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November 12, 2006

Hey! People! If I talked you into NaNoWriMo, do not pass me in the wordcount. That means you, Becky! Slow it on down, there, champ. I’m struggling, and you appear to be on a greased skateboard. The wheels being greased, not the board, because that would probably suck and then you wouldn’t be going fast at all, because you’d be on the ground. But you know what I mean.

But I wrote. It was like herding cats. Completely futile, one hundred percent frustrating, and I have small cuts on my ankles from the bastards that kept biting me. But I’m done with my word count for today. So there.

I had a migraine last night, actually left work at midnight, six hours before my shift was supposed to end. I hate going home sick, have only done it a couple of times in my life. But it was worth it. Went home, took the new meds the doctor gave me (woot! They make me sleep, but only after I’d designed a new sweater that was genius, GENIUS, I tell you*), and slept for fifteen hours.

Today I feel great, except it feels like some guy took my head off in his garage, put it back on, and now he’s kinda standing there, looking down at the ground at that one extra part, going “huh. I wonder where that one goes. Oh, well.” Or maybe I should compare my head to Ikea furniture. You know, when you get it all together (gah, do I hate putting that together) and there’s always that one piece of metal left over, a very specifically shaped piece, and you’re sure it is the source of all stability in this chair/couch/bookcase, but it doesn’t go ANYWHERE. Yeah, they left that piece out of my head. Feels kinda funny.

But it’s almost my weekend. That means I can start training Clara, for real this time. She’s being a very bad dog, made worse by the fact that she saves all the badness for Lala and acts like a sweet angel whenever I’m in the room. Training will save us. She’s smart as a whip and wants to learn but is WAY too overeager and freaks herself (and me) out of training for long. She knows sit and down and jump up, but not stay.

What’s your favorite way to teach “Stay?” Lay it on me, for the love of small critters.

*The sweater I designed in my drugged state is not genius, I realized upon sober reflection. As a design detail, I had a piece of fabric INSIDE the sweater, tacked into place, so a lace panel showed up better. Hmmm.



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I *love* putting dykea together. I'm a dykea queen, I tell ya! Hand me that allan key.

As regards the migraines - have you tried the group of medicines called triptans? I've had regular awful two day migraines for about 15 years and finally got these meds a couple of months ago. They've changed my life. I take one and within half an hour the migraine disappears. Not just the pain but all the symptoms. Sometimes I have to take another on the second day but that's it. Not like painkillers every 4 hours and they don't even work properly.

I don't know how much they are in the US, they're about 30 euros for six here.

oh yeah, I'm with you on the stoooopid drugs. yay for sleeping, but THINKING? uh...
I'm way behind on my word count
(see above)
so you're ahead of ME!

migraines suck. excedrin is usually my best friend, though i will resort to imitrex from time to time in the worst cases.

as for training... you could hold the treat up and let Clara stare at you (and stay still :) for a while and then very slowly back away. Try five paces backwards at first, then ten paces, and so on then hopefully you can progress to being in one room and she in the other, not seeing you but trusting you, and then you call her and she gets her treat :)

Or... you can back away, leave treat on floor, count to 20 alligators, then tell her to come and get it. Good luck!

I have had my greyhound, Keeper for 3 weeks now. We are working on leave it - similar to stay. How we are doing it. Show treat in hand and say leave it (close hand if necessary) when the dog moves its attention elsewhere open hand and say okay. I am working on this one on the ground now. Putting the treat on the floor beside Keepers paw, saying leave it. When he looks away I give him a treat (orginal stays on floor) handy for when you drop something good on the floor. Not wait but we will get there.

I laughed when I read that you'd been designing while on the meds -- I had a feeling I knew where the story was going!

I had a roommate in college who used to use serious recreational drugs (what can I say? It was the 70s) and she'd write songs while she was stoned that she'd tell me about the next day. They'd be great songs, but she'd forget them when she sobered up. So one night she recorded the songs she was writing while stoned, and the next morning when we woke up she was so excited that she had done that.

She was dying for me to hear them, and happily hit "play" ... and out came the most god-awful discordant stuff. You can't imagine! And she was a good musician -- a guitarist with a lovely voice, and this was ... Well, I have no words. Not good music -- not even music!

To me it was funny; to her: tragic. We were saying stuff like "This is your music. And THIS is your music on drugs."

It worked for Hemingway, I guess!


Haha, I love the herding cats metaphor. It's funny, I always say trying to get my family out the door is like herding squirrels, but I'd never heard anybody else say anything like it!

Stay takes a while, because ya, it has to be done in increments like Eunice said. I took Riley to a training class once a week for a few months to make sure I got the basics down since we knew he was going to be big, and since I knew I had no clue how to do it right on my own.

For stay, we had the dogs sitting beside us. To start, we'd basically just give the stay command and step out in front of them, not more than a foot away, then come back to the starting position and give them a treat. The distance from the dog and the length of time away from their side was gradually increased until yes, I could go to a different room for a while and come back and he'd still be there. It took a while though, and the reward can't be given UNTIL you're back where you gave the original command, every single time.

Stay? I've always found nailing the dog's hind feet to the floor to be effective.

No. I've never done that. I would never do that. But my dog only remembers "Stay!" for about 5 seconds. Maybe I should try it.

For some great training tips, start tivo'ing "the dog whisperer". I love that show!


For our dogs, we noticed one key in teaching stay: when you are ready to give them the treat to reward them, don't let them come to you but instead go to them and give them the treat. It seems to help the concept stick better.

When you teach stay, or anything else for that matter, you don't need a treat. A "Good girl!" will do as much for her as a treat and it's much more effective. Say "stay", and hold your hand up, palm facing Clara. Then step a foot away. If she stays, YOU go to HER right away and say "Good girl" - don't get her all worked up, but let her know with your voice that you are happy. Don't let her move until you tell her (I use "free" to release). If she breaks the stay, don't say "bad girl", just quietly go to her and have her sit again, and take it from the top. As she stays for a little while, you can increase your distance. Try to remember to use the hand signal each time, too. You know what might also help her learn stay? Instead of having her sit, tell her to "down/stay". It's easier for a dog to keep still if she's lying down.

Glad your migraine is better. I know that feeling of missing a part (or 3).

Duct tape. Duct tape is the answer. (to both the sweater and making Clara "stay".)

You're welcome.

So, what was the sweater design? As for Clara, consistency and patience.

Not that you would take advice from me if you were here with me and my dog (who could use a lot more attentive training work), but in addition to the above:

1) Don't use her name (i.e. say "STAY" rather than "Clara, STAY"), because you want to minimize that response cue.
2) Start with releasing her after you go five steps away, then increase the distance, then go out of site, dance around her, go knock on the door, etc. In short, mix it up.
3) Make sure she's really hungry when you're working on it.
4) When she's starting to get it, start randomizing the treats--every other time, every fifth time, whenever it strikes your fancy, and so on.

Hi there -- I second the hope that you're trying triptans -- I've had good luck with Imitrex, though I know it doesn't work for everyone.

I've had a two-year journey through migraines, myself, and the big breakthrough has been acupuncture and yoga. I still need to take Imitrex about once a week, but that's getting even less frequent, and I'm off the daily drugs. I'd be happy to chat with you about it in email if you would like.

Yay on making your wordcount anyway! Congrats!

ooh, sorry to hear about the migraines. I had them as a kid but only get them infrequently now. Glad you got some relief. For you and Clara I have two words: clicker training. Here are two good websites: http://www.clickersolutions.com/faq.htm#definition -and- http://clickertraining.com/ Clicker training is non-forceful and uses only positive reinforcements. Click for Joy! is a nice book to start with (and there are many other good ones) but it's better if you can find a good trainer and take classes. Ask the dog people you know for a recommendation. Clicker training has been gaining in popularity in the dog world for the last 15yrs or so with good reason, and it's been used much longer with dolphins & orcas. It is so much fun because the dog isn't just obeying but rather begins to offer behaviors which you can mark and reward (or not). For instance, you might click when the dog is sitting but not when the dog is jumping up on you. Eventually you can begin to withhold the click for longer periods -- this is the beginning of a "stay". (This is overly simplified -- there's more to it than just this.) With clicker training YOU think you are training your dog (and you are) but your DOG thinks she is getting you to "click" various behaviors to earn a reward (and she is). It's a game that everybody wins.

I like to sit the dogs on a chair or a bench and tell them to stay before walking away. If they get off, I start over. Then when they stay, I hide around a corner for a bit to see if they stay when I leave the room. The important part to all of this is to just be consistent and do it over and over and over again. When they do it right, I reward with treats. When they don't I say, Nooooo and do it again. Hard!

When I visited my parents this summer, I kinda adopted another dog for them. Well, actually, I picked out the dog and told my mom to go adopt him, which she did, being a good little mama.

Now I'm feeling a bit responsible for the sins of Sammy the Nose (in his defense, Maggie the Catahoulan Wonderdog got into plenty of trouble before the arrival of her partner in crime). What kind of training are you thinking of doing with Clara?

Ok, a rec (and I can't rec her highly enough... she's a crocheter and a knitter too):


(Click on Keepers or Six Lessons)

Why do I rec her? She trains her own service dogs, she trains people to train their dogs (for money, and for publishing), she's calm and confident and smoothly bitchy in the *best* possible way and dogs magically grow brain cells in her presence.

Since you've got a BC, this isn't an issue, but the ESP mind-control telepathy thing... yea, it's cool.

On a professional level why do I rec her? I trust her advice above anyone else (even the people with the special letters after their names) and as a pre-vet student (shadowing several vets) and former dog-trainer I know a *lot* of people with opinions and ideas and 'proven surefire methods'.

None will make you happier than her.

Hey Rach, thanks for putting a nice link in there for me! That was really sweet. We're both makin' really good progress. It's been so many years since I've written any fiction, that it's like being reunited with an old friend. Thank you so much for tellin' folks about NaNoWriMo (cuz that's how I heard about it).

"Stay" is an interesting one. It usually doesn't take very long for a dog to grasp the concept. And it's pretty easy to communicate to them. Holding up the hand, and a moderately stern look is usually enough to get a dog to feel uncertain, and think "Um, I don't really know what you want, so I'll just stay here." And voila, they get a treat for it. The lightbulb usually appears over their head pretty quickly, particularly for a smart girl like Clara.

From that point forward, it's a matter of how long the dog WANTS to stay. Unfortunately, a lot of dogs would really rather not stay. If you're a dog, "stay" is BORING, and it takes FOREVER until you get that treat.

Stick with it, though, because a good "stay" can literally save your dog's life. It saved my dog, way back when - he had slipped the lead, and managed to run across a gap in traffic on a very busy street. (Damn squirrels.) He wheeled around and started to dash back to my side. I asked* him to stay and he did, against his instincts to return, just as all the cars whizzed by again. Good boy, he held his "stay" until the light changed, and I could call him back over.

* That's not true. I screamed bloody murder. "STAAAAYYYYY!!!!"

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