Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cai's vacation with Sherry & Jacques

August 16:
Cai just ate all his dinner up – totally cleaned his plate.

He seemed to be over the rats until they woke up and started their evening activities, and now he’s back barking at them.

Cai and Jacques are getting along. Still not besties, but no problems.

August 17:
Cai attacked and devoured his breakfast and dinner as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks. 

He is still going after the rats consistently (I think they are his favorite thing here), but I can’t blame him. The rats are part of the problem! Instead of quietly retiring to the safer upper levels and hiding like decent prey animals they insist upon running down to engage with him, which of course eggs him on, which then eggs them on in a rather interesting cycle. I posted a short – and relatively mild – video on my Facebook page if you want to see. They have gotten quite feisty since I shot that video (and so has Cai), and now all three of them are running down and ganging up whenever he starts in. Last time all three were in the hammock on the lower level. I CAN call him away from them if it gets too intense, but of course he goes back – what dog wouldn’t? I might have to close off their access to the lower levels for a while just to keep some peace in the household!

August 18:
Both meals attacked and devoured, as usual – along with part of Jacques’ dinner. Oops!

He might be a butterball when you get back if he keeps this up.

Confining the rats to the upper levels seems to have dampened his enthusiasm. If they can’t come running down to engage with him, they’re just not that interesting anymore.

August 20:
Reduced food to 2 ½ pieces. You’d think I was starving the poor guy.

He’s behaving very well with Jacques, and Jacques is tolerating him better and better. Still not besties, but…

Cai has decided that everything that is within his reach is his, especially if he finds it on the floor. Good thing you trained him to come and hand you whatever he is carrying – most impressive, and certainly easier than trying to catch him and pry it out of his mouth! He has torn up a few tissues, and a couple of plastic bags, and pretty much gutted and demolished one of the toys you brought. There are a couple of items that I have been missing for a few weeks – wish he would find them!

August 22:
And speaking of your dog, I just heard some doggy lip-smacking sounds, and when I went to investigate found that Cai had opened up a bag of rat food blocks and was devouring them as if they were the only thing between him and imminent death from starvation. And this was, mind you, less than an hour after he ate breakfast.

I don't think you will be able to continue to say that dog is not food motivated. I'm guessing sawdust would be a high-value training treat for him about now.

August 23:
Well, we did do a few sessions with the "two-on, two-off" box last night. Of course, he practically attacked the box trying to get into it - after all, it's got some characteristics of a platform - and he was starting to catch on to the idea that doing something with his front feet was a good idea, and that something involved lifting a front foot, and putting it on the outside of the box. He was still experimenting with that when we stopped. He was also swinging his rear outside the box, which is one reason I stopped. I'll try to do a few  more sessions tonight. He is quite good at shaping.

I had to rearrange things slightly yesterday and today after he succeeded in cornering Sadie in the  nesting box. I'm afraid he got quite a surprise when I opened the top of the coop, grabbed whatever part of him I could, and jerked him out of there. Sadie seemed unhurt (and he was fine - just startled), but of course every time I let him out to pee he headed straight for the chicken coop, so I've kept the kennel gate closed.

He's doing great. He and Jacques seem to have arrived at a modus vivendi, and I might have actually seen a few play moves from each of them, though not much. 

Focus/Engagement And The Unaltered Dog

Copied from a post I wrote in the Engagement class at FDSA:

Are you sure Suprelorin is available in the US? I was looking into this stuff earlier this year and thought that the only chemical option for us is Zeuterin, which is permanent. The upside of Zeuterin is that it only reduces testosterone by about half, so you hopefully see some behavioral benefits without removing all of the health benefits of testosterone. However I decided not to do it as the technique hasn't  been around long enough to know about long term health effects.

This topic is one I wrestled with for a couple of years. I feel that it's overall healthier to leave dogs intact (particularly males), however Cai has been intensely focused on dogs since he hit adolescence at 4 months on the dot. He became leash reactive *literally* overnight. His reactivity is almost entirely due to frustration at not being to run over and greet other dogs. There's also a small proportion of it that is alert behavior, that appears when he's off leash and a dog appears unexpectedly, but that seems to be a carry-over from practicing the frustrated reactivity so much.

Cai is also obnoxious around females, both spayed and intact. He obsessively sticks his nose right into their privates and needs strong corrections to be dissuaded. If the girl doesn't correct him, he follows her around non-stop. He's not often off-leash around females except when briefly passing on hikes, so I've just managed him with a leash when the situation's come up in the past.

I polled multiple trainer friends on this topic at ClickerExpo this past January, and they mostly agreed that neutering would *probably* help, but maybe not because he was 2.5 years old at that point and had had lots of practice at these unwanted behaviors.

A couple of months back I got a chance to meet up with Dr Amy Cook, and she provided helpful insight. She noticed that his reactivity included a lot of posturing, and I said that he also marks after every single reactive incident. Her analysis was that decreasing his testosterone would likely improve his intense interest in other dogs. That was what finally convinced me to neuter him, and he had the surgery two weeks ago. I will certainly provide updates as I see any change in his behavior. (I'm currently on vacation and will be picking him up on Tuesday. In the meantime he's gone from being a dog who will sometimes turn up his nose at his usual high-value treats even when we're at home, to devouring everything he can get his little teeth on. If the neuter changes nothing else, at least I'll have a dog who is easier to train on the food motivation front.)

But there's one more thing at play in this decision: trainer ego. When he was younger, neutering him seemed like taking the easy way out. I wanted to be a "good enough" trainer that I could work through the issue. I've certainly improved as a trainer thanks to him (and thanks to the training methods at FDSA, which think outside the box), but after 3 years (and an anxiety attack in front of everyone at Ferretpalooza), he's worn me down.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


The first 48 hours after Cai's neuter were rough. He spent lots of time just lying in his crate whining and crying, and refused water - I had to squirt it into his mouth with a syringe. When he finally peed, it was on my bed. When he finally pooped, it turned into almost 12 hours of diarrhea (and I couldn't wash his butt fluff properly due to the stitches).

After that, though, things improved immensely. On Monday Cai was no longer whining, would wag his tail happily when I greeted him, drank occasionally when I brought him a bowl of fresh water, and ate all of breakfast and dinner -- and has continued eating every meal since. (It's actually unusual for his appetite to stay strong for 4 days in a row, so I'm quite pleased.) He's still sleeping a lot, but also spent time chewing on a bully stick and sitting on my lap.

His stitches look fine and will come out on Saturday morning - just in time for the hand off to Sherry on Sunday, since I'll be in Hawaii next week. Good luck, Sherry!

Saturday, August 8, 2015


Chimera was neutered yesterday (and had a dental cleaning while he was under). The surgery went smoothly and his incision and stitches are looking fine today. He has barely stopped complaining, though. He's spent the past 24 hours mostly lying in his crate and whining until he exhausts himself and falls asleep. He hasn't peed or drunk any water. After checking in with the vet this afternoon, I got the okay to increase his dose of pain medication. Let's hope he feels better soon.

Papillon playdate

Chimera made a new friend this week: a young female Papillon named Eevee.