Thursday, December 16, 2004

No Snacking on Medicine!!!!

Okay, pups, this is when I give some advice. Some dogs out there get a small piece of a good smelling crunchy thing on a regular basis--sometimes once a month, sometimes once a day, sometimes twice a day. Turns out, despite how good these things smell, it's medicine. Often, buddies will leave the container of this medicine on the counter. Do not, repeat, do NOT get it off the counter and eat it all.

George has now, it is to be hoped, learned that lesson.

Yesterday evening, after alpha buddy had finished reading to me, Marquis, and puppy buddy, and alpha and puppy were each reading in their own beds, beta buddy came home. I didn't even hear her till she was halfway up the stairs and cursing like a Doberman. "Who ate the Deramaxx?" she asked. "What?" said alpha buddy. "Who ate the Deramaxx?" she repeated. "What????" "Who ate the Deramaxx?" "WHAT?!" Then alpha buddy does his Doberman impression, says, "It must have been George!" and they both rush back downstairs.

Having once eaten a bottle of Chester's arthritis medicine, I knew what was next, so I retired to the guest bed. Sure enough, they gave the same stuff to George they gave to me, and then took him outside. Now, being a dog, I think a good puke is a good puke, but this stuff makes you think you're going to lose intestines. alpha buddy stands around in the cold watching George barf, beta buddy is back in the house trying to calm down puppy buddy, Marquis is basically running around in circles trying to figure out what's going on, and I'm trying to steer clear of everyone. Then, beta buddy is off in the car with George. A few hours later, she's back without him, but the buddies are pretty calm, so I figure he's okay. After a few hours sleep, everybody's up, beta buddy disappears for about an hour and then is back with George who has a bandage on his leg, and is tired from being up most of the night, but is otherwise in great shape. He says they were pretty nice at the place, except for attaching this weird thing to his leg and trying to get him to pee in a cup (um, whoof? he's a dog--do they think dogs pee in cups? what is with them sometimes?)

Anyway, the moral of the story is: don't be tricked. Why they make something bad for you taste good is just another way buddies, nice as they can be, are whoofing nuts.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Buddy Training

I've received several pieces of email asking me how I trained the buddies to open the door when I ring the bell. It wasn't especially hard, really, once they put the bell on the door. I have no idea how one would go about it if they don't make that first step, though.

The basic principle of good buddy training is that you encourage them to do what you want them to do, and then you reward them for doing it. I'm not a big believer in negative reinforcement (and here I know all my cat readers are scoffing) because I don't think buddies have the necessary level of cognitive complexity.

Look at it this way: your buddies do something wrong (they don't take you for a walk, or they fail to feed you, or they don't turn on your favorite program). It takes you a while to figure out that it's really happening--are they just confused about time? (a major problem with most buddies) are they just delaying it for some bizarre reason? Okay, now you've decided they are unacceptably late with your walk or food. First, you have to get mad, and I'm not good at that, and second, you have to do something that will make them unhappy and that they will associate with their own behavior. See, that's the tricky part. You eat their favorite shoes, or crap by the front door, or lie on the couch and sulk, and they may not notice for hours. Once they notice, it's too long between what they did wrong and their discovering what you did for them to connect the two things. Punishing them would only work if they could do several things at once: first, remember what they did wrong (and, since the whole problem is that they have the attention span of Irish setter puppies, that isn't very likely); second, understand that they have made you unhappy; third, connect two and one. Not very likely.

Nope, I think it's easier just to trick them into doing what you want and then rewarding them. For instance, every time the buddies come home we make a Great Big Greeting--we are all over them with love and affection. We are trying to ensure that they remember to come home (otherwise, who knows what would happen). Same thing when they finally get out of bed--leap around, lick a lot, do play bows, the whole bit. After they feed us, we go to them and share our dog food breath, maybe do a burp or two to show just how good it was--lots of positive reinforcement. When they take us on a walk, we make it lots of fun--point out all the interesting smells, mark as much stuff as we can (they never follow suit, but I haven't given up hope), be really positive and excited.

Okay, so the bell thing. Well, they put the bell on the door. Then, for a while, they rang the bell before they opened the door. At that point, it's very, very important that you run outside every time they do that (whether or not you really wanted to go outside). This way, they will associate you going outside and hearing that bell. Just keep that up for a bit, and then you've got the association made. At that point, you just ring the bell yourself when you want to go out. Works great.

Monday, December 13, 2004

A Day at the Ranch

Saturday was great. I knew something was up from the way they started to load the car--they put THE boots in. (The ones that mean a trip to the ranch.) Chester used to say that, once you saw that happen, just go hang out on the couch, but the three of us stick to beta buddy's heels (almost literally--no more than a few inches behind is my rule). Chester used to say, "They're going to get in the car, so they have to go past the living room--why follow them upstairs? You think they're going to crawl out a window or something?" Well, I figure, it wouldn't be the weirdest thing they've ever done, and I'm not taking any chances.

Anyway, we get all loaded up, and then the drive. Windows up, unfortunately, so no good smells. (Although Marquis says that, if you hang your head over the driver's seat in just the right way, you can get a good scent from a vent. The driver will usually grump about it, since that means he's slobbering all over their left ear, but who cares about a little grumping?)

So, we get down there and run around the car a bunch. Then, off for a hike to a tank. Not the best tank--the mud isn't all that stinky, and there aren't usually birds to chase--but good for a splash. Here's the great thing. We start to walk back, and came upon three COWS!!!!!!!!! Whoof, those beasts are big. I mean, I sort knew that--you see them from the car, and they look pretty big, but up close they are massive. So, they kind of snort at us, and I barked. But, then, I started to think maybe this wasn't such a great idea--one of The Rules that Chester told me is "Don't muck with hooves." But, George got really excited, and started barking like mad. They took off running!!!!!

I thought chasing pigs was fun, but, dawg, this was extrawhoofingordinary. There's something about chasing a beast ten times your size that is good for a howl. And these were crashing through brush like nobody's business. Finally, they stopped and turned around, and that's when we figured we'd run far enough (about halfway across the ranch, Marquis says). So, we trotted back.

A couple other long walks during the day, and several more good chases. Didn't chase the cows again, but did go after a pig, a buck, and a rabbit. (Here's some unsolicited advice: Under normal circumstances, when a rabbit goes to ground, you shove your nose in the hole as far as you can and take a big deep breath, right? Well, normally that's great, but this is not good practice when the rabbit runs under a cactus. Believe me. Believe Marquis. The whole process of the buddies pulling the thorns out with tweezer is not fun.) The only one we didn't give a good run was the buck, who seemed to clear three trees before we'd gone two steps--I figure it's because we were tired. Otherwise, we could have.

All in all, three tails up.

Friday, December 10, 2004

What Walls Are Made Of

Life continues at Chez Buddy much the same. George and Marquis have been having an intermittent discussion as to just what the house is made of. Marquis gets a little stressed during heavy rains because he's convinced the house is made of plaster, and therefore is convinced it could melt. George kept saying, "No, the plaster is over something else." But, Marquis was adamant. So, George proved it. He chewed a bunch of plaster off the wall--about a three by four inch rectangle--in order to let Marquis see the wall underneath. Maybe this will mean Marquis won't be such a pain in the rain.

George says it wasn't hard. It was a spot on the landing where he likes to hang out during the day--the same spot where he chewed a hole in the carpet to show Marquis the floor. He says the only problem is that it gave him bad gas. (In other words, don't try this at home, puppies!)

Of course, the buddies leaped around a fair bit when they saw it. I guess they were surprised to see what was underneath the plaster. I would have thought they would know.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Nuthin' Much

It's a weekend, but the beta buddy doesn't feel well. Why they don't just go outside and eat grass and throw up is beyond me. Instead, they lie around and whine. She was playing on the computer yesterday, and I tried lying there and looking at her in a pointed fashion. Didn't work. So, I started the low whine thing. "What in the world do you want?" she kept asking. Rowhoof! I want to go outside! I want you to come with me and chase me around the back yard! I want to go to a park. No luck.

All that happened is that they took me to that place where they have lots of plants. It's outside, and we walk around all these trees and shrubs, AND I'M NOT ALLOWED TO PEE ON ANY OF THEM. This time, there were trees--lots of them--and they smelled good. Sometimes we just get little bitty plants that aren't good to eat.

(On a digression, I have to note that that is her intention. That's one of the questions she always asks people there when she picks up this little nothing of a green thing--"Will my dog eat it?" The first time she asked that, I thought she was looking for stuff for me to eat. Not my favorite place, but, I thought, she's trying. No, when the person said I might, she put it back!)

Anyway, a fair amount of scritching, and that was nice, and there was a squirrel in one of the huge trees! I also met a buddy there that I liked a lot--good scritching. And then I heard him tell the buddies how he tries to catch squirrels! I knew he was good from the second I smelled him. So, this means that they can be trained--I don't know who trained him, or how, but I sure would like to.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Small Dogs (Again)

I am, of course, getting all sorts of hostile and threatening email for my stand in regard to small dogs. I tell ya, though, being 120 pounds and 33 inches at the withers means I'm not exactly shaking in my booties.

The problem, apparently, is that I don't hate small dogs. This, of course, from beasties who will, out the other side of the jowl, say, "Love the dog, hate the smallness." As I said, distinction without a difference. If you punish the dog for being small, if you attack it, try to restrict where it can live, say nasty things about it, and pee on its fences, you are acting with hatred toward the dog. If, deep in your heart of hearts, you claim you love it, but behave with hatred, well, I'd say the proof is in the kibble. Know a dog by its spoor and all that kind of thing. Hatred is as hatred does--the deep in the heart stuff should be called by its true name: rampant rationalization.