Confessions of a Micromanager

Last weekend was a pretty big weekend for us: I left Johnnie at home with my parents for a full 36 hours! To me, that meant I wasn’t around to help them if she was having one of her over-stimulated bouts of puppy-behavior, I wasn’t around to exercise her if she was getting a little too bouncy and I wasn’t around to construct activities for her if she needed some mental work. To them, that meant they got to watch Johnnie for a day or two, feed and water her, let her out to go to the bathroom and play tug or fetch with her every once in a while. Can you tell which of us was more worried about it?

I’m going to confess something to you: I am becoming a bit of a helicopter mom.  I am so worried about what might go wrong (even if I have no reason to think it will) that I try to micromanage every little experience Johnnie has. So when I knew I wouldn’t be around to do that for a weekend, I got a little freaked. It’s not that I don’t think my parents will take great care of her – they’re amazing foster grandparents and J is extremely lucky to have them – I just don’t want anything to go wrong because of something I could have prevented, ya know?

I left them with pages of instructions for different scenarios that might come up and I filled the freezer with kongs and chew toys in case they needed a way to entertain her. The morning I left, my mom, like the all-knowing, full-of-wisdom mother she is, told me, “Don’t worry about things you don’t have control over. She will be fine. Have fun!” and sent me on my way.  I was relieved that they weren’t worried about it, but I was still crossing my fingers that Johnnie would be on her best behavior!

It turns out that sure enough, like I should have realized all along, I had nothing to worry about. Johnnie was totally fine for them the whole weekend. My mom even took Johnnie out to the barn with her on Saturday evening. It was another moment of panic for me (did she meet any off-leash dogs? did she see any cats? what did she think of the horses?! ahh!), but everything went great. My mom even sent me a whole slew of texts “from Johnnie” about their trip to the barn, full of play-by-play photos! See how it went:

“Foster G took me on a care ride! She’s got lots of supplies in her coat. She took me to learn manners in a new place.”

barn1

“It was a place with big dogs LOL. The big dogs have big feet and they smell funny. The dogs don’t like to play. They just stand there.”

barn2

“Do you know what else I did? I found new smells. Do u know that big dogs don’t poop in the back yard like me? I found the big bucket where they go.”

barn3

“I met new peoples. Only Chris knew to ignore me until i sat. The girl peoples were over stimulating, but Foster G made me sit anyway. Those girls were picking up & taking pictures of me & acting all goofy.”

barn4

“Foster G decided I wasn’t using the thinking side of my brain anymore ’cause I wasn’t paying attention. Then I didn’t want to sit anymore. I decided I like sit pretty better.”

barn5

“Foster G said “fun over” and she took me to another big dog house but I had to wait in the car where it was warm & quiet. She put some stuff in the big dog house and I got my brain back.  Foster G was fast & i could see her so I didn’t get worried. I also got a drink and that helped me relax.”

barn6

“When I got home FG wanted me to eat. She gave me some yogurts but she made me WORK for my supper!  I finished my dinner and FG said she wanted to take a rest. I said I’d watch some TV w her before she leaves.”

barn7

So two things can be taken away from these messages from “Johnnie”: 1. I have the most amazing mom who goes way out of her way to not only take great care of my foster dog but also to make sure I know that everything is okay and 2. I need to stop worrying so much! Of course I will forever predict worst case scenarios and therefore prepare myself so I can set my dogs up for success, but I need to remember that the world won’t end if I’m not in control of every little thing. Sometimes the kids have to live a little and learn on their own, right? (Though only after training and being set up for success and put in safe, positive scenarios and. . . okay, I’ll stop.)

One of the biggest aspects of fostering that this relates to is when Johnnie goes home with her new adopters. I’ll have to realize that they’re going to need to learn things on their own. They’ll have their own challenges with her and, while I’ll be able to help them to some extent, I won’t necessarily be able to fix every problem for them – but that’s why she’s theirs and not mine.

To adopt your very own learning experience Johnnie Cash, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.


Guest Post: Training Horses, Training Dogs

My mom is my role model, and growing up as an equestrian I remember her looking at our relationship with horses differently than I did. To me, my horse was my competition partner. I loved him and we worked hard together, but I didn’t take the time to learn how to communicate the way he did. My mom always had a gentle and understanding approach to figuring out what my horse was trying to say. If he was being fussy one day, my mom would question his comfort whereas I would brush it off as him having attitude. See what I mean? So as I learn about behavior and communicating with animals, I realize my mom’s had it right all along. Here is what she has to say about working with her horse – it’s amazing how much her observations match mine when I work with dogs.

Juliana and I often find ourselves talking about subjects like behavior modification, positive reinforcement, and T-Touch training. Juliana is talking about canines, and I am talking about equines. We find that many of the methods used to train dogs also apply to training horses. “Training is Training,” I tell Juliana.  “You’re right. How about doing a Guest Blog?” she replies. What – me?

Since you are a PL&F follower, you are probably already well educated in training methods, and you know there are no shortcuts or miracle cures. So, what can this Guest Blogger offer? How about a reminder of some principles of training that can be adapted to whatever methods you employ?  Here are four primary principles that Juliana and I both agree on: Knowledge is Power, Establish Leadership, Be Consistent, and End on a Success.

Knowledge is Power. I am not a professional trainer, but I have access to a lot of professional information. There are great resources on the Internet, TV, and in books. Find a trainer or method that you like and learn as much as you can. It took some investigating before I found an Equine trainer I liked; one who is clear, concise, and I can understand.  I first found him in a book, and I have since discovered that he has a TV Program.  I DVR every program, then I watch at my convenience – sometimes over and over.

A tip that my riding instructor tells me is, “write it down.” Keep a journal of goals and training sessions.  It’s easy to get discouraged when I think I haven’t gotten very far or that there is so much more left to do. Having our journey on paper makes a big difference. When I look back, its amazing how much I have actually learned and how far the training has come.

Establish Leadership.  My Vet once told me, “An insecure horse is a dangerous horse.” “Yeah,” I replied, but I wondered whose horse she was talking about? Surely not mine – my guy is sweet, and cuddly, and funny, and he LOVES me! Well, he is also a bit skittish, and sometimes a little pushy, and he doesn’t always listen to me….  An insecure horse may be dangerous because of its size, but an insecure dog can also be aggressive, ill-mannered, and annoying. Establish yourself as the leader, the head of the herd. Leading in a positive and consistent way creates a secure, calm, and happy animal that looks to you for direction, reassurance, and comfort.

Be Consistent. Be black and white, keep is simple, repeat, and follow the same rules. “He’s been so good, I’ll let just this one go,” can set you back sessions. Changing strategies can be confusing, and changing the rules can lead to insecurity. Be consistent – 100 percent of the time. It’s a huge challenge, and it makes all the difference.

I have also heard, “Repetition to Automaticity.”  If you repeat an exercise until it becomes automatic, then you can communicate with a whisper, a gesture, or even body language. When a training session is structured, consistent, and repeated, success will follow.

End on a Positive. End before the session gets frustrating. Don’t be tempted to “do it one more time,” to get it perfect. Or, if the session isn’t going the way you hoped, find one small success, celebrate it, and end on it. Keep the sessions short, positive, and fun. After a great session, have a special play time or rewarding activity. My guy’s favorite activity and reward is grazing in a patch of clover. This time is quiet and relaxing, and it’s a luxury that is part of the schedule.

What has become of my insecure Gelding? People at the barn, and my vet, tell me he’s a “different horse.” When Juliana rode him recently, she noticed the difference. I told her that I had found a training method that is positive and that I agree with, and we work at it regularly and consistently.  My guy is now relaxed and confident. He doesn’t look for his buddies in the field, because I am his herd leader. He stands quietly wherever I drop his lead, he respects my space, and we are developing a wonderful understanding. He whispers to me with his body language, and I understand. Our unspoken communication is amazing and a gift that I treasure. This is the reward.

So, training is training. These principles apply to training a horse or a dog, and you can also apply these principles when modifying the behavior of a child, peer, or co-worker :-). Remember the basics, and you’ll discover success!


Grand Prix Jumper

Check it out! Fostermama thought it’d be fun to put my outdoor energy to good use. I totally impressed her!

I can’t do it very often ‘cuz I’ve got a funky hind from spending so much time in a cage when I was a pup, but I sure did enjoy myself! I love running around, so when mama is on the other side of the fence from me (and the fence is really little) I’ll hop right over it to go see her! Just like those horses that I don’t like.

Have a great weekend!

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.


Otis & His Hooved Nemesis

Something you might not know about Honey Bunches of Otis, especially after seeing this blog post, is that he has spent a lot of time on a farm. He was adopted for the first time at a horse show in Kentucky that many of you may be familiar with called Rolex. His new dad was a farrier, and his new big sis had a pony of her own. I met Otis for the first time when his new family brought him to the farm over the summer. He then came to live with me when he needed to find a home where he wouldn’t have to be afraid of children (turns out his big sister’s pony wasn’t the only thing he was worried about).

While he loves the wide open space the farm has to offer, he’s never gotten too cozy with the horses. It’s understandable, really, considering he is skeptical about a lot of things and I don’t think a massive four hooved creature would be an exception. He is happy to trot along next to me while we watch my mom’s lesson or help tack up the horses – but when it comes to face-to-face greetings, Otie prefers to lay back.

So you can imagine how it went when I wanted to take pictures of this little guy:

All was fine and good when mama & baby were far away as Otie sat leashed to his fence post.

But that security was short lived. Baby soon became interested in this miniature horse like thing that was new to its field.

Otis tried his hardest to make his Sir Chick “I’m being invisible” face to evaporate away from the really big dogs horses. . .

. . . but nothing worked until fostergrandma came by to save the day.

Otie then watched mama & baby move on with their day from the safety of fostergrandma’s arms.

He is always braver when he is with his human buddy, kind of like someone equipped with armor.  He might not be the most outgoing pup you’ve ever met, but he is certainly willing to try with a little encouragement. Falling apart at the sight of a baby horse wasn’t his proudest moment, but he is ready to move past it if you’re willing to give him a chance!

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.



Off-topic Monday: Horse Photos

Sorry folks, I’ve been traveling all weekend and haven’t gotten the chance to get together a proper dog-related post for you this morning. So bear with me as I share some pictures of the species next to pitties in my heart: horses. I got a new camera lens so I was out at the barn messing around with it last week, and this is what I came up with.

I still have close to zero clue how to work my camera, let alone do any sort of post processing. So I guess as you join me for the fostering journey you’ll (hopefully) also get tidbits of photography lessons I learn along the way as I work to improve my pictures.

Don’t worry, I’ll be back tomorrow with a Baxter & Miss Piggy story!