ALFIE!: Part 4
On Tuesday in ALFIE: Part 3, I did an update on ALFIE, the dog I had adopted myself from the Austin Humane Shelter. I talked about some of the training I did with him (including breaking him of humping along with teaching him touch and brofist) and showed a bunch of pictures because that’s what dog updates are supposed to be about.
Today I’m going to talk about some other stuff that has happened with ALFIE! including me doing my workouts around him along with our Christmas road-trip/adventure. Don’t worry, I’ll be babbling about training and fat loss come next week so anybody who’s getting all twisted can certainly wait a few more days.
On with the show.
Training With ALFIE!
In the full blue dog class I’m taking, one thing that they presented us with was the concept of breed specific traits. Humans bred dogs over the years (after we fully domesticated them and I highly recommend a Nova Documentary called Dogs Decoded for a fascinating look at this) for specific characteristics. Some of them were physical but some of them were behavioral. And certain dogs tend to show certain stereotyped behavior because of this.
ALFIE! as a beagle/lab mix ends up having some of the distinctive characteristics of both, I see them in spades. The constant chewing is one but another he has is severe separation anxiety. Unless he’s sleeping, he usually doesn’t like to be more than about 8 feet from me at all times. Quite in fact he’s underfoot a lot and I’ve stepped on his paw once or twice because of it. Often he can be conked out under my desk and if I get up to get a soda, as soon as I break the 8 foot barrier, he’s up and following me.
He also tends to cry if I’m in the house and he’s too far away from me. I crate him sometimes (e.g. if I have company and he’s being a bit too rambunctious) and he’ll cry for quite a while before going to sleep. I learned the hard way not to just lock him in the room if I was in the house. That cost me a good few pairs of shoes when he started chewing out of agitation.
I’m going into all of this detail about this because I do a fair few of my workouts (my slideboard and bike rides as laid out in Methods of Endurance Training: Winter 2010/2011) at home. I’m too lazy to move the crate back and forth and even if I weren’t, I don’t like to keep him in there all the time so he won’t always associate it with being locked up (he is finally learning to crate himself). The point of this being that I wanted him to learn how to be around me while I worked out.
I did this in several steps and the first workout I wanted him to get used to was my slideboarding on my Ultra-Slide Slideboard. It’s three of the six workouts that I do at home and arguably the one that has the least risk if he does get in my way (I was concerned for example that he’d get too close my bike’s back wheel and get his tail caught).
The first thing I did was to move his crate into the room while I worked out. Just so he’d get used to the idea of what I was doing while staying calm. He slept most of it but would watch from time to time; I gave him lots of reassurance and ‘good boys’ while he was resting. Just helping him associate being calm in the room while I trained with a reward. I couldn’t easily treat him unfortunately.
The first time I did it, I had basically finished my main workout and then let him out while I did a few extra minutes just to see how he’d respond. If nothing else, it wouldn’t mess up my workout (which was already completed) if he did. There weren’t any major problems.
Since then, he’s gotten a bit too close to the board or lay down with his front claws on the plastic once or twice and I have to shoo him back. He’s bumped me once or twice and I had to scold him for walking across the surface. Mostly he hangs out and watches me or just plays with one of his toys while I work out. But since the first couple of times working out, I’ve had no issues with him being there. He mostly ignores me and/or watches me slide sideways for an hour with pantyhose on my feet with that look that only a dog can give you which is: “Why are you such an idiot?” I wish I had an answer.
I don’t think he likes what I watch because he has this uncanny ability to bump my Playstation controller and screw up whatever is on the TV. I’ve also let him hang out while I ride the bike; as I mentioned above I was worried he might get too close to the rear wheel and get his tail mangled or get kicked by the pedals but he’s smart enough to keep his distance.
So I train, he hangs out and plays with his toy and looks at me like I am an idiot; he may not be wrong.
Alfie took his big tug toy and moved off-camera after I gave it to him but he’s sitting below the camera’s view while I kept working out. Eventually he moved to the front door (something out front has him mezmerized) and finally just took a nap on the couch. I wish we could have switched places.
Christmas this year was to be spent in Nashville with family. Rather than deal with 7 hours of plane travel and airports (and putting ALFIE! in the hold), I chose to drive. It was a grind in some ways but easier overall in others; if for no other reason than I could escape when I wanted to. ALFIE! was easy to deal with in the car and here are some travel pictures. His crate was in the back seat (so I could use it at home) but he rarely used it. For the most part he slept during the trip while I drove, I’d have rather he drove and I slept but ah well. But sometimes he wanted to see what was going on.
Here’s more pics of him sleeping and sitting in the car. I swear I could teach him to drive if he could just reach the pedals.
And, naturally, since it was his first Christmas, I had to spoil his butt rotten. He got some special treats and Kong toys in his stocking but his main toy was some ‘indestructible toys’ from TuffieToys. Here’s him playing with one of them. Here’s the other toy I got him, it’s really a pull toy for two dogs but he’s quickly made it his.
And that’s where things stand right now. We’re in the new house now and after a brief adjustment, he’s pretty much used to it. He’s starting to crate himself although I had to go through a brief reteaching phase on the crate. He had learned that I only treated him into the crate to lock him up and he started being resistant. So I started throwing treats in and letting him go in and out so he wouldn’t be afraid of it. Now I can get him in with no trouble at all and he’s even started to sleep in there on his own with the door open.
As I’m learning new games and training techniques in the blue dog class, I’m already implementing them. In no time at all ALFIE! has learned the attention game, a game meant to teach dogs to focus eye contact on you instead of something else (in this case treats held in each hand). As I mentioned in ALFIE: Part 3 it’s all about progress and shaping behavior. And it’s ongoing.
A few weeks back I started leaving him out of his crate when I’m out of the house; I wasn’t sure if I’d come home to total destruction the first time but so long as he’s not locked up, he seems to have no problems. I still pick everything chewable up off the floor but that’s par for the course with the beast; chewing is part of his breed. So it goes.
He’s met the next door dogs; two of them are yappy and he just can’t be bothered with their silly little asses. The next door neighbor said that he had previous ‘dog wars’ with tenants and I think I know why: let’s just say that his dogs are probably the commonality. In any case, ALFIE! has tried saying hello at the fence; invariably they yap their heads off and ALFIE! just walks away. The other is a big sweetie and they seem to be friends, at least with the fence between them. Soon I want to introduce him to another dog and am considering adopting another from the Austin Humane Shelter so he’ll have a playmate. We’ll see.
More to come.