Tag Archives: duo

Happy 9th Birthday, Duo!

chicagotrip-july2013-7559You weren’t a planned partner.  You were only supposed to be a temporary fixture in our home back in 2009 and now look at you, my sweet boy.  You’ve grown roots here and came to call this place home.  We don’t know much about your past but what we do know about your future.

The last few years have been a trip.  You’ve taught me a new lesson in life and in patience with every step we’ve taken.  You’ve challenged me to grow as a trainer and dog fancier.  You’ve given a whole new meaning to ‘walking vet bill’ with your antics as well but I couldn’t change a thing (except, maybe going a bit easier on the spending?!).  You’re our little wonder bull.  Our short bus who tried and could.  Here is to many, many more years together.  We still have many adventures we need to take and mountains we need to climb.

Happy 9th Birthday, Duo!  We love you in all of your goofy ways!

Happy 8th Birthday, Duo!

I’ve been a horrible, no good dog Mom.   I’ve been so busy with everything that I completely forgot to post a blog wishing my little Short Bus a happy birthday.  He turned eight years old on December 1st – or we think that’s right around the date anyway based on the information we got on him.

Three long years since you joined our family from Paws for Life Rescue, kiddo.  We don’t know what happened to you before you came to us that gave you the demons that caused your ups and downs but we’ll never let you fall again.  It’s true when they say that the third time is the charm.  We wouldn’t have you any other way than with us.  Here’s to many more birthdays, herdie bull.  It will only keep getting better from here.

Afraid Of Life: Duo’s Tale

Duo’s Petfinder Photo – Formally “Snoopy”

Every day is a challenge with a difficult dog. This seems to be especially true when that dog comes to you as an adult with a freight liner loaded to the brim with baggage. Living life with a dog like this is difficult at best and pure hell at the worst. I have had the joy (-insert mass quantities of sarcasm here-) of learning this first hand after we were charged with the lifetime of canine care after Duo became our foster failure.

Duo came to us at three and a half years old in May 2009 as a temporary resident while a friend got things in order to have him. Our first few days were uneventful (and looking back I wish they had stayed that way!). He was rather shell-shocked from being moved around so much in such a short time. (Duo came from a boarding kennel to the friend’s house and then to ours. If I had been uprooted that much, I would have been the same way!). We knew it would take some decompression time to see what kind of dog we had.

When reality finally came into focus, we realized we had a very, very sweet dog who was very scared of the world. Whatever had happened in his life before he came to us had left him with a heaping load of emotional baggage. Men, particularly those with dark complexions, were beyond scary. My poor husband, Bruce, couldn’t even reach into his crate and guide him out when he had jammed himself in there without causing Duo to urinate everywhere. (Bruce, the saint that he is, was incredibly frustrated and upset by it since he normally can get through to any dog.)

We spent the first month working on his confidence (and our patience!) toward the things he was terrified of – men, loud noises, the car, etc. – through counter conditioning and basic marker training when he approached and item he was scared of. He gradually began to accept them (but it took a lot of time once he realized we weren’t leaving him and we wouldn’t let these things eat him finally allowed his confidence to start blossoming.

Unfortunately, this growth in confidence was like a double-edged sword. While he got confident in the world, other hidden issues began to bubble to the surface and the biggest one was being incredibly leash reactive to other dogs. Duo wasn’t one of the “invade my little bubble and suffer my wrath” types (oh, no…that would have made it much easier!) He was (and is!) explosive. His bubble? Yeah, that is 20+ feet in circumference. Minimum.

I can’t begin to tell you how embarrassing it is to have to apologize for him being such a vocal asshat. I wanted to pull all of my hair out when I was trying to redirect his focus onto something other than the “offending” dog. The frustration from both of us was just about tangible. (To give you an idea – RYKER is an easy dog compared to Duo and he is a snot too!).

My GOOD dogs just didn’t do this. Duo wasn’t supposed to be this hard. Boy, was I ever wrong on those thoughts! I had to remind myself that I promised I wouldn’t ever give up on my walking, snarking jerk of a dog when we signed his official adoption paperwork because we were his last hope.

It was now been three very long years since the spotted hell hound came to us. He has gotten better and continues to improve every single day. He has frustrated and amazed me every step of the way. He has made me look at myself and forced myself to consider the consequences of every action before I do anything with him. I don’t want to take two steps forward and fall backward and down three flights for a simple mistake. I have learned some very hard lessons and felt some real and very personal failures when something has gone awry.

Do I think I’ll ever have a normal dog with Duo? Not by a long shot. I wouldn’t change him for the world – even when I get horrid looks because I failed him and didn’t stay on my A-game by allowing him to have a meltdown on another dog because I wasn’t watching and being vigilant.

I hope that one day Duo will realize that he can trust the other end of the leash to be his voice and anchor his confidence down to be able to go out in public and not think every dog is going to get him when the leash is on – but it might take until he turns fourteen! Oh, well, another seven years of adventures!

Here’s to many more adventures, buddy.

Reach For The Stars: A Positive Outlook

Duo is a very reactive dog.  He was worse years ago when we became a failed foster for him knowing the only option for him was likely euthanasia. Well, no…I think we just got used to the Duo-isms and quirks, though I’m not totally sure what honestly happened.  The simple (and sad) fact is that he has been reactive from the start.

Duo’s reactive behavior varies somewhat but it is usually focused on other dogs (although he did blow up at a tank of feeder fish this weekend… *eye roll* ..’cuz those fish were totally going to massacre him!) and usually if there is a barrier that allows him to act like Billy Bad Ass.  The facade he puts on really isn’t all that great.  He puts on a good show – especially with my parent’s old and obese Labrador who sees through his bluff every. single. time.  You would think he would learn, right?  Nope, not Duo.  He keeps trying and gets a good what for for his troubles.

Taking him to my parent’s house is one thing.  If he blows his top there, they know he is all bark and no bite.  However, taking him into public…yeah, that’s a whole different can of worms.  We usually end up getting a lot of looks.  People stare and then walk the other direction while we work to bring him out of his meltdown.  It really isn’t a pretty sight and he looks absolutely evil when he does it.

Thankfully, he came to us with a relatively firm grasp on the basics of obedience – sit, down..come…okay, maybe not that good on recall!  That, thankfully is even starting to improve with patience (a lot of patience!) and time.  If he hadn’t come with the basic skills he would have been an utter nightmare.

That being said, he is utterly terrified of overly harsh training methods. Corrections on a pinch collar that any of my other dogs would take and go “That all you got?!” causes him to hit the floor with his tail tucked between his legs. You can also forget about an electronic training collar (even with the tone or vibration feature) because his fear becomes an almost tangible beast at the sight of it.  It’s honestly the most pathetic thing I have seen in a long time.

We don’t know what exactly happened to him before he came to us in May 2009, but it scared him pretty badly. It has taken us almost three years to build up his confidence enough to really begin to touch on his fear-based barrier frustration. (We had originally thought it was dog aggression/reactivity because of what we think his breed history might be until we realized he was fine with other dogs unless a leash, a fence or even a crate door was blocking him.)

Now that we have eliminated what doesn’t work with him we are going to give something semi-new a try – clicker training. Duo will be re-introduced to the clicker again and we will work from the ground up once more to see if we can get him to be civil in public versus the rabid honey badger he currently is so he is able to enjoy more liberties like the rest of the pack.

Along with a more positive approach, we are going to give the Freedom harness a shot too. Our friend Liz over at Pit Bull Zen swears by it for her own reactive girl, Inara. With knowing how much work Liz has put into Inara and seeing the results in person, I have no doubt that we are making the right choice for our rescue ragamuffin.

With time, patience and work I have no doubts we will get him where he needs to be – even after all he has been through. The only direction we have left to go is up and we will aim for the stars.

Amazing what time and patience does.
Left: Rescue intake photo | Right: Two year anniversary with us.

Gross Weather = No Training Time

Unfortunately, my absolutely favorite place to train when the gross weather rolls in is out of commission for the month of December.  What does this mean for me and the beasts?  It means that we have to brave the sleet, the snow and the rain to get our training thing done.  This is fine for me since I can layer up and be nice and toasty, but the pit bulls believe that they will melt because they are made of sugar, spice and everything nice.  Convincing them that they simply will not die when they go out into the cold and the muck is a feat in itself.

The last few days we’ve been absolute slackers.  They’ve stayed in the nice, warm house and run on their Grand Carpet Mill and trashed the house with the massive box of goodies ranging from Wubbas to stuffies to Kongs and everything in between.  Let me tell you, getting beaten by a Mega Wubba is on my list of things I definitely do not like having repeated. (Thanks, Ryker!)

As it stands right now, I’m not going to be able to travel with my friend Jen to Kentucky in a couple of weeks to try again for Ryker’s Schutzhund BH because of the likely possibility that I’ll have to work a crap load of hours the week before Christmas.  I will be glad for the paychecks I get, but it just sucks because I wanted to go and had planned to for weeks because I think we are read – well, Ryker definitely is (my nerves suck!).

Lyric is coming around beautifully with her obedience and I’d love to start working more on it so that we can try for our URO1 in the early part of next year and possibly a UCD the following year if she’s ready.  I’m trying to keep it light and positive with her so she continues to enjoy it.  She is the kind of dog that starts loathing things if they become boring or restrictive because she is such a free-spirited dog.

Mika’s doing well and has the most phenomenal heeling for such a young dog.  We’re not really pushing her very hard because we want her to have fun and not rush things.  Being a title chaser can only be benefited if the dog enjoys what they’re doing and I can’t see the point of ruining a young dog like that for a piece of paper.  I’m very proud of Bruce for what he’s done with her and what he continues to do with her.  The bond between the two of them is amazing – especially since most of the dogs in the house prefer me and if she had to choose, it’d be him and not me she’d run to first. (Traitor!)

Luna and Duo, well, they’re just relaxing.

Luna’s enjoying the fact that she doesn’t have to constantly train and be conditioned for weight pull since I’ve retired her from pulling heavily.  We’re going to attempt UKC Rally next year, I think.  She knows all of the moves, so that won’t be a problem.  We’ll just fine tune those fronts and finishes before we go and be all set.

Duo, on the other hand, won’t be doing much of anything except snoozing with his Grandpa.  He stresses out when he leaves and his reactive behavior around other dogs leaves something to be desired.  In reality, he’d rather just hold down the bed or the couch than travel with his siblings.  The one-on-one time he gets when he stays with Grandpa, I think, is his favorite thing in the planet.  How else would he not look plumper when we return than before…because someone feeds him entirely too many goodies while we’re gone!

Ah, well…with any luck, the weather will clear and I won’t have to spend as much time complaining about the garbage weather and inability to train.  Heck, the possibilities of taking classes this winter very well may make my life a little less not busy (Ha!) and brush up on a few skills and basic behaviors and before the dogs and I know it, spring will be here again!