Deep Breaths

Last night, Leroy was exuberantly running around the house, showing off for my parents.  He was flashing his big pit bull grin when he jumped onto Grandma and Grandpa’s bed, quickly lifted his leg, and peed on their duvet cover.

Bad dog..

Bad dog..

People of the world often anthromorphize these types of behaviors, either by saying something like, “Leroy was being spiteful because I made him take a nap in my bedroom”, or “Leroy felt so sorry after he peed on the bed.  He knew he was wrong.”

Well, people of the world; I can promise you that Leroy made no connection between his earlier nap in my bedroom, nor knew that he had done something wrong.  He was simply interrupted and ran away happily.  WHYYYYY??  Why Leroy??

These are the moments I look at him for .3 seconds and say, “Mommy doesn’t love you anymore”, in the sweetest voice I can muster.  Then he’ll do something so cute, it hurts my heart.  Last night his move was cuddling on the couch between me and his Grandma, and propping his head up on her knee, making the best squishy face that ever did exist.  Falling asleep on her with squinty eyed bliss, even Grandma forgot we were mad at the Pudding.  All returns to normal soon after the incident.

But again! The following morning Leroy wants to push my buttons again!  Leroy darling, I am a patient mamma, but you’re making me crazy!  Though for Leroy, I had to accept that he was not trying to make me crazy.  He was simply stressed out, overwhelmed, and unable to handle the situation.  Between the two barking mongrels across the street that run the barrier of their electric fence, the strange collection of men in the backyard with the landscaping company, and the gaggle of seventeen year old kids playing basketball and roughhousing in the pool; Leroy was like WTF?! And I was like WTF?!  These are the moments when I trust my dear friend Christine to tolerate my mental breakdown.  I text her and say, “I’d like to return Leroy and exchange him for a better dog”.  And she says, “No.  You love him too much.  And no one else wants him”.  This of course, is all in jest.  I wouldn’t give up Leroy if you pried him out of my cold, hard grasp.  He is my true love and favorite creature on this planet.  But still, we all are allowed to go over threshold every once in awhile 😉

It’s going to be a long summer…

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I am constantly reminded to respect Leroy’s limits, as well as my own.  So as I type this, Leroy is in his “Safe Place” of my bedroom.  He was too stressed out watching the big kids play in the pool, plus he needed a nap after our exhilarating afternoon walk.  And yaknow what?  That is OK.  I’d rather keep him safe and calm than push his limits.  I am working to be the best guardian that I can.  That includes knowing when and how to protect my dog from stress.  And even though he drives me crazy, I love him more than words can express.  So I am happy to do this for him.

On a lighter note, we do have an exciting announcement to make!  Check back tomorrow for that 😉   And until then, deep breaths!

If you have any suggestions or force free training articles on how to stop territory marking, please send them my way!  Also, please comment with any questions or topics you would like me to write about.  🙂

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Dog Accessories

As a dog person, I constantly have my eyes open for the newest dog accessory.  In my house, we are fully equipped with a variety of collars, leashes, and harnesses.  We have a head halter and a cage muzzle.  We have tshirts, a life vest, sun screen, poop bag holders, clickers, and treat bags.  So what are the best accessories?  What stuff is worth coming back to?

So here is a run-down of what Leroy is currently, or most often sporting.

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Freedom No Pull Harness

The Freedom No Pull Harness is an awesome tool.  There is a latch in the front and back of the harness, and it comes with a double connection leash.  You can choose to hook one part on the front and one on the back, two on the front, two on the back, or just one to create a longer leash.  I usually opt for both sides hooked to the front, or one on the front and one on the back.  However, my favorite part about this harness is the velvet armpit straps.  The Freedom is similar to the more readily available Easy Walk harness (being modeled on Drake), which is found at most pet stores.  But the nice straps help with rubbing and are especially appreciated for the short haired dogs.

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Holt Walking Collar

Commonly mistaken for a muzzle, the Holt Walking Collar is probably the best training tool I’ve found.  This tool helps to control your dog’s head.  It works the same way as the horse bridle; so when you control the face, you can easily control the body.  The downfall to this tool is that it takes some acclimation, and Leroy often tries to rub it off on the grass.  But despite some random grass rolling, he walks much nicer in this than anything else.  I especially like the Holt brand of head halters because it has an additional clip to attach the halter to the dog’s collar.  The Gentle Leader makes a head collar that simply has a leash attachment.  However, I feel much more secure knowing that my leash is attached to Leroy’s head halter, which is also attached to his collar.  So this, is my go-to walking accessory.

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Martingale collar and ID tag

And the daily accessory; Leroy’s martingale collar and name tag.  I have a lot of dog collars.  More than I need, certainly.  But I have grown to really like the martingale.  Granted, I don’t use it for walking.  But it is very secure, and super cute 🙂  It needs to either be adjusted or vigorously pulled over his head if I want to take it off.  I like knowing that it is really on him.  So if I ever had to grab hold in an emergency situation, the collar and tag would be sturdy.  The ID tag is a simple, custom, adorable, neck tie design that is engraved with his name and my phone number.

As you may have noticed, the training tools and techniques I use with Leroy are all known as “Force Free” or “Positive Reinforcement”. No prong collar, force, intimidation, or pain is used.  But I would like to know- What do you use?  What have you tried and not had very much luck with?  What are your dog’s accessories?  🙂

 

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Progress!

 

 

 

 

So if you read my letter to Leroy or noticed my lack of blogging, you may have gathered that I’ve been a little bit busy.  But I’m back!  This month I received my MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  (WOOT! If you’re interested in the other half of my life, you can check that out)  I will be busy and working to figure life out, as always.   But I promise to start providing more regular updates on Leroy’s progress!  However, it was a good time to take a blogging break, because Leroy is officially on Prozac (it takes 6 weeks to see any noticeable changes).  So I am ready and able to say that we are making progress!  But I am 100% certain that this progress is a combination of Prozac and very diligent training.  The Prozac is helping Leroy to stay under threshold more easily, and the training is giving him something active and productive to do when he becomes stressed out or overwhelmed.  It had been a great combination!  Not without mistakes, meltdowns, or errors of course.  But the overall trend has been progress.

Leroy is more capable of coping with a slowly moving cat in the distance, or even a very still cat a few feet away!  He uses his new favorite command, “Look at that”, to find something that is exciting and chase-worthy.  When he sees the exciting kitty, he has a moment.  Maybe we’ll call it a mental freak out.  He sees the cat and he wants to chase it!  That’s what he knows- that’s what he does!  But then he remembers- If he sees something exciting and he looks up at mom, he gets treats!  Good boy Leroy, good boy 🙂

We are still struggling with skateboards.  Those buggers are a challenge.  But we had a nice moment yesterday with a boy walking past us who was holding a skateboard.  Leroy didn’t quite go over threshold, but he was crying and worked up about it.  On the one hand, I could have been upset.  He wasn’t even riding the skateboard, he was just carrying it!  But on the other hand, I knew what to do!  And guess what?! Leroy knew what to do!  I waited Leroy out while he had a minor freak out… and then he gave me a very nice look away.  YES!  Good boy Leroy, Michaela would be proud.  🙂  Leroy got a nice reward and we left!

I goez for nap nao

I goez for nap nao.

 

Sorry for the delay in posting.  Please comment if you have any questions, post suggestions or anything at all!

 

Sponsor us here– 5k Race to Rescue

A Letter To My Dog

Dear Leroy,

Thank you for your continuous support and friendship.  You have been an amazing help to me during this past month while I finished graduate school.  I could not have done it without your patience and understanding.  I would like to thank you for being so wonderful, as well as apologize for my faults.

We both know that when I was looking for a companion, I wanted to meet an adult, preferably older than three.  You came into my life as a young one year old mess who needed a friend, and after being your foster mom for many months, I could not say goodbye.  I was happy that you did not have a very high energy level, even back then.  I knew that these two years in school would require a lot of my time, energy, and attention.  But what you lacked in energy, you began to make up for in behavioral issues.

I let things get to a bad place.  I can not fully express the depth of my sorrow for that.  I was often tired after I finished a long day in school, and you seemed to prefer cuddling and tug-of-war over a walk.  Philadelphia is scary.  You seemed very overwhelmed, so I let things slide.  This is not acceptable.  I am so sorry for this mistake.  When a child does not want their vegetables, their mom will not let it slide.  They get creative.  They ask for one bite.  They ask for a second bite.  They are encouraging.  They persist.  I did not persist.  You didn’t like walks, so we stopped.  I promise to never let this happen again.

 

I did take you on the occasional walk.  And we did a lot of playing, fostering, training, and games.  So things were not all bad.  But something happened during this time that made me truly understand your stress level.  Not anything obvious.  Maybe I just was reading, training, and trying to understand.  You are after all, my first dog.  We did a lot of learning together.  But I started to understand that maybe you needed more help than I could offer.  I don’t like seeing you stressed.  But I didn’t know how to fix it.  And avoiding the outdoors certainly isn’t a good solution.

I finally accepted that I needed some help.  So after the holidays we went full force into behavioral adjustment training and started you on Prozac.  I blamed myself for your lack of progress.  But now I blame myself for letting things get as bad as they did.  I know this last month has been crazy, but I promise I will never let things get to that place again.

So Leroy, thank you.  Thank you for letting me slack off this month.  I can not say that life will never get busy or overwhelming again; I’m sure that it will.  But I will do my best to remember all of your needs, and take them seriously.  You may be willing to skip the walk, but it does not mean that we should.  Thank you for everything.

Your Loving Mother and Friend,

Casey

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Impressive Trickster!

I wrote Leroy a resume a few months ago and I decided that since we won’t be fostering for some time, I want to add some awesome things to it.  And I need your help!  Here is a list of Leroy’s tricks that have been changed slightly since his first draft resume.

Sit, Down, Stay, Drop it, Leave it, Nice to Meet You (paw), Watch Me, Say Hi, Here, Bang, Go To Your Room, Give Me a Hug, and Kiss.  His newer or less practice commands are Stand, Spin. Crawl, All the Way Down, Roll Over, and High Ten.

The newest things we’ve been working on are Back Up, and Close The Door.  And I am excited!  So first, here are two progress videos of Leroy working.

 

Now!  The part I need help with 🙂  I would like a list of wonderful comment suggestions of what we should work on for the whole summer!  Cute tricks, hard sequence activities, funny things- whatever you’ve got!  Bring it on 😉

 

If you have any questions about Tofu, becoming a foster parent, or the adoption process- you can email me (Leroy’s mom) at Casey@caseyheyen.com

Sponsor me here!- 5k Race to Rescue

Look at that!

Leroy and I have been working on a command for quite some time.  Sometimes I thought, “Hey, he got it!”.  But most of the time, I felt like he had no clue what it meant.  This command is, “Look at that”.  I am asking Leroy to look for what I’m pointing at or something exciting, and then look back at me.  Jackpot- reward- good boy!  The problem is that what I’m asking him to look at is exciting.  So there may be a cat, bird, screaming tiny human, another dog ect.  And when Leroy sees these things, he goes into crazy dog mode.  We had done a few solid Look at that’s in the past, but it was not very reliable.  Leroy is better at working on this command inside and looking out the back door at the cat.  But once we are outside, things are harder.  However, today we had a wonderful walk!  And it was a warm-spring-fever day with lots of activity around the neighborhood.  GO LEROY!  Leroy is also at week 4 on Prozac, and I think I’m starting to notice subtle differences.  We’ve also been working our butts off with training.  So it’s hard to say what is causing the progress.  But I’d guess a combination of both.

So today on our walk, we had a lot of our “good stuff” training rewards- specifically, a huge chunk of the food roll.    Here is the tally of our walk and what we “failed” or reacted poorly at, and what we “passed” and did a wonderful “look at that” followed by a great “look back at mommy and get tons of food”.

Screaming child #1- Fail.  But just a minor fail.  Leroy doesn’t like screaming tiny humans.  It freaks him out.  He had a minor reactive moment, but we were able to keep it together and walk away in the other direction.

Screaming child # 2 and 3- Pass.  There are a group of kids that play in the culdesac by my apartment.  Bouncing balls and a bike, plus some noise- at a further distance, we passed!

Randomly scattered adult humans- Pass.  Usually Leroy does keep it together when we’re around people.  But if he’s especially worked up or if it’s dark, he can react poorly.  But today we walked around and did great.

Two yappy dogs in their fenced in yard- Pass!  This was a close call, because man were they yappy.  But he sat, did a “Look at that”.  Then we got a little closer and did another “Look at that”.  At this point they had noticed us and started wailing.  But Leroy still looked back at me for a hunk of food- good boy!  Then we hurried past their home.  Not walking wonderfully on the leash, but not freaking out either!

Homeless man in a wheelchair- Pass.  Leroy’s eyes lingered on this for a beat too long.  But he did in fact look back at me with no poor reaction!

Slow moving pack of cats- PASS.  This is huge, huge, for Leroy.  He’s had a few unpleasant run ins with the feline species, and I’ve declared him as “Not good with cats.”  He feels the same way about them, as they do him (see picture).  Luckily, he’s never done any damage!  But we keep them apart anyway 🙂   Normally he would totally loose his cool over cats, especially when they’re moving.  But we saw three sauntering kitties across the street.  And Leroy did an excellent “Look at that”!  He also did great when we saw a sitting kitty who was in a yard we walked pass.

i gotz beaded up bai a kitty

Skateboard- Fail.  Leroy hates the skateboards.  He looked at it, and then he tried to eat it.  Hmpm.  Too much, too soon!

Garbage bags x9- Pass.  It seems like the whole neighborhood did spring cleaning and had their trash out early.  There wasn’t much lunging for smells and crumbs of garbage.  And their also wasn’t any- “Moving plastic bag?!- Attack!”, which has happened in the past.  So very good!

i iz ready fo me yumz yum.

i iz ready fo me yumz yum.

Thanks again to our trainer Michaela at Opportunity Barks!  And good job Leroy 🙂  We will keep working on the “Look at that” command, because it seems to be a great tool to have mastered!

 

If you have any questions about Tofu, becoming a foster parent, or the adoption process- you can email me (Leroy’s mom) at Casey@caseyheyen.com

Sponsor me here!- 5k Race to Rescue

Temporary Fix

Although the concept of a foster home is inherently temporary, I am sad to report that Tofu will be moving into a new foster home as of tomorrow.  This was not a quick or unplanned decision.  In fact, I was not planning to foster at all this semester because I knew what would be happening in April and May.  I am finishing my last semester in graduate school, preparing for the Annual Student Exhibition, and planning to move back home with my parents.  I will graduate in May with my Masters in Fine Art from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  And soon after that, I am moving back to Scranton, PA to save money and live with my parents.  Sadly, these situations are just not fair to a foster dog.  But most importantly, I cannot bring her when I move back home.  So as I said, I was not planning this to foster at all this semester.  Sure… I could have probably squeezed in a foster puppy less than 4 months old, or a super gorgeous, highly adoptable blue nose pittie who loves cats and other dogs.  But that’s not my typical foster dog, we have plenty of foster homes for them.  I was just going to take a break.

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But when the LCPO president asks me to help out, it’s hard to decline.  I do have a heart after all!  We had been cross posting for Tofu for a few weeks, with no interest.  (Her name was Mama back then) Her scumbag breeder “owner” was leaving the halfway home and about to hand her off the first offer he got.  Actually, the one offer declined once he found out she was spayed (thanks to Almost Home rescue).  No more Mama for this girl.  But another person was still happy to pick her up, we can assume for less than honorable reasons since dog fighting is common in that area.  So things were becoming dire and we just could not see her end up in bad hands.  So I was asked to take her in.  I said yes, but with the understanding that as finals approached, she would need somewhere else to go.  This is something that easier to say than follow up on.  And if I could keep her, I would.

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As a foster mom, I feel responsible for my foster dogs until they find their perfect forever home.  As the saying goes, “Fostering is not a lifelong commitment, it’s a commitment to saving a life.”  I hope that this is the last time I will take a foster in, and have to say goodbye before they have found their forever home.  It truly breaks my heart to uproot Tofu.  She has made amazing progress with me in terms of being a wonderful companion, preparing for that perfect home, and learning how to trust Leroy.  I will be worried about her being moved, confused, and starting this process over again.  And they all must do this again when they are moved to their forever family.

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The one benefit of her new foster home is that there is a well balanced female dog (along with a handful of other great pooches!).  Because of Tofu’s past as a breeder dog with little, if any other socialization, we think that she may feel a little more comfortable with female dogs.  However, it will likely still take her time to adjust and feel at ease with them.  But her new foster mom knows how to take things slow, so Tofu will be given a nice opportunity so socialization with a variety of other dogs.  I am hoping that this benefits her in the long run,  and allows our rescue to know what type of home will be best suited for her in the future.

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But for my girl Tofu, just because you are leaving me, I will not feel any less responsible for you.  I will think about you, and bother your new foster mom with questions.  I will worry and hope.  I will cross post and blog about you.  When someone says they are looking for a dog, I will suggest you.  I will miss your cuddles, kisses, and happy butt wiggles.  I will meet your forever family and see you on your way before you are adopted.  You will always have a piece of my heart.  And I will love and care about you always.  I am sorry that I was your temporary fix, but I am thrilled that I was able to help in saving your life.  You will never live in a yard again; never know loneliness, cold, or hunger.  You are safe and we will take care of you… until that special family finds you and wants to call you their own.  ❤

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If you have any questions about Tofu, becoming a foster parent, or the adoption process- you can email me (Leroy’s mom) at Casey@caseyheyen.com

Sponsor me here!- 5k Race to Rescue

The Good Stuff

Yesterday I wrote about the Reactive Rover training class that Leroy and I finished.  Woo Leroy!  (more on that later, I promise)  I mentioned that I bring the “good stuff” to class, meaning that I stock up on very high value treats.  Here is a run down of what we use, and why we use it!

When I first signed Leroy up for training classes, I was worried that he would be so stressed out that he would ignore all of my special treats!  Sometimes when we are in a scary place like the vet, Leroy doesn’t care about food.  This is always hard for me to believe, because he LOVES food.  Seriously, he loves it.  So I was concerned that he would be stressed and just say “meh” to the hunk of meat in my hand.  Luckily for me, I have an awesome trainer.  She talked about what “goods” to bring to class, and Leroy ate them all up!

*time out*  If there are any of those, “Why do you need food to train your dog? Shouldn’t he be a good boy because he loves you?” type people, I would like to give them a shout out.  My dog (and most others) learns best by receiving food rewards when he is doing something right.   He offers a behavior, and either a. I do nothing or b. I reward it.  Behaviors that are rewarded will happen more often.  Training 101.  Sure, I could give him a nice pat on the head and tell him he is a good boy.  But my dog loves food, so damnit, I’m going to give him food!  It is a very high value reward for him.  Therefore, using food helps keep his attention and interest in training.  Otherwise he would just be eating Fluffy for a full hour. 😉 *time in*

Most of these are under the category of “soft and small”, aka perfect for training.  Although we are stocking up with food, dogs should be getting super tiny amounts of these rewards each time they do something good.  (And this should be faded and mixed in with functional/life rewards over time)  Approximately half a pinky finger nail!  No fat puppies here 🙂  So here is our list of the “good stuff”!  Tested and proven to be exciting, high value, and delicious to Leroy.. and maybe your dog too!

1. Hot Dogs.  First of all, gross.  I’m not a meat person.  So it was quite the effort for me to buy these suckers and feed them to Leroy.  But I did it, and he loved it!  The highest of the high value.  If you have a dog that ignores food when stressed, try the magical hot dog!

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2. “Soft and Small” training rewards.  Most companies make some type of small training treat.  We like to stay on the healthy side of things, so brands like Blue Buffalo or Zeke’s.  Not much junk in them, but still a great treat 🙂

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3. Food Rolls.  These are a newer thing in the world of dog food.  It can be used as a full meal, as a special dry food topper, and as a training reward.  It’s pretty soft but still packed together.  I used this a lot in Reactive Rover because I could hold a big chunk of it and break of smaller pieces.

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4. Freeze Dried Beef Liver.  Aka, crack for dogs.  This one is a little different because it’s not soft.  However, it breaks apart pretty easily so you can still give tiny treats and the dog will swallow it up nice and fast.  I don’t know what it is, but dogs like this.  Take my word.  Tofu is a huge fan as well.  🙂

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Well there it is, my list of the top four best training treats in the whole world.  Or something like that!  Thanks to Stephanie from And Foster Makes Five for the suggestion! Check out some wonderful blogging over there 🙂

 

If you have any questions about Tofu, becoming a foster parent, or the adoption process- you can email me (Leroy’s mom) at Casey@caseyheyen.com

Sponsor me here!- 5k Race to Rescue