What to Do if Your Dog Gets Loose

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Bentley got loose.  This was due to pure stupidity on my part.  I broke the cardinal rule of training a dog.

NEVER SET YOUR DOG UP FOR FAILURE!

It was the first nice day in awhile, so I decided to take Bentley for a run.  My mom keeps suggesting that when I do this, I leave Bentley off-leash because she is sure he’ll just follow me.  I know better.  But the suggestion kept running through my head.  Who doesn’t want a dog that’s so well trained and loyal that he follows you around?  Thing is, you actually have to TRAIN your dog to do this.  It doesn’t just happen magically.  The path I was running on runs along a highway, behind people’s houses, so it’s got chain-link fence on both sides.  So at one point during the run, I dropped the leash to see if Bentley would stay with me.

Didn’t take long for him to take off.  And I knew we were approaching a street.  He would run off ahead of me, stop, turn, wait for me to get close, then take off again.  So I got his attention, and turned around and ran away from him.  Didn’t take him long to blow past me, but this time he stopped long enough for me to step on the leash and we continued our run.  Toward the end of the run, I decided to try it again.  I get onto this path at the local elementary school.  There’s an opening behind the school, and one at the far end of the baseball field.  I made the huge mistake of *hoping* Bentley wouldn’t go through the opening at the field and would follow me to where we started behind the school.  SO. STUPID.

'Running Dog' photo (c) 2009, Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz) - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Naturally he went through the hole at the field.  At first, I kept running, slowly, calling to him, hoping he would see that I was going away from him and come after me.  No such luck.  He knew he was free.  He was zooming around like a rocket.  I knew I had ZERO hope of catching him, so I ran on to the back of the school.  Two seconds later, Bentley came running up.  He had been running through the woods.  It had rained, then snowed, then the snow had melted, so he was absolutely covered in mud. And somehow, he had lost his leash.  His collar was still on, but the leash was nowhere to be found.  I had no idea how I was going to get him home.  Oh yeah, my dog is friendly, enjoys jumping up on people, and it was election day, so people were going in and out of the school to vote.  I was mortified.  Bentley was having the time of his furry little life.

I realized I couldn’t catch him.  He knew that if I caught him his freedom would be over, and chasing him would just make it into a game.  I didn’t want that.  So I decided to just go home.  Bentley sort of followed me.  Mostly he saw me moving off and again ran to keep ahead of me.  He stopped to say hi to some dogs fenced in someone’s yard that were snarling and making a ruckus because they saw another dog.  He wandered in and out of yards.  He went up to people’s doors only to scurry off as I passed.  He almost was hit by a car which made me feel even more stupid, idiotic and embarrassed about the whole ordeal.  I nearly got my dog killed for my stupidity.

In the end, I was able to run into the open garage and he thankfully followed me in.  At which point he got a thorough bath for his troubles.

Worn out after his adventure

Moral of the story:

DON’T SET YOUR DOG UP FOR FAILURE! Also, don’t chase your dog. He thinks it’s a game and will have lots of fun trying to keep away from you. He’s also probably a lot faster than you and has more energy/stamina. Instead, turn the game around and run AWAY from the dog. Now he’s it, and he’ll come running to catch you. At which point you can hopefully get a hold of his leash or collar!

tl;dr: Bentley escaped. I got him back by running away from him.

Dogs and Car Washes

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Rotating brushes inside a conveyor car-wash.

Image via Wikipedia

The other day I picked up Bentley from day camp then decided to get the car washed on the way home.  This was Bentley’s first time through a car wash.  Despite his namesake, he did not like it at all.  The poor thing was whimpering and panting out of anxiety.

This is a tough situation to be in.  Our first inclination is to hug or pet the dog and tell him it’s ok.  Try to soothe him, try to calm him.  But all this does is reinforce in the dog that being scared of this strange thing is ok!  We do NOT want to reinforce scared behavior.  So, difficult as it was, I didn’t cuddle my poor puppy.  Instead, I tried talking to him in an upbeat voice to reinforce the fact that *I* wasn’t scared and thus there was nothing to be scared about.  He made it through the brief ordeal unscathed, and has not somehow developed a fear of the car.

DON’T REINFORCE SCARED BEHAVIOR!

Pet Insurance Options

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'A new cast' photo (c) 2010, Brad Patterson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Pet insurance is becoming more and more common.  Some high-end companies even offer it as an employee perk!  But is it right for you?

When you go to a pet insurance website they have tons of examples of super high vet bills and how they could have been avoided for just a few dollars a month.  Horrible things like accidents and terrible diseases.

The thing is, most basic pet insurance only covers accidents and conditions such as cancer or heart conditions.  And you have to be careful just how much of the bill will actually be covered.  Routine vet bills aren’t covered, such as office visits or vaccinations.  Basic plans rarely cover hereditary conditions so if you have a large breed that suffers from hip displaysia you’ll be on your own for the bill.  And some basic plans don’t even cover the bill if your dog gets sick.  However, if your dog accidentally gets loose and gets hit by a car, it’s great piece of mind knowing you can do everything to save your best friend without worrying about the cost.

Another option, however, is creating your own pet insurance.  Sign up for a high-yield savings account, such as one with ING Direct. Each month, automatically deposit money into this account.  Then, should the unthinkable happen to your dear pet, you have the funds to cover it.  And should your pet live happy and healthy for a long time, then the money is still yours.  If you don’t have a pet yet, start this fund early!  If you already have a pet, you can combine a savings account with actual pet insurance and then cancel the insurance once you have a sufficient cushion built up in the savings account.

If you don’t think you’ll have the discipline to maintain the savings account, then perhaps you might want to reconsider if you have the discipline to maintain a dog!

Merry Christmas!

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Bentley with Santa

Bentley with Santa

Bentley Playing

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I have no actual content at the moment, so here are two horridly shot* videos of Bentley playing with some toys.

 

 

 

 

*I have a tremor, so all my videos come out shaky.

Bad Owner, No Cookie

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So Bentley is happy as a clam right now.  While I am berating myself for being an idiot.  I had some KFC for dinner tonight.  I ate in my room, in front of my computer.  When I was done, I put the bag with the bones and the biscuit on my bed.  Bentley doesn’t jump on my bed when I’m around; I’ve taught him that it is my space. (Yes, he jumps up and sleeps there when I’m *not* around, but he immediately jumps off when I come home, good enough for me)

Well, I went to take a shower and forgot the bag on my bed.  My little terror terrier follows his nose everywhere, so when I got out of the shower I found him on my bed with his head in the bag.  He immediately jumped off, but he had managed to get his head stuck through one of the bag handles.  I removed the bag.  There was no more biscuit.  No more chicken bones either.  I’m now terrified he’s got a bone lodged in his throat or something, though he seems fine and rather quite contented with himself.

I want to be mad at him, but part of me can’t help laughing, and I know it’s all my fault anyway!

Positive Training vs. Corrections

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So I have been trying a new tactic with Bentley lately.  Previously, I was trying to use ONLY positive reinforcement with him for training.  This works brilliantly for teaching commands and tricks such as “sit” and “go crate“.  But it doesn’t work quite as well with general behaviors such as getting him to stop jumping or to be gentle when taking a treat.  So I have started using corrections with Bentley.  Out in the wild, wolves don’t learn everything by positive reinforcement.  They are corrected, first by their mother, then by litter mates, and then others in the pack.  You cross a line, you get a correction. Life goes on and the pup learns not to do that again.

So I’ve started working on using some corrections with Bentley.  They are sharp, but not harsh. It is very interesting to see the reaction. He is VERY surprised at being corrected, as I don’t think his previous owners ever did. He also doesn’t quite like it. He tries to fight back. But it is absolutely amazing the difference in him when I don’t back down.  You will recall I previously tried to teach him the “leave it” command.  It was kind of working, but he would still jump and lunge at any treat.  Using correction, I was able to within 5 minutes get him to lay down and I could put a treat on the floor and he would not go for it.  I can also now walk him with a loose leash about 80% of the time.  (Still working on ignoring neighborhood dogs, cats and squirrels)

The corrections I’m using are either a snap of the leash or a quick jab/poke in the side of the neck. They are sharp and startling to the dog, but they don’t hurt him at all.

Now, I’m not giving up on the positive training methods for teaching him his commands.  But for a well-balanced dog, you need a mix of both types.

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