bit like Jason Bourne in the Bourne Identity, every exit and roughly how long it will take us to get to it should we need to.

I can also spot an ‘It’s okay, my dog’s fine’ owner a mile off. Maybe you know the type? They’re the ones with the big lumbering dogs that flatten yours while their owners laugh and say things like “It’s okay, he’s only playing.” Gee thanks, but what about mine?!

They seem oblivious to the fact that you might be trying to avoid them or that in letting their friendly lummox of a dog ‘play’ with yours without checking first, they might be putting your behaviour training back weeks if not months.  For all they know, they might even be putting their dog at risk of serious physical or emotional harm.  Even when you call your dog, pop him on a lead and walk quickly in the other direction, they STILL don’t get the hint!

Real treat

So, today was a real treat!

As we went into the field, two Huskies bounded up to the gate. Little Bear froze and whined and then looked at me which in itself was a fantastic result as he looked to me instead of kicking off!  His reward was a swift retreat away from the thing that was worrying him.

The owner looked a bit miffed and said a bit tersely ‘It’s fine! They were brought up with Schnauzers.’ We get this a lot.  People we big dogs or bull breeds often assume I’m being a breedist in avoiding them and I don’t usually get the opportunity to clarify, but with LB at a distance he was comfortable with and happily hoovering up treats from the floor, I was able to explain over the fence that it wasn’t his dogs I was concerned about, but my own.

Penny dropped, he walked his dogs away from the gate so that we could come in. With LB in ‘stuff your face with treats mode’ he was happy to focus on me and we passed the Huskies without incident.

Great manners 

We had a lovely walk, LB exploring and snacking on grass here and there, then chasing the ball and working on his retrieve.  Whenever I see another dog I don’t know, I pop him on a lead.  I do this partly because of his bullying towards timid dogs but also because it’s just good manners.

To my delight, another other dog walker on seeing me pop LB on the lead as they approached immediately called his dog and popped its leads on too.  A mutual round of ‘thank yous’ later and we went our separate ways.

Seconds later, we saw the Huskies again and as soon as he saw us, their owner recalled them, popped them on their leads and asked for a sit.  Little Bear was fantastic and again passed without even a grumble. I thanked the owner again and we even had time for a quick chat about the joys of training and what a difference well-mannered owners made.

This may seem silly, but this truly made my day.  As anyone with a reactive dog will know, it can sometimes feel like your best intentions get undermined by other people’s assumption that all dogs are friendly and docile. They are also usually the first people to tut-tut and mutter things about ‘always the owners fault’ as your dog gets tipped over the edge and aggresses because they feel so threatened by the situation that the tut-tutter has unwittingly helped kick off.

Nature vs. Nurture 

As I’ve come to learn, nurture can only do so much and nature has a heavy hand in deciding a dogs temperament.  Just like people, some dogs have a shorter fuse than others and try as we might, there’s no way of changing that, we can only manage it as best we can by giving them the tools and support to cope with the things they find threatening or frustrating.  But owners need support too and as I found out today, a little help and understanding from fellow dog lovers can go a long long way.

 

 

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I’ve blogged before about how sometimes it’s easy to miss what’s right under our noses. Changes happen so slowly that we sometimes fail to see the process. Trees are a good one – you drive down the same stretch of road each day and then WHAM! One day you notice that the bare branches are now chock-full of bright spring leaves.

Dog training can be a lot like that. Walking the dogs the other day Annie kicked off at the sight of another dog on the other side of the road. Little Bear woofed a few times, but with a seriously lack of commitment which in no way matched her level of arousal. I walked him away calmly and despite her lunging and barking, he remained quiet and kept glancing up at me – which of course got him a lot of praise, clicks and treats.

Just like the tree, I’d missed the bud stage, but was pleased I’d at least spotted the unfurling leaf so that I could reward and encourage it. I took a lesson from that.  Even when you think nothing’s happening, the time we all, if we’re honest feel like giving up, it’s good to remember that there’s progress being made that we just can’t see.  Little buds of progress waiting to burst forth and surprise us.

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