Posts filed under ‘Outdoors’

Off-leash dogs!!! Argh.

Why is it that whenever an off-leash dog runs towards us, the owner always says  to us –  “Don’t worry! He is friendly!”?

I hate that. The reply I have in my head is usually “Your dog is not friendly. He very impolitely charged at us”.

But instead, what comes out of my mouth is a hurried attempt to explain that my dog is in training for his reactivity blah blah blah… and that even though the off-leash dog may be friendly, MY dog isn’t and he may lunge or bite when rushed at by an unfamiliar dog, so please for goodness sake, keep your dog away from mine.  I hate that Boogie is made to look like the bad guy but how do you explain to a stranger that their lovable excitable dog was displaying extreme rudeness and NOT friendly behavior? And besides, why the heck was their dog off-leash in a public place?

[Here’s a YouTube video showing “Polite Dog Greetings” – with calming signals]

Friends have already heard all about the traumatic incident that Boogie and I experienced a few days ago…

I was walking Boogie along the street on Tuesday morning when I spotted an off-leash dog on the opposite side of the street. My instinctual response was to get away ASAP so I called Boogie “Let’s go!” and started running. I realize later that this was a mistake on my part. I should not have run. I should have picked Boogie up but in that moment of panic my only thought was – we need to get away fast. To my horror, the off-leash dog bounded across the street towards us and started chasing us. She was a large dog – black and white markings – perhaps a pit mix. She didn’t look aggressive but she was fast and before you know it, Boogie and this dog were locked in a vicious fight.

Everything was a blur of violence. All I remember is wrestling on the ground with two growly dogs and seeing Boogie’s neck gripped in the other dog’s jaw. I yelled and punched the other dog in the muzzle but she would not let go. The street was deserted and no owner came to claim their dog in spite of my yelling –  “SOMEBODY COME AND GET THIS DOG AWAY FROM ME!!!” I was cussing and screaming, punching and pulling for what felt like an eternity. The dog did not let go of Boogie’s neck and I seriously thought that Boogie was going to die. I kept punching this dog trying to pull her jaw open and I felt a tooth sink into my finger.  The pain was intense but all I could think of was that I had to save Boogie.

Finally, a guy appeared on the street and led the other dog away back into her yard. He said that the dog’s owner wasn’t home and the dog must have got out because the gate was open. Other neighbors emerged from their houses to enquire what was going on because I guess they had heard me screaming and yelling.  Boogie and I were there on the sidewalk covered in blood. “But that dog is friendly”… they said. Hell no. Just take a look at us.

One of the neighbors (a nurse) took me into her house and cleaned us up. After that, we spent the rest of the day at the Emergency vet and doctor’s office.  I think Boogie was probably more traumatised by the four hour vet hospital experience and the cone-of-shame than by the actual dog fight.

We are both fine now but what an experience. Not to mention that this incident is a major setback in all the training that I’ve been doing with Boogie for the past 12 months.

This is the THIRD TIME that Boogie has been injured by an off-leash dog. 😦

I met with the owner of the other dog. He was very apologetic, agreed to get his gate fixed so that this won’t happen again, compensated us for the medical bills and he wishes that his dog and Boogie could have met properly and not under such circumstances because his dog is  “super friendly”. Perhaps they will meet again… and we may do some BAT work with the two dogs… but for now, it’s back to square one with Boogie’s training. He has been extra trigger-sensitive these past couple of days, and his wounds are still healing…

As I was saying to Sarah, we are fortunate that the bite wounds are not deep (compared to one attack by a truly aggressive dog which led to stitches). It is possible that Boogie lashed out first when the dog rushed at him and that this dog was merely defending herself by gripping onto Boogie’s neck for so long and refusing to let go.  Dogs have amazing control with their teeth. If this dog (who, incidentally had zero injuries) was truly aggressive and had seriously intended to mess Boogie up, the wounds would have been much worse.

As for me, the bite on my finger is getting better but my knees and legs are scraped, bruised and painful. Boogie and I are both on antibiotics and we plan to take things easy this week.

Now for some comic relief …  Check out this awesome hilarious blog post on the power of the SQUEAKY TOY.

Boogie will be getting a new squeaky rubber monkey this week.

November 20, 2010 at 10:45 am 12 comments

Boogie and Rosie Playdate #2!

Photos taken from Jen’s flickr set and mine.

Run run run!

A moment of water and rest.

Rosie kisses.

Tug-a-duck!

One photo I wish I had taken was when Rosie picked up Boogie’s leash and pulled him towards her!

Link: Boogie and Rosie Playdate #1

July 19, 2010 at 5:15 am 5 comments

The Premack Principle (Boogie’s leash-pulling)

The Premack Principle: It states that for any two behaviors, the one that’s more likely (or that your dog prefers) can reinforce, or strengthen, the one that’s less likely (and that you might prefer). Instead of trying to get our dogs to ignore whatever excites and distracts them, we can use those excitements and distractions as rewards.

I have read about The Premack Principle and watched several YouTube videos but on Tuesday for the first time I had some hands-on experience with Sarah showing me how to use it when Boogie becomes fixated on something and pulls on the leash.The high distraction environment that we were in – Cheviot Park – was perfect for this exercise because Boogie was pulling me all over the place. The smell of squirrel was everywhere.

And so it goes that the more often that I let Boogie ignore me, the more that I am enabling his “bad behavior” and he’ll just continue to blow me off whenever he feels like it. Scolding or dragging Boogie away on the leash does not solve the problem.

So here’s the new protocol:

  • When Boogie pulls, note where he wants to go.
  • STOP. Stand still. Do not let myself be pulled forwards.
  • WAIT. As soon as he turns around and checks in with me, I mark with a YES! (I then say “OK!” as the release cue)
  • …And I let him go where he wants to go.

My questions:

Q: What if Boogie doesn’t turn around to check with me? What if he remains frozen or locked in that pulling forward position and won’t respond at all?
A: Initially we wait to mark the smallest behaviors, like an ear flick, or even if he turns his body slightly. We don’t expect a full head turn or eye contact straight away. This “splitting of behaviors into small steps” is a key feature of the Clicker Training process.

Q: What if, 5 minutes later, Boogie still remains locked and offers no signals?

A: Tap him lightly on the butt to get his attention and to break the spell. (YES, butt-tapping works!)

Q: What if I really really don’t want to go where he wants to go?
A: Let him go forwards first, then redirect him back where you want to go. Or… when he disengages from his point of fixation, just turn and walk calmly in the opposite direction with consistent leash pressure, no pulling/jerking/tugging. Hold the leash in front of the body at bellybutton level and walk. (Dogs are sensitive to different kinds of leash pressure)

——————————————————————————————————————–

BAT with FRANKLIN

On Tuesday, we also did more BAT, this time with Irith’s very friendly sweet English Shepherd, Franklin, as decoy. We got to the point where the Boogs curiously moved forward to sniff Franklin’s butt then bounced back in a play bow. (“This dog is OK! I want to play with him!”)

A more impressive moment was when Franklin moved quickly towards Boogie with direct eye contact, and Boogie instantly offered a lip lick (calming signal) and turned away. YAY!

A big thank you to Irith and Franklin for being there on Tuesday! I hope that we can organize a Boogie & Franklin playdate some day… Who wants to lend us a fenced yard?

Videos and links:

Ahimsa Dog Training: Premack Principle (youtube)

Sarah’s The Power of Premack: Fence Fighting (vimeo)

Dog Star Daily: On Shoddy Clicker Training & The Importance of Premack

Irith’s The Sophisticated Dog facebook page has some great articles on dog training.

June 30, 2010 at 1:34 am 2 comments

Squirrel Focus

This is what happens when Boogie becomes fixated on a squirrel. NOTHING else exists. He is frozen.  His focus is intense. Treats have no effect.

Five minutes later, he sat at the foot of the tree and refused to leave.

The only thing that I could do to break his concentration was to pick him up and carry him off.

As soon as I set Boogie back down on the ground, he pulled and pulled and pulled to get back to the tree. I stood still but he continued to pull and he pulled so hard that he was choking himself (wincing and gasping for air) so I picked him up again and carried him further away. And then he forgot about the squirrel and we had a pleasant rest of the walk home.

I am sure Sarah would not approve of this lengthy “letting-Boogie-practice-ignoring-me” behavior.  I was told that the more often that I let Boogie ignore me when called, the better he will get at it. I won’t be doing this again.  I just wanted to take this video. (Must do more recall training before distractions become overwhelming!)

June 23, 2010 at 9:51 pm 12 comments

Another morning in Bronson Canyon

I brought my clicker and treats but the distractions were too much! Boogie pulled this way and that way; he wanted to stop and sniff and pee on everything. His recall was maybe only 50% effective. Oh well, I let him go. I let him take me where he wanted to go…

To the Bat Cave…

There were several people in the cave discussing camera angles (film location people?). Boogie didn’t pay them any attention; he was busy sniffing everything in sight.

Boogie insisted on trudging up every steep and narrow uphill trail that we saw. (Sorry Boogs, your mom HATES steep and narrow trails)

And then there was the furry little critter that disappeared into this bush…

“It’s around here somewhere. MUST FIND IT!”

We saw a couple of dogs on leash but they were far enough away that Boogie just stood and stared and didn’t react. Then turned his head away and followed me.

When we were on a narrow winding trail, we came face to face with an off-leash dog who headed straight for Boogie’s butt. “Don’t worry! He’s friendly!” the dog’s owner called out. I hate it when people do that. It’s always about their dog first isn’t it? There is no consideration for the other dog.

“MY dog isn’t friendly” I replied. Too late, Boogie turned and growled. “Oh, sorry” said the other dog’s owner.

All in all, it was a nice walk in this lovely warm spring weather.

March 26, 2010 at 7:20 pm 4 comments

Lesson#3: On the street

In today’s lesson – Sarah and I took it to the streets with Boogie. We praised his (very polite and attentive) loose-leash walking behavior, and observed his body language in the presence of other people and dogs. It must have been Boogie’s favorite walk ever – TWO humans dispensing meaty treats, paying full attention and responding to his every move!

On one occasion I noticed Boogie creeping slowly forward.  Right there about 30 feet ahead of us was a pit bull behind a fence. Sarah said that this was a good opportunity to do some “Behavior Adjustment Training” .  Fortunately, we were still at a safe enough distance that Boogie wasn’t yet growling or lunging. He was tense but still under threshold.

We stopped and waited. It was a spaghetti western moment. Boogie and the pit bull stared at each other – unblinking, unmoving – for what felt like forever.  We waited. And waited. As soon as Boogie relaxed and turned his head, CLICK! and we immediately led him away in the opposite direction.

The illustrated version below. (my pit bull drawing is a little lame, I know :))

We did this a few times.

When Boogie sat his butt down, facing the pitbull, Sarah pointed out to me the communication that was going on between the two dogs — small head turns, eye blinks… which I never would have noticed because they were so subtle. In spite of the tiny calming signals between the two dogs, the pit bull was still standing erect and Boogie was still stiff so relations were not all friendly.

Another really useful clicker game that I will be doing on all our walks from now on: LOOK!

As soon as a stranger or dog approaches, Boogie will turn to look at them. I am to CLICK the precise moment that his head turns. Then treat.

I clicked and treated every single head turn towards every single passerby on the sidewalk — What this does is positively reinforce a Look-but-no-lunge behavior. So useful!

Yep, there is a lot of stuff to remember!

March 7, 2010 at 6:09 am 13 comments

Cool stuff

1. DOOG waist belt
I have been searching for a good-looking waist belt and I like that this one looks and feels more like a flat wide belt, and less like a bulky fanny pack. I want to be able to carry a lot of stuff when walking with Boogie and this is perfect. I love that there are lots of pockets for treats, keys, wallet etc. and and you can also attach a leash to it!  How geeky is this – there is even a velcro flap for attaching a tennis ball! http://www.doog.com.au/product.htm

2. THE THINKING DOG by Gail Tamases Fisher. (Thank you, Sarah!) I may have to order my own copy. The Thinking Dog is written from the perspective of a traditional “Compulsion-Praise” trainer who crossed over into “Clicker (Marker) Training”. The book covers the principles and mechanics of the three major dog training methods and also, the technical and mental challenges you and your dog might face you when crossing-over. (Yep) There are also detailed instructions for clicker training. The tone is really engaging, encouraging, and uplifting, with no bashing of other techniques. Super helpful.

3. HUGE LATEX MONKEY – on sale at Helping Udders, where a percentage from proceeds goes to the Rescue of your choice! Because a dog like Boogie can never have too many toys. The squeaky sound that the monkey makes is already extremely annoying, but I hope that this toy will last a longer time than all the others…


4. BOOGIE PAINTING by Brian Rubenacker. I am a huge fan of Brian’s work. I drew Brian’s bostons and he sent me this painting of Boogie in exchange which was stuck at the post office for two months (and presumed to be lost) because stupid USPS did not send me a delivery notice until this week. I am so thrilled that it wasn’t delivered to the wrong address or lost!

[Boogie – the one on the right – is eagerly waiting for a treat]

Also interested in…

1. Clickerleash –I am looking forward to their new version which is supposed to be smaller and lighter than the current version.

2. Dog training “Food Tube” (thanks, Ripley’s blog!) – for dispensing soft treats like wet dog food, cheese, peanut butter etc. so your hands don’t smell like meat.

3. H2O4K9 water bottles. oooh so pricey, but they look so cool!

4. Nina Ottoson’s Dog Brick puzzle . Another pricey item. It sure looks like a good game for a serious dog like Boogie. (Right? Right?) I wish they would send ME a free sample. 😉

March 7, 2010 at 2:23 am 1 comment

Are SQUIRRELS positively-reinforcing?

Boogie and I had a longer-than-usual walk this morning. We saw two squirrels on Los Feliz Blvd and of course, Boogie dashed after them, totally ignoring me and the scary stinky homeless old person seated on the sidewalk whom he would have normally lunged or growled at.

Boogie is a strange dog… sometimes I can’t work him out. In this video below, is he offering CALMING SIGNALS (head turns, lip licks) to the squirrel? Or to me? He has been known to SIT for squirrels.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eOk9ot-fGo]

When the  homeless man started yelling: “I am going to kill you!!!” and looked like he was headed our way, it was time to get out of there.

Later on we ran into a really cute boston puppy whose name is POTATO! This is the second time that we have met Potato and I was so glad I had my camera on me.

Apologies for the terrible camerawork. It was hard to take video, deliver treats, manage tangled leashes and keep my eye on Boogie’s body language at the same time. I think he was less interested in Potato and owner (lots of calming signals… grass sniffing, turning away etc) than in hunting for squirrels on  Squirrel Street. He kept looking past everybody, scanning the trees, pulling me away…

(All the nitty gritty details in Boogie’s Daily Walk/Training Log)

March 4, 2010 at 8:39 pm 2 comments

Atwater Village, and along the L.A. River

A fun morning for Boogie. We got in the car – which he LOVES LOVES LOVES – and had breakfast in Atwater Village where the sidewalk was warm and the bacon was a-plenty.

Boogie’s Uncle Eddie noted that Boogie’s behavior seems “calmer”, more relaxed.

Then we went for a walk along the Los Angeles river… a short one because it was really hot.

There was a small incident with an off-leash dog (details in “Boogie’s daily walk log“) but overall it was a pleasant, fun walk.

Lots of dog poo, horse poo … and a squirrel!

“Why can’t those humans train me to climb trees?” he wonders.

Finally, back home for a nap.

February 25, 2010 at 10:07 pm 4 comments

How do you interpret this behavior?

This video was taken just over 1 year ago, at Lake Hollywood dog park.  This was before Boogie started growling, lunging and snapping at other dogs (on our walks), when it was still relatively safe to take him to an off-leash dog park.

See in the video how he greets the other dogs, stiffens, and then jumps away from them? The other dogs are kinda relaxed, but Boogie is all skittish and jerky all over the place.

I am interested to know what this means. I interpreted this behavior as “dominant” posturing at the time but I really don’t know what it’s all about.

This week, Boogie met a few new dogs and didn’t react too badly.  These were cute puppies his size or smaller – (He still freezes and barks when he sees big dogs) and I could sense that he wasn’t so threatened by them that it was safe to let him go sniff.

Boogie seemed to be a lot better – no aggressive snapping, thank goodness. But I noticed that he still does that weird thing of sniffing the other dog, then jumping back really fast – like in the video – sort of like he wants to play, but not quite, because his body is mostly upright – not a full playbow.

What do you make of this?

UPDATE: Sarah, our new behaviorist/trainer comments on this video

February 16, 2010 at 9:13 am 7 comments

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