Welcome to my journey! This blog is about my adventures in dog training, pet therapy work, rescue work and life with my menagerie of animals. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Thankful for the "flaw"....

When we adopted Beanie, we were warned about the barking, repeatedly. We assured the rescue group we were understanding of this trait and that we'd handle it just fine. No amount of warning can ever prepare you for the reality of the Pyrenees barking. I am often heard saying it is Beanie's one and only flaw. Indeed as a breed that is their only flaw in my eyes. That being said if your Pyrenees is an LGD (livestock guardian dog) then you welcome that barking, it makes you feel safe, because that barking signifies the detection of a threat and its' elimination. You know your sheep, chickens, cats and self are safe for the night because of the ever vigilant Great Pyrenees in your midst. Yes I do actually think they should wear capes! However, for us pet people, or maybe just me, that barking can be like nails on a chalkboard. He barks at everything and nothing! He barks at birds overhead, leaves blowing in the trees, the girls if they change the tone of their voice during play; sometimes he barks just to get other dogs to bark back! Some of it is boredom but not all of it because even when he had playmates he was an obnoxious barker.

There are those occasions though when I am thankful for that deep, scary bark. I am not ashamed to say I have used him to scare off a bunch of punk teenagers shooting off fireworks in front of my house at 10:30 at night during the week (yes I'm one of those people). Unabashedly, I leashed him up and walked him outside yelling at the kids to leave and his glorious bark worked its' charm and they took off! Tonight on our walk, under a clear, dark, star filled sky that bark stopped a charging, off leash dog in its' tracks on two different instances. He was leashed but I was prepared to drop the leash should the advancement continue, these dogs were not happy to see us. Luckily a few big barks from Beanie and I could have sworn I heard brakes squealing! Not once did I reprimand him as he was doing exactly what he has been bred for generations to do, what I in fact wanted him to do and he was entirely appropriate given the situation. I simply trained my flashlight on the offender and kept walking while Beanie bounced and barked.

There is no doubt I will still find his often times incessant barking annoying but I will never try to teach him to stop. Besides the fact that it is a fruitless endeavor, this flaw is actually one of his best qualities!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Beanie misses dogs…and he's getting a little angry about it!

Bear with me for a moment…Imagine you are a human that lives with aliens. These aliens are really nice to you, feed you well, give you lots of attention and take you cool places; the only down side is you can not understand them at all. Communication is strained at best and most times completely foreign. Often they are inconsistent and unpredictable. However when you get to be around other humans you have a blast and can really talk with your friends or argue with the not so nice curly haired girl! You actually enjoy your life and can handle the strained communication with the aliens because really they are very good to you. Then imagine one day the aliens take you away to a place you've never been and now you live in a strange house and play in a strange yard. Soon it's not so scary and you relax a little. However time keeps ticking by and you still have not seen another human being, days turn in to weeks and weeks turn into months and slowly you get a little crazier and bored. Occasionally the aliens take you someplace where you might see another human but you are not allowed to interact because there is a rope around your neck! So you start running toward the human you see yelling and lunging because you want to be with them, you really miss being with humans. Soon you start to get a little angry and when you see a human you know you won't be able to play so your yelling becomes a little fiercer from frustration. Some humans in this situation may even begin to yell at their alien or even bite them or even begin to hate seeing another human and scream obscenities at them making them go away. Isolation from your own kind has made you very angry and frustrated.

Now read that situation again and replace every 'human' with dog and every 'alien' with human and you might begin to understand the process dogs go through when they are not properly socialized or isolated from other dogs for long periods and how all that can escalate into reactivity and aggression. Thankfully Beanie has not hit the stage of yelling at me or full on aggressing toward other dogs, but his isolation from them has definitely taken it's toll and he has become very frustrated on leash when he sees other dogs.

In our previous life whenever he saw dogs it was either at daycare or in a training session. At daycare, obviously he got to play, in a training session he knew it was work time and so was on very good behavior and often he was even allowed to play after the session. I would take him to the shelter when I worked and he'd act as a decoy to test another dogs reaction to dogs or he'd be a playmate for a dog to see how the other dog played. He was never really deprived except maybe on walks, but because he was  always able to play with dogs any dog we met on a walk was a non issue. Things are different here. We haven't found a suitable daycare place and most of them are a good distance away anyway. We are not currently in a training class and I'm not teaching so he sees no other dogs that way. Right now the only time he sees dogs is on a walk and so he has started to become the dog that pulls and lunges and barks when he sees another dog and more recently it has not been sounding so nice when he does so. I have high hopes for a daycare facility we are going to try out on friday but I must say I am a little concerned that he will be a rude bully and not make any friends. I hope I have not permanently changed my fun loving, dog friendly dog into a leash reactive dog. I will cross my fingers and keep working on politeness while on leash. Wish us luck!