Thursday, October 31, 2013

Public Enemy No. 1

Someone in a hurry tossed a black plastic trash bag beside the road. Peter and Silver and I walked right past it.

But then the wind kicked up a bit, and the plastic began to billow. Peter went rigid, staring at it. Then he growled, then began to bark at it. And it ignored him and kept shifting in the wind, and Peter started lunging toward it. (This is on a steep creek bank, where lunging could end in an unwanted splash.)

Finally, I took Peter and Silver back to the house. I went back and got the trash bag and put it in the garbage can, then got the dogs and walked them back down to the corner. With the enemy vanquished, Peter was willing to pee and poop on this trip. Silly boy.

* * *

Friday night, Peter goes to his new home after nine weeks here with Silver and me. A friend on Facebook put it well for both of us: "I will miss him. Good journey, wingnut. ♥ "

wingnut: (noun) A person appearing to be moderately to severely crazy, disoriented, jumbled and more often than not, a total mess. A wingnut is a constant source of entertainment to those surrounding it and can easily be found in any type of setting or venue. Example: grocery stores, sporting events, cross-walks, public transportation, school, work…you may even have one in your house.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Peter's Status

He does stairs well. We practiced today on my spiral stairs--scary to most dogs. He was fine going up until the last few steps; I let him stop and think about it and he finished up well. Then, coming back down, he needed some encouragement to start. But he was fine with going down and, unlike my previous dogs, he doesn't try to speed up at the end of the stairs and leap to safety.

His most recent flea and tick (Frontline Plus) and heartworm meds (ivermectin) were given on October 7.

He's crated when I'm not home, and he's muzzled in the crate. I scatter a half-cup of kibble in the floor of the crate and he gets the pieces in through the holes in his muzzle. When he gets a Kong, the Kong has his regular kibble (about 1/3 cup), then yogurt at the top, then it's frozen. So his "treats" at my house mostly have been his kibble, which seems to have done well for his digestive tract, because we haven't had to deal with an upset stomach. Currently, the kibble is Iams in the green bag. There are higher rated, more expensive foods out there, but Peter and my own dog have done well on this food, which they both like. Aside from the kibble, he's been getting a heaping tablespoon of pumpkin every night (canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling; check your grocery store's baking section for canned pie fillings--it's usually there instead of in the canned fruit or vegetable section). The pumpkin is the first thing he eats out of his bowl at night. And he's been getting half a raw turkey neck at least twice a week; the uncooked bones are soft enough to help with cleaning his teeth, but because they're uncooked, there's no risk of splintered bones.

Breakfast: 1 cup of kibble.
Noon: 1 Kong. (Kibble in his crate can substitute for the Kong, if you won't be home.)
Dinner: 1½ cup of kibble. (Or less, if he got kibble in his crate and a Kong.)
Bedtime: 1 Kong.

That bedtime Kong (or a kibble snack) is what has made it possible for me to sleep until 9 or 9:30 in the morning. If he seems calm enough in the crate not to need muzzling (he's chewed the wires some, although he hasn't bent the wires or tried to get loose), he could have a Kong in the crate instead of the scattered kibble.


Ready for the freezer. That's a little dog biscuit tucked into the peach yogurt.

He likes squeaky toys. While he silenced the squeaky in one toy here, he didn't shred the toy and pull out the stuffing. (Yet.) He likes to chew on hard things. He's chewed on a pair of my shoes, on a hair brush (handle was wood), and on a vacuum cleaner attachment (plastic with bristles). When I've caught him, he hasn't objected when I've taken things away from him, and he can be diverted to something he's actually allowed to chew. He's shown no signs of food aggression, and I've been able to reach down and move his bowl, take a Kong from him (sometimes kibble gets stuck, so he lets me bang the Kong until the kibble breaks loose), and take toys from him. I consider turkey necks a high-value food item, and I haven't tried to take one from him. I let him eat those in peace.

He's not cat-safe. (Or squirrel-safe.) He's not to be trusted with small, fluffy dogs, and I'm not sure how he'll be with larger, non-greyhound dogs. So far, he barks at them, but he shared an earlier foster home with non-greyhounds. I'd proceed with caution in that regard. If he starts barking or growling at dogs he sees on a walk, I've just walked him in circles until he's calmed down, and I haven't let the small dogs get close enough to be in danger. Typically, I walk him on a 4-foot leash rather than a 6-foot just because he and my own dog tangle themselves up on the 6-foot leashes. There haven't been any episodes where he's gotten sight of "prey" and suddenly lunged for it. Usually, he sees something interesting (a slow-moving squirrel), and he gets his ears and tail up and sort of trots along, all hopeful-like. Meanwhile, I'm telling the squirrel to get itself up a tree and I've held Peter back until the coast is clear. He's seen cats on a couple of walks and he stares at them. Cats in my neighborhood know not to run or move fast when they see my dogs, so nothing has triggered his chase instinct here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Eight Weeks

Peter has been here 8 weeks today.

GRA Peter
Peter rings the bells

He's learned to sleep late (until after 9 some mornings; the secret is to make sure he gets a bedtime snack and a last trip outside). He's learned to signal when he needs to go outside. (And when he just wants to go outside.) He's learned to cuddle without being too pushy.

Although he'd like to come along when Silver and I leave the house, he's fine staying home by himself. He's muzzled in his crate so he won't chew the bars or get into trouble. I leave him kibble that he can get through the holes on his muzzle, and that distracts him when I leave. When I come home, he's relaxed and peacefully asleep. And he'll wait patiently in his crate while I bring in groceries.


And, what might be the biggest miracle, he's learned to slide his head onto Silver and nap there without making her mad. She never tolerated Sam touching her when she was lying down, but she didn't complain today.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ring them bells!

I've created a monster, and it didn't take much effort. ;)

There were (and are) a couple of issues going on here.
  1. Peter hasn't had to ask to go outside at my house--so he hasn't learned how to ask. Since I work at home, he gets lots of trips outside during the day. I work until I get fidgety or want more Diet Coke or something. I get up, stretch my legs by taking the dogs outside for a quick trip to the corner (a pine tree with needles under it--and it's not in anyone's yard--makes a great place for dogs to pee), come back and make a trip to the kitchen. The dogs settle down again to nap, and I go back to work. And Peter hasn't learned how to make me get up and take him out when he wants me to.

  2. Peter has the attention span of a flea. Really. You can take him down to the peeing corner, spend 20 minutes or more with him there, start back to the house, and about 30 feet from the front door he slams on the brakes, suddenly realizing that he's forgotten to pee. He's been too busy watching neighbors and their dogs, passing cars, airplanes, falling leaves (it's October, for cryin' out loud), and raindrops. He'll finally settle down to do some business. He'll circle, sniff bushes, circle again, sniff pine needles, circle again, sniff tree trunks, circle again, get all set to go--and a neighbor will come out to see if there's mail in the mailbox. Or a bird will make a noise. A cat will cross the street two blocks away. Whatever. Peter forgets what he was about to do. I just want to scream at the neighborhood: "Stand still for 30 seconds, will ya?"
What this combination yields--on mornings when you're frantically pressed for time--is a disaster. Get up. Take the dogs out to pee. Twenty minutes later, decide that Peter needs more time to make up his mind than I can afford to spend (it's amazing how distractingly busy my neighborhood is at 7:30 on a Saturday morning), and head home with the dogs for breakfast, planning to take Peter back out after he's eaten. Feed both dogs. Decide to spend a couple of minutes filling Kongs. Go looking for Peter and find that he's left gifts by the front door. At first, only the pee was visible on the black floor, and I dashed off to get paper towels. Came back with the towels and realized I'd just run through the less visible poop--brown on black in the dimly lit foyer--and tracked it from the foyer, through the front room, the pantry, and into the kitchen--and back again. Call it Kiss your morning schedule good-bye.

So, step 1: Teach Peter how to ask to go out. The easiest way is to teach him to ring a bell. I took a Christmas collar that has bells on it and draped it over the knob of a door that's in a place he can reach easily--and that's close enough to where I work that I can hear the bells. (They're not very loud, but they've worked short-term, and I'll make something better.) The collar isn't on the front door that we go out for our walks; that would be too hard for me to hear. It's just on a convenient doorknob, but it could be put anywhere. (And the bells can be used later when he's in an unfamiliar place--when he goes to his forever home or he goes visiting with his forever people.) For the past 8 days, every time I've taken Peter out, we've stopped by that doorknob. At first, I jingled the collar; after a bit, I could point to the collar and Peter would jingle it; and now, Peter goes to the collar on his own and rings the bells when he wants to go outside. At that point, I praise him, take him by the leash, and we go to the front door to go outside.


(The "monster" I've created, of course, is that Peter now rings the bells when he wants to go outside--to look at the scenery, bake in the sun, meet with the neighbors, watch the birds, dodge falling leaves, scope out the cats, stare at passing cars... I can take him out, watch him pee and poop all he wants, come back to the house, settle down to work--and the bells are jingling again. So now I need to figure out when he's serious and when he isn't--without undoing this useful week of training.)

We'll continue the bells next week while we work on hurry-up-and-poop. I'm going to take treats out with me and start treating both dogs if they pee/poop quickly. The longer we stand outside, though, the fewer the treats. And I'll make it a point to stay out there for a bit after everyone's finished (I don't want him stalling in an effort to stay outside longer). As for Peter's attention span... What I've discovered is that I need to break his focus on whatever he's watching. Walk him in circles, get between him and whatever has hypnotized him. He can't pee while he's moving, of course, but he's not peeing standing still, either.  I want him to learn that he doesn't have to watch everything that's moving. Perhaps if he watches the approaching car for fewer seconds, fixates on the Yorkie twins only for a few yards (rather than two whole blocks--and those dogs move so slowly!), perhaps I can get Peter's attention back where it's supposed to be--especially if there are treats involved.

In good news, he hasn't peed or pooped in the house again, so that bad Saturday morning wasn't the start of a new bad habit. And he's remarkably better about not jumping up on people.

P.S. The title of this post isn't a grammatical slip. It's the title of a Fred Ebb/John Kander song.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Love Bug

If you call Peter to come to you in the house, you've got a 50-50 chance that he'll respond. (We're working on actual recalls out back, with him on a long leash. He's only 50-50 out there, too.)

But fling your arms wide and call him. He'll trot to you, tuck his head down, and lean and lean against you for hugs and petting. He'll keep leaning as long as you keep petting.

* * *

When I leave the dogs home alone, both dogs are muzzled, but no one's confined. They each get a couple of small cookies. Silver settles on her dog bed before I get out the door. Peter comes halfway to the door to watch me, but that's all.

If Silver is going with me and Peter will be left home alone, it's totally different. When Silver has the car harness on and Peter doesn't, he figures out that he's being left and he doesn't like it. There's no way I can get Silver out the door and all my stuff out the door without Peter pushing to join us, and I'm worried about the potential for tails pinched in doors (there's a wood door and a storm door), shins scraped, toes crunched in door jams.

I'm still using the Dog Anchor in the house to keep Peter from getting into trouble while I'm busy (or while Silver's eating). So, in order to get Silver and my stuff out of the house safely, I hook Peter to the Dog Anchor until Silver and my gear are in the car. But I can't leave Peter attached to the Dog Anchor when I'm not around. He's silly about the leash when it wraps around his leg(s), and I won't risk that he'll hurt himself with the Dog Anchor once I'm gone, so I unhook him from the anchor. At this point, it's a contest between him and me to see if he can get out of the house while I'm getting out. And because I've already taken off his martingale (for safety's sake: he never wears a martingale when I'm not home), the risk that he'll squeeze out of the house when I leave is a serious one: he'd be out there, muzzled and leashless. (He always wears my foster dog tag collar: a collar with a tag that says "I'm lost" on one side, with my phone number on the other.)

So I needed something to keep him safely occupied while I leave, something that works even though he's muzzled. I tried dropping a couple of little cookies for him, but he knows how to get the cookies through the holes of his muzzle, and he still can get to the door before I get out safely.

I put down an old cookie sheet. It's warped and stained and due to be replaced. (It's too large to fit comfortably in my oven.) It has raised edges all the way around. I drop it in the floor and toss a quarter-cup of kibble onto it. Peter blissfully stands there, hoovering up the bits of kibble through the holes in his muzzle. And I can leave the house safely, without trying to wrestle my way out the door. In fact, yesterday I got to the car, realized I'd forgotten my phone, and unlocked the door, came in and got my phone, and left and locked the door again--all while Peter scrambled for kibble pieces.

Why not crate him? He doesn't like the crate. You have to get behind him and push to get him in there. And since he chews on the crate, he still needs to be muzzled to protect himself. If he has to be muzzled to keep him from chewing things, it just seems like overkill to crate him, too.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

E.T.S. = Escaped Tongue Syndrome

GRA Peter

He's sound asleep, and his tongue is completely dry. If you touch his tongue, he doesn't stir.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Peter: What was that? Did you hear that noise?

Silver: Yes. It was a crash in the kitchen. There were bad words.

Peter: Should we go investigate?

Silver: No. There were bad words.

Peter: Maybe we should go help clean it up.

Silver: No, son. There were bad words.

Peter: If you're sure...

Silver: If she wants our help, she'll call us.

Peter: Well, I'm going back to sleep.