Friday, June 28, 2013

Not much to say..

I've had absolutely nothing to talk about for at least a week. Life is kind of boring right now. That's not a bad thing! I'll taking boring over drama any day!

We've been getting a lot of rainy weather. Not always a lot of rain.. but the kind of weather where if you go out to do something you're guaranteed it's going to start raining right at that moment. So we've pretty much been stuck at home.
Which is okay, because we're down to 1 car now. My van started to die and we had to junk it.

I don't like feeling like this though.. I feel guilty, like we should be out doing things and enjoying summer break.. but I really can't come up with a single thing to do! I'm too broke to do much.. and anything I can afford requires being outdoors.

I don't want to complain.. I actually like rainy weather and grey skies! Sunshine gives me headaches! But I am starting to get a touch of cabin fever and just want to be able to go somewhere aside from the grocery store!

Oh well.. the rain can't last forever.. right?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What else is new?

I've been pretty focused on doggy stuff lately, as can be expected.

So how about a post that has nothing to do with dog stuff?

The kids are all finishing school this week. Javy's last exam was yesterday so he's done now. I imagine he failed a couple classes. He wasn't doing too well most of the year. He most definitely failed science, last I knew his grade in that class was in the 50's. Math was iffy.. and what's sad is he was repeating math anyway.. so he may be repeating it again unless he did well on the exam. English (they call it ELA these days) was up and down all year. He failed ELA in 9th grade, but was able to take both 9th and 10th grade ELA this year.. but a lot of it will depend on the final exams. Social Studies is the only one I know for certain he probably passed. He'd been doing so well all year, he really enjoyed the subject.

Today will be Mathieu's last day. My baby is going to be a Kindergartener now! (Wipes away a tear).

The other 3 have half days all this week, and their last day will be Thursday. I have no doubt they all passed with flying colors, of course. In the fall Aydan will be entering 2nd grade, and the twins will enter 6th. My how time flies!

Aydan's 7th birthday is this coming Saturday. We don't have any major plans.. we never do anymore. We'll just get him a cake and a couple presents. Aunt Doris got him a bike from a garage sale, so we'll see her this weekend.

My van is dying so we're trying to sell it to get a couple hundred bucks out of it so we can catch up on bills. We'll be down to just 1 car, the Jeep. It doesn't fit us all.. but it's rare we all go anywhere together anymore.. Javy tends to just stay home and walk or bike to places nearby that he wants to go. Tyler isn't overly interested in going places with us anymore either. They grow up too fast!

Hubby's been more stressed than usual because of the situation at work. He has yet another new manager and the guy is a jerk. Hubby's been at this job 9 years now, knows what he's doing, is one of the best in the company.. and he just hates getting new managers that step in and mess everything up on him. He's been trying really hard to find a new job, but it's just not working.

As for me.. I'm loving being a stay at home mom, and the lack of stress from having to work. Although the lack of money is really stressful and we're having trouble cutting back. I've mentioned a few times that perhaps I should find another job.. but I really don't want to, and hubby doesn't want me to either. I'm just doing what I can online to help out. Swagbucks has been a huge help! By meeting the daily Swagbucks goal I've been able to earn about $40 a month in Amazon gift cards, and I use that towards stuff we need and want for the dog. On Bubblews I've been making around $25 a week, and that's been going into our bank accounts to help with bills and such. As of yesterday I set a new goal, to save up enough to get the puppy into obedience training. Sure we're doing great on our own and probably don't really NEED the class, but obedience training classes are for more than just training. I primarily want to get into it for the socialization. I most definitely want Remus socialized with other dogs and people.. so that's my current goal!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Keep your dog entertained..

One of the primary causes of bad dog behavior is boredom! If your dog is bored, he's going to find his own way to entertain himself. This may mean getting into things you don't want him to, like the garbage can. Or chewing things you don't want him to, like your shoes. Or digging holes in the yard if he's left outside a lot.

You might think your dog has enough toys to keep him entertained for hours, but in a lot of ways dogs are similar to children. They get tired of playing with the same toys over and over again, and need something new to break up the monotony of their day.

This does not necessarily mean you need to constantly buy new toys for your pup.
One of the first things you can do is limit the dog's access to his toys. You want to make sure he does always have a few toys to chew on and play with.. but he doesn't need to have ALL of his toys all the time. Keep most of them picked up, only leaving a few out. Then, rotate which toys he gets. That way he is less likely to get bored of his toys.

Also, you want to make sure he's got the right kind of toys.

Interactive toys are a great way to keep your dog busy and entertained for long periods of time. These types of toys may dispense food or treats, which get your dog's attention, and he has to work hard at trying to figure out how to get the treats out. After working on it for awhile, he'll probably be pretty tired as this is mentally stimulating and challenging for the dog which uses up a good amount of his energy.

Some great interactive toys that are sure to keep your dog busy for awhile are:

A Kong. These are a favorite among dogs. You can fill them with all sorts of great stuff, and the dog works on emptying it. Here's a great site with some information on how to use a Kong toy as well as some recipes: http://canineconcepts.co.uk/en/blog/30-how-to-use-a-kong-toy Of course you don't have to do anything so fancy. I tend to stuff ours with canned dog food and that's good enough for my pup. You can also fill it with kibble and chicken broth then freeze it overnight.

Treat Dispensing Balls are also wonderful interactive toys. These really challenge your dog mentally has he tries to figure out how to get the treats out.

Tug-A-Jug is another type of treat dispensing toy that makes your dog try to figure out how to get the treats or food out of it. Not only is it fun to play with, it is stimulating and should help keep your pooch out of trouble!

Here is a Treat Dispensing Toy that actually has multiple uses. It's a chew toy, a treat dispenser, and you can also smear food on the outside of the toy as well to keep your dog interested. The grooves on the outside of the toy allow you to smear canned food, peanut butter, or Kong spray into the grooves to make it more appealing for your dog. He'll stay busy cleaning out the grooves as well as finding the treats inside the toy.

If your dog is super smart, there are also Puzzle Toys that will mentally challenge him. These toys make a dog figure out a puzzle or move a sliding piece in order to find the treat.

There are literally hundreds of different toys on the market meant to stimulate your dog mentally. To avoid boredom you should keep a few different kinds on hand for your pup. Just remember that these are added calories, so you may want to use these toys to replace regular feedings, or at least cut down on regular feedings.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dog Training Tips

I'm creating some posts on Bubblews with tips for training your dog or puppy.

Let me start out by saying, nothing replaces an actual obedience training class! These are so helpful to attend, not only to get professional help and advice, but also to help socialize your dog which I can tell you from experience is of the utmost importance! If your dog is not socialized with other people and animals from the start, you could end up with problems on your hands later down the road!

That being said, here are the links to the posts I've thus far created with tips for training your dog  yourself:

Using a Clicker

Training Session Tips

The First Command You Should Teach Your Dog

Train your dog to "stay"

Stop Biting, Mouthing, Nipping

Solving Dog Behavior Problems

More to come soon :)

Sites (that are not my own) that I get a lot of my tips from:

The Dog Trainer

tab289 on Youtube

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Remus

This is Remus. An 8 week old black lab. We got him last night. I named him. He's named after a character in the Harry Potter series, Remus Lupin, a one time professor at Hogwarts who is also a werewolf. Sure there were other names that were somewhat fitting, such as Sirius.. as in Sirius Black, Harry Potter's Godfather who also happens to turn into a black dog.. but I like the name Remus.

Remus is a little ball of energy.. and because he's so small, it's adorable to watch! He mouths, but it doesn't hurt. Thanks to my experience with Turbo, I know enough to try to nip the mouthing in the bud before he gets bigger and it gets out of control!

I've also already begun working on training him. It's not going to be easy. I've never had a puppy before. The most experience I've ever had was with Turbo and he'd already learned a bit.. not much, but at least he was pretty easy to begin training, and he already knew how to walk on a leash. Remus has never been introduced to a leash yet.. he just doesn't know what to do with it.

Thankfully hubby has had a few puppies in his life, so he knows how to at least get them walking on a leash and such. The training will be up to me.

I began today. Remus didn't seem interested in the training treats I have, so I tried some cheese, and that worked a lot better. I began teaching him how to sit using the clicker. He sat a couple times.. so we're off on the right foot.
It's just so different because he's so energetic and is only calm when he's sleeping, and he has such a short attention span I can't really get him to focus on training. I didn't have that problem with Turbo.. he loved training as long as he was able to learn the new trick quickly. If he didn't pick it up quickly he'd get frustrated and I'd have to revert to tricks he knew well or else he'd get out of hand.

So, Remus is going to be a whole new adventure for me.. but an adventure that I think will be successful, fun, and rewarding since I've got a brand new baby puppy to mold into the perfect family dog!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Giving up Turbo

It was a very difficult decision to make, but we have decided keeping Turbo in our house is not the best option for everyone involved. The kids can't interact with the dog without being used as chew toys.. and some of my kids are still very small and would be hurt easily. Since we brought Turbo home and noticed these problems, I've had to be very diligent about keeping the kids and dog separated which really isn't fair to any of them. The kids wanted a dog to play with.. and the dog just wanted to play with a person.
We also noticed the dog had some aggression issues. He went after hubby a number of times. We just couldn't chance him going after one of the kids.

I tried everything I could to keep Turbo.. but at the end of the day I have to think about what's best for my family.. and Turbo just isn't the right dog for us.

With any luck we'll find a dog that fits better with our family.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Update on Turbo..

We've had Turbo about a month and a half now. The dog sure seems to have a lot of problems which I am guessing came from a severe lack of socialization as a puppy. It's really unfortunate that we don't know his history at all. The shelter told us they found him as a stray. We think it's possible his previous owners had abused him slightly. Over all he's a friendly dog.. but he's got his problems.

We haven't made a whole lot of headway in solving any of his problems. I've been working on training him basic commands, and he picks them up really quickly.. but the training sessions have not changed his over all behavior. Basically he'll only do what he's told when he's in an active training session. I can get him to sit, stay, lie down, leave it, shake, and come on command.. if he wants to. We've also taught him to take treats nicely instead of biting our hands when he goes for the treat.. this works maybe half the time. Sometimes he gets really excited. We've recently started teaching him to take toys nicely.. this is a work in progress.

If we'd gotten any other dog who learns as quickly as Turbo, we'd probably have a perfect dog by now..
Turbo still has a major biting problem! Once he gets excited, you can't even walk through the room with him around. He'll go for your feet and bite and shake! This has been our biggest problem with him since the start. We know he's playing, he doesn't do it to be mean.. but it still hurts like heck and scares the kids!
All the research I've done says to turn around and ignore him when he does this and he'll get the hint that in order to get your attention he can't bite.

Well that's not working! I think it actually makes things worse.

I've noticed he mostly does this to the people in the house he doesn't get attention from.. mainly my oldest son who is rarely ever home.. and when he is home he locks himself in his room. The dog only sees him passing through from time to time.. and the dog gets really excited when he sees him.

Outside is another problem. He does great on walks, but if we put him on his tie out, we can't go within his reach or he'll try to play rough with us. This actually drives him crazy. He starts getting really worked up. We'll stand nearby and toss toys for him to fetch, or we'll play tug.. but after a few minutes he just wants a person to play with. He'll stand there and bark, whine, jump, and try to reach us... but we can't go near him or we'll get hurt.

We are racking our brains trying to come up with ways to teach him to play nice..

We've gotten to a point where we are seriously debating getting a 2nd dog just to give Turbo someone he can play with the way he wants..

We don't have dog parks nearby.. the only one there is has a lot of aggressive dogs that visit there regularly so that's out of the question.We tried a playdate and that didn't work out so well.. but Turbo doesn't have any actual dog aggression.. he's okay with dogs walking past him while out on a walk and such.. he just doesn't know what to do when another dog is face to face with him.. again, lack of socialization as a puppy!

Turbo did get fixed about a week ago.. we are hoping this helps his activity level.. it should take about a month for him to work all the testosterone out of his system and really see a difference.. if there will be a difference. So we're hoping and praying he calms down a little and becomes easier to handle.

For now I'm just doing everything I can to train him, wear out his energy levels, and keep the kids safe from his over-excited play!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

New York City

On May 30th the twins went on a school field trip to New York City. They left at 5am. They were supposed to return home around 10pm.. but they didn't actually get home until 1am! It was a Thursday night, so needless to say they did not go to school the next day.

I bought them each a disposable camera to take with them. I did not go, although it would have been nice to.. though I think the 100 or so kids would end up driving me crazy! LOL

Tyler took some pics of the dog that morning.. then a bunch of pics of the bus, the traffic along the way, and I think he got 1 pic of the NY skyline. I won't be sharing his pics :)

Tristan got a bunch of nice shots!!

Here's a few she got of Time Square.. they were on their way to a museum called Moma.



 Central Park, where they had lunch!

 On a ferry ride..
 That miserable kid at the bottom of this pic is Tyler..












 The skyline from the bus.
 Yankee Stadium!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The threat of stillness..

The other day I mentioned a situation where Turbo had met another dog, and his body was very stiff. I knew this was a sign that he was uncomfortable and it could lead to danger.

Today I wanted to share an article I came across that explains why a stiff dog is dangerous: https://wildewmn.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/the-threat-of-stillness/

This is important information and I encourage everyone to read it. As a dog owner, it's my responsibility to keep everyone safe. So it's important that I know how my dog may react to a situation. By knowing that stiffness is not a good sign, I can get my dog away from situations when he becomes stiff so that he doesn't hurt anyone else. Also, if he comes in contact with another dog who is stiff, I can get him away from that dog before he gets hurt. It's also good to know even if you don't own dogs so that you can keep yourself and your children safe from a dangerous situation.

Turbo Unleashed

Yesterday morning I let Turbo off-leash for awhile..

I drove to a section of the Erie Canal nearby.. this part of the canal doesn't get much foot traffic at all. If you're lucky you'll see 1 person jogging along or something. In fact, we were lucky enough not to see anyone during our walk, which is exactly what I was hoping for this time!

Once we got on the trail, I just let go of Turbo's leash and let him drag it along.

I brought some cheese.. a special treat for Turbo as mostly he just gets typical doggy treats..
At first, whenever he'd get a few feet away from me I'd recall him and give him the cheese.. just to let him know that he'd get cheese whenever he came back to me. Then I used it less and less, and only when he got more than a few yards away.

Mostly he was great. We walked a mile down the trail. On the way down the only time I had to recall him was when he'd stop to sniff something and I got too far ahead of him.

At one point I saw 3 bunnies along the side of the trail. Turbo didn't see them right away because he was busy sniffing. I made a few loud noises to try to scare them off before Turbo saw them, but they didn't budge. As we got closer they did start finally hopping away, and Turbo saw one. He didn't immediately chase after it.. he just paused and stood still for a minute. As soon as I saw that he saw the bunny, I recalled him and he immediately came back to me. That was my proudest moment of the day!

The way back was trickier. He didn't stop to sniff much.. he'd already sniffed it all.. so he did a lot of running and would get ahead of me pretty quickly. It also got a little tougher to recall him. He'd stop and look at me, but he'd hesitate, and once or twice he'd choose not to come back and would keep on going instead. We were walking for almost a full hour.. so he was probably just getting bored of the recall game and the cheese and was more interested in running and playing. Maybe next time I'll bring 2 kind of treats.. like cheese and ham and switch it up so he knows he's getting something good but doesn't know which it will be.. that might keep him more interested.

Also on the way back he explored a lot more. He'd go into the woods a little bit.. just a couple of feet and sniff around. I'd recall him so he didn't go further.

I think he really loved it!

(also posted on Bubblews:  http://www.bubblews.com/news/614782-turbo-unleashed)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A wagging tail does not equal a happy dog!

We brought Turbo for a walk on the canal today. We've been trying to do this weekly as it is a popular place for walkers, bike riders, and runners.. and people often bring their dogs. I think this is a great first step towards socialization for Turbo, just getting used to being in proximity to strangers and dogs without the threat of them coming at him or giving him reason to feel uneasy. So far it's been going very well.

Today while we were there we met a very friendly small dog who wanted to come sniff Turbo. Turbo was definitely interested, but once the 2 dogs got nose to nose, Turbo didn't seem so sure anymore. His tail was wagging as if he were happy, but the rest of his body was very stiff as if he were stressed or uneasy.

My husband was holding the leash, so I told him to start walking again.

The owner of the little dog said "It's okay, tails are wagging, everything is fine!"

That is very untrue! You cannot always tell a dog's mood by it's tail.. especially since different dogs have different types of tails, some have no tails at all.. so you can't tell if it's a good wag or a bad wag.
Here is a website with some information about how to differentiate between tail wags: http://www.clickertraining.com/node/3542

The fact is, Turbo's body was stiff, and this was a better indicator of his mood than his wagging tail. Chances are, if we didn't start walking again, Turbo may have gotten so uncomfortable about the little dog being that close to him, that he might have snapped at the little dog.

Mr. Little Dog Owner is lucky that I know a bit more about doggy body language than him.. but he may not be so lucky the next time his tiny pooch meets an unsocialized dog!

Turbo has anxiety problems..

As I watch Turbo's behavior and do research on dog behaviors, I'm leaning more and more towards the idea that Turbo has anxiety.

I just read a little snippet on my favorite dog training website: dogtrainer.quickanddirtytips.com/overexcited-friendly-around-dogs.aspx

Towards the bottom of this article the author discusses how an excited meet and greet with another dog may turn into growling and snapping.. which is exactly what happened to Turbo on his last meet and greet with another dog.

But I had been thinking, even before reading this article, that Turbo had anxiety.

He gets worked up so easily. Especially outside. When we notice him getting bored or hyper we take him out into the yard on a tie out and play with him.. but we began to see that the more we played with him, the worse he seemed to get. He got to a point one day while I was playing fetch with him that he no longer chased the ball but lunged after me.

Another problem we noticed.. if we're all sitting out there and someone goes inside, the dog gets anxious. He'll run over towards the house and bark at it and start pacing. He doesn't stop until the person comes back out.

Now that I've realized it could be caused from anxiety, we're looking for the situations that trigger the anxiety and find ways to lessen it. When the dog is outside, the kids are either inside, or sitting with the dog. He gets anxious if he can't reach them or if they're off playing somewhere. If they come out to sit with him, they just sit there and don't go back inside unless it looks like it won't bother him.

We don't play with him quite so much anymore.. mostly we just let him explore the yard on his own. We'll throw a ball now and then.. but he seems perfectly happy to just wander around the yard smelling stuff, rolling in the grass, and sometimes just lying down and relaxing.

He doesn't get quite so anxious inside the house.. but he has his moments. When the kids are outside playing and running around back and forth.. the dog gets worked up and throws himself into walls or windows to try to get to them.

Also there are times when he will go after someone who is walking around the house.. he'll grab their shoes or pant legs and starts shaking and won't let go. I really think this is caused by anxiety too.
When the house is calm and quiet.. the dog pretty much sleeps all the time. When it's not so quiet the dog is basically jumping out of his skin.. he's either finding things to destroy, or attacking our shoes and pant legs.

I called the vets.. actually both of the vets.. the one at the shelter who did his exam last week, and the vet I take my cats to who couldn't complete his exam..
The one at the shelter was no help at all. They just said they do not prescribe anti-anxiety meds. The other vet might prescribe meds if they were able to examine him.. but she gave me other ideas as well.. such as calming collars and such.
I did try a calming collar already but it didn't seem to make any sort of difference.. and the dog grew so quickly (he's gained 10 pounds in a month!) that it had gotten too tight and I had to take it off.
I am going to try another one though.. she recommended a specific brand so I will try it. I also went out and got some aromatherapy stuff yesterday.. lavender scented which is supposed to be calming.

He seems a tiny bit better. Nothing major of course.. but we're learning how to avoid overly stressful situations.. especially when he's outside.

I'm also working on teaching him a new command to settle him down. He knows lie down, but now I'm rolling him onto his side and teaching him "settle". As he masters this I want to be able to use it to keep him calm or settle him down when he starts to get worked up.


Also posted on Bubblews: http://www.bubblews.com/news/599819-i-think-turbo-has-anxiety-problems