Mission No-Jumping: Week 1

After we wrote last week about Johnnie’s love for jumping up on people and how we wanted to teach her a better behavior, many of you had great advice. We put a few things into action over the past week since that post, and we’ve seen some success! Here is what we’ve done so far.

Management. Dogs often perform problem behaviors because they feel good to them. Johnnie loves to jump on people, so every time she does she gets reinforced for it, pretty much no matter the consequence (one reason why punishment can be ineffective). So what we have been doing is making sure she doesn’t even have the opportunity to jump in the first place by keeping her on leash when people come into our home or keeping her much closer to us when she’s meeting strangers in public. Many of you might be thinking, “Well if it was that easy, why don’t you just do it forever?” While we are keeping her from jumping, it’s still not her own decision – meaning if we didn’t have the leash on her, she’d still do it – and we don’t want that!

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By preventing her from practicing the behavior of jumping, it becomes less of an engrained immediate response from her. This alone will not stop the behavior though, which brings us to the second action we’ve taken to begin teaching Johnnie that there are better decisions than jumping.

Teaching an incompatible behavior.  If we only told Johnnie “don’t jump,” we’d be leaving her with all sorts of guesses for what she should be doing. This is why we teach her what behavior we want instead, and we make sure this behavior is not something she can do at the same time as jumping (hence why it’s called an ‘incompatible behavior’).

Ideally, Johnnie would see a stranger and think, “Oh yeah, when I see new people I’m supposed to sit on a designated spot away from the door because that’s what gets me yummy treats and then the fun new people say hi to me!” We’re not quite there yet with J – in fact, we’re pretty far from it. But what we have found does work quite well is giving our guests or strangers some treats and having them ask Johnnie to sit before she gets to say hi to them (and, ideally, before she gets the chance to jump). This goes back to my last post about figuring out how to intervene so the humans get the treats before Johnnie gets to the humans. So far it has been pretty successful because we are also giving the humans an incompatible behavior to allowing Johnnie to jump up on them :-)

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Right now we are working towards Johnnie being responsive when people she doesn’t know ask her to sit. She is doing well, but she can still get too excited to pay attention. Focus will be our next task, followed by what I mentioned before about truly teaching her an appropriate incompatible behavior for meet and greets. Slow and steady wins the manners race! We are getting there!

To adopt Johnnie Cash and help her learn awesome new behaviors, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.


Carrying Her Weight: Johnnie Goes Hiking

When our Sunday opened up at the last minute this past weekend and the weather forecast was absolutely beautiful (60 degrees and sunny? yes please!), Mark and I knew we wanted to do something fun and unique for the day. We also knew it would be in our best interest to do something that would tire Johnnie out, so of course our first idea was to go for a cool hike – but where? We’ve been all over the DC and MD area and we wanted to try something new (sort of like when we ventured to Fort McHenry with Charlie).

We decided to make a big move and travel the hour and a half drive to an access point for the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Mark and I have always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail together, but have never gotten around to it. What better opportunity than an uncharacteristically warm winter day with an eager four-legged hiking buddy to join you?

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Mark had the great idea before we headed out of town to pick Johnnie up a doggy hiking backpack. We ran to Petco and picked up the perfect little pack for J!  Because we were planning on hiking for a while, we had water and snacks packed for ourselves – now Johnnie could help us carry them!  Though, as you’ll see as you read this post, we did a lot on this hike, and the bag is already breaking a little bit (it was only $15) – any hiking-with-your-dog gurus out there who have recommendations on where to get an awesome and durable doggy backpack?

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Anyway – we were surprised to show up to a very snowy Shenandoah National Park. Expecting to step out of the car to chillier temps than when we left, we were happy to realize that despite all the snow it was still extremely mild there!  Johnnie was absolutely thrilled with all the snow. It was so fun to watch her play in it.

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06During the hike we romped a little, Johnnie bounced around and found sticks, we practiced some manners, we met new friends and we completely exhausted ourselves. Having to wear the pack was definitely an added bonus in the working-Johnnie-out category! She still did her favorite bunny hops, but you could tell they took extra effort.

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Two and a half hours later, we walked back to our car dripping wet and totally worn out. Johnnie was such a great walker during the hike – she stayed on a loose leash almost the entire time, which was very appreciated by the humans because of how slippery and wet it was! Meeting new people was the only time she was a little over eager, but we expected that from her little human-loving self. Check out our loose-leash extraordinaire in action:

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It was such a fun adventure. Johnnie was asleep about three minutes after getting in the car to head home, and snoozed on and off the entire evening until bed time.

We’re so excited to head back to Shenandoah National Park again as it gets warmer (we bought a year-long pass!). We’d love to bring Johnnie back with us again, but we won’t mind if she can’t make it because she finds her forever home. Do you know anyone looking for the perfect addition to their hiking party?

22To adopt your perfect hiking buddy, Johnnie Cash, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.


Energy Management

The first day after I brought Johnnie Cash home I thought, “What did I get myself into?” I came back from work and she started flying around the house doing zoomies until I was dizzy. For over an hour she would bounce around excitedly trying to play. I took her on a walk that night and couldn’t stop shaking my head at the little firecracker I had chosen to take home. “I’m active, but I’m not this active,” I thought. And then Johnnie & I returned home from the walk and she completely passed out in her bed around 8 pm, sleeping through the night. I realized she was a little more on my level than I thought.

That is the key to it all: using up Johnnie’s energy in intentional bursts so that she’s laid back the rest of the time – or, as Mark calls it, energy management! I’m sure a lot of you are rolling your eyes at me right now because – duh – you all have to do this with your dogs. But since I haven’t had a very “energetic” dog in a long time, I wasn’t sure if she’d have an off switch. Luckily Johnnie certainly does.  I generally take her on one hour-long walk in the morning and one-hour long walk in the evening – along with some games of tug, fetch and clicker training in between – and that pretty much does her in.

My point is that instead of saying, “This dog is nuts!” and dealing with her being generally active all the time, we experimented with different exercise amounts and mind games that fit both her needs and my capabilities to create a happy, settled dog pretty. Sure, it took a few days for me to get used to the fact that I need to spend a decent amount of time exercising her, but our walks together have become routine, pleasant and a de-stresser for both of us. They make me feel a lot better because I know she’s walking out any pent up heebie-jeebies, and they make her feel a lot better because, well, she’s walking out any pent up heebie-jeebies!

Another important part of Johnnie’s exercise needs is keeping her at a safe, productive level of excitement and activity. For the first week and a half I had Johnnie I would take her into the backyard and chase after her and we’d do glorious zoomies for a half hour, but when I wanted to be done, she most certainly did not. She would come back into the house, still in zoomie mode, and not settle down for another half hour. It got to the point where I was letting her get entirely too riled up and she was reverting back to her old bad behaviors because she was just too stimulated.

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I learned very quickly how important moderation is with J. When she gets too wired, it’s like her brain turns off. So we work on ways to keep her brain on. When we go to play in the backyard, I’m sure to bring a clicker and treats with me to practice sit, touch and other focus activities in between running around like a goofball. When we’re playing inside, I always practice impulse control with her toys, just to keep her mind working. Little J is such a happy puppy, but that can get the best of her sometimes. If I notice she’s getting too worked up, we stop the game and chill out on the couch. She’s very receptive to your energy levels, so when you stop moving around, she usually does too. . . eventually.

I let her be a dog. I let her bounce around and I play with her when I know she has energy to burn off and I give her expectations I know she can meet. I wouldn’t ask her to be calm at the end of the day if I hadn’t exercised her at all, you know? The more we figure her out and can tell when she just needs a little jog, the more understanding we are of her behaviors. Usually we both end up heavily snoozing at the end of the day and I have to drag her out of bed in the morning (which, by the way, is the cutest thing ever).

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If you’re interested in adding a mostly sleepy and snuggly, but sometimes bouncy, Johnnie Cash to your family, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.


Why You Want Me Wednesday

There are SO MANY reasons why you should want to adopt me! Last week I told you about how I’m a fabuloso lap dog. This week, the reason why you want me is:

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I’m especially partners in crime/adventure with Foster Dad. We do all sorts of fun things together, like investigate new places, practice our tricks in front of invisible crowds, spend some time chillin’ just us two and of course horsing around.

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These are all the things you and I will be able to do together, when you adopt me!

To adopt your very own partner in crime, Johnnie Cash, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com!


Girls Day Out

I have to admit, I’m really enjoying having a female foster! Out of the last six temporary or long-term fosters we’ve had, Johnnie is only the second girl. It’s like having a girlfriend around all the time! We gossip, we watch trashy tv, we workout together – she’s basically a new BFF.

We spent some girly time together this past long weekend when I hung out with a couple of my human BFFs. I was excited to introduce them to Johnnie, and she was, as usual, beyond excited to meet them! It was only seconds after meeting my college roomie Sarah that Johnnie found herself in Sarah’s lap in the back seat of my car, as seen in yesterday’s post about Why You Want Johnnie.

The four of us enjoyed a leisurely outdoor hike. We spent the morning catching up and chatting about what’s going on in our lives – ya know, girlfriend type stuff. We also didn’t pass up the opportunity to play on a playground we found or take fun pictures.

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My friends really fell in love with J, like I expected them too. I’m not kidding when I tell you that everyone who meets this dog turns to total mush.

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I want to take this post to point out that my friend Courtney walked Johnnie all the way home from the park. This is cool because Courtney is a tiny little woman and would not be inclined to walk a dog that didn’t have really awesome leash manners! I am very proud of Johnnie for earning the chance to walk with Court.

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A good time was had by all – as to be expected when you go out with your BFFs!

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To make Johnnie Cash your very own BFF, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.


Why You Want Me Wednesday

Foster mama says there are a gajillion reasons why someone should want to adopt me. She says there are so many reasons that they all deserve their own post. So from now on, every Wednesday I will tell you a reason why you want me in your family.

Today’s reason:

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Yep, that’s right. My compact 40ish pound body loves to find its way on and around your lap. Sometimes it even happens without you noticing. . . one second you’re petting me and the next second – bam! I’m curled up in your lap. See for yourself!

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Am I not the cutest thing ever, or what?

If you want to adopt Johnnie Cash to be your lap dog, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.


Our First Week in Photos

Johnnie here! My new foster mama says that pictures speak one thousand words, so here are some pictures of our first week together. We did a LOT! I have been adjusting to home life like the star student I am, but mama will update you all that next week. For now, enjoy pictures of how cute I am what we did all week!

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Pretty much sums up what we do. . . started the day sleeping, do a bunch of fun stuff, then end the day sleeping. I have a feeling that’s what we’ll do all weekend! Stay tuned to next week to see what fun adventures we get into!

If you’re interested in adopting Johnnie Cash, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.