Training Intensified

Upon returning from our Anchorage trip, where I had Tomodachi spayed, we buckled down on further training. In Togiak it is easy enough to find places to let the dogs go free, though I am very hesitant in letting them roam. Not because I don’t want to enrich their lives, but as the ‘go-to’ person when animals are hurt, I’ve heard how people have shot dogs with their owners right there. On the day of these pictures I made sure no one else was around, save a friend, and a couple in a boat who were busy fishing. The fact that humans are shooting dogs on the beach is disgusting, so I don’t like to let them too far from my person.

The reason for letting the dogs run off, though, is recall. While in Anchorage a dog ran up to both myself and another dog walker (both of us had our dogs on-leash). This dog didn’t return when the owner called. She tried to reassure both of us that her dog was friendly. Let’s forget the fact that maybe our dogs might be violent, and if an unleashed dog approaches our dogs might attack, dogs shouldn’t be running free. Luckily for me, my dogs are very well behaved, but that is beside the point. The other dog walker’s dogs were toy breeds, and a large shepherd running toward them could cause anxiety. I, myself, have become violent with dogs coming after mine. I carry a taser cane because we have been attacked multiple times since moving to Togiak.

Both my pups need to work on recall. I don’t know if I will let them off much while in Togiak outside the fenced in area I am cleaning and setting up. We also practice in the home.

The white dog in both pictures is Apollo. His owners are both irresponsible and reprehensible. Apollo has attacked dogs in my care on more than one occasion. (I’ve had two students claim Apollo bit them, and nothing was done.) The second picture is of him and his ‘pack’ attacking a smaller dog, who was eventually surrendered because he was too scared to leave their place to use the bathroom. I’ve had multiple dealings with Apollo’s female owner and my description of her is ‘user.’ She cares only for herself and once a person stops doing what she wants, she threatens them (I have Messenger proof of her threatening me saved, so I am not saying this out of the blue). My reason for posting this under training is because, as you can see, none of these dogs are on leash, nor are their owners around. So, how does one train their dogs when ferals such as these are running amok? (As an aside, while these dogs are owned by irresponsible people, there are more people in Togiak who are responsible than not, and these folks are wonderful.)

Nakama, Tomodachi, and I train indoors. It is pretty simple to work with them while inside because they are off-leash and always ready for a treat. Both dogs are awesome at waiting before chowing down on both their meals and snacks.

We also play the games that involve following me and coming from one room to another. My doggos are both food-motivated, so we use homemade and store-bought treats. They like them all, so I can switch it up easily enough. One day I hope to do more training outside after they have learned ‘ignore.’

Ignore is a major training. Nakama is about 50% when it comes to ignoring while we are walking along. Tomodachi, since she is only ten months, is still very social. I’ve had to train the students in the area to ignore us so I can train my dogs. Sometimes that training proves not to have sunk in, so I have no issues with telling children to leave. This does not work with ferals running around. The best we can do at this point is train my dogs, and if necessary do what I need to in order to keep my dogs safe. When I can’t trust the people or the dogs in the vicinity, I have to train the three of us to be on the defensive. Training equals safety, and I want everyone to be safe.

How Much is Too Much?

Puppers on a 5k!

A little over a month ago we did a thing! We managed a continuous 5k, but it was clearly too much to make this start. While Nakama is fully capable and ready for a continuous 10k, Tomodachi was not ready for this smaller continuous walk. When we got home they both passed out for the rest of the day. Granted, maybe we should have started with broken increments anyway, even for Nakama, who used to do 10k’s with me all the time. Unfortunately it was the nicest it had been in a long while, my feet were not hurting in any way, and we hadn’t had a walk in a long time. Part of the issue, not mentioned above, was the fear of the dog who had attacked. Said dog is now dead due to owner negligence. So, we were clearly ready for some sort of walk thanks to the cabin fever. However, now we will break our 5k’s up. Once school is over for the term we will have three walks a day for a total of 5 to 6k. This way we get out of the house for a time and still get in a good 5k a day to keep training for our massive walk.

Passed out after a walk!

A good rule of thumb for walking dogs under two, per many Internet searches, and speaking with the vet, is five minutes for every month of the dog’s age. Tomodachi is currently eight months old, so I keep our walks to 40 minutes or less. This includes meandering and basically sniffing every twig, brush pile, and rock cluster we come across. Generally we hit about 1.5 miles in such a time, which fits my 5 to 6k goal. I hope she improves in her concentration as we practice more. This summer we are hitting up Anchorage for her spay, so after she’s had a bunch of quality downtime, we are hitting the trails and exploring.

For the 5k we did a race where the proceeds went to helping animal shelters. Myself and both pups earned a race medal, which they are proudly displaying in this photograph!

Spay and Neuter

Where to start. I was really hoping that Tomodachi wouldn’t go into heat before I could fly is to Anchorage to have her spayed. I also had no clue that a neutered male was more than happy to ‘get it on’ with an in-heat female. Well, after the pre-heat (bring on the blood specks everywhere!), now I have a couple of horny dogs running amok in the flat! I have no idea why anyone would want to go through the entire process. If the dogs are always outside, then I guess folks don’t notice, but inside pets who are not spayed or neutered? Holy heck, what a mess.

Nakama was neutered the December of the same year I’d been adopted by him. We flew to Anchorage for a slew of doctor’s appointments, multiple for him, too. People in countless places tell me how much they love male dogs because they don’t have to worry about puppies. I find these people the most uneducated individuals when it comes to creatures that breed. Sure, the male dog owners don’t have to worry about their dog getting pregnant, but what a thing to say! I’ll let my dog go out and impregnate as many females as he wants, it isn’t my responsibility. Folks who say this shouldn’t have pets or children. No, I am not sorry to say this, either. There are overpopulation problems among domesticated pets and humans, all because the humans have this mentality. Nakama’s neuter May have kept a whole bunch of cute puppies from being born, but at least he is not creating puppies that are disposable.

Tomodachi is set to be spayed in June. We are all traveling to Anchorage for some socializing and surgeries (all three of us have one). Nakama and I will walk around the area while she is in surgery, most likely worrying about her because she is our family. Afterwards we will spend a number of days just chilling. I look forward to her not having to worry about unwanted male advances in the future. We can walk without worrying about the ferals that run around in the village because people don’t tie up their dogs, or get them fixed (for the reason I mentioned in the prior paragraph). I want her to have fun, and I can say for certain that she is not enjoying being in heat. She can’t relieve herself without the uncut males coming around, and she can’t relax in our flat unless I shoo Nakama away. Once she is spayed, all she will ever need to do is have fun!

Here is where my major problem comes in. Due to my ASD I have some OCD going on and let me tell you, the blood on the floor is freaking me out. All of these people are just like, use diapers or a pair of underwear. They might work well with someone who doesn’t shred things to oblivion. Nakama and Tomodachi both shredded a pair of underwear I’d used as a makeshift diaper. There is no way I would use a real diaper because if they shredded that and ate the plastic?! Not to mention the feral dogs and birds get into the dumpsters here, so there are dirty diapers all over the ground and I don’t want to increase the amount of disgust. So I am washing bedding and mopping my floor almost daily. This, at least, keeps the demons in my mind at bay.

The other day, when I was shouting at a nasty feral (I call him nasty because he has killed a dog and injured others, he also killed an eagle, which the owners of said dog just discarded in the dumpster 🤬) to get away, a number of local children just asked why I didn’t let Tomodachi have puppies. Puppies are cute, puppies are fun. I had to educate them the only way I knew how. Looked them straight in the eye and asked if they thought it was okay for a child in my grade (I teach fifth) to have a baby. They looked at me like I was crazy. I informed them that at seven months, Tomodachi isn’t fully formed, so her having puppies is like a child having a baby. Of course to them my babies are just dogs, so we do not see things the same, but even my vets have said that dogs shouldn’t have puppies during the first or second, some folks have even said to wait to have a litter or two when the dogs are two years or older. I like those responsible answers, but I still never want to deal with the ‘fun’ of a heat, again…ever. So she will get her spay and then none of us will worry about the situation further.

Crating and Indoor Dogs

I see, constantly, folks berating the use of crates when working with dogs. Let them run free! Crating is cruel! That isn’t how to treat a pet! Well, as someone who has seen what a dog can do, or what can happen to a dog running wild, I completely disagree. That is not to say I think dogs should be crated all the time, but crates, from my experience, have benefits.

When I first adopted Nakama a few years ago I had him crated when I went to work, mainly because he was young and I was working on potty training him. He was only in the crate when I went to work or to the store, but was out the rest of the time, including when we slept. Nakama didn’t have as severe an anxiety issue as Tomodachi, but that crate, for the first two years, was his cave of comfort. He had no issues in the crate and at two years he was able to stay out of the crate permanently, which is good because Tomodachi came around quickly thereafter.

Tomodachi has a much more severe case of anxiety. The crate is her comfort zone and she is happy enough to go into the area even when she doesn’t need to (because I am home). I live with anxiety myself as a side-effect of my ASD, so I know full well why a safe zone is a comfort. I crate her fully in the morning, then come home quickly at lunch to let her out for a bathroom break. During the afternoon I let her roam free, which is a plus because she can be with Nakama. He used to glare at me when I put her up as if to say, ‘You brought me this new toy, but you lock it up!?’ I leave the door to the crate open when I leave so if she wants to go inside then she has that option.

Crating a dog is a personal preference. Some dogs can’t go the day without chewing a hole in the wall. Others like to find their human’s shoes! Tomo and Naka have done that, little imps. I will say this, though, as many folks hate the idea of even keeping dogs inside. The dangers in a man made society are not conducive to letting dogs roam. Two hundred years ago, yeah, a dog roaming free was okay. There weren’t people driving vehicles, shooting off guns, and basically taking over the land. Where I live it is well known that the village pays the cullers twenty dollars a dog to keep the population down. If my dogs were running free I can only imagine the torture they might endure, at the hands of humans, mind you. There are also natural issues to worry about such as feral dogs, wolves, and porcupines. Any of those could get at a domesticated animal and kill it pretty quickly. So, yeah, I am all for indoor dogs, in a crate if necessary.

I am not here to make people change their minds regarding indoor dogs and crates. However, I will point out that what may work for one may not work for others. Many people in this village let their dogs run amok. They get quilled, hit by vehicles (and survive), or shot by people and live to see another day. Personally, if that were my dog then I would consider myself an unfit pet parent because I wasn’t monitoring their activities. I’ve seen the poor dogs with broken legs trying to run around. I’ve seen the dogs with quills in their faces countless times. I’ve seen the dogs who were shot by disgusting people. I don’t want that for my dogs. Nakama and Tomodachi are happy enough and we make it outside for occasional (for the moment due to weather and Tomodachi going through her first heat) walks and playing in the snow. Their happiness and safety come first.

Bordetella

Today I managed to get Tomodachi one of the vaccinations I need so she can see dog groomers while in Anchorage. I know vaccinations are completely debatable for some people, but for me they are not. I am pro-vaccination for myself and my puppers. Both Nakama and Tomodachi will have the required vaccinations and updates, just like I get them every update.

Administering the Bordetella by myself caused quite a bit of anxiety. As a person on the autistic spectrum I have anxiety overload at times. I want to do it correctly because it is the best thing for my pups, which is the primary reason for the anxiety issues. Doing it myself in the middle of nowhere also causes my anxiety to jump. There isn’t a vet here, so if she has an adverse reaction then we are going to have to rely on friends and advice. Currently she seems okay, but a search in the Internet revealed she could have a reaction up to ten days afterward. Nakama never had a reaction, so I am hoping this is how it goes for Tomodachi.

The vaccination isn’t all that difficult to concoct, you mix the fluid with the powder. I watched a tutorial on YouTube, but what she had to do and what I had to do were slightly different, which triggered quite a bit of anxiety more so than I had already experienced. Luckily I did keep my calm enough to read the directions and follow them without too much of an issue. Mixing; easy! Getting into their nose isn’t such an easy task, though. Tomodachi didn’t like the process and neither did Nakama, who ran off and didn’t want anything to do with me. I am pretty sure he thought he was next. I am grateful he is up to date and now that Tomodachi has the parvo vaccinations and the kennel cough vaccination, she can go to the groomers in Anchorage after we land and not wait till the end!

Redirection

One of the biggest problems I’ve run into when working with my pups is the constant barrage of ferals running amok. They never stop and quite frankly, their lax owners are to blame. I have been extremely lucky that other critters aren’t running around, though the flying kind so tend to make things interesting, especially since eagles are bigger than both doggos at this point. Frankly, training them had me at a loss. I was speaking with a trainer the other day and she recommended using the same technique I use when trying to get the pups to sit for a picture, only make sure I am doing this when there are distractions. I’ve only had an opportunity to use it a few times with the necessary distractions, but every time it has worked. So, treats all around. I carry treats with me most of the time anyway, but I’ve been lucky enough to have redirected my dogs toward my person. I do worry that this method is going to cause issues with ferals, the children who run around don’t care that I don’t give them a treat. However, when the ferals come around, that is when I will have the true test. Until that time, we practice in the apartment. While in the midst of play I’ll call them for a treat, and if they run over and sit down, they get the yummy.

Socializing and Siblings

One of the most common “problems” in my village is socializing one’s pet(s). In truth I find this issue sad because dogs clearly want to be socialized, they are a pack animal and being around others (dogs or otherwise) is important to their morale and self-esteem. I had people tell me that getting a second dog to keep my first one company was a bad idea. I scoff at them. Why would I want to have a companion for my first dog? Well, I work and spend eight or more hours a day at school, so Nakama was at home, by himself, all day. That has to be a lonely lifestyle for someone with an innate pack mentality. Did I adopt Tomodachi just for him? No, I adopted her to be part of our small family, and give Nakama an opportunity to have a sister to boss around (and boy does he ever, such a bully at times!). When I walk the Appalachian Trail I wanted to have a dog, but I realized that Nakama was not going to be able to walk the entire time with me due to his short stature, so I had it in mind to have a second one before the trek so we could go together. I digress, though with this thought, since it is now more about adopting a second than socializing, so let me get back to that.

Unsocialized dogs can be loud, violent, and difficult to control. When I first got Nakama I let him meet up with others in the area to play when we were on our walks. Sadly, many of these dogs he played with remain unsocialized and have even killed other dogs in the area because of dominance. We no longer socialize with these dogs, and for very good reason. Tomodachi is still a puppy and we are now working on her socializing. She is very good at not barking at the other dogs who bark constantly. However, she still pulls quite a bit on her lead, which means I stop what we are doing (usually walking) and pull her back until she sits down. After she sits, then we continue on. Instead of using the term “down” when she jumps on people, I chose “off” and have advised people to push her off when she does (I do the same thing, whether it be when I want her off my person, or off the table). She is learning that she is not to jump on people when we meet them, and I try to have her see people on a daily basis, just so she learns.

The other day I took her for her first social call to another person’s flat. This type of socializing is important so she knows that there is a big world out there, enclosed. Meaning that the world isn’t just the outside where we walk and our small set of rooms, but there are other places with lots of smells and new people. She did rather well with this meeting and my friend was just ecstatic because she loves Nakama and Nakama loves her, too. Tomodachi was rather timid at the beginning, but she opened up and showered my friend with all sorts of love thereafter. I have some cute pictures of both pups on her lap, but chose a different photo to accompany this post for a reason. In this photo I had someone else use treats to get my dogs’ attentions and look at the camera. I’ve been working on them looking at my camera when I take a photo of just the two of them, and it works well. In this case, I wanted them to look at my friend who was taking a family photo, another part of socializing. I was there, so the dogs were safe. My friend has a dog, so she is aware of how to act. Also, my friend is the one who crocheted the neck warmers all three of us are sporting! She has a major talent. The dogs did well, and while only one picture worked, it turned out rather cute.

Socializing is important and these baby steps I am taking with Nakama and Tomodachi are going to benefit them their entire lives. Nakama does well, but is still pretty skittish in situations. I need to focus on that, but it isn’t something easily attained in bush Alaska. One day we will be in a more urban area, or a rural area with more opportunity. Until that time we will work slowly so my pups have the confidence we all three need to walk the Trail in a few years. I want them to meet people and be respectful. I also want to learn how to help them in certain situations. I feel we are on the right track, but I am open to suggestions. I am new at this because even though I had dogs before and grew up with dogs my whole childhood, things have changed in my mind on how we should work with pets. While I am teaching them to socialize with humans and other dogs, they are teaching me how to socialize with them!

Vaccinations

Tomodachi had her third five-way puppy booster shot yesterday and is scheduled for a rabies tomorrow. I was told by someone in the village that getting their dogs vaccinated was difficult because of the remote area. My response: What have you tried or who have you contacted? I received no response. There are companies who will ship out the parvo boosters (for a fee, of course) to places in Alaska via USPS. I discovered this when I adopted Nakama. I also learned that there are places to take a dog for the rabies. I am lucky that my village has an approved rabies vaccinator at the police station. All dog owners (pet parent in my case; there is a difference) should learn how to vaccinate their dogs before even getting a dog. Sadly, most people in villages do not care enough to get their dogs vaccinated, and the ones that do are not willing to figure out how, so they just don’t bother. Such a mentality is poor judgement and vexes me greatly. I am grateful to the folks who supply the vaccinations and who learn to give said vaccinations to the village dogs. We are forever in your debt.