We now know about Sasha’s past…

I haven’t written much about our dog training because well… I just haven’t.ย But we haven’t stopped. We’re still working with Sasha and the new (well, she’s not new any more) trainer. We’ve done a lot of the basic obedience, working on her territorialness, and teaching her how to be calm on command (“settle”).

What’s really interesting is the recent turn of events. If you remember, we took ownership of Sasha around 8 months of age. She had another owner for 4 months prior. We had a lot of questions about what went on during those 4 months because the time from age 2 months to 6 months can be a very vital stage in a puppy’s development. But we resigned ourselves to never really knowing what happened apart from the few things the breeder told us.

Let’s hear it for the Internet. A few weeks ago I get an email from Sasha’s previous owner! You see, when he returned Sasha to the breeder they said she’d become a show dog. Well, a few weeks ago he happened to be thinking about her and figured he could Google to see if perhaps she was listed in any dog show results. Instead, he found my blog and based upon what I had written knew it was her. He wasn’t sure about reaching out to me, but because he’s always dealt with recuse dogs and wondered about their pasts, he figured now being on the other side of that coin he’d contact me so he could fill informational void.

We’ve been exchanging some emails, with him telling me a lot about her past, including sharing pictures. It’s been very useful and answered a lot of the questions we had. We gave all of this information to our trainer, and it’s creating a new course of action for us in terms of behavior modification work. All good. It’s still going to take months of work, but we’re dedicated to this dog. She’s awesome… it’s just that well… “this one goes to 11” and we sometimes just need her to turn it back to a 10. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here’s a puppy picture her previous owner shared with us. Ain’t she cute?

Kitty Hat

Daughter is so cool.

She started to learn how to knit, but then left it for a while.

A few days ago she dug her stuff out and started again.

So what did she do? She knitted a hat for one of our cats. ๐Ÿ™‚

Doggie School – round 2

It’s time for Sasha to continue her schooling.

Our first round of training was with Triple Crown Dog Academy. We did 6 private lessons in basic manners and obedience. Overall our experience was a positive one. There’s no question that Sasha is a better mannered and behaved dog, and we’re better owners for the experience. However, we knew Sasha had some baggage, and there’s just some things about the Kuvasz breed that need tending to. It was our plan to go back to Triple Crown for more training, taking their “basic manners and obedience” in a group setting this time, to help with socialization.

But plans have changed.

Wife was poking around Facebook for Kuvasz stuff and happened upon a woman who was local (well, up in Round Rock, city just north of Austin) and lo… she also had a Kuvasz! Turns out she’s a trainer, S.A.F.E. Training for Dogs. From her page:

Elizabeth Marsh is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) and behavior specialist. For over 20 years, she has been training pet dogs and service dogs and providing behavior therapy services for dogs with moderate to severe behavior problems. She has a formal education in behavioral psychology and is the developer of the SAFE Training method – a proven, scientific and reliable method for teaching dogs to adapt to life in a human environment. She is a certified evaluator for the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Program and a member of several professional organizations including the APDT, Delta Society and The Humane Society of the United States. She is deeply dedicated to improving the welfare of animals through the education of pet owners and their pets. Elizabeth lives in Round Rock, Texas with her Hungarian Kuvasz dog “Gretta” and her Great Pyrenees “Bo”.

And of course, she has a picture up of her cuddling her Kuvasz, Gretta.

I cannot lie. This held great appeal to us. A lady with a lot of training experience, seems to have the credentials, and not only knows the breed but owns it. She’s got daily experience with what it takes. You know, that could be good!

Wife was very excited and got right on the phone with Elizabeth, even setting up a meeting at our house. Me? I wasn’t too hot to it. I knew nothing of this person and just didn’t want to deal with it. So I put it off.

While things are getting better with Sasha well… after the experience we had at Wife’s in-laws, I got to thinking that yeah, we need a “Sasha Whisperer”. We don’t need some generic training routines. What we need is not just general training, but we also need some work to specifically address Sasha’s issues and situation. After the weekend at the in-laws, I decided to contact Elizabeth and get the ball rolling. I figured that she had as good a chance as any, as far as general training goes, but knowing the breed… heck, that can only help, right?

Yesterday Elizabeth came down to our house and spent about 2 hours with us. Us getting to know her, her getting to know us — and Sasha. She asked us lots of questions, we asked her lots of questions. Sasha hung out, and while she was initially not receptive to Elizabeth being around, Elizabeth had us try a few things.

For instance, with a territorial dog, it can be hard to introduce someone by having them come into the room. The dog is there, sees this as place to protect. But if instead the person is already in the room then the dog is brought into the room, it can go over better. Sure enough, it seemed to have a positive effect!

Lots of things were discussed, other tips, lots of reinforcement of what we already knew, some “ah-ha!” moments. It was just a good meeting and time.

Yeah, we’re going to give her a try. We’re going to do more private lessons to help work out the issues, with the goal being that towards the end we join some of the group lessons. Elizabeth is excited by the fact she can work with another Kuvasz, which I think gives us something intangible here… there’s going to be a lot of care going in here, not just another client.

We’ll see how it goes. ๐Ÿ™‚

Tutored

Doggie is going to get “tutored” today.

This is showing what sort of “not a dog person” I am. I have been agonizing over it… knowing she’s going to be left “alone” at the vet’s office, how much it pains her to be away from us and additionally locked up at some strange place with strange people. And then having to come home wearing “the cone of shame” and how miserable that’s going to be for her for a few days.

It’s been one of those “hurts me more than it’s going to hurt her” sort of situations.

Even Wife and Kiddos aren’t as pained about this as I am.

Yes… I’ve become a total sucker for that dog. *sigh* ๐Ÿ™‚

on a dog

I don’t know why you were given to me.

But here you are, part of my life from now until the end.

You have your issues, but don’t we all?

We have to work. We have to adjust.

We have to sacrifice.

I sometimes wonder if it’s worth it. But you look at me and I melt. Yes, it’s worth every moment.

We are learning. You don’t speak our language; nor do we speak yours. We are learning, and I can only hope you are patient and forgiving of us as we learn. It’s our job to understand you.

All you want is to protect us. That’s why we have you. We need you to gain perspective. We need you to understand the UPS Man is cool. Our friends? Allow them into the house and protect them like us. But otherwise, your instincts should remain true.

You are work. You are sacrifice. But you are awesome.

The pork has been smoked

This morning I took care of the hog I shot a few days ago. Drained the ice water, brought the quarters inside, trimmed and cleaned things up. Since I’m taking the week off work, it was a perfect day to put something on the smoker for numerous hours. So I did.

I took both shoulders, cleaned them up, and put some Special Shit rub on them. Got the smoker going, initially with briquets but then went all oak wood once things got started. Temperature range was 250ยบ to 350ยบ… a bit of a wider swing that I wanted, but I’m still learning this smoker. It was mostly on the lower end of things, but the occasional 300ยบ+ spikes. As soon as the smoker temperature stabilized, put the foil-wrapped shoulders on the grate. I opened the foil a bit for the first hour to ensure a good initial smoke. After the first hour I then mopped both shoulders with some apple cider vinegar and onion (each shoulder got half a yellow onion, sliced and broken apart). Sealed the foil up mostly tight… I want smoke to get in there, but retain as much moisture as I can. After a couple of hours I see one shoulder has less moisture than is desirable, so I baste both shoulders in half a bottle of Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Reseal the foil. After about 6 hours it’s evident the pork is done. I pull it off the smoker, leave it sealed until it cools enough to be handled by bare hands. Pull the meat off the bones, and all is good.

I even fixed a small plate for Sasha.

I think she was unsure of the rub spices, so I took the meat and ran some water over it to wash off the spices. She seemed to like it better. ๐Ÿ™‚

If I do anything different next time, it’d be ensuring more moisture retention. One shoulder was great, the other wasn’t… there was a foil puncture due to the bone and while I tried to seal things up I think it wasn’t good enough (and I was out of foil). Still, that shoulder turned out fine, and it shows the key to the long smoke of lean meats is moisture retention.

Anyways, everyone seems pleased with how the pork turned out. So I guess it’s time for a beer and some pork tacos. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’M MAGICAL!

From Hyperbole and a Half: Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving.

Just go read it. It’s funny, especially if you’re a dog owner.

I didn’t want dogs like this. That’s why I got a Kuvasz. But then… my dog eats cat poop and is happy to spin around and chase her own tail, so… sometimes I wonder. ๐Ÿ™‚

Doggie School – Day 5 & 6

I just realized I didn’t write about “day 5” of Doggie School. But I can’t remember exactly what we did. Everything blurs.

Because yesterday’s day 6 of Doggie School was mostly a reinforcement of all that we’ve been working on. We continue to work on things like sit, down, place and so on, but with added time, distance, and distraction. Specifically yesterday we added food to the mix. So if I say “sit” but then drop a treat to the ground right in front of Sasha’s face? She’s not allowed to touch the food. Sit means sit and that’s all you do until I tell you otherwise: no moving, no barking, no getting things even within reach of you, nothing… you sit. If I get up and move away, no matter how far away I move, no matter how long I’m gone, you don’t get up… not until I say “free”.

The other thing we specifically worked on was the “recall”. That’s the dog being somewhere away from you and you say “come” or call their name and they are to come directly to you. The amusing part? When an energetic 10 month old 75 lbs. dog comes running at your petite wife? Well… the impact sends your wife airborne. ๐Ÿ™‚ ย Wife wasn’t hurt, but she did get some nice air when Sasha barreled into her. One of those moments you wish the video camera was running.

That marked the end of our private lessons. We have the basics for manners and obedience: sit, down, place, come, , heel, no (corrections, both marking with “no” and a tug on the leash), “good girl” for praise, use of primary reinforcers like food/treats, walking on a loose leash. We have techniques for introducing her to people and people to her. We need to continue to take these further, such as sit with more distance, with more distractions, with more time, with food, etc.. ย We need to extrapolate behaviors such as when she hears the doorbell she doesn’t go ballistic but instead goes to her place bed (which implies laying down and being quiet, until we free her). So the basics are there, we just need to continue to practice and work on them with her.

I don’t think we’ll do another round of private lessons. I think that was necessary for the situation we were initially in, but now she needs even greater socialization. The neat thing about the private lessons was tho it was one-on-one instruction, Sasha was around a lot of distraction and other dogs because Triple Crown wasn’t devoid of activity while we were there. But I think next up we should take their basic manners and obedience class in the group setup. Yes, this would be a repeat of the curriculum we just learned, but it would be in a different context with more dogs and more people. It would help Sasha continue to generalize the commands, it would help us to reinforce the commands, and hey… I know that getting the same thing a second time can be good because the presentation may be similar but won’t be the same so inevitably you learn something new. Next classes that fit our schedule won’t be until January, so we may have to wait until then.

What can I say about Triple Crown? My experience has generally been good. I can’t imagine they’d be doing such good business if they didn’t do something right. But I also have heard stories and opinions from other people who Triple Crown is bad, but typically that’s been on the kenneling side of the business, not the training side. From reading How Dogs Learn it’s evident there are different approaches to training, and before I can put too much stock in stories and opinions I’d need to delve deeper into seeing where these opinions are founded. Perhaps that person views training differently thus Triple Crown’s methods are “bad” in their opinion. All I know is, I cannot debate the results. The Sasha we have today vs. the Sasha of 6 weeks ago is starkly different, and we’re happy both with the Sasha of today and our ability to handle and work with her. But will I kennel her there? That I can’t yet say, only because I’ve heard enough good and bad that I cannot determine what the Truth of the matter is. But furthermore, I just don’t know how well Sasha would take to being penned up and away from the flock she’s to protect for extended periods of time. Maybe as she’s older and more mellow it might work out better, but for now, just don’t know. So at this point, any sort of kenneling is out of the question no matter who does it.

Doggie grows. She’s just shy of 10 months old, and probably is now weighing 75 lbs. She needs to stop eating acorns (we think that’s what’s giving her the on and off diarrhea… we’re working on keeping her from eating them but she gets sneaky on us). She’s learning the groove of things, she’s becoming better behaved and accepting of the world around her. Like anything worth having, it takes time and work. So far, so good. ๐Ÿ™‚

Cold weather = excited dog

Who knew that introducing a lot of wind, some rain, and cold temperatures could get a dog so excited.

Gave Daughter a rough time during a backyard potty break (she took off to play and gave Daughter some “leash burn” on her palms). ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

It’s like any child… you make some progress, then suddenly they get all stupid again (e.g. enter teenager years) and you have to start over. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Doggie School – Day 4

Doggie school today wasn’t very eventful. But really, that’s a good thing.

When I took her on her morning walk, she was in rare form. Not 100% sure why, but my guess is the colder weather, the fact it rained overnight, the gusty winds… had her all excited. She was very alert, nose to the ground a lot. Someone left an upright vacuum just sitting on the corner, which in the dark freaked her out a bit. Nothing really odd, but she was just very excited and a little less obedient.

But at school? She was on. We went into the event building where all the student trainers were working with their dogs, so there was a great deal of distraction around. She handled it quite well, even kicking her legs out to the side when she was “down”… very relaxed. We worked “sit” and “down” more, putting her on a long line this time so we would back up further than 6′. We also added “down” to her “place” such that now “place” will come to imply “down” as well. Since she’s working officially on “down”, we’ve now added a correction to “down” if we don’t get compliance. We also work to refine compliance: if I say “sit” and she doesn’t immediately sit, correction must be immediate (instead of allowing her a few seconds to leisurely comply).

So there’s our homework: “sit” and “down” on a long line for distance; adding “down” to “place”, then also working some distance into that; adding corrections to “down”; getting compliance to be more immediate.

Really, she’s doing well. Abel continues to note how well she’s progressing, even as we ramp up the distraction and introduction to new things (e.g. she went into the Pro Shop today for the first time; more dogs and other people around her). He also noted how her coat is looking better than when we first brought her in: vet said just good diet and grooming is the best we can do there and in time it will improve.

So far so good. Her manners at home are improving as well, been able to introduce her to some people… still a little unsure of them, but so much better than a few weeks ago. She is getting a little cocky when we’re in the backyard and she’s off leash, but next week’s class will be about “come”. ๐Ÿ™‚