Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Weekend with the grandparents

Starting Friday night, and lasting ALL day Saturday, Chimera had frequent diarrhea. It was a bad reaction to the homeopathic cough medicine his vet had prescribed -- she was surprised and said that it was the first time she'd heard of a dog having a reaction like this.

We picked up my sister and drove down south to visit my parents for the weekend and celebrate a belated Thanksgiving. Nature's Miracle passed the test: it got both urine and diarrhea stains out of my parents' nice carpets.

Chimera loves having a yard to sniff and roll around in, but their yard shares a fence line with three other homes with barking dogs. With Cai's newfound reactivity, that meant that he couldn't have any unsupervised yard time, and I was constantly doling out chicken when we would hear dogs bark or tags jangle (which he's even more reactive to than the barking).

In the afternoon, the whole family took a quick trip to a nearby park with a little stream, the only place Dragon ever willingly swam. When we got there and I let Cai off leash, he immediately ran chest-deep into the water, very briefly seemed to be bouyed up by the water and semi-swimming, and decided to exit. He started shivering quite quickly and I couldn't get him to go back into water deeper than a couple of inches with either treats or toys. I'm hoping that the cold was the main issue, and he'll be more willing to play in the water next summer.

Back at home, he napped in his crate while we ate the turkey dinner. Afterwards I took him to a nearby school with a huge grassy area and ran around off leash with him since there was no one else around.

In the evening the family settled down in front of the big screen TV to watch a movie. Cai jumped up onto the couch with me to check things out, saw the pictures on the TV, and froze for about five minutes, watching steadily. I realized that this was his first time seeing a TV! I don't own one, and there was a little one at his breeder's home but it was high up in the corner and I doubt he could see it well as a puppy. After a while he started barking at it, but was easily redirected and then forgot about it. He put himself in his crate at 10 pm.

Even though we were in a new place, Chimera slept in his crate quietly, other than the few times he whined to let me know that he needed to go out. The diarrhea continued but lessened in frequency during the day. I stopped giving him the medication on this day. He ate only boiled chicken and chicken jerky, to give his stomach a rest.

He napped quietly in his crate during both breakfast and dinner. What a good boy!

The family took a trip to Carmel, and famously dog-friendly town with an off leash dog beach. When we reached the water, once again Chimera ran straight into it chest-deep, then ran out and wouldn't get back in. However he enjoyed running around the beach and was very well-behaved (thanks in part to the boiled chicken I was carrying).

As we walked around the town afterwards, I worked on his leash reactivity, and quickly started offering chicken when another dog appeared in sight. I would let him look briefly (trying to put it on the cue "look") and then quickly reward for calmly looking at the other dog. By the end he was much more calm when he looked at the other dogs, however he still tensed when he heard tags jingling and had a full-blown barking fit at a big Doberman crossing the street toward us.

I was a true trainer and managed to work on this with an ice cream cone in one hand and the chicken and leash in the other.

I also decided to start working on his loose leash walking skills more intensely. Previously I'd used the "be a tree" method -- stopping when he would pull forwards, and going again when he turned toward me and put slack in the leash. He was catching on to the process of turning toward me, but -- as some other people have found with this method -- it led to him turning toward me and then immediately accelerating forward and hitting the end of the leash again. I had been also giving treats when he was at my side, but that wasn't very often, as usually he was out in front.

New plan: shorten his leash greatly so that there is only slack if he is within two feet of me. Introduce penalty yards -- if he reaches the end of the leash and pulls, I turn completely around and use the leash to gently turn him around and go back the way we came. When he reaches my side, I praise him and turn us back in the right direction. I also increased the rate of reinforcement for being at my side, which happened more often because the leash was so short. I'm seeing a great improvement in his attentiveness and ability to stay with me, but it's certainly a much more tiring method on my part! Because we do not take walks to potty, only when we're out for training/socialization, any time the leash is on I will be prepared to work and the consistent rules will help him learn more quickly.

Pictures of our weekend to come soon!

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