Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More Thanks

After we got back from the dog park, the humans left us to watch the turkey cooking, and headed to the Fort Worth Zoo.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gave lots of thanks

We had very special guests for Thanksgiving. Suki and Aunt Julie were coming to stay with us, and we had so much fun, it will have to go into more than one blog post.

The weekend took awhile to get here, though. Usually, the drive takes them 3 hours. But traffic was so bad, it took 6 hours! Poor Suki hadn't eaten dinner, so the first order for business when they finally arrived was to get the girl some food. Then came some beers for the humans, and lots of catching up.

The next morning, we hit the dog park.

We met a pug as we were walking in!

He really liked to play

Arnie's always ready for some fun

The chase was on

There were lots of dogs to play with

Arnie couldn't quite figure out what this guy was doing

Suki and I just hung out with the humans, so the photos are pretty much all Arnie. He loves meeting new friends at the park, and had a great time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Training Tip - The Bar is Open

The Bar is Open

(Mom's taking over the blog today, for a little training tip):

Often, when we adopt a new pug, or take in a foster pug, they have pre-existing fears, phobias, likes and dislikes. These issues can keep them from being adopted, or make the transition to a new home difficult, sometimes resulting in the pug being returned to rescue. It's not just rescues that can have these fears. Sometimes pugs are just afraid of things.

While every case is different, there is a technique that works in many cases to eliminate fears and anxieties in your pug. It’s called “The Bar is Open”. Well, technically it’s called classical conditioning, but “The Bar is Open” is a lot easier to remember.

The technique involves giving reward (in the case of pugs, it’s usually in the form of FOOD) whenever the scary thing is around. Eventually, your pug will learn to tolerate, then like, then look forward to, the scary thing. The “thing” can be an object, a situation, a noise or another dog. Really, anything that causes your pug anxiety can be helped with classical conditioning.  

I don't think I want to get near that thing

Let’s take a look at an example. My PROS rescue pug, Gracie, has a fear of machines that make noise. That means the vacuum, electric broom, and hair dryer were terrifying to her. Whenever they would turn on, she would run cowering under a chair, shaking like a leaf. So I decided to make the “Bar Open” whenever those machines were running. I cut out most treats while I was working on this, so the only time reward came was when the loud noise happened. Then I filled my pockets and started vacuuming. While I ran the vacuum, I would toss treats around the room. At first, I would toss them far from the vacuum, but as Gracie grew braver, I made her come closer and closer to the noise for her treat. The key is to use LOTS of treats, and dispense them as randomly as you can. Then I moved on to the hair dryer, using the same technique. Whenever the noise happened, the Bar was Open, and treats flowed. When the noise stopped, the Bar Closed Up and no more treats. 

It took about a week for her to overcome her fears. I knew she had conquered them when I opened the closet I keep the vacuum in, and she shot off the couch to join me, ears up, spinning madly – we were going to vacuum! The pug that cowered from the vacuum now couldn't wait to hear the noise. These days, when I vacuum, I have to push her out of the way with the big, scary machine. She stands in front of it, blocking the way, until it gives her a treat.

Hey, when are we going to do some housework?

A note about classical conditioning: some people don’t believe it works, because they theorize that you are “rewarding” the dog for acting fearful. The difference between rewarding for a fearful behavior and conditioning your dog to enjoy something fearful is subtle. But there is a difference. In classical conditioning, you are rewarding your dog when they are doing a wide variety of behaviors. You aren't waiting until they are not fearful, or come a certain distance from you. They just get random treats while something they fear is happening. 

Sometimes we pet and comfort our dogs when they are afraid. That is a case where you may reward that fearful behavior, because you are not rewarding for any other behavior than the fearful behavior. 

In classical conditioning, you are rewarding all sorts of fearful, non-fearful and benign behaviors. You’re creating an association, instead of rewarding a certain behavior.

You can use this technique for all sorts of fears. Take nail trimming. At first, get the trimmers out where your pug can see them, and give them lots of treats while they’re in sight. Soon, your pug will look forward to seeing them. Then pick them up, and reward your pug. Then touch their foot while you hold the trimmers. Then while you trim one paw. Then all the paws. You may never get them to LOVE nail trimming, but they will be less fearful if the Bar is Open when they are getting their nails trimmed. Pugs are notorious nail trimming haters, but all my pugs have tolerated getting it done. It’s not because they are born that way. I make a point to create a positive association, and that’s made nail trimming much less stressful.

Using this technique can relieve stress your pug may have, make their life happier, and make their transition to a new home easier.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The 3 Pugateers

After a week of catch up, mom and I headed down to Suki and Aunt Julie's house to get Arnie. I tried to convince mom that were just fine without him, but she missed her "little man".

We drove down after work on Friday, and it was a great reunion with Arnie and Suki. Mom was so glad to see both of them (and Aunt Julie, of course).

The next morning, we had to get up and get out of the house. The 3 Pugateers (Aunt Julie named us) were walking for Alzheimer's, and we had to sign in and get in line to walk. While we were waiting, lots of people made a fuss over us, and a few wanted to have their picture taken with us. We were famous - someone told us they'd heard there were three cute pugs there. That was us!

Hanging out before the walk. 
The humans had their purple shirts, 
and we had our purple bandannas.

It was a 3 mile walk through a beautiful neighborhood, up and down Austin's hills. We were troopers, and made it the whole way, no problem. We even saw some deer run down the street. Crazy, huh?

Suki posing with our custom shirts.

We went downtown to get some food, and ended up at Coal Vines. It's a great pizza place, and we've eaten there before. All I can say is "yum".

After lunch, we headed to another adventure. Mom wanted to go to the Container Store. She'd heard they are very dog friendly, and she's an organizing junkie. So we headed there, and what should have been a 15 minute in-and-out turned into an hour long fanfest. Yup, we were famous again. People came up to us every few minutes, wanting to pet us and talk about us. One woman even called her daughter to come see us. It started as soon as we got out of the car. A man stopped us to take our picture, because his wife loves pugs. Really, who doesn't? The employees could barely do their jobs, they were so busy fussing over us, too. Two workers stopped moving boxes to see the pugs they'd heard were in the store. Word spread fast.

We finally made it out, but not before everyone waved goodbye as we headed out the door with our purchases.

More relaxing at home, then mom and Aunt Julie went to drink margaritas, listen to music and eat some good food.

The next morning, the humans took pity on us, and went back downtown without us. They ate brunch, did some shopping, then headed home. We packed up the car, Arnie said goodbye to the toy box, and we drove home.

Arnie was a little quiet that night. I think he missed Suki. But he'll see her soon. They're coming up for Thanksgiving. Can't wait.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pug Nationals - Day 10

Yup, you guessed it. Up early again. Off to the airport, because we were going home today.

Rush, rush, rush to get the suitcases into the car. Rush, rush, rush to return the rental car. Rush, rush, rush through security. (Dad got the patdown, but mom managed to make it through without incident. Apparently lotion triggers the hand scanner thingies.) Rush, rush, rush to the gate. Rush, rush, rush onto the plane.

Me, practicing in my Sherpa

Sorry folks, we've had a maintenance issue, so we won't be leaving for an hour at least....argh. Oh well, we all got some much-needed shut eye while we were waiting. We finally took off, and I stayed quietly in my Sherpa, even though the top was opened (just like I learned).

We landed, got the car, and drove home. Dad had to go to work that night, so we just hung out. We played with Snap and Puck (well, mom did. I hate them both, so, you know....) and lamented about not having Arnie here when we got home. He's at Suki's house, enjoying himself with her great toybox.

Snap says, "What? They're home?"

So that was our Nationals Adventure. Lots of action, and lots of fun. It's not quite over. We still have to drive to Austin and get Arnie next weekend. There's another adventure planned, so I'll fill you in on that soon.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pug Nationals - Day 9

Do these humans EVER relax? Seriously, I'm dragging some rear here. We were up bright and early again on day 9.

We were off to an all-breed Agility Trial this time. Mom entered so she could spend some time with her non-pug friends. I know, right? She actually has friends without pugs?

The pugs were all set up in one area (thanks to my friends Tyra and Bambi's moms), and we had quite a presence. The trial was HUGE - 4 rings, and on the day we entered there were 1060 runs. Yikes!

I was up early (which meant it was nice and cool). I ran my little legs off, and came up with a qualifying score, and some MACH points. Yay for me.

Watch my run here.

Then we waited and waited for my second run. The other pugs were running too, so we got to watch a lot of action. The best part of the day came when dad showed up! He brought his whole family to watch me run, and they were very impressed with my performance. We did some more shopping, and lunch (I got more nibbles), then I went in to run again.

This time, it was pretty hot out, and when I hit the weave poles, I jumped and wouldn't go near them again. Mom thinks I burnt my feet on the hot metal. I'm not saying what happened, since it was pretty embarrassing  I'd gotten all my weave poles all week, and blew it in front of dad. He was OK with it, mom said "I was done" and I went back to being dad's little princess, carried around everywhere.

When everybody's runs were finished, we said goodbye to the family, then headed back to the hotel. There was an Award Banquet, and mom and dad were going.

They had a lot of fun at the banquet. They sat at the "international" table. There were only 3 people speaking english, and 2 were mom and dad. The others spoke German and Japanese. Made for an interesting evening. Luckily, mom talks with her hands, so they were able to communicate OK.

Mom got to go up and get some awards. Both me and Arnie got title plaques, and medallions for high scores. Dinner was pretty good, and they saw some people they'd missed at the show.

Then, it was back to the room, where I relaxed. Because, you guessed it, another big day tomorrow.

Day 10 tomorrow.....

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pug Nationals - Day 8

Yup, we're on day 8, and still no sign of slowing down. We got up bright and early this day, mom grabbed my treats, collar and leash......wait, is that my Rally collar?

The Rally ring

It was. Seems mom entered me in my very first Rally competition. We've only been practicing for a short time, and mom told me there was no pressure - just do my best and have fun. Well, have fun I did.

I do everything fast, and this course was no exception. We flew through, with me pinging off the end of my leash, and mom trying desperately to hang on. And in the end, we qualified! My first Rally leg.

After Rally, we decided to head over to the Del Valle dog show. There was lots of shopping, and 4 rings of agility. We were coming back to compete the next day, but knew there wouldn't be time for much shopping. We ate lunch (I got a nibble), then we headed back for more work.

The Showcase was tonight, and mom was helping set up. She hauled, lugged, carried and dragged all sorts of things. But it was soooo worth it. The set was spectacular. The theme was goldrush, and we used to live right near where gold was discovered in California.

Quite the set. Worthy of Hollywood.

The details were all great. These are little chicks in a box.

Check out those gold nuggets!

Where the pugs and their humans entered the ballroom

After setting up, there was practice. Mom was playing roadie, so she had to practice, too. Then it was back to the room for cleanup, a quick bite to eat, and time for the Showcase.

The Showcase highlights the top Pugs in conformation, obedience, rally and agility in a show just for them. Someday mom says I'll make it to the Showcase, but we need to get our act together first. My brother, Levi, was in the Showcase in 2005. She still has his ribbon displayed in the dog room.

Then it was early to bed, because you guessed it - another action-packed day tomorrow.

Day 9 tomorrow.....

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pug Nationals - Day 7

Another early morning. I'm not sure who set this schedule, but I'd like to have a little talk with them.

On this morning, mom was working in the obedience ring. She brought me down to the ballroom, but I was put into my crate. Yes - I got to go back to sleep!

The obedience awards table

She spent the morning watching pugs show they really CAN obey. She said it was funny, inspiring, silly and impressive. Then she told me I could learn from them. As if.

After she finished working, and putting away her gift for volunteering (another cute stuffed pug toy), it was time for the humans to do some sightseeing. Mom's roomates wanted to see San Francisco, so off they went.  We got to sleep in the room while they were gone.

She's been bunches of times, and says it's her favorite tourist town. They drove along the bay, then made their way to Fisherman's Wharf. They ate lunch, then walked around a little. They got back into the car, and drove down Lombard Street. After that, it was off to Coit Tower. Mom says it has the best view of everything from the top. They drove around a little more, then it was time to come back and feed us.

On the way, they drove past Candlestick Park, where the Giants were playing in the playoffs. The place was lit up like, well, a candle.

Relaxing in our room

Another evening of hanging out, drinking some beers, and visiting with friends. Then it was off to bed. Yup, you guessed it. Another big day planned tomorrow.

Day 8 tomorrow.....