Posts filed under ‘Social stuff’

Boogie at The Boston Tea Party

I said we weren’t going to the annual Boston Tea Party, but at the very last minute, we changed our minds…

Temecula is about 2 hours away and by the time we arrived, it was almost closing time so perhaps there were less boston terriers present than there must’ve been earlier in the day.

Two years ago, at the 2009 Boston Tea Party, Boogie lunged and snapped at every single dog that came near him.  Last year’s Boston Tea Party, I went alone and didn’t bring him. As part of his training protocol, we avoided ALL unfamiliar dogs as it would’ve been too stressful for him to be around hundreds of dogs.

This year, I could not believe the difference. Not only were Boogie and Popeye FRIENDS again (see previous blog post), Boogie greeted and sniffed lots of other bostons, and remained calm and happy all day.  If he looked a little stiff during greetings, I called him away and everything was fine. It was a fun and social event for both humans and dogs, and I could not have been happier and more proud of  the Boogs!

Pic of Boogie standing next to a little boston girl (I don’t know who she is).

It was a really hot day and all the dogs were panting. Here’s a photo that I love of Boogie, Rosie and Popeye sharing water. Three tongues in one bottle cap! 🙂

October 23, 2011 at 11:29 pm 2 comments

Book signing in San Diego, Boogie’s Sleepover…

This past weekend was the APDT conference in San Diego and thanks to Grisha Stewart, I was able to attend the exhibit hall/book signing part of the event. It was so great to meet Grisha in person at last!  I also met up with Dr. Sophia Yin and visited the fantabulous Cat’s House.

There were many vendors in the APDT exhibit hall and some were giving away free treats and toys… an offer that I couldn’t refuse. See the Little Jacs treats? They are really really disgustingly smell-won’t-easily-wash-off-your-hands-STINKY and Boogie loves them.

I received a sample Thundershirt (not sure yet when I would put this on Boogie who can sleep through alarm clocks, thunderstorms and earthquakes…)  from a lovely lady whose name I can’t remember, and I bought a new Freedom Leash and Harness combo at a very discounted price. It was also lovely to meet up with Dorna Sakurai for whom I have done some illustration work.

While I was away Boogie slept over with his buddies, Rosie and Popeye for the first time.  You can see videos from their last play date in this flickr set.

(instructions inside the card)

According to Rosie’s and Popeye’s parents, the dogs had a wonderful time, there was a lot of playing, no issues with walks around the neighborhood, Boogie was well-behaved and did not bug Cosmo the cat. (Whew) The boys in particular – Boogie and Popeye – hit it off and became best mates.

Well, everything was fine and dandy until I arrived back in LA to pick Boogie up.

There we all were in the yard. The excitement level was high, the dogs were running around, a tennis ball was thrown, the humans were chatting… and suddenly Popeye and Boogie were locked in a fight. We weren’t sure how the fight started exactly because none of us were paying attention. Popeye’s dad and I struggled to pull the dogs apart. Both dogs held onto to each other very tightly with their sharp teeth.

And then we were washing and bandaging bite wounds and an hour later, Boogie was at the emergency vet getting his leg wounds stapled. Popeye too had to have his paw injury drained and wear the cone of shame.

Yeah, tough guys. What did they learn from this? Probably nothing good.

And my wallet is hurting.

Popeye and the Boogs are healing up now. Boogie is on antibiotics and Rimadil and thankfully no longer limping nor showing any signs of  reactivity toward strange dogs on our walks like after the last time he got into a dog fight. In 2 weeks, the staples will be removed and hopefully soon, when both dogs are completely physically healed they can meet and play again.

I was chatting to Sarah our trainer about this fight incident and she brought up Trigger Stacking. In the BAT book, there’s an illustration about Trigger Stacking which basically means that when a dog has a bunch of stressful experiences, all the stresses add up in his system and he suddenly blows a fuse (or  reaches his “Bite/Reactivity Threshold”). It is not ONE thing that starts a fight, but several things added up over a short period of time and as a result the outburst may seen unpredictable or over-the-top when it really isn’t.

In this case, the easiest assumption  to make is that the dogs fought because both wanted possession of the tennis ball (which was being thrown for the first time all weekend) , but it could have also been that a couple of minutes earlier, two German shepherds had walked past the front gate and  triggered raised hackles on both Boogie and Popeye. And a little time before this,  I (Boogie’s mom) had arrived which is what started all the excitement in the first place. Perhaps the tennis ball was the last straw rather than the primary cause in the context of two toy-possessive macho boys with short fuses (aka “low reactivity thresholds”).

* When Boogie and Rosie were playing fetch with the tennis ball , there were no issues. Rosie is really sweet and flirty and gives in to the boys.

The major lesson that I am re-learning here is that it is not safe to play fetch with Boogie when there are other dogs present AND I need to do some sort of “impulse control training” with him (not clear yet what this should be) so that he is less toy-obsessed and will learn to nicely share his toys….

Unfortunately due to this incident we won’t be going to the Boston Buddies’ Boston Tea Party tomorrow. Which is a shame because I wanted to bid on the silent auction’s  “Boogie On Ukelele” tote and grab a copy of the new calendar.

Look, the munchkins are on the cover! 🙂

Link: Here are more photos from Boogie’s Sleepover

October 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm 4 comments

Boogie’s play date with Rosie & Popeye

Yesterday was Boogie’s third play date with his girlfriend Rosie

… and her newly adopted brother  Popeye, a very sweet and goofy red boston terrier.

Things could not have gone better! First we went for a walk around the block, then back in my friends’ newly-fenced yard, the dogs played and played and played.

*Sorry about the noise in the video; you may want to turn down/mute the sound.*

I had never seen Boogie play with a “boy dog” before so this was really cool.  When Boogie and Rosie play, they like to chase each other. With Popeye, there was lots of mouthing, wrestling and rolling about on the ground.  🙂

Two videos:

It was an afternoon of very happy dogs and EXTREME cuteness!

More photos and (blurry) video clips in my flickr set HERE.

July 31, 2011 at 5:55 pm 3 comments

What is a “normal” walk?

This is copied and pasted from a post I read on the  Functional Rewards yahoo group:

(I hope that the author doesn’t mind my reposting this)

“Reactive” dogs just can’t be compared to the mellow, ho hum, relaxed sort of dog that is comfortable, pleasant, and predictable on a leisurely walk.  If that is the type of walk that the owner of a “reactive” dog hopes to have, then the owner is setting his/herself and the dog up to fail.  Some reactive dogs may be able to achieve that at some point, or at least a semblance of it… but most will NOT achieve that “bomb proof” status.

I also believe that there is a type of “grief” that owners of challenging dogs go through in realizing their dog may not be able to meet the owners’ desires/needs or do the types of things that the owner hoped to do with their dog.  I believe this is an important part of loving our dogs for who they are (and HOW they are).

Now, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t continue to re-train/rehab our dogs – though admittedly, sometimes I do think we do overdo this and should consider just letting our dog be who they are and CHANGE OUR THINKING and activities to SUIT THE DOG.  But in using remedial training methods, mostly I just think our goals, expectations, and measures need to be comparing our dog to his/her own behavior… not against the typical dog.  Does that make sense?  I also think that our goals with reactive dogs are better focused on increasing management and safety, and REDUCING reactivity (the number of triggers, the intensity of the reaction, and recovery time) as opposed to shooting for a “normal” walk.  One of the lessons I always remind myself:  MAKE SURE MY EXPECTATIONS (of myself and my dog) ARE REASONABLE AND ACHIEVABLE.

This is an illustration that I did over a year ago.

I am still very mindful of all these ‘management rules’. However, I am pleased to say that I am better at READING Boogie, and at catching and responding to his signals, which means that we don’t always have to turn away/cross the street/avoid civilization.

These days, I rarely use the “Look At That” cue. (aka BAT – Stage One) I say “Boogie, WAIT” and we wait. Then I watch him to see what he is feeling. 80% of the time he wants to move forward, NOT move away. Using moving forward as the functional reward, I wait for Boogie to check in with me. He gets a YES! and Treat and we move forward.  This way, I know that the trigger is no longer (or never was) an issue.

The other 20% of the time, Boogie freezes. He becomes tense when he sees the trigger. This is a cue for me that we need to get away. I tap his butt, call him, and we do a 180, away from the scary/offending person or dog. Boogie pees on something. Relaxes.

Yep, NORMAL dog-walking for me.

I would be happier if Boogie could be relaxed with *slow-moving hunched-over old people with grocery bags who stare at him*….

May 31, 2011 at 6:44 pm 10 comments

National Dog Bite Prevention Week

May 15th – 22nd is my birthday week! It also happens to be National Dog Bite Prevention Week!

Just look at this soft sweet face of my pumpkin-headed boston terrier. Hard to believe that he is hypersensitive to so many things and “aggressive”.

I think about Dog Bite Prevention every single day. It’s a drag, but that’s how it is.  Boogie had a bite history even before I adopted him which is why his previous humans put him in a shelter.  I didn’t let this knowledge stop me from adopting him because at the time I had no idea what it meant to have a dog that bites. I naively thought at the time that “dog training” would be as easy as it looked on The Dog Whisperer Show, and I had no idea I had SO MUCH to learn about dogs…. and about all the stuff that people (unconsciously) do to upset dogs.

Sharing here some new drawings  and links.

1. a new illustration of dog body language showing stressed/distancing signals as well as happy/friendly ones.  My references: Turid Rugaas, Brenda Aloff and Boogie.   Links to download or purchase are HERE.

click on image to see larger sizes

2. Sneak peek at Grisha Stewart’s book on BAT (Behavior Adjustment Training) which will be out this summer and available from I am dying to share some of these illustrations but we’ll all have to wait for the book! 🙂

3. Madeline Gabriel’s blog: Dogs and Babies is awesome.

Read this blog entry: Ask The Dog (Part 1)

There is also a post on how little children become magnetized by dogs… and how to nip this behavior in the bud for everyone’s safety, and more importantly so that  kids learn respect for others’ personal space.  Here is the first in a series of articles .

Here are Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

For example, when your child crawls in the general direction of your dog, stop and point out the dog.  “Look, our dog is resting.  When our dog is lying down, we move around.  Let’s move around the dog.”  Show your child by example what you mean by “around.”  Aim for at least a three foot buffer to allow room if the child were to fall or the dog stretch out a leg or roll over.

Tell your child, “You did it!  You walked around our dog.  She feels safe when you walk around.  You are a good friend to dogs!”

4. Liam J. Perk Foundation: Why Dogs Bite and How They Warn Us

“This is a classic example of inter-species miscommunciation. The reporter was showing affection for the dog by leaning in and putting both hands on the dog’s neck. The dog did not interpret this as a friendly gesture, but rather saw it as a threat and acted accordingly.” (via )


Never punish your dog for growling. This may seem counter-intuitive and may even go against the advice of your dog trainer or dog trainers you have seen on TV. If your dog growls at your child he is sending a clear warning that he is very uncomfortable with the actions or proximity of the child. Be grateful that your dog chose to warn with a growl rather than going straight to a bite. If you punish the growling, you may inhibit the warning growl the next time and the dog may bite without growling first. Punishment or scolding will not make the dog feel better about the child, in fact he may even feel more anxious and be even more likely to bite in the future, especially if you are not there to control the situation. If your child cannot follow directions and/or has got into the habit of being rough with the dog, then the dog and child should be separated until the child has learned to treat the dog with kindness and respect.

5. Dr. Sophia Yin has an excellent article on Dog Bite Prevention

Dave Dickenson, interim director of the Sacramento County Animal Care and Regulation: ” One problem is that we’ve been told many times that you should greet a dog by letting him sniff you hand, but in reality, the best way to greet is to stay outside of the dog’s personal bubble and let the dog approach you at his own rate.”

I did the illustrations for this poster which can be downloaded here.

I also animated this video –

* Please share! 🙂

6. I like this tweet via @Fearfuldogs:

If a dog doesn’t hurt a person or other dog when it bites, chances are this was a choice not luck.

May 13, 2011 at 6:14 pm 11 comments

In search of a private fenced yard…

Here is a photo of Boogie and Franklin from Monday’s session with trainer Irith Bloom, taken in a peaceful Huntington Palisades neighborhood.

Franklin is a very sweet and calm English Shepherd so he was the perfect “big dog” for Boogie to hang out and do parallel walking with. The funny thing is that as soon as Boogie and Franklin saw each other from a fair distance, both dogs started whining. Boogie whimpered and looked at me and pulled towards Franklin. The dogs recognized each other from their BAT session five months ago! 🙂

Boogie walks beautifully on loose-leash in my neighborhood, but because this was a new and exciting location, he was pulling like crazy. The technique of “standing still like a tree” didn’t work because Boogie kept leaning and pulling forwards regardless. Irith gave me some tips on how to deal with this problem, eg – keep my leash hand at my bellybutton, do a 180 and boldy walk forward as if there is no dog behind me until Boogie catches up on loose-leash. I did this a few times on our walk and after a while Boogie became more mindful of my existence and kept the leash loose-ish between us.

Memo to self: In a new environment, go back to training the basics.

So… as I was saying to Irith, I find these “friendly doggie sessions” so good for Boogie. I notice that whenever we have a friendly and polite experience with another dog, the following day Boogie does not react to any dogs that he sees on the street. He looks at them, turns away and moves along like it’s no big deal. He is the same after every play date with Rosie. He is more relaxed around dogs in general…

It’s a shame that Huntington Palisades is so far away from me. And Rosie also lives really far away.

I would like to do more BAT set ups with unfamiliar dogs as decoys but we need to borrow a private fenced yard — with no other dogs present –preferably in the La Brea/Fairfax area of West Hollywood. The parks are too risky with loose dogs running around.

Fenced yard, anyone?

November 30, 2010 at 9:37 pm 3 comments

Boogie, Butch and the orange ball.

Butch has been fixated on the little orange cuz ball all night…  I could see Boogie eyeing the same ball so I took the ball away and put it on the table. I had a feeling that if one dog had the ball, there would be a fight so NOBODY GETS THE BALL.

Butch really really wanted that ball and he did not give up. He barked and whined and cried  and tried to clamber up onto the table. A few minutes later I turned around and there he was with the ball in his mouth. Yep, he had jumped up when my back was turned and stolen the ball.

So Butch had the ball. But Boogie was watching… as he does.

As soon as Butch accidentally dropped the ball, Boogie swooped in and stole it from him.

The relentless barking started again. Butch barked and barked and barked.

Then I saw Boogie throw the ball in front of Butch. No kidding. The ball landed right in front of where Butch was sitting and Boogie  got into a play bow. I called out “Good boy, Boogie!”

Butch looked at Boogie, looked at the ball, and was no longer interested in it. Instead he curled up right there and went to sleep!

Boogie was also no longer interested in the ball and he ran  into his crate.

A few minutes later, while Boogie was still in his crate, Butch  brought me the orange ball. “Play with me!”

Uh oh. Too late. Boogie has woken up…

October 19, 2010 at 6:49 am Leave a comment

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