Does Your Dog Trust You… Completely?

Most of my dogs are rescues. Four of Six are rescues. Two are not rescues, I bought them from breeders back in 1999. Each one of my dogs, current and past, are all very unique and different int how they learn, what they like, their mannerisms, and all their little quirks.

Chase sleeping
Chase Sleeping

I have been wondering, lately, how much my dogs actually trust me. I think they trust in context… they trust me in certain situations, and not in others. I think they trust me in most situations.

Lucy and Levi are the dogs that I bought from breeders as puppies, and I think they trust me a great deal.  They let me trim their toenails and handle them when I need to. Of course I tried to work with them when they were little.  Levi doesn’t like it when my pager goes off, and I think he doesn’t trust me that much when it does. Pre-Medication when I got paged I got very upset, and of course he picked up on that. Now, though, I don’t react so badly, but Levi still does react. Even when the same page noise goes off on the TV!  Lucy is very stubborn and sassy, and sure of herself, and I don’t think she has any problems trusting me in just about any situation.

I think Angel trusts us now. She didn’t when she came to live with us. She was afraid of everything. And still she doesn’t want her toenails trimmed, but she suffers it for a constant supply of treats.  I can’t think of a situation where she reacts now in ways that says she doesn’t trust us. So that is good. 🙂

I think Chase trusts us too.  He is good at letting us handle him, his toenails, and all over when we need to. When we go to the vet he hides behind us too. Poor boy.

Tatum Sleeping
Tatum Sleeps

As for Muffit and Tatum, I think they are still learning. The whole point of this post was to wonder if Tatum trusts me or not.  I think Muffit still has his doubts, but he’s only been with us since February 2008… which has been nine months. Angel has been with us for six years, and Chase three years.

Tatum was treated poorly by humans when she lived at the hoarders.  When she had contact with humans at all.  And I think Muffit, also, wasn’t treated well by people. He’s a bit protective of me now and he’s been known to snark at people he’s not sure of. By snark, I mean a fake snap.  I’m 95% sure he wouldn’t actually bite anyone. 🙂 But dogs do have a bite threshold. Just as we do if pushed.

I wonder if rescue dogs will always have a lack of trust for humans. Be it any other human than their family. Or any human, even those in their own family. I guess it depends on the dog and what the dogs have been through. I like to think that my dogs trust me. That I earn their trust, and keep their trust.  i want Muffit and Tatum to trust me more than they do.  Of course with Tatum, instead of a lack of trust, she could just be showing off her sassiness!  Which she does a lot, now.  And I find it interesting with Muffit, that I can touch his feet and toenails just fine when we are sitting together. But if the nail clippers or the dremmel come out, he will not let me near his feet. He will squeal and scream and whine and put his mouth on me.  I find it interesting that he associates nail trimming as bad with all humans. Not just with a past human that hurt him.  He just thinks it’s bad all the way around. I want to convince him it’s not so bad after all!

So do your dogs trust you? Are they rescues or did you buy them as a puppies? I’m just curious. 🙂

Easy Weekend and Tatum Training

Well, I’m taking it easy this weekend. I have no dog sport competitions. I wanted to have today be dog-training free, but I ended up having a private lesson with Tatum and my obedience instructor. We took her to a local dog park and walked outside the fence to start to train her to pay more attention to me, instead of other dogs. Both for comfort and for training.

She got very stressed. Enough to come home and go after Angel.. which Tatum does when she’s stressed. But Tatum needs to learn how to be pushed a little bit, and that it won’t hurt her, she won’t die. She needs to learn to deal with pressure and then come back from it quickly, and preferably, with me. Currently when she gets stressed she will recover faster, and better, with the other dogs. And I want her to trust me so that she will recover with me.

I have read a ton of dog behavior books and they have helped me tremendously to understand dogs. Though I have more to read… but I’m kinda tired of them now, and just want the practical application. So me and Tatum get to work together on this. It will be a challenge, but I’m confident we can work through it.

An example of Tatum’s stress is.. this morning after breakfast the dogs played, like they always do. And Tatum was playing with a toy and I want to encourage this. Well, Chase is a toy hog so I put all the other dogs in the kitchen and take Tatum outside and play toy with her. Tug and chase and fun stuff. She ran around, ran by me, and hit me in the arm. It didn’t hurt me at all, but I don’t know how much it hurt her. She immediately shut down. Her tail dropped a notch, she did her nervous trot, and no longer wanted to play.

In order to bring her back to her happy self, I could have brought the other dogs out. But I want her to understand that she is not going to be hurt. She doesn’t have to be afraid, and she can trust me. I think this will come. And I’m willing to work through it.

It’s like having a child who was abused, or suffered some awful thing when younger. Tatum was abused as a puppy, and did suffer some awful things. Coming from a hoarder/collector who had 50 collies running amok, she has issues we need to work through and overcome. And she is smart and spunky and has already come so far, I know she can come even further!

Anyway… after that my husband went and saw a movie, Iron Man, it was good! And now I’m relaxing. Tomorrow I’m going to my parents for a late Mother’s Day, and then flyball practice. Then Monday is hectic with agility practice, getting my nails done, taking Lucy and Levi to the vet, and then going to see a tax guy. Whew. Then Memorial day weekend I have a 3 day agility trial.

Lucy will get re-xrayed to see if she has cancer, or calcification of the lungs. Let’s hope for calcification.

So this weekend isn’t is activity free as I would like, but hey, it’s nice to not do a dog sport!

Tatum’s Stressors

Tatum Just wanted to make a bit of a list of the things that seem to stress Tatum out… hopefully with time, and work, this list will get less and less. When she is very stressed she wont take treats, and if she is semi stressed she won’t pay attention to toys. Only when she’s very comfortable and happy will she play with toys.

Stressors:

  • New Places – Though the more new places we go, the less nervous she is in them.
  • Strange Noises – The more strange noises she experiences, the better she is at excepting new ones.
  • Being Tired – The more tired she gets (from activity or learning) the more stressed she gets.
  • Being Restrained – Like many dogs, she does not like to be restrained and it frightens her.
  • Collar Grab – She does not like her collar grabbed or to be pulled with a collar. We are working on the collar becuase all dogs need to be collar touched once in a while. But we don’t pull her. No reason, she is small enough to guide or herd along or carry.

Signs of Stress:

  • Tail – A tail is such an excellent way to read a dog. I feel sorry for dogs that don’t have them… When Tatum is happy and excited, her tail is high and almost over her back. The more excited, the more erect. The more stressed and unsure she is, the lower it goes. When she is completely overwhelmed, it’s sucked under her tummy.
  • Treats – She won’t take treats if she is highly stressed.
  • Toys / Play – She will not take a toy or play if she is stressed.
  • Gait – When she is stressed she will not run… she will only trot or walk. If she gets away from me and is afraid, she will trot around looking for her crate.
  • Facial Expression – You probably have to know her pretty well, but her facial expression will change to look worried and frightened if she is stressed.

She’s fairly easy to read if you know what you are looking for… she is a doll, and cute in her pink coat don’t you think? LOL… anyway,

Trying this Control Unleashed Thing on Muffit

Muffit So the new big hit in the dog sport, behavior, and training world is Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt. It’s a book, and the author has also been doing seminars around the country. She is coming here to Salt Lake City, Utah, in October of this year. She started her program by teaching classes to humans and their dogs in order to help the dogs calm down, focus, and work smarter.

I am reading her book. She has a lot of good points. There is a lot of trouble in the dog sport world, especially in agility now, where dogs are pretty darn wild and out of control. They don’t focus very well, and they have been coined ‘train wrecks’ a time or two. This can be dangerous, too. Especially if a dog falls off the dog walk in uncontrolled haste to get to the other end. Or the A-Frame, or flies off the teeter unsafely. In agility, not only do we want speed, we want control and accuracy. A balance of these things are critical for a fun, safe sport.

Anyway, so I have been taking Muffit to some dog events to get him used to the situations. However, he is very overstimulated. He is frantic. Especially when he sees other dogs. He doesn’t pay much attention to me, and he’s quite unable to focus on anything but the other dogs. He is nice to them, he just wants to say hi to all of them. And when there are 80+ dogs there, that’s pretty impossible.

So I’m about half way through Control Unleashed. I guess I don’t really get the passive exercises. Either that, or I find them boring. But the theory is, as I understand it, to teach the dog to be able to relax and be calm. Because a calm dog can think. And learn. And then transport this calmness to other situations.

Muffit CampingSo Muffit and I sat on our mat today and I stroked him, rubbed his ears, and did some TTouch on him. He relaxed and seemed to like it. Then we got up and did some sits and downs and shakes, things he knows really well. He did get pretty excited when he was doing these and would paw at me and be cute. And I know he loves to learn and clicker train, and I really want to give that to him, too. So I’m not sure if I should practice calming exercises and teach him things in the same training session, or different training sessions. But I really, really don’t want to stop clicker training him. He works just fine at home, he is learning the jump for flyball, and the spring over and back over the jump, and he likes it. And he’s not frantic.

I guess it’s hard for me to see moving the calming exercises from inside the boring house, to outside. If we do this and get good at it, then i move outside… if a dog walks by he still, I think, will get frantic. I’m not sure. But if he does get frantic, we would go inside (remove him from the situation) and then do some calming exercises to calm him down again. And see what distance he can take from another dog before he gets too excited, barking and jumping and pulling at the leash. Then always keep him under that threshold.

I will try this and see what happens. I’m impatient, I will admit it, and want quicker results than this. So I’m asking lots of opinions on what I should do with Muffit. I want him to be happy and calm and well adjusted. Which he is not.. yet. He is happy and calm at well adjusted at home, and he does love walks, but the stimulating environments of flyball and agility are a bit much for him… as a border collie he has a lot of energy, and I will work with that. And I think he has some Australian Shepherd in him, too. It’s sad that we got this broken dog we now have to fix. And he’s about five years old. Poor guy. but we’ll fix him up, no doubt!

He’s different from the collies. I’m glad that Tatum, although she’s frightened in new situations, she is not frantic and she’s pretty much able to think.

Like I have said in the past, it’s really hard for me to learn from a book. But I will try. And I will keep talking to people about all this, too.

Good Day at DOCNA

Well, back from the DOCNA trial. As it’s after 9pm I’ve been back for a while, and the muscles are starting to stiffen up. 🙂 But that’s okay, it was a fun day. I do wish I could run Levi and Chase both well at the same trial. Today was Levi’s day. He got 3 out of 4 Qs. Two Standard and One Jumpers. Chase only got One Q, in Snakes and Ladders. He is strong in that, though. The Gamblers I messed up because I wasn’t sure about my course. And the Standard he was blowing his contacts so we trained instead.

Muffit did pretty well.. though most of the day he was wide awake and very over stimulated. Not until about 2pm did he start to settle down. He will stay home tomorrow, one day was definitely enough for him.

Tatum did great, she slept most of the day and come out to play and work occasionally. I walked her over to another building where they were doing obedience and conformation fun matches… and that made her nervous but she didn’t die, and later she was fine again.

Levi went through the obedience fun match and did great! I was impressed and we used minimal treats. So.. I’ll be entering him in ASCA obedience this summer to see how he does and get that CD. I took Chase though too, and he needed a treat on his target stick to pay attention to me. It is still hard for him but we are working on it.

The dogs are now very tired and sleeping. The Mum is also tired, and will be sleeping shortly!