New & Improved Bouvier!

Now, with significantly reduced levels of testosterone!

Oh. My. Dog.

I’m backlogged on posts I’d intended to write today, yesterday, the day before, etc. But I’m not writing them. Instead you’ll have to suffer through another gleeful post about the progress Barnum and I are making.

First of all, my outdoor powerchair has been fixed — again — I hope! It seems fixed. I used it today and it ran very well. I didn’t notice any problems. Please, please let it be fixed, once and for all!

Sharon in a woodsy setting in her large outdoor chair. It has very large black knobby tires, elevated black metal leg rests, a purple square base, and an oversized gray captain's chair with headrest.. Sharon is reaching into a treat pouch hanging from the joystick while baby Barnum (4 months old) trots toward her.  He is shorter than the wheels. The chair gives an impression of great size and power.

This is the kind of rugged terrain that chair needs to handle.

My chair underwent quite an overhaul. It was rewired. the battery boxes were replaced and terminals cleaned, loose wires more securely tucked away, and light switch more firmly reattached. I also got new chargers!

(Thank you, Mom and Dad, for taking my chair for repairs and returning it to me! And for putting up my dog-smelling van for two weeks!)

Anynoodle, Barnum and I went for our first real walk in a month or two. As usual, before we left, I asked him to pee, and he did. Hooray.

I didn’t know if he’d respond differently to this chair than the only one I’ve had to use lately, but he seemed more comfortable, actually, with moving next to the outdoor chair today. I assume this is because 90 percent of our walks have been with the outdoor chair, so it’s more familiar.

I kept the pace slow, and he was damn-near perfect for the first several minutes. If this had been a Level Three test for loose-leash walking, we would have passed! However, I couldn’t consider it a test because I was doing a lot of clicking and treating. He’ll have to be able to go 40 feet without clicks or treats to pass that.

To get to that level, I will raise my criteria and reduce my rate of reinforcement — clicking for eye contact and also for relaxedness — and then I can start phasing out the treats. He is showing some nerves and apprehension during some parts of the walk, and I don’t know why, so I tried to click him for “enjoying yourself,” as well as loose leash and eye contact and such.

But, I didn’t take this walk with the plan of testing anything. I just wanted to get more practice in and have a nice time and give him a bit of exercise. The bugs were not as bad as they’ve been lately, either.

All was going well until  we were partway up the very steep hill, and Barnum’s friend, Lucy, the Vizsla, came roaring down to us. She is typically off-lead, and likes to dive-bomb Barnum to get him to play with her, and to beg for treats from me.

Longtime readers know that nothing is more exciting and distracting to Barnum than other dogs. He also has a history of playing with Lucy. Needless to say, staying controlled and on a LL is difficult with Lucy roaring around.

Oh, and yeah, Barnum was not wearing his no-pull harness, just a regular buckle collar.

At first he started pulling to get to Lucy, and I backed up as fast as I could and tried to get between them. He looked at me, I c/t. He looked again, c/t!

He  repeatedly chose  to interact with me and earn treats rather than throwing himself at Lucy!

I couldn’t believe it! Not only did he generally keep a loose leash and repeatedly give me uncued eye contact, but then he started throwing sits, and I was able to CUE sit, down, and watch me, several times!

The most amazing thing was that I was able to use my Zen cue (“Leave it,”) to get him to turn from Lucy to me. There were several times when he really would have been well within doggy manners to tell her off. She sniffed his butt, his penis, his face, and tried to get between him and me, actually trying to grab cheese right out of his mouth, and he kept responding to my “Leave its,” by ignoring her. Sometimes I didn’t even need to cue him. He was just so focused on me doing c/t as fast as I could.

Today felt like a HUGE breakthrough.  It was an almost spiritual experience, having those brown eyes staring at me so hard, I could practically see the gears going in his mind. He worked so hard to focus on me and not be swayed by the temptress, Lucy!


He wasn’t perfect, of course. He knew (or deeply hoped, and he was right) that once we got to her driveway, if he sat and gave me eye contact, I would  release him to play off-leash with her. As  a result, the closer we got to her driveway, the more he lost focus, until he was pulling every time we crossed the driveway threshold, and I had to keep backing up.

However, he did then sit and stare at me, and hold his stay, off-leash, until he was released. I also managed to repeatedly call him off marking off-leash (not every time, but even once was 100 percent more than in the past!) and multiple “Leave it”s from snorfling my neighbor’s adorable baby, who just started walking three days ago. She loves dogs and wasn’t afraid of him, but I didn’t want him to knock her over or get slime all over her face. (All that panting and cheese-eating, Barnum was good and slime-faced by then.)

His Zen definitely needs a lot of work — most of the time he didn’t actually stop cold and turn or back up and look at me — but he did at least not do the thing I didn’t want him to do, most of the time. He seemed to understand that this was a baby person, and that made her interesting (she’s shorter than him!), but he also seemed to be showing some care around her. He just really wanted to sniff her.

Anynoodle, he and Lucy played, and he ran around marking things, and rolling on his back in the grass, and exploring. We had some other breakthroughs here: He came when called twice (though not every time). We came running after me when I drove out of sight. And I was able to do several short sessions of training with him while Lucy was right there! He sat, hand-targeted, and gave eye contact, all on cue, despite Lucy being A) a dog, and B) all over him and me to try to get to the treats.

On the way home, he was so tired, he kept wanting to stop and rest, but even though I was going slow, I couldn’t carry him or anything! He HATES the heat. So, he was speeding up, partly to get to Lucy (who decided to escort us home) and partly because he wanted to get home. Ironically, I had to keep backing up every time he did this. I told him,”The slower  you go, the faster we’ll get there,” but he didn’t seem to respond.

Must. Sleep.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum (80% more likely to be SDiT)

8 Responses to “New & Improved Bouvier!”

  1. 1 Laura June 10, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Wow! Go Team Go!! Good job barnum! Good job Sharon 😀

  2. 2 Sharon Wachsler June 10, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Thank you, Laura!

    I’d intended to be asleep by now. An hour ago I was already partway asleep and found a flea on my shoulder. Last night found a flea in my bed, too. So, we just washed Barnum. Didn’t find any fleas, and with the exception of one effort to make a break for it, he was excellent in the tub. HOWEVER. AUGH! Now we’ll have to vacuum and launder the whole house. And I’m gonna dream of fleas. . . . As if the ticks haven’t been bad enough. Still, I think Barnum enjoyed cooling off, once he was resigned to it.

  3. 3 Karyn June 11, 2011 at 1:38 am

    This is so awesome Sharon. I am so proud of Barnum and you. Boy that Lucy certainly provides good training for you guys. I would go ptsd I think over it despite the fact she seems like a friendly dog. I still have moments that take me back to Mets attack sigh
    I am so glad your chair is back. I really hope this time it works well for years to come.
    You two keep up the awesome work- recording these moments for the days when it feels like you’re taking steps back instead of forward.
    You are such an encouragement. smile
    Some days I think- maybe I shld send Thane in for a repeat neuter- just kidding! giggle

  4. 4 Sharon Wachsler June 11, 2011 at 2:16 am

    A repeat neuter! I actually did LOL at that! What would they remove NEXT? Ha ha ha ha. I’m still laughing. Poor dude.

    Lucy, yes, is a “training opportunity” when she is in the streets. However, she is VERY sweet and super dog-friendly and appropriate. She gets along with all the dogs.

    I have been very fortunate to have had very few hostile dog encounters, ever, and even in those cases, Gadget was not at work, he was able to defend himself (he preferred not to fight, but if it came to that, he took care of himself), and the owner was right there and responded great. So, I’m not at all freaked by it.

    It’s very hard for my dog walker who takes him by there. I think I am going to work with her on how to handle it by going with them one day. I’m also trying to help Lucy’s owner, who is frustrated by it as well, to learn how to train a recall, but it’s hard for her because of working and having a new baby.

    Anyway, now that we know Barnum CAN handle it if it’s made clear to him that he won’t get anywhere if he doesn’t show some self-control, we can put that to use. More Zen. And then being allowed to play off-leash with another dog is a HUGE reinforcer for holding it together beforehand.

  5. 5 Ashley June 11, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Please keep making us “suffer” (read:totally enjoy) these posts! I’ve been worse than usual this week and good posts like these make me smile. I love to read about my blog/internet friends having great breakthroughs like this!

  6. 6 Kathy June 11, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Yep, keep making us suffer. Yay Barnum! Wish I could send virtual treats to both of you!

  7. 7 Sharon Wachsler June 11, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Thank you, Ashley! Yes, I was being ironic, because generally people seem to enjoy reading happy dog news. Later, however, I thought, “Huh. Wonder if they really *are* getting tired of me talking about LLW and eliminating on cue?” But, that is a big part of SD training. I remember Barbara Handelman once saying that teaching the service skills is the sexy stuff; that’s the fun, exciting stuff, and it’s easy to want to hurry to that and skip the foundation things. That really stuck with me, because it’s so true. Not only is the urgent, imperative voice in MY head, wanting the help, yelling at me to teach the service skills, dammit!, and just sort of hope the rest will be good enough, but other people’s reactions have become very predictable to me now about what they are excited and impressed by. In the video of Gadget, everyone loves him bringing me the water bottle and going back to shut the fridge. But, nobody seems excited by him moving perfectly in step with me turning a tight circle in my chair, or staying in a cramped position under a table at my feet. Right now, I am really struggling with Barnum’s stays. He doesn’t see what’s in it for him. He LOVES shutting doors. When I can get him to hold a one- or two-minute sit-stay while I’m totally (pretending that) I’m ignoring him or a 5 or 10-minute down-stay, that will be a much bigger deal than him knowing how to shut all the doors on cue. But I know if I made a video of Barnum sitting still for two minutes, and one of him slamming doors shut with his nose, the excited reaction from the general public is not going to be watching a dog sit for two minutes! However, I know enough of you are reading who are dog trainers or SD handlers, that you will “get” what a big deal the sit-stay or down-stay is. Still, it’s true for me that I get bored teaching the sit, down, and stand cues over and over, and trying to get him to learn that sit means,”Sit” wherever you are — don’t back up and sit or turn and face me to sit — that I do really enjoy when I can throw in some new “fun” stuff to work on, for both of us. Well, this was quite a long comment! I’m afraid that’s the danger of me being able to reply in email.

  8. 8 Sharon Wachsler June 11, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Aw, thanks. Actually, we are both hooked on this herbed popcorn. My whole town is. We refer to it as “crack corn.” It’s pretty funny to see him working so hard for popcorn!

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