No enjoyment for this canine.
Two weeks ago, it was 70 degrees in downtown Cleveland, and Woody and I went on a five-mile walk, convinced winter was on its way out. Last night, I checked the weather forecast and it turns out we were mistaken. Snow will be falling through next Friday. Spring officially began two days ago. So much for "in like a lion, out like a lamb." This March has been straight lion.
This weekend happens to be my birthday weekend, and for the first time in awhile I have to celebrate in the cold. The last birthday I had to experience snow was my 14th, and every year since then, I've either celebrated in the south or enjoyed a normal spring day here in Ohio. I'm not one to complain about the weather in the sense that I threaten to move to Florida every year; but what I do think is a valid complaint is how unbearable it becomes in terms of taking a dog out to use the bathroom. Since November, I've had to endure the cold to make sure Woody relieves himself so I'm ready for this chore to go back to feeling like a non-burden.
Who I feel worse for in this situation, though is Woody. As a short-haired dog who weighs less than 20 pounds, the cold is not his friend. I enjoy seeing Facebook photos of large dogs with layers of fur romping in the snow like it's the best thing they've ever done in their life. Woody will never be that dog.
Let me paint you a picture of what our bathroom breaks look like in the winter, specifically when the sidewalks are a mixture of snow, ice and salt:
I put Woody's coat on (full-disclosure: I am not a fan of clothes for dogs, but jackets for extra protection against the elements is acceptable). He's fully aware what's ahead when the coat goes on. We hop on the elevator, where he proceeds to try to eat whatever is on the floor. We head outside. He feels the air, steps toward the sidewalk and stops in his tracks, sits down and looks at me like "nope, not walking in this." I pick him up, carry him across the street, and plop him down in the grass. Usually, he takes care of business quickly, but when it's below 20, I have to pick him up periodically to warm up his paws. Once he's done, I pick him back up, we head inside and I can't help but feeling like he thinks I'm torturing him.
While the vet still thinks my cabin-fever theory is a bunch of BS, I do not doubt for a second he's getting tired of all this winter. This weekend, Woody gets to go celebrate being a dog at Camp Bow Wow and I get to turn 25 with all my friends. Despite the fun ahead, I know once Sunday is over, we'll both be back to praying for spring. At this point, the new benchmark is Cleveland Indians Opening Day, April 8. Average temperature: 56 degrees.
Last week, I wrote that Woody moved on to advanced behavior work. Woody's biggest issue is not being able to channel his energy when guests are around, which leads to a whole series of other problems. St. Patrick's Day was a huge test for him because I had a nice sized group of people at my apartment to begin the festivities. I was nervous at first, unsure what to expect and if any of his training would even stick with this slue of new stimuli. Turns out, it did. Sure, he tried to mount more than a few times, but he jumped off as soon as I called his name. Before, it took a squirt gun to get him to hop off. This, my friends, is progress.
I'm quite excited for my phone chat with Dr. Feltes tomorrow to tell her how awesome Woody was with my guests, though I must take credit for some of it. As I've said before, half the battle with helping Woody be a better dog is my ability to understand him. in the past, I feel like when people were over I would get so stressed and nervous when he wasn't behaving. Now, I'm much more calm with him and can actually prevent bad behavior before it starts. I continue to ask myself the question "who is training who here?"
Earlier this week, a coworker sent me a Wall Street Journal article titled Why Pet Dogs are as Good as Kids (Maybe a Little Better). The article discusses all the obvious reasons why dogs rule, such as the unconditional love, the inability to talk back, and, the most important aspect (and why I decided to start this blog in the first place), how much smarter dogs are than we actually think.
Below is an excerpt from the article, discussing how dogs and infants are able to identify objects through gestures, even with no knowledge or expression of verbal language:
Every dog owner has helped a dog find a lost ball or stick by pointing in the right direction. It’s easy to take for granted the way dogs effortlessly interpret this simple gesture, but this ability is remarkable. Not only do dogs understand the meaning behind the point in a similar way to human infants, they are using the social information of a completely different species.
I already believe Woody is one of the smartest dogs alive and this proves how much impact behavioral modification, even at the most basic level, can help humans and dogs understand each other. In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, I can tell you that one thing I understand most about Woody is how much he loves beer. By no means do I let Woody get tanked, but I definitely give him beer-flavored, non-alcoholic treats once in awhile. I'm sure he'll be waiting for the luck of the Irish to grant him a spill or two Sunday. This was a selfie of him last year trying to destroy a teddy bear.
No matter what you do or how you celebrate, make sure you have a safe St. Patrick's Day and try to include your furry friends. They're smart enough to know how much fun this day can be.
Yesterday was a monumental day for Woody. After two months of behavior modification training, Woody is finally ready for advanced training and no longer needs to visit The Behavior Clinic on a regular basis. I am one proud dog mom. If that makes me a nerd then I don't want to be cool.
For those of you who are curious about behavior modification, the easiest explanation is that it is a series of gradual, systematic training sessions using positive reinforcement to encourage and teach acceptable behaviors. Woody's issues, from most serious to least serious, include stress-induced aggression, marking behaviors, territorial behavior, mounting, and over-excitement in new settings and around new people. Rather than simply teaching a dog to perform specific actions when requested (basic obedience), behavior modification teaches a dog how to react to stressful situations. In Woody's case, the beginning stages required obedience-style commands as the foundation for more advanced layering of techniques to teach a more desirable behavior, such as not mounting my friends or barking when someone enters knocks on my door.
Below is the video of Woody and I (please excuse my Sunday morning appearance) that I shared with The Behavior Clinic a few days before last night's session. In a few months, I hope to share our more advanced work.
The biggest takeaway from all this, besides how smart animals really are, is how much this is about training me as it is training the dog. I'm responsible for working with Woody on a daily, yet sporadic, basis, I have to maintain a sense of patience and positivity, and, most importantly, I have to learn how to read Woody and help manage his stressful situations before they escalate into a serious problem. I guess, in a way, this step in Woody's training means I've advanced myself in my ability to care for another living thing. And that, my friends, is pretty cool.
Ask any dog advocate, vet or shelter volunteer about the benefits of adopting an adult dog and they will make sure to provide you with an extensive list of reasons about how much good you'd be doing. Saving a dog from a life abuse. Helping a family in need who can no longer take care of their best friend. Rescuing an animal from imminent euthanasia.
Another benefit of adopting an adult dog is that, if he/she came from a good home or was raised somewhat correctly, he/she should be completely potty trained. When I adopted Woody, I was told his bladder was under control.
False. So false.
Woody is potty-trained in the sense that he knows to let me know if he needs to go out, and he would never have an accident when I am home. What took me an inexcusable amount of time to realize is that Woody is a dog that needs to have his bladder and bowels on a strict routine or else I am in for a giant mess. Not to make excuses, but when I was in grad school, my schedule was so topsy-turvy that I had a really difficult time getting into any routine. Now that I work full time and live two blocks from my office, this whole routine thing is a piece of cake, most of the time.
If a pillow happens to fall off my bed, or I leave anything- seriously, anything- lying on the bedroom floor (he stays in the bedroom with a gate up while I am gone), Woody will mark it. Doesn't matter if he just went out and I was only gone for thirty minutes. It becomes his territory. So, I now try to do my best and make sure nothing is a target.
The last few weeks, however, have been terrible for Woody's so-far, so-good streak of fewer marking incidents and accidents since we entered the full-fledged adult world. His favorite targets are the corners of my mattress and my closet door. I have three theories, two of which seem to be plausible from Dr. Feltes, my vet at The Behavior Clinic.
My third theory, and also the theory that I don't think Dr. Feltes agreed with, is that Woody is getting cabin fever. Woody does not like cold weather, and as a dog who could walk for miles in the summer, this does not bode well. We get two blocks and he sits down and looks at me like "are you seriously making me walk in this?" It's supposed to be warm in Cleveland this weekend (45 degrees!), so I hope to put on his little vest and head out on one of our favorite downtown routes. In the meantime, I've deep cleaned my carpets and set up a perpetual force field of potty pads that he's clearly thrilled about.
Today is the first day of the only diary I've ever intended to stick with. If you're reading this, you're probably a friend or co-worker giving me page views because you want to support me. If you found us on Google by searching for dog blogs, I hope you like what you see.
The purpose of Diary of a Dog Mom is to share the interesting/funny/not-so-funny stories about my dog, Woody. The idea to share our stories came about after Woody began attending behavioral modification training. Woody is an amazing companion and is super smart, but he can be very temperamental if he doesn't know how to channel his energy properly. Behavioral modification is teaching the both of us how to deal with his "issues."
I'll be posting a few times a week because Woody leads quite the interesting life. No story is too ridiculous for the Internet, right?
I'm just a twenty-something female raising the weirdest dog I've ever met.