Monday, January 28, 2013

Knowing

Sleeper

What you're seeing in this photo has never happened before. Up until yesterday if I decided to use a pillow or a part of the couch or bed the dog would simply decamp to another place he could make his own. Suddenly yesterday I lie down while watching a movie and he's doing some sort of grape stomping re-enactment on my hair trying to make enough room on the pillow to lie down. I refused to budge so we reached the comical stand off you see here. I felt pretty good about sticking to my guns except for the two times he heard someone in the hallway and launched off my skull to protect the front door. That was scary. I don't really want to do that again.

I've said a number of times that it's different having a little dog rather than a big dog, a terrier rather than a shepherd. The last week has been one example of this after another. It took me a few days of frigid temps to realize that Eddie was genuinely uncomfortable and shouldn't be out for very long at a time. It took me longer than that to come to terms with the fact that he was fine with that, perhaps even happy. He was thrilled to be back in the park this morning in the comparatively balmy 30F but equally jazzed to follow his early morning park aunties to the car for a warm ride home. I've been doing a little tricks training with him inside to burn up some of his energy but the minute I bring out the treats he becomes so wildly excited I have a hard time getting him to focus. I can't seem to get the right tone or message to get him right down to working.

I just don't know how to read this one, folks. Over the weekend I had sobering thoughts about my ability to understand what this particular dog both wants and needs. I got over it by thinking back on Emily's early days and realizing that I didn't have any doubts about my ability to read her because I hadn't yet learned I needed to. Now that I know better the next lesson is just as hard as the first.

I heard through a grapevine recently about a couple I know distantly having some "troubles at home." Everyone talking about it was shocked and amazed. They were great together, I mean, sure they seemed like an unlikely match from a distance but then there they were making that work. Opposites attract, right? It was inspiring for all of us! The better question here is, what the hell makes us think we knew anything about them? It should never come as a surprise when someone does something because there is no way in heaven or hell we actually know anyone.

This is not news. It is, though, a lesson I seem to need to learn over and over. I'm pretty good at figuring people out. I like to write and to act so poking around into the way other folks operate is sort of a little bit like my job. I forget, though, that people change. That, even if someone has spent the last two years perfectly happy sticking to their own pillow they might one day decide they need to share yours. It surprises me every time.

You know?

6 comments:

  1. Yes, I know. I'm trying to figure out my little mutt. She definitely has her own needs that are way different than I'm used to.

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  2. yes. the more you know, the less you know you know. yeah, like that.

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  3. I love the kindness that you give to your animals, all animals really. I love the compassion.
    May be a little of that for yourself...is in order.
    You do so much.
    I truly believe that will pay off in spades. It has to.

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  4. kabbage11:44 AM

    I have a couple of ideas to consider for indoor training time. Will he work for anything but treats? If he's a bit bored with being in, he may be willing to work a bit for praise and relief from boredom.

    Or a chance to play a game: respond to a cue, get to chase a toy. It makes for slower reps, but you can get some training and energy burning in one session.

    If he's strongly food-motivated and has set mealtimes, try feeding him a little bit less and working him *after* his meal.

    If you have suitable space for hard play inside, play before training to take a bit of the energy off beforehand.

    If he eats hard food (kibble) or hard treats, hide some around the apartment and let him search for them. It's a good way to burn off a lot of mental energy -- olfactory center is a big part of a dog's brain and hunting uses it.

    When my 4yo (today!) was in puppy class, we worked at revving up the puppies and then teaching them to settle quickly. It took a while, but we waited them out until they calmed and then rewarded that as a desired behavior. Gradually we asked for longer calm times.

    Good luck! You have reinforced my idea that I am not a prospective terrier owner. Love my codependent herding breeds!

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  5. Aw yes, my Emily was such a co-dependent mess. I loved that. :)

    We do all of those things. He's not super duper food motivated but he is some. I freeze kongs and hide stuff for him and we play a lot but not in as focused a way as I probably should. Last night we had a play date at our trainer's house so we both learned a lot and one of us drank a bunch of wine. It was fabulous and we both came home exhausted. I'm also re-energized to do more and different work with him.

    I don't feel bad, necessarily, that I don't know him but it's always a jolting reminder to realize that we never really know anyone. I get a lot of foolish pride out of knowing people and dogs enough to be able to predict their behavior and I got reminded that there's as much luck as skill in that pastime.

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  6. "grape stomping re-enactment on my hair" -- that is laugh-out-loud funny! Perhaps I have a cat just so I can enjoy the dog stories of my friends? I know someone with FOUR Labs.
    People do change... and yet, it is rarely a sudden thing. It only seems sudden if all of the signs were masked somehow, by the other person or by our own desire to keep things the same.

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