Blue "The Blueminator" Lewis

Blue "The Blueminator" Lewis

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The problem with dogs is humans

Over and over again, a mantra goes through my head when I work with Blue:

"He feels what you feel and will respond that way."

I believe this theoretically and know that our emotions and thoughts communicate to others, whether they be human, animals or plants. Any life form has the ability to give and receive communication. We may not see it but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

I can stop a human in their tracks with one look. I effectively control those under my care at work quite easily.

So as I read more from Ceasar Millan and worked with Jimi (Blue's trainer) who subscribes to his philosophy, I began to look at what they said and compare it to what I know.

I struggled with the very light touch used in training Blue. By light touch, I don't mean a physical touch (though a firm and quick jab is used in his ribs to get his attention), but I mean the calmness and firmness of my voice and actions.

I have never successfully been able to stop a dog from jumping up on me when they are excited. No matter what I said or did, it did not matter. Jumping and barking would ensue and I learned to tolerate it.

I was told to ignore any of his "bad behavior" and only give him affection when he is calm.

Yesterday, I put that into play and decided to give it a try and see if it worked.

I got home and as is usual, Blue was waiting for me. Quietly and patiently, he was staring at the door. I can see him through the window.

I put my purse and keys down after unlocking the door. I took a deep breath and told myself I am happy and calm. I opened the door and looked down at him.

I said nothing.

I did nothing.

He looked at me. I said "Come" and he ran outside. He began to run around and circle me.

He then jumped up. I turned around and put my back to him and ignored him.

He stopped!

I kept my back to him. He ran out into the yard and peed and trotted back. He was grinning and his tail was wagging like crazy.

I looked down at him.

He started to jump up again.

I turned my back and ignored him.

Again he stopped.

I stood like that for a minute, gathered my purse and keys and walked inside. I closed the door in his face.

When I came back, he was still sitting. He was calm.

Only then did I acknowledge him. I petted his face and scratched his ears.

He now only gets affection if he is calm. Otherwise, he is ignored completely.

I ran him in the yard for 15 minutes. He is learning to let go of his toy for me to throw again. I tell him "Drop it" and repeat as necessary. I never pull on it - this can cause him to be aggressive and want to play rough - and if he doesn't drop it, I look away until he does.

I put his leash on and out the yard we go. I think about how I want to be towards him. What kind of a leader works for me?

I toss various ideas around as we walk. He behaves beautifully. I now am learning to control him with the way I look at him and not with my voice. Any and all distractions he has, I immediately put a treat up to my forehead and say "Look at me" and he does.

Suddenly it hits me. If I was with a child, I would be a certain way.

I would not be worried. I would be very aware of the child the entire time.

I would not put the child or myself in a dangerous situation. I would always make sure the child was safe.

I would not look at anyone approaching us with fear or worry that they would hurt us or steal the child but I would be willing to kick their ass if they tried.

I would keep myself cheerful and positive around the child no matter what else might be going on in my life. I would never subject a child to my worries or concerns. I would want the child to feel safe, secure and happy in my presence.

The child would trust me and learn to look to me if they needed or wanted anything. I wouldn't scold the child but would show them how to do things and then praise them when they did.

It all clicked as we were walking. I looked down at Blue and without me having to say a word, he looked up at me.

He got my thought.

I looked away and tried it again.

He again looked up at me.

We walked a bit further. We passed a yard and heard a loud and fierce bark from a dog behind the fence. It scared me and I felt my heart stop for a second.

I looked down at Blue. He was looking up at me, wanting to know how to respond.

I kept walking and acted as if I didn't give a rats ass about it.

He calmed down.

It was one of the best walks we had ever had. Every time his attention would wander, I would tell him to look at me and he did.

He is teaching me how much control I do have over my thoughts and emotions and actions. He is learning to trust me as I learn to trust myself more and more.

Last night was one of the calmest evenings we've had since he arrived.

He is learning who is in charge and because of that, his worries and concerns are falling away as he begins to trust me more and more.

He trusts me because I trust myself with him.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blue is Blue

Blue with his Dad, chilling.

That's what it all comes down to.

Blue is Blue. He is himself just as I am. Just as you are.

Everyone is like no other and the key to teaching (whether human or otherwise), is to see WHO is there and what their attitude is.

Blue is making great strides in his training. We are taking it one step at a time and after the "not-so-great-weekend," I am making sure that every interaction I have with him, he ends up happier.

Each barrier we encounter opens another door to learning. Learning about him and helping him learn how to get along in this thing called life.

My Mom asked me Sunday how Blue was. I told her what we had been up to, what I was working with him on and how well he was coming along.

Come to find out, a few family members are afraid of pit bulls, which I wasn't aware of when I took him up there.

This is called learning.

She then proceeded to tell me how proud she was of me for all that I am doing for him. She thinks he is wonderful and loving. I agreed. I talked about how I logically understood people being afraid of this breed but that it wasn't until it hit me head-on that I experienced the emotional reaction of it.

This is called learning.

This week we are working on "Stay" "Come" "Down" and "Look at me." Last night he had to stay on his bed (right next to me) while I watched a movie. I no longer allow him on the couch. Every point of control and positive direction I give him is met with eagerness and confusion. Repetition of the command in a cheerful voice calms him down.

Once he gets it, he is happy.

When I look down at him, all I see is willingness and sweetness.

As his trainer said "It's never about making the perfect dog. It's about making him the best he can be."

I love him just the way he is. Yes, he's like a bull in a china shop sometimes but only because he wants to play.

He tried to get the cats to play with him and his Kong last night. They weren't interested, so instead he gently placed the toy on Boots and waited.

Boots purred, rolled over onto his back and his toy hit the floor.

Blue looked at the cat and then the floor, back and forth a few times, not sure what it all meant.

I had to turn away for a moment because I was going to laugh at the look on his face.

It was such a generous offer to the cat because his toy is the greatest thing in the world to him. It is scared.

And he offered it to another.

Who doesn't want more of this in their life?

So today I am going to be as generous and kind as I possibly can be.

This is called learning and trying to be the person my dog thinks I am.

Our biggest battle will always be the humans of this world.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Despite Blue's stupid owner, he survived this weekend.

Somehow we made it through this weekend but not without some very good things and something not-so-good.

The plan was to take him up to visit my Mom and some family members for her 84th birthday. My sister had called my niece and told her NOT to bring her dogs because Blue was coming. This was very thoughtful and sweet of her.

I knew Sadie, my Mom's 14-year old Corgi would be there, of course. That would not be a problem because if it's too much for Sadie, she goes to her bed and is left alone.

I knew there would be a few people there but I did not know there would be a very small house...with Otto, my niece's cute Jack Russel Terrier.

We got there and Blue was wonderful. He ran around and greeted everyone. I told them all to just ignore him and see what he does. He was wonderful. Tail wagging, running around, smiling. Very loving.

He greeted Sadie. He started to lick her and she snapped at him. Blue does not understand this. I was sitting right there with him, holding his collar. I gently pulled him back. Well, as gentle as you can be with a dog who is so strong.

Otto came up and Blue did the same thing. Otto snapped and I saw Blue try to dominate him by putting his front leg over Otto.

OK, now I know I have a dominate male pit bull. Duly noted.

Otto and Blue went back and forth a bit during the day. I put him back on his leash because he was getting over-excited and I still have a ways to go to get him under control.

He licked the faces of the children and wagged his tail. Various family member commented that I should to this and that and watch out for...

I started to feel myself get overwhelmed and Blue was too excited. I put him out in the yard and went in and out. He cried and fussed. We kept Otto away from him because my niece said Otto likes to instigate shit. They have several dogs on their ranch and Otto was becoming an outside dog because he can be such a butt head. Plus she has a 5-week old daughter and can handle just so much.

Blue gently went over to the new baby and licked her head. My brother and cousin told me not to let him do that. That is was a bad thing because it could make the parents nervous. I didn't argue, but tried to understand. Finally I realized that Blue was making some people nervous, so I put him back outside. I decided to leave him there and when everyone was gone, bring him back in.

I should have stuck with my decision, but I didn't. It was decided that pictures were to be taken AND that Blue should be in them.

I thought that was a wonderful gesture, so I brought him back in and sat down.

Keep in mind that I already realized this was getting to be too much for him. There were too many people and I had made a mistake. I put him in a situation that he was not prepared to handle. Too many people in a small area with other dogs.

As we were taking the pictures, I was having a hard time getting him to relax and sit on my lap. He could do it for a moment, but then wanted to play.

The pictures were taken and as people were starting to move around, someone dropped something right in front of Blue. I was not paying attention but the sound scared me and I flinched.

Blue snapped and snarled at it. I didn't know what was going on. It wasn't a big deal to me, but it was to Blue. People were crowded in on he and I, I flinched and he reacted.

I had my hand on his collar and felt him jerk forward towards the sound. I yanked him back, still not sure what happened, but I felt my adrenaline pump.

The room got quiet because he had growled.

I thought he was reacting to Otto, so I put him back outside. I was suddenly scared.

After everyone left, my Mom said she saw what happened. A child had dropped his toy on the ground right in front of Blue and it scared him. She said it wasn't a big deal at all.

But everyone reacted.

I had blown it. I had suspected he was fear-aggressive and now I had it confirmed. Maverick was like that and I would have never put him in the situation I had just done with Blue.

Once everyone was gone, I brought him back in. He got up on the couch with my Mom and I and cuddled. He laid on my Mom's lap, licked her face and settled down. She petted him and soothed him and told him what a good boy he was.

I told my Mom I felt horrible. She said "Look, you're a responsible dog owner. You're taking him to classes. It's not a big deal and if it's a problem, just muzzle him. It's going to be OK so stop worrying about it."

All night, I mentally kicked myself for being so stupid. Blue needs to be socialized slowly and not with 16 people and dogs in a small room all at once.

When we got home, I got the car unpacked and Blue settled in. I sat down and looked at him while he looked up and me with his ears back and his tail wagging.

I knew what I had to do.

I took him for a very long walk then ran him for 1/2 hour in the yard. I then fed him and worked with him on basic commands for about 10 minutes. I brought his bed in from the yard and put it next to the couch. I began to exert more positive control. He now sleeps on his bed and isn't allowed up on the couch.

I made him sit and wait before jumping up on the bed. Everything I asked him to do, he did.

I crawled into bed and pulled him next to me. He licked my face and burrowed into me.

I looked down at him and realized that I understood him so well.

I understand being afraid. I understand being a form of life that isn't always easy to deal with and that no one wants.

I understand what it's like to not have a home and to be scared of not knowing what is going to happen the very next moment.

I understand being bounced from one place to another.

I understand the feeling of total isolation from others and not knowing what you did wrong.

I know all about it.