23 November 2010

And on through the forest we go.

After a big rain storm, I like to go walk around in the forest and check on the trees. Usually, RIP, someone didn't make it and we all climb on top of the carcass and feel sad and shit. For like 2 seconds. They're trees. They'll live on as dead logs. The really big ones, they're all still standing. They're like a million years old.

Also, after the rain, there's the creepy quotient in there, because the trails can be hidden under all the tree branches, and in the fog, everything looks different. Sort of headless horseman different.

There is the possibility of getting lost, and not getting out before it starts to rain. This I know from experience. The dogs know this too, and everyone sticks close on the rainy day walks. Also because I tell them about headless horsemen in there, it seems like appropriate conversation to pass the time. Also because I think they were doing some logging or cutting in there somewhere and there were creepy robot noises and clipper ship bells sometimes chiming through the fog.

Otterpop was up ahead on the trail, and I saw her stop dead in her tracks, which is her danger alert sign. If the danger alert is for average dangerous, say a mountain biker in spandex trousers, then she cheerfully greets them by freaking out barking and charging like the reactive ass she is, albeit with a stunning recall which calls her in right away. I really try not to let this happen, but slip happens.

If it's like really, super duper, totally extravaganza fiesta of horrors dangerous, like two for the price of one bobcats or creepy forest walking guy carrying hefty bag of potential sawed up body parts, she doesn't do the freakout charge, she precalls herself back to me and let's me figure out how to get us out of the danger pickle.

Thanks, Otterpop. Leave it to ME to get us out of this mess. Some lady's best friend you turned out to be.

Does a guy all dressed in black wielding a saw count as fiesta of horrors danger? I would say on a foggy, rainy forest day with no one else in the forest, sure. Why not? Because serial killers, you know, they use the bone saw to hack up their victims for easier disposal and so when you see a guy in all black walking through the trees with a saw, you just want to take note.

Me personally, I pick up a nice, fat tree branch club, so I'm armed for just in case he's coming after me with that saw, look him dead in the eye, smile cheerfully, then tell all the dogs to run and we run as fast as we can down the trail away from him.

Maybe he was just clearing the trails. A lot of branches and trees down in there. Maybe he's horrified backatcha by a club wielding, muddy panted messy hair lady with a pack of muddy little black dogs and we just scared the pants off of him.

This happens sometimes. Sorry, mister. Hope you find your pants.

But maybe he was a sawer of death. Ha HA! Take that. Not on my watch, am I getting sawed. We are all fast runners, and bid a hasty getaway. And leave him to saw what he's going to saw. And on through the forest we go.


Elizabeth said...

Speaking of Otterpops barky chargeyness I was wondering if I could ask you for advice in your infinite agility wisdom. How did you get her to stop snarking at evil judges and ring crew during trials? I have a miniature dachshund who’s wonderful in class but has to dart away to tell off innocent bystanders during trials. Video evidence of snarkyness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_VqC1VGAr4&feature=related Any suggestions?

team small dog said...

This was something Otterpop had to learn in all phases of her life. She has a rock solid leave-it and recall. This took a long time. She can still blow it, but it is very rare, she's been so heavily reinforced for coming in to my side when something that would set her off appears, that she usually Pre-calls herself in.

She can blow it though and we both try not to let that happen. When she does, she goes on a leash instantly, no questions asked, fun over.

When she started trialing, any time she barked at a judge or ring crew or photographer, she was picked up, and immediately walked to the car and put in her crate-no frisbee, no fun, nothing but jail time. There were a lot of runs for her never finished because of this. She can still throw a stink eye, esp. at a judge that runs close to the dogwalk or table, or sometimes she'll slow down on top of the a-frame to glare at a judge.

I am pretty sure her slow startlines stem from this-she walks in and if I lose her attention at all she's eyeballing the leash runner or timer or whoever is near her. If she has a startline away from people, she is usually way faster. All I can do is train wonderful startlines all the time, until they all become that focused to where she just doesn't care about people near her.

It's taken years til she can be hanging out at ringside near other dogs. For the longest time, just being near other dogs was a constant issue and I had to sequester her far away.

When I think about it, she has come super far. I have to give her credit for all the impulse control she's learned.

I also have lovely friends and classmates who endured the year of wearing weird hats and halloween costumes in class and at fun matches. They had to put on the witch hat or a hefty bag over their head and go out and judge and run next to the dogwalk. I enlisted husbands and boyfriends, pretty much anyone off the street so I could reinforce her for not doing this.

I was paranoid of her. She was a very reactive dog when she was young, and I was afraid she would bite someone. I am not sure what I would have done if she was a big dog-the fact that she was small made this much easier for me to manage and for me to teach.

She is never going to be a friendly, snuggly pet dog, but she is very managed, and has very good impulse control. We practice impulse control with her daily-when she comes in the house, gets out of her crate, goes out the door, you name it, she has to make good choices or listen to me about it. Her life is way more structured than the other dogs because her personality is so unforgiving.

I know she's uncomfortable around people and dogs, I tell people she's mean so they don't make her more uncomfortable by trying to be her buddy and getting in her face.

So it's a process that we still work on. I think the more you do in all walks of life, the better. If your dog is ONLY snarky in the ring, and never in other parts of life, then the friends wearing halloween costumes at fun matches could be a good solution. If it's other places, even subtle, work the recalls, leaveits, crate games really hard until your dog learns he needs to look to you for everything, and not make bad choices on his own.

I saw a little chihuahua BITE a USDAA judge last weekend. For real. Never, ever seen a judge bitten in my life. I am glad I've worked hard on Otterpop's problems, because the barking and the charging, over a period of time could certainly turn into that if the dog gets off on it enough.

Jenni said...

Just found your blog.....your a funny girl! Will follow and watch your adventures.

Chris and Ricky said...

Fantastic photos in the forest! But the story of the guy with the saw was too scary - did you hear about the two women, one boy and the family min pin that were finally found after many days of searching, dismembered, stuffed in garbage bags and crammed down a hollow tree in a forest in Central OH? See why I think your story is scary? Be careful out there!

Cathy, Che and Jeepers said...

That is one scary forest. My forest isn't half as creepy and I go armed with bear spray and bear bangers.

Elizabeth said...

Thank you so much for the advice! I defiantly need to try the Halloween costumes! And just taking him out of the ring I have gotten mixed advice on, but your the first person I've talked to that's actually had the issue and beat it so I'm going to go back to doing that. Thank you again, it's so inspiring to know it's something that can be over come. We'll keep working at it.

team small dog said...

Yes-I don't know exactly how effective removing her from the ring is when she's barked at a judge, but I do know the problem has (Knock on wood) been eliminated, and I do not think I would want her to continue a run after committing such a big sin. That is a pretty big sin in my book, and even if she isn't sitting in jail thinking about it, I don't think you sinners get to finish nice fun agility runs.