Thursday, March 31, 2011

Everyone Working Toward A Common Goal

When it became clear that we were going to adopt Duke, I became fully prepared for having a period of time where Duke would need to adjust to his new humans, baby sister and his new home. I wasn't sure exactly what that would entail, or what he would require, but I knew that we would do whatever we needed to do to make him feel just how welcome he was to our family. What I wasn't anticipating was how short that time period would be, or how well I would handle the blending of both dogs.

The first 24-48 hours that Duke was with us, he was very reluctant to play with my bouncing, energetic and somewhat rude Lucy. Not being entirely sure how to handle this situation, I sought the advice of those who had been there and done this before. The advice that I got was golden, and I implemented the advice exactly as I was instructed to do; I just wanted everyone to get along! (I also learned a couple of things, remind me to do a post about "rude" dogs!)

Our challenges went something like this: Lucy would jump all over Duke, wiggle her bottom and beg him to play with her. Duke was rather unsure of us and his surroundings and he would let out several little growls telling Lucy to "back off". Lucy didn't take him very seriously, and things would escalate. There was no damage done because although Duke did not want to play with Lucy, he had no intention of hurting her. His words could get pretty harsh though, and Lucy wasn't exactly muttering sweet nothings in Dukes ears either. The whole thing sounded 10 times worse that what it actually was. All I knew was that it made me a wreck and was no good for the ultimate goal of having peace and harmony between my two boxers.

I became very alert to Duke's signals, and when he would look pleadingly at me and let out that little growl, I would pull Lucy away from him and make her sit. If she would return to Duke and refuse to leave him alone, I would separate the two dogs giving Lucy a chance to cool off and give Duke a bit of a break.

Of course, I was also paying close attention to Lucy's signals. When she would start bouncing all over the place and making those silly little "I'm feeling wild!" sounds, I did my best to distract her, or remove her from the situation.

I wondered how long this would go on, if Lucy would eventually get it and if Duke would eventually show us his silly boxer side and start playing with Lucy.

I got the answer to my question on Monday night. Lucy grabbed her jolly ball and started running around Duke with the ball. For the first couple of minutes, Duke ignored my silly little Lucy, but that only lasted a short time. Before I even knew what was going on, I had not one, but two boxers ripping around the house engaged in wild and delightful boxer play! I couldn't have been happier, and I'm pretty sure that Lucy shared my sentiments! It's been that way ever since, Lucy and Duke constantly at play!

I missed out on getting pictures of Lucy and Duke engaging in their first romp because I left my camera at work. But, you can be sure that I won't be forgetting my camera again any time soon because you just never know whats going to happen in my house with 2 boxers running around!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nothing In Life Is Free

Several months ago, I came across the following article. I thought it was great reading, and a great concept. It was forwarded to me again by the director of the Rescue program that Duke had been fostered by. I thought I would share it here because we're always trying to better dog parents!

The NILIF program is remarkable because it's effective for such a wide variety of problems. A shy, timid dog becomes more relaxed knowing that he has nothing to worry about, his owner is in charge of all things. A dog that's pushing too hard to become "top dog" learns that the position is not available and that his life is far more enjoyable without the title.

It is equally successful with dogs that fall anywhere between those two extremes. The program is not difficult to put into effect and it's not time consuming if the dog already knows a few basic obedience commands. I've never seen this technique fail to bring about a positive change in behavior, however, the change can be more profound in some dogs than others. Most owners use this program in conjunction with other behavior modification techniques such as coping with fear or treatment for aggression. It is a perfectly suitable technique for the dog with no major behavior problems that just needs some fine tuning.

The program begins by eliminating attention on demand. When your dog comes to you and nudges your hand, saying "pet me! pet me!" ignore him. Don't tell him "no", don't push him away. Simply pretend you don't notice him. This has worked for him before, so don't be surprised if he tries harder to get your attention. When he figures out that this no longer works, he'll stop. In a pack situation, the top ranking dogs can demand attention from the lower ranking ones, not the other way around. When you give your dog attention on demand you're telling him that he has more status in the pack than you do. Timid dogs become stressed by having this power and may become clingy. They're never sure when you'll be in charge so they can't relax. What if something scary happens, like a stranger coming in the house? Who will handle that? The timid dog that is demanding of attention can be on edge a lot of the time because he has more responsibility than he can handle.

Some dogs see their ability to demand attention as confirmation that they are the "alpha", then become difficult to handle when told to "sit" or "down" or some other demand is placed on them. It is not their leadership status that stresses them out, it's the lack of consistency. They may or may not actually be alpha material, but having no one in the pack that is clearly the leader is a bigger problem than having the dog assume that role full time. Dogs are happiest when the pack order is stable. Tension is created by a constant fluctuation of pack leadership.

Your dog already knows that he can demand your attention and he knows what works to get that to happen. As of today, it no longer works, but he doesn't know that yet. We all try harder at something we know works when it stops working. If I gave you a twenty dollar bill every time you clapped your hands together, you'd clap a lot. But, if I suddenly stopped handing you money, even though you were still clapping, you'd clap more and clap louder. You might even get closer to me to make sure I was noticing that you were clapping. You might even shout at me "Hey! I'm clapping like crazy over here, where's the money?". If I didn't respond at all, in any way, you'd stop. It wasn't working anymore. That last try -- that loud, frequent clapping is an extinction burst. If, however, during that extinction burst, I gave you another twenty dollar bill you'd be right back in it. It would take a lot longer to get you to stop clapping because you just learned that if you try hard enough, it will work.

When your dog learns that the behaviors that used to get him your attention don't work any more he's going to try harder and he's going to have an extinction burst. If you give him attention during that time you will have to work that much harder to get him turned around again. Telling him "no" or pushing him away is not the kind of attention he's after, but it's still attention. Completely ignoring him will work faster and better.

As the human and as his owner you have control of all things that are wonderful in his life. This is the backbone of the NILIF program. You control all of the resources. Playing, attention, food, walks, going in and out of the door, going for a ride in the car, going to the dog park. Anything and everything that your dog wants comes from you. If he's been getting most of these things for free there is no real reason for him to respect your leadership or your ownership of these things. Again, a timid dog is going to be stressed by this situation, a pushy dog is going to be difficult to handle. Both of them would prefer to have you in charge.

To implement the NILIF program you simply have to have your dog earn his use of your resources. He's hungry? No problem, he simply has to sit before his bowl is put down. He wants to play fetch? Great! He has to "down" before you throw the ball. Want to go for a walk or a ride? He has to sit to get his lead snapped on and has to sit while the front door is opened. He has to sit and wait while the car door is opened and listen for the word (I use "OK") that means "get into the car". When you return he has to wait for the word that means "get out of the car" even if the door is wide open. Don't be too hard on him. He's already learned that he can make all of these decisions on his own. He has a strong history of being in control of when he gets these resources. Enforce the new rules, but keep in mind that he's only doing what he's been taught to do and he's going to need some time to get the hang of it all.

You're going to have to pay attention to things that you probably haven't noticed before. If you feed your dog from your plate do you just toss him a green bean? No more. He has to earn it. You don't have to use standard obedience commands, any kind of action will do. If your dog knows "shake" or "spin around" or "speak" use those commands. Does your dog sleep on your bed? Teach him that he has to wait for you to say "OK" to get on the bed and he has to get down when you say "off". Teach him to go to his bed, or other designated spot, on command. When he goes to his spot and lays down tell him "stay" and then release him with a treat reward. Having a particular spot where he stays is very helpful for when you have guests or otherwise need him out of the way for a while. It also teaches him that free run of the house is a resource that you control. There are probably many things that your dog sees as valuable resources that I haven't mentioned here.

The NILIF program should not be a long, drawn out process. All you need to do is enforce a simple command before allowing him access to what he wants. Dinner, for example, should be a two or three second encounter that consists of nothing more than saying "sit", then "good dog!", then putting the bowl down and walking away.

Now that your dog is no longer calling the shots you will have to make an extra effort to provide him with attention and play time. Call him to you, have him "sit" and then lavish him with as much attention as you want. Have him go get his favorite toy and play as long as you both have the energy. The difference is that now you will be the one initiating the attention and beginning the play time. He's going to depend on you now, a lot more than before, to see that he gets what he needs. What he needs most is quality time with you. This would be a good time to enroll in a group obedience class. If his basic obedience is top notch, see about joining an agility class or fly ball team.
NILIF DOES *NOT* MEAN THAT YOU HAVE TO RESTRICT THE AMOUNT OF ATTENTION YOU GIVE TO YOUR DOG. The NILIF concept speaks to who initiates the attention (you!), not the amount of attention. Go ahead and call your dog to you 100 times a day for hugs and kisses!! You can demand his attention, he can no longer demand yours!

Within a day or two your dog will see you in a whole new light and will be eager to learn more. Use this time to teach new things, such as 'roll over' or learn the specific names of different toys.

If you have a shy dog, you'll see a more relaxed dog. There is no longer any reason to worry about much of anything. He now has complete faith in you as his protector and guide. If you have a pushy dog he'll be glad that the fight for leadership is over and his new role is that of devoted and adored pet.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Welcome Home Duke!

Lucy and I were so excited and eager to go meet Duke that we couldn't wait until Sunday. So, even though we couldn't start out until late in the day on Friday, we decided that we had to go on Friday.

Lucy didn't think I was moving fast enough, and the 3 1/2 ride to Ohio was way too long for her. There were multiple protests from the back seat of the boxer mobile! And when we stopped for a couple of breaks, she seemed like she was in a big hurry to get back in the car. Of course she was, she wasn't the one doing the driving!

I couldn't wait to meet Duke and neither could little Lucy. She sat so patiently at the corner of Duke's foster mom's house, but when he rounded the corner it was all I could do to hold onto my little pup! I guess she felt that she had waited long enough to meet Duke, and she couldn't wait to give him a proper boxer greeting, and Duke felt the same because we immediately had two boxers on hind legs, front paws boxing!

Our first order of business after pulling the two boxers apart was to take a nice long walk and see how they did together! Amazingly enough, both pups did very well, and I was so excited!

It didn't take long for Lucy and I to decide that Duke was coming home with us! I fastened both dogs into their car harnesses and tried to round em' up for a photo op!

I was a little nervous about it, but my two boxers did very well on the 3 1/2 hour ride home. I could tell that Lucy was very pleased with her human's decision to return home with Duke. She was barely able to contain her excitement, and I'm sure that she dreamed about all the wonderful things that they were going to do together once we got home! They snuggled in the back seat most of the way until Duke decided to rest his beautiful head on the console and grumble for about 30 miles before falling back to sleep!

Of course we're making some adjustments at our house and doing a little bit of learning- especially Lucy, but her human and Duke too. Lucy has to learn that Duke just doesn't like her "rude" puppy antics and that jumping all over Duke isn't permitted. Her human is learning to pay attention to both dogs for signs of stress, and Duke is just learning to live in a house with a crazy one year old boxer puppy!

Everyone in our house is thrilled to have Duke with us! And we're all enjoying getting to know him!

We found out last night that he prefers STEAK for dinner, and he grumbles a little bit when it takes too long to prepare (which probably means that he prefers it rare!).

He loves to hog the bed, and he snores like a freight train!

Duke is a leaner and a cuddler, but not a big kisser. He loves to sit next to me, or on my lap, and he loves to hold my hand. Duke is also extremely photogenic!

... He's also very good at jumping the baby gate. Looks like we're gonna need a taller gate and probably some agility classes for sweet Duke!

P.S. Definitely thinking about a new blog title!... Suggestions welcome about what the new title of the blog should be! (Maybe we'll have to send a special thank you to whomever comes up with the best title!) Some thoughts that I'm having:

Lucy & The Duke (And their "Hoomans" too...)

The Adventures of Lucy, The Duke and Their Hoomans

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Lucy just wouldn't be a boxer if she didn't realize that sometin' was up. She's so perceptive that it's scary sometimes. I'm convinced that my little boxer baby is just waiting for us to go meet her potential new brother. She definitely knows something is going on, although she probably doesn't know what. She just knows that her human is excited and happy about something.

Since all we can do is wait it out, Lucy and I decided to pass the time last evening by having a rather vigorous game with her big red jolly ball. This is one of Lucy's favorite toys, it's definitely her favorite ball, probably because it's got a handle on it making it easy for her to carry around. She loves chasing the jolly ball up and down the stairs and then teasing her human with it.

If Lucy could talk, I'm pretty sure she would have been asking me if it was time to go get Duke yet. Heck, I can talk and I'm asking her if it's time to get Duke yet... I so wish that it was!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Our Big News! A "Brudder" For Lucy

Well, Lucy and I have been missing for a couple of weeks. Partially because Lucy's Human has had a migraine for the last 14 days, and partially because we were working on a little project.

I'm going to tell you all a little story. As you all know, I've really been wanting to get a companion for Lucy. And about 4 weeks ago, maybe a little longer, I saw what had to have been one of the most capturing boxer faces (other than Lucy's of course) that I've ever seen... Without further ado... Here is Duke!

Well, I've been thinking and dreaming about Duke ever since I saw his beautiful face. However, I didn't think that my fiance was going to agree to getting another boxer. After all, I've been arguing that with all that's going on in our lives, and is going to be going on for the next several years, this just isn't a good time for a puppy. And frankly, I haven't recuperated from Lucy's puppydom! But, this isn't a puppy!

I couldn't get Duke off my mind. I just felt like this boy was meant to be a member of our family! But, last night, Rob told me that if it was what I really wanted, then I should get the dog! As is his style, he took my breath away and made me the happiest girl on the planet. (And I'm sure that he's going to love Duke as much as Lucy and I do!)

Lucy and I will be making a 3 1/2 drive sometime in the next several days to introduce the two boxers. If all goes well, Lucy will have a "brudder" and Duke will have a new forever home! Duke is about 4 years old, but we don't know for sure because he's a rescue dog. His foster mom tells me that he's very silly and I can't wait to meet him!

Stay tuned...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Rotation Of Toys...

Lucy has more toys than can be found in the toy aisle at Petco. So, in order to make it easier to walk through the house and up and down the stairs, we rotate toys. Every couple of days, I walk through the house scooping up toys and then I grab an armful of new toys and scatter them around. It's kind of a neat thing, because Lucy always thinks she's getting new toys, when really we're just changing things up! (Of course, as you all know, I'm not saying that I don't love going out and buying new toys... I add a new toy to the mix every couple of weeks!)

"Hey ma, whatcha got there? Is dats a new toy? I don't remember seeings him around here before. I wants to play with him. Looks how pretty I's is sitting. Does dat mean I can have him?"

Lucy's patience for being a "proper and polite" puppy only lasts so long.

"I wants dat toy, ma! Gives it up...."

"Comes on, Ma! I wanna chase my toy up and down the stairs! Where's you at? Speeds it up!"

"How longs do I haves to wait? Hurry its up!... I'ms waiten!"

"Mmmm.... Stuffed play-e-pus! Good stuff, but I sure hope dis isn't dinner...."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lucy's Take... You Guys Are Da Bestests Friends

My hooman reads me all of your gets well wishes, and I's just wannas say tanks you from da bottom of my heart. It's been a roughs couple of days, but your gets well wishes made me feels so much better!

I's been trying to takes it easy, and gettings plenty of rest! Of course, I's is trying to stay warm and been cuddling up wit my hooman as much as possible. I was feelings a little better dis morning, so she tooks me outside and tossed my big reds ball for me to chase a little bit.

Beins sick ain't so bad (once da trip to da vet is over with, dat is!). My hooman is making me all of my favorites foods, giving me lots of treats, and she's even been lettin me sleeps on top of her.

My vet says dat I probably haves allergies, and dat Mommy should gives me Benedryls whenever I start gettings red and itchy. It's not so bad, she always hides da tablets in peanut butter! Yummy!

My hooman says dat I wouldn'ts have had to go to da vet if I'd let her clean my ears out. I just hates her sticking that cold stuff in my ear, and I's like da cotton balls even less. What do you's all tink? Should I lets her clean my ears? It really feels yucky?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Under The Weather

For the last several days, Lucy has been flicking her ears. Her Daddy and I made some very honest attempts to put ear cleaning solution in them, but failed. Although we were unsuccessful at getting her ears back in perfect condition, I will say that both of us escaped without any injuries.

I am allowed to massage Lucy's ears, but as soon as I lift up an ear, she's outta there! So, I had no choice but to take Lucy to see Dr. Mary first thing yesterday morning, who confirmed my suspicions. Lucy has an ear infection! Thankfully, Dr. Mary and her wonderful assistant, Nikki were able to put medicine in Lucy's ear (after muzzling her, of course!) and she left the ear alone most of the day yesterday. But, I could tell she wasn't feeling good. She just hasn't been herself these last couple of days, and her mama feels terrible about it!

So of course, she's getting lots of hugs, kisses and cuddles. And I made her favorite meal for dinner last night (chicken & yams). I'm hoping these ear infections don't become common occurrences, because I can't stand to see my little girl sick! We'll be going back to visit Dr. Mary in two weeks, and hopefully my little boxer baby is as good as new by then!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Wink, Wink

I snapped this photo of Lucy on the stairs the other day. Most of the time, I don't know what the pictures that I'm taking are going to look like until I put them on the computer. So, this picture of Lucy winking, was a very sweet surprise...

I think she looks so serious... Which just isn't my Lucy! And I have to wonder exactly what was going through her mind as I was taking this shot? Probably "Why's do you always haves to be takin my picture, ma? I look exactly the same as I did yesterdays!"

In my opinion, it would be great if Lucy could talk. I wonder what she would say? I wonder what she's seen that she would tell me about. Would she tell me that she loves me? Would she tell me to stop worrying about her so much? I know she would tell me to hurry up and get her a brother... and probably that she'd like some more of that yogurt that I gave her yesterday.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Angels Rest Animal Sanctuary & Scout

The other day, I came across a picture of the most beautiful mastiffs I've ever laid eyes on. But, I'm prone to love their beautiful faces! (They look like a very large, serious boxer!)

It only took me a couple of minutes to discover that these two beauties were residents of Angels Rest Animal Sanctuary. This wonderful sanctuary was started in 2009 with a mission of helping animals who have no other place to go other than a kill shelter, die alone in the streets or die abandoned at the end of a chain.

Angel's Rest takes abused, neglected, sick old or otherwise unwanted animals. They work mostly with older residents who live out their remaining days in the comfort of the sanctuary, but they also do rescues and have pets for adoption.

In addition, they have a wonderful program called ELDER PAWS! This program was designed to enhance the quality of life for elderly citizens and older animals. You can read more about it on their website. But, Lucy and I think it's fantastic. She and I both know how an animal can instantly brighten the day of someone who is older and lonely.

Angel's Rest operates out of the founders and volunteers residences. They rely solely on donations and the kindness of others. Please stop by their website and read about the wonderful work that they do, and meet Scout... Just look at that face. I bet he gives the most wonderful, slobbery kisses, if you're into that sort of thing!

Scout has a wonderful, but somewhat sad story and needs a little bit of help! Scout's life started out in a puppy mill, but thankfully he was rescued and found a wonderful forever home at Angel's Rest.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Another Green Reptile for Lucy!

As I've mentioned, I feel very badly when Lucy's favorite toys "have accidents" that result in them no longer being a part of Lucy's world. It's utterly predictable, but off to Petco I went in search of something that could take the place of Lucy's green gator (who has most definitely left this world!) and withstand the constant abuse that my little boxer bestows upon her favorite toys for longer than one hour. Frankly, Petco is not my first choice for "tough" toys- because their version of tuff, just ain't tough enough for Lucy. But, in a pinch, it'll do!
Lucy always seems to know when I've got something special for her. She also knows that striking a pose and acting like a polite puppy is the best way to get her surprise from her mama.

"Whatcha got, Mom? Can I sees it?"

"Dis is pretty interesting, ma! But, I hopes you knows dat you didn't fool me... Just cuz dis ting is green, doesn't mean it's my gator... I's appreciates ya trying, though!"

"He's pretty cool, ma! He makes lots of very louds noises! Ands I can carry him all over da house, just like dis! I tinks I'll keep him!"

Despite the fact that the new green snake is not Lucy's gator, I think she's found a new friend because she's been carrying the snake all over the house, and even slept with it last night! Is it just me, or is Lucy partial to the color green?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lucy & The Stink Bugs

Since I returned home from Florida, I have been fighting a battle with stinkbugs. Quite frankly, I'm loosing. There are currently enough stink bugs wandering around my house to start a small army. Actually, I think they already have. As always, my little Boxer is more than an anxious to be a good little helper and help her mother in the battle to take back the house from the stink bugs.

Last night, I returned home from work tired, and ready to relax for a couple of minutes. I plopped down on the sofa, and let out a deep sigh, and as I did so, heard a giant rip. Hugh? What the heck? I jumped up off the sofa and looked at the cushion. Our leather couch has been getting ready to spring a huge rip right in the main cushion for months, and it picked yesterday to do so. I must have sat in the exact spot that was weak! Aggh! I just felt sick looking at the hole in the middle of the cushion. I would have liked to have thought that it could have been repaired, but it was pretty big, and I'm not expert!
This morning, I was upstairs getting ready for work when I heard Lucy downstairs barking up a storm. When I went downstairs, Lucy was digging furiously in the hole in our sofa and there was stuffing all over my living room.

Lucy generally doesn't even get up on the sofa, so I knew that there had to be a very good reason for her bizarre behavior.

I looked at Lucy and said "Down! Bad Lucy!". Lucy gave me a kiss (like she always does when she gets yelled at) jumped down and sat by my feet, her little butt wiggling furiously. (She was trying to tell me something, but since she can't talk, she wiggles.)

And then I saw it... In the midst of torn leather, and Styrofoam- a stinkbug! That darn thing was trying to get away from my boxer, and my boxer was intent on catching it!

I suppose I should be furious. The couch is ruined. But, it was ruined before Lucy tried to apprehend the stink bug, so how mad can I really be? Like I said, it's very unlike Lucy to even get up on the couch. She knows she's not allowed up there!
I put Lucy outside, grabbed a trash bag, hauled the vacuum out of the closet and cleaned up the mess which was all over the living room.

When a boxer is intent on retrieving something, the mess can be astounding. I'm sure at one point there was probably Styrofoam flying through the air at a rapid rate, resembling a snow storm. But, I missed the whole thing because I was upstairs blow drying my hair!

Thanks to the whole stinkbug incident, I was running late. So I rushed back upstairs to finish getting ready for work after putting a pillow and my briefcase on top of the hole in the couch to prevent a further incident. When I came back downstairs, Lucy was curled up on top of the pillow looking rather guilty...