Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Year In Review

My little red dog has come a long way in a year.

One year ago today, I adopted Iris from the NHSPCA. The first time I met her, she came into the visiting room at the shelter, sat down, and leaned against me. When she's not being crazy, she really is exactly the dog I was looking for. When I got Iris home, she refused to eat for two days and spent most of the first week hiding under the coffee table. She'd come out if I sat on the floor and talked to her. She had kennel cough, which only added to her stress. Iris was 4 years old and I was her fifth owner. She was housebroken, but I don't think she had much other training.

The first photo I took of her to email to a couple of people - she was hiding in the corner.


A photo from a few weeks later, you can see she decided to upgrade her spot. The photo makes her look like a gremlin, especially with her demon dog eyes. It's still her favorite spot on the couch:


It took Iris a few months to get settled in, and I just worked on some basic manners at home with her. She started out so shy, I didn't want to push her into classes. A big thing for her was learning not to bolt through doors. It's one of the reasons she was in the shelter. Coming home from work to find out that the dog I'd only had for a few weeks, the dog who was still spending a good deal of time under the coffee table, was missing was one of the worst nights. She was only loose for an hour and half or so.

As Iris got more settled in, her behavior issues started to come out more. She's been through four other homes for a reason. The shelter said she was surrendered for escaping the house and killing ducks. Going through the paperwork later, the secondary reasons she was there were being overprotective of her house and nipping kids who here running around with "her" kids. I think those were probably the primary reasons and the duck killing was just the last straw. Iris is extremely aware of everything going on outside the house. She's reactive to guests coming into the house. Men make her nervous. She's reactive to other dogs. She pushes Zeus around. She's obsessed with cars. Her nickname is "the supervisor." She can't be left alone loose in the house because she makes herself crazy obsessing over cars passing the house.

In the fall, I enrolled Iris in a basic obedience class at MasterPeace. I wanted to work on her manners in a more distracting environment than my house and also get her used to being in a class. She did really well in the class, even with the other dogs. It was a pretty stationary class, so I think she found the other dogs less threatening?

In January, I started classes at Maplewood. Iris needed something to do with her brain besides just supervise the house. I wanted an agility dog from the beginning so we started in ABC. The beginning half of the class (now called Communications) was excellent for building a relationship with Iris. The second half was an intro to obstacles and Iris seemed to enjoy running and jumping around. Her issues with other dogs came out in full force. Iris was turning into a lot more dog than I'd bargained for. Katrin has been extremely patient with my crazy dog right from the beginning. In the 7 months since we started classes at Maplewood, Iris has gotten so much more relaxed in class, and as a side benefit, she's gotten a lot better at home. Of everything I've done with her, starting agility classes had by far the most positive effects. I've learned a lot about managing her around other dogs and keeping her attention, a lot of which applies to barking at people, chasing cars, etc. I'm still working on being cooler than dirt. :-) The only downside to agility is that Iris now thinks my 24" baby gates are agility inside the house. So far, we've done ABC, Weave Poles, the 5 Directions, and Competition Heeling.

In class, Iris is happy to hang out in her crate when she needs a break. She's gone from not being able to focus with other dogs in the barn, to being able to play while certain dogs are still inside. At home, she now loses her window privileges as soon as she starts barking, so she's gotten better about relaxing in the house. She's only allowed to greet guests if she's relaxed. If she starts barking, she's walked out of the room. She's made huge improvements with greeting my friends. When I'm out walking her, she can sit and stay while a car passes.

We also tried herding at a clinic given by Tenley Dexter and put on by ASCNE. Iris was afraid of sheep but really interested in the ducks and not all all rough with them. Tenley thought Iris would make a really nice duck dog. Quite a compliment! There were a lot of people there, which I think was stressful for Iris. Even when I went in with her for the ducks, Iris kept looking over at the people and dogs watching. I really want to see how she does in a less stressful environment.

A quick recap of the year, I'll probably think of more later but it's getting late -

Things Iris learned:
-her name (means make eye contact)
-Sit
-Stay
-Wait
-Down
-Shake
-Sit Up
-Wait and make eye contact until I say "ok" before going through an open door
-Hand target
-Target plate
-Back up
-Loose leash walking (with no distractions)
-Off (our dogs are allowed on the furniture as long as they'll get off on command)
-Give
-Relax in crate
-No dogs in the kitchen for meals until they're told "ok"

Things Iris is still working on (in no particular order):
-Heeling
-Loose leash walking with distractions (especially cars)
-Come with distractions
-Switch
-Tight
-Out
-Greeting people without jumping up (mostly an issue when I get home from work)
-Toy motivation (Henry is still the coolest toy ever)
-Weaves (I need to invest in my own!)

Things we've only worked on a little but I'd like to work on more:
-Leave it
-Go to place
-Turn and make eye contact after going through an open door
-Ears (bring ears forward, a good trick for photographs)

What next? Our next agility class will be Putting it Together at Maplewood. I'm also thinking about putting Iris in the Reactive Dogs class at MasterPeace in September. As soon as I get my car fixed (or rather, find out how much it's going to cost to fix my car), I want to try herding again. And of course we'll still be training at home, running in the field, swimming at the pond, harassing the poor Beagle, and finding new and exciting ways to get in trouble!

4 comments:

ann & partner said...

Wow, that's a nice long list of things Iris has learned. She's come a long way!!

Jules said...

Blue, Iris (and you) has come a tremendous distance since you started at Maplewood and obviously since she came home. Hooray. Click!

I can not say enough good things about Emma Parsons (who teaches the Reactive Dog class). I did a two-day seminar with her when her book Click to Calm first came out and a couple of privates with her and Ike. She changed our world - seriously.

I would also recommend Control Unleashed for you and Iris (if you do not already have it I can lend it to you). I think you will find that it really applies to Iris' vigilant/wanna-be-reactive personality.

Jules said...

Oh, and if you want to carpool to Colleen's - LMK!

Blue said...

Ann - I didn't realize Iris had learned so many things until I wrote it all out! She has come leaps and bounds in just a year.

Julie - I'm so glad to hear that you and Ike had a good experience with Emma Parsons. Now I think I will have to get Iris into the reactive dogs class. I've heard good things about Control Unleashed and keep meaning to check it out. Probably should bump that up to the top of my reading list :-) Oh, and I'd definitely be interested in carpooling to Colleen's. It can be a merle dog herding day!