JD Allinder

Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

Coonhound on Board

In Posts on December 27, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Rebecca recently left the following comment, and I thought I’d respond to it today:

Thanks so much for your insights. We have Hudson, a 9-month-old BTCH, and he is a handful. What do you do in the car? We have a GSP who has never been trouble in the car (it’s a Jeep Liberty, and she loves sticking her head out the sunroof, which does get some attention, but otherwise she’s great). Hudson seems very anxious in the vehicle, but only when it’s moving. He whines and brays with that deep voice of his; but mostly whining and jumping around. We tried sitting in the vehicle with him for a while, but it’s just not going anywhere. Any other ideas? How is Jane in the car?

Jane was anxious in the car for at least the first six months – maybe even the first full year. It was pretty challenging for both of us at times, particularly since we took several extended road trips together within the first few months. She continually paced and whined during the drives to our daily hiking spots around Southeast Michigan, though never on the return back home. (Rule number one for managing any unwanted behavior with a dog: exhaust her.) On long-distance trips she’d work herself into a terrible state and fill the car with her especially stinky farts. I’d have to stop after the first 20 miles or so whereupon she’d have explosive diarrhea. After that she’d pretty much settle down and sleep for the duration of the trip. I think with Jane there was a combination of coonhound excitement and nervousness from whatever horrible previous experiences she’d had. I’m guessing she’d had a few unpleasant surprises in her past that involved being transported in cars. Once she trusted I wouldn’t abandon her, the farting and diarrhea subsided. Curbing the pacing and whining just took a lot of patience and correcting. I use the forceful and curt “tsch” sound to let Jane know I want her to stop whatever the offending behavior may be, and she responds well to it. That correction has been the most successful tool in managing her whining. (Of course, there are many times when whining is appropriate – it’s important to let dogs be themselves.)

A big part of the coonhound’s pacing and excitement seems to involve movement. This probably explains why Hudson is only agitated when the Jeep is in motion. Jane is attracted to and stimulated by anything that moves. She’s lunged at falling leaves, shadows, bicycles, sleds, even, terrifyingly, a freight train. I think car travel might just be too stimulating for a coonhound while he’s still young – way too much stuff moving around out there. One effective technique I’ve used for changing Jane’s behavior is to use food to reward what I want her to do. I take my car through the drive-through car wash about once a week. This used to be too much for Jane. She’d howl at the brushes and spraying water and lunge at the windows with her gums pulled back. Finally I got the bright idea to feed her treats while going through the car wash – she’d always rather eat than attack – and it did the trick. I did this about three or four times, and the behavior stopped. She now associates the car wash with pleasure and sits as quiet as a church mouse.

Maybe you could try this with Hudson: correct his unwanted behavior – whining and pacing – with a “tsch” and then reinforce his compliance with a treat. If he’s as intelligent (and as food-centric) as Jane, he’ll figure out the jig pretty fast. You might also try exercise before riding in the car. A brisk 30-minute walk before going out might help take the edge off of his excitement.

Thanks for visiting Life With Jane. I’d love to see pictures of Hudson and your GSP and read about your experiences.

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Let it Snow

In Posts on December 12, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Hooray for winter storms (especially in the fall)! Hooray for snow and ice and slush and wind and cold! Today is our first real snow storm of the season, and I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for it. It’s the promise of days like today that keep me going all through the spring and summer. We’re not getting hit like other parts of the Midwest (Southeast Michigan is beyond the lake-effect snow region), though we might still end up with a foot or so.

Jane and I just took a two-hour hike around Ypsi. It’s relatively warm – just below freezing – so the snow is wet. My boots are waterproof, but the rest of me got drenched. Jane was soaked to the skin, too, but she was energetic and curious and “on.” We covered some of our favorite neighborhoods and alleys, and then headed to Frog Island and Riverside Park where Jane ran free and chased (and nearly caught) fat and dazed squirrels and dug for frozen poopcicles.

We saw not  single dog out, which is a shame, because they especially enjoy a good gadabout on the first snowy day. There were three or four sledders on the big, terraced hill in Riverside, but other than that not a creature was stirring save the smokers outside the bars on Cross and Michigan. (Yay for finally getting smoke-free bars and restaurants in Michigan, but boo for allowing smoking on the sidewalks out front where my dog has to breathe in the secondhand smoke.) Jane enjoyed an extensive run on the south side of Michigan Ave. where the disused factories and strip malls have recently been leveled. There are multiple acres now (50? 75?) of cleared land and woods along the Huron and all the way up to the old Ford plant. The disc golf course and compost mountains along the river were engulfed in white, the wetlands frozen, and the giant winter grasses bent over to the ground. Jane was not only in and out and over and under every possible nook and cranny, she was extra attentive to my every directive, hyper aware of our working in unison. I only needed to leash her when we were on the streets. Otherwise, she was with me and aware of me and engaged and working. (Normally, this is where I digress and start talking about how much I love her and start speaking baby talk. I can’t help it. It happens frequently while we’re out on a walk/adventure. She’ll do something that I find particularly significant/exciting/moving – like staying with me on a long stretch without coercion – and I start praising her and I try to kiss her – a completely reflexive act for me – and she pulls away with embarrassment and disgust as if to say, “Not now!”)

Toward the end of our walk, we got pretty cold. There was a desolate field along Michigan Ave. where the wind was screaming so loud Jane couldn’t hear me calling. The sideways snow was sharp and wet and stung my eyes. There was nothing to absorb the fury but Jane and me. But we made it. We turned our heads down and plodded on.

We’re cozy at home now – Jane loves her creature comforts. CBC2 is playing beautiful, early Christian music. The wind is still screaming. I just trudged out in my long johns and dumped a couple pounds of seeds on the ground for the poor sparrows. (I don’t know how they survive.) Jane’s wrapped up and snoring in a fresh-from-the-dryer fleece blanket. The tea kettle’s whistling. All is exactly as it should be.