Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I should rename this blog "Updates on Allison and Emmy".  Today on our three miler Emmy was the model doggy citizen.  There were dogs that were far worse than her (thank goodness).  I've actually been noticing that there are plenty of misbehaved dogs more lately because of the books I've been reading.  We have encountered a number of doggies who did not do as their owners asked/demanded.   There was one dog this morning who was lunging and barking at Emmy while she stayed as calm as she could and walked around him with a little whining and a small bark.   That's pretty good for her and I barely had to use muscle to hold her back.  In the past I would have had to use both hands to get her under control.  There was another dog who clearly wanted to play with her when his owner didn't want him to.  It was a gangly black lab of a puppy who saw her and wanted to go sniffing.  She just looked at him and then looked back at me like she was saying, look how good I'm being.  I don't know if it's because we have been going out everyday to walk or play frisbee, the training I've been working on with the Separation Anxiety (SA) in the house, her muscles are sore from running so hard for the frisbee yesterday, or that I feel more relaxed after reading one 30-paged booklet on SA and 50 pages of the Control Unleashed: Creating a Focused and Confident Dog (CU) by Leslie McDevitt book that the rescue lady recommended for me.  Whatever the case, I was pleasantly surprised and was writing this blog post in my head all the way home.  I'm so pleased!  CU has already taught me that her behaviors that I thought were bad, like crouching in a stalking position when she sees other dogs is really just instinct.  I knew that she had what is called the "Border Collie Eye" where she follows her "work" (frisbee, ball, bike, children) in a crouched stance and is very intent on herding, but whenever I would see her do the stalking when we were on walks I would correct her because I didn't like the look of it.  The book, which isn't even Border Collie (BC) specific said that BC's are the acception to the attentive rule because that's their instinct and what they've been bred to do.  Silly me!  In my desperation to get her to do what I wanted, I was really just making her out to be worse than she really is.  Today I didn't correct her at all on it and she was much, much calmer walking by all the dogs.  I think what I was worried about is that the crouch makes her look like she's going to pounce and I didn't want the other dogs or owners thinking that she was.  But she was fine!  After a while we would get closer and she would stop crouching and walk past.  What a good girl!  I was just being an unaware owner!

Like I've mentioned, I've only read 50 pages of CU so far but I feel so much better about Emmy.  Right now I'm in the introductory chapters where McDevitt is just explaining concepts, theories, and training techniques, but she also puts in case studies.  There was one that was just like Emmy.  The dog was basically stressed and very unsure of himself and the dogs, bikes, people, birds, worms, etc. around him, which made him lunge at everything and potentially/actually hurt them.  Sounds like Emmy in a nutshell, especially when it comes to cousin Ruby.  It was all because the dog didn't know what to expect and this was his defensive mode.  McDevitt was able to train the dog and he is a-okay now.  This helped me in a bunch of ways.

  1. Now I know that Emmy really is fixable. 
  2. We're not alone.  There are other dogs out there with pretty much the same problem!
  3. She lacks confidence and is a "reactive"(over stimulated) dog because of it.   
  4. I am more attentive to her and not just the things around her.  When we go on walks I don't listen to music because I need to be able to hear if there are bikers or even runners that might make her want to chase them. I've been keeping my eyes and ears open as usual, but also watching her reaction to our environment much more closely. 
  5. I'm less tense because I know that we can do it.  I think this is why she had such a good walk today.
As I was at the beginning of last week, I still remain hopeful that she will be a cured dog who I can trust to go to dog parks and play with other dogs while children run around too and who I can leave alone while I go out to watch a movie or have dinner with friends.  Our SA training has been going pretty well.  I can pick up my keys without her barking and sometimes even get my purse and walk out into the garage for five seconds before I come back in to get her.  The strategy that the book gave was to fill her Kong with peanut butter and then pick up keys, then take away the Kong.  She has learned very quickly to eat as much pb as she can before I take it away from her.  I think this means she's learning.  The book said that the dog will pretty much be like, "Hey, I wasn't done with that.  Ohh you're picking up your purse again, gimme, gimme, gimmie."  It seems to be going that way, which I'm very pleased with.  I also do random desensitization by going downstairs to pick up my keys and then put them down and then go back to work.  It really must be body language, because she sure does know when I'm picking up my keys to leave for real and not just to condition.  

Emmy is really starting to settle in here and take us more seriously since the training started.  This is good because she responds to us better when we're out on walks and she's distracted.  Last week Christopher and I went for a run.  We were jogging along and a big dog off leash came chasing after us to get her.  The furs on the back of the other dog's neck were raised as he was sniffing Emmy.  Christopher was holding her leash so I made sure to grab the very top of her leash by her neck just in case.  I could see the owner running from who knows how far away, she was very out of breath.  Right as she got there the other dog started growling and went for Emmy's face.  I shoved her head between my legs because she was already sitting to get him away from her butt.  That made it easy for me to control her head.  Thank goodness her owner had gotten there in time.  He kind of looked like a American Mastiff/Boxer mix and was towering over Emmy.  Normally Emmy would have gone right back after the other dog, but I kept telling her to "leave it".  Phew, it seemed to work even if it was just minimally.  I'm not sure if shoving her head between my legs was the right thing to do, but at least it didn't get in a fight.  The apologetic owner sounded just like me when Emmy tries to steal other dogs balls when their owners play with them.   

Until next time, happy training!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Budget Blown

Now that Emmy is with me, my budget seems to have gone out the window.  I've always had a soft spot for getting Emmy things that she really could live without.  In her opinion all she needs is her frisbee.  She is now all stocked up on Kongs, IQ toys, glucosamine supplements for her joints, a new poop bag dispenser, training treats, training treat pouch (for me), seatbelt attachment, a new portable water cup, and plenty of frozen marrow bones to keep her teeth clean.  The UPS man has been stopping by to drop off boxes since Tuesday.  Needless to say, there has been quite a bit of money spent.

As I said in my last post, I also purchased a few books on dog training too.  I finished the booklet on Separation Anxiety last night.  After I get some peanut butter for the recommended training, we will begin.  It is going to be a long and tedious process, but I think we can do it.  The book says that most cases can be cured in six to eight weeks.  Reading the cases about other dogs who would run through class windows or chew at their crates so much that their faces were all cut up, I'm glad that Emmy isn't that bad.  She's pretty bad, but not that bad.  If they can be cured and feel secure, then she can too.  At first when I started reading the book I thought that maybe she was just a bad mannered doggy who tears at stuff and slobbers all over herself just because there is no one around to tell her not to do it.  As I got further in, it was very clear that she definitely is a dog with a serious case of Separation Anxiety.  (It would have been much easier to train her if she just had bad manners.)  So, after I get some peanut butter to stuff in her Kong, I'm we're going to start the whole processes with me putting on socks and then taking them off.  Yup, she starts to get upset and knows you're leaving as soon as you put on socks.  By the time you go for you keys she's beside herself that she will be left alone.  The book did a great job of spelling out how slowly you have to take the steps.  The vet told me to casually walk out the door, wait, and then come back in without acknowledging Emmy to build up her tolerance for when we leave.  This book, however, tells you how to do it step-by-step for things that I hadn't even thought of.  Instead of just walking out and then coming back in, the book says that I need to start making her feel "happy" before I'm even out the door.  For her, happy will be a pb stuffed Kong.  We better continue on our three mile walks otherwise she'll be a very pudgy doggy by the end of the training.

On top of all the Emmy purchases that I have been making, my windshield wiper blades broke so I had to buy new ones.  They were expensive!  All I have to say is that they better last me at least five years in this mild weather otherwise I'm going back to the cheapy ones from Walmart and replace them once a year like usual.   I also decided this week that I'm going to take out my plugs, the earrings that look like fat screws, and go back to regular earrings.  I haven't worn regular earrings since college!  I got these today from  They are perfect: silver so my ears don't flare up and itch, and stars.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Emmy is mine!  As most of you know Emmy was staying with Julie, but now she can't stay there anymore because she kept getting in fights with her cousin Ruby.  With a 1-year-old toddling around it just wasn't safe for anyone to have Emmy and Ruby together.  Emmy was trying to make herself the queen of the roost and Ruby was defending her territory.  The two motivations just didn't mix well.  With Edward traveling back and forth between Davis and NY he couldn't really take her with him where ever he was going.  So this last week when Edward came to get Emmy from my house he asked if we could keep her otherwise they would have to take her back to the rescue.  They had already sent out an email to all the vet students at UC Davis to see if anyone was able to adopt her, but no one could.  My family agreed immediately because one, we really wanted her and two, we didn't want her going back to the rescue in NY and maybe even be put down because she doesn't get along with some dogs.  I say "some" because she got along with her cousin Potatoes beautifully, but that is because he's a very submissive boy.  It makes me very hopeful that she will eventually get along with dogs in the future.  I actually don't think that she even minded little Eddie pulling at her tail that much, which is good if I ever want kids, though she might try to herd them.  When I explained to the vet today what she does with all of my cousins he said that she is probably trying to herd them when they all run around.  I was hoping that I could get her acclimated to children and their editable natures, but I don't know if that will happen.  I can however, train her to not rush people at the door to say hello.  We've already started training her to wait and be calm before whoever is at the door is allowed in.  Since it's usually Nick or Briana she sits and gets really excited to see them.  We make her sit about four feet from the door and stay there.  Last night when she saw Nick her tail started to wag immediately and she wanted to greet him, but as soon as she stood up I closed the door and made her start all over.  She's starting to get the hang of it.  If she wants to say hello, then she needs to stay put until invited.  We've been doing the same thing for when she wants to chase squirrels in the backyard.  I've switched treats with her regular kibble dog food so that she doesn't get too fat.

So far I'm training her myself and have ordered a bunch of books about behavioral issues, separation anxiety and one on Border Collies.  I already know quite a bit about BC's but the reviews of the book said that it's not just general information about being a good pet owner and normal BC tendencies so I thought it would be a good read.  Also, the lady from the rescue that Ed and I got Emmy from recommend a book that addresses dog-dog aggression so I'm feeling hopeful that I can gain some insight and maybe help her a bit before I spend the big bucks on training.  I've already called an in-home trainer who says he can help with the aggression and separation anxiety.  They are ranging around $600-700 for a five month program, but I'm ready for it.  There is another trainer who the vet recommended so I'm going to give them a call too.  I don't want to get a second dog in our house, but I would like her to at least be able to go to the dog park and play with other dogs...not that she does.  She would rather go to the far end of the park and throw her frisbee.  It's only when other dogs get in between her and the frisbee or try to steal her frisbee that she nips at them.  If we just go off on our own away from other dogs she's happy as a clam.  She's also really good on a leash.  She can greet dogs and then keeps going once she's had a sniff or two.  Sometimes I think she thinks she's a human.  I'm not sure if she wasn't socialized properly as a puppy or what, but she doesn't seem to have that much interest in playing with other dogs.  I wonder if I can teach her how to play with other dogs.  I think "play" just isn't in her.  Everything for her is about work.  Her frisbee is her job.

I'm going to try to help her myself first with the separation anxiety and also the bike/skate board/skooter/roller blading chasing and then go to the trainers if I don't see a difference.  I know that a lot of dogs have problems with chasing so I should be able to find videos and more books on how to stop the behavior.  Once that's in place I will feel much better about when she goes to the front of our yard since there are kids down the block who zoom by on their razors.  I will have to do more research on it.  I think the biggest challenge we will have is training everyone in our family.  I'm a firm believer that there are no bad dogs, just bad owners.  We all need to whip into shape before Emmy can become a better dog.  It definitely didn't help her that for the last year or so she's been bounced around between Julie, Edward, and myself.  Now we need to be really consistent and let her know who is boss.  So far so good though.  She's been really receptive with the coming and going of people with the positive reinforcement that we've been giving her and she knows that she's no longer on allowed on the new sofa.  My mom was tired of having sheets always on the sofa so we put a bed for her by the coffee table to lay in.  At first she looked upset that she was dethroned, but she's used to it now and it's only been two days!  I have hope that she'll be a nearly perfect dog.  She already has a really good temperament around adults, we just need her to be okay with other dogs and by herself.

In preparation for her coming to stay permanently, I bought her a new bed from Costco.  I had a little round bed for her, but it was too small so her legs would pop out of it.  I think she likes this one much better, though I always call her up onto my bed where she stays for the whole night.  Neither of us move much since it's such a small bed, but I think we both enjoy it.  I'm seriously thinking about getting a bigger bed, but then my whole room would be bed.  You'd walk into the door and hit the bed.  We'll have to see.  Usually if Emmy spreads out I end up in weird positions and my back hurts.  For now we're doing okay and I guess I can always tell her to get off and sleep on her bed.  It's so fluffy and soft I could probably even curl up on it.


I also reacquainted her with her her new squeaky chicken.  She didn't really like it that much at first, but after a while she seemed to remember that she used to really like the toy.  I also have a bunch of toys that are coming from Amazon.  It's a good thing that Nick has Prime so that I don't have to pay for tax or shipping. Hehehe.  It sure makes it easy for me to order her stuff.  For now I think we're all set.  I just got one of those dog treat bags that clip onto your pants to train with.  Usually when we go running she's just into her running and not really other people around her so I don't think I'll have to use it that much when we're out, just when we're training.

Emmy is officially part of the Chin family now.  We had a vet appointment this morning to have her microchip on file and to verify that she had be spayed. To register her in the county you have to have proof that she's been spayed in order to get the discount in registry.  I had to have the vet verify because I didn't have the original paperwork from when the shelter spayed her.  I sent in the registration today and she's all settled in with her new vet.  She was less than happy to be there, but I like this vet.  The poor girl was quaking so hard that it looked like she was cold.  She did a great job though and was very happy to get out of there.  I got the recommendation from Shanna's family since they have been going to this vet for a very long time.  He is quite the older man so I hope he doesn't retire anytime soon.


In other news, this weekend I went to the gem show that comes around every year.  I got myself a couple of pendants.  The purple is amethyst and the other is blue topaz.  I wanted them both set in white gold because it doesn't tarnish and my other settings from last year's show were in white gold, but I had Emmy's trainings and other expenses in mind so I stuck with the less expensive silver.  I'm quite happy with my decision.


Thursday, November 04, 2010


I hope all of your Halloweens went well.  Nick and I had a good time watching the Giants game at a local micro brewery called EJ Phair in downtown Concord with a bunch of friends.  After that we did normal Halloween-y stuff around the area.  Only a couple of us were actually dressed up for going out.   I only had my mask.  Since it was so simple, I put on bright, glittery blue makeup to match the glittery blue of the mask and majorly curled my hair using bobby pins and a hair dryer.  Man, being a girl is hard work.  Of course while I was looking very unlike myself and more like I belonged next to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I saw a mom of a high school friend at the brewery.  She recognized me when I was sitting across the room from her.  I waved and made sure to put on my mask so that she knew that it was part of my costume.

This week we have Emmy since Julie and Edward are at a conference.  We've been walk-running almost every morning this week.  I always come back red faced and sweaty, but she doesn't even look phased.  At least it calms her down during the day when I'm working and can't play with her.  By the time Christopher comes home she's ready to play all over again like she didn't even go for a three mile walk with me!  I wish I had that much energy.  Since she is home though, I haven't been going out much.  My family likes it because I cook for them.  On Tuesday we had my chili and cornbread that we bring to the Big Game every year.  I made it on Monday so that it would be nice and tasty for when we dug in for our Tuesday night dinners.  I also made pumpkin pies for the occasion.  Last night (Wednesday) I made Coq au Vin and tonight I plan to learn to make Ox Tail Stew.  Yum yum!