Sunday, November 13, 2011


Rubi's had a busy November, and we haven't even hit mid-month yet.

Last week ARLP's Rott n' Pit Ed had to temporarily move from their nice, warm, cozy indoor space to an outdoor park. Rubi really needs work on "dogs outside on leash," so we braved the November wind to crash the party.

It went really well. Can I say how much I love that Rubi has a threshold? There is a distance at which she can see another dog and be pretty okay with it. I know I've mentioned it before, but it's like pictures of her relaxing on her mat around other dogs - it's cool every time it happens. We started out at about seventy-five yards away from the other dogs, and slowly worked are way up to the class over about forty-five minutes. We ended up close enough that we could've joined class, but at least two of the other dogs we mildly to moderately reactive, and I didn't want to disrupt them. Also, the park was crawling with other people's dogs, so we had plenty to watch.

RNPed's instructor, Jen, hadn't seen Rubi since before I adopted her (I think). Jen has B in class briefly before when Rubi was with on of her previous foster homes. After class, when everyone else had left and we had watched them leave, Jen turned to us and said, "Wow, I didn't hear her scream once. Nice job." This could be the best compliment anyone has ever given me about Rubi.

Saturday was ARLP's volunteer appreciation dinner (yum, pasta bar), and since I was speaking, I brought Rubi along as a demo dog. She proceeded to whore herself to everyone looking at her which, since she was demo dog, was everyone but me. The situation was easily remedied by increasing my rate of reinforcement and switching to higher value treats, but still, it's always a little disappointing when your dogs don't behave as well as you expect them to. I attribute most of her inattention to waiting so long to work and then how hot the room was. Rubi has never tolerated heat well. On the up side, Rubi was pretty happy to chill in her crate with a Kong in a room with 50+ people and a live band. That's a handy thing to know your dog is capable of. Rubi also got a nice certificate for our trophy wall for her participation in the Dog Safety Program (you should click on that link and go see the new, cute picture of Rubi on the website).

Late and groggy the next morning, Rubi and I packed up again to work with the dogs at RNPed. This day did not go as well as last week. She threw two tantrums. The first was entirely my fault for not having eyes in the back of my head and missing a dog behind us until it started barking. We went back to the car for a little while for a time out. I was really happy to see that B's car/canine behaviors are still excellent, considering how much we worked on them last winter and how little we worked on them over the summer.

Rubi's second tantrum was a case of not being able to control other people. I asked someone to keep their distance, and they did not. It's still my fault for not being able to protect my dog, but if I never wanted things like this to happen, we would be spending all our time in the basement where there are no strange dogs and no windows. Sometimes bad things happen no matter how hard you try to keep them at bay. It's simply the way of the world. That doesn't mean if I see a similar situation in the future that I'm not going to do my best to avoid it; I'm just not going to beat myself up over it this time.

Luckily for me, Rubi is not Maus, and is still able to function after having an "episode." Fifteen minutes after arriving, we were able to join the other dogs for class.

There are five new-to-Rubi dogs in the above picture. There are also two unknown dogs within twenty feet that aren't in the picture, plus one Andy a picnic table away. A new behavior that I've noticed recently is that B has been more comfortable sitting still and watching the other dogs than moving and watching the other dogs. So while before Rubi needed to be doing something around the other dogs or she'd find something to do, now she seems more comfortable sitting next to me doing auto watches or on her mat doing, um, mat things. I'm not sure what's causing the change, but I can't say I' upset about it. It's a lot easier to stay still around other dogs than it is to find an exercise that's moving but not moving too much and getting her more excited.

Rubi had a very good class by our standards. She was able to generalize a behavior to a new object - fetching a leash and targeting on a plastic lid. Rubi continues to have difficulty hearing other dogs. As you know, this isn't a new issue, but it's been sustained long enough without improvement that I think I need to find a new way of dealing with it. Maybe I should buy one of those dogs barking desensitization CDs? In addition to being able to learn, Rubi was also willing to play tug with me, although she wasn't as focused as she is, say, at home.

Training Rubi is a full contact sport.
 (photo by Paige Reyes)

All in all, we started out rough but finished nicely. Then on the way home, Rubi attacked and killed a giraffe. So I made a blanket from its skin for her. Thank you for reading the whole blog entry.

My dog is bad ass. 


  1. Do you do "Listen to That" with Rubi? Elo used to have a big problem with barking and jingling tags and I clicked him for noticing those things.

    Also, yesterday, Elo did parallel walking with 2 other dogs at a distance of about 10 yards!! So cool!

  2. I have been using counter conditioning to dog noises with B, but I'm not seeing the return on it that I would expect by this point. Some progress, but not much since we've been doing it for about eleven months.

    And yay, Elo! You da man!

  3. Just counter-conditioning? No operant? I flat-out suck at counter-conditioning--it never seems to work for me. Add a click. It's like magic!

  4. Actually, I've found that using a clicker with reactive dog stuff for Rubi is counter-productive. She gets just a little more excited when she hears the clicker (yay! training time! kind of thing), which is fine when we're at home, but not so great when we're trying to keep calm outside. I do use a quiet "yes" for a marker, and that seems to work well. But she made a lot faster progress when I stopped using the clicker for reactive dog work. Go figure.

    Rubi's biggest problem with hearing other dog is when she can't see them. It's like I cease to exist for her for 3-8 seconds per bark while she looks for the other dog - marker, clicker, and food be dammed. She does really well in our neighborhood with dog bark - look at mom - get treat, but we're having trouble generalizing it to other enviroments.

  5. Huh. That is challenging. I will be interested to know what solution you come up with!

  6. Yeah, I'm kinda curious to see what I end up doing, too . . .