Monday, April 14, 2014

Tree Obsession to Tree Love

Look at his cute face! Too bad the quality is not the best. I'm not very
good at taking pictures and walking at the same time.
Remember when we were having issues with Barry being totally obsessed with all surrounding trees and fences? So obsessed that he couldn't go to the bathroom outdoors because of how distracting the trees were (then in turn using the bathroom inside)? I think the tree obsession has finally started becoming less of a novelty. I think we've gotten him back to a normal love for trees and less of an obsession. Love is good. Obsession is annoying.

What we are finding, though, is now that the weather is starting to get nicer the squirrels and rabbits abound. Birds too, but thankfully he's not into birds. He is into squirrels and rabbits, though. VERY much into them. So much into them that Husband loses balance trying to hold Barry back. Barry makes the loudest, screechiest, highest pitched whistle whine you've ever heard. People can likely hear him from blocks away. I worry that someone will think we're hurting him. He sounds like a wounded mammal. If I heard this noise coming from a dog I'd think his owners were hurting him. Well, that is, if I'd never heard Barry making the noise I'd think that. I am thankful, though, that Barry doesn't bark. I mean, he does bark, but only when we encourage it. He has this deep heavy man dog bark. I'm proud of his bark, actually. He has a very good solid bark. He only does it when we ask him to tell us if he wants to go outside. So we start making barking noises and he does his man bark. It's awesome. He also talks kind of - this other strange unhinged type of whiny voice. He's cute.

Anyhow - I can only imagine if he was a barker, though. It would scare people. Not that it matters. He could be walking very politely along side us, prancing and smiling and there would still be someone that would run away scared. Oh well. It is a benefit to us that he doesn't bark at the squirrels.

Dogs are creatures of habit, similar to humans. Animals in particular are all creatures of habit. We do similar things everyday (wake up, go to the bathroom, put on the coffee, go to work, etc., etc.). Sometimes we get into bad habits as a coping technique (chewing nails, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, cutting, plucking hair, etc.). Dogs are very similar. Have you seen your dog incessantly lick or bite at a spot on their body until it's raw and bleeding? Chase their tail? Chew shoes or couches? If you see your dog becoming more obsessive about certain behavior you need to try and stop it as quickly as possible. What are the triggers? When did it start?

Hmmm... This bench smells like something...
For us the trees weren't as bad as full blown obsession. Close, though. We were able to help him pass trees and not worry so much about them relatively quickly before his slight obsession turned into full blown obsession. It took a few weeks to get him to realize that not all the trees we pass are that exciting. Now his interest in trees is back to normal and at a healthy level. This is how we'd like to keep it.

What happened that made him so interested in trees to begin with? For one there is occasionally a squirrel in a tree. So it totally makes sense that he wants to check in each tree to see if there is a squirrel. The biggest change was when we had Grandpa watch Barry. Grandpa encouraged Barry to look for squirrels and check in the trees. It was totally innocent of course. They were both having fun. Barry, however, being a dog, wants to make his human happy. If Grandpa wants him to jump up at a tree and stare waiting for a squirrel then he will totally do it! Not only is it exciting for Barry to do something like that he wants to do it because he's being told that it's good to do. Over the course of a two week period doing that over and over again each day it started to become a habit. Barry thought that it was acceptable and good. Grandpa was having fun. Unfortunately it did become somewhat of a habit and the quality of our walks (when we came back from vacation) was poor. At that point we were still working with Barry to walk nicely and safely on a leash. Combined with his poor listening skills, and now a new almost obsession we decided to call in the behaviorist I've mentioned in previous posts.

Picture Grandpa took of Barry.
Barry walks mostly well now. We're happy to report the trees are still awesome but not that awesome. Thank goodness too! We will continue to work with him but now we can put our tree obsession days behind us and focus on our goals.

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