Posts filed under ‘Outdoors’

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March 18, 2013 at 1:21 am Enter your password to view comments.

Our 2nd. staircase hike

Still on a mission to work my way through this book. Today was our second time on Walk #31: Franklin Hills  which has a total of 634 steps.  (I cheat a bit, we don’t do the complete route)

Sharing here a few photos of Boogie. I tell ya, he is SO FAST going up the stairs!

He seems to like going UP more than he likes going down. I am all huffing and puffing and he wants to keep climbing.

Prospect Walk stairs

At the end of this walk, and on his favorite patch of grass.

May 31, 2012 at 2:04 am 4 comments

Our first staircase hike

Walk #32 Fern Dell and Immaculate Heart.

I had a minor panic attack when we arrived at Fern Dell…. “Where did the treat bag go?” We searched the car, under the seats, around the back, couldn’t find it. I was so sure that I had brought the treats.

Nathan (BF) asked me if I wanted to go back home to get the treats. I said “No, but this is going to be a challenge. Squirrels and possibly off-leash dogs running around, Boogie is going to be uncontrollable!!! He is going to be pulling all over the place!”

I was pleasantly surprised. Boogie proved me wrong and was a well-behaved little walking buddy. He looked like he was having the best time ever, even though he couldn’t care less about the views of Downtown LA, The Griffith Park Observatory, a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son and some castle that Nicholas Cage used to live in. Boogie was trotting along with his tongue waggin’ in the afternoon heat, sniffin’ lots of stuff, peein’ on lots of stuff, climbing stairs, climbing hills, looking at squirrels and chipmunks…and then the joy of our breezy car ride home.

The staircase…

And then when we were back in our neighborhood…

As usual, Boogie doesn’t seem to tire after long hikes. When we arrived back home, he brought me his ball….

Monday: Our next staircase hike with Sarah!

May 27, 2012 at 6:45 am 2 comments

Classical Conditioning, summer games

It was my birthday last week and Sarah, our trainer gave me this PATTERN GAMES DVD by Leslie McDevitt. Thank you, Sarah! Sarah understands how complicated Boogie is and how much he needs to “feel in control”.

Here’s a YouTube video explaining what the DVD is about, with doggie footage. I look forward to watching this DVD, doing the games with Boogie and of course, I will blog about our experiences!

I think Boogie’s main problem is that not only is he triggered by certain types of people,  he doesn’t do well with Sudden Environmental Changes. I have read that S.E.C is actually quite common. Due to lack of socialization as puppies, dogs can grow up to be easily spooked or startled.

Boogie can be in a room full of unfamiliar people and he will be perfectly fine. But put him on an empty street, and he will go nuts when ONE unfamiliar person appears. Or when we are walking on a busy street, if one person turns around to look at him, that person will get his hackles up. I think having some sort of “rule structure” or “pattern game” to deal with surprises would be good for the Boogs. In some ways, I have already been working on this issue…

I have been doing major classical counter-conditioning with Boogie for the past 3 weeks following an ‘upsetting incident’ on which I would rather not elaborate.  Every time we see a person on the street, no matter how near or far, how big or small, old or young, carrying bags or not carrying bags, walking slow or walking fast, I have been giving Boogie treats. As soon as Boogie registers the presence of the person, I ask for eye-contact, we move to the side and he gets a treat. The closer or larger/scarier the person, the more treats he gets. Sometimes, if Boogie remains under-threshold, we continue walking and I give Boogie a treat right after the person has just passed us. Instinct tells me this is important because Boogie used to lunge at people from behind.

Results:
On the morning of Mother’s Day, Boogs and I were walking along on an empty street. About 20 feet in front of us, an old man appeared. Boogie saw the old man, stopped, did a whiplash turn around and looked up at me with a face full of hope. “Where’s my treat?”

This morning, an old man on a bicycle was moving towards us. Usually when I see a bike coming, I get us out of the way fast or Boogie would lunge and bark. Likewise with joggers. Today, I did not see the cyclist coming until he was almost running into us.  The guy said “Sorry! My fault! know I shouldn’t be on the sidewalk”. At my feet, a bright-eyed Boogie face was looking up at me: “Where’s my treat?”

Boogie has not lunged at a single cyclist or jogger in the past 3 weeks. I am still amazed that he either:
1. completely ignores them and continues walking <– treat for being calm
2. moves to the side and sniffs the ground (self-soothing behavior) <– treat for good choice
3. turns around and looks at me for a treat <– treat for connecting with me

Jean Donaldson writes about Classical Counter-Conditioning (re: Austin, who has a problem with of men)

It is behavior “blind”-we  don’t care what Austin [dog] does, all we care about is that once men are on the  scene, good things happen to Austin. It is a powerful conditioning technique  but difficult for people to get their heads around. The behavior-blind part  flies in the face of what is an extremely operant conditioning-oriented training  culture. It’s a piece of cake to fulfill the men=cheese contract when Austin  just looks at the guy, but much harder psychologically to provide the cheese  if Austin goes off at the guy. It feels to the trainer like she is “rewarding” the  behavior. When Pavlovian counter-conditioning is used in conjunction with  desensitization, this issue is mostly avoided because the desensitization part  (by definition) prevents the dog misbehaving (unless you screw up). But in a straight-up counter-conditioning procedure (i.e., one performed without  desensitization), you will often find yourself supplying the fabulous thing  right after the dog is naughty. To do otherwise would be to weaken the connection  between men and goat cheese. There are no effective “schedules” in  classical conditioning, just extinction trials, which are bad for the cause. The  closer you can approximate a 1:1 ratio of men to goat cheese, the stronger the  conditioning.

In a sense, we are going back to BAT Stage 1 (or Look At That) with human triggers but sometimes I deliver the treat even before we walk away because I want to strongly associate the sudden appearance of people with good things. In life, surprises happen all the time… I want to help Boogie not be so easily spooked. Sometimes, there is also no room or time to move away.

Here’s another activity for the Summer. I recently got a copy of Secret Stairs: Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles. Yep, Boogie and I will be staircase-hunting on long hikes around the neighborhood!

Boogie has a thing about climbing stairs and is definitely way more fit than I am .

Here’s a very old video clip of Boogie on Radio Walk in Franklin Hills. (I know I am biased but how cute is that butt!)

May 23, 2012 at 7:40 am 4 comments

Photos from a birthday party

Oliver & his brother Piccolo, live across the street. We see these doggies everyday on our walks, and Boogie was invited to Oliver’s birthday party this past Sunday.

I hadn’t planned on bringing Boogie to the party. I was told that there would be 10-20 OFFLEASH dogs – most of whom would be unfamiliar to Boogie – running around a tiny courtyard. There was no way I would feel comfortable in this situation, nor would Boogie. Besides, it wouldn’t be fair to keep Boogie on-leash in a sea of off-leash dogs and there is no way I would let Boogie off-leash in an unfenced area.

We arrived late in the afternoon, at the end of the party when all the big dogs had gone home.  There were a few small friendly dogs remaining.

Boogie was very calm, relaxed and sweet. Everyone commented on how “good” he was. The big slice of organic carrot-oats-honey-peanut-butter birthday cake helped, I’m sure.

Boogie says hi to the birthday boy -

*Body language observation: When Boogie greets an unfamiliar dog, his ears are up and his neck is stiff.  When he greets a buddy, his ears go back.

Here he is with frosting on his nose.

I MUST get the recipe for this cake. :)

May 2, 2012 at 6:19 pm 2 comments

Dog-friendly people

Last week I was whining to friends that dealing with  “people triggers” is such a challenge compared to dealing with “dog triggers”. There are fewer unfamiliar dogs on the street than unfamiliar human beings. Humans are everywhere.  We have a comfortable routine of moving away from unfamiliar dogs (after Boogie offers a calming signal or a head turn towards me), but this isn’t so easy to do with people that I see on the street that I want to stop and talk to… 

If it is a person that Boogie knows, his ears go back, he jumps up, offers kisses, gets pets, moves away.

If it is a person that Boogie doesn’t know, he stops moving. Goes really still by my side, and stares. This nervousness is often complicated further by what the person does next, which is to stare back at him (“Hi Boogie!”) or reach out their hand or take a step forward to pet him before I say “NO, he is nervous and might bite you”. Not all human beings listen and understand. Perhaps we need a Space Etiquette type poster for human beings, too.

We had such a good walk this morning, that I have to share!

When Boogie and I stepped out the door this morning, one of the building managers – John – was standing outside on the sidewalk, with a cup of coffee and slice of bacon in his hand. It’s not everyday that the first person you run into has bacon, right? :)

This time, when Boogie saw the unfamiliar human being in his territory, he stiffened, then turned back to look at me, it was more of a “That dude has bacon, I want to move forward” vs. the usual “OK, lead me away back towards the apartment and give me my treat”. I gave Boogie a treat anyway, for turning back to check with me.

John asked me if it was OK to give Boogie some bacon.  We moved forward,  Boogie got a piece of bacon and then he politely plonked his toosh down on the pavement in front of John. No seconds, but hey, what a good start to the morning walk.

Later on the street, Boogie stiffened slightly when a guy in uniform came walking towards us.  “What a good-looking dog! He doesn’t like guys in uniform?”

Me: “Not really. He usually barks at guys in uniform”. Mr. Uniform did not come forward. He stood where he was and next to me, Boogie sat down. Mr. Uniform chatted away throwing more compliments at Boogie then said “OK, OK, I am leaving now. Go with your mom”.  I thanked him and said goodbye, and Boogie and I moved on  home.

It is so nice to meet strangers who want to meet your dog but who are truly dog-friendly and polite!

On a separate note, I have a silly burning question. Click on this picture below and tell me what you think! :)

April 5, 2012 at 5:53 pm 11 comments

Boogie at The Boston Tea Party

I said we weren’t going to the annual Boston Tea Party, but at the very last minute, we changed our minds…

Temecula is about 2 hours away and by the time we arrived, it was almost closing time so perhaps there were less boston terriers present than there must’ve been earlier in the day.

Two years ago, at the 2009 Boston Tea Party, Boogie lunged and snapped at every single dog that came near him.  Last year’s Boston Tea Party, I went alone and didn’t bring him. As part of his training protocol, we avoided ALL unfamiliar dogs as it would’ve been too stressful for him to be around hundreds of dogs.

This year, I could not believe the difference. Not only were Boogie and Popeye FRIENDS again (see previous blog post), Boogie greeted and sniffed lots of other bostons, and remained calm and happy all day.  If he looked a little stiff during greetings, I called him away and everything was fine. It was a fun and social event for both humans and dogs, and I could not have been happier and more proud of  the Boogs!

Pic of Boogie standing next to a little boston girl (I don’t know who she is).

It was a really hot day and all the dogs were panting. Here’s a photo that I love of Boogie, Rosie and Popeye sharing water. Three tongues in one bottle cap! :)

October 23, 2011 at 11:29 pm 2 comments

Boogie’s play date with Rosie & Popeye

Yesterday was Boogie’s third play date with his girlfriend Rosie

… and her newly adopted brother  Popeye, a very sweet and goofy red boston terrier.

Things could not have gone better! First we went for a walk around the block, then back in my friends’ newly-fenced yard, the dogs played and played and played.

*Sorry about the noise in the video; you may want to turn down/mute the sound.*

I had never seen Boogie play with a “boy dog” before so this was really cool.  When Boogie and Rosie play, they like to chase each other. With Popeye, there was lots of mouthing, wrestling and rolling about on the ground.  :)

Two videos:

It was an afternoon of very happy dogs and EXTREME cuteness!

More photos and (blurry) video clips in my flickr set HERE.

July 31, 2011 at 5:55 pm 3 comments

In search of a private fenced yard…

Here is a photo of Boogie and Franklin from Monday’s session with trainer Irith Bloom, taken in a peaceful Huntington Palisades neighborhood.

Franklin is a very sweet and calm English Shepherd so he was the perfect “big dog” for Boogie to hang out and do parallel walking with. The funny thing is that as soon as Boogie and Franklin saw each other from a fair distance, both dogs started whining. Boogie whimpered and looked at me and pulled towards Franklin. The dogs recognized each other from their BAT session five months ago! :)

Boogie walks beautifully on loose-leash in my neighborhood, but because this was a new and exciting location, he was pulling like crazy. The technique of “standing still like a tree” didn’t work because Boogie kept leaning and pulling forwards regardless. Irith gave me some tips on how to deal with this problem, eg – keep my leash hand at my bellybutton, do a 180 and boldy walk forward as if there is no dog behind me until Boogie catches up on loose-leash. I did this a few times on our walk and after a while Boogie became more mindful of my existence and kept the leash loose-ish between us.

Memo to self: In a new environment, go back to training the basics.

So… as I was saying to Irith, I find these “friendly doggie sessions” so good for Boogie. I notice that whenever we have a friendly and polite experience with another dog, the following day Boogie does not react to any dogs that he sees on the street. He looks at them, turns away and moves along like it’s no big deal. He is the same after every play date with Rosie. He is more relaxed around dogs in general…

It’s a shame that Huntington Palisades is so far away from me. And Rosie also lives really far away.

I would like to do more BAT set ups with unfamiliar dogs as decoys but we need to borrow a private fenced yard — with no other dogs present –preferably in the La Brea/Fairfax area of West Hollywood. The parks are too risky with loose dogs running around.

Fenced yard, anyone?

November 30, 2010 at 9:37 pm 3 comments

Off-leash dogs!!! Argh.

Why is it that whenever an off-leash dog runs towards us, the owner always says  to us -  “Don’t worry! He is friendly!”?

I hate that. The reply I have in my head is usually “Your dog is not friendly. He very impolitely charged at us”.

But instead, what comes out of my mouth is a hurried attempt to explain that my dog is in training for his reactivity blah blah blah… and that even though the off-leash dog may be friendly, MY dog isn’t and he may lunge or bite when rushed at by an unfamiliar dog, so please for goodness sake, keep your dog away from mine.  I hate that Boogie is made to look like the bad guy but how do you explain to a stranger that their lovable excitable dog was displaying extreme rudeness and NOT friendly behavior? And besides, why the heck was their dog off-leash in a public place?

[Here's a YouTube video showing "Polite Dog Greetings" - with calming signals]

Friends have already heard all about the traumatic incident that Boogie and I experienced a few days ago…

I was walking Boogie along the street on Tuesday morning when I spotted an off-leash dog on the opposite side of the street. My instinctual response was to get away ASAP so I called Boogie “Let’s go!” and started running. I realize later that this was a mistake on my part. I should not have run. I should have picked Boogie up but in that moment of panic my only thought was – we need to get away fast. To my horror, the off-leash dog bounded across the street towards us and started chasing us. She was a large dog – black and white markings – perhaps a pit mix. She didn’t look aggressive but she was fast and before you know it, Boogie and this dog were locked in a vicious fight.

Everything was a blur of violence. All I remember is wrestling on the ground with two growly dogs and seeing Boogie’s neck gripped in the other dog’s jaw. I yelled and punched the other dog in the muzzle but she would not let go. The street was deserted and no owner came to claim their dog in spite of my yelling -  “SOMEBODY COME AND GET THIS DOG AWAY FROM ME!!!” I was cussing and screaming, punching and pulling for what felt like an eternity. The dog did not let go of Boogie’s neck and I seriously thought that Boogie was going to die. I kept punching this dog trying to pull her jaw open and I felt a tooth sink into my finger.  The pain was intense but all I could think of was that I had to save Boogie.

Finally, a guy appeared on the street and led the other dog away back into her yard. He said that the dog’s owner wasn’t home and the dog must have got out because the gate was open. Other neighbors emerged from their houses to enquire what was going on because I guess they had heard me screaming and yelling.  Boogie and I were there on the sidewalk covered in blood. “But that dog is friendly”… they said. Hell no. Just take a look at us.

One of the neighbors (a nurse) took me into her house and cleaned us up. After that, we spent the rest of the day at the Emergency vet and doctor’s office.  I think Boogie was probably more traumatised by the four hour vet hospital experience and the cone-of-shame than by the actual dog fight.

We are both fine now but what an experience. Not to mention that this incident is a major setback in all the training that I’ve been doing with Boogie for the past 12 months.

This is the THIRD TIME that Boogie has been injured by an off-leash dog. :(

I met with the owner of the other dog. He was very apologetic, agreed to get his gate fixed so that this won’t happen again, compensated us for the medical bills and he wishes that his dog and Boogie could have met properly and not under such circumstances because his dog is  “super friendly”. Perhaps they will meet again… and we may do some BAT work with the two dogs… but for now, it’s back to square one with Boogie’s training. He has been extra trigger-sensitive these past couple of days, and his wounds are still healing…

As I was saying to Sarah, we are fortunate that the bite wounds are not deep (compared to one attack by a truly aggressive dog which led to stitches). It is possible that Boogie lashed out first when the dog rushed at him and that this dog was merely defending herself by gripping onto Boogie’s neck for so long and refusing to let go.  Dogs have amazing control with their teeth. If this dog (who, incidentally had zero injuries) was truly aggressive and had seriously intended to mess Boogie up, the wounds would have been much worse.

As for me, the bite on my finger is getting better but my knees and legs are scraped, bruised and painful. Boogie and I are both on antibiotics and we plan to take things easy this week.

Now for some comic relief …  Check out this awesome hilarious blog post on the power of the SQUEAKY TOY.

Boogie will be getting a new squeaky rubber monkey this week.

November 20, 2010 at 10:45 am 12 comments

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