I welcomed the onset of winter in November. Summer time is busy for me, too busy on occasion. Dog trialing and gardening come at the same time of the year in the Midwest, and so those hobbies, along with work and all the rest of life, mean the days are still too short, no matter how long the sun is up. When winter starts I revel in the Danish sense of hygge, or a feeling of cozy comfort brought on by sweaters and candles and moonlight on the snow.
That was then, this is now. Now there’s less comfort, but more desire for green grass and more light and eating on a restaurant’s patio. And going outside without putting on an entire suitcase of clothing. Covid, of course, doesn’t help, and vaccinations around here look to be far in the future.
Thank heavens for dogs, right? We’ve been extra challenged here in the dog department, however, because Skip has been recovering from his unilateral cryptorchid surgery. I’ve barely worked Maggie since his operation, because the first time I did Skip thought it was his turn next, and flipped around coming out of his crate as if competing for a snow boarding championship. (I hereby propose a new Olympic sport: Vertical/horizontal/lateral flip spinning while restrained by a leash.)
And so, besides cooking and taking up cross stitch and watching Netflix every single night (currently on Lupin and Last Tango in Halifax), I’ve been playing with the dogs inside the house. Even better, I’ve been using this an an opportunity to get in some practical conditioning while at the same keeping Skip quiet and inactive. And me from going stir crazy, definitely a bonus.)
I’ve been conditioning Skip to lay quietly while I use a dremel on his nails. I’m using an old Oster dremel for Skip (here is the newer one). It’s a bit loud but the noise doesn’t seem to bother him, and it’s efficient. It probably helps that soon after he came here (almost exactly a year ago!), he badly injured his leg and I had to teach him to lie quietly for long periods of time for ice, heat and laser treatments.
Skip did really well here (his second session), but did withdraw one of his front paws when I held it with the dremel running. I let him take it back, and switched paws. Later I went back to the “problem” paw and reinforced him for letting me hold it with the dremel switched off.
Maggie arrived here as a young adult already terrified of having her nails trimmed, and I didn’t help by quicking her once with a standard clipper. For her I’m using a smaller quieter dremel, because she is much more noise sensitive than Skip. However, it also takes much longer to get anything accomplished, so there is a trade off.
Maggie is so worried about nail care that I have started her at a different place than Skip. She’s also much more sound sensitive and clearly uncomfortable with the louder, corded dremel. Here I’m reinforcing her for voluntarily giving me a paw while the quiet dremel runs. I love that she looks so enthusiastic! At the very end of the video I touch it to her paw and she doesn’t withdraw it. Yay!
Since I’m enamored of using this time to work on behavior I’d like to improve, I’m also going to work on Maggie’s irritating habit of snarfing for food at my feet as I get the dog and cat meals prepared. You can’t blame Maggie for being underfoot–the dogs get a combo on commercial raw and kibble, and on rare occasion some of the kibble falls to the floor. Thus she gets reinforced for being in my way. So today I’m going to teach her a simple trick, which is to go to a mat while I get their meals ready. (Kikopup, the source of lots of great training videos, has a good one on teaching your dog to go to a bed or mat.)
It couldn’t be much easier--toss treats on the mat, feed on the mat, gradually ask your dog to stay on the mat for longer periods of time. Advanced sessions will have Maggie staying on the mat while I make her dinner. (I’ll crate Skip while doing this to keep it simple.)
Maggie would like to get on with training, thank you:
There’s always a gazillion things to work on, but I’m going to continue to focus on those 2–nails and mat work for Maggie. And soon (end of the week, yayayayayayayay!), we’ll be able to work the sheep again beyond just bringing them in for dinner.
How about you? Anything you are working on, or are inspired to work on this winter, that combines a cabin fever reliever with cleaning up a behavior? (All species welcome here.)
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Oooo, oooo, oooo, the sun just came out as I am writing! Haven’t seen it much lately, and it sure is good to see it.
Cloudy or sunny, I’ve been curious about who would take over the flock leadership, and I’m not sure it’s decided yet. I literally laughed out loud the morning after the Ladies of Leisure left, when the remaining flock stood in the barnyard at a time when they would normally walk up the hill. They stood stock still, except for looking around left and right as if waiting for someone to tell them what to do. (Reminiscent of that Gary Larson cartoon of sheep at a party, relieved that the Border Collie showed up to tell them what to do.)
One good indicator could be who comes down the hill first:
But I’m doubtful it’s 384. She was first in line in this case, and she got eclipsed by Swift when they got close to barn. But 384 is older (she really needs a name!), so it’s possible she’ll take over. Definitely need to gather more data! (But thank you Maggie again, for allowing me to avoid a walk up the hill!)
I’m still crazed for color, and the bulbs from White Flower Farm are still a continual joy. Even the fading tulips make me smile:
One of the amaryllis is in full bloom now, another is beginning to fade but the third is just about to bloom. Bless them.
What’s keeping you going through the winter? (Those of you in the Southern Hemisphere who are walking on beaches are welcome to tell us about it. Just don’t be surprised if we begin to cry.)
Tell us if winter is helping you get some indoor behavior cleaned up. (Your dogs, your cats, your ____?) We’re all ears.