The Great Escape or Why Metal is No Match for My Dogs

I think there is a natural law that says behavior must balance. For every good deed or achievement, there will be destruction or misbehavior. This seems to be true for both teenagers and the terrible canine trio, but I am focusing on the four legs this week.

The Good: Percy did an amazing job in class this week. He took the test he will have to complete to graduate (just to see where he was–no one thought he would actually pass) and it wasn’t too shabby. His off-leash work was good and the wild man was calm and mostly obedient.

Percy did try to take off after a punk poodle who decided to bolt during his own test. This poodle was embracing his new Mohawk and brightly colored additions to his grey head fur. I couldn’t blame Percy. That poodle seemed to know how to have a good time. Normally, this particular poodle has a pretty prance but not this week. This week it was all gallop and attitude.

The Bad: The boys escaped the backyard last week before Dad went to work and when he was the only one home. While rough-housing at the back gate, they bent the latch and went off for an adventure. The boys have put on a few pounds each so combined they are about 300 pounds. I suppose the fence did the best it could.

I am thinking of putting one of these inside the fence instead of outside.

The quiet gave them away. Dad has been a human and dog parent long enough to be suspicious of silence. The two big boys are between name tags at the moment (thanks, Drake the pig shark for chewing them off) so Dad was extra worried. He grabbed a handful of leashes and started for Grandma’s. The in-laws live three houses down and Haas adores Grandma. He will break out of his crate and open a baby gate to get to her when she pops by. Haas knows where Grandma lives and often tries to head that way when he is allowed out of the backyard. Fortunately, they were distracted by the captivating scents of the neighbor’s stuff so they hadn’t made it far. They did come running when called so…yay, training?

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Here’s hoping the padlock, para-cord, and shoelace contain the wild ones.

Now I am off to protect the big boys from Drake. He is a demon tonight. Even Percy is getting tired of his nonsense, which is saying a lot, and I have had to peel Drake off of Haas’s jaw. His toothy smile and wrinkled head would make a terrifying Halloween mask.

May your week be filled with love, laughter, and treats. Be kind to yourself.

(I will ) Stand My Ground.

It’s been an educational few days. Between Percy’s class Saturday and Professional Development at school (read: teaching the teachers), my brain has had a lot of things to practice and process. It used to bug me when I needed time to think but one of the benefits of not being young is that now I just take the time to let the crud ferment in my brain. It’s too bad I didn’t have that attitude when I was younger. I think it comes down to two things: I don’t care and I am stubborn.

This isn’t nearly as negative as it sounds. I spend all day, every day, with teenagers (those who claim they don’t care what anyone thinks but actually do). I get it. Being a teenager stinks. It stinks like teenage boys’ sweat socks after outside PE in August. If you don’t know what that smells like, its almost as bad as dog, erm, flatulence. So, I’m glad I’m snuggling up to 40. It’s so much easier to learn when I am not just pretending not to care about what other people think and just don’t care.

Even if this is way rambly and gets preachy, I do have a feel-good type point. I couldn’t have trained Percy 10 years ago. I couldn’t have done it 5 years ago because I did care about looking stupid or inept. I would have given up on the first day when Percy pooped in class (mortifying). If that hadn’t done it, maybe I would have given up when we failed the test to get out of level 2 multiple times or when he was “that kid” in class.

A few weeks ago, the trainer was trying not to call out individuals for what they were doing wrong. I was actually bordering on frustrated before I caught why I was feeling that way. I didn’t care if anyone else knew what I was doing wrong. This was a massive growth for me. I just wanted to know how to fix what I needed to fix. I have been tempted to give up, especially when I had to accept that Percy and I wouldn’t graduate from our obedience class. I didn’t quit for two reasons. One is Percy. He deserves my all. The second is that I am just a trifle stubborn (You ok, Husband and Mom? I hope you didn’t choke too much on that statement.) I am okay with us failing but I won’t give up or give in.

I had this realization as we got to do our first off-leash work this week. Up until now, the trainer and I haven’t felt comfortable letting Percy loose with other dogs and people around. I put Percy in a sit and walked maybe 15 or 20 feet away. He stayed! Miracle! When I called him, though, was a tad frightening. Imagine 85 pounds of overly-enthusiastic muscle and teeth charging at you like a freight train. In a perfect world, he would slow down and sit directly in front of me. This isn’t a perfect world. Instead of sitting, my boy decided to launch himself through the air and collide with me at full speed. Fortunately, I am stout so I didn’t end up on my rear and was able to stand my ground. All in all, he didn’t do too badly for his first time off-leash.

Now my obstinance is going to show through with my school kids. My kids are amazing but now it is time to be persistent. They are a delight but there are too many holes in my grade book. If I can stick with Percy, I can stick with my kids. Time to crank the Tom Petty and make “I Won’t Back Down” this year’s theme song. I don’t care if they think I am the crazy teacher who dances in the halls, I am not giving up. Happy Monday!

Wonders never cease.

Percy shocked me this weekend. I didn’t think it was possible to shock me due to his weirdness or for him to do what he did.

We only have 4 or 5 weeks left in our 6 month obedience training package. With this package, there are six levels. Due to his rambunctious reactivity and intense prey-drive, I believe it was realistic to assume he would never make it to the off-leash levels (4, 5, 6).

But… It happened! Percy was promoted to level 4! I was rendered speechless as half the class cheered for him. To be fair, some of them may have been happy to not have to deal with this dog, but one lady (on the 3rd dog she was taking through the same group class since Percy started) diplomatically told me how she remembered when Percy first started and how much he improved. He’ll now get to join his Malinois buddies who aren’t scared to train next to my embodiment of chaos.

To celebrate this amazing surprise, Oldest Child and I took Percy for a hamburger. Normally we don’t do junk food for the boys but this was a special occasion. After both his tummy and ego were fed by those golden (arches) workers, we finally started the long drive home. I think the perpetual motion puppy had a good day.

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I’m too tired for a picture, mom. Let’s just go home.

 

My dog makes the other dogs look good. You’re welcome, classmates.

What a weekend capped off by a trying Monday with the terrible trio. I’m now ready to go back to school. Thanks, boys.

Friday, Drake stopped jingling. We may be slackers here and left on some extra tags from Drake’s rescue days. It’s the same idea as a bell on a cat’s collar. The big boys really should get some warning before a Drake attack. Dad looked at Drake and discovered he was naked. Where was his collar? No one knew. My theory was that Haas was dragging Captain Wigglebutt around the yard by his collar again and managed to hit the clasp juuuuuust right. Fortunately, Dad retrieved the collar so we don’t have to replace his Smart Tag, name tag, and rabies tag.

Saturday was going to be much better. This was Percy’s group obedience class. I hooked up Percy’s training collar and we had a nice, well-behaved, walk to the car. He even sat nicely in the car for the entire trip without trying to wedge his head in my armpit.

We picked up Oldest Child from a sleepover and sat through the entry-level class with no problems.  My dog was being good! He did what he was supposed to and sat quietly, even when being fussed at by an adorable German Shepherd puppy. He was even calm when two Malinois came through and the owners addressed Percy by name.

You see, Percy is a bit notorious. Everyone knows Percy. This is not because he is the only lab in class, but because he gets called out in class. Like, a lot. Lately, it has been much better and he even got praise last week for doing really well with a new concept.  Way to go, Percy! We are getting this! Or, so I thought.

Class began well. Percy heeled like a champ, sat when he was supposed to, and responded to my cues. Then, we started on distractions. Just like we have been practising (with no trouble) for weeks, I put my leash on the ground, stood on it, and clapped. Percy took off, barking and having a complete freak-out. Ugh.  I could handle this, but still.  And he kept going….and going… and finally, the owner stepped in, couldn’t get Percy to calm down. He was sent outside for a timeout.  After a few minutes to calm down (and have an unscheduled potty break, ew), we went in and Percy did well for the rest of class. I apologized to the Mal owner next to me who keeps getting stuck with Percy and she said “It’s okay. We love Percy!”  It’s easy to love a dog who makes yours look like a dream.  I am choosing to look on the bright side and claim this as a service to other’s handler’s self-esteem.

Today, the trials continued with preventative pill day. We give our boys a combo chewable that is supposed to prevent heartworms, fleas, and other random worms and parasites that I would rather not witness. This can be a chore as it is the one thing Haas and Percy won’t eat without much strife. I decided to be tricky today. I buried it in the boys’ food bowls and locked them in their crates so they couldn’t steal each other’s pills.

I watched closely without looking like I was watching.  Haas gets shy and stops eating. Drake snarfed his food and pill and was released from his crate.  I checked the bottomless pit Percy and he managed to overlook his giant pill in the grooves of the slow-down bowl. I handed it to him and he dropped it and looked away. Apparently, there is a limit to what this stinker will eat.  Haas, in the meantime, had picked his pill out of his bowl and moved it quite far from his food bowl. There was no way he was eating it. Hmmm… what to do next.

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Haas doesn’t like these hard pills. Apparently, concrete is softer and tastier.

Oldest Child had a plan.  Just peanut butter wouldn’t work so maybe a treat of a peanut butter sandwich on unhealthy white bread would do it.  The big boys would get 1/4 of a pb sandwich with the pill in the middle. Drake, not to be left out, would get 1/4 of a sandwich with a treat in the middle. Percy’s disappeared in one gulp.  Haas bit into his, split the pill in half, and spit out half a pill while eating the sandwich.  Good thing we had another 1/4 sandwich.  Finally, it went down and the big boys could be free.

Fortunately, all is forgiven, and my faithful friends are by my side again. I’m so glad Percy’s classes are almost over and I don’t have to do pill time again for a month.

Hope your weekend and Monday was much more fun!  Have a wonderful week and we hope you stop by again next time.

Vacation is over. Time to get to work.

Last week was quite busy with visiting family from out of town so training has been put on the back burner. It’s not the best time for this for a couple of reasons. First, we are running out of time on our six-month class and Percy still has a long way to go. I would love for him to be able to advance but he really has to graduate from the group classes to do this. Second, Percy had his annual trip to the vet and he got some bad, bad news. Percy has to go on a diet.

While we wait for the diet food shipment to come in, that means fewer treats and reduced portions since the heat is limiting outdoor exercise. We will increase our in-door training sessions but they aren’t as active. Percy does not like this one bit. It’s amazing how well this dog can pout.

Percy is also sneaky and tries to help the other boys finish their food. Now we have a new feeding routine. Each boy gets fed in his crate and bowls are checked before Major Pain is released. If we don’t remove Haas’s bowl, Percy goes in to lick the crumbs. There’s no dignity where dinner is concerned.

We suspected Percy was getting a bit heavy before his trip in because he was looking more like a loaf of sandwich bread than an hourglass. It even inspired new nicknames from Oldest Child (aka the Mayor of Angstville). We have “rat baby” Drake (I prefer Captain Wigglebutt), “brat baby” for Haas (Fluffy), and “fat baby” for Percy. Few people or animals are called by their actual names in our house.

Starting tomorrow, Percy and I will be having an early morning stroll. Just prying things he shouldn’t eat out of his mouth isn’t enough exercise for me to get healthy either.  Since I always come up with excuses not to do this for myself, I will use Percy for motivation. I am more likely to do something for his health than for my own so I guess this is another benefit of my furry friend. Here’s to both dog and human training!

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Percy spectating instead of participating in Drake’s chaos.

Attitude is Everything

When I tell people I teach high school students, many people tell me they are sorry or give some unnecessary praise for dealing with teenagers. It seems that attitude is the main complaint for those people. It’s true that teenagers can have some overly negative attitudes but I often think it is the expectation of negativity that makes it more noticeable or maybe worse. Teenagers can actually be quite wonderful and full of hope and love and laziness and inspiration and punkishness. I have often written that I like my dogs because they remind me of my kids. It’s easier to train the dogs, though. When they want to refuse or be hateful, I can’t understand what the dogs are saying.

I know that when I am having a particularly rough day with students, I get better results if I let my kids know that I lack patience and am not doing well. I try my absolute best to have as few of those days as possible but I am only human, just like the kids. They can hear and understand that it isn’t that particular class’s fault that I have used up all of my patience and I hope they see that I struggle sometimes, just like they do. I want them to see that even when I struggle, I have to push through.

When I am working with training the boys, though, I can’t make them understand that I am frustrated or impatient and it probably isn’t all them. I know better than to try to work with them when they have broken into the kitchen and eaten half a package of sweet rolls or ripped another blanket to shreds and spread it all over the back yard. It’s the little bits of impatience that I can’t explain to them and have to remind myself that this isn’t the time to work on our homework. Our trainer regularly reminds the class that we have to be in the right frame of mind to be effective when working with our dogs.  I get so caught up in “I have to do this right now” that I sometimes cause us to go backwards.

Today was good though. I set a time to work with Percy and did something relaxing for about 15 minutes before. It took a minute for us to work together but instead of getting frustrated, I was able to laugh when Percy started his “heel” position in the wrong spot. Normally when that happens, I guide him in a teardrop shape to the right spot. I cocked my head to the side (a weird habit I have before I correct him) and just as I was about to correct him, he maneuvered himself in that same teardrop pattern with a little extra hop at the end so he actually jumped into place. I don’t know if I should fix that or not, but it made me laugh and remember that training can be fun when I let it. I’ll ask the trainer Saturday about his weirdness but the rest of the homework went beautifully. He still had his challenges but that’s okay. There were more successes than challenges so I am calling it a day.

Since I wasn’t annoyed or impatient, I added a little time to work on training Drake. It lets me see how far Percy has come because I have forgotten what to do in order to get Drake started. He doesn’t know those basics that Percy does. It doesn’t matter though. Drake always has a good attitude. I thought doggie grins weren’t a thing until I met Drake. I have never seen a dog look so happy. The only time he doesn’t look happy is when Haas gets tired of Drake’s nonsense and sits on him.

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Can we train now, mom? I am so happy! Are you happy?

Drake picks things up much faster than Percy does. Maybe he isn’t as hard headed as Percy. Maybe it’s Drake’s better attitude than both Percy and I have on most days that makes the difference. He can be my inspiration as I try to get half a million things done this week.

I would love to be able to bring my happy boy to see my teenagers in the fall and especially when attitudes all around get a bit rough in October and April. You can’t be unhappy when you look at that grin and I don’t know how anyone ever let Drake go. I am happy to have been lucky enough to snap him up.

Chaos is the new normal.

The boys are in the doghouse (figuratively — they don’t actually fit inside Stump and Gypsy’s old house). They destroyed their pool. It started with a small puncture I thought I could fix but now it looks like it fell into a giant’s garbage disposal. No water play now unless it rains. What a long, hot summer it will be.img_2823

Maybe next year I can get them a metal watering trough or something. We had one for a summer when I was a kid that would work beautifully for these terrors but I am sure it is long gone. Should I have to buy metal everything?

How much can 3 dogs destroy? Everything. The answer is everything. There is nothing these dogs can’t decimate. I worry constantly about toxicity levels. It can’t be good to try to eat a sharpie (where did Drake find that?), or a soda bottle, or whatever I am about to pry out of Percy’s jaws.

They also ate my nativity set this last week. I have had to rescue the poor Mary in the past from Haas’s jaws but this is a total loss. I thought it was put away but I was so wrong. It is time to find a puppy priest for some canine confession. I’m a little lot concerned for them.

I briefly considered finding a yard ornament type made from cement or concrete or something like that for a nativity replacement. Then I remembered Haas’s taste for concrete as a chew toy. Could I try metal? Surely someone makes metal nativity sets that are small enough for a crowded living room. Maybe a framed photo of someone else’s is the right way to go. Maybe I should stop thinking about Christmas decorations in June. I really need to work on my other hobbies.

I’m off to quilt so I don’t use bad words at my boys.

I love my dogs. I need to keep working on house manners. I love my dogs.  I love my dogs. Sigh.