I’ve had Pearl for a year and a half. She was our first dog, we were unprepared, and we knew next to nothing. In that time, we’ve spent thousands of dollars, literally thousands, on training and my husband and I are students so it is not money we can afford to spend. We’ve done classes, seminars, board and train, private lessons in our home, private lessons at a training facility. Add to that the thousands we have spent on her ongoing digestive issues, vets, specialists, expensive diets, expensive supplements and pills. Training her is made more challenging because her limited diet makes it almost impossible to find high value treats that don’t upset her stomach. We have had to move twice because of her. She has sky high energy and prey drive. I walk her and walk her and walk her and she still often acts like a terror in the house. Her reactivity means I have to avoid dogs as much as I can when walking. She also lunges at bicycles, runners, and people, and she will try with all her might to catch any rabbit or cat or other moving creature in eyeshot. She figured out she can jump our backyard fence so we can’t let her run in the backyard anymore and walking is pretty much the only way we can give her exercise. Her newest habit is waking us up before our alarm whining. She nips at us and jumps on us, she rips up all my blankets, she barks at my husband and I anytime we touch. We are trying hard to manage this, we really are, and we do have a good trainer who is helping us, so it is not as if we are not working to address these issues or we are just letting them happen and blaming her. I am convinced that Pearl is smart, trainable, and a good dog. She can be sweet and she can be fun.

But I am tired. I am so tired. I haven’t blogged in awhile because it is so hard to stay positive. I feel guilty for getting so frustrated and for thinking, at times, how much easier my life would be if we gave her up or if we never adopted her in the first place. A large reason we have stuck it out so long is because I know we have no good reason to give her away. We made the decision to adopt her and so she is ours. Sometimes I feel like we are stuck with her. I know she is our responsibility. I just keep hoping that it’s not this hard for the next ten or fifteen years.

Even though we work on training every day I am convinced that she will never be the dog I dreamed of having, a dog that I can take to the park and to picnics with friends, who I could train to be a jogging companion or even just walk down the street with and not worry. I don’t think Pearl will even be that. I love her. I love cuddling with her in the mornings after our early walk. I love teaching her new tricks and how she loves to work. She is a good dog. But I also feel like she controls my life and sucks away my money, my energy, my time and adds to my stress, anxiety, and frustration. It’s pretty telling that I am a law student and the thing that causes me the most stress is my dog. She makes me feel like a failure. Life with Pearl often feels like a struggle. And it sucks. I feel like I can’t get work done at home because of her. I can’t stay long at my office because of her either, because she has to be crated when we aren’t home and I know she will be crazy if she is cooped up too long during the day and doesn’t get walked the three or four times a day that she is used to.

I know this post is incredibly negative and I know it makes me sound like an awful pet owner. But I have to vent and I’d rather do it here than take it out on her when I know none of this is her fault. I just don’t know what to do anymore and today was particularly hard. We take one step forward and two steps back with training. I feel so guilty. Guilty and alone and stuck.

Our First Dog-Sitting Experience!

A couple of weeks ago our friends went out of town and their dog, Buster, came to stay with us for the weekend.

Seriously, how cute is this guy?

Buster and Pearl know each other well and often go on walks together or have “play dates.” We were a little worried about how they would do in the house for two days together, but they were so well behaved and it was very little extra work to have a second dog in the house (it totally convinced my husband that, when the time comes that we can afford it, we can handle having a second dog- yay!). Buster is very easygoing and sweet. I was sick with strep throat while he was with us and he curled up at my feet on the couch and kept me company all weekend. He’s just a happy go lucky little guy- his tail is usually wagging and he always looks like he is looking up with you with a happy doggy grin.

Pearl and Buster were really good about sharing toys and not playing too rough together in the house. I couldn’t get a good picture of them playing tug since they were moving so much, but they were so adorable I am sharing some blurry photos anyway (don’t mind all the mess in the background. Since I was sick this week I picked up even less than usual- thank goodness my mother doesn’t read this blog, she would be horrified).

They also loved playing in the yard. I wish we could have been out there more but it was SO HOT.

After a long session of playing together they would chill out on the couch or cuddle up with us to nap.

Napping with Nate (Pearl is curled up with her blankie in this picture, she sleeps with it all the time, it’s super cute… she loves blankets).

We had never had another dog over the house before and dog sitting Buster went so much better than we were expecting. It definitely convinced us that Pearl will be able to handle adding a second dog to our little family when the time is right.

Such well-behaved puppies!

Aren’t You Uncomfortable?

Pearl loves to be comfortable. She has very little natural padding so she usually likes to curl up on the couch or the bed and make a little nest of blankets for herself. But sometimes I find her in the most awkward positions and I wonder how she can possible be comfortable.

Using the couch as a pillow?

Are you enjoying lying on those shoes?

What the heck is this position?

Do you think you are a person, sitting like that?

Am I the only one who finds my dog in silly or uncomfortable-looking positions?

Ahh, now THAT looks comfortable

Almost A Canine Good Citizen

So Pearl failed the CGC test… but she did relatively well! The evaluator said she was this close, but she was overall SUPER wound up and on high alert. She had trouble focusing on me when starting the test and going through the first task, and then she was good walking through the crowd until the last minute when she tried to jump on someone, and with the neutral dog she didn’t sit when she was supposed to but she didn’t bark or lunge, just tried to sniff him, so, hey, progress!

Pearl seems bummed but we are proud of her even though she didn’t pass.

It helped a lot that our evaluator liked Pearl and didn’t make us feel like failures because we didn’t pass. She said that she was obviously a great dog but just had a lot of drive and was hyper-aware of her surroundings, so developing some more tools to redirect her and help her relax would make a big difference for us. She  was one of the first people I have talked to who really seemed to “get it” as far as the things we are struggling with and what it is like to live with a dog like Pearl. But just seeing how she did on the test made me feel so good about how far we have come, even though we still have a long way to go. The evaluator asked if we had thought about doing a reactive dog class. We were told previously that Pearl was not reactive/aggressive enough to need the class, but I do think it would be helpful anyway and we may do that next.

In the meantime, we are going to keep working and are going to try again soon!

Love my girl, even if she is not a good citizen


Aikiou Review

Pearl has always had a problem with gulping her food, sometimes so quickly that she throws up right after eating. Since we’ve had her, we have gone through several types of bowls designed to slow her down when eating.

The first bowl we tried was the durapet slow feed bowl.

We chose the durapet bowl because it was stainless steel, which is less likely to harbor bacteria than plastic. But it didn’t slow Pearl down enough when eating, so next we tried a plastic slow feed bowl with a different design from Petco. I think this one slowed her down a bit more, but unfortunately, Pearl bit a hole in it pretty soon after we got it.

We tried using a Kong wobbler to feed her for awhile, but it didn’t hold more than a cup or so of kibble and we hated how loud it was banging against the floor and walls and how Pearl would get frustrated and send pieces of kibble flying across the room and under the couch, where she would frantically try to reach them until we moved the furniture and made sure she could see there was nothing else under there. Then I came across the aikiou bowl (pronounced “IQ”) online. We started using it at the end of February, and the fact that it has lasted this long is pretty impressive in itself.

The aikiou bowl is made of plastic and shaped like a paw print. Food goes in separate compartments with sliders that go back and forth on the toes and a wheel that spins on the main part of the paw so that only one compartment is accessible at a time. The aikiou is supposed to provide mental stimulation for your dog as they eat, similar to a Nina Ottosson puzzle game.

One thing I really like about the aikiou is that, unlike a Kong Wobbler or other similar toys that sit upright and dispense food as your dog paws it, you can put any type of food in it, dry or wet. Although it does take a little longer to prepare her meals (have to divide the kibble among all of the little compartments instead of just dump it in the bowl), it definitely slows her down more than anything else we have tried, although that typically means it takes her 90 seconds to eat instead of 20 seconds. Unlike the Kong wobbler, it holds up to 3.5 cups of kibble and Pearl does not seem to get frustrated with it (to be honest, she figured it out way faster than we thought she would and ideally I wish it was a little bit harder). Pearl has no trouble getting the food out of the compartments and, although the bowl itself is big, it seems like its a good size to accommodate a wide variety of dog sizes, except for the smallest dogs, who might struggle a bit. Also, all of the pieces come off and are dishwasher safe, which is super convenient.

I tried to take a video of Pearl’s morning meal to give a sense of how the bowl works and its size. (Sorry about the poor quality of the video, I do not have steady hands and the mooing at the end is my phone getting an email)

Has anyone else tried the aikiou bowl? Do you have any other creative solutions to slow down a fast-eating pet?

Remember me?

Hey all! So I have basically been MIA for a couple of months due to law school exams and then trying to work two jobs and write a paper for school all at once. Add some car troubles and a tooth infection- have to get my wisdom teeth out, boo- and it’s a recipe for barely keeping up with actual life, to say nothing of staying connected in the blog world (I’ve since decided to leave one of the jobs and pick a better paper topic, so things are getting under control now). But I have so much to share! I have a ton of awesome new dog gear that I want to talk about and Pearl has been getting so much better with her behavior both in the house and on walks. (We were tracking how often she barked at Nate or I in the house and she seriously has completely stopped doing it so I can’t even track it. We didn’t even start doing anything differently. Not that I am complaining but how weird is that?!) Of course we are still working through challenges, but somehow I have been able to find my zen and keep a better handle on my frustration, which makes living with Pearl 100x easier even when she is behaving badly.

We’ve been busy and tired!

Also, Pearl and I are taking the Canine Good Citizen test on June 27. I fully expect to fail but she has been doing awesome in class and its all a learning experience, right? She has been doing better about walking on a loose lead, but she has to  react appropriately to a neutral dog and accept a friendly stranger, and by accept they do NOT mean jump all over and lick the stranger’s face. They actually mean sit politely and not react to a stranger who comes up to the handler and gives a greeting/handshake. Those are the two things I am most worried about, but we still have one class left and a couple of weeks to practice.

Practicing sitting on a walk… she knows a treat is coming

I HAVE been keeping up with my blog reading and commenting here and there, but hopefully I will be able to do so more often now that my life has regained some normalcy. And Pearl is happy that we are back to goofing around in the yard, training with some consistency, and taking longer walks.

Pearl guarding her favorite new ball in the yard. Don’t let the relaxed look fool you- the second I take a step toward her she will grab the ball and dart out of reach. She prefers keep away to fetch.