Friday, January 2, 2009

Black Jack's Bed number 8 for Channel 2 Viewing

In November, I wrote about Black Jack's seven beds.  Bed number six gave her Channel 1 programs at the front window.  As I put up some bird feeders over the holidays, I thought it would be fun for her to have a second channel at the back window.  However, with no carpet in the dining room, I worried that whatever we put could possibly cause her to slip and hurt one of those tiny, thin legs, as she jumped up onto, or down from, her perch.  So, I began the search for just the right solution.  London Drugs ended up supplying three of the four items that made up an acceptable combination for Channel 2 viewing.  First, a sort of upholstered coffee table.  She loved it, but had to be placed on it and carried off it.   

Then, we added an $11.99 couch, for more heighth and comfort too.  
With space at the end, so she could jump in two stages, a carpet for grip, and some steps (this last the only non-London Drugs item), we thought she had the perfect set-up, but Black Jack wasn't so sure.  She still expected to be lifted up and into the bed.
She obediently sat at the foot of the steps, but trying them out was another matter.
A few strategically placed pieces of freeze-dried chicken, and a bit of encouragement, finally got her moving.

The programs were very entertaining - three different squirrels to keep track of and lots of birds.   
Sorry if this next part grosses out sensitive readers, but there was one problem I worried about, but hoped to be proven wrong.  Unfortunately, my concerns were well founded.  Yesterday, I noticed seeds in Black Jack's poo.  Then, in the evening, she defiantly grabbed and quickly swallowed a very large nut, right under my nose, as I was giving the command "leave it" and trying to remove it.  I hoped, again, that I was worrying for nothing, but this morning, at 5:15, she upchucked a large, gross mixture of undigested seeds and nuts and suet.  Poor Bill!  Bless his heart!  He jumped up and did the preliminary cleaning of Bed number 1, so that I could get it in the washing machine before work.  Then, while I was gone, he took down all the feeders and cleaned up all the litter from the snow.  Black Jack is fortunately fine, but I feel so sorry for the birds and squirrels, and particularly for the little one I posted about yesterday.  Channel 2 will not be quite so exciting, but I'm hoping my dear neighbor will be able to either give me some suggestions for a way to feed safely, or accept the leftover seeds/nuts/suet to use in her already well-stocked feeders in her backyard.  Bill said he saw the little squirrel come to the feeding spot today, and do a double-take as he found it empty.  "I could tell he was disappointed," said Bill, and so ends, for now, the little fellow's clearly enjoyed banquet.  I'm most angry with myself for not getting the "leave it" command down.  Strange that I can get multitudes of kids who have never touched a wind instrument in their lives to perform rather decently at the end of three months, but I can't get a little 12-pound dog to obey two commands that have the potential to save her life.  Some serious wheels turning here - I know I can do better than that, and I've GOT to do better than that!    


  1. In my experience it is nearly impossible to teach any dog that lived on the streets not to eat things they find on the ground. Can you put some kind of catch under the feeder? Or some kind of barrier around it?

    As for teaching the recall, I'm not sure that a harness will work for you. The method requires something that will deliver a sharp correction, so I would suggest a plastic prong collar if you are not getting the results you want with a harness. They look awful to the uninitiated, but they can be very valuable training devices.

    Love the new bed for the new channel. How often do you clean nose marks off the windows?

  2. Black Jack is one lucky puppy to have humans so well trained they go to such great extents to supply her with entertainment. LOL

  3. How often do I clean nose marks off the window? About as many times as I wash my truck which isn't often. Not that there is anything wrong with that, is there? I try to be a good person but I have nose-mark-o-phobia. OK, now I am babbling, time for bed.

  4. Carol,

    I saw your message over on FFF. I am a former dog trainer. I say "former" because I'm not actively teaching at the moment. (Actually, I'm persuing my certification, which isn't necessary, but a good thing to have). PM me at and lets see if I can give you some ideas or help.

  5. When I lived elsewhere, I had the perfect feeder tree in my front yard (where the dogs couldn't access it) and loved watching all the birds that flocked to it.

    Here, I didn't put up feeders because the bears empty them, but last week I caved and put up several since (a) bears should be hibernating and (b) we have had far too much snow for far too long and the birds need help.

    Unfortunately, the trees are all accessible to the dogs who are obsessing over the spilled seed. Mine will leave it when I tell them, but sneak back the first chance they get, and watching all of them simultaneously while doing other farm chores is not possible.

    Like you, I need a solution - if you figure one out, please let me know!

  6. Maybe this seems to obvious - but couldn't the bird feeder be way up high? Higher than Blackjack could ever reach... and some of them come with a wooden bottom to collect leftovers, don't they? (if not, my brother's a pro carpenter and might be able to engineer something :-)

  7. dp: 1. I'm looking into bird houses with a catch system, but so far, nothing seems perfect. 2. Your question earned my first blog comment from Bill. How about that? I have cleaned nose prints twice - I may go for the lucky three this weekend:) 3. I'm familiar with prong collars, but really afraid for larynx/trachea problems. I know they're much safer than regular choke chains, but still.... Any thoughts on positive reinforcement strategies? I have a hard time with the idea of inflicting pain or shock, even though I know it would be brief and could save her life. I'm a bit more willing than Bill to go the aversive route, but a training system we can both be comfortable as well as consistent with would be better, if at all possible.

    RR: Black Jack puts us to shame. She has the training thing down pat.

    oregonsunshine: Thanks! I'm going out now, but will pm when I return.

    Mali: Thanks! No trees or poles in our backyard. We had the suet and a bell as high as possible, but the problem is droppings. Maybe with a wide collection tray at the bottom. I'm looking into it. If your brother has time and energy, maybe we could work out a deal. I'll talk to my neighbor first.

    Jean, I've just done a fair bit of googling. No solutions yet, but will keep you posted. Hope the vet visit and chores go well today. More snow here too. Yuck.

  8. Carol, I've thought of a couple of solutions. I was scrounging around in the barn for something and found a 8 foot length of that loopy type metal garden edging that is about 12 inches high, with prongs on the bottom that stick in the dirt to hold it in place. Bingo! I put it in a circle under the bird feeders where the seed falls, sticking the prongs into the snow to hold it upright, and the dogs can no longer get at the seed. Well, the bigger two probably could but at the moment it is enough of a deterrent. An x-pen would do even better, but mine is under three feet of snow in the pasture, where it was being used as a temporary piggy barrier.
    The other thing I thought of was using a large wire dog crate (usually available cheap at thrift stores or craigslist) and hanging the feeders from the top of the crate - INSIDE the crate. The birds can get through the wire bars, the dogs cannot, and the tray on the floor of the crate catches the spill. This could work on a patio or deck or placed on top of something like a picnic table, or right on the ground.

  9. I think that Bill and I see eye-to-eye on window and truck cleaning. Maybe not on dog training, but you can't win them all. I have always relied on a combination of negative and positive reinforcement for training recall, but I bet that nicer people than me will have good ideas for you.

    I had a dream about umbrellas last night, and I wonder if it was so that I could suggest an umbrella for catching food under the feeder. BJ is such a shorty that she wouldn't be able to get into a tall one.

  10. Jean, I can't quite picture your first solution, but the second one makes sense to me. I think it would be doable. Thanks!

    dp: 1. Your umbrella dream made me smile. You know, I think it could work. Now, with two possible systems to consider, my only challenge is to convince Bill to give bird feeding another try:) 2.When I first got Scott, I called a trainer, Jean Donaldson, who was in Montreal at that time, and had just finished her first draft of "The Culture Clash". She came to my place to assess him, and I (and Scott) liked her approach so much, we enrolled in her obedience classes. Her philosophy of training was to use every positive trick in the arsenal before going to what she called heavy artillery. She has since published several books about dog behavior, and is the head of the instructor training program at the S.F. spca. My problem is self-discipline. I need to get the book out, review the steps, and then do them consistently. Sounds so easy, doesn't it? 3. Bill is happy to know you agree with him on the big stuff like truck and window cleaning:)