Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dogs with issues, and high aspirations.

We took Piper, Violet, and Dewey to Petco today. It wasn't as chaotic as it could've been. Piper is adjusting to her Gentle Leader. I haven't really talked about Piper's issues here, but I feel like she's making a little headway. She's had a reactivity problem since the day she came home at 10 weeks that Eric's GSD contacts say involves "weak nerves." We've socialized, had her in training classes, consulted behaviorists, poured blood sweat and tears into getting her through her issues. It's been a rocky road. Her reactivity has improved in leaps and bounds, but living with Piper is still all about management. I'm not overstating things when I say that her Gentle Leader changed her life. We can take her places, and she's a hundred times more stable even without it now. Violet acted somewhat of a fool in Petco, she usually has pretty good stranger manners, but not today. I've worked my butt off to get her that way, because her Collie exuberance could knock people over otherwise. Clearly we still have some work to do. Dewey, meanwhile, is turning into kind of a jerk with other dogs, which needs to be nipped in the bud yesterday. These dogs, they have issues. (Well. Violet really doesn't have issues per se, we've just got some more work to do, but I was never under any illusions otherwise.)

So in light of this (because of? In spite of?) I came home and decided that I want them all to get their CGCs. (It started with Violet and expanded.) Piper would actually, at this point, probably do well on almost all of the tests. Violet's biggest challenge will be not showing "over-exuberance" and Dewey's will, of course, be maintaining around other dogs.

But, you know, I think we're gonna do it.

Peep was having a moment, but cool heads prevailed.

Dewey picked out his toy. It looks like a haunted house from the front. He is in love with it.

Violet demonstrated her "bang" command (and received a treat).


  1. I feel dumb asking, but what is GSD and what is CGC? I assume "Gentle Leader" refers to the little strap Piper is wearing around her snout? Reactivity refers to their over-reacting to stimuli...or?

  2. No need to feel dumb, Lorelei - I live in a very dog-oriented household and have become so accustomed to dog-related shorthand being thrown around the dinner table that I tend to forget to explain. GSD is German Shepherd Dog - Piper's breed. CGC is Canine Good Citizen certification - it's basically a test of a dog's manners, training, and temperament using things like accepting a friendly stranger, being handled while away from her owner, walking calmly by her owner's side, etc. The Gentle Leader is indeed the strap on her nose. It's a head halter that can be useful with dogs with reactivity issues among others, which brings us back to reactivity. I did a quick google search to give you an accurate/complete answer, and the word can have a few different meanings. In this instance it involves how quick Piper is to "react" to stimuli, for example if she were walking on a leash and another dog invaded what she considered to be her personal bubble, she might snap or even lunge. (She's improved tremendously in this but that's the sort of behavior she's inclined toward that we're working so hard to eliminate.) Someone on a dog forum put it like this:

    "I always thought it meant the dog was going into automode-- the behavior automatically gets triggered by whatever the stimulus is (a 'reaction'), without the dog's brain getting involved or the dog choosing to behave in any particular way; dog is out of his own control, he's operating at a very basic stimulus= response level."

    Thank you for asking! :)

  3. Sounds like a handful to bring all your dogs out at the same time. I find it can be strangely relaxing to just do something with one dog- though I normally end up feeling guilty about leaving the other one home.

  4. It is at times - we try to take them out individually, in pairs, and occasionally all together. Today Piper and Violet are going to the dog park, Dewey's still too little. We took Piper and Dewey to Eric's grandparents' to visit, and yep, Violet's sad eyes as we left made me feel terrible. Your dogs are adorable, by the way!