Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tinky-Winky makes friends with a pug

The difficulty with Tinky-Winky isn't so much that she's aggressive, but more that she's unpredictable. I would say 95% of the time, if she meets another dog off leash, she will come back to me and nothing happens. Out of the other 5%, some times she attacks like a demon, especially small dogs... and some times, as in this case, I find her peacefully having a pee on a rock with a pug. Of all things, you'd think she'd hate pugs? Not at all. Maybe she just doesn't realize they're dogs at all.

In any case, that's my problem with her. If she was always aggressive, she'd never be off leash, and if she was never aggressive, she'd never be on leash... but you never know with her. That's the problem.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

That dog looks just like a shiba!

You think???

It doesn't, really. It's the same colour, and clearly a spitz breed, but it's not a shiba. Though I have seen people adopt dogs that look just like this and tell you that it's a shiba "with a strange coat."


Ok. It's not impossible. But as for the dogs in these pictures, they're not shibas. They're Icelandic sheepdogs.

I've been looking at them for a while because I worry about what to do when Tinky-Winky dies. I can't imagine having no dog; I can't imagine having a dog that doesn't look like a shiba; and most of all, I can't imagine taking that much lip from someone other than my precious. So... maybe the Icelandic sheepdog will be a valid compromise. But hopefully I won't have to find out for many years yet.

Dogs I'm glad I don't own

I'm glad I don't have a sheltie. It's an attractive breed. I thought about it when I looked for the perfect dog. Now there is a sheltie on the street where I stay in Yellowknife, and I'm glad it's not mine.

The sheltie is always running. Always. It goes for "walks" with its person. The person rides a bike, and not slowly either. The sheltie runs like a maniac beside the bike but still pulls on its leash to go faster or to go check out other things. Then they get home, the sheltie gets tied in the front yard, and it runs back and forth along the fence like a maniac every time something walks by. I don't know what it would take to get the energy out of that dog, but I'm sure glad I don't have one.

I'm also glad I don't have a retriever. I've never even considered a retriever, because their "I love the whole world" attitude annoys me. I don't love the whole world. More importantly, what good is it that someone loves you, if they love the whole world anyway? I want a dog who loves me and only me of all humans. Even if I'm buying her love with food.

But the main reason I don't want anything like a retriever is that a retriever is a very large duck-hunting dog. No, really. I'm not sure why people with little kids buy retrievers. Because it's "good with kids"? There's no such thing as a dog that's good with kids. Some kids are good with dogs, not the other way around. I'm sure someone somewhere has had their baby eaten by a retriever and could tell you they're not good with kids.

So yeah, I'm not sure why people who have little kids and never walk further than around the block would buy a very large duck-hunting dog. I'm guessing they've never seen field trials for retrievers. I have. It involves making the dogs run through swamps and standing water all day. The dogs get absolutely filthy, but they sure don't get tired much. You have to keep at it for a very long time to wear them out. And then you still have a filthy, wet dog.

So then people take these very large duck-hunting dogs and think they're gonna walk them around the block once a day and it's all good... it's not. They're very large dogs with lots of energy. They pull on the leash, because they're not walked enough. The more they pull, the less they get walked. Then they find water or mud, get dirty and smelly, aren't wanted in the house anymore, and end up spending the summer on a chain in the backyard. Not getting any walks at all.

I'm sure glad I don't have a retriever, but I'd be more glad if other people didn't have them either. Unless of course they do a lot of duck hunting.

For the same reason, I'm glad I didn't end up getting a spaniel. My short list of dogs was either one of four breeds of spaniels, or a shiba. I'm thinking the spaniels would have been a lot more trouble than the shiba.

Altogether, I'm pretty glad I don't own a dog that's not a shiba.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dogs don't sin

A while back, against my better judgement, I let myself participate in a really stupid conversation about religion, on a dog blog. (Terrierman's, if you must know. Hence I don't read it anymore.)

Now normally I try not to dwell on things, because it's bad for me, but I keep being mesmerized by one particular moment. I said that dogs don't need communion because they don't sin, and Terrierman said "how would you know?" or something to that effect.

I'm mesmerized because it's self-evident that dogs don't sin. At least I should think so. I think it's much more self-evident than "all men are equal in rights", which we can plainly see is just utopia. Whereas dogs, obviously, don't sin. And yet, because it's so self-evident, it becomes somewhat challenging to explain why dogs don't sin.

Or, maybe not.

Dogs don't sin because sin is a human invention. Likewise dogs don't have money because money is a human invention, and they don't sing dodecaphonic music because dodecaphonic music is a human invention. But to take a more scripturally-based approach to the answer, it's like this: sin, the original sin, was that man ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I haven't pondered, or asked my pastor, exactly which is the sin: disobeying God (unknowingly), or acquiring the knowledge of Good and Evil. I think it's the latter.

In the Tao Te Ching it says, and it's obvious when you think about it, that we name "good" only by opposition to "bad", "short" by opposition to "long", and so on. I think the concept of the Tree of Good and Evil is a way of saying that good and bad are only as we make them so, by our perception. Before we ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, nothing seemed to us either good or evil, and also we had no sin. Sin, apparently, is what happens when we decide to call some things "evil" and others "good".

Dogs don't sin because, metaphorically, they didn't eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and more literally, because they don't think in terms of good and evil. They seek out what feels good, and they feel good about the rest as they get it. Sunbeam: good. No sunbeam: also good. Rain: also good. Food: good. Home-cooked food: good. Rotting carcass on the ground: good. Other dog: good. Smelling other dog's butt: good. Dog fight: also good. They're not at all concerned with the notion of "evil" and knowing the difference between good and evil. They just maximize their comfort and minimize their discomfort. If you're religious, they're doing exactly as God intended, without knowledge of Good and Evil, therefore they have no sin. And if you're not religious, you don't believe in sin, therefore dogs have no sin.

So I'm still mesmerized that someone would ask "what makes you think dogs don't sin?" But as to how I know, well, now you know.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Things I DON'T like about my shiba

Shibas, unfortunately, have a big neck and a little head, so if you pull forward on the leash, the collar slips right off them and they're free.

And they're fully aware of this.

Of course, so am I, so it's really rare that she gets away on me, but she was aggravating the crap out of me on our evening walk with her meandering and foot-dragging, and I pulled when she was behind me, and she got free.


Back home this wouldn't matter, I just finish my walk and go home and usually she'll get there before me. But we're in Yellowknife this weekend, and it's really not safe for a dog to run loose around here. Especially when we're on the Frame Lake trail and we have to cross Franklin Avenue to get back to the house.

So, I did the next best thing, which is to sit down. She doesn't exactly want to be away from me when she's on a runaway, she just doesn't want the leash. But if I sit in one place long enough, after a while she just comes to me. So I'm waiting for her on a park bench with a totally non-scenic view of Stanton Hospital, and she's running around doing her own thing, and running past me once in a while.

Then, I don't see her for a long time. I know there are other dogs on the trail and they might have found her because they're barking, but normally she'd come back to me when confronted with three large dogs. So why is she not coming?


Now I have a dilemma. Maybe she's gone back to the house on her own and the dogs are barking at something else, and I should get back to the house myself before she annoys the neighbours. But if she's still on this side and I cross Franklin, then she'll cross as well, on her own, and that will be bad.


So, I get off the bench and start walking along the trail, and a man asks me if I'm looking for a dog. "Why, yes," I says. "What does she look like?" he says. And I say a foot tall and orange, and he says he saw some kids carrying such a dog in the other direction on the trail.

Good grief! Some kids stole my dog!

Ok. Fine. I follow the trail and promptly find the kids, along with some adults who have also asked me questions about my dog. Turns out the adults recognized the dog and knew she didn't belong with the kids, and asked questions, and meanwhile I caught up with them. And the kids are two little girls who always ask to pet her when we see them, which explains why she let them pick her up when the three large dogs came along.

That sucks. Bad enough that kids are always interrupting our walks, but now she's going to let them grab her and carry her away? That's a problem. It wouldn't be a problem if she couldn't escape, though, so maybe a harness would be appropriate at this point. I put one on her the first day I had her and she fought like a demon, but whatever. If she's gonna keep on causing problems, she'll have to take the consequences like the rest of us. I can't have her getting abducted by any random kid she's met before.

Anyway, the girls gave her back, but they kept wanting to hold her some more, and kiss her, and make her ride their bikes (???), and otherwise interact with her, which was incredibly annoying because I wanted to go to bed. Finally an older sister showed up and dragged them away, and I continued towards the house... only to run into more kids who like to pet Tinky-Winky every time they see her.

F@@@@@@@@@@@ck! Seriously, I've been working in full sunlight, in 24 to 30 C, 10 hours a day, for three weeks, five days the first two weeks and six days this week, and I only have 38 hours off before I have to do it again, and I'm really, really f'ing tired, and I have to be up in eight hours, and whatever the Ford people's kids are doing running around unsupervised at 21:30 talking to strangers, I JUST WANT TO GO TO BED.

I really hate Yellowknife.

Training my dog with punishment

Tinky-Winky used to be very good in the car. She'd just lie down in the back seat and sleep until we got somewhere. But last November, I hit a bison and went into the ditch. No one was hurt, not even the bison, but once we got out of the ditch, Tinky-Winky wanted to sit in my lap. And I let her, because she just had a big scare.

Then on the return drive, she wanted to sit in my lap, and I let her.

And the next time we went, she wanted to sit in my lap, and I let her.

And so for the next seven months, she sat in my lap all the way from Hay River to Yellowknife and back. Most of the time it's not dangerous, but it did get annoying, and then as summer heated up, it got really uncomfortable.

Then, we got the New Car. Which is a minivan with captain's seats in the front. So, I thought she wouldn't be able to sit with me, and that would be the end of that annoyance.

I was wrong.

The first drive in the van, she sat in the passenger seat. The return drive, however, she tried to sit in my lap. I pushed her away. She tried again. I pushed her away. She got more and more pushy, and I had to push her away more and more forcefully. She's strong when she wants something.

Finally I stopped and tied her to something in the back seat. Her leash is just long enough that she can sit with her nose between the two front seats, so she did just that, for a while. Then she tried to climb into the passenger seat, so I unhooked her and let her do that.

Then... after a while, she tried to sit in my lap again, and got even more ornery than before, so I stopped and tied her up again. Halfway through the trip I untied her, and after that she didn't try to get into my lap again.

Now when we do that long drive, she sometimes shows that she'd like to be in my lap, and I tell her no, and she finds something else to do.

And this was all punishment: I did something to decrease a behaviour. It worked very quickly, and it did her no harm at all. She didn't stop bothering me because she was traumatized, but because she got the point that I didn't want her in my lap. And if you think I could have done it with positive reinforcement alone, you're wrong. I tried giving her treats for being in the right place, she doesn't care. She doesn't even like to eat in the car anyway, and she won't take treats when she's upset. And even if she had taken the treats, she'd have kept trying to sit in my lap as well, because some times she'd rather have a treat, and some times she'd rather be in my lap. She's not a machine; her needs vary from time to time.

You have to punish your dog some times if you hope to train it. Or your cat, horse, child or employee. There is no effective behaviour modification without punishment. If you have issues with punishment, it's not because punishment is wrong, it's because you have maladaptive schemas about it.