Monday, October 31, 2011

happy doggie halloween!

so, the time has come to unleash desmond and his costume on the unsuspecting youngsters of the neighborhood. will they have any clue who he's supposed to be? based on our first attempt, i'd say no. based on our second and third attempts, i'd say it's still kinda iffy. crafty we are not. what can ya do?

attempt #2:

as you can see, we went with the advice of a few people who suggested getting some additional fabric

we found a t-shirt, which seemed like the easy way out. right up our alley!

i think desmond may be feeling a bit...depressed about the whole thing

but depression is a key element of the costume, so it works for me

plus, it's hysterically funny, because it really doesn't work

"you guys can't be serious, right?"

"i'm about to hit the road, because this is ridiculous."

"damn you and your treats! you always know how to make me come back."

"i want you to know: i'm not against biting you in your sleep. just sayin."

we realized this wasn't working quite right, because the "hair" that is supposed to run down the neck/back gets covered by the t-shirt. we thought about detaching it and then adding it to the t-shirt somehow, but that would have involved being crafty...

our version of a solution? behold, attempt #3:

we simply put the original costume back where it's supposed to go, according to the packaging

and joey removed the tail from the costume and then attached it to the t-shirt. i know that sounds crafty, but it really was extremely simple.

so now it sort of almost kind of maybe a little looks like eeyore

and desmond is still not feeling the love

that is the look of a dog who desperately wants this photo shoot to end (and also to eat the treat dad's dangling overhead)
so...yeah. i'm not going to ring the bell of success on this one. oh well. it was our first doggie halloween. hope everyone else's halloween costumes are working out better than ours!

by the way, my test on saturday wasn't as hard as i thought it was going to be. i'm pretty sure i rocked it. thanks for all the encouragement, folks!

Friday, October 28, 2011

school has started at Animal Behavior College

as you may be aware, i am taking classes with Animal Behavior College to become a professional dog trainer. i started studying the reading material for the Stage 1 exam over a month ago--the test is due this tuesday. yup. i'm That Girl.

you know... the one who's way too happy about school and books and studying and also office supplies and bags for carrying said books and office supplies

in fact, i am so That Girl, i am taking the test tomorrow instead of waiting for tuesday. the tests are all accessible online, so you can pretty much take them anytime you want before their due dates.

i'm the kind of person who enjoys taking tests, enjoys being tested, enjoys receiving grades. it's kind of sick, and i'm sure a therapist would have a field day with that, but i've been this way as long as i can remember. in college, the idea of a pass/fail class made me want to pass out. how can i know how awesome i am if you don't tell me? i know. i have problems.

here are a few more of my problems:
  • the test is open book. some folks would be doing a happy dance, but i'm upset. for one, i feel like that should mean the test is going to be harder. i know from the past that's not always the case--which baffles me--but you never know. for two, it feels like cheating. can't anybody do well on a test if you have the freakin' book with you at the time? i vowed to myself before this started that i would NOT use the book when i took my exams. i wanted to really absorb the information. i won't have a book when i'm out training doggies, right?
this dobie totally feels me

  • there is NO WAY i can possibly take this test without the book. Stage 1 covers a lot. too much. many of the terms and theories we need to know have definitions that barely differ from one another; so, it would be a matter of memorization more than learning, and that's not what my goal is. i realize much of learning is memorization in disguise anyway, but i hope you get my point. (that point being that i'm a nerd and a geek, but also that i don't want to just sit down with flashcards. i want to simply know the stuff. so now i feel like i've cheated myself already, plus i'm going to be "cheating" again tomorrow.) what topics does this stage cover? the AKC breeds & their characteristics; canine developmental periods; vaccinations; common health problems; common parasites; the musculoskeletal system; breeding; canine communication & body language.
the AKC hound group. these are my peeps.
  • desmond is not going to understand that i'm taking a test and can't be disturbed. yes, my husband will be home and, yes, he is aware of the situation and will be entertaining the dog for the duration of the test. what's the duration of the test? i have no clue at all. it's multiple choice, then a short-answer section, then an essay section. this could take me an hour or three hours. what are the chances desmond will just sit quietly on the couch with joey from the beginning to the end of my test-taking adventure? i would say slim. there will be whining. there will be running. there will be toy-grabbing and barking. methinks joey should just go park it at the dog run, and i'll call him when it's safe to return. :-)
i'm sorry, des, but mommy cannot help you get the ball from under the table that's a foot away from you right now
  • there is no real class or professor i can discuss/debate things with or ask questions of. each student at ABC is assigned a program director to work with throughout their courses. you can call or email your PD with any questions, including questions about the material. so, of course, i sent this poor guy an insane email with all my questions (in a bullet list, obviously). i sent it yesterday around 4:30. the school is in california; i am in new york. i'm impatiently waiting for a reply. i should probably also ask him if he can estimate how long the test will take. or how many questions are on it. a 30-question test and a 75-question test are quite different. i may need to bring lunch or a snack into my office at home... 

  • never mind all this, i have to get ready for the next test! and the next after that! starting on 11/15, there are tests due every week for a while. do you have any idea how insane this is making me on the inside? you can probably guess, based on how insane it's clearly making me on the outside.

likely, all will be fine. i am determined to graduate with honors, however, and therefore the grades are even more important to me than usual. not that even getting perfect scores on every exam is going to make me a good trainer, but ya know...i'm crazy.

what about you guys? are you crazy? were you a school nerd, too? what's your favorite AKC group?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

dog-friendly wineries on the north fork

you may or may not know that we live in long island, which is home to quite a few great wineries and vineyards out on the north fork. if you'd like to check it out further, the official L.I. wine country site is here, but since i'm feeling extra helpful today (and also because i love maps), here's a reference shot for you from that site:

photo from Long Island Wine Country's official site

i've been out the wineries twice before this trip with desmond, and both times were a blast. i knew the trip with him would be different and came with its own...challenges...but i felt confident we could make it work. joey valiantly offered to be the designated driver and dog handler (this was part of my birthday gift from back in august, but we couldn't make the trip until october), and i'm still not entirely sure what he was thinking, but i'm glad he made that choice. :-)

as you can see, there are quite a few places to go, but not all of them were going to be dog friendly. i basically just picked a few places that i had never been to and started sending emails to ask about desmond. we wound up hitting three spots:
there are definitely more than three dog-friendly wineries, but there are only so many hours in the day.

between us and our friends (desmond's aunt jane and uncle tim), we got some pretty good photos.

meat, cheese, and red wine at peconic bay

desmond is sitting in the background with joey, i swear (both peconic bay photos courtesy of t. schatz)

the sparkling white at peconic bay was pretty good, but i decided not to buy it in case i came upon something better. i regret that decision, but at least i did buy a yummy cabernet sauvignon reserve while i was there.

at jamesport, desmond met a cute frenchie who belonged to one of the staff members. after some on-leash play that almost brought me to the ground, we all went over to an empty part of the field near the grape vines and let the dogs run around off-leash. i don't have pix of that part, but trust me when i say that desmond was thrilled.


"ooh, mom, can we go say hi? can we, can we, pleeeeaaaase????"

a nice c-shaped greeting

desmond has this crazy ├╝ber excited run he does all the time at the dog park and decided to bust out here, too. it's part true-greyhound run, part wonky-legged run.

a quick shake break

i assume the frenchie was making fun of desmond's sweater here
enjoying some wine, beer, and conversation. they had a seasonal beer (a pumpkin, i think), and it was delicious.

as you can see from these last two pictures, i am part sicilian. there's another couple of shots like this, and they also include my flailing hand gestures. what can i say?

jamesport has a raw bar every weekend

time for a rest. or maybe a contemplation of all of life's injustices. could go either way with him.
desmond, i think you look sharp no matter what that frenchie says! (all jamesport shots courtesy of j. romanyenkov)

what was great about jamesport was that desmond was allowed in the tasting room. the room was basically a hallway/bar that you entered from the parking lot and had to walk through to get to the outside tables, outside bar, and band. at first, we assumed we had to walk desmond through right away and get him to the tables, but they let him hang with us at the bar instead. a few of the staff even came out to say hi to him and asked all about him. it was a very pleasant experience. plus, we brought home four bottles of wine from this winery and an artsy black & white photograph of a grapevine, so i vote jamesport a raving success.

then it was off to baiting hollow farm vineyard, where we planned to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening.

cheese plate, spinach & artichoke dip, a sandwich, and--of course--some hot dogs. because who doesn't eat hot dogs with their wine?

baiting hollow is also a horse rescue

here are some more pictures of desmond looking thrilled to death, after changing into something warmer

he really has it so rough

a family photo

rocking my sunglasses

making tim's hat look extra classy
i think he knows he looks good (baiting hollow pictures are from all three of our cameras)

baiting hollow had a good setup, i think, but it was very crowded. it was their anniversary weekend, so we were forewarned. desmond did really well there, considering it was after 3pm and we'd started our long day at 8:30am. plus, there were a few other dogs, and desmond didn't flip his lid and try to be best friends forever with each of them. i'm sure joey's to thank for that. the wine there was good, but not the best we'd had of the day. we didn't bring any home. oh well.

the whole trip was a great time and i'm very lucky that joey agreed to put up with all of us winos in honor of my 30th birthday. he's super.

p.s. my post before this one was my 100th, but i wasn't paying any attention. so, belated woo!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

oh, desmond

"I have two beds, but I'd rather have my head in the sun."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

obedience training sessions lessons: part 3

here are some photos from one of our walks when we went out to practice the heel/loose-leash walking lesson (previously discussed here). i was going to wait for a time when i could go out with joey and get some video, since desmond has gotten worse with the leash reactivity--particularly with those damn untrained, unexercised dogs down the block--but if i keep waiting for that to happen, i'll be in a retirement home before i write this post.

so, we practiced like the trainer told us: put on the choke chain; go out and let him do his business first; put him in a down-stay for up to five minutes; release him; put him in a sit; then start your walk and correct (with a leash-jerk) anytime he's walking in a way you don't like.

desmond in his down-stay on the stoop

he basically whined and stared in the direction of the neighbors' dogs the whole time

after release, in a quick sit before starting the walk

and we're off

the white house on the left with the shrub in front is where the other dogs live

and they've been spotted...

desmond's attempt to pull joey across the street

around this time, he was easy to hold onto/control, but he's gotten much stronger

joey stopped to try and get desmond to sit once we were past the house, but desmond didn't care
we're getting further away and desmond's still looking back to the dogs

finally getting to our corner and he's starting to calm down

one last look back at the dogs, of course
you can see that even in these photos, desmond isn't relaxed at the start of the walk (before the dogs made him nuts). i'm not sure if it was the training, in general, that was upsetting him or the association of the choke chain. either way, it's not like this method was even working for us in the heel/no-pulling area (never mind the leash reactivity thing!).

we soon switched to the very simple, only-patience-required method of refusing to move forward whenever desmond started to pull. tension on the leash = we stand here until there's no more tension on the leash.

whenever that wasn't working because he was too obsessed with who-knows-what, we'd use the other method of simply turning around and going the other way (and back and forth, if needed) until the pulling stopped.

this switch was accompanied by the retirement of the choke chain and the return of the easy walk harness. the harness alone does absolutely nothing to quell desmond's need for speed, but i am convinced that through my always using it when we took our morning walks--which were half running energy off and half loose-leash training--he started to realize that walking with the harness on means it's time for business. on the mornings when i'd be too lazy to switch from his collar to the harness, he'd pull like mad.

not magic, but definitely a huge help

even with the harness and the new training, he was still having trouble. that's when i started involving treats. many many many treats.

if he pulled, i stopped. when he backed up, i praised and treated him and then held another treat in my left hand (while also holding the leash--we do still use the leash-holding method taught to us by the trainer) to make desmond want to stay nearby as we continued walking. if he stayed, i treated him. i treated him even if his version of staying at my side was jamming his wet nose into my fist and trying to steal the treat. i didn't care. i just wanted to convince him that my side was the most happening place to be. (i did not attempt to use or teach an actual heel command at this time.)

he eventually figured out that he'd get a treat if he backed off a tight leash but couldn't quite get the idea of staying at my side or backing all the way up to return to my side. that's when i taught him "heel" (as in, get your butt back over here, all the way, at my side) by luring him back with treats.

from there, i started giving him treats along the walk fairly often, as long as he was heeling. this helped, for sure, but he's still got some work to do.

these days, he almost immediately backs up if we've stopped due to his pulling, and if he doesn't, you can say, "heel" and he usually responds pretty well. sometimes he's too involved with whatever's going on in the world and ignores me; other times, he's "over" the treats i happen to have with me. i definitely need to get him something extra super yummy so we can become masters at this.

achieving the loose-leash walk/heel is surely not the same accomplishment as overcoming leash reactivity, but any improvement is a big deal for desmond. i'm proud of what i've seen so far, and i have faith in his ability to replace poor behaviors with well-mannered ones.
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