Friday, October 12, 2012


Pssst...I've got big news to tell  you Maya!
We knew Owen wouldn't be in foster very long - this sweet boy is adopted and heads to his new home Sunday! His family understands the challenges he still has to work through and they are devoted to helping him mature into the confident, secure dog that is inside him! One family member doesn't work outside the home and so Owen will rarely be left alone for very long - perfect for Owen!

Last night we took Owen to a local gaming store, Moon Dragon Games, which is not only an awesome game store but very pet friendly!
Greeting new people at the store.
Picking out Magic the Gathering cards.
Posing with the Moon Dragon!
 After meeting the gamers and the Moon Dragon, I took Owen to All The Best Pet Care to pick out his going-home present, and he picked out a good one! This is a teaser toy, also known as a flirt pole. It is a fleecey-square at the end packed with a squeaker, and boy does Owen love it!

In the videos below the squeaking isn't Owen - it's Maya, on the other side of the gate, upset that Owen is having all that fun without her!

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Each day at lunch the dogs go for a walk, and lucky for them the Bravern in downtown Bellevue is full of plants, people, and sometimes even other dogs!
Our walk usually involves lots of sniffing plants, going potty, and practicing our manners and tricks! In the picture below I've told Owen to "down." Sometimes he does it with his front legs, but forgets about his rear end! 
Not a very good down, but a pretty good bow!
He gets it on the second try.
The sidewalks are lined with big planter boxes, and these have short shrubs and lots of open dirt which makes them perfect for potties - or for watching the world go by.
There are some raised planter beds as well to explore and get a higher vantage point.
Getting a new perspective....
Whoops! Owen slips off the back and falls into the planter!
Owen recovers with dignity intact....mostly....

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tricky Boy

Owen is a very quick learner. He has been in foster care for a month and already he knows sit, down, spin, and touch! Of course this is in addition to learning frustration tolerance, impulse control, loose-leash walking, appropriate behavior towards other dogs, housetraining, and many other skills!
Owen is so motivated to work that he likes to do behaviors even when I don't request them in hopes that it will earn him a treat. It usually works! Here he is doing a down in the parking garage, just after he had gotten out of the car!
 Our walks are filled with opportunities to earn treats. The best way to strengthen a behavior is to practice it frequently and in as many situations as possible. Owen is doing a sit and a down out on the sidewalk as cars drive by.

What's next Mom?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Play Time

Best buddies.
Maya and Owen love to play. Sappho will sometimes join in, especially when it comes to racing around the backyard, but she isn't as eager to play as Maya and Owen.

The bolster bed is one of their favorite places to play - big enough for both of them to share, a detachable cushion in the bottom to shove around, and lots of room for laying on their sides and biting at one another!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ruff Love

Owen may be over a year old, but he is still very much a puppy. Owen didn't get to learn a lot of frustration tolerance or patience growing up, so teaching him those skills is a primary focus. He gets easily frustrated, and much like a toddler, if pushed too far he sometimes has "tantrums." For Owen this could mean barking, snapping at other dogs, refusing to share space, or growling. Just like toddlers  learn how to share and manage their emotions, Owen is going through the same journey. Fortunately for Owen, Maya is here to help guide him towards being a more polite little guy!
Owen sitting beside big sister Maya.
Below is a series of photos demonstrating one of the lessons Maya taught Owen. While the photos may look fierce, rest assured that dogs are excellent at correcting one another for inappropriate behavior. Most of the time our role is to supervise and make sure it doesn't go beyond a correction. No one was hurt in the making of this post, although Owen's pride did get a little bruised!
Notice Owen's wrinkled muzzle - he is starting to bare his teeth at her in an attempt to get her to drop the ball so he can take it.
More lip curls - Maya is steadfastly ignoring him and his demands.
Owen amps up his display. He looks terribly fierce, but note the relaxed posture of his ears and the roundness of his eyes. Even the corners of his mouth are relaxed - he wants the ball and is making a fuss to try and get it, but its almost all empty posturing!
Owen tries to grab the ball out of Maya's mouth, and she corrects him. She snaps at him, and as is typical of dogs, there is noise and a flash of teeth, but no one ever gets hurt. She corrects him as an adult dog disciplining a rude puppy; she has tolerance for his behavior to an extent, does a quick, firm correction when he pushes too far, and immediately returns to patience and tolerance after the correction.

This photo was taken as Maya was correcting him. Notice how Owen's ears are back and to the side, partway between appeasement and insecurity about what is going on. His eyes are wide and round, his face is tight, and his body weight is leaning away from Maya - he knows Maya is correcting him and he doesn't much like it!
After the correction Owen sends Maya appeasement gestures - turning his head to the side and away from her, and he licks his lips. Maya has already moved on and goes back to playing. She has a relaxed, loose face, and neutral ears. A few minutes later the two of them are back to playing!
The best teacher in the house for fosters!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Loose-Leash Walking

The face that greets me at lunch time.
Each day at lunch the dogs go for a walk. Sometimes all three dogs walk together, and sometimes I walk Owen by himself so we can train. It is near impossible to effectively train three dogs at once, especially when one is at a dramatically different level than another dog!
Owen "roos" at me in the elevator.
One of the skills I like to train his loose-leash walking. This is seperate from doing a heel. A heel requires exacting placement and the dog needs to remain in that position during the heel. Not much fun to just heel for an hour! Instead I focus on loose-leash walking, which means being in my vicinity and not pulling. I don't much care where the dog wants to walk - ahead of me, beside me, close, or a couple feet away. All I care about is that the leash has some slack and I am not being pulled. 
.The way to teach loose-leash walking is simple. Start out by having some wonderful treats, and begin in a relatively boring area. The backyard, driveway, or even inside the house is a good place to start. Start walking around with the dog on leash (or off-leash if you are in a safe area), and each time the dog comes within a couple feet of you, mark and reward. I like using a clicker because oftentimes you may only get half a second to a second to mark the behavior before the dog either pulls on the leash or does another behavior, however a verbal marker will work as well.

If your dog is to busy pulling at the end of the leash to ever come close enough for a reward, then stand still and wait. The dog will get bored and turn to see what you are doing. Once the dog comes into your space, mark and reward, and take a step. Repeat this until your dog is deliberately coming back into your space for rewards!
Remember that we have to teach our dogs that we are more interesting than their environment. So if your dog is too excited outside and you aren't able to reward him, then you need to reduce the environmental stimulus. Don't be afraid to start inside your residence!

Once your dog has the idea that being close to you means rewards, then you can start moving around with him. Be careful to keep up your rate of reinforcement at first - treating every step or two is not too much to begin with! You are competing with your enviroment, so while you may not need to reward every couple steps around the quiet neighborhood at 5 AM, you may need to reward every step walking around the park at 5 PM.
Great slack in the leash.
Here is a video of Owen and I working on his loose-leash walking. I am walking around downtown Bellevue, and there are lot of cars, people, and occasionally other dogs around. I want Owen to stick with me so I am rewarding him every couple steps. Over time I will increase the length of time between rewards. If Owen pulls on the leash then I will stand still and wait for him to come back, and then we start again.

I am using "yes" as his marker. Normally I use the clicker, but I had a camera in my hands instead. I toss the treats a little ahead of him so that by the time he grabs the treat he is already back in the correct position instead of being behind me, so I can keep up a high rate of reinforcement. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Couch Time

Inquisitive Owen!
One of the best traits of the Rat Terrier is their "off switch." They are an eager, outgoing, and highly active breed and they are always ready to be a part of whatever action is occurring. After the fun has finished though, they are happy to spend time snuggling with you on the couch!

Those big lips get stuck on his teeth sometimes!
Having three dogs, two people, and one couch, it gets a little crowded sometimes. However, Maya and Owen readily volunteer to occupy my lap so that everyone can be on the couch at the same time.
Owen and Maya are great buddies, so when one dog is in my lap it tends to attract the other dog as well, creating a very full lap for me!.
 Of course, being rat terriers, this close proximity often turns into play time!
Owen about to play-bite a very tolerant (and sleepy) Maya.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Southern Gentleman Comes Calling...Part 2

The beautiful Camp Charlie.
One of the best parts of Camp Charlie was the isolation. We saw about five dogs when we first arrived, but all were headed home. Afterwards we had the entire dog park to ourselves - how glorious!
While I cued Owen to recall a couple times at the start, I tried my best to do minimal interference with the dogs. Much of the time we put boundaries on our dogs whether it is on a leash, inside a home, or in a fenced in backyard. We need these boundaries to keep our dogs safe, but sometimes it is nice to let them be as free as possible in a controlled and supervised area.
Camp Charlie gave us the chance to do that with our dogs. Three adults supervised four dogs, but rarely did we need to interfere. We kept a steady pace walking around the park and the dogs ran ahead, behind, and beside us. At times they ranged far ahead of us, but they never went out of sight and they would eventually make their way back to us.
The three humans walked along talking about our dogs, past and present, and we had a wonderful, peaceful walk. I enjoyed seeing Owen engage Murphy repeatedly for play, although sweet Murphy had a hard time keeping up on those short legs!
Murphy is a cancer survivor though, and the fact that he is here to enjoy Camp Charlie is a blessing in itself! I am so glad I got to meet this sweet boy and his wonderful, devoted Mom!
The fur is still growing back from his chemo.
Owen had so much fun he can't contain his smile!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Southern Gentleman Comes Calling...Part 1

Say hello to Murphy! Murphy is brother to the beautiful golden retriever Eowyn, who is in training with our flyball team. Murphy's momma came up to visit her daughter, who is Eowyn's momma!

Eowyn's Mom invited me and my pack to come visit a fully fenced, private off-leash dog park, Camp Charlie. Eagerly I took off work early for Owen's first off-leash adventure since coming to foster care. 
Maya and Sappho waste no time stretching their legs.
 Since Owen has never been off leash, I had to make sure that I could keep him close to me. He lived as a stray in California, possibly for quite a while judging by how thin he was when he came to foster care. Although Camp Charlie is fully fenced, 37 acres is a lot of ground to cover if a 10# dog decides to explore on his own!
Immediately after I let Owen off leash I called him back to me and rewarded him for recalling. He took the treat and then headed off to explore, and I called him back to me, again rewarding with a treat when he came back.
Lots of interesting smells at Camp Charlie!
What one dogs find interesting usually brings the others!
It only took a couple trials before Owen realized that when he came back to me, he received a treat. I've been doing this casually in the course of our daily life - calling him around the house or outdoors, and rewarding him for coming to me with food, praise, or both, so this was not a completely new behavior for him.
Owen recalls back to me.
I stopped calling Owen to me, but kept rewarding him for volunteering to check in with me. I never tried to stop him from heading back out, although sometimes I'd grab his harness for a few seconds while giving him the treat. By grabbing his harness or leash, then releasing him back out to play, I help teach him that people reaching for him is a positive thing and that just because someone is grabbing his harness doesn't mean the fun is about to end!
He knows that reward is coming!
After the reward it's back to playing!