Monday, November 16, 2015

The Genius of Ranger

Everyone knows that Ranger is an exceptional dog but from time to time he goes beyond even our expectations. Case in point. 

Yesterday my husband and I took Ranger out to the pet food store to buy more cat food. The store was having their customer appreciation sale and offering $5 nail trims with the proceeds supporting the local Humane Society. Since all our current menagerie came from the Humane Society we like to support them. And $5 for a nail trim is a good deal. It isn't Ranger's favorite thing but he stood patiently while the groomer clipped his nails. In fact she kept remarking that it was the most effortless nail trim all day. 

When we'd finished buying cat food we needed to go to the grocery store. Trying to be efficient and knowing how much my husband hates shopping I offered to drop Ranger and him off at a nearby nature preserve so they could have a walk while I did the grocery shopping. I dropped them off and told my husband which grocery store I was going to. They set out on their walk and I drove to the store. 

At the grocery store they had a Bar-b-que grill set up outside and were bar-b-queing ribs that smelled amazing. When I was done with my shopping and carrying the bags back to the car they offered me a sample of the ribs. How could I resist. They were so good I decided they'd make an excellent dinner but I didn't want to leave husband and Ranger standing in the nature preserve parking lot waiting for me so I gave my husband a quick call. They were heading back to the parking lot but could take another loop through if I wanted to run back for a rack of ribs. 

I ran back in to get the ribs and the lasagna noodles I'd forgotten on my first trip through. Meanwhile Ranger and Dad headed back into the preserve with Ranger leading the way. When they got to a trail intersection Ranger stopped, considered for awhile, and then insisted they take the trail to the south. This is a favorite place to take Ranger so we all know the trails pretty well and it's hard for us to get lost so Dad agreed to go that way and then to take a little used side trail off that. My husband had forgotten that the grocery store I was going to backed up onto the preserve until Ranger led him out into the store parking lot. That's when he called me. 

I was just putting the ribs into the car when my phone rang. Thinking he wanted to know how soon I'd be there to pick them up I told my husband I'd just put the ribs in the car and would be there in a couple minutes. That's when he told me not to bother that they were coming to me. I looked up and there they were heading across the parking lot. 

So, how did Ranger know where I was? How did he choose a route that would bring them to me? Does he know the name of the grocery store and keep a map in his head of where it is in relationship to the preserve? Did he smell me or the ribs and follow his nose? As the crow flies the distance between the parking lot of the preserve and the store is probably half a mile or more but the trails meander so the distance by trail is more. I have many more questions than answers perhaps it was all coincidence and we're just reading too much into it but this is Ranger we're talking about and these days I put nothing past him. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Millimeter by Millimeter: They Add Up

It has been a long slow process rehabilitating our profoundly damaged Finna and our progress has been measured in millimeters. I've been looking at Finna over the last few weeks and realizing just how much those millimeters have added up.

Today when she's barking at something I can say in my happy voice "That'll Do" and she stops barking and waits for  her reward of having the ball thrown. This is the dog that previously was so far over threshold that she needed to be physically hauled away to a distance where she could recover herself.

The dog that would rather lose all her teeth fighting you for a tug toy now responds to the cue "Give" by giving up tug toy when asked. Relinquishing the toy is almost always followed by another game of tug so she is continually reinforced for doing what I ask.

Our resource guarder who always wanted to control all available resources can now be seen contentedly chewing bully sticks side by side with Ranger. She's still a pushy bitch and doesn't like it when Ranger gets something she doesn't but millimeter by millimeter things improve.

At her last vet visit she was much less dangerous than she has been. We even forgot to put a muzzle on her until it was time for her to go in the back (she's a better patient if I'm not around). The vet reported that she actually allowed him to handle her!! It's heartening to see so many many millimeters of improvement.

Of course Finna remains a work in progress with many issues. She's still highly reactive to strangers and other dogs. She continues to react to my husband when he has anything in his hands. And she's in the process of wrecking her left knee. When her knee is especially painful she gets very crabby and snappish. She's come a long long way and for the first time since we discovered what a white hot mess we'd adopted I honestly believe she may reach the point of being a good canine citizen. That's pretty amazing.

One of my commitments this year was to actually finishing projects. That part hasn't been going so well as the lack of blog posts for the last several months can attest. My goal was to write at least one per month.

I also made some commitments to my dogs. That part has been going better although still not what it should be. Having the dogs practice taking turns has been my most successful effort. I'd committed to once a week but they are probably averaging three times a week. And it is going well. Finna will now wait patiently while Ranger licks a plate because she knows she'll get a turn next. It's been a long slow process getting to this point. We still have some crowding issues when I'm trying to pet Ranger but even those are diminishing albeit slowly.

Finna was supposed to practice being in the car at least once a week but sadly that hasn't happened at all. Finna appears to be in the process of shredding the cruiciate ligament in her left knee (you might remember she shredded the one in her right knee until there was only about 15% left and had surgery to replace it.) I've been letting that be an excuse to avoid this training. We have been working on some flashy recalls with Finna. There are three that we use at random. First is "Finna Come" where she is to run to me, go between my legs, around to my left side and sit. The sitting part is still a work in progress but she's mastered the rest of it. Next is "Finna, Front" where she runs to me, sits, and makes eye contact. That one is nearly perfect I just want to polish up the distance at which she sits so that it is consistently right in front of me not anywhere from one to four feet distance. Last is "Finna On" where she is to come and put her nose on my left hand. This is her least favorite and she's been known to punch my hand with her open mouth so that I feel that she has teeth. She doesn't actually hurt me just makes it clear she's not thrilled. It's improving millimeter by millimeter.

Ranger tricks training has been spotty but I was pleased to note the other day when I had him showing off for his veterinarian that his "say your prayers" is looking much better. We need to work on getting his head down between his paws more but it looks pretty good otherwise. We haven't been working on take a bow at all. I have, however, been working both dogs on heeling together, one dog on each side. It's slow but they're getting it.

The Great Catsby was to learn to walk on a leash. We haven't been working on that very much but he will wear his harness and walk around some. He's not entirely comfortable in it but he will move when it's on so that's some progress.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

New Year's Commitments

On her blog Patricia McConnell was recently discussing the New Year and her preference for making not making vague resolutions but for specific commitments. She invited her followers to share their New Year's commitments in comments. - See more at: http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/2015-new-years-resolutions#comments
I decided it would be a good idea for me to share mine here as well and to further commit to posting regular updates here on how I'm doing at sticking to my commitments. 
I have a penchant for almost finishing projects; I get them to the point where all they can be used but they lack the finishing touches and get distracted by something else. For myself this year I commit to finishing completely one project per month.
For the dogs I commit to having them practice taking turns at least once per week; Ranger enjoys the training time and Finna needs the practice in self-control. I was pleased, the other day when I had them taking turns walking front feet only on the treadmill one dog on each side and I was able to cue them on and off. Of course the dog waiting for their turn is also getting rewarded since, especially for Finna, waiting is also a skill that needs practice and reinforcement.
I’ll also commit to putting Finna in the car at least once a week. I want her to learn the car is a safe place for her so she can go more places.
I’ll commit to spending weekly training time with Ranger perfecting his ‘take a bow’ and ‘say your prayers’ and teaching new tricks. Currently Ranger believes that ‘take a bow’ means to down slowly front end first and saying his prayers is pretty sloppy although still a crowd pleaser at the senior daycare.
And finally, I’ll commit to teaching The Great Catsby to walk on a leash and to join the dogs in walking on the treadmill. That’s going to mean dedicated training time at least once a week. At the moment I’m able to put his harness on so that’s a start in teaching the cat to walk on a leash and he’ll at least come close to the treadmill when it’s running so a start there as well.