Monday, May 31, 2010

Little Green Buckets Are So Exciting

This weekend it was vividly demonstrated to me how different things are really exciting to different people. I was glad to attend the wedding we were a part of on Saturday, but not "Sooooo excited I could hardly stand it!" as one of the other guests expressed herself.

However on Friday night when I had to drop into the store I was, "Sooooo excited I could hardly stand it!" What would illicit such a response from me-a confirmed non-shopper?

Maizey will show you:
"See my new food bucket?!? Now I can learn to be a big girl like Meeka and carry my own bucket!"

Hmmm. . . this bucket carrying thing is harder than it looks!"

"Awwe forget it i'll just eat out of the bucket!"

I'm absolutely positive the excited wedding girl thought I was from an alternate universe when I was jumping up and down and clapping when I found this treasure of a little green bucket, but you should have seen Maizey when I gave it to her, she jumped up and down too! Okay admittedly it was probably more because I was jumping up and down than because she truly cares about little green buckets but my girls and I have a deal, if their happy I'm happy. If I'm happy their happy. It's a good deal. 

Meeka illustrates:
"This is the most awesome bucket ever! Every time I find it my crazymomlady feeds me!"

"Plus when I hold the handle she jumps around, clap sand cheers. She looks like a total dork so I laugh at her and run around and be wild. It's the best game ever!"

"I mean its no pink bear, but common this is pretty fun!"

Today's 4 legged lesson: take joy wherever you find it, even if its a wedding for some crazy people or in a little green bucket for the rest of us sane ones!LOL

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Walking Challenges and Bad Attitudes

The 40 miles in 40 days walking challenge is not coming off so great this time.

The challenge itself is not the problem its the absolute lack of energy I have been having, which ironically the challenge would help. So I planned out some longer and new routes to take today thinking that would motivate me to get out there and see how it goes and yet here I am tick-typing away instead.

I have an enormous work day, company I have never met coming tomorrow, a weekend wedding event this weekend plus. . . Did I mention I am the orneriest person in the world and hate weddings? My friend that is getting married is like a little sister to me, I love her to pieces and I'm happy for her, I just hate weddings. Yeah, I'm mean. Besides why does a wedding have to be an on going event for a whole weekend? Yeah, I know, still mean.

But the walking. Its hard to walk when you're tired, that kind of tired that leaves nothing left for little reactive barking cavaliers, even though it does make me happy to see her so happy.

Okay I guess that's why I should go. They are already going to be bummed out when they figure out to day is a work day, not a mom stays home and plays with us day, I guess I should lever my laziness out of bed and at least give them a little stroll.

As for the miles? We'll just see who wins that challenge.

It might be the miles. . . this time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Grooming With Some "Cowboy Magic"

Around here we have been on a grooming mission to learn how to deal with Maizey's ever increasing amounts of "long flowing locks" as my non-dog friend puts it.

She is fairly tolerant to grooming, loves the bath more than anything, is great for toenail clipping, and would probably be good for teeth brushing if her crazymomlady wasn't a lazy loser about doing it. 

However those thick ears that seem to just keep growing are a daunting challenge to keep up with. I would really like to be one of those wonderful dog-ladies who brush every day, but honestly we do good to get in 15 minutes about 4 days a week. The other thing that makes it a challenge is those ears are constantly getting wet. From water bowl to puddles, to the river wet ears make for snarls and mats.

So after hours online I finally found a wonderful group of folks who are part of a yahoo group called OzCavalier. These wonderful and kind folks patiently put up with my inexperienced questions and suggested a wealth of great suggestions and products. Thanks to all of you who responded!

My favorite thing I have tried so far is a product called Cowboy Magic Detangler and Shine. It is a non-greasy gel that you put a very small amount on the mat and with your fingers gently pull the loose hairs out of the mat. For once the name "magic" is not an exaggeration!

The other suggestion they encouraged me to do was to use a slicker brush on her. Due to Meeka's extremely sensitive skin I am "slicker phobic" but I followed their advice using Maizey's little slicker that has plastic tines instead of the traditional metal ones. It really works great and combined with the Cowboy Magic detangler her hair is not damaged at all.

Thus grooming has become a much more pleasant experience around here. Of course if would be nice if maizey were more like Meeka who when she sees you get out her brushes flops over upside down and writhes in pleasure at any brushing she can get!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Small Victories Are Still Victories

Perhaps I've mentioned before how Meeka gets her little metal bucket and carries it to the dog food to get her breakfast and dinner. This is an enormously cute trick that I have been trying to get on video fairly unsuccessfully. Also completely unsuccessfully I have been trying to teach Maizey to do the same thing. Tonight we had a breakthrough.

Ahh you should have seen me. . . such a proud momma when I told them "Are you Hungry? Go get the bucket!" Lo and behold! Who gets it? Maizey! And by the handle too! So as I squealed "good girl! Maymay got the bucket! commere! Bring it! Bring the bucket!" in rapturous tones and Meeka ran around trampling everything in sight and Maizey pranced around carrying the bucket and. . . ran in the opposite direction and dropped it. Looking back at me with the look like, "Aren't I amazing?!?"

Insert my sighs here.

But it was progress so we set it up again. Cue: "get your bucket" and again Maizey gets the bucket and again. . . runs in the opposite direction and drops it with the look like, "I am the most awesome talented princessface in the world! Now where's my dinner crazyfoodlady?"

At least she's learning and every time one of them learns something new it reminds me of a 4 legged lesson: I get more excited than they do to see them so proud of whatever new thing they learn and in the way of dogs they get just as excited as I am for no other reason than that i am happy.

Chalk that one up on the list of what motivates me to train.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Promise We Do Train Around Here Once In A while

Though it often doesn't seem like we do much actual dog training around here Maizey is making some progress with her training levels work.

I was very excited when I finally got organized enough to give her some of the L2 tests she has been ready for. So on the 15th she tested and passed her L2 sit, down, crate and handling. So that means so far she has passed 5 out of 16 behaviors in L2.

We are working on and close to testing her watch, sit-stay and down-stay. She is doing excellent with her "go to mat" work and could test any day. Also her L2 come is really good, we just need to enlist a helper to hold her since stay isn't that firm yet. 

So all in all she is doing well and I don't think I will need to apply for any easy scholarships for dog training school. Although I have been thinking about taking a clicker class for some time now. The trainer who taught her puppy class does one and I think it would be very good for me, but Maizey probably needs a little more time to work on her reactive issues. More to come on how we are handling that soon.

In other news around here, we had a very nice walk again tonight. I can't believe what a difference walking makes to ease Meeka's mysterious symptoms. It was dark when Meeka, myself and mehusbandy walked so no pics of her, but Maizey would like to lodge an official complaint about my treat placement.

And the sky was stunning

Monday, May 17, 2010

Yesterday We Saw A Pelican And A Pretty Face

These photo's don't speak very well for my photographer abilities but a pelican over the mountains is not something we see everyday so I thought crummy shots or not it was worth sharing.

Not that you would know it from this pic but I promise she really is more than just a pretty face.
"Me? Pretty face? Naw. . .I'm the princessface!"

Friday, May 14, 2010

Are You Sure The Tortoise Wins?

We hope its true that the swift do not always win the race because we are off to a seriously slow start on our 40 miles challenge. The stomach flu will do that to ya!

But we did get a little start today. Between trying to get the garden in, being sick and all the other run of the mill things that keep us going around here we haven't walked in. . .oh too long to admit, but a while now.

Maizey and I  did get started on our miles tonight with a quick little mile and a half. It was gorgeous out there this evening, all golden and glowing with the end of the day light. In a city that is all edges and harsh angles to me that glowing light seems to soften the edges of everything and make even a bad day seem somehow not so lasting. As if the anxieties of each day will melt and sink into darkness with the sun, leaving way for nothing but the possibility of an easier tomorrow. Ahh if it were only that easy. But it was beautiful. The mountains are particularly pretty this time of year while they are still covered in their winter time icing, and the valley in the middle distance is getting green and lush. But I wax poetic and it can be so better captured in a photo.

We had company in the form of my mom and our part-time boy Charley. He walks so sedately, as if he has learned that even if you don't zoom all over you still get just as nice a walk. He totally shows Maizey up for the frolicking baby she is. It was fun to have them. I appreciate very much having company on our walks.

Charleycharley says, 
"If I grin really big can I please have that treat?"

So tomorrow will come soon. Hopefully we can get the garden tilled and ready to plant and certainly get some walking in. Who knows maybe we will even get back in sync with our daily training which has been sorely lacking lately. You never know, tomorrow could turn out to be an easier tomorrow!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dictionary Of Cues

Down with the flu again. Maizey thinks the crazymomlady being sick is a no good deal at all. She is really tired of doing all training from the bed or couch!

But the sickies do give me lots of time to waste on-line and I read an interesting thing about keeping a "dog dictionary" of all the cues and words your four legged friend knows.

I am generally fascinated by words, and always looking for ways to expand my own and the girls vocabulary. Amongst my friends I am pretty well known for tossing out the occasional, "We are really only nonconsenguinously related." You know just to let people know that someone who is your aunts brother-in-laws third cousin is only technically if at all related to you. Or there is always my favorite word, the all purpose, physiognomy. As in, "Meeka has the most peaceful physiognomy." Or I guess I could always just say she "looks peaceful" but it lacks some of the ring to me.

The other reason the idea of language and the dogs piqued my interest had to do with something that happened the other day. I was calling Maizey in from outside with a completely normal, to me anyways, "Maymay comecome. Hey where are you missamay? Comefindmeee!" (Don't ask me why but most of my informal cues to the girls seem to come out as complete run-on sentences comprised of run-together words. They don't seem to mind and just chalk it up to another crazymomlady quirk.)

But back to the amusing anecdote, as she came tearing in to me I heard the little girl from the non-dog house next door say to her dad, "Why does she say, "Maymay come find me?" I had to laugh and started wondering how many other people find it odd when I talk to the dogs. The dogs understand, and respond so it isn't strange to me at all, but I do sort of have my own language for them. They have their own variety of nicknames and words that seem to morph into other names and other words as time passes.

Thus the idea of cataloging the words they know really interested me. Around here cues are basically broken up into two categories, formal and informal cues. Then there are all the every day words the girls know.

The informal cue's make up a lot of the every day language and include phrases like, 'comecome' and 'that's enough'. The very handy, 'settle it' which basically means, "plant yourself somewhere and stay still."

There are the things that Meeka knows and Maizey has yet to learn such as, ''Meeka are you hungry? You are??? Well, get your bucket biggirl. Good girl. Go find your bucket and lets get some dinner." Spoken as a running commentary while she runs all over the house looking frantically for her bucket and brings it to us for her dinner. As for how much of this she actually understands I wouldn't presume to say, but it always results in her finding the last place she or Maizey left the bucket and bringing it to me all the while dancing and prancing around Maizey while the little girl zoomies around the house being no help at all.

Recently I watched an Ian Dunbar talk on Youtube where he talks about how humans teach their dogs to spell. He was using it as a negative example of lack of training. But I thought it illustrated how smart our dogs are when it comes to language. Every dog has those exciting words they just love to hear, be it 'walk' or 'treat' or in Meekas case, "Do you want to go" or "Are you hungry?" With either sentence she will go racing around the house bouncing. So now on occasion you will hear us say, "do you want to G-O?" Or, "Are you H-U-N-G-R-Y?" Of course now she just waits for us to finish this strange spelling thing and then races and bounces around the house. At that point she will usually get a, "settle it." But it does show dogs can spell!

Interesting too is the response to a sound that has become a cue. My friends have long teased me for what they call my "teradactol screech." It's that all purpose handy noise many dog owners resort to when all else fails and your four legged friend is about to roll in a pile of something dead, or any other thing you want to stop immediately. (As an aside one of my friends that has now grown up and started her own four legged family recently admitted what a wonderfully effective noise that was for stopping any and all unwanted dog behavior. Obviously I don't advocate this as any replacement for actual training, but if your in a pinch it is handy.)

Another noise recently added to my repertoire of cues is, "Shhhhh." Used for Maizey's newly acquired and hopefully soon extinct behavior of barking at the windows." Of course the Maizey barking subject is an entirely different post, but again a good example of how many things become useful to communicate information to our dogs.

There is also of course the non-verbal cues we use and these too could be broken into formal and informal categories. In the formal side there is the sit, down, stay etc. hand signals used to illicit those respective responses. But again it is the informal cues that so often fascinate me. A frown in Meeka's direction will have profound effect. While Maizey has developed a beautiful down with the shift of my eyes to the ground. If I can teach the dog to listen so well that she will lay down with the cue of my eyes, what seems to be my difficulty in getting through to humans? Sigh. . .I guess Cavaliers are just much easier to train.LOL

But that brings me to the conclusion and point of this very long, and wordy post. The point being in the form of a 4 legged lesson: if we spend so much time trying to figure out how to communicate clearly and in so many ways with our 4 legged friends, shouldn't we also put some effort into the same with our two legged ones?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How Many Miles In How Many Days?

So far I have yet to decide if the girls are asking me or I am asking them, "How many miles in how many days?!?" But the longer I wait to commit myself to our next walking challenge I am starting to realize what I'm sure they knew all along-their crazymomlady is a procrastinator! (Gasp-a shocker I'm sure.)

So in their best interests, and I'm sure my own, I announce:

Let the 40 Miles In 30 Days Walking Challenge begin!

Yes, its true I upped the ante. I'm not sure how this is going to work out with each pup, but I suspect Maizey is going to get a lot more practice in LLW. Meeka started limping again two days ago, complete with the hardwood floor issues returning. I haven't been able to decide if this could be an episode of Degenerative Myelopathy, or if she just got stiff from not walking last week when I had the flu, or even a combination of all three. I will probably never know. What I do know is that walking every other day like we have been doing can only be good for her regardless of what the underlying cause of her mysterious symptoms are.

So reason #1 for walking challenge:Meeka needs it.

I have posted before about how much more content the dogs are when they get some exercise and that is reason #2: the girlies love it, and I love to see them have so much fun.

Reason #3 ironically does not pose near as much motivation as reasons #1,2 but it is: the exercise is very good for me too, both physically and mentally.

As before we would love to have you join our challenge. If you would like to be added to the walking challenge just post me who is walking and how many miles you have in a comment or email and I will keep it updated. If you would like to set a mile goal that is reasonable in your real life please don't feel bound to our 40 miles-join us with whatever works for you. If you would like me to post what your individual mile goal is I will add that too.

There really is only one rule I set for myself in these challenges: have fun. This is meant to be enjoyable time for me to spend with my four legged friends and any two legged ones that want to join us. If I get stressed about the details I know I will not enjoy myself. Even one walk with my pups is one walk I wouldn't have had with them, and that defines my success right there. Achieving the miles is really icing on the cake of the time I spend with them. As was recently commented, the time we have with our four legged friends is far too short to waste, we have to take advantage of what we have.

So, lets walk and have fun!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Not All Cavaliers Are Princesses

A few pics from me and Maizey's trip down south. We had a great time and got some great posed shots of the dogs, which I am not very good at.

"See crazymomlady-I do know how to wait!"

Layla says, "pishh...thats the shortest wait ever!"

Dare says, "Awwe, your both beginners-I'm the only truly dignified one around here!"

"Common crazymomlady gimme the treat!"

It was really fun how much Maizey and Layla got along, they really buddied up.
"Don't we have pretty tails?"

"Whatchu lookin at?"

"Are we STILL waiting?!?"

Layla says, "Hey! Where's my treat?"

"C'mon lets blow this wait game and have some fun!"

"Well I'm outta here!"
Layla says, "See?? I told you I was the good girl! See me waiting?"

Of course Maizey being Maizey got hot half way through our walk and decided a good roll in the dirty snow would be just the ticket to cool off. 

"What are you doing? You're getting all dirty!"

Insert Dares rolling eyes here

"Ahhh this snow feels nice."

"Me dirty? Who cares? I'm not one of those fluffy shelties ya know!"

We finally did some cute pics of all three pups.
"Aren't we pretty?"
But of course Maizey says, "Mmmm, chicken liver's the best!"

"Walks in the mountains are the best too-but not as good as Chicken liver."

Sunday, May 2, 2010

30 miles in 30 Days Makes Loose Leash Walking A Snap

Fait accompli! Okay so I think I deserve a little slack in the fancy word department as a way to say: we did it! It is an "accomplished fact, something already done and beyond alteration." The fait accompli? We successfully walked 30 miles in 30 days. Challenge complete!

So I am a little full of my self, those of you who know me realize that for someone who is a self confirmed energy hoarding sloth this really was an accomplishment.

Many four legged lessons were learned. But my favorite thing was learned by Maizey. Not too long ago we started L2 Loose Leash Walking(LLW), and since I think Maizey was as determined a puller as our 90lb Alaskan Malamute, whom we will always miss, I was admittedly not too optimistic. Especially since this is what LLW does not look like:
"Ahh crap, I'm about to go turn around and follow you walking backwards aren't I?
You do know the neighbors think your a nutcase for walking me down the street backwards all the time?
Pardon me while I roll my eyes in disgust"

But the progress was amazing. And it is so nice to walk down the street and not look like a fool of a grown woman bing dragged down the sidewalk by nine pounds of girlie hair! So this is what LLW does look like:

But first of course we have the celebratory "pretty girl shot" before we start our last miles of the challenge.

On our walk I cue, "get ready" and make sure she is 'in the game' and paying attention.
"Get Ready? I AM ready crazymomlady! Lets Go!"

So with a chipper and completely unslothful, "let's go" we start off.
L2 LLW is defined as,  "a loose leash [is] a leash with the snap hanging straight down from the collar. If the leash supports the snap in any way, the leash is no longer loose." So that is our criteria. At close to perfect it looks like this:

Now there are two ways described to reinforce the LLW and I strongly recommend reading the details at Sue's Training Level site, but for purposes of our picture commentary I'll just comment that I chose the option of c/t when she is in the position I want her and while we are moving forward. I feel it gives a clearer explanation of, "Yes! You are perfect right where you are." 

The theory goes that a dog can be taught to know that when on harness it's "recess", so to speak. It's play time, with a looser interpretation of the rules. Then when put on flat buckle collar they realize, "Okay, class time! Time to have a nice LLW and pay attention to crazymomlady." It works great! By now she is getting used to the position I expect her to walk in, namely her shoulder at the seam of my jeans, and often times even on her harness is walking that way.

I think we are going to make her a new section, "LHW" for loose harness walking.

Of course this is recess so it doesn't always stay loose. But its okay.
 "WHOA that's some foot ya got there crazymomlady!"

In conclusion Maizey would like to say:
  "Yeah I know I'm the princessface and not only am I pretty, now my knees work I can walk on a loose leash 30 miles in 30 days! Ya, I rock it.!"
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Lessons From and For 4 Legs has moved to a new address: Where we will continue to learn life's lessons from my little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's, Maizey and Magnus. Don't miss Meeka's lessons too, by checking the archives of my big girl rescue Rottie. They all teach me so much!