Friday, November 12, 2010

Getting Savvy

Things have been progressing slowly but surely. Bella is so eager to pick things up for me and I've slowly started to make her bring items from the floor at a distance and also to bring them towards me. I really like to see her think, she is learning to try her luck and doesn't shut down anymore if things don't work out the first time. She's also getting a lot better with distractions (as long as they don't go woof or miaow).

After a hard workout it's really cozy to take a nap in the sofa.

Sometimes it's even better to conquer my normal resting place.

I also figured out I could perhaps teach her to pull an IKEA bag and fill them. Lightweight and disposable in case training sessions go too far. And speaking of that, I really need to chase my socks that don't land in the laundry basket nowadays. She loves picking them up and running AWAY with them. I think she knows I rather want her to do the opposite and because I care for my socks it's an easy ticket to wake me up.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Iron Woman

After being diagnosed with borderline iron deficiency my energy is coming back through iron pills and viamin C to help absorb the iron! I'm also trying to lay off the dairy except for the occasional indulgence. I survived today without a nap, that's impressive in my books!

Bella is now pretty consistent with picking things up, I need to up the ante and get her to bring them to me. I've been able to throw her cow toy and she'll come racing back with it but with objects she picks up she holds them a bit and then releases before coming towards me for the reward. I actually also need to get a basket or something where I can teach her to put items into. So much to do, I barely know where to begin.

I got a little bit of comparison today as my cousin's dog is now picking her daughter's toys up for her. I was quite jealous to hear it! With a small dog, I also think I'll need to teach Bella to stand up on her hind legs to hand me items so I don't need to bend down to take them from her. With my bad back, I can definitely see that as an asset. All in good time. My cousin has several years' worth of experience in owning dogs and has been training her two bitches for search and rescue work. I'm not going to compare me and Bella to that. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Yellow Card

It would seem that the day I will be considered unfit to work draws nearer. I was informed that in an appointment I had with my midwife yesterday.

Unfortunately, limping and pain when standing up or moving around is a part of my daily life now. About two months ago I was able to take Bella for 30 minute walks without being off, now walking her a 5-10 minute route near our home usually has me limping or near-limping in the end and done for afterwards. I must confess that most days the past two or three weeks I just don't feel like I can do it.

I quite enjoy my job but it has gotten more difficult since I got pregnant. Another side effect of my pregnancy is excruciating pain in my lower back if I sit for too long. My back just can't handle what's going on. I never sit at home anymore except when I eat but most of the time I must work sitting down. My employer has been helping me find solutions that have kept me fit to work so far, like changing the shifts and shortening them. I am now down to 50% work load and with short shifts my lower back doesn't get time enough to complain. Now all the pain walking, twisting of hips and the creaking (yes, my hips creak like an old haunted timber house at times) is making these short shifts more difficult to endure.

For now, I am fit and capable at work but I admit I will also be relieved when I stop. I can tell that every shift takes more energy to complete than before all this started. I'm usually done for the day after I come home, which isn't the home life I want to be having!

The good news is that Bella is really enjoying to take things or pick them up for me! Especially if I slip her a piece of her feed. She even picked up a sock of mine, which I thought of trying after she came running with it and was preparing to play with it. She was very enthusiastic in taking it up for me but when I thought of using my phone camera to shoot a short video of it she got a little confused and acted like she had no clue what I was asking. So I put it away and then she picked the sock up for me once again.

Me and my fiancé also took her out to let her run loose and had some tasty treats with us. We put some distance between the two of us and called her back and forth. She loved the exercise (and treats!) and got some sprint running done at the same time.

However, after the outing I caved in and am now sick on top of everything else!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Friday on a Wednesday

Winter is here with bitter cold and chilly winds yesterday and rather quite christmassy snow this evening. Bella was overexcited and surprised when I took her out in front of our house after work. She ran back and forth like crazy, trying to bite at the snow and figure out what is going on.

Inside my home, things are looking up. Bella is showing consistency in taking objects and even if I used another one of her toys she picked it up from the floor when she had figured out that there was food on offer. Maybe I will be able to get the laundry dog I want afterall!

I now have the next three days off from work so I am sure we can get up to something fun now that the ball is rolling.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Quarter of a Century

Today it's my 25 year old birthday and it was a pretty good Monday. I started by paying the final deposit on my apartment and signed the ownership transfer. It feels a bit unreal as me and the fiancé have been living here for 11 months now. Now we're officially responsible.

I was a bit lazy with training this weekend but yesterday and today I had taken a few short sessions with Bella reinforceing the sit and lie commands. She sits like a pro most of the time but as I had mentioned, lying down isn't as natural to her. She always obeys in the end though and I can now make her lie down from a standing position. I have also been teaching her to stand up from the lie and sit positions.

Bella was however very kind to me -and I'd like to consider it a birthday present from her to her worried dog owner- regarding the 'take' command we've been working on. I have a chik-fil-a cow that a US friend kindly sent to me ages ago and is now an indestructible toy Bella has claimed. I asked her to take it for me and she did so I decided to reward her with food even if I had sworn not to do that for a while. She got excited about the food and I decided to lie down in the sofa and dangle the toy a bit. She wasn't going to bite first but then she took the cow twice. Like the proud owner I am I got super excited, praised her and gave her more food. Then I was going to call it a day and let the toy on the floor. Bella wasn't quite content and did what I hadn't managed with the clicker alone, went and tried to figure out what I wanted her to do with it! She picked it up! yay! I got even more excited and gave her more food and put it again on the floor which triggered the same fumbling which resulted in her taking it again. Not once but twice? woohoo!
Looks like the mix of play and treats is paying off. We're both learning to tune ourselves to the same wavelength, it's exciting!

The interesting thing is that I have been using dog food as treats lately. We are mixing two foods as we plan to change feed and I'm intrigued with the idea of giving the dog its food as treats and making it work for its dinner. So she gets the new feed as treats and old food as meals. She's really keen on the dog food as treats, although I still use hot dogs as a point of interest around other dogs!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Skugga Bella

Bella came to us rather suddenly as a 7 month old. I had been looking at litters since before she was born but the rules in my home town are very strict. By chance, last summer I read about a new ruling on these rules that meant I was finally free to get a dog without needing the approval of a bank in my building.

Another chance was that a colleague told me the day after about one bitch being left in a litter born December 2009 that I had been following at that time. I ended up calling the owner and asking about her. Turns out Bella was born one eyed and it likely contributed to her not being sold. Since born that way we decided to have a look at her and see how it'd go.

We quicklyfell in love with Bella and ended up taking her into our home permanently.

When I was younger I was in love with big breeds. I was infatuated with Rottweilers specifically. A year ago when I was looking into perhaps getting a dog I was shocked when I read about the state of the Rottweiler breed in Iceland and promptly decided 'not a chance'. I was also not really prepared to take on such a big powerful breed as a first dog.

As a child I was also, for some reason, very turned off when it came to terriers. Now what happened was that after reading about the state of the Rottweilers I somehow ended up watching the documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed. That lead me to terrierman's blog where I suddenly saw terriers in a whole new light. Pretty much the last year I've been reading about pedigree dogs and also been wondering a lot about working dogs. In the end, I was most interested in some kind of a mixed breed or a sturdy terrier that I could do things with. I should also add that my fiancé had his say in this, he wanted a small dog.

Not sure if I wanted to pay the premium amounts for a purebred dog that I wasn't even sure was worth the price tag, I looked at mutts. In Iceland -by far- the most common mix of breeds is either a Border Collie mix, Icelandic Sheepdog mix or a mix of the two breeds. I really wanted to go the mixed breed route for a while but eventually gave up as I just never found a dog fitting what we were looking for.

Our interest in Border Terriers started initially after we took two or three breed surveys which rated the breed high. As a result we arranged to meet the dog of my colleague whose dog is a full sibling to Bella but from a previous litter. We also liked their looks, neither of us wants to spend hours on coat care and a low food bill is great.

Bella will be 11 months old mid-November so we've had her for about four months. It's not all rainbows and unicorns but I love having her around and in general think she suits us perfectly. I know that some things she does that frustrate us stem from the fact I have problems exercising her. Me and fiancé are both trying to work on that. When content, Bella is a very lazy dog. My fiancé loves that as much as it irritates him when she tears paper all over the floor when bored. Personally I think it's made our floors cleaner through more frequent sweeping... well if it weren't for the fact that Bella always thinks of finding more paper to tear right as we are finishing cleaning the floors! Oh well, at least she's preparing us for the arrival of ten small fingers.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Fun Friday

The amazing autumn weather continues and having today off, me and my fiancé decided to start the 'dad weekend' by taking the two pups out for a run. Bella really enjoyed playing chase with my fiancé's daughter. The tennis ball she found last time out came to good use, she barely let go of it for the first 20-25 minutes.

After about 25 minutes Bella was starting to get tired, she would run a few paces then lie down again and again. Just as we decided to call it a day a woman arrives with three Poodles, two adult males and a three month bitch puppy. Suddenly Bella wasn't tired at all anymore and ran for another 20 minutes playing with the Poodles. She's been a very happy and content dog this afternoon!

Me and the fiancé have been busy this week buying furniture and getting our apartment into shape for the winter. It's meant not enough time for training Bella but I've managed to sneak in a session or two. I've been putting off working further on lying down, I want to be able to do it standing but it's taking some time. She'll lie down consistently but relies a lot on my hand signal which isn't good enough for her unless my hand goes almost down to the ground. We're working our way up, one command at a time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Take It! Please?

It's been a rough week for me and unfortunately Bella suffered more than me. I was unable to take her out for a proper run or walk which raised the tension in the house a lot. Finally today we went out and let her run loose. She found herself a destroyed tennis ball and ran around like crazy playing with it. The result is that now she's calmly sleeping next to me in the sofa. I feel so relieved.

I have been training Bella to take objects into her mouth and hold them with the clicker but for some reason all lights turned off if I started asking for more than to touch the object with her nose. Several training sessions into the process and no visible progress I started doubting this method and asked for some advise. A person suggested I try to leave out the treats and use a favorite toy instead to raise interest. BINGO! 
Combining play and training seems to be working. Bella will now take the object and hold it without any problem and the reward is more play. I don't think she really realises we're training at all! I'm only on day two and am yet to see how consistent and reliable this will be but she is taking the toy which is all I was asking to begin with. I look forward to seeing if we can convert this to other items later on. However, for now, I'm just going to be patient and strengthen the connection.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Brrr, it's cold!

Living in Iceland does not mean a lot of snow anymore in my part of the country. We have in fact had a gorgeous drawn-out autumn this year. Eventually the temperature always drops as it has the past few days.

My fiancé dragged me out the door this afternoon to take Bella out for a run. We live in the outskirts of Reykjavik so not even five minutes from our apartment we can reach nice empty spaces. Now I can't walk far so I've found out that my dog is perfectly happy with me moving like a sloth as long as I just keep moving. Right at the beginning we roused a bird called rjúpa, which a quick internet search indicates is called Ptarmigan in Europe and Partridge in North America. With the exceptional autumn the poor bird stuck out like a sore thumb, all white in a very dark environment.

Having found the bird I decided to edge our way along the edge of the forest (it's more of a bush to tell the truth!) and Bella ran happily back and forth, into the thicket and out again. We found no other birds but it was a nice walk, did both of us a world of good.

At home I've enjoyed a lazy Sunday but I did take some time to try to teach Bella to take and hold an object. I've looked at videos and tried to read about the process but there's some obstacle that makes Bella content at just touching the object, she just won't take it into her mouth. I just can't figure out where I'm going wrong but I refuse to give up.

Another thing I am working on with her is crate training her. We had put off buying a crate because I felt they were just so expensive given I am just going to use it here at home. We finally found a place that sells them for half the price of what we had been looking at. It's going pretty well, I've not really been focusing on it and just strewn her food on the floor for now. Everything gets eaten so no problems there.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Dog School

Me and Bella had a test last week in the dog school we've been attending for the past five weeks. It is a part of an incentive for dog owners to attend lessons in dog ownership, on rules and basic training. Passing both parts of a test, written and practical, gives owners a discount of annual licence fees for the rest of the dog's life.

It wasn't a terribly difficult test. We had to demonstrate only a handful of basic skills, such as sitting and lying on command, a well mannered walk on a leash, recall and waiting.

The five week course was a lot of fun and very educational. I must confess that physically it was very difficult for me and little Bella was challenged mentally. I enjoyed meeting other dog owners and seeing different problems people faced. It was good practice for me and my dog, she's very bad socially with other dogs. She gets overexcited and wants to meet the other dogs and play but she doesn't quite know how to behave and easily gets anxious if things don't go too well. The school helped her meet dogs in a positive setting and learn to be a little less nervous and approach them more politely. I hope we can expand on that now that it's finished.

We did pass our test although I must confess we ran into trouble with the wait command towards the end of the course. I hope to do more doggie activities with Bella later, when my pregnancy is over and body back to normal. It's very rewarding for both of us and good to get taught and see how other people do with their dogs.

Until then we are going to have to get creative and amuse ourselves here at home.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Pregnant Dog Owner

Bella is my first dog. As such, there's a whole new world out there to explore and learn from.

When I got her I had all these crazy ideas about spending time outside. Lots and lots of time. Biking, hiking and walking. Of course at the time I knew I was pregnant but didn't anticipate that my very first challenge would be learning to cope with a horde of experts advising me not to do a lot of the things I enjoy. Exercise apart from walking on even ground is pretty much a no-no. In short, the joints in my hips and lower back are too loose because of pregnancy hormones and cause me pain if I am not careful how I use my body.

I felt bad enough foreseeing the next 5-6 months of my life doing very little but the challenge of keeping a young active terrier fulfilled remains a bigger headache for me. On a few occasions I have allowed myself to do a few of the things I am not supposed to, like sneak out on my bike and allow Bella to go for a proper run. However, I always have to take the pain that comes with it and the knowledge that if I keep doing it my condition could deteriorate.

Walking is something I can still do but the distance I can cover shortens every week. My dog still gets to enjoy short walks on a leash or a trip to safe places where she can run while I wander a bit. I believe that every little thing counts. I also think the walks have helped my body stay relatively fit in other terms, my blood pressure is in a good range for example and my general health is good.

I don't regret for a moment having gotten Bella as she's been a great help in keeping me sane during my long hours of confinement to my home. That's why my current goal is to learn of and find ways to help her stay sane during the course of my pregnancy and until I can take her and the stroller out for long walks and some proper exercise.