Monday, May 31, 2010

anxiety getting worse, perhaps

The holiday weekend is tough on Vanya. He gets to see lots of his favorite people, which is lovely, and he's been very good about not jumping up and not getting too excited when greeting. But with all the dogs running by, all the cars, all the people--I just can't keep him under threshold.

When we're out walking and vans go by without stopping, he shrieks in the same way he only used to do when a dog was too close to him: piercing, heart-rending shrieks. Cars are fine--he can hold a polite sit and watch them quietly. Vans? Nope. He screams at the top of his lungs.

We see two women in the distance, and he begins to warble softly with his desire to go say hello. He's managing to be a good boy about not pulling on the leash when we walk toward the women, but then an unleashed lab comes bounding up (toward the women, still 200 yards from us.) At first, when we see the dog, Vanya is interested and whining, but not shrieking or lunging, and I praise him and then do a gentle turn in the other direction, to head back down our driveway to let them go by. But when he realizes he's going to have to go in the opposite direction of the women and dog, Vanya loses it. He begins  shrieking and screaming and wrestling and trying to pull out of his harness and snapping at the leash, as badly as I've ever seen him. I have two leashes on him, two attachments, so I'm not worried about him getting loose, but I hate to see him go so terribly over his threshold. I can't just stand there and let them get closer, so I  end up dragging him down the driveway behind the car. (When he's out of visual contact, he does quiet quickly down).

Friday, May 28, 2010

playtime, overexcited

We tried playing with Buddy today, the little male, intact miniature poodle. Well, it was interesting. Not perfect, but interesting. We didn't actually set this up; Buddy was just bouncing around off leash and came zooming up to us when Vanya and I were on a walk.

Because I suspected Buddy might be around, I had muzzled Vanya before we walked down the road near their house. When I saw Buddy come charging toward us, I did manage to get Vanya to focus on me for a microsecond.

( If I had been setting this up properly, I would not have let Vanya interact with Buddy until he was politely walking on his leash and watching me when requested. I would have asked Lyle to put Buddy on a leash, and we would have played the penalty yards game, walking toward Buddy as long as Vanya was being polite and going backwards back to the start line as soon as he started pulling or vocalizing. We do this when he wants to greet new people. Anyway, so much for best-laid plans.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Up at the Lake

We're up at Lake Superior for the summer. Here's the cabin, the world's tiniest space (10X20ft). No running water, but I did put in DSL, since I'm addicted to the internet.

Vanya is delighted to see 2 or 3 new people each day. He's so delighted, he sometimes forgets his manners and shrieks and pulls if I'm not walking quickly enough toward his heart's desire. Then we walk backwards until he stops pulling, and try again. Luckily I have the world's most patient neighbors. Some of them think Vanya is insane, but most of them thank he's adorable. Actually, Vanya's antics probably just make them feel good about their own dogs.

Monday, May 24, 2010


OK, it is officially summer here in southern Wisconsin, and miserably so. Yesterday it hit 90, and today is hotter and much more humid.

The dogs are insane. I've been trying to keep them inside in the air conditioning. But nope, they want out. I finally let them out and instead of heading for the shade, they went right to the sunniest spot on the porch. Sunbathing in a zillion degree heat! They're stark raving mad.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Working on leash reactivity again, finally

Today, I took time off from the weeding to bring Vanya up to town with me.

We swung by the big Prairie dog park, which is insanely busy even on Monday, but which does have a big church parking lot across the street, where I can work with Vanya and know that no dog is going to come near us. Much of the time, he was slightly stressed when we played Look at That, but able to calm down and pay attention. (I try to keep him far enough away when we play LAT so that he doesn't show any stress signs and can just lay on his bed and flop over, but that far away, I don't believe he can actually see the other dogs.) A couple of times, however, a large black GSD set him off and he started shrieking (even though that dog wasn't paying any attention to us, she was chasing a ball obsessively). But he was able to calm down quickly enough.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Quiet Life on the Farm

Between the past month of book tour for TOXIC BODIES, and the craziness of spring on the farm, I haven't been taking Vanya out for leash-reactivity work. Instead, he and Tiva lead a blissful life hunting ground squirrels in the fields. Tiva eats them. Vanya just tosses them in the air and then looks puzzled when they stop squirming. He has spent the past 2 hours trying to dig one out from under a pile of lumber from the old greenhouse frame. Mr. Obsessive. When he comes in at night, he's too tired to beg. Well, maybe not that tired.