Christmas Cycle

PK9 Dogs

A few of my kids all curled up

thorinChristmas day started with white, beautiful snow on the ground outside. A lot of it – almost an obscene amount which made me glow with happiness since I LOVE snow and I love that we had so much. Especially on Christmas. I started a fire in the fireplace and watched the snow fall outside. I watch this particular serene beauty blanket the world. It really does look like peace on Earth. Dogs are snoring, asleep curled up in their beds. Dirty dishes in the sink, wrapping paper littering the floor, and I’m curled up on the couch in my comfiest pjs with my coffee. These are the little moments where I miss having someone the most. To curl up, drink coffee in front of the fire with the sleeping dogs, watching the snow. That’s my vision of a perfect Christmas. I better get used to having these alone from now on.

dishesI don’t miss the bullshit, it’s not worth it. Loneliness hurt < Betrayal/Trust broken hurt. Not worth it. But these are the moments where I really love spending it with someone special. These moments are the ones that tear me up inside and it takes a while for me to sew myself back together every single time. This wasn’t supposed to be this way. Not just anyone, but THAT person. Once I feel the hurt and the loneliness set in, the feeling immediately after is hurt and anger and betrayal. Seems I have a lot of that in my life. Seems people love to make me feel this collection of feelings. So, I’ll deal with the loneliness and I’ll compartmentalize these into a box that will remind me to leave my heart there. I have a hard enough time letting people in. Trust takes so long for me… then if it’s broken, it takes years to get it back. Just ask my ex napoleonhusband. He made one mistake that really hurt me years ago, and it took me a little over 2 years to be able to trust him again. It’s not my place to talk about the details of what happened, it’s his story too. After all that’s gone down between us, he’s still one of my best friends. I trust him. I don’t want to put myself out there to trust new people, it just seems to remind me every single fucking time why I don’t bring new people into my life. So, I’m sticking with the friends I know and who I know I can trust. I’m done with taking risks on people. I’ll meet people, sure. But they aren’t getting any pieces of my heart. Emotionally, I’m putting all that into a box. Doesn’t stop me from randomly crying about it though. I can’t stop it, don’t tell me to. Bipolar doesn’t work like that. ‘Just be happy’ doesn’t work for us. Sorry.

christmasmorningAnyway, my family came over, and we spent the morning together. I love spending time with my family, and I wish I had a little more flexibility to go visit them sometimes, but with my business, I can’t leave the dogs that long. And holidays are one of our busiest times because people go out of town. I love what I do, but I’m in the process of trying to make big changes so maybe I can go on vacation sometimes, or take a full day off, or visit my family. I feel a little guilty because Christmas snuck up on me this year, and I didn’t get any gifts for my family. I still plan on getting something really nice, but it’s hard because my dad has EVERYTHING! And gift cards are too mainstream. Anyway, I’ll figure it out! I was also invited to spend Christmas dinner with a client who has turned into a friend. I love her and her dog, and she gifted me a super awesome Jack Skellington shot glass. It means a lot, considering she wanted to keep it, and she absolutely loves it. I love Jack stuff, and she always finds the coolest little NMBC knick knacks!

danteI know I’m going through rapid cycling, because I’ve been really happy, and then really sad within a few minutes of each other. Went snowboarding on Christmas Eve, and that whole day I was off. I didn’t enjoy myself, and would rather just drink coffee, listen to music and watch everyone else ride. So, I did. That’s a rare occurrence when I don’t want to be up there on the mountain. Same thing though-snowy mountains with snow falling, Christmas Eve, and I’m by myself. First ‘single Christmas’ in about 10 years. It’s a much different feeling than I have ever had on Christmas. As I said, I better get used to it since I’m done with letting people in. No, I’m not self wallowing, just reflecting. Don’t feel sorry for me, I’m not asking for sympathy. Just want to explain feelings, and maybe someone else feels the same.

jinxAnyway, I have a showing for my house in a few hours, so I do need to clean up the wrapping paper, do the dishes, and sweep up all the dog hair. So I better get to it. Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.

 

snowboard

I’m Alive!

Sorry I haven’t updated in so long! With building my business, the holidays, and taking some much needed time to myself, I am back in the game.

Heather Hamilton blog Project K9 Dante cropped earsLet’s see.. I already told you about my little puppy, Dante. Well, he’s not so little anymore. I can barely pick him up now. He’s all legs, and reminds me a baby goat! He’s clumsy, but wants to run super fast, so he runs into everything.  After the first month or so with him, we have adjusted and learned more about him. We have learned his good and bad behaviors. He is a little shit in the crate sometimes (was horribly when we first got him), but he’s learning and is getting better every day. He is trained on Halti now, and we go on nice walks around the neighborhood every day. He has experienced seeing cows, goats, donkeys, ducks, etc. We are still working on socialization, so I’m not so concerned with obedience. That’s the easy stuff that can come later. He has already learned absolutely no nipping ever, and the jumping up has gotten 1000x better. He is well on his way to making himself be a wonderful member of society.

Heather Hamilton blog Project K9 DogsJinx is progressing in her training as well. She is super comfortable at home, and is off-leash reliable for the most part. We are working on off-leash reliability around people now. According to Marc Goldberg, ‘eCollar fixes everything. Except for when it doesn’t. But it usually does.’ We are finding this to be true. She loves her eCollar, and she is making improvements. Over New Years, we had my in-laws in town, and we had some changes in her that we haven’t seen before. She has moved a little from avoidance/flight stages to avoidance/fight. Which, is actually progress. Now, I want to move her into avoidance/acceptance. As we knew when we got her, she is a project, but she couldn’t be in a better place. We are giving her the training, understanding, and love she needs to be successful, and get over all her fears.

As for Napoleon, he is getting older. I notice it every day. He’s not anywhere near close to being done with this life, but I do still notice it. He has become quite the helper with all my training dogs. He’s not great at social queues, but he is damn near perfect at house rules, and a great example of walking nicely on and off leash. He has calmed down quite a bit in the last year. I think taking him to clients’ houses and expecting a 1-2 hour ‘place’ command has really helped.

Well, that’s it for my kids. How about my board and train dogs? Well, in the last few months, we have had 3. A shih tzu/schnauzer mix puppy, a chocolate lab, and a boxer. All did wonderfully with their training. The lab and the puppy were both residency programs, but my boxer is here for the full boarding school. She came to us for dog aggression, which turned out to be excitement and adrenaline. We have been working on calming commands, rest, and learning to be calm when she would normally go straight to excitement.  She is doing great, and progressing every day. We received some wonderful pictures of the chocolate lab for Christmas. He was doing a perfect ‘place’ with 15 people, and an excited energy around the house. Wonderful! The little puppy came to us all the way from Oregon, and unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time with this kid. He was super jumpy and sensitive. Didn’t really like being touched or handled too much, but was a champ around other dogs. The family had children, and it wasn’t a good fit, so he was rehomed into a different family. However, they are continuing his training and it sounds like it is working out a little better for the dog.

Heather Hamilton Blog Project K9 Calm Dogs

Please excuse the mess, lol.

I have so many plans for this year, I just need to get the ball rolling and take initiative. This week, I have been working at K9 Lifeline for some extra experience. I have helped run a social with them, did some daycare, kennel tech stuff, and worked with a few tricky dogs. It has been a really good experience for me, and I learned a lot from the staff there. My little Dante found a bigger Dante to play with while we were there. MY Dante made friends with a blind pit/bulldog (I think) mix. His name was George, and I kind of fell in love with him. Unfortunately, I just went from 1 to 3 dogs fairly quickly, and I don’t think we should do another one so soon. Hubby and I discussed fostering him, but I just feel I’m a little busy trying to get my feet on the ground still, so maybe later this year.

Speaking of fostering, I want to foster a pregnant mom this year. I want to do the delivery, and rear the puppies until they are 8 weeks old and ready to go to new homes. That is the biggest project/experience I want this year.  Hubby is like ‘OMG NO!’… but I’m sure I can convince him once our puppy gets a little older. I just attended a ‘Proper Socialization and Natural Rearing of a Litter’ seminar through WCC Bernese Mountain Dogs. Bethany Tracy is one of a kind with the way she raises her puppies. With all of her experience in training and breeding, I take her advice above anyone else’s when it comes to how to raise a litter. That’s why I took this seminar: So I could be ready this year when we foster our mamma and have puppies. I learned so much more about puppy development and behavior. I was exhausted after the seminar! So glad I had this opportunity!

Whew, ok, I think that’s enough for now.

Working with my fearful Pup

Jinx has started to settle in to her new life and has learned most of the house rules. We are going pretty slow with all of her training, so as not to overwhelm her accidentally.

Project K9 Heather Hamilton Rehabilitating Fearful DogsWe have taught our house rules:
-No dogs on any furniture at any time. Completely unacceptable.
-No dogs allowed in the cat room (we are still working on this) or in the kitchen.
-Must sit before going outside, putting a leash on, mealtimes, or when we ask for ‘hugs’
-No jumping on people unless we are asking for ‘hugs’. She really only jumps on me anyway. We just don’t want unnecessary jumping at all.
-When the family is settled, she is settled. It is not playtime.
-No playing allowed in the house with other dogs. Inside toys are fine, but must be calm play.
-Must be respectful of our cats
And we are working on training:

-Sit, down, wait, stay, place, ‘kennel’, ‘out’, ‘back up’, ‘come on’, ‘here’, ‘easy’
-She has already learned her new name and wants to please.
-Crate training
-Leash work – she originally didn’t pull, but put on the brakes and didn’t want to walk. Now, if she is feeling more comfortable, she will pull. Which isn’t ideal, but it is moving, so baby steps.
-Working around other dogs – she’s great.
-Working around strangers  – not so great. This is our biggest issue. She is insecure about people.
-Working around people and other dogs – forget it, she shuts down. It’s too much.

Project K9 Heather Hamilton Rehabilitating Fearful DogsWith the improvements she has shown in the house, around my husband and her attitude in the house and outside, she is doing just wonderfully. However, once I put a leash on her and walk outside, she is her insecure self again.

We have been going on walks around the neighborhood every day, and stopping and waiting until she calms down when there are people, cars, barking dogs, or children playing around. Sometimes, we don’t make it very far. But that’s ok. I’m aiming for a healthy state of mind, rather than worry about distance.

We have been taking her to socials on Saturdays, pack walks and introducing her at any opportunity we have. We advocate for her, however, and don’t let people touch her when she is in an unhealthy state of mind. We will not reward that type of behavior, nor ‘comfort’ her when she is scared. I protect her from people who are well-meaning, but want to touch her. She’s not ready for that type of interaction from strangers yet. It will just take time. We are in this for the long haul. I love this dog, and I am so impressed with the little things so far.

Project K9 Heather Hamilton Rehabilitating Fearful DogsWe are documenting her progress with video and will create a before/after documentary when we are finished. It may be a few months from now, or a few years.

No one wants a project dog. Everyone wants a dog who is already trained or who needs just a little bit of work. I fell in love with this dog, knowing she needed work. How much work wasn’t apparent until we took her to her first social class the day after we adopted her. But again, I wasn’t disappointed – I realized she would be a project to help her gain that confidence back.

She shows all the signs of the dog I wanted – dominant with other dogs, she administers corrections when needed, and she responds well to corrections when she needs them. She plays hard in an excited state of mind, and then calms herself down almost immediately. I need all those things. Napoleon has also helped her with eating (she’s a poor eater), and given her confidence around certain situations. He is a very confident dog, albeit unbalanced and gets excited easily. However, he communicates with her appropriately too. He gives calming signals when she is insecure or anxious. She is kenneled at night, and he sleeps next to her kennel.

Project K9 Heather Hamilton Rehabilitating Fearful DogsShe will get there, and I’m putting in the work. We have done some leash-confidence building exercises on the prong collar, as the Halti shut her down. She did fine on it until there were people around, and then she shut down. She does much, much better on the prong. She is very sensitive, so it just takes a small amount of pressure to communicate with her.

I want to start her on the eCollar to help with that confidence as well. Both of the eCollars I currently own (Tri Tronics Sport G3 model and the Garmin Delta combo collar) are gentle, but I think she is too sensitive for that one, even on the lowest setting. (I haven’t even put it on her yet), The ‘beep’ sound doesn’t have a stimulation attached to it, but I think the sound would scare her, so I won’t be using that function either. Some people ask about the vibration feature. This feature usually scares dogs, so I avoid that feature altogether.  I will be purchasing an Einstein collar soon, as it has a much gentler stimulation.

I have learned so much about fearful dogs from her, and have now experienced the feeling of heartbreak when your own dog shuts down when they are overstimulated. I get it. I understand. But I won’t back down from our training. I won’t coddle or baby her. She needs to earn attention, just like any other dog. I just have to go slower, and start at an earlier step.

I can do it. So can my clients with fearful or insecure dogs. And yes, I’m a little picture happy – she’s just beautiful, isn’t she?

Project K9 Heather Hamilton Rehabilitating Fearful Dogs