Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Baby, Baby

Cody loving on his "baby."
 We don't have many stuffed toys in our house. Maya takes great delight in ripping them apart, so usually I'll give her a new plush toy and let her rip it apart and spread fluff everywhere for a day, and then manually destuff it and throw the "skin" back to the sharks terriers.

Cody though, is a gentler guy. He doesn't destroy them. He lays down with his paws on them or underneath them and then he gently nibbles them without causing any damage. He'll do this for a long while before usually curling up and taking a nap. He's completely quiet and calm and he seems to find it relaxing. To me it looks like he's grooming the skins, and so I tease him about grooming his "babies." Whatever they are in Cody's mind, I love seeing this sweet part of him that had been hidden for so long come out. Now he does this several times a week, usually laying on or by my feet and I never get tired of watching him.

Curling up for a nap afterwards.

Watcha doing?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Just a little bit harder...

There may have been food involved...
Previously we took a chilly walk and Cody had on a rather feminine fleece and nylon jacket that didn't give him the full coverage this big boy needs. I had another coat for him, but it had the added challenge of a second strap on his underside. He did so well with the first one I decided on another chilly day to give it a try and see how he does.
We start out strong and Cody is doing some serious thinking as he moves along. He's still very happy to be on his walk and to interact with me though and isn't giving me any stress signals. The only way I know that this is making his brain work is his incredibly expressive ears. He'll rotate his ears so that the back of his ears face towards each other and sometimes partially lay them back. An ear will sometimes rotate forward to catch a sound or examine something interesting and then go back to the back-to-back position. I keep track of his ears because that, along with how big his eyes are, are the earliest signals to his stress level. Big eyes and that specific ear position aren't bad, but part of my responsibility is to regulate how long I ask him to remain in that mode. Imagine if you were asked to walk with a shallow bowl on your head all day. It might not be uncomfortable, it might not be too hard to keep it up there, but you have to maintain awareness or you'll tip your head to one side or throw your head back laughing, and there goes your bowl. After a while you'd want to take a break! It's the same with dogs - we push them a little, we walk that with them as much as we can, and then we take the pressure away. They're still thinking and processing even after the pressure is gone, but a body under stress (even very mild stress, which can be beneficial to our brain growth) isn't as able to freely process as a brain relieved of that stress. It's a give and take like so much of our relationship with our dogs.
 Cody gave me a shake, and I decided it was time to release some pressure. The shake isn't a big deal - it, along with many other behaviors like yawning, tongue flicks, sniffing the ground, penis checks, or other displacement or self-soothing behaviors, are simply another indicator as to the dog's state of mind. Sometimes it's a signal that something needs to change and sometimes it's the dog handling it themselves and not needing our assistance.
You gonna finish that treat Sappho?
 Because I knew that we were pushing his comfort zone, and we had been doing this about 20 minutes, I stopped to undo the strap closest to his rear end. I couldn't allow it to flop around (it's a metal connector!) I reversed the direction and laid the strap over his back rather than under his belly.
This made the back poof out a bit and present it's own challenges. Since it isn't strapped down it moves much more with his body motion and as he walked the sides would touch his flanks. On the plus side he had been unable (in his mind) to lift his leg to pee, so at least this made it so he could go back to marking again!
After that we did much better. He was still aware of the coat and I believe the pressure of the coat was much the same except he didn't have the strap under his belly. The contact between his body and the coat changed but both had their own pressure - one, the constant touch against him, and the other, the repeated touch against his flanks each time he took a step.
He did great for the entire walk and he wore the coat until we arrived back at the car. I had dressed him last, and I undressed him first. Movement is an anxious dog's friend and so moving in the coat, outside, exploring, is very different than asking him to stand in a parking garage in a spot, and by a car, that he knows very well, and remain still. So off came the coat, in his mouth went more treats, I gave him verbal praise and pets, and as always we finished off his walk with a frozen kong in his kennel inside the car.
Sappho loves it when its a treat-filled walk. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

There comes a time in every rattie's winter...

....that a dog's gotta wear what a dog's gotta wear!

Cody is not a fan of clothes. Nor is his foster sister Maya who would rather chatter her teeth to nubs than have to to wear a coat. I try to wait till the last chilly degree before I make them wear coats, but here in Seattle, we have gotten way too cold for the skinny, short-coated ratties in my pack (and the not-skinny, long-haired rattie-lover who walks them.) So on our walk today I dressed Maya and Cody with an apology on my lips. Fortunately Sappho loves clothes, and wears clothes the entire cold season with several-hour breaks just to let her skin breath and shed excess skin and fur, so she was already ready to go.
Sorry bud, another pink on.
Cody especially didn't like clothes at first - the contact all over his body is very stimulating and made him nervous. We've worked on that touch sensitivity as long as we've had him and over the past couple months we've made huge strides. He loves touch all over his body, including strokes, scratches, pats, grabs, wools, and kisses and will seek them out and "ask" for attention. We're working on his feet now (he needs a nail trim bad!!) but today was an excellent trial to see if his feelings on clothes has changed.
 Alas, I thought I had the red version of this coat but all I had was the pink, so Cody strutted another walk in pink (his leash was red at least!). We started out very well, Cody at times shifting his body in a way that told me he was aware and thinking about the coat, but he was still eager to get along and he didn't do any vocalizations, stalls, spins, or other signs that he is getting upset. He still wanted touch and kisses too!
Notice the ears and the dropped hips - a moment of coat awareness. 
The walk continued as normal, until Maya spotted something quickly followed by Sappho.
Maya, so well mannered.
Cody and Sappho join in.
Where is it?

Over here?
Eventually we had to move on and finished a great walk. The cold chased us in a little early but I believe the pups were as ready to come inside as I was!! Cody meanwhile did show a little increased sensitivity to the coat but very subtle. One time he softly growled at two woman laughing loudly across the street and then did a penis check, and other times I saw his ears stay vertical but rotate so that the back of each ear was pointing towards the other, which is a sign that he's thinking hard about something. He would also sometimes drop his hips where the back of the coat touched him, likely from the movement of it across his back as he walked.
Thinking hard, likely about his coat.
However, given how stressful clothing used to be this a massive improvement. Another reason to stop early is to not push Cody's tolerance, and in reward for taking such a big step he had extra cookies, a freshly warmed SnuggleSafe, and a fresh frozen Kong waiting for him when we got back to the car!