Thursday, June 30, 2016


I'm not a certified dog trainer or anything, so fortunately I don't have to remember all the latest jargon and its specific meanings...operant conditioning anyone? Something about Sherlock's wormy behavior when he arrived, hugging the earth while wriggling like a dachshund, tail frantically appealing submission, his complete stillness at the vet, his perfect heeling on leash all spoke to me of fallout from the use of aversives in punishment, a generalized apathy and conditioned suppression from negative other words, it seemed to me he'd been walloped into unthinking, fearful submission by an abusive handler which was really sad to watch. I decided to let him have some freedom, to explore the world and begin to make his own decisions, gain some confidence.

Not that I knew the words two months ago, since then I've been reading all I can to try and find out how to heal his heart and get him to the point where he can control his own over-arousal and use his highly intelligent mind to channel his overabundant vociferous energy more peacefully ... I've ordered a new book, Fired Up, frantic and freaked out, by Laura Van Arendonk Baugh, because the title totally sounds like Sherlock, particularly the fired up and frantic bit. More on that when it arrives in a couple of weeks...I've also just discovered a new Eileen and dogblog by a US writer, Eileen Anderson  ,which gave me the terminology to describe Sherlock (see link above) and which I'm going to enjoy exploring in the next few days. She labels the nasty training I experienced in the Honmoku dog run and the kind of abuse Sherlock has been used to in her post "Shut down dogs".
The good news is he's working really hard himself: now that he has some freedom during walkies (albeit within the radius of the 1.8m Ruffwear Flat Out leash which you can buy in Japan from Montbell) he's such a wee rabbit, jumping over the leash to untangle it himself when it winds round his legs, darting forward as far as the longer leash permits but rarely actually pulling on it, dancing back behind me to dart forward on the other side in a dervish twirl so that he gets more exercise and takes in the scents on both sides, fast fast fast, and then on again! It's a wonder he doesn't bang into things or trip up more, whirlwind speed and agility. He's using up so much energy, physically and mentally, no wonder he's not putting on weight even though he's been neutered and eats the same amounts as Nobunaga who has ten kilos more weight!

The peewees and poopies in the garden is coming along well, I have a constant stock of treats to lure him out every so often, although he hates the rain and getting his feet wet, it seems. I always get wet, but thank God for being British, a damp miserable childhood has toughened me up just for this. Thankfully the past few days things have been looking up, although I still don't feel confident enough to dismantle all the pet sheets posted up around the house just yet. What I'm doing differently is, he gets the treat before he pees and then goes to pee. I mean, he's not stupid, and I trust him to know what to do. Plus if he doesn't need a peewees, he simply looks at me with a quizzical look and refuses to budge beyond the doorway, treats or no treats. Okay, sweetie, fine, good boy.
And the barking, hypervigilant at night and jubilant during the day....well, more on that as time goes by...

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rain and Shine

The day begins with pouring rain and no hope of anything like a decent walkies...Mummy is secretly quite pleased because she needs a bit of rest...but you can tell by the look on Sherlock's face that he's not too happy about it...
Early afternoon the sky cleared and we took the opportunity to walk round the park. I stuck to the paths today because I was wearing a yukata...
Best casual wear for summer. 7500 steps on my pedometer. Happy mum, happy dogs.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


 Sherlock barking at the gate again yesterday was like a huge pent up howl of anguish mixed with elation: he's worked so hard these past few days to be quiet, but stopping the barking is like damming up a river, and it's going to burst out of him...It's as though every time we go walkies he revisits the frustration of being abandoned and locked up in the pound, the tension between current joy and the quivering mess of betrayal and anxiety, the pain of being behind bars, the effort it took to hold it together, he's riding it out again every time. This is deep soul stuff finally coming out...
 I know with Nobunaga there was a huge pile of frustration, desperation, loneliness, betrayal in his heart that slowly cleansed out, and he did bark and lunge forward when approaching other dogs in his joy to connect, which could easily have been misinterpreted as aggression (and did annoy some other doggie owners, to be sure, only with a big smile and loud friendly greeting I breezed their feelings aside, assuring them he was safe and friendly and only wanted to play and say hello).
Now with Sherlock the key is to let him voice his anguish without allowing him to time-slip and actually get lost back there, to keep present joy and strength in his awareness as he revisits the pain, so he doesn't drown in it, but to let him get the gunk out of his system and express it...only of course, I have to maintain my own sanity in the process. A delicate balance.
Photos by Lelantos

Monday, June 20, 2016

Two months

 Sherlock back from walkies, lazing up on the couch as though he'd been there from day one, has been in the family for a proud eight weeks now. 
 I hate to say the barking may be on the mend in case I jinx it, but I have had a little more sleep at night and silence during preparation for walkies is also improving. It is still a bit hard juggling a bag of shopping with the three dogs, Sherlock refuses to stay on one side, be it right or left, and continues to minnow around, darting hither and thither from behind my legs, which gets rough when there's a bag of shopping to wham into...and I don't have my hands free to untangle the leashes. But compared with the wonder they say silence is golden.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

In her clothes

 Sherlock wearing Chiaro di Luna's UK summer shirt, lazing in the heat after a long walkies and a good breakfast. All clean after a shampoo yesterday evening, Claire had a nice shampoo this morning after the walk, white as snow and picture perfect! I actually got a great night's sleep, meaning I did wake up quite a few times snuggling with Sherlock, spooning as I massage and stroke him gently, but he was quiet as a lamb...this morning too before walkies, managed to keep his barks to a gentle whimper...what bliss, the peace! Now to get in a wee energizing nap myself having washed out the entrance tiles with lavender to wash away pee smells, hung out various loads of washing and aired the shoes and the bedding...

Friday, June 17, 2016


"Try this experiment. The next time your dog is participating in some out of control behavior like barking at the door or jumping up on you, do nothing. Not the nothing that most owners do, but a real, purposeful nothing that sends the message, “I am actively not responding to you.”
That means, don’t look at the dog; don’t talk to the dog; don’t move. Just stand there, arms folded and looking away. Give it a good couple of minutes if need be. I’d love to hear what happens. (When you do this, please be mindful of any wonderful thing your dog might do. If he sits, is quite, or both...please remember to tell him he’s wonderful! Rinse and repeat.)" 
I confess I walloped Sherlock today...on the butt, for barking wildly at the door as I try to attach leashes, put on my shoes and clip on my poopie belt and get the water all just got to be too much. He got the message. Hmmm. I feel awful... Will continue with positive reinforcement, clicker and treats as my state of mind permits...meanwhile reading all I can get on the gentle methods to give me's calendar quote tells me to "persevere without giving up" (bit of a tautology, how do you persevere and give up?). Life goes on...I'll give Cindy's advice a try tomorrow...
...and of course Ian Dunbar on the peewees issue, which is also still not quite as perfect as I would wish.
It's like Sherlock will bark madly at you to get you to go walkies when he thinks it's about time, even though I've successfully taken the dogs out about half an hour before when I got home for treats and peewees in the garden. When I ignore him, saying I'm tired and not ready to go yet, he'll go peewees in the house even when the doors are all open and the garden is available, I'm thinking he has used this technique in the past to make a point or get his way/attention, as it after food, if I don't open the cage immediately, he will pee in the cage...and unfortunately Claire is beginning to kind of follow suit with poopies or peewees in the house to protest not being taken walkies...even though it's not raining, the garden is available and she knows to go outside....yikes. We shall overcome!
Photos by Jakob Miyajima

Thursday, June 16, 2016

K-9 Vocalization

Dogs, like humans, speak...Nobunaga rarely makes use of his warm bark except when urging friends or Mummy to play. He delights in the more subtle communication of exhaled breaths and sighs, and we play a wee quiet game together matching up "huh" and "whooo" in turn, much like short bursts in free jazz.
Sherlock uses vocalizations freely, mainly a rather high-pitched strident bark which rips through the air like a whiplash out of the blue and maims your brain. 
" Dr. Karen Overall of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine's behavior clinic said the single biggest underappreciated part of dog behavior is that much of what dogs do is about soliciting information. They want confirmation of what is happening or want to test a hypothesis. Barking is a means of doing that." [In Jennifer Arnold 2011 Through a Dog's Eyes p.108]
I wonder just what hypothesis Sherlock is it my turn for supper yet?It's got to be my turn, I've waited and waited, I'm so hungry, I CAN'T WAIT OH GOD I CAN'T WAIT IT'S SUPPERTIME ISN'T IT I KNOW IT IS OMG OMG AWESOME....  ...I think you mean walkies, do you mean walkies, if you mean walkies I will be just so overjoyed, I really think you mean walkies, YES, this has got to be WALKIES I CAN'T HOLD IT IN I THINK WALKIES IS HAPPENING OH GOD WALKIES!...Mum there's someone in the house they're walking outside the room, I think it's an intruder I'm so busy listening I'm pretty sure it's an intruder MUM THERE IS SOMEONE IN THE HOUSE BY THE DOOR (it's just daddy going to the toilet, come on sweetie, bedtime now, settle down) GOOD THING YOU'RE AWAKE MUM THIS IS AN INTRUDER I SENSE, LET ME TELL YOU THERE IS SOMEONE IN THE HOOOOOUUUUUUSE>>>>>
If we don't get the communication flowing in more peaceful ways soon I shall go mad with sleep deprivation and deaf with bark-desensitization...I need to find a local trainer to just work on simple obedience tasks and deepen our flow, soothe and calm, breathe, relax, trust and wait...

Monday, June 13, 2016

A nose by any other name...

 "That dogs have extraordinary sensory perception is undeniable, and we will surely continue to discover new ways in which they use these remarkable abilities...they are magical, wondrous creatures that possess amazing gifts...Since we are far from discovering all that they are capable of, we should remain open to the potential of their mystique."
Source: Jennifer Arnold 2011 Through a Dog's Eyes. Spiegel &Grau NY p.64

Thursday, June 9, 2016


Glorying in the moment...just being ready to see what is around you and be grateful, blessings in abundance, no need to rush anywhere or do anything special...every day is a new day. Notice Sherlock and Nobunaga are guarding the house, testing the scents in the air to make sure there's no danger: when a dog is scenting deeply, they'll close their mouth to get a keener taste. It's a serious face, a work face, alert, processing, not a relaxed loose smile of happiness. In scenting dogs it's not an aggressive face though, just a serious concentrating one. 
Photos by Renata 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Sherlock Pupdate

Sherlock is making great progress. Touch wood, for a couple of days now no peewees in the house. He likes to pee on the stoop rather than on trees in the garden, which is still not ideal, but at least it's outside.
The barking while I make the food bowls is almost under control until the final stage where he has to wait for me to feed Claire and Nobu...he goes to his cage and barks furiously while waiting. It's okay if there's someone there to help, then we can make it a bark free experience, but how often is that? Everyone is busy...

On the other hand, he was barking most of the time I was shopping in the store, which is kind of a regression, and barking madly when I go to the front door and get ready for walkies, all the while I put the leash on the three dogs, and then in front of the gate waiting for me to lock the door. Nobu, Claire and me hate the noise, and ride it out in pained disgust...I want to hold Sherlock gently which keeps him calm, but need both hands to set up the other dogs, and when I place my foot on his spine instead, neither Nobu nor Claire come within reach when I call so I can get on with things, they dislike the barking close up. They hover around just out of reach. The minute he has no physical touch anchor, he's a dervish. Just hoping the neighbors, who know the situation, have a couple more months patience, this may take a while. It kind of feels like one step forward three steps back with the barking...

While Sherlock was twitching as he fell asleep, I was holding his little head, and realized his whole brain and skull were twitching as he fell asleep, like a great twitching waves expanding through his, that wee guy is working hard to adapt and learn. 

My session with Doggy Culture expert setter trainer was cancelled for a while, maybe in the autumn...which puts me back to square one with getting trusted and expert help for this barking thing...Dodo-sensei, beam me down some angel light from heaven here, this must the biggest hurdle I've had to face adopting dogs so far...
Photos by KyouSK

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Black Lab Company

Went shopping behind Hodogaya station for doggie training goods: I bought our training whistle there but never actually went. It's on a one way street and you have to curve through the station and along the tracks in a wee one way street to double back and park in very narrow parking lot. Worth the effort though!
The Black Lab Company have a wide selection of original goods and foods, plus it's okay to bring three setters to the doggie cafe, they said: just call in advance so we can make you extra space to settle in. Their spaghetti style lunches are in the region of $12. 
I was eagerly telling them about CACI Gundog Rescue and the fifteen pointers who need rescuing, hoping they would print a flyer for the cafe...hope they do! My purchases on the counter are the original training treat pouches, not available online: I did have one from my late trainer, Dodo-sensei, but I can't find it anywhere. I went for army style to match my army-style water and poopie waist pouch which I scavenged from the Japanese trash. I also bought a pink clicker to match my pink water bowl: here goes! I'm preparing to go for an orientation session come Thursday with Kurusu-sensei at Doggy Culture . It's a long drive over to Chiba, but I'm sure it'll be worth it...let's hope the advent of the rainy season doesn't put it on hold though...

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Moko's Warm Welcome

There's one friend's house that Claire will always stop by on walks, climbing up the steps onto the porch and insisting on lingering by the front door: she adores the dogs and their family, the first friends she warmed up to after coming to Yokohama, wagging her tail and dancing in delight whenever we meet. Today we were lucky, the whole family was home, the door was open, and we were able to stop for a leisurely chat and snuggle in the warm evening sunshine.
Nobu is more about down than sit, and enjoyed saying hello to his wee pal Moko, another rescue. Truly dogs are like their owners, when Moko was first rescued, he was quite a snappy ditzy wee dog, but now he is ever so centered and friendly.
Sherlock had a big smile on his face, and we were able to give him lots of attention so he didn't bark impatiently demanding we move on home.
I'm sure next time he'll remember the spot and be just as eager as Claire to stop and make sure just in case the family might be home before walking on by.
Meanwhile Nobunaga was stretched out on the tarmac playing dead, so when we finally reluctantly got on up to walk home we had to play recall games to get him motivated: moving on ahead five or six metres, turning, crouching down with a big smile and calling "Nobu, here!" 
"Really," he says, "we can't just stay?" He's looking ever so gorgeous after his summer cut from Inuya. Believe me, I wouldn't mind staying on the porch forever too...
Photos courtesy of Jakob

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Training Myths debunked

Still brooding over my Tuesday ordeal in the Honmoku dogrun: their Japanese website mentions Ian Dunbar and his K-9 Games in their blurb, but to my mind Ian Dunbar would be horrified at what happened in the run this week. The Dog Star Daily offers some insight in "The Macho Myth": 
"Instead of being educational, many so-called “training” methods are just downright adversarial if not abusive; the dog is often viewed as our enemy, rather than as our best friend. Why on earth would we ever treat our best friend like our worst enemy?
Many playful, greeting and fearful gestures are misinterpreted as being aggressive, providing the unthinking owner with a convenient excuse to abuse the dog under the guise of “training”. ...
Certainly, we need to control dogs — but mental control is what is required, not physical domination. Even though an ill-experienced, middle-ranking dog “handler” might be able to jerk, hang, roll-over, and/or beat a dog into submission, what is the point of winning the battle and losing the war? What possible advantage is there in converting a so-called “dominant” dog into a fearful one? Both are equally as worthless as companions or working dogs."
This article is based on Dr. Dunbar's Behavior column in the August 1989 issue of the American Kennel Gazette. Reprinted with permission of the author and the American Kennel Club.
Photos by KyouSK

Honmoku Dogrun Ordeal

I'd heard from two different doggie friends, a black lab and a golden retriever, that there was a dog run in Honmoku park open only on Tuesdays and weekends. So after Sherlock had his stitches taken out, and the big C is finally over thanks to fantastic vetting from Dr. Koyama, I decided to top up the excursion with an exploration of the park and the new dog run. 

I had taken the dog vaccination certificates, their registration and rabies tags, and my alien registration card for ID, and it took a while to fill in all the papers for three dogs and pay the registration fee and user fee...goodbye, $45...but what I wasn't prepared for and my friends hadn't told me about was their submission-focused mandatory incident-management dog-control session (I hate to call it training...)
They had two safety protocols: first, stepping on the leash, moving in closer and closer to "down" the dog by the pull on the neck. Second, whiplash style tugs on the neck to get the dog to "leave it " in the event of toy-guarding or prey-chasing modes. As far as my well-trained dogs are concerned, it seemed to me to be like trying to hammer out chopsticks on a Steinway: all you need to do is say "down" or "leave it", right? Unfortunately the run accepts all and sundry including potential problem dogs, and therefore insists on strict adherence to their protocols. 

You can just see the difference in Sherlock compared to the pictures from last week: I was mortified, I've just got him to feel confident and relaxed and hold his head up high, stand up tall, and there I was dragging him to the ground in forced submission, waiting as he struggled and got all confused, and reviving the trauma of some dumb training techniques which give him no choice and don't allow him to learn anything other than fear and insecurity, and quite frankly restrict major energy chakras and potentially damage posture and injure the neck.

In retrospect I wish I'd had the courage of my convictions and simply told the trainer that we had a difference of opinion on safety and training and I would not be using the dog run and could I have my money back. Instead I soldiered on eating more and more bad energy in the hopes of the final reward, a chance to cavort in the shade...
Nobu and Claire know "down" commands so they navigated the stuff well, even though poor Claire had a hard time coping with whiplash tugs by the trainer on her leash when she will change direction for you with a simple spoken command. Nobu let off steam afterwards wrestling wildly with me and chasing the water bottle for a toy. He's such a healthy, balanced sweetie, knew how to get all that tension and bad energy out of his system.
Claire tried to avoid invasive butt chasing by a wee poodle by trotting away, only the poodle wouldn't give up. At that point I stepped on the poodle's leash to stop him harrassing Claire...and the trainer stepped in. He forced both dogs down in a face off position nose-to-nose, or at least tried to: while Claire was willing to accommodate his demands in a "training" style environment, she simply refused to face off with this dumb poodle...of course, Cesar Milan-style, he couldn't back down, so he ended up letting the poodle free and continuing to pull down Claire! I don't understand the logic in this, facing off is an aggression in dogs, if you insist, downing them side to side in a mutual 69 butt sniff position might make more sense. I didn't feel safe to talk to this trainer with open communication and suggestions, so I just hovered around miserable.
To my mind, all it needed was more friendly "greetings" between the dogs and their mums, I realized, and proceeded to get more active doing rounds to say hello (I had tried to say hello and greet on the way to the dog run when we met the poodles in the park, but there you go...some people won't...). I use the Japanese word "aisatsu" multiple times daily to let the dogs know it's time to sniff and greet new friends, canine and human.

 I can cope, says Claire, I'm old and wise...but we all had stiff necks afterwards, and I made sure to massage my babies well in the evening. Never going back, methinks, there are other more healthy options than placing yourselves knowingly in the power of a dominance believer, however necessary incident control may be for a run that welcomes all kinds of untrained dogs and their owners.
Photos by KyouSK, who was also miserable...sorry, KyouSK. We had some delicious jasmine tea together at home to soothe the nerves.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

And so to bed...

Photos by KyouSK

I found a fantastic blog by Jennifer Arnold explaining the current understanding of dog training:
"The entire idea of dog obedience is to create automatic, mindless response to our directives, but it’s our dogs’ thoughts and feelings—their minds—that are of the greatest value to us.  It is their minds that allow them to connect, protect, and love us.  Yet despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary, many people still believe that obedience is the benchmark by which dogs should be judged.  It isn’t.  It only makes sense that we value collaboration above obedience…and educate our dogs rather than seeking only to control their actions.
Educating Dogs the Bond-Based Way
For our sake and theirs, it is far better if dogs can control their own behavior, at least to a large extent, rather than requiring us do it for them.  Dogs who self-direct their actions seem to require less vigilance on our part.  They are more secure and, therefore, have fewer behavior problems than those who require constant direction.   Educating our dogs to make good choices isn’t difficult.  Unlike typical dog training methods, it requires neither skill nor coordination.  You need only love without condition and the reciprocal trust that stems therefrom.
Our dogs must trust us.  When they do, they look to us for guidance, carefully watching us to match our mood, activity level, and often even our actions.  We can help our dogs develop trust by being respectful and kind in our interactions and consistently responding to their needs.  Social interactions, such as co-sleeping (or resting), food sharing (of foods palatable to you and safe for your dog in tiny amounts), and playing games like tug-of-war are a great ways to facilitate your dog’s secure attachment and trust in you."