Bodhi Reinvents Thanksgiving Dinner “Stuffing”

November 30, 2010

As you know if you’ve been following this blog, things have been improving with Bodhi slowly but surely. I’d finally reached the point where I could leave him and Sierra alone in the house while I did errands, and my husband and I could even leave them for three to four hours to go enjoy a movie.  Of course, we made sure they were well exercised first, and things were put out of jaws’ reach.

We were invited to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, which was to happen at 3:00 p.m. We took the dogs out for exercise late morning, and I fed them their dinner early, at 2:30 since I didn’t want them to become hungry and therefore anxious while we were away. I figured we’d be gone for three to four hours—no big deal. Well, we ended up staying later than anticipated, and didn’t return home until 7:30. Five hours. What can an energetic, adolescent dog do in five hours? Well, here’s one thing…

Yep, Bodhi ate the couch. Not the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but I bet he had fun doing it. He tore into the backing cushion and ripped the upholstery to shreds. (That orange multi-colored thing is a spread that had been covering the couch.) I bet Sierra stood ten feet away the whole time, ears back, frantically trying to telepathically communicate, “Stop! What are you thinking?” In fact, when we walked in, she was the one who looked upset. Bodhi just bopped right along, the way he always does. So, here’s my confession: I was more than a little pissed off, as you might imagine. I yelled at Bodhi, and there was a handful of couch stuffing in my hand as I did it, close to his face. He finally “got” that something was wrong. When I relayed this story to my mother, she replied, “But in your books you say you’re not supposed to punish them after the fact!” I knew I should never have let her read that book. But, yes, of course the verbal correction came who knows how long after the act. And guess what, I’m human; stuffing happens. Now, don’t think I didn’t also think about my own part in this. Had I erred on the side of caution and locked the dogs outside, regardless of how cold and dark it would have gotten, and how well they’d been doing, my couch would be intact. But I didn’t. It’s just this two steps forward, five steps back thing with Bodhi that’s hard to take.

On the positive side, Bodhi has been making progress. Because my husband has now begun to take the dogs (separately) hiking in the mountains in back of our house, which are filled with foxtails and other dangerous, sticky weeds, it’s necessary for me to check between furry toes when they return (the dogs’, not the husband’s). Bodhi definitely doesn’t like it, but he will for the most part lie there and let me dig between his toes with my fingers and remove any pointy objects.

He’s doing well in his training, too. He can now do a down from a standing or sitting position on a verbal cue alone,  has a pretty decent “spin,” is getting “go to your bed,” and has just started to learn “take a bow.” I have this vision in my head of he and Sierra, who already knows the trick, bowing side by side. Cute, and preferable to the vision I had of him going back to the shelter the night he ate the couch. His leashwork is much better too, although he’s still reactive toward other dogs while on leash. We’re working on it. I think that sums it all with Bodhi, who I still maintain is sweet underneath all the insanity. We’re working on it.


30% off everything on Phantom Pub. website this weekend!

November 27, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, all! I realized that some of you who read this blog might not have seen the ad for the Black Friday sale going on at Phantom Publishing ( I didn’t want you to miss out, as this only happens once a year. This includes all of my books and DVDs, The Dog Trainer’s Business Kit, CD-ROM, Thundershirts, Through a Dog’s Ear CDs, the It’s Not the Dogs, It’s the People audio CD–everything is 30% off. Just be sure to use discount code TD2610 at checkout.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog on Bodhi’s latest insanity!



Breaking on Through to the Other Side

November 8, 2010

Sometimes dogs acclimate quickly into a new home. Then there are dogs like Bodhi, the adolescent Husky mix we adopted. If you’ve been following this blog, you already know it’s been a long and challenging two months around here. Bodhi and Sierra fought for the first two weeks, then she became timid of coming back into the house or the room at certain times if Bodhi was inside. He’s also got a huge penchant for destruction, and I don’t mean only when no one’s around—I mean if you’re in the next room and have dared to remove your attention for all of two seconds.

Being able to leave appropriate chew items out for him was complicated by the fact that he would resource guard anything and everything from Sierra, resulting in fights. He also didn’t appreciate any type of real handling, and was mildly reactive with other dogs. Oh, and pushy, did I mention pushy? Any time I’d pet Sierra he’d bodily insert himself between us, which again, sometimes resulted in fights. Things got so difficult on a daily basis that we did consider whether we’d made the right choice in adopting him.

The first two months weren’t all negative, though. Sierra was no longer so distressed about being left alone when we were gone, which is huge. And she and Bodhi do love to play together. And now for more good news: I think—and I say this with cautious optimism—that we’ve finally broken through to the other side. Things are finally improving. In the interests of helping someone else out there, I’ll share what’s worked: first, providing chew items. It took some trial and error, but I finally found chew items that were low value enough that they could be left out, but interesting enough that Bodhi would chew them. This turned out to be antlers, Galileo bones, and Nylabones. I’ve never been a big fan of the latter two, as they are plastic (although the pieces flake in tiny bits and are easily passed through a dog’s system), but in this case I was willing to go with what works. It was also necessary to leave enough of said items lying around that there was no need for resource guarding.

Bodhi’s reactivity toward other dogs has improved. I should say the on-leash reactivity, as he’s mostly fine with other dogs off-leash, so long as the other dog isn’t aggressive or overly dominant. My husband took Bodhi for a walk this morning (I had taken Sierra to her friend Niko’s house for a play date—we believe in giving them separate “alone time” and activities), and they passed a woman with two dogs on a narrow walkway. My husband knows to try to avoid that situation, but this was one of those sudden appearances from around a corner. Bodhi did just fine. No growling, nothing. Hurray for classical conditioning! It’s good to know the work we’ve been doing is paying off.

Now for my perhaps unorthodox method of solving Bodhi’s pushy, attention-seeking, meddling behavior. I mounted a cuddling offense. Up until then, I’d been simply pushing Bodhi away (verbally or, if necessary, physically) whenever he started to get in the middle of me petting Sierra, or telling him to go lie down. As a test, instead, I started to give him lots of extra attention at other times. I figured that maybe, just maybe, if he felt like he was getting plenty of affection, his insecurity about it would slacken. Now, this may go against the logic of a “leadership program,” but guess what? It worked. Now much of the time he’s willing to lie contentedly nearby as I pet Sierra. In fact, he just did as I brushed Sierra out, and then him.

Yes, his tolerance for handling is slowly improving as well. I haven’t used food treats, but instead, just used a calm, soothing, patient manner as I gently held him to look between his paw pads, brush him out, and so forth. After practicing a bit at a time, he’s getting to where he’ll allow me to do those things without attempting to put his teeth around my forearm—a breakthrough. We’re going to start practicing some restraint holds as well so he’ll be more comfortable at the vet’s office.

Oh, and the destruction! It’s been over a week now that he hasn’t destroyed anything. That might not sound like much, but when you’ve been living with a one-dog demolition team day after day, a week of things staying intact is huge.

Of course, we’ve still got a ways to go. But all things considered, Bodhi is finally starting to relax, and that’s helped his behavior quite a bit across the board. It’s certainly helped us to relax as well. 


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