New Experiences traveling and dealing with apartment living in a city – Obe’s progress

“One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.” — Henry Miller, “Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch.”

Going anywhere with the younger ones is more of an adventure…

Pack dog bed, dog health records, Heartguard, Frontline extra doses, crate, 6 ft. leash, waist leash, heavy-duty 30 ft. flexi lead, have labeling on dog collar, toys, peanut butter for stuffing a Kong, water, other chews, tugs, water dishes, dog food, clicker, collapsible reflective front window screens and then my stuff and then add the dog and hit the road for a 1300 mile journey to Massachusetts to deliver Obe and spend a week getting him oriented to being my daughter’s city canine. Coincide this with Mother’s Day and her birthday and the fact I’ve never been out East to see where she lives – it’s all good.

Driving from northern Wisconsin Lake Michigan is in the way. I thought about cutting through the southern edge of Canada, but a dog’s health records are supposed to be identifiable to the dog you’re traveling with – when Obe got his rabies shot he weighed 25# and was called Max and owned by a different person. Also Canada disallows bringing dog food across the border. I also checked out crossing Lake Michigan on the ferry – $60 for its celebration 60th year, but cars and dogs must remain locked on the car deck for the crossing and passengers may not visit them, based on the ‘possible risk of terrorism.’ Since I had thought I might nap in the car during the 5-hour boat ride, this idea was sunk. So toll roads it was.

Yah, Obe’s a great traveler, smaller rations of food per day, dog food offered when he was lying down,  and being quiet on his dog bed in the back and nothing for squeaks or rumpling around, he was a great traveler. He ended up sleeping in the car in his crate a couple of nights just because of ‘no dog’ rules, but he did just fine. While he traveled he was tethered, but not crated – mostly for access and because the crate that fits in the car is a bit snug for him.

Problems? Well on day 2, after I had offered him water he didn’t want on a break, we loaded up and hit the road again and he must have decided he did want the water in the plastic lidded ice cream bucket. Long legs, snagged the bucket and pulled it over removing the lid and dumping maybe a quart of water on the carpet, which he was lapping it up from when I saw what had transpired in the rear view mirror. Different water…dripping from the water cooler soaked the passenger side floor mat and to complete the water offerings a hard diagonal rain overnight in Ohio wet my car seat and part of the blankets in his crate and various other spots because the windows were cracked for ventilation. Oh well. Things do dry out.

Actually he became so good, calm and quiet while traveling that I checked him over thoroughly to make sure he wasn’t sick…temp? tummy? clear eyes, good color gums? But he seemed absolutely fine, just a zen traveler.

We made it to Northampton on Friday night, about 8:30 p.m. and he was ready to rock-n-roll, time to play and we were going to a small apartment in the upstairs of an old house above a family with a 2-year-old son. A good walk wasn’t really enough and he didn’t want to kennel up and go to bed. Noisy, from rumpling around in the metal crate and from vocal complaints, oops – in actuality it wasn’t very long, but it seemed very loud, kind of like a baby crying on an airplane for ten long minutes.

Some answers for these concerns couldn’t be resolved until the next day: a larger, plastic crate (they’re not as ventilated nor can they be folded up flat, but they are quieter), foam pads beneath the crate to muffle thumps and turns, more daytime playtime, and just more getting used to the surroundings and his new person.

Saturday eve the crate bedtime was considerably less noisy, but not yet totally calm. New discoveries included certain throw rugs as potential chew toys (not!), a penchant for yoga bolsters (oh dear), trying out the bark on a stump chair (he likes sticks)…strategy to resolve these was quick offering of alternates, putting value on playing with other things, body posture upright/disengaging instead of engaging play r/t these items and removing some things. (management) until this phase of his life is over.

Sunday, during a time when the other family was out, we played in the crate, close the door, wait calmly and then get broiled chicken pieces (which are real high value food for him). The value/reward was offered for the quiet, relax in the crate with the door closed and people out of sight. The duration started really brief and then extended, and if one cycle of this didn’t work the duration of in crate was reduced to where he would most likely succeed again. These were short sessions of play, several times that day. By eve he went in the crate, laid down automatically, door closed and completely quiet. So one version of separation with absolutely no complaint in place…next versions need to be daytime leaving, coming and in yoga studio.

Monday and it’s time to practice Obe settling and waiting in the office space. It’s a great old building, previously a Masonic temple, very acoustic (think sound magnifying) we all rode upstairs in an historic hydraulic water powered elevator. Pretty much no one around when we were there, good thing as there was some dog noise.

Everyone together in the office – dog relaxes – someone leaves…oh oh…dog wants them to come back and whines and then yells about it. The important thing was the same as all anxiety, separation training – calm, successfully quiet gets rewarded and other stuff is ignored and used to judge where the current limits of success are located. Extra issue Monday was some doggy diarrhea (reason? who knows), but anyway that means food treats are temporarily out of the reward bin and the floor is real slick, shiny wood so tug is out too as are all games, just voice praise and petting available as rewards and the comfortable dog bed we brought along. And, of course, there is the concern that whining and wanting to leave have a very profound, other end of the dog reason…so the sessions were short and interspersed with walks on the bike path.

Noise is an odd thing in the city. There is so much noise, so much, but certain kinds of noise is not acceptable. In the country there is so much less people-noise, so much less, but other noise is generally accepted at a fairly prolonged level. Example; our new neighbor last year had a dog that barked steadily for several weeks and there was a bit of grumbling, but no noise complaint; cows bellow very long, very loud; roosters; hounds bay after coyotes, and then there are ATVs, snowmobiles and big wheeled vehicles, We have noise and smells, much of it animal based and they are accepted, maybe not by everyone, but generally accepted. Here the accepted noises are motors, blowers, grinders…machines constantly. They have to run, do whatever needs doing, but animals seem less able to do what needs doing.

OK so that’s the noise standard, what’s the solution? Practicing stuff that would likely be noisy when other’s are unlikely to hear or where they won’t notice. So everyone else leaves the house…now is the time to practice leaving pup in crate during daytime. Or find the most sound proofed area, or put the crate in the back of the vehicle and practice leaving pup in crate in back of car, go away, come back, reward for silence and calm. Repeat. In the game the intent is to have the pup be successfully quiet and get rewarded for that silence and calm, but in the process of elongating the time there are sometimes immediate noise outbreaks and the only way these are not rewarded is by waiting to return when there is a breath of silence. Sometimes this takes awhile. And it’s noisy. Each big change creates a return to old behaviors that seemed to work at one point. We kept the practice sessions fairly short; the ones in the crate in the car were rewarded by a hike.

And then there’s the schedule  and alternative backup plans to make the whole thing more likely to work…

Friday, Obe’s 8 month old birthday and he’s very relaxed in the studio office, was totally quiet going to bed last eve, has transferred the majority of his attention to his new person since she plays, feeds and walks him but now he’s started to guard the place when unusual noises occur. Just like with children the problems change, but kind of stay the same with each new milestone of their life.

Have you tried to raise a dog in an apartment? Was it difficult to get past the problems?


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