Sunday, January 21, 2007

Pupdate #5 (Puppy yoga!)

Hey folks--
sorry for the long interruption. School kinda caught up to me last week.

Anyway, thanks very much to all for the support and kind advice. My last entry was a little ranty, wasn't it? Sorry. Linus has a lot of energy, intelligence, and sociability; while those are all good qualities and ones I would always look for in a dog, they also require an outlet. Without companionship and stimulation for the mind and body, any dog will develop problem behaviors; Linus is no exception. His bad habits--leash-chewing, cat-chasing, and nipping--nearly disappear on days when I can spend enough time with him.

And then, on the other hand, we have Fridays: class from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, work from 2:30 pm to 9:30 pm. When I got home this past Friday, he was a complete head case. He ran around the apartment for an hour and a half straight, gnawing at my hands when I put him in his crate for time-outs. Once in his crate, he proceeded to shred the nice bed his grandparents gave him for Christmas. I was so furious, I wanted to scream. Fortunately, I retained enough sanity to remind myself that he had legitimate reasons for being hyperactive. So I gave him a carrot. Chewing on it calmed him down to the point of...manageability, if not good behavior.

And then, miracle of miracles, I had the whole weekend off! We've started working on leash-walking skills, a procedure that involves me stuffing his mouth with cubed lunchmeat while telling him how smart he is for walking calmly at my left side.

The first miracle, I forgot to mention, is that I realized last week that the tennis courts at the local park would make a great puppy playground. We go there once or twice a day; I bring toys, but he also finds his own in the form of discarded tennis balls, watter bottles, and candy bar wrappers. Given his past joint problems, I am not entirely thrilled to be running him around a concrete surface for 30 minutes each day...but in the absence of a backyard, it keeps both of us sane.

And by the way, he's been almost an angel this whole weekend.

And you should see this puppy run! He looks like a little white deer! He throws himself around the courts as if he could take off and fly by running fast enough. Compared to the heartbreaking condition of his legs a month ago, it is a joy to behold.

I think I've discovered the secret of his miraculous recovery. Linus engages in an ancient form of yoga so secret and obscure that it is only known to a handful of practitioners, who are born with it in their DNA. Yes, it's true--Linus is not a pit bull mix, he's a rare and gifted Tibetan Rescue Dog!

Ok, maybe not... but you too can cure weak joints and bring about world peace through practicing poses such as the following:

Dead Cockroach!

Flying Frog!

Helicopter Tail!
Practice up to 54 times daily.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Pupdate #4 (Parent Orientation)

Did you happen to hear a small pop from somewhere on the East Coast at about 8:30 last night? That was my head exploding.

Seriously, I had no idea there was so much advice to give about puppies. And it's all contradictory! New parents (of babies, I mean) have my profoundest sympathy. If I'm overwhelmed by the conflicting directives of dog training, I only need to think about how many different schools of parenting there are. No wonder so many people screw it up!

For example, there is the adage "A tired dog is a good dog;" i.e., you're supposed to give your dog a good workout in the morning to wear him out and make training easier. Cesar Millan, dog guru du jour, concurs, as do the teachers of the obedience class. So, okay, I should exercise Linus. Except... I live in a one-bedroom apartment and I have no yard. So I have to walk him. As I mentioned before, he's doing pretty well; however, he exhibits definite signs of Sled Dog Syndrome (constantly pulling ahead). It's normal for three-month-old puppies. However, I received dire warnings from the instructors last night that in taking him for walks before he's been fully leash trained, I might just be teaching him to pull constantly. So...yeah. You tell me.

It would probably be easier if I didn't care so much and worry so much, but I do. I fret that a seemingly trivial mistake at this crucial time will either scar him for life or turn him into an uncontrollable beast with Jaws of Steel. I want him to be friendly, mannerly and well-adjusted--not just for my sake, but for his. A well-adjusted dog is better equipped socially and just plain happier.

I don't think I'll ever have children. I might die of terminal anxiety.

However, to inspire myself, I've made a to-do list for me and him. As follows:
Behaviors we need to change:
  • Chasing the cats. Big no-no. He's just trying to play right now (and so is one of the cats, which certainly doesn't help!); but that might now always be the case. And another cat might misinterpret his invitation. I use a combination of deterrent (the Mighty Spray Bottle), redirection (Linus, come here! Sit!), and reward (Good boy! Treat! Wouldn't you rather be with me than a cranky ol' cat?)
  • Mouthing. On the good advice of one of the instructors, I have tried keeping my hand still when he takes it in his mouth. He immediately loses interest.
  • Nipping at pants legs. Only does it when he's at his most excited and wants me to play with him. I am trying standing still and ignoring him, as this is an attention-seeking behavior. If it persists or worsens, I'll... think of something else.
  • Grabbing the leash in his mouth. Does it when he's out-of-control hyper or mad at the leash; i.e., thinks he is being restrained too much. This happens every time we do the "Umbilical Cord" exercise, in which you wear the leash around your waist and attach your dog to you literally at the hip. It's supposed to promote bonding and make you the center of their attention, and it's a homework assignment for class. I'm trying to find some nontoxic deer repellant, as the Bitter Cherry spray didn't work AT ALL. We'll see.
First steps:
  • I have bought a clicker and trained him to associate it with food, so that every time he hears it he knows he'll get something good. (Done on the advice of many, including pit bull specialists and the inimitable Ms. Kinsale)
  • He leaves the cats alone voluntarily about half the time; another quarter of the time, I catch him before he acts.
  • We are beginning to establish a rhythm to our days. Thank God (and I mean that in all sincerity), Linus settles down after the requisite two hours of after-dinner mania.
Enough talk! Here is a picture, taken in the old sweater days, of Linus being cute. I know that's what you really came for!

More on the way, as I just got my first digital camera. And there's a great tongue shot as soon as I can get my last roll of film processed.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Pupdate #3

As you can see from the above picture, Linus is doing fantastically! His legs are almost straight; the orthopedic specialist my vet consulted assured her that they would indeed straighten in time. The official name for his condition, by the way, is "carpal hyperflexion." You might need that for Jeopardy someday.

Puppy kindergarten at the local dog training club starts this Wednesday. As Linus has already grasped "sit" and "down" and is making great strides (ha! get it?) at leash walking, I fully expect him to rocket to the top of the class. He gets it from his mom.

Speaking of the whole "mom" thing, I'm getting a lot of ribbing from my classmates. Half of them assure me that walking a puppy is a great way to meet guys. The other half insist that no man will want to date "a single mother with three kids."

Obviously the solution is to date a vet.