Doggie DI Boot Camp–Week Three–Smoked Out

Above: One of the llama spectators. These llamas are always interested in our latest activities.

Yikes! The smoke from the Grass Valley and Slide Fires finally invaded the valley. We have been lucky as the smoke has managed to miss us due to the wind direction. Now that the wind has stopped and the inversion layer has moved in–it is awful.

I am going to head out to see the gals today but if it is really smokey I won’t be active with them due to health risks. We’ll probably just do stationary obedience work. Still no word from the owners and now I am getting concerned.

Yesterday went well, we reviewed the “down” and “sit” but the big adventure was hitting the trail on the long line. The long line teaches the dogs to keep a specific distance from me at all times.

Also, when I teach them to “wait” they have a few seconds to respond and then I step on the line, this teaches them to yield to the line and to stop and wait after I ask them.

Above: The girls trotting along on a long-line, learning to yield to the line, wait, and come.

It took a few times but once they got the concept they each turned to watch me and waited. In addition I worked on “come” from a distance. They ran at full speed to get to me. This was great!

The up side to all of this activity is that by the time we got back to the camp, they were pooped!

Yielding to the line is an important concept to teach animals of all types. Lines are used to teach wild animals to yield to the line, too. You can’t very well stop a lion or elephant to stop when you ask by holding the line–so the line is driven into the ground and the animal is attached to it.

If they learn the concept early, then when they are older they don’t drag and injure their trainers and will respond to a very light pressure on the line. In rare cases they may bolt, but that is how the leash manners is taught to animals that outweigh us by hundreds and thousands of pounds.

Above: The girls learn to “wait.” Later they automatically began to look at me.

We did enter the play pen upon our return but when it was time to go back to their quarters, dog “A” refused to comply. So, she got left there alone. In ordinary circumstances this would not be wise–but she pines at the gate and doesn’t play or amuse herself at all. She is totally miserable to be separated from dog “B” and I.

Dog “B” did great so she to got to play with the two new toys. Two balls–one I hope is indestructable. The other is a new treat ball I told the manufacturer I would test. We worked on her “down” and “sit” stays. She still sucks compared to dog “A” but it is the compliance I am worried about and not the longivity. We can always get the duration–still only at about 1.5 minutes max for her.

She also worries about dog “A” when they are separated. However, I did get her to eat while I left to deal with dog “A.” Dog “A” finally complied–usually does when she finds out that non-compliance does not get her anything. She would not eat separated from dog “B.”

So, after getting a good “down” from her, I went back to dog “B” giving her a big bone to chew in her crate. I get the smoked or sterilized bones for big chewers. She was thrilled. I suspect she if the seriously destructive chewer.

Funny, the bottles never get destroyed–only flattened.

Once “A” was back at the quarters in close proximity to “B,” she ate like a champ. I then put “A” in her own crate with a bone and prepared to leave. All dogs on the property are left in their quarters for safety (predators, etc) when the camp owner is off the premises. Since these dogs are so destructive, they must remain in their crates until she returns. I also secured the door screen (metal) for ventilation and the perimeter gate to their yard.

As I closed the cabin screen and was exiting their yard I heard a low warning growl. I yelled, “knock it off” but heard it again. After a couple of minutes I still could not identify who it was–so both dogs lost their bones and only got the remainants of their cow hooves to chew.

Aggression of any sort is unacceptable between household animals–and certainly not towards their humans. Dog “B” exhibited overt aggression toward the ranch dog when I was working her and had the treat pouch on. The bone issue may be hers. She is ravenously hungry and I suspect she has parasites. This may be a contributing factor to the possessiveness–often called “food guarding” in the dog world.

Dog “A” exhibits low level dominance aggression towards “B” at various times but I can manage that with voice and it is not an overt threat. Posturing is something that goes on between animals all the time. The animals have to work out their social pecking order to maintain peace.

Humans often mess up by trying to be “fair” to one dog over the other. This can create an escalation in aggression or other bad behavior as the animals escalate to assert themselves and the rightful order of the animal world.

Humans as household leaders to have final word to avoid true altercations but knowing who is who in the animal world is a vital piece to maintaining peace.

So, today I’ll use controlled conditions to see who is the culprit and attempt to extinguish the behavior. Things like this are important to know as it explains why the pot bellied pig might have been attacked early on the dogs’ integration into the new household.

This is why it is important to disclose everything and anything to a trainer or behaviorist you work with. Vital for safety and vital for success in designing a program. None of this aggression was disclosed to me. I heard only that “they were pestering the pig” just before they came to camp. Recently another party let me know that the problem was pre-existing.

I remember a caller who refused to answer my questions when I asked him. He yelled, “I don’t know that is why I am calling you!” I don’t take every case and asked him to apply via the behavior form online. He was a jerk–I’ll save you the details.

When I called the trainer who referred him to my office–she told me about the kid his dog bit and other aggression incidents. He would not share any with me on the phone–and of course that was the reason I wouldn’t take him as a client. If someone won’t comply with requests or be honest from the get go–they are not someone I want to work with.

Also, that type of person and attitude gets people hurt.

Anyway, until I hear from the gal’s owners I won’t be working on the household integration. I can’t imagine being away with a big fire looming close by and NOT calling to check on my animals or the situation.

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