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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dog Toys

Dog toys go a long way in keeping a dog occupied (yes, I'm still talking dog-movement deprivation. It is Honey's last week of full rehab for her knee - with any luck, she will be free to do a lot more roaming starting Thursday). But, not just any toys will do. Dogs get very attached to specific toys. You can try and force certain toys on them but it doesn't seem to work. This is a list of Honey's current toys:

1) A hard-rubber Kong ball. Kongs are famous odd-shaped dog toys that you can stuff full of peanut butter and treats keeping any dog happily occupied. The ball....not so much. It was an impulse buy at an expensive pet boutique meaning I paid too much for it. There was no reaction from Honey on introduction but I wouldn't give up on this over-priced toy. I brought it over and kept trying to entice her. She took a couple of half-hearted chews to humor me and then gave me a look that seemed to say, "You play with it if you're so into it." I even added a trick to her repertoire incorporating the Kong ball. I'll put the ball in front of her (forget her looking for it) and say "Where's your ball, Honey? Where's the ball? Where's your ball?" Throughout this falsely-enthusiastic questioning she just looks at me and doesn't move. When I'm done she'll look at me just a little bit longer to make sure I get the message and then finally put her paw on the ball. If the treat is good enough, she'll grab for it a little more eagerly the second time I ask but we both know that's about the treat and not the ball.

2) A fox from AKC toys. These toys are really great (good plush/fake fur and double squeakers) and this has been a hit. Of course, if you think about why she likes it -the squeak is supposed to sound like an animal - assumedly in distress - and the cute, funny shaking they do when they have it in their mouth is that terrier instinct of how to break a rat's neck. Let's move on...

3) A dachshund with a head and body attached to opposite sides of a tennis ball that my sister gave her. Initially, not a lot of reaction but then Honey fell in love. She would run after that toy for hours and would be very upset when she couldn't find it. Well, it started to fall apart, of course. I sewed it up a couple of times but there's not much to sew anymore so I'm weaning her off it. She still seems happy playing with its three parts separately, though. She'll fetch the head, or chew on the middle ball or, somehow, the most disturbing part is when she happily runs around with the headless rear end.

To add some photo examples of dogs and their toys, we have a guest appearance by Samson Cloud Guild.

Here you can see a couple of stuffed toys ready to double as pillows:

Here the classic rubber newspaper has been abandoned (top corner) while Sam practices his cutest-ever sleeping dog pose.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Flashback to rehab with pre-Honey dog Nadine

Nadine is the only other dog I've owned. Now that I've been suckered - I mean charmed into adopting Honey, and have learned about pits and their personalities, I realize Nadine was part pit, too. She had such a pretty, deer-like face with large lovely eyes, you wouldn't have thought it but her thighs should've been a clue. She was a great dog and also rescued (I was just old enough where, when I asked the question "can I keep her, huh, huh?? can I?" - I got to answer myself "why yes, you can.") She was less intense than Honey but she was also a couple of years older so we'll see if Honey mellows.

Nadine and I walked every morning for about four miles making a large square route on the prettiest path through suburbia. One time when I was sick for a couple of days and we weren't able to walk, somehow, Nadine got out. I was completely freaked out calling for her everywhere. I dragged myself to the car (I was still pretty ill) and started driving around looking for her, calling out. At a certain point, I was coming from the other direction on our morning route and there she was in the distance, trotting along toward me. She had taken herself for our walk.

Nadine had a pretty serious back operation when she got older and needed to have a lot of care. My mother came over while I worked in the morning and watched out for her. Nadine had a super dog basket bed, her food and water were brought to her on a raised platform, and she was very carefully carried, then helped out to use the lawn facilities. Her recovery was kind of slow but she was an older dog. One day I came home and my mother said, "I think she's feeling better." I asked her how she could tell. Well, my mother had made herself a cup of tea and cut a piece of cake. She put them on the coffee table and then went into the office to grab a magazine. When she got back, the cake was gone. Nadine hadn't moved - was just lying there resting quietly in her bed and the cake had been on the table across the room. My mother started to think - "did I eat the cake and forget all about it?" "Did I really cut myself a piece?" She started to go back to the kitchen to see if somehow she had left the cake slice there but stopped to pet Nadine who was looking up at her plaintively. And there, in Nadine's whiskers, my mother could see the cake crumbs. Somehow Nadine had zipped over to the coffee table, gobbled down the cake and made it back to the bed to look in time to lie back down and look pathetic.

I know I'm far away from my travels with is killing us but we're doing the best we can. Until then - Just Desserts are very good store-bought cakes.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Dogs like Fast Food, too

If you aren't from California, chances are you aren't familiar with In-N-Out Burger - one of the best hamburgers you are going to get without getting out of your car. I'm not a big fast food eater but, if I'm on the road and in a hurry, I will stop at an In-N-Out Burger. Driving through, I will order a burger for myself and a plain meat patty for Honey for $.99. Honey has caught on very quickly to the concept of pulling up to the side of a building and getting food handed to you - she sits very attentively as we pay at one window and get the food at the next. The only problem is when I go to a drive up ATM now, she is very disappointed that all we get is money.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Dog Training

Honey is generally good at Sit, Stay, Down, Paw, Wait, Come, Watch me.....but....if I have a treat and clicker in hand, she is THERE.

Honey is a proud graduate of the PetSmart Beginner's Training Dog Classes. This is a great, reasonably-priced, eight-week course offered at the PetSmart store in Ventura. It was a nice opportunity for additional socialization and to learn some new commands (she really had sit and stay down before we got there from training at her doggie day care.) It is a bright, friendly store and a lot of treats were involved so she was very happy.

Of course, when we walked in to the first evening class, quite a few non-pit lovers pulled their puppies close to them and sent intense body language for us to sit elsewhere but, Honey was oblivious (I'm the one that sweats it out.) She endeared herself to them quickly though. As we entered the ring, her tail wagging like mad, a French bulldog who was supposed to be restrained on the lap of its owner reached way out and bit Honey around her nose, hard enough to draw blood. Honey let out a slight whimper, pulled back and avoided this dog for the rest of the night. The owners never apologized (I think they were embarrassed) but everyone else felt bad for Honey as she sat there patiently with three little blood marks around her nose. (All the dogs have had their shots so I know there was no danger but it was pretty awful.) Then, when a nearby puppy came close enough to Honey, she gave it one of her trademark licks all over the face and everyone warmed to Honey and wanted to know more about the breed (and all the media misinformation).

Most of the dogs were about five months old which made Honey - at a year and a half - look like the kid in class who had been left behind - far behind. It also gave her an unfair advantage with a longer attention span and a great desire to please ---- or did she just want the treats?

There are specific signs that go with the words, "Sit" includes a brief swoop up with the hand while the index and thumb hold the treat. "Down" is a quick point down (if you don't want a dog to jump up - use "Off"). To train for "Watch me," you hold a treat between your eyes. You're supposed to get them to go up to 30 seconds. I believe Honey would stay there forever if the treat looked good enough. "Stay" is important - of course - and very, very useful. She was the Stay star - wouldn't move a muscle no matter where I went.

It is all done with positive training techniques and the clicker is a great reinforcement sound. They associate it with a treat and it is a really clear, distinctive cue. Only problem is when other people use a clicker, because Honey wants to perform whatever is necessary to get the treat out of that owner's hand. She will go sliding over to them in a sit position to show them that, even though their dog isn't obeying, she'll do whatever is necessary.

We will be back training in two and a half weeks. I am going to take her into PetSmart to see the teacher (she is in love with the trainer there, Rich - I think it's the sausage treats) and we'll try signing up for the Intermediate class. It will be low stress on her leg and give her some excitement. The rehab countdown begins....

Monday, February 06, 2006

Bargain Hound Dog Crate

I'm in love with this dog crate. I put it together myself and it was just easy enough but really had to follow the directions that I feel like I've accomplished something. It was reasonably priced at PetSmart which meant I could pick it up right away (having waited for the last minute) and it's a nice black. I got her the largest which has lots of room - we both can fit in there - and Honey even gets in there when she doesn't have to. I have put some blankets and a pillow in but there is a nice bed that I am leaning toward. Honey has a very good life.

Friday, February 03, 2006

ACL injury TPLO update - Good News!

Honey had her four week check up and she got the highest marks. Her leg has full range of motion, it felt strong to the surgeon and he said she was bearing full weight on both back legs - in other words, she's doing really well. Yay! One more month serious rehab to go. (Then two of limited, on-leash rehab.) He said we could add a little more activity but he had a kind of why-mess-with-success approach, basically keep on track with what we're doing.

As anyone who has been through this type of injury (and others with long rehabs), it is very intimidating. You feel like you are doing everything wrong. "Am I letting her do too much?" is the main question. And, you can ask others - as I do on the Orthodogs Yahoo Group - but, every vet has their own advice, different surgery solutions take different amounts of time, etc. So, you waver between surety and sure you're doing everything wrong.

Right now I'm feeling pretty cocky. Continuing on her regime of four short walks a day, lower food intake, some games with treat rewards to keep the mind sharp and - the one thing I've done outside the vets recommendation is give her arnica montana - a popular homeopathic for healing. Although we're trying to heal the bone here, the tissue also needs help and that's exactly what arnica is good for. My sister is the knowledgeable one so I just follow her advice but, even when I've used it myself, I have seen the effects are very positive.