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My very first objective was to sleep. It was Friday night and honestly, I was longing for bed by 7:30 — every fiber in my body wanting to lie down. About 9:00 I took a half a pill that my doctor had prescribed about 10 months ago (two months after we’d moved and when I still couldn’t sleep in the new place) and which a friend had warned me — in a frantic arm-grabbing I’m-so-not-kidding-it-happened-to-me kind of way — could easily become addictive. I didn’t care. I just wanted a long night’s sleep with no interruptions. This was a touch and go proposition, as I’ve had a least week of really nasty nightmares and I could have ended up trapping myself inside ever more nightmares with a pill. (I still took the half a pill.)

The dogs and cat woke me at 5:45 am and I wanted to sleep more. I decided the way to do so was to get up, feed the cat, and lock the dogs out of the loft bedroom. That did not work. Jake knew I was up there lolling about in the sheets, breathing without him, and he whined and scratched at the hallway gate. I was not tired enough to ignore him and go back to sleep.

I made coffee and read my email. I would have liked to have my coffee outside with the birds and the bees and the butterflies, but as has been the rule this summer it was too cold and gray outside. So I read blogs and thought thoughts and sipped. Eventually I decided I needed breakfast and I made some bacon and scrambled eggs. The refrigerator was very nearly empty and in that state where it’s relatively easy to clean. So I did that, and got rid of every condiment in it that contained wheat as well.

Shortly after that, I decided to shower and change and head out to do some provisioning. First to the Farmers Market for tomatoes — rare and still not quite ripe (or sweet) and more precious than gold this cold, cold summer.  The bank, the thrift store, the flooring center. Then to the hardware store for a hedge trimmer, and the Star Store for everything else.

Back home I unpacked, did a few things at the computer, called the kiddo and then promptly forgot the cell phone on the kitchen counter, and then went to tear apart the tomato garden. This was a sad task. The tomatoes were planted in a raised bed that came with the house, and when I planted them I added a manure/compost mix, but still they became stunted and yellowed and diseased. I kept thinking it was the cold, wet weather until co-workers told me that their tomatoes were doing well. So I consulted with my good friend, who is also a master gardener, and she told me that they needed to be pulled. They had some sort of pathogen attacking them and they would not recover. And after I tore them out I was to put some hot manure/compost on the beds and let them sit and recover until next summer.

So I tore the garden down and then went out to clean the chicken coop inside and out. I collected eggs and discovered that the new chicks were laying! We’d had a very-nearly full-sized white egg the other day so I knew at least one of the chicks was laying. But two new (very small) eggs confirmed that they were all finally mature enough to provide us a surplus. Cleaning the coop would have been easier if I had been able to find my tools. I use a metal paint scraper to remove the chicken poop from the window sills and someone put it back in the buckets of painting supplies. Still, I got it done. I moved four big buckets of chicken poop and wood shavings out to the garden, and then I snugged down some tarps over them. If I had not done so, I knew the dog communications would go something like, “hey, did you see the great big piles of chicken poop Suzie left us? They’re fabulous for rolling in and eating!

And then I was too tired to do anything else, so I took a shower, put on my ‘lounge-wear’ (PJs), and I made a quick and easy summer dinner of chicken-basil sausages and a tomato, basil, and burrata salad (the tomatoes were really disappointing).

And I read “Still Life with Chickens”, which my master-gardener friend had sent in the mail. And then Jake came in and shook chicken poop and wood shavings all over the clean carpet, and I went outside to find Molé with her head under a section of the tarp that was not stapled down…munching. So I placed a bunch of texas tomato cages on the top of the tarps, like a horizontal fence. And then I vacuumed.

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This is not an exact quote of the results of our first dog-training consult, as I edited to suit my OCD and to protect the not-so-innocent. But it is close…

Judging from the scenario I saw while consulting with you at your home, and the direction you would like to go with more control of your pack, I make the following suggestions:

The majority of your complaints were directed toward the fact that you have both become irrelevant with your dogs – they are generally not listening to you as they should – and so much of what has been mentioned in training terms is to gain relevance. Without that initial training, consistency, and compliance, you will not accomplish this. They are a pack of another species, and we need to provide the currency that they respond to. This means treats …for we-don’t-know-how-long. At least until you have the desired results, and then you will always want to provide them for on-going training  — so they don’t get bored, but also to keep you relevant, and to keep their lives fun with you.
Begin a feeding schedule. Rather than ‘free-feeding’, give them something to look forward to, almost a hunting of sorts. Make it an event. With Duke and Jake it is a very good idea — as resource guarders — that they be fed by hand for the first couple of weeks. This is to begin establishing that the food is a yummy treat that you can put down for them without fear of getting bitten, …it’s also (in Jake’s case) beginning to give him some boundaries. All the dogs should (could) be fed in different rooms. No anxiety, no bullying that way. Even though they don’t exhibit this at mealtimes, it is again setting more structure in their days.

Also set a time schedule between you two, for what times and how frequently the dogs will be together, and when apart, where they will be and for how long. This schedule absolutely has to be completed in order for The Mad Scientist to know that he is working the plan. I don’t know your daily routine, but given that you have one in place, be sure to stick to how the new ‘dog schedule’ remains do-able.

The two sets of dogs need to be separate most of the time during this training time. In order for Susan to have any hope of peace on her homecomings, the dogs need to be trained separately. This means that when the dogs are outside on Susan’s return home, that they get greeted only when they are calm. That might look like sitting, might be standing with no jumping…you determine what you want, and train to that. Ignore jumping …turn around and come back in the house. Greet them very neutrally, not a lot of happy voice during this training time. If Molé is calm and Jake is not, you make the decision whether you want to let Molé in, but Jake only after he has settled more. Given that they may very well be feeding off each other for your attention when you get home, you might find that greeting them separately is good idea. Dogs will not be allowed to greet you at the door you are coming into. Period.

This is also very important if The Mad Scientist comes upstairs after Susan has arrived home. She is concentrating right now when she gets home to a new pattern for her dogs, and the four simply can’t be together at such a volatile time. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving them downstairs until you have finished dinner, my recommendation might be to change your dinner routine for now until this is accomplished. Remember Mad Scientist, you have NOTHING to feel guilty about …you are beginning a plan for them that will make everyone’s anxiety go down a few notches, that is something you can instead feel proud of!!

Treat generously for good behavior. Ignore bad behavior. By just having 2 dogs at a time to concentrate on, this will be easier. You may want to cut back on their food so you feel comfortable giving them treats. You can also treat them with their regular food as part of the regimen.

A lot of this shift will be most felt by The Mad Scientist, and that is why having the conversation about compliance was so very important. This is designed for success, and yet if you decide at any point that you don’t agree, or that you don’t feel it is working fast enough, you could be undoing much hard work and progress by resisting any or all of it. That is why it is important to call for advice if you get frustrated — then it can be worked out. As is so often heard, these behaviors didn’t just begin and they won’t necessarily (though I hope they DO) just end quickly. They’ve patterned their little lives around these behaviors…yet they don’t work for YOU. I urge you to keep that in mind when it seems like it is a lot of work. You will see results, hang in there.

Just before Susan is expected home, you might throw the ball for Jake and Molé…exercise and get them engaged in some kind of activity with you while they are also burning energy – so that they have less to exhibit when Susan walks in the door.

In dealing with Jake’s barrier frustration, I urge you to have Comet and Duke ‘away’ from the fence-line when you are outside with them. It is a big distraction for Jake to see them out there, especially since he won’t be spending so much time with them. If Duke and Comet are in the yard, Jake should have a place that he can hang out that is not sequestered, yet where he can’t see them playing out there either. I trust you will figure out what that looks like. You want to avoid Jake and Molé having frustration at not having Mom home all day, and yet seeing that everyone else is out playing …because they can take it out on Duke and Comet when they see them — so be as fair about play schedules as you can be.

Remember the ‘jackpot’ idea, and when they do something you SO want them to do, give them a jackpot of cheese, for example. Not every time…but with enough variability that they don’t know what to expect.

It would be a good idea to have another session when it is time to reintegrate the dogs, as there will be a procedure for that as well, so that things don’t slide backwards.

That is plenty of work to do for now!

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There’s something about having a Sheriff come to your door that’s just so much more impressive than having a cop come to your door. It feels like small-town personal attention when the Sheriff arrives.

When I got home today there was a strange dog in the driveway (ugh, now trouble with someone else’s dog!). He didn’t leave when I drove in and he didn’t leave when I forcefully asked him to leave. In fact, he barked at me.

A few minutes later I went back out to my car for some groceries and he was threatening me. Barking and approaching rather than backing off. I felt like I’d better seek some shelter before I really pissed him off. The Mad Scientist said the dog had been doing this on and off for a while and he could neither get close enough to read his tags nor convince the dog to leave the yard and stay gone.

So we called 9-1-1 and told them we had our own little Cujo situation going on and they called animal control, and no more than 5 minutes later the Sheriff arrived. I know he was the Sheriff because it said so on his car and on the badges sewn to his shirt. I called to him from my office window and said I’d meet him in the driveway in a second. I’d taken a few looks out the window since we’d called and the last I’d seen, the dog had headed down the street towards the neighbor’s yard. So I went downstairs and out the door into the driveway and confidently said to the Sheriff, — who was slowly walking towards me with his hand on his gun  — “he went that way” while pointing down the street.

And the Sheriff said, “he’s right behind you“.

Well, that explained why he was ready to draw his gun — because, you know, the dog could have been rabid or something and then he’d have to shoot the dog to save me. As I mentioned, it was a bit of a Cujo situation.

I turned, a little startled by just how close the dog was, and the dog started angrily barking again, but at least moved away while doing so. The Sheriff asked if we knew where the dog lived (no) and if we’d seen him before (only very recently). I told him that the dog seemed to be interested in the chickens and the Sheriff asked if we’d lost any (no). And then the Sheriff said that he was going to try to get the dog to lead him to his home. And then the dog left and the Sheriff followed.

The end.

[The Sheriff rocks.]

I know you were hoping for some real excitement there…like attacking and biting and shooting and blood and gore and neighbors racing to find out what was going on and volunteer EMT guys racing in with their sirens blaring. Sorry to disappoint. But then, that’s exactly why the Sheriff rocks — because there was none of that.

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House Rules


http://www.etsy.com/people/InitialYou is making this lovely decal for me

The trouble with dogs is that there is always trouble with dogs. One of them is puking on the carpet while another is chasing the chickens while another is barking at the neighbor who’s simply cutting his grass. You get them all re-focused and quiet and then 10 minutes later someone has started a brawl over a bone or a ball or a stick or a small pat on the head that got delivered to someone else’s head. They run through the (expensive) plants and break and trample them, chew on shoes and bedding and dish towels, chase the cat, and patrol the kitchen counters for food accidentally left too close to the edge. It is a never-ending battle around here to just keep from killing them all or bringing at least one of them to the shelter — final consequences be damned. It’s a bigger problem than it probably needs to be because the Mad Scientist and I don’t always agree on which behaviors deserve correcting. I’m very sensitive to any kind of noise, whereas he’s half-deaf. Barking for 2 or 5 or 10 minutes at a time drives me absolutely bonkers, but the Mad Scientist hardly notices and doesn’t care when he does notice. (Of course, he also has his TV and/or radio set to “stun” most of the time (and some blasted noise-making device is playing 24/7 in his space, even if he’s not there to listen…), so what’s a little background barking?)

Barking is my number one annoyance, followed very closely by jumping. Some days I have multiple bruises and scratches from the daily stampede when I arrive home. I try to thwart the attacks by entering through the basement if the dogs are at the gate and visa versa, but no matter what, when I finally get through the door it’s little ol’ me against 16 frantic paws and I’m no match for all that energy and enthusiasm. Then there’s the growling/nipping/wrestling period right after I get home when everyone wants the pleasure of my attention and affections, but they want to make sure that they are the sole recipients of such.

Individually, I love every one of these dogs, but as a pack they are all stomping incessantly on my very last nerve. Jake is the biggest offender, as he’s the youngest and still hasn’t outgrown all the puppy annoyances. He’s also adding new bad behaviors lately that need to be nipped in the bud. But it’s not just Jake. Comet barks. Duke growls and wrestles. They all jump on me and on guests. Comet harasses the chickens and maliciously chases the cat (when he gets the chance). Really, Molé is the only one who’s pretty consistently well-behaved and quiet. But she’s muscular and puts all her weight behind jumping and is the one who bruises and scratches the most. It’s all too much. And so I am taking action. We’re separating dogs, removing triggers for jealousies and fights, and having long talks about the need for some manners around here. Training of both dogs and humans commences on August 6th. If we can’t salvage the situation after some intensive training, then at least one of the dogs is going to find a new home. It’s a zero tolerance policy because I have zero tolerance left in me after battling this for 11 months. It shouldn’t be this unpleasant to live with critters that, when quiet and calm, I otherwise adore.

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