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.
(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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.