Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Cat Across the Street

One of the things Sandi and I have always enjoyed is sitting outside and watching the birds go after all the feeders. Everywhere we have lived, we've had a bunch of feeders. Something very relaxing about sitting on the back deck and checking out the bird activity. We can spend hours checking out the birds. We've always had great customers at our current location. We have named a few of the Doves that were regular customers. We had "Lil Baby" that was a young Dove and the others kept chasing him away. He'd always come back, just to get chased away again. The next year we had a Dove named "Dudley" that was the most unusual looking Dove of all times. He had a flat beak and ruffled up feathers. He hung around for an entire year though. I guess you can see that Sandi and I have way too much time on our hands. Anyway, here are the feeders.
As you can see, this is the Golden Coral of the bird feeder backyard. I mean we have perfectly normal birds enter our yard, and they leave with eating disorders. I think they can hardly fly when they leave. That can be a problem.

This brings me to the Cat Across the Street.

Shortly after the feeders were hung and the bird community was a buzz about the new place to eat, Gypsy was still a very young dog. Early one morning we came out for the initial trip outside and she went right to the back of the yard, digging and sniffing. Upon further investigation, she was checking out a pile of fresh bird feathers under the feeders. Obviously the work of an outside cat. Our cats were all inside cats and are way too perfect to eat a bird. We kept our eyes peeled, looking for the culprit but never saw anything. Finally, one night I let Gypsy out and she goes after, and almost catches, the cat across the street in the backyard. From that day, I continue to find piles of feathers in the yard and we see the cat across the street patrolling the yard. Gypsy chases the cat away every chance she gets but, Sandi and I can't help but to feel guilty over the bird carnage. We had heard that many outside cat owners would put a bell around the cat's neck to warn the birds, this little guy didn't have one we name the cat NO BELLS.
NO BELLS still comes into the yard as if it was his/hers.

Here is NO BELLS tormenting one of our cats.

I can't tell you how many times Gypsy has chased old NO BELLS out of the yard over the years. I have to admit, NO BELLS was pretty good about avoiding Gypsy. I have always been curious about what Gypsy would have done had she caught NO BELLS . With time the piles of feathers have just about come to an end. I don't know if it is that NO BELLS is so fat she/he can't catch a bird anymore or, Gypsy has been such a good guard dog. We can keep the open sign up on the bird feeder buffet without guilt.

During our walks Gypsy and I run into NO BELLS from time to time. They look at each other with respect, remembering all the backyard encounters they have had over the years.

Monday, May 28, 2012

More Backyard Excitement

After we had the backyard intruder the other night I thought of another adventure Gypsy and I had. This one took place several years ago. Gypsy was still pretty young. Again, it was the end of the day and as usual, I let Gyp out the back door from the garage for one last time. She usually takes a lap around the yard to make sure all is well, then settles down and does her business. This night she hops out the rear door, and takes off towards the rear of the yard barking and going berserk. I grab my handy flashlight (the batteries worked, shocker) and go out to see what the fuss is all about. Gyp is standing over a possum! It is laying on its side, all four legs sticking straight out, stiff as a board. Sorry I didn't get a picture of this. So, being the bright guy I am, my first thought is great I have a dead possum in the backyard. So I trudge off back to the garage to grab some gloves and shovel to dispose of the body. I think I was going to just toss the possum remains over the fence into the farm behind us. I thought about giving the possum a proper burial but that would involve digging a hole. So anyway, I return just in time to see the possum alive and well, hopping the fence. As he went over the fence he looked back at me as if to say, you're not to bright are you? I was fooled by a possum, not too good. Gypsy knew that the possum was faking all the time though.

Hey, I can play possum too!!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

A new look for the Blog!

Thanks to my darling daughter, we have a new look to the Blog. Hope you like it. Gypsy has a new look too.

Can somebody tell me how pretty I am?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Training Again

Standard Poodles are reported to be among the most intelligent of all breeds and Gypsy is a two time drop out. I'm a failure as a poodle father. Looking back I'm not so sure why we were so insistent about having her "formally" trained. We wanted her to walk nice on a leash and come to us when called. I didn't care if she heeled or not or was an expert in obedience. This is around the time when Cesar the dog whisperer guy was all over the television. We watched him go into homes with the most unruly dogs and in a matter of a few hours he would have them trained. His method was to exercise the dog to a point of exhaustion and assume the "alpha" role in the pack. It all goes back to the pack animal thing and how the alpha was in charge and the other pack dogs would obey the alpha. Sounded good to me. Never let the dog go through a door before you do, you eat first and then when you are done the dog can eat. when walking the dog can't be in front, and the list goes on. He even would mix his dogs food by hand so he would get his scent on the food.
Hey I hope your hands are clean!
When a dog went nuts Cesar would put them down and put his fingers on the dogs throat to simulate the alpha dog pinning the other dog down. Desar was always quick to mention this move didn't heurt the dog. So we tried all of the above. Going on a walk, shoulders back, head up, and assume all the confidence I can muster. Cesar said the dog would sense my confidence. The confidence would go down my arm, through the leash, and into the dog. I'm not so sure how that works. Anyway, Gypsy didn't really improve much. And there were a few times I would put her down and do the throat hold thing like Cesar. She would just look at me puzzled.
Hey, I'm just having some fun!
So, I gave up on the Dog Whisperer. His theories are being challenged now. Most say the "pack" mentality has left the dogs many years ago.

Then, Sandi came across a collar that changed our lives, the Gentle Lead. this is a collar that loosely attaches around the dogs nose and the lease attaches to it. From the minute we put it on Gypsy she has walked with us like a pro. Problem solved. Good bye choker chain.

I think this thing makes me look silly!

Gypsy the Guard Dog

The last thing I do every night is take Gypsy out, through the garage, into our fenced back yard one last time. Did you note I said "fenced" back yard? What a plus that is for a dog. Gypsy usually will leap from the garage, out the rear door and into the back yard. She will run a lap or two and then do her thing. Sometimes, if the neighbors cat is in the yard she will give a bark but she really isn't that big of a barker. This weekend I let her out and she goes nuts. Barking loud to the point that it was almost a howl. Being dark, I open the door a bit more to shed some light on the area and Gypsy is standing in front of an intruder! A teenage boy, I'd say around 16 or 17 was standing frozen with Gypsy a few feet away barking non stop. I think I was as shocked as he was. So I tell the kid, in my best Clint Eastwood intimidating voice, to get the heck out of my yard. I do this while pointing at him and walking slowly towards him. He hops over the fence with little effort. I go back out the front of the garage and try to get him to tell me what he was doing but all he would say he was playing with some buddies. The next morning I do an extensive search of the crime scene and found the following evidence sitting by the rear fence by the back of the yard. Probably fell out of his pocket when he came over.
Well I guess if your home is going to be broken into it is better to have a burgler with good breath right?
Talking to some of the neighbors the next moring these kids tried to get into a few other garages. The lady down the street chased them out of her yard. Looking back I probably should have done something to grab the kid and call the police. It all happened so fast I didnt really think. I doubt they will come back knowing a Standard Poodle with a big bark lives here.
Go ahead Punk, make my day!

Saturday, May 12, 2012


A few months after our first attempt at puppy school, we decided to get serious again with training Gypsy. It isn't like she was a bad puppy. She was house trained in the blink of an eye. Sandi taught her from the beginning not to mess around with the cats.
Sometimes I think I'm a cat!
The cats walk by her from time to time and give her a sniff and then walk away in disgust. Anyway, we found a guy that said he was an experienced dog trainer and had a class beginning shortly. We sent him a deposit check and were told to show up on the first day of class with a good strong leather leash and a choker chain. We were told to meet him in an abandoned parking lot.I guess that should have told us something right? Gypsy and I arrive at the abandoned lot at the designated time. I put her on her industrial strength leash and choker and she hops out of the car.
This is going to be FUN!!!
The closer we get to the instructor and other pups, the crazier Gypsy is getting. Happy feet and jumping all around. I can hardly control her on the leash. The instructor walks over and asks if he can show me how to get Gypsy under control. Hey, that's why I'm here right? So he grabs her leash and gives it a mighty yank. Gypsy's head violently snaps to the side.
Gypsy was stunned. She just sat there quivering and looking at the teacher with a "what did I do?" look on her face. With that he said, sometime you have to just get their attention and walked off. Unlike the first class we took, this guy didn't want us to bribe the dogs with treats, he wanted us to show the dog who is boss with plenty of "corrections" meaning a good strong pull on the choker. Gypsy and I would go off during the week and do our homework. Basically it was walking and sitting. I have to admit, I was buying into the guys method. While I didn't give the violent corrections he did, I would give her a quick yank on the leash to get her attention. I did see progress in Gypsy, when we were off doing our homework, she would do just fine walking and behaving like a little trained dog.
What do you think I am, stupid?
It was when we had her out in town or other spots where she would see other people, dogs, or little furry things she would again go out of control. I have to admit, a few times when she would go nuts I gave her a major "correction" like she got from the teacher on the first day of class. I was becoming frustrated.
Hey, what's up with that Dad???
So, Gyp and I went to class for the next several weeks, meeting the other classmates in a variety of abandoned parking lots around town. One of the owners was a young guy with a pit bull. The pit bull was about as excitable as Gypsy and the guy had difficulty controlling his dog most of the time. The guy was a pretty laid back dude and I could tell he didn't like "correcting" his dog. One day they showed up late for class. He brought his dog up next to me and Gypsy. He leaned over and told me he was way to hung over to be at class today. He looked kind of rough this day with red, glassy eyes. We were practicing walking, turning left, turning right, and having the dog sit. Gypsy was doing this with ease. My friend with the pit bull however was having great difficulty. His dog was all over the place and not even beginning to listen. I think he was a bit too hung over to do much with the dog too. Anyway, the teacher was obviously frustrated and grabbed the guys leash and gave the yank of a lifetime. He lifted the pit bull right up off the ground until all four paws were off the ground. He kept the dog suspended, all his paws waving in the air and gasping for breath. All my hung over friend could say was "Hey Dude, what are you doing?"
That was the last class we attended.
Sure I want a well behaved dog that listens to me. But I don't want that behavior as a result of fear. I think dogs naturally want to please us. Especially Stand Poodles. It is up to us to show them what we want and guide them. I tossed out the choker chain. Sandi and I would rethink the training thing one more time.

See how nice I can sit?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Running Errands

I had some running around this morning while Sandi was off on a bike ride. When I reach for the car keys Gypsy knows we're about to have a ride. This is one of her most favorite things in the world.
I love to ride. Sometimes I ride shot gun if my Mom isn't with us...

We passed a field just outside of town and saw these cows.
I like living in an rea where you see a cow from time to time.

I forget what the proper name for them is, Sandi knows, but I call them Border Collie Cows. Black and White get it?

Puppy School

Like most new puppy parents, Sandi and I decided to enroll Gypsy in a Puppy training class.
I'm ready for school!
I don't think we really gave it much thought as we just thought that was the thing to do with a puppy. So, we found a local person that had a class starting. She told us to bring a choker chain, leash, and plenty of yummy treats. We had been using a choker collar on Gypsy for walking and didn't have very good results. She pulled just hard enough to choke herself. She was always pulling just a bit, looking for something to chase. We arrive the night of the first class along with all the other new students. Labs, beagles, mixed breeds, all ready to learn. Gypsy on the other hand was there for only one reason, PLAY TIME. She was so excited about meeting all the other puppies, she was just beside herself. Happy feet, hopping around, and talking to all her new friends. I tried to control her the best I could but, it was hopeless. The teacher came over to help me out and taking control of the situation. She gave Gypsy a little tug on the leash to get her attention. Gypsy sat and looked at the teacher with a puzzled expression.
Hey, that HURT!
That got her attention for a short time. This class was predicated on the positive reinforcement technique. Holding a treat in the hand, lifting it over the pups head and as they follow the treat, they sit. When they sit, give them the treat that they then devour. Sounds good right? Most puppies will do anything for a treat right? Seemed like all of them in that class would do just about anything for a treat, with the exception of Gyp. she could care less about a treat. I'd stick the thing right in front of her nose and she would just turn her head away. I'd try to force the treat into her mouth and she would just spit it out.
You can't bribe me with those stupid treats!
So, while all the other students had homework of learning how to sit and down, our homework was to find a treat Gypsy was crazy over. OK, so we are off to a slow start. After several trips to the store, and many different types of treats, Sandi had a stroke of genius. HOT DOGS! Who doesn't like a hot dog?
I love hot dogs, yes!
The next week we come armed with a bag of chopped up hot dogs in a fanny pack. I didn't want to put them in my pocket. We were sure we would be able to get Gypsy to listen to our commands and focus on us. She would run through a fire to get a hot dog. We worked with her at home and she would sit and go down on command while totally focused on the hot dog. We were ready to show off how smart she was. Standard Poodles are among the most intelligent breed, right?
Not only am I pretty, I'm smart too!
Well, we get into class, all the other students are sitting my their masters feet, and Gypsy again goes nuts. Jumping around, happy feet, jumping and twisting in mid air out of control. I try to take charge of the situation by waving a hot dog in front of her face. She could care less about the tempting treat.
Hey everyone, lets play!
That was our last puppy class. To tell you the truth, I believe the teacher was happy to see us drop out. A student like Gypsy could ruin her reputation. That fanny pack just hangs in the garage now, smelling like old hot dogs.
Sandi and I would have to rethink the education of Gypsy.