Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Horse Who Didn't

I once whacked a horse across the head with a whip.

I started thinking about that this afternoon when I went out for a long walk. I was in a foul mood, something that I sometimes do if I get angry. I went out for over an hour long walk with Bella. A wagging tail, good weather and a long walk is something that's hard for me to stay in a foul mood over.

Within five minutes by foot I can reach the outskirts of Reykjavík city. Very late in the evening it's rare to ever meet somebody so I am often tempted to set Bella loose. I did today and we only met one person. Bella was very happy and used the opportunity to race back and forth like a lunatic. Now that we're home she's content lying next to me in the couch. It was a very good walk for both of us.

The horse I mentioned earlier was called Viking. A calm fellow and a very good children's horse. I don't remember what exactly led me to use the whip on him but he wasn't obeying and a person I thought was my mentor at the time told me it was the only way to make him see the light. Viking was the only horse I ever did this to. After the act I found out that this wasn't who I am or wanted to be. I didn't believe in this method of trying to hurt another being to make it please me.

When dealing with Bella, I use a lot of the things I learned from dealing with horses. I found out the hard way that the harshest methods don't usually result in the best results. That whips and a cruel mind don't create an obedient horse. Another horse who would evade the bit turned into a great mount when I started using a normal bit with him again and treated him with gentle forgiving hands. I did learn from experience that anger is never an asset when it comes to animals.

This is why I try to not do much if I get angry. I may sulk or be in a foul mood for a bit but I try to withdraw to the best of my abilities and wait it out until I get over it. When I get angry I start thinking illogically. If Bella is making me upset I often start thinking that she's doing it deliberately to piss me off, or when my horse is spooking in the same corner on a windy day I sometimes decide he's being a little shit and doing it just to spite me. So through other mistakes I've made earlier in my life I try to breathe and figure out how to stop whatever I'm doing on a good note, no matter how insignificant it may be, and call it a day.

I hate watching animals behave out of fear. So with me often getting angry easily, I've had to learn to back off before I do something I regret. Sometimes it's difficult but when I later return to train and am greeted with a happy dog or a calm horse, I know I did right. Anger isn't a good way to train. Anger is a cue for me to do something for myself and no one else.

Anger, however, is a great excuse to take the dog for a walk.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Enthusiasm and a Happy Back

It must be the always-tired brain of a new mom at play but I can't understand why I didn't get Bella to pick up the children's toys for me earlier. Two days after I started making her do it for me and this morning she started picking them up from a distance with me sitting in the couch.

One disadvantage of a one eyed dog is that I must always be very careful to make sure she's paying attention to where I'm pointing her to. It's easy for me to forget her handicap and be pointing on her blind side and wondering why she's not getting what I'm asking her. She also gets so enthusiastic and eager that she sometimes gets ahead of herself and forgets to pay attention because she just wants the treat.

I think I wrote late last year in this blog that I did not think she was food motivated. Of course that turned out to be a misunderstanding, she had no idea what I was asking. Now I am using her regular food as a treat. We changed to Orijen dog food recently and she loves it. She actually prefers it over raw chicken which is a first.

Anyway, now it's time for a walk.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The tricks from past fall

Before I gave birth I was very intrigued with trick training Bella to pick up items for me. It did go well and then the pace of our training got slower but every now and then I'd make her do so and she is always eager to. She picks up reliably and normally returns to me right away but doesn't always drop on command.

This afternoon has been a slow one. We went out for a walk this morning and the weather is fairly boring. Trying to think of ways to give her her food by hand (so to speak) I decided to try her aptitude with picking up my son's toys and bringing them to me. Sure enough, it was no problem. She gets so enthusiastic and willing, I always feel bad for her once I end the sessions but I figure it's better to end on a good note than continue until she gets bored or distracted.

It's a very fun and handy skill if I can get her to pick the toys in my place but there's now issues I need to think through: 
First is how to get her to pick up the toys, do I point at them (I wonder if a laser might work) or identify each with a name. Is it possible to tell her one command to pick up the toys? I imagine that would be harder as the toys change. 
Then there's the fact I need to work on teaching her to place the items in the basket. Maybe the basket is too tall for her but I could possibly make her bring them all to the same place.