Thursday, May 22, 2014

Chihuahua- Pigeon Hunter

WARNING:  We did all we could but this story does not end well for the pigeon.  So pigeon enthusiasts might not want to read.  Everyone else think a good thought for our little friend that hopefully is flying free in pigeon heaven.

I woke up yesterday really early because Ben left early and it woke up Copley. He needed to go out so I drowsily put on a robe, woke up the chis and opened the back door. I just want you to imagine me, contacts still fuzzy, sleepy, stumbling out the back door 3 hours before my typical wake-up time. Suddenly I hear flapping and screeching and look down to see Copley trying to play with a pigeon on the porch. As I am trying to usher the action away from the door and get Copley away from it out of nowhere a chihuahua (still not sure what one but I think it was Kerri) grabs the pigeon and runs into the house with it. This all happened in less than 5 seconds. Barely awake to pigeon in the house is not the way to start your morning.  

So I call Copley over and put him in a down stay.  That I think deserves a little attention, because my dog down stayed with a pigeon freaking out in the living room.  Can I win an award for that? Copley has a great trait where the higher value the item he wants the more willing he is to listen to me.  I somehow managed to convince that dog that in every area of life he is likely to get what he wants by listening to me.  His willingness to accept that truth I am eternally grateful for.

At this point Kerri has the pigeon and Nova is going for the vital parts.  It was like a pack of wolves, tiny, tiny wolves who had no idea what they are doing.  The pigeon gets free and I grab Kerri by the scruff. I'm yelling at the pigeon because I am not really thinking straight and then Nova comes out with her best home defense posture and starts going for the pigeon again.  So I have Kerri by the scruff and Copley is like teetering on the edge of what he can handle in this down stay and Nova is trying to eat it and I finally get a hold of Nova the pigeon titers on it's feet, the thing is not in good shape and takes a moment to right it's self then it calmly walks out the door that I then manage to close. 

First order of business is I empty a treat jar into Copley's mouth because seriously that was like the best down stay I have ever seen in my life.  Hopefully my sheer joy and every treat on the counter made Copley's patience worth it.  If only the chihuahuas would behave like that.

Copley still has to pee and I am still delusional that the pigeon just needs to recover and fly away.  So I send the chihuahuas to the DoggieLawn, because they are not going out there with that pigeon and I put Copley on a leash to pee/scare the pigeon away.  Outside we go and there is the pigeon, looking a little iffy and wandering around the yard.  Copley pees, whines at the pigeon and then I take him inside.  Pigeon can't fly, it is not leaving the yard.  The problem I realize is that the neighbor a ways down is poisoning pigeons.  I have lived in this house for over 4 years, surrounded by pigeons and not once has one let a chihuahua catch it or come close to coming inside the house.  Occasionally one will hit the window and hang out in the yard for a few hours recovering, but they always squawk at the chis to scare them away, or fly off when they come over and they always leave eventually.  I am beginning to suspect that this pigeon has been poisoned.  I call a friend I have who raises baby pigeons every so often and they tell me that it was probably poisoned and there is nothing they can do to help me.

Pigeon is no longer with us.

Moral of the story here- don't poison pigeons!  It just thins the population and they breed more to get the numbers back up anyway.  There are services that will trap them all and put up spikes and other deterrent and guarantee no pigeons on your roof for like 5 years.  Poison just litters the neighborhood with dead/dieing birds and in the end doesn't really do anything at all.  Our walks have turned into dead pigeon spotting adventures, it is gross.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Backpacking Chihuahua!

Kerrigan went on her first overnight backpack about a week ago!  Overall I think she had a good time, although I was not there so I am getting all of this second hand.  Ben and a friend took her to summit a mountain in the desert near Searchlight, NV.  The main complaint I heard about Kerri was that she was slow moving.  Since there was no trail she had to navigate through all the small brush that the people were just stepping over and that took her a while.  The other issue is that no one makes actual boots for small dogs so they had to stop a few times to remove little spines from her paws, a problem that would have been totally fixed by something like Ruffwear Grip Trex Boots in a tiny, tiny size.  Sadly there is no good outdoor gear for tiny dogs so we have to pick her up from now on when there are spiny areas.

Another challenge was that we usually use Zukes Power Bones as trail snacks, but now they are owned by Purina and I don't give Purina money, nor trust them with the health of any member of my family.  So instead I sent her with boiled chicken hearts with honey and coconut oil as an energy snack and it seemed to work out great!  Not sure if it will be a permanent solution or not, I will have to see how it holds up on longer trips.

Getting ready to leave

I was a little worried about this trip, but in the end I do think Kerrigan had a good time even if she slowed the people down a little bit.  Just goes to show chihuahuas really can do anything bigger dogs can!

About to head out.  Also I am in love with that truck.  It is an International Scout and I want one really, really bad.

Kerri helping with breakfast

On a final note KERRI has joined twitter @doginthedesert  I am too long winded for twitter so I am letting Kerrigan take care of the account.  You should follow her if you want- but be warned, she is telling it like it is and might get political, so follow at your own risk.

Friday, May 16, 2014

DoggieLawn Product Review

I want to start this review out by saying that I never thought I would have a dog that was "pad trained" fake grass trained or in any other way trained to go inside my house.  No matter how small the dog was the very idea of it just seemed disgusting to me.  In fact I thought people who had their dogs trained to go inside were just plain crazy.  Copley was of course trained to go outside and Kerrigan was trained to go outside from the time she was a puppy.  It was not until I got Nova that I decided we needed to find an indoor solution (and started to realize a lot of people have perfectly good reasons for needing an indoor potty solution).  It was at the time not going to be a permanent fix but she needed a place to go when she was not yet willing to go outside.  So I put pee pads in her pen.  For a variety of reasons a year later still have pee pads in my house.  Nova only uses the pads once a day, if that.  Kerri will now use the pads if we are gone for a while but overall they are occasional use products.  We tried taking them away but then Nova would totally un-housetrain herself and the only thing worse than pee on pads that I have to pick up is pee somewhere else in my house.

When I was contacted by the folks at DoggieLawn about doing a review I was intrigued and interested in trying the product but I did not at all expect to love it as much as I did.  In fact I plan to subscribe to DoggieLawn myself at the end of the month when my grass is worn out.  The stuff is AMAZING!  Take it from a skeptic, this stuff is the best solution I've ever seen if you need your dog to do it's business inside the house.  Me and Mr.DogInTheDesert were both skeptical going into it but the grass just keeps coming through for us at every turn.

First of all it is real grass.  Just like the stuff you have in your backyard, except that it is grown hydroponically so there is no dirt.  Because it is a real plant you do have to water it.  I was a little skeptical about that.  Won't watering peed on grass make the room smell like pee?  Well I am pleasantly surprised that the stuff does not smell!  I got the petite size (it is the size that is available starting at $29 monthly depending on how often you want it) and with occasional use over two weeks you can't even tell its been used.  I can't smell anything at all in the way of dog pee.  We did have one "incident" where Nova had a slightly runny poop and even after picking it up there was some *stuff* left on the grass.  I was pretty bummed out about that because it seemed like the whole thigh would be kinda ruined by one only slightly iffy poop.  Then it occurred to me to try to rinse off the grass.  I took it out of the box, put it in the backyard and hosed it off.

As you can see it held up perfectly.  I let it dry out a little bit for a few hours, put it back in the box and replaced it in the potty corner in the dog room and it has been great since.  This is certainly not the intended use of the DoggieLawn but it does prove even clean freaks like me can use the DoggieLawn.

I think the best feature about DoggieLawn is actually the free training help they provide!  Once you subscribe you can call and schedule a time to speak to a trainer that can help you out with any issues you are having AS MANY TIMES AS YOU NEED!  That's right- they have a trainer available that will listen to your specific situation and help you get on the right track.  Just that would be worth the subscription fee!  My dogs did not need any help, I just replaced the pee pads with the grass and they went right for it, but I did talk with one of the trainers and they seemed friendly, knowledgeable and their methods of housebreaking get my stamp of approval.

In conclusion DoggieLawn is great!  Two other great uses I wanted to mention are potty training a puppy.  If you plan to have the dog go outside only, but they are still to young/unvaccinated to use your outside grass DoggieLawn would be a great alternative to pee pads because you are actually teaching the dog to go on real grass!  Seems perfect to me.  Also if you live in an apartment and want a solution that can be put on your balcony or porch DoggieLawn would be great.  Of course it also would work great for people like me who are pee pad users (or as I am now going to say used to be pee pad users before I found DoggieLawn)!

*I was given a free patch of DoggieLawn for this review but my opinions are all my own.

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Nova Update

"I am blossoming into a beautiful flower, and using your plants as beds."

The other night I was at a fundraiser for one of my favorite local organizations Incred-A-Bull and I ran into a lot of people who I had not seen in a while and asked how Nova was doing.  Actually most of them asked about "tire store chihuahua" as she is more commonly known.  If you are a new reader you might want to check out some of my old posts about Nova, but to sum it all up she was a totally feral dog living behind a tire store until she was trapped and I got her.  It is hard to really say how she is doing in a few words of casual conversation, but what I came up with is this.  

"She is very comfortable around the house, very smart and she has taught me a lot."

All that is true, but it is so much more complicated than that.  Nova has come so far in the last year that I can barely believe it but many things are still a big challenge for her.  She has brought challenges to me as a trainer that I had never seen before and more than that she opened my mind to a lot of new ways of doing thing, and proved that what I before would have said "works every time if you do it right" I now realize is just a great place to start.  If nothing else at least every dog that enters my life from this time forward will benefit from the things I learned from Nova and the partnership we have (it truly is a partnership) in navigating the scarey world.

As far as day to day life, Nova is nearly a normal dog around the house with only a few accommodations.  She is potty trained 100% but because she will not ask Ben to open the door we have pee pads inside that she uses if he is the only one home.  She participates in barking that Kerrigan starts, but she is not an excessive barker at the outside world.  When people come over she does hop around nervously and will do some aggressive barking if she feels trapped in a room or needs to get past them for food but mostly is not at hassle to visitors.  She will take food from people, and even sit or touch for food from strangers and visitors.  She has never gone after a person aggressively, and it is obvious she is acting out of fear, but I always lock her up when kids visit.  She has proven that if she is actually cornered and grabbed she rolls over and goes to a submissive scared place, but I don't think I will ever trust that she would never go to an aggressive place.  Because of that I am never going to let her near children loose in the house.

She does do a lot better out in the world.  We have a regular walking route we take and she happily does that with me and Kerrigan.  If people approach us she sits by me as Kerrigan is petted and while on a leash generally looks to me for guidance.  Any change to our route however is a reason for panic the first time or two, then she goes with it like she is an old pro.

A few weeks ago we "graduated" basic obedience class.  She did not participate in everything at class, but was actually excited to go and I did not try to push her too far.  She LOVES her clicker and with it's help she accomplished a lot of things at class.  She walked around with other bigger dogs very close to her, she walked for a short while with someone else (our instructor) holding the leash and she did a lot of her clicker tricks in public.  Also on one day she tried to instigate play with another tiny little dog at class.  The owner was kind enough to let them go for a minute then moved on.  I am so proud of how well she did and I plan to take the class again.  Nova is a very smart dog and while nervous at parts I think she appreciated the challenge of class.

Speaking if smart, Nova has learned a LOT of clicker tricks and is enjoying going through Kyra Sundance's book 101 Dog Tricks and learning even more!  She really gets the idea of the clicker and it is so easy to shape behaviors with her this way.  The unfortunate thing is she will not "perform" for anyone but me!  I am thinking I should get a tripod and video camera then make her a you tube star.  I was thinking of getting her to act out an entire Shakespearean drama or something like that.  I say thinking about it because the odds of me having enough time in my life to actually do that is rather slim, but we can dream.

So in conclusion, Nova is very comfortable around the house, very smart and she has taught me a lot.  She continues to improve in her relations with people every day, she loves Kerrigan and Copley and she is just a joy to clicker train.  Nova may never be a totally normal dog, she certainly is not ever going to run up to strangers like Kerri does but every day she gets a little less scared and figures out a little something more about living with people.  She is a lot of work, and I can't say I recommend adopting a feral dog but for me she has been a joy.

There is a Nova update for everyone!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Friday, May 2, 2014

Copley's Arch Nemesis is Ruining Our Camping Trips

This weekend we went on a quick trip to a BLM Campsite in a wilderness area near Searchlight, NV.  It was a beautiful site, no other people around, plenty of shade and a nice big fire pit.  I didn't take a lot of pictures because I only had my phone with me but we really had a great time.  Except for one tiny little bit of evil trying to make Copley's live a living hell.

That's right.  The Kangaroo rat.  The tiny, cute little buggers are the only mammal that does not have to drink water and they have the most adorable tail of any rodents.  But unfortunately they also have one tiny little problem around here.  They are afraid of nothing, and like to charge Copley while we are camping causing him to bark and lunge at them.  He will never catch it, they are too fast, and the little rats know it too!  This first started happening to us at Valley Of Fire, but I thought they were just habituated to people.  Now that it is happening at rarely used wilderness campsites at the end of roads that you need this kind of car for I am worried-

Ruined wildlife at the end of a dirt road that hasn't been graded in years and is even a challenge for that big guy? Seems strange to me.

Are they attracted to the heat of the fire?  Why not scared of predators?  Does anyone know how we can stop these little buggers.  Copley was miserable around the campfire.  He first was on his leash just running around whining while they bluff charged him.  Then somebody held him and he whined, then we put him in his crate next to us and the little things were sitting inches from my foot and inches from the crate staring at him so he barked.  I am having trouble blaming Copley for any of this behavior because I can't really expect him to ignore wild animals right by his face.  In many cases I don't want him to ignore strange animals and let them walk on him so the problem here really lies with the mice.

However cute they are we need to figure out how to keep them away.  Any ideas about how to repel little rodents?  I have tried throwing sand at them and rocks near them, they just come back.  Stomping and yelling causes them to scatter but they just come right back.  Barking does not effect them at all.  I'm not willing to kill them, but am up for any creative measures you may have.