The King and the Jester

I don’t know how to say it. I’ve been struggling to tell you. It seems almost impossible.

My dog is perfect!

Almost!

But still. After few weeks of thinking “Is that it?” and being stuck on no progress it finally happened. He made through another milestone.

Friendship has no size 

I think I haven’t written about Hugo’s pal, the Greyhound called Louis. I wanted to write about him for a long time but as usually, I didn’t. So now’s the time to tell a story about one of not so many dog friends of my beloved Hugo or as I sometimes call him, Mr Hugowski.

Louis is in a similar age so now around 3 y.o. but always seemed to be older, more mature and full of dignity. I love to see those two because it’s so funny.

Louie – tall and handsome, a dog you can call “magnificent”. And Hugo – small and dorky. While Louie struts around slowly, Hugo bounces from place to place. While Louie lies down with one paw on the other, Hugo digs another hole. The King and the Jester.

Marta and Hugo
No comment necessary.

At the beginning I was afraid of the outcome of their relationship. Hugo could’ve reacted in many ways and highly possible was with a growl. But somehow they met and everything went fine. I think that it was mainly Louis who’s rather friendly and neutered. Hugo had a new pal, apparently.

While I was more than happy that there was no growling or any aggressive behaviour at all I was less than happy with the crazy runs they’ve started later on. There’s no fence between us and Louie comes and goes as he pleases. If I wasn’t quick enough and they’ve seen each other the chasing started.

The dynamic dynamics

At first I was curious. I’ve never given Hugo too many possibilities to run freely with other dogs and as somehow I was forced to allow those interactions, I felt “why not give it a chance?”.

The interactions between them seemed surprisingly balanced. Louis was chasing Hugo at first and then they switched. Hugo with his short legs can’t bit a Greyhound in speed so he had to use some of his cleverness and was finding shortcuts. It was usually Louie who stopped. So there were moments of crazy running but also plenty of sniffing and doing nothing. I’ve encouraged them to stop and sniff by giving food (none of them has any issues with resource guarding so it was helpful). I often had one of them on a leash so they can calm down and learn there’s more than chasing.

Hugo’s crazy for running with dogs so I wanted to show him a wide variety of calm activities around dogs. We often met in the summer, which was very hot and it was helpful in that department. Dogs weren’t so eager to run or not so much at least. I was constantly building “let’s do nothing, stay calm” behaviours.

marta and hugo

A learning curve

I love how their relationship grew and changed through time. Hugo taught Louie what to do with a stick and how to dig a hole. He also showed him game of tug-of-war using a safe Hol-ee Roller or less safe regular stick. They wait in a cue to drink water or lie down and relax. There’s also great amount of marking (more on Hugo’s account) and exploring. I take them for an on-leash walks to the forest.

I’ve soon realized that both Hugo and Louis don’t posses enough social skills to have the interaction they both feel comfortable in. Many times I’ve seen that Hugo wanted to stop, wanted to come to me but Louis was blocking him (usually by staring). On the other hand, Hugo often started the interactions by nagging his fellow. They both wanted to stop but none was able to give up. Their relationship is full of provocative and competitive behaviours in both of them. I think Hugo can be more insecure (hence the marking) not only because he’s sensitive but also he’s much smaller.

A crucial part of their interactions was the eye contact. It was a trigger. They tried to move each other and often the eye contact was the prelude to the chase.

The change of dynamics

After a while I’ve noticed Hugo stopped more often than he used to. He still couldn’t stop the interaction without my help but I’ve started to see more looks into my direction, more sniffing, searching for an escape and not necessarily in a form of a chase. It lasted less than a second and often they still ended up in a run but I’ve seen a small crack in his mind. Of course, I’ve always tried to help Hugo and stop the dogs. Sometimes with more and sometimes with less success. But I was there.

Louis has a very specific kind of behaviour. I think it’s common and comes with a breed. I believe he wants Hugo to be scared or run faster and treats him like a prey.  It happens occasionally. Louie is chasing Hugo, being very close to him, snaps the air near the muzzle and is making a growling-like sound. Hugo’s very agile and though (in a physical way) so he manages to deal with it with quick turns. He also makes a lot of physical contact in interactions so it wasn’t as frightening as it could be for another dog. I hope I don’t have to mention that I stopped it at once (or when it was possible). But lately Louie’s showing more and more of this kind of behaviour.

My theory is that Hugo’s opposing Louie in a different fashion – not the way Louie was used to. He’s less and less inclined to run wildly whenever it pleases Louie. He’s doing more stops and what is more, he’s less provocative. At the beginning he was the one bugging Louie. Now he’s changed. Don’t get me wrong, he wants to do some running, and less doesn’t mean zero, but it is different than before. Hugo’s more aware of his own needs and that need is staying calm(er).

marta and hugo

It also has to do with my training, I’m sure of that. Hugo started to realize he cannot mess with me all the time. That I’m serious. So more often I see his struggle and his head almost blowing out and the steam coming out of his ears: “Focus! You have to control yourself, man. There are consequences. You’re not a free agent! Control yourself!“. When I see this struggle I’m so happy that I’m afraid my head’s gonna explode. So I cry: “You can do it! Who’s the good boy?! BRAVO!“. And I know it helps him. Sometimes he’s still not so sure what to do, what to listen to but more often he listens to me.

Back to the story. One day and it happened 2 weeks ago we went to the neighbours and dogs were there. Hugo went far away to explore and Louis stayed with us, the people. But suddenly, he noticed Hugo and maybe wasn’t pleased with the fact he’s exploring his yard and went fast as a well… a greyhound. He tried to move Hugo, did this prey-like thing of his and I’ve seen Hugo avoiding him. First of all, he didn’t run! Louis didn’t want to give up and was presenting aggressive behaviours (not fight like but I didn’t like it). Fortunately, Hugo when dealing with familiar dogs never responds with aggresion. He just avoids being bitten. I know that at some point I want to stop that. I don’t want for him to be a punchbag but for now I’m happy that he’s not fighting back.

I started moving into their direction – not going in a straight line towards them but more to show Hugo where he can run away and join me. But I’ve stopped.

Not so awkward?

I’ve stopped in amazement because my socially-awkward dog, my little Mr lost in conversation, peed.

He lifted his paw and peed. And he did it twice.

It was the most beautiful form of dog communication he presented in his whole life. I couldn’t believe it. I was so proud! I actually stopped for a while in shock and amazement. After a second I moved because I wasn’t sure if Louie apprieciated this conversation as much as I did. It ended pleasantly. I took Hugo closer to me, yelled at Louie and we went.

Of course, I don’t blame Louie for anything. He’s a great dog, I really like him. I think his more aggresive behaviour comes from frustration that he cannot influence Hugo as much as he did but also out of problems with understanding what the hell is happening.

marta and hugo

I see that I have to be more carefull with Louie now. He has to be given time to understand new dynamics and also learn. And as usual, with Hugo it’s still so much to do but let me savour this moment. Those few seconds (which I’m quite sure most people wouldn’t even notice) made me think that it’s really working. That the work I’ve put into Hugo, choosing methods for him and balancing them so it really fits our relationship – it’s all working out and at last Hugo started giving back.

 

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Conversation long as 2 metres

Few weeks ago I’ve reached an impasse. I felt we hit the roof and that’s it with Hugo. He’s as good as he can get. So I’ve stopped writing for a bit. But before I start again and tell more recent stories I want to go back to the communication classes which for you were the last post but for me 2 months ago!

Hugo acquired an attitude. It happened on walks and I was sort of aware of that but chose to sweep it under the rag. I felt I had more pressing issues with him than some acts of stubborn stubbornness. Sometimes he stops, sits or lies down. I want to go left and he wants to go right. I want to go home and he wants to sniff some more. It wouldn’t be so irritating if he had 3 short walks a day but I really try to allow him a lot of time. But sometimes he wants more. And sometimes I’m not in a mood. And then we “fight”. I was OK with it being hidden but Marina with her 6th sense brought our conflict into a daylight. By a mere accident I must add.

When Marina had asked who wanted to work on the “on-leash relationship” there were some hands up and people eager to do just that. I wasn’t one of them. I’d gladly look and see, take some notes, but to participate? No, thank you. When we went for our interaction with a lovely but aggressive female boxer I wasn’t suspecting the outcome. How did I miss it? Bits me! I’m sure it must have been said! What I recall is that suddenly I heard “So now put the dogs on leash and we’ll do some work”.

I didn’t understand the rules of the “on-leash” exercise, I was taken by a surprise and a group of strangers were looking. Oh my! I looked at Hugo who was 100% focused on the boxer and I knew it would be a disaster.

As some of the readers may know – Hugo’s otherwise lovely personality has some small traits of not so lovely qualities. One of them is stubbornness. Hugo knows what he wants and when he wants it. And when he thinks he should get what he wants (which is usually) then there’s a trouble. I was supposed to turn my body into a direction I wanted to go (which unfortunately couldn’t be towards the lady boxer) and wait for a right moment to go without pulling. So I thought “loose leash”? Loose leash?! Highly unlikely”. Then I heard leash can be tense. “So am I to pull? What is happening?!” Marina tried to show me what she meant but I just couldn’t grasp the idea. It started to look ugly and I felt miserable. Afterwards Marina realized she shouldn’t put me into that position but how could she know what a nutcase I am? She couldn’t. The levels of my frustration went dangerously up and when my frustration gets too high all hell breaks loose.

OK! Maybe it wasn’t so dramatic but it’s not something pleasant for all people to see and you to hear that you don’t have a good on-leash relationship… wait! OK! Now I hear it. It sounds a bit stupid. How many people consider the difference between on and off leash relationship as if there could be anything to think or, oh gosh… discuss! Well, I do. It wasn’t a surprise to hear about it but to be honest I wasn’t analyzing that – it was enough to think he was stubborn. I didn’t know it was a discussion. Seriously, so many things happening with Hugo and if I was to think about working on our on-leash relationship I would die out of helplessness.

Because of Hugo’s reactiveness (and not very reliable train of thoughts in unpredictable (or too predictable) circumstances) I often had to have him on leash. That meaning, I don’t know, 80% of our walks? Sometimes even more? Often, it meant some shit happening. Many dogs in the neighborhood, regular unwanted interactions with both off and on leash dogs, growling and lounging, walks near streets etc. When we were out of danger and I felt safe to set him off leash (for some time on a long line) he was running freely and was the most marvelous and obedient dog.

Marta and Hugo
You’re cool again, Missy!

I always loved our off leash walks because it was our time. Hugo was running a bit, doing plenty of exploring, we did some activities together, e.g. tricks or obedience. We’ve looked for benches, rocks and trees to jump on and searched for a pine-cone with my smell. We often sat for a while and did nothing particularly interesting. Just me and my dog…

…and my radar because I was (and still am) on a constant vigilance mode. Whenever I saw someone approaching or wasn’t sure what’s behind next curve I called Hugo, put him on leash and when it was safe again let him run freely. Funny thing, at the beginning and it wasn’t a short period (I think it was around 1-1,5 year) when we passed a dog Hugo was thinking about it for at least 10 – 30 minutes. It wasn’t just the fact that he would go and chase after that dog (as I’m sure he would) but also his emotional state was wrong – he was highly aroused. Due to my training, today we can pass an unknown dog and I can set him off leash just as we pass. But do I do that? That’s a question for another story.

So as you may notice my biggest aim wasn’t to work on an on-leash situation but instead to be able to let him off leash in more and more places.

The other thing is, I’m not so sure if I can repair it just now. Hugo’s stubborn. I think he’s 100% percent terrier in that department. He’s stubborn, persistent and independent (by that I mean he’s not so focused on the owner persona as a shepherd might be). These are traits that makes it impossible (at least for me) to work on reactivity issues or other problems that demand time or proximity.

Look at a typical situation that happens to me all the time. I see a dog far, far away and think: “great training opportunity”. I start working on recall or let Hugo look at a trigger a bit to show him – it’s safe, we’re safe, it will go away. Scenario A. The owner sees us and thinks it’s a great opportunity to be pulled by his dog so our dogs can greet. Scenario B. Same as “A” but the dogs pulls towards us but from behind and I didn’t notice.

Marta and Hugo
A perfect training situation. Free-ranging dog on a roof. Also fence.

It’s funny because someone would think that doing weird stuff like calling a dog and moving in the opposite direction than the unfamiliar dog or getting into the bushes may be a signal that something is happening here and maybe, just maybe you shouldn’t disturb and just go your way, but NO. Just no. In my world people think that a blond girl with a small dog does stuff without meaning and you can force their personal space.

Sometimes it’s just plain Hugo. I know that a lady with a Frenchie is coming at us so I’m saying “there’s no time for training. Fly, you fools!”. But apparently Hugo didn’t see that scene and he’s more like Boromir – good hearted but sometimes impulses take control over him. So I just had to force him out of those situation – by a deceit or by force. I was choosing the lesser of two evils.

Marta and Hugo
Entering flight mode.

Does it mean I’m not going to try some exercises to work on that shameful issue? Of course I will. I’m more open to his suggestions now and we definitely have started a conversation. We don’t always listen to each other but at least we acknowledge that there is something to talk about. Unfortunately, I’m not ready to go through whole conversation just yet. I’m not in a right set of mind. It’s still too much frustration on my part to be patient and communicate better with that small punk. Also with my coordination it’s better to take one step at a time unless you want to see me fall down quite spectacularly right into a pool of mud.

Communication classes with Marina Garfagnoli

After few months of being on the outs and by that I mean being out of the dog society we went on the very famous communication classes. For dogs! Yeah, I know – I should be attending  classes for people but I gave up on my social skills after even Dale Carnegie wasn’t able to help me. But there’s still chance for Hugo so we went for it!

It was a wonderful experience. Marina is an amazing person, her knowledge is impressive but I was also in awe of her modesty. The way she reads dogs is simply amazing not to mention her ability to look but not judge. There is so much you can learn from her and it seems she loves the process. No question went unanswered and trust me there were plenty. What I really liked is that she understands that there’s life after the classes. That the environment isn’t always safe and well… shit happens! That was my biggest fear before attending this workshop. How does it transfer from the laboratory to normal life outside of school? The answer is: it does and it doesn’t. There are some inevitable mistakes which can slow down the process but it’s worth taking anyway. I was thankful for a things she said. She compared 3 dogs, including Hugo and said you can work with them starting at the same point, doing exactly the same and end up in different places. People often say dogs are different but she actually understood and meant that. And I was thankful to her for that.

The interactions

Fortunately or unfortunately (I cannot decide on that) I know Hugo quite well and wasn’t surprised by his behaviour. What came as a nice surprise though, is that he’s communicating more than I thought. He’s still more of a Rincewind than Gandalf but there are some unmistakable signs that he’s trying.

Ok, you can easily mistake them! Hugo, the cheerful owner of a quite complex personality is a one dog orchestra… but jokes aside! He can present aggressive behaviours but he’s main social competences lie in a provocative and competitive behaviour. Not to mention he’s stubbornness.

And all of that is underlaid with the insecurity around dogs.

Still, he can be a nice guy when given a chance. At this point, it depends on the other dogs competences and social skills. I believe he’s unable to make a right move under stress. When he’s in the right state of mind he stops perceiving dogs as a threat and he’s behaviour changes 180°. It also changes to 180 different states but this you already know.

The workshop helped me to put some new puzzles together. I’ve intuitively seen the picture but thanks to Marina it came to me more clear, based on facts and not only suspicions.

Marina told me that sometimes behaviour that looks aggressive – a so-called “rough play”, meaning the physical contact (not baring the teeth), might be a way for a dog to try to stop another one. I think it’s possible that  Hugo’s trying to get out of the situation while at the same time enjoys running with dogs – it’s exciting – so he continues to do so.

Hugo’s interactions weren’t surprising. First one showed that he needs a strong, assertive dog that knows how and when to use the more aggressive signs for Hugo to back up. The first dog he met was too polite for him and her “no’s” didn’t make the right impression. Or no impression at all.

DSC_2322

Next interactions confirmed my suspicions about the insecurities. I believe Hugo prefers not to interact with unfamiliar dogs.  I’ve suspected it for some time but in Spain it was possible to actually see the relief when he understood that most dogs won’t come near. We used to live in a great place where people respected each other and dogs didn’t have to greet all the time. If someone was open for greetings than yes, but if not there was no forcing one on another. And day by day, I saw my dog getting calmer and more relaxed.

Here, on classes I’ve seen it again. After the first interaction which at the beginning  was stressful but turned out to be just fine, Hugo felt much better and on the next one he wasn’t so inclined to go and check out the dog sitting in the fenced area. For what is worth Hugo is better in ignoring the dog when it’s lying or sitting but still – progress. It took him some time to go and check out the dog inside and when he went he was much better than the day before. They met through the fence, tense at the beggining but as the emotions went lower after a while, Hugo refocused on the environment.

It’s just a theory but I think that not only the interactions mattered but also the ability to sniff the area. It was full of intense smells – the interactions took place in the same area so there was a lot of “stress” in the air – and still, it was safe. For a moment I thought that it made him a bit calmer on walks but I’m not so sure about it anymore.

In a perfect world

I knew I won’t fix Hugo in 3 days but somewhere deep down I thought that maybe if I see him interacting with dogs off-leash in the safe environment it would show me that Hugo can interact and I can trust him more often and even let him run towards unfamiliar dogs. Unfortunately, it reassured me that I’m doing the right thing not letting him do so.

Sometimes I feel overprotective – no! Sometimes I feel that people think I’m overprotective but I just know him too well. When I say he won’t come back, he won’t. When I say he won’t like this dog, he won’t. I just don’t want him to fight. If that’s overprotective than OK, I am.

It’s a beautiful idea to let the dogs make their own decisions, to listen to them carefully and respect their feelings. But what if you got a dog like mine who’s incapable of making good decision and by “good” I mean safe and smart? It’s a question I often ask myself and haven’t found an answer yet.

Marina lifted my spirits up a bit saying Hugo’s to young to communicate perfectly. But as I’m not so sure wisdom comes with age in this particular case I won’t leave that to chances. We got a work to do, Mister, and a lot of it so get ready!

DSC_2341
Smart decisions written all over Hugo’s face.

Looking at Hugo I couldn’t help but thinking where were we a year ago. What’s the biggest of our achievements since then?

  • he can focus on the environment in others dog presence,
  • he can run towards me (away from the dog) if I go far enough into the depths of the spider’s web,
  • he gets hold of his emotions much sooner,
  • believe it or not – he’s less intense in contacts with dogs.

We’re far from perfect but we’ve done a hell of a job.

As some of you may suspect I’ve lost my faith dozen times already and I’m still not happy with the results. It can and should get better. My watch hasn’t ended just yet.

 

Workshop organizer: Psia Wachta

Photo credit: Magda Urban

 

 

Crazy dog lady

I’ve never thought of myself as of a Crazy Dog Lady. I’ve always imagined this person as someone surrounded by dogs, with a long braid, loose clothes and maybe a tiny bit smelly apartment.

But if you are offered a trip and hesitate to go (or better want to scream: “No, thank You! I’m good.”) it’s time to consider yourself one.

The hardest thing

I so much don’t want to go. On the one hand, I feel ashamed of wanting to skip a nice holidays and stay cuddled with my pup but on the other… damn! In my thoughts it sounded as if there’s a place for the other hand but apparently the other hand is the one filled with nuts or some other fruits a brain can turn into.

Wonder what brought on those thoughts?

Yesterday I left Hugo with my parents. For 8 days! Somehow (I’m really proud of myself) I’ve managed to hold tears until the 2nd floor (my parents live on a 4th). The only thing that forced me to do that was not to mess with Hugo. Of course, I told him that I’m taking a suitcase but I’m coming back soon as I always do. To be honest he seemed fine with it. Just before leaving I gave him some food and he as usually was eager for me to leave and for him to eat the food.

Separation anxiety

It’s nice people care more and more about dog’s anxiety and the separation issues but why no one taught ME how to deal with it? You tell me?!

I’m crying at the mere thought of him or something resembling something we do together or he could be doing. For Pete’s sake! I’m crying right now!

It made me think, seriously think, of how people can abandon their dogs? Hugo is under good care, my parents were on a trial, my mum felt as if she was being examined (and she was) and still I can’t wait till I see him again and I’m thinking about him all the time.

Probably, my feelings are a bit too strong, there is a slight chance of me overreacting but to just say: “goodbye doggy, you don’t fit to my life anymore” that is just utterly mean. Of course, there are situations in life, mistakes or some special circumstances that I get – actually, my first dog came to us because she was too much for her previous owners. She was just perfect for us. I’m talking about those kind of people who buy new furniture and the dog doesn’t agree with new wall paint so they send him away.

Maybe I am a Crazy Dog Lady but I think that if you own a dog it should be hard for you to go away without him even for a day or two. Not as hard as it is for me (because let’s face it – I’m crazy) but when everything you do seems better with a dog it must mean you’re made for each other.

DSC04546

However, the 2nd Human says that Hugo must be relieved to have holidays from me. Can you imagine?! I hope he’s wrong but honestly, I’m glad this wonderful dog feels so comfortable without me. That means I’m not toxic for him. What a relief…

Pack your dogs bag. Going abroad.

I want this post to be a small guide but not only. I want to share some of my thoughts and tips about how I dealt with issues regarding travelling with a dog. So probably it can be longer than I think it will be. But I’ll try to keep it short. As there are many blogs about travelling with a dog, I’m not gonna cover the basics but instead share my experience.

Pack your bag and go wherever music takes you, kitten!

…unless you have a dog. It’s not so simple to pick up and go but it’s easier than it sounds.

We’re fortunate enough to be a member of an EU and it makes travelling through Europe much easier. We’ve decided to go the old-school way, which is by car.

I’m not going to write exactly what you have to do before going abroad because it can change and I believe it’s good to check the legal requirements on the official sites and with vet few weeks before you depart. Remember! Some countries are more strict, so check out rules for every single country you’re gonna be visiting.

From what I’ve gathered the most important legal requirements in EU for a EU member are:

  • The passport. Sometimes you get a dog with a passport already from a breeder but usually you have to go to the vet, pay some money (in Poland around 100zł / 25 euros) and keep the medical record up to date. Take from my experience and choose a vet who seems competent enough to fill it out eligibly and correctly so you don’t end up like me… suffice it to say if it was up to my passport the blog would be about some Iwona and her Jack Russet…
  • The rabies vaccination. So what record should be inside of it? Rabies is a must! You have to stick to the rules. If the dog doesn’t have rabies vacination on time you won’t pass the borders or there’s some expensive quarantine ahead. Technically, in the Shengen Zone no one is going to stop you at the border but someone can stop you on the way.
  • The parasite treatment. Don’t forget about worms and parasite treatment. Even if you check the stool for parasites you should give a pill hours before crossing the border.

FYI, I was told that the rules usually change at the beginning of the year.

TIP: It’s not necessary but I think it’s smart to examine the dog at vets before you go, especially if you are planning a longer stay.

Forget me not. The dog packing for a trip.
Forget-me-not.

Gear up

The problem with safe travelling with dog is that the market isn’t fully equipped yet (lately I’ve seen some crates with certificates but not sure if they’re delivered to Poland). Technically, you can get a crate (metal or plastic) but how to adjust it to the car? If you somehow put the belts through it, won’t the plastic break in case of an accident? It’s the same with all the equipment: safe belts or harnesses.

When you buy safety seat for a child there are certificates. It’s a pity, safety didn’t get to the pet store yet. I’m sure there would be plenty people interested.

Nevertheless, you have to make travel as safe as possible. When I see photos or worse – videos – of dogs sitting on a drivers lap I can’t stop but think they’re simply morons.

How I drive with my dog?

  • A harness, the builded-up guard type and the belt. I’ve checked harnesses dedicated for cars but as I said there were no certificates and I couldn’t spot any difference. Recently I’ve found ones which passed crash tests and I’m thinking about getting them – Sleepypod Clickit.
  • A material crate. I know it’s far from perfect but definitely better than nothing.

Don’t forget about water. Hugo’s not a heavy drinker so sometimes I “force” him to drink by throwing some snacks into the bowl.

Motion sickness

Hugo behaves great in a car. He instantly falls asleep but unfortunately he also has a motion sickness. When Hugo was a pup he vomited almost every time we’ve been driving a car. It got better as he grown older but still it happens sometimes. As there are many dogs and owners who struggle with it I’ve decided to write a short piece regarding dealing with it.

In our case there was no difference if Hugo was in a crate, in front or in the back, so I’m skipping basic advice and write what helped us. If your dog is afraid of riding in a car you should work on this issue first.

I’ve figured out some things that can decrease the chance of puking:

  1. A long walk. When Hugo’s tired there’s less chance he feels sick (less drooling and less vomit). I let him run freely and sniff. On occasion I’ll even throw a ball.
  2. The mood. I’ve noticed that stress plays a huge factor in Hugo’s motion sickness so when I’m low on time I give him a toy so he can chew his troubles away – a pineapple or his favourite artichoke. If we’re really short on time I give the violet face-ball.
    Note: I don’t allow him to chew in the car for safety reasons. It’s only before ride.
  3. The food. For Hugo it works best if he eats a little bit before a ride than to go on an empty stomach. But some dogs are better not eating at all.
  4. Ginger. It’s supposed to calm the stomach but unfortunately we weren’t able to test it. Hugo detests ginger. Once, I’ve tried to sneak it in with a portion of beef but he quickly got to the bottom of my mischief and looked at me with the look of derision.
  5. Check with Vet. If the motion sickness is really serious it’s always good to talk to the vet and think about solution, maybe some medication. Never do it on your own.

I hope these tips can be helpful. Travelling with dog can be awesome as long as you’re prepared. Good luck and safe travels!

On tour – Andalusia

I wanted to share my beautiful trips with you but wasn’t sure if there was a right angle to it. We’ve visited some amazing places and somehow it’s a bit sad not to share them with anyone. Especially that our loyal perro Sancho Panza (as I call him in Spain) is also a tourist here.

From my perspective (as I take Hugo almost everywhere I go) it’s nothing to write about. It’s normal. I go, so he goes. Obvious, isn’t it?

But then I thought longer and I’ve found an angle and this angle was staring right at my face for a long time (smiling viciously I assume). The reactiveness.

I’m not only travelling with a regular perro iberico but with a reactive one.

El perro reactivo

For starters I thought I have to work on a vocabulary a bit so I can inform people what’s inside that little furry head. I think it’s an important step. If your dog isn’t comfortable with other dogs or people it doesn’t mean he has to stay at home all the time, but you have to keep everyone safe and comfortable. To learn few phrases in spanish won’t hurt and isn’t very difficult. What is difficult is to understand the answers. I use words like el perro reactivo, gruñir or lately the 2nd human came up with a new one pointing towards Hugo to a passerby and stating: loco. I’m definitely adding this one to my vocab.

PROS & CONS

This whole spanish adventure is a great opportunity to check out the variety of Hugo’s skills. And believe it or not, he has plenty of good ones!

On the plus side, he’s small and cute so people react in a positive manner. The part of him being small is definitely an advantage (I can pick him up whenever necessary) but the second part of being cute can be a bit annoying because people tend to make weird sounds and noises towards him and sometimes he goes into the flirtation mode I don’t like. Fortunately, with a lot of happening he often shows he’s a better dog and ignores them.

Antequera
Antequera, Corrida de torros. Hugo aka Hugador is checking out the bull fights arena.

As for a proper JRT he’s not scared of new places, crowds or noises and that’s wonderful because I know I can take him with us and he won’t be a shivering mess.

Do’s and dont’s

Of course, sightseeing with a dog has its limitations. We cannot enter any museums or cathedrals but there’s absolutely no problem in having some Sangria and tapas. In restaurants and bars Hugo behaves well. He’s not the type of dog who’d go and sleep with all those smells but he sits quietly trying to hypnotize food to fall down. To be perfectly honest sometimes he pulls toward a fry someone had dropped. And he’s quite persistent.

Dog in the restaurant
Frigiliana. If you look close you can see Hugo sitting and waiting for some food to fall.

Once in a restaurant I wasn’t allowed to go inside to the loo with him because apparently some dogs tend to pee there.

“Hugo would never do that (I hope)!”

But seriously, guys, control your dogs or at least clean up afterwards.

As to the clean up. Doggy-bags! It’s shameful enough for Hugo to poop on a white stone pavements but to leave the kaka on it would be simply disgraceful.

Managing the environment

To keep the reactivity at bay I have to carefully monitor the surroundings. That’s a bit tiring but as we’ve been working on it for a while it’s not dramatic. There are many dogs who he can pass by without even pulling (or mildly pulling). If I see that there could be a problem and there’s no other way I take him up on a command, hold in my arms and force-feed some snacks. If there’s another dog in a bar it’s usually not a problem. When the dogs lie or sit calmly he doesn’t treat them as a threat and focuses on our tapas.

When we’ve been looking for an apartment, we took Hugo to the agency so they can see what a well-behaved dog he is. As we were leaving a chihuahua happened and Hugo showed his worse self. Funny thing! We didn’t hear from the agency again.

Staying at home

As to the apartment. I don’t take Hugo everywhere. Sometimes the trip would be too demanding or I’d like to see some monuments and places dog’s aren’t allowed. He stays home.

Great thing about him is that he really can stay anywhere. I can drop him at friends or family and he’s not making any scenes of being lost and forgotten. We didn’t have any problems staying at different flats and apartments. However, I stick to the rule. If I’m in an unfamiliar place and he’s left alone I put him in a crate. I don’t think he’d destroy anything but I don’t want to take any risks. Especially, that he really feels comfortable and safe inside his “home”. When we moved into our apartment I left him in a crate for a few days but when I’ve noticed he’s getting accustomed to the new surroundings (knowing which pillow is mine) I’ve started leaving him in a bedroom.

Dog manners and skills

If I was to summarize the set of skills every dog traveler should have, I’d go for:

  • easily adjustable and comfortable in new surroundings,
  • well-socialized – not scared of crowds, sounds, new things, people etc.,
  • well-behaved – even Jack Russell needs some manners (eg. sit, down, stay, leave it, leash manners),
  • comfortable staying at home alone.
Pampaneira
Pampaneira

The point of this article is to show that dog can be a part of your life not only an obstacle in your plans.

Obviously, you have to put some effort and prepare both you and your dog for that. My heart breaks every time I hear about people throwing away their dogs because they didn’t fit into the suitcase, metaphorically speaking.

Fro many it’s still uncommon to think about traveling with a pet. Before coming to Spain I was asked many times: “What with Hugo?” and I replied: “What about him? We’re not going without him”. Seriously, one of the best parts of this trip is that we’re here together. All of us.

And if you don’t get that, well… maybe it’s not time for a dog yet?

A broken clock

It is said that socialization is the key to having a confident and happy dog. It’s true. I’m not going to argue about the importance of early socialization cause I don’t like to fight with facts.

And it’s a fact that if you don’t socialize your dog it can become a shivering mess, no matter big or small. However, I believe there are some misconceptions about how the dog would or should turn out if properly socialized.

And before we begin, what I think a proper socialization is? It’s showing the world to the dog (new places, people, other dogs and animals) by not overwhelming him. It’s obviously taking the dog out from his comfort zone but at the same time keeping him happy and secure. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to show him absolutely everything at once. A boat? Where in hell will I find a boat now? And not only find it, take a cruise! With only 4 weeks left!

I believe socialization is not about showing EVERYTHING. It’s more about showing the dog how to deal with weird and scary. I’ve written a short bit how the socialization went with us so go ahead and read if you’re interested.

Expectations vs reality

I was under the impression that if I socialize my dog he’ll turn out just fine. Well, not fine. Perfect! Like a swiss watch.

Boy, was I wrong…

Hugo, Jack Russell Terrier, 1.5 yo

More and more people are socializing dogs but does it mean that more and more dogs become perfect? I still see plenty of them overreacting, chasing cats, birds and squirrels, being afraid. So what’s wrong?

I think mistakes during socialization are bound to happen. It’s impossible to control the whole environment. There’s always a person who can startle our dog by grabbing him from behind. There’s always an unfamiliar dog who might run to you and though “friendly”, he can startle your puppy with his attitude – either too cocky, too playful or just being… too much.

You can say that, ok – if my dog got startled by this crazy lady than I’ll show him a hundred more who are nice and know how to handle a puppy. I’ll show him that dogs aren’t scary by setting up a few “playdates” with dogs that mind their own business and are great with puppies.

But what if this one single time was enough to “break a dog”?

And to be clear, I don’t think only about dogs from the neighbourhood. I know a lot of trainers and their dogs, most of them are very obedient (at least the dogs) but does it mean they don’t get triggered? They can definitely control themselves better than the others but still… there are things they like or dislike and the fact they can behave well surrounded by other dogs doesn’t mean they feel comfortable.

You’re worst enemy

We, the dog lovers, are more aware know. We understand the role of early socialization, we get that dogs have emotions and we try to respect animals and treat them as equals. With all that, it’s easy to get tangled in a web we weave ourselves. We’re full of expectations and ambition and are 100% sure we can create a perfect dog. Sometimes it’s not even our fault. While reading articles and talking to other people or rather seeing their pictures on social media you think it’s easy. Just work those 12 surfaces, meet 100 people and play with a bunch of dogs and voila! A perfect dog.

But with that huge “to do list” you can forget that dog’s personality also has a role to play. And I think there are some traits of the personality that you just can’t fix, even with a “perfect” socialization.

I thought about it more than I could count and more than I’m willing to say:

“What did I do wrong?”

It took me nearly 2 years to think that maybe I did nothing (or almost nothing) wrong. That maybe this growling dude is not a product of my mistakes, that he’s his own creature. I could’ve done things better – no denying there – but would a perfect month of socialization make him not interested in dogs? Would they seize to exist in his mind?

So what to expect?

That’s exactly my point – nothing! It’s impossible to do everything exactly as it’s in the book. Because reality isn’t perfect, real life is full of surprises not always as pleasant as finding a chocolate box, there are always ups and downs. So is it worth it? Does socialization makes a difference? The answer is always a YES.

Me and Hugo, Jack Russell TerrierThink about a journey. A long one. Into the woods or mountains. You can’t go unprepared.

Socialization is the part where you prepare for the journey. Later on You can meet many obstacles but you’re prepared for them, you got the equipment and necessary tools. Sometimes the road might be bumpy, there might be a huge storm ahead. Take a step back, give yourself some time, think of what you already know and try again. Don’t run away from obstacles – you can do it, the both of you can.

And remember, the journey itself is a reward.