This is a collection of emails announcing my Dog Park Series to students and friends followed by posts describing each one in the series.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

JOEY AND TAG, 4/23/05

Joey and Tag – 4/23/05 - by Megan Cruz (with comments in color by Helix)

Since we are in-between Dog Park Series, Helix offered an opportunity for some one-on-one time with Joey and Tag.

Present were: Joey, 12.5 month intact male Beardie
Tag, 15.5 month intact male Airedale
BJ, 10 yr. old Havanese, good teacher and dog with _Presence_!

Helix: In hindsight I realized that I should have taken BJ out of
the picture. Actually I really didn't "need" him there at all. I'm so used
to depending on him for teaching that it didn't occur to me ahead of time
that we really didn't *want* him teaching, we wanted to work on human
intervention. BJ kept trying to split the youngsters and I had to interrupt his completely appropriate splitting because we really didn't want it at that moment! After we got going, I didn't want to take him in because I only wanted to walk all the way into the house once (my ailing knee). Oh well, we'll know that for next time we do this.

These two have a bit of history, since we discovered Tag’s play-skills deficit in his first interaction with Joey. Tag is very stimulated by Joey’s running style of play. When things heat up, Joey will try to signal a slow down/stop by doing a submissive-type down. This stimulates Tag even further, so that he is unable to read Joey’s signal, and instead gets stuck in a rut where he is pushing Joey down, not allowing him to move. Joey continues to submit, Tag continues to escalate, and we have a bad cycle going (although we don’t allow it to continue!) Joey in particular has very successful play history with other dogs, and while we have noted Tag’s play-skill deficit, he has done well with good teacher/good player dogs, has been able to respond appropriately to their signals, and has engaged in successful play with other (neutered/and or female) adolescent dogs. Joey is the only intact male Tag has interacted with as an adolescent.

Our hope for today was to see if we could get these guys to slow down enough to actually see each other’s signals, and work on responding to them in more appropriate ways; a stretch of their skills, since they each have such very different play styles and approaches!

Joey and BJ were in the play area when I brought Tag in. I took Tag some distance away and had him do a couple of “watch”, sits and downs, while Helix kept Joey on leash next to her. We let both boys off-leash. They ran towards each other and whoops! a little too much too soon. Joey did his down, and Tag was right on him. I used the interrupter here, and though I did have to physically move Tag from Joey, he was able to come right with me without resistance. We need to work out a plan for “low-key” greeting for these two.

When Tag was released, he went right to Joey, who rolled on his back and spread his legs to invite sniffing/greeting. This went well; Joey let Tag do quite a bit of sniffing. He started to squirm around a bit, Tag started to “rise” on his toes a bit (a precursor to him about to tip into a rut), but turned his head and sniffed the grass instead – lots of praise for Tag! Joey popped up and decided to invite some chasing, which triggered the submit-push-interrupter cycle again.

At this point, both dogs started doing a lot of ground-sniffing, greeting the humans, marking (Tag), etc. They would occasionally approach each other; Joey would roll on his back and invite sniffing/greeting. Twice I saw Tag’s precursors, and used the interrupter, but he was able to interrupt himself after that.

Helix: Joey has a tendency to go in and out between the legs of the humans. When he isn't sure about Tag, he'll come to a human and push between their legs. Megan and I realized that, when Joey did this, he didn't have room to give a clear down-with-open-body. When he couldn't do that, then he would panic and do a panic-close-body. We then had all humans step away from Joey when he started coming between our legs so he had enough space to do an open-down.

Joey tried once more to initiate a chase game, but poor guy; Tag tipped over into a play-rut again.

Joey then chose to hang out in the carport area with Joe and Bryn (humans) while Tag tried “testing” BJ a bit, apparently trying to see just how much familiarity BJ would permit – NOT much! Tag went off to explore the perimeter of the yard. Joey followed him, but stayed several yards away, then sat in the middle of the play yard watching him. He clearly wanted to interact with Tag, but he had learned starting a chase game didn’t work! We could really see him trying to work it out, getting up to make an approach, then sitting back down.

Helix: Really! This was endearing. And good for Joey for realizing what he was doing to initiate play wasn't working!

It started raining pretty hard, so humans and dogs all headed under cover, fairly close quarters. Joey and Tag were doing really well. Joey would sometimes do his rolling over/inviting sniffing, and would sometimes partially hide a bit behind someone’s legs and sniff Tag while Tag sniffed him. We started to see some nice head turns and calming signals from both dogs, with Joey gaining more confidence and Tag respecting Joey’s space.

Helix: Joey was squashed up against Megan's legs at one point. I was just about to ask her to move a little so Joey had room to do his down when Tag came over. Joey flopped over in a down still compressed against Megan's legs. He had to really work hard to get into the belly exposed posture. I was particularly impressed that he took the time to make it work rather than panic and do a curled up down. While these things may not seem so magnificent when you just read the narrative of them, for Megan and I, they were very exciting! The adaptations each dog was doing in order to figure out how to relate to the other were very subtle but very cool to watch!! Joey worked hard to get the right signal here and I was really pleased to see that.

They started making brief forays into the yard together, short distances from the carport area, just sniffing things together, then returning to the covered area to mill around and get pets and treats from the humans. They engaged in some mutual rear-end sniffing, with Joey remaining standing, in flank-to-flank position. This was a great step for Joey! (rather than rolling over, etc.) They then made a slightly longer yard-foray, to sniff around a tree. Then they came running back! Not an all-out run, but a slower, more “relaxed” run. Joey stopped in a down position, but did not roll over, and Tag stopped, hovered, and turned his head. No play-rut, no escalation. This was very exciting to see! A little later, Tag offered Joey a small play bow and some rather stiff play invitation behavior. This was very brief, and Joey didn’t take him up on it (kudos to Joey – they made good progress today, but they’re definitely not ready to run around the yard together! ;0) but it was another really nice positive step for these two! The session had lasted a little over an hour by this time, so we decided this was a good stopping point.

Helix: It could easily be argued that these two are intact adolescents (both scheduled for neutering at 18 months of age) and that they are not a good match for real dog play so let's just not have them together until after they are neutered. And that would be a good conclusion. But Megan and I are both intensely curious about how dogs (particularly adolescents) might be helped with the right dog intervention and/or the right human intervention. So we're willing to experiment and see what we can learn and what the dogs can learn. And we are both wanting to take these young guys to a level where they can learn to adapt their play styles to that of other dogs. Who knows? Tag and Joey might be our future Scout and Daisy!!!

It was so awesome to see the progress these two made with each other – especially Joey, and the way he was able to adjust his bouncy-chasey (and really adorable! :0) Beardie-style play into an approach that allowed him to interact successfully with Tag’s very different style. For Tag, I was especially excited to see his little play-solicitation towards Joey – he accepts invitations to play from other dogs, but I really can’t recall him soliciting play from another dog since he left puppyhood!

Helix: As Megan said they worked on this for over an hour! It was apparent that it would take much longer for them to work out a way to play with each other. Joey really needed to learn that he could signal to Tag and that Tag would respond to those signals. And he really really needed to learn that whipping right into a game of chase was not going to work with Tag.

To paraphrase a comment from Helix, it’s sad to think these are two dogs who, in a play-group together , could have been dismissed as too “fearful” or “lacking in confidence” (Joey) and too “aggressive/dominant” (Tag) to play with other dogs; with just a bit of guidance, they made some real steps forward. How many young dogs out there just need a bit of guidance, and an opportunity to learn and practice good dog/dog communication skills? I’m so grateful Helix is offering these opportunities for these young dogs, and for people, too, to learn from dog/dog interaction! (A big thank-you, too, to those of you who bring your awesome teacher/player dogs, who do such a great job with our clueless adolescents! ;0)

Helix: I really appreciate Megan and family for driving all the way down from Milwaukie to work on this. It was very good for Joey too. A new Just Because rule: Just Because a dog seems to want to play doesn't mean he wants to run in big circles. Your task, Mr. Joey, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out a good game for Tag and Joey.

Helix: I had another idea for Joey when we get them together again.
This might be way too much meddling but I think it's worth a try. When Tag
approaches Joey (good or bad approach, doesn't matter), I would cue him to
down. This would be a nice upright down (trained down) rather than a
submissive/appeasement down. The goal would be to see if he can learn to
deflect by dropping into an upright down like Daisy does. The idea would
be to see if Joey can learn that doing this type of down communicates something to the other
dog too. Joey and Daisy had a play session a week or so ago in which she really really worked hard to get Joey to lay down to play with her. I think more of those lessons from Daisy will help too. And Joey will be spending a few days at Daisy's house soon too. Oh boy!!!

Saturday, April 16, 2005


I just thought I would take a moment here to mention how *wonderfully*
Jean Donaldson's interruptor process is working. I've seen it now with
some of the dogs and today had a chance to use it with Joey.

We were rained out today but Layla, our favorite young Sheltie Play
Hostess, came over anyway. Layla's a good player. She does a great job of
trying to get every dog to play. Joey is a good player so I thought Joey
and Layla would just have some nice herding dog fun.

Surprise surprise!!

Joey is at the tender, confusing, disturbing age of 12.5 months.
Adolescence comes and goes in all kinds of forms. Today he "leaked"
over-the-top play behaviors all over the place.

First he and Layla ran about in and out of chairs crammed under the
carport area. Joey started his demand barking to get her to move. Most
dogs don't mind his force-barking and it just becomes part of the way he
plays. But Layla wasn't too sure about it. Her ears were flattened and her
eyes looked a bit concerned.

She gave him soooo many calming signals. She turned her head left, then
right, then left, then right. I decided that it was time for Joey to
experience the interruptor process as I decided force-barking at a dog
giving calming signals was a play-rut and wasn't getting any better.

I called him out "Joey, break time" and he broke right off and came to me.
This was quite a surprise as he was really intent on getting Layla to
move. I had him focus on me until he settled, then released him with an
"OK" to go back and play.

We did this several times. Each time he went back it was a longer time
until the force-barking kicked in yet each time he could be easily
interrupted with "break time". That was very interesting to me. It was if
he was relieved to be helped out of that behavioral rut. As Joey would
return to Layla in his new relaxed manner, her ears were up and she was
nicely relaxed and she started whipping her flirty little butt again. This
is her play invitation. And each time it was too much for Joey.

With enough repeats of this Joey was able to refrain from barking finally
and starting lying down in front of Layla to get her to play. At one point
he started standing over her in the hyper-alert mode even putting a paw on
her. Nope, she told him no way on that!

>From then on Layla was very cautious - she gave him lots of calming
signals, lot of rear sniffing, but none of the play invitations. By this
time Joey had learned to lie down, to stay back from her and to offer play
behaviors at a distance. All from using the interruptor at the right time!

Layla's mom asked me why BJ wasn't breaking them up when Joey got too
barky. I really don't know why. Maybe he picked up that I was doing it.
Maybe it wasn't bad enough for his intervention to kick in. He simply
perfectly content to try to get Rosalind to pick him up.

Marcus, on the other hand, was a little pain in the rear. At first he
tried to split Joey and Layla but he does not have the "prescence" to pull
that off, they ignored him. After that all he wanted to do was get in on
the excitement by jumping on Layla. Since Layla was really working hard on
Joey, I called Marcus out of there each time he headed that way. Great
response to being called out!

Layla and Joey kept hanging out under the carport which is rather cramped.
Had we had more time, I'll bet Layla could have worked him down to a place
where she would be willing to play with him. As it was, the two dogs did a
really great piece of work.

And how interesting to see Joey now pulling the behaviors we've seen the
other adolescents try to get away with! And really interesting to see how
quickly the interruptor can make a difference. Amazing!

Helix Fairweather

Sunday, April 03, 2005

DOG PARK SERIES #4, 4/2/05

Hi Everyone!

We had a really great time this Saturday. Before I list who all attended, I have to say that we all (dogs and people both) really missed Layla. I'm not just saying that either. Her energy was really missing in the group. The dogs who were willing to play with each other took a lot longer to work up to playing than they do when Layla is there to get things moving. Daisy really missed her gal pal!

Dogs in attendance were:
Teachers - BJ, Any, Scout, Daisy

Good players - Rocky (2 year old Boxer) attended for the first time. Rocky is a very cool Boxer. He's respectful of the teacher dogs and can really play nicely with the other dogs. We did discover that Rocky's limit is one adolescent at a time however. Rocky "punches" in typical Boxer fashion but he does a very inhibited punch. Once he discovers that another dog doesn't play that way, he lets it go and works out how to play with them. He's a really nice addition to Dog Park as long as we don't over load him with dogs that need a little help in learning how to play.

Koda - 2 year old large mixed breed - was there for his first time in this group. Koda is a dog of mixed signals, not entirely confident around the dogs. Several times he was engaged in good sniffing greeting which was going well and then started growling in the middle of the greeting. He also gave off play signals and get away from me signals at the same time. Next time with Koda we'll make sure to have him only with the teachers and the good players so he can gain some confidence.

Tag, the 15 month old Airedale, was the first dog we put with the good teachers. Megan has been working on interrupting Tag when he gets into a play rut with an interruptor cue, "break time!". I love that cue. I have trouble thinking of good cue works and that one is perfect. Our plan for Tag was to have him in a situation where Megan could demonstrate to the group how she uses the interruptor and how well Tag is able to interrupt himself.

Scout and Tag

Koda and Scout

Tag and Rocky

Rocky, Tag and Daisy

Rocky, Tag and Daisy

Rocky, Tag and Daisy

We added Koda to the group. Koda tried to greet either of the Airedales who were both really into Airedale stiff mode - not in a threatening manner just in the usual Airedale manner. For Koda this was tough to read. No wonder he wasn't as confident as he's been around other large dogs in the past! Greetings between Tag and Koda didn't lead to any play type interaction so we added Rocky.

Rocky and Tag

Tag, Rocky, Scout and Daisy

Rocky and Any

Rocky and Tag

This was too much adolescence!! Koda tried good greetings but, as mentioned above, chickened out mid-way in the greeting and growled at the other dog. This tipped Tag over so we took Koda out. Tag then had a chance to run about and play a bit with Rocky.

BJ, Rocky, Tag and Daisy

Rocky and Tag

Daisy and Rocky

Daisy and Rocky

Joey, Rocky and Daisy
Notice in this photo that Joey's body language is closed, that is, his feet and legs are tucked over his belly. This is an indication that he wants the interaction to stop. In the next session we want to help the other dog understand that this is a stop signal.

Tag developed a fascination with Scout, the elderly Airedale bitch. So much so that he tried to mount her! Good sense over-rode his ability to read her signals and she gave him holy heck for his youthful stupidity. Totally undaunted Tag tried again.

Joey and Rocky


While I usually like to have an adult show an adolescent the error in his thinking, Scout is elderly and I didn't want her throwing her back out or otherwise getting injured in her attempt to do the right thing for Tag. In addition, I didn't want Scout to lose her "mystique" among the dogs as a force to be reckoned with so we pulled Scout from the group so that Tag was left to interact with the other dogs. Megan, did we ever get to see a real use of the interruptor?

Tag really did remarkably well all round once we took Scout out and lessened the adolescent load. Joey was added to the group but went submissive - Rocky and Tag both were too much for him. With more time I think that would have ironed out. What I would like to do next time when Joey signals in that manner is to help the other dog read that as a cease-and-desist signal by using an interruptor right away. I'd like Joey to know his signal will be listened to and the other dog to learn to read it and abort.

Tag, Joey and Daisy

Tag and Joey
Notice in this photo that Joey's body language is open, ie. an invitation for sniffing and greeting is being extended.

Joey and Tag

Tag and Megan working the interruptor

Daisy and Joey

Joey ---- Zorro and Koda

Joey and Koda

Rocky and Scout

Riley was added with just Rocky and the teachers I think and did wonderfully. I would say Riley has made HUGE progress over the course of this series. We don't have to be extra careful of taking him off leash any more, the teacher dogs do not show signs of any concern about him, and he got started on just a little bit of running about. If Layla had been there, I think he would have gotten some play in! We aren't putting any small dogs in with Riley other than BJ at this time. Riley reads BJ well and I'd like to see him learn to read other small dogs well. Next time I would like to put Marcus in with him and just the teacher dogs.

Zorro, MaryLynn, Rocky, Riley

Zorro, Riley and Rocky

Zorro was AMAZING!!! Zorro, too, has come a long way in this series. MaryLynn has him do a little on-leash obedience and attention to her while we hold all the other dogs still. This calms him down, gets him focused on her, he then is rewarded by being released to the other dogs. He didn't charge at anyone or do anything at all inappropriate. He was great. I believe he and Riley were in the group together and did just fine.

Daisy and Zorro

It was a very busy session this week - I may get some facts wrong - just tell me if I do!

We added Redford, newly adopted 2 year old Golden, and the two Goldens hit it off quite nicely. We brought Koda back into this situation so that he could have a more pleasant experience. BJ is still suspicious of Redford (don't ask me why, I don't know what he sees) and had to give out with some barks to him once in a while. Redford did just fine and Koda loosened up and relaxed and had a much better time of it. Now that I know more of what Koda has going on, I have a better sense of what will work for him next time.

Riley, Zorro, Redford and Daisy

We have enough small dogs and puppies present to give them their very own time! We dont' really have any small dogs with issues that need attention so we were able to add each one of these to the group with no problem. Bugs was our only possible issues candidate and he joined the group with no barking at other dogs. He, too, has come a long way.

In the small dog group we had Zorro (who was then switched out for Any), Bugs, Taz, Marcus, Buddy (5 month old Shih Tzu - oh is he ever cute!), Rene and Mika (two Papillons whose mum and dad really did not know what they were like with other dogs off-leash), Rogue (newly adopted 4 1/2 month old almost all white Border Collie).

Scout and Rene

Taz, Marcus and Rene

Marcus, Buddy and BJ

Bugs, Scout and Rene

So picture the BC puppy with his "herd" of slight smaller little white dogs - 2 Havs, 2 Bichons, 1 Shih Tzu puppy. Pretty funny!! Rogue had just been adopted the previous weekend and Sean and Tracie are sorting out who he is. Well, he was just plain old normal puppy with all the teacher dogs, small dogs and puppies. They all milled about and had a great time. Rene and Mike mingled well, Mika got a little bit of play started with one of the dogs. Bugs wasn't as far off on the edges and actually interacted a bit.

Marcus, Daisy, BJ (Buddy), Tax, Bugs and Rogue

Rogue and the Gang

Daisy and Rogue

Rogue, Rene, and Buddy (on Bugs)

That Daisy Gal!

Marcus and Brin

This was rather a large group and had clusters of activity in several locations. Joey was added to this group as we were breaking it up which left Joey, Daisy and Rogue to have a bit of herding dog play.

I would like to add one more of these to this series to make up for the rain cancellation. That would be April 16th, 9:30 a.m. From there I'd like your thoughts on continuing. I LOVE DOING THESE!! But I don't want the people with the teacher dogs to get tired of doing this. So perhaps a break then start another series?

I'm going to post this email into the blob ( - feel free to add comments to the blog entry about your dog's learning or yours or things you observed that were really interesting.

I'm going to be adding some of Megan's photos into the blog too. For right now the photos are at in the Dog Park Series #4 album. These are password-protected. The password is helix'sdogpark - feel free to right-click on a photo and save it to your computer. Thanks Meqan and Joe!!

Thanks, everyone, for another wonderful Saturday morning!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Hi Everyone!

I canceled Saturday's Dog Park Session due to the amount of rain when I got up and the amount of stabbing pain in my knee. We were scheduled to have Harlee as part of Dog Park. Harlee is a very nice young dog whose owner needs to rehome him. We had a prospective new home for Harlee lined up and those people were to come to Dog Park to meet him and see how he is with other dogs.

I decided I could stand that for the short time it would take and told those folks to come on down anyway. Well, a bunch of regular Dog Park folks didn't get the email message about the cancellation and showed up - rain gear and all! So we had a session anyway! (And my knee took a huge hit and I am now committed to several days flat on the couch to see if I can get this straightened out plus an orthopod appt on Wed). These notes may not becompletely accurate - I took a Vicodin to help with the pain!

Dogs in attendance were:
Good Teachers - BJ, Daisy, Scout
Good Players - Daisy, Layla, JoeyDogs with minor issues - Aztec, Redford, Harlee (no issues really), Petey

Did I miss anyone?

We had some very amazing things happen!! We always do, don't we?

#1 Amazing thing was BJ - BJ took the whole gang on a big run around the yard. He was sure feeling frisky and running like the wind. Not many people have ever seen BJ play and here he was just having a good one!! Truly amazing!

#2 Amazing thing was Joey - Joey had off leash time with the playful dogs and had some great running and such. We put Petey, the Springer, in. Petey is a reactive dogs class graduate. Petey takes a long time to warm up and feel comfortable in a group so he really did not do much at all. Joey foun dthis non-response of Petey's to be fascinating. But instead of force-barking to get him to move, Joey did little tiny play invitations. Often Joey would just look at Petey with tilted head and a very curious expression. Then he'd do something tiny again and get no response.

Joey was so incredibly calm and *quiet* during this whole time. He worked and worked and worked at it. Three or four times he got Petey to play just a little bit with him. It was very sweet. I didn't know Joey could be so calm and soft!

Redford did wonderfully with the dogs though BJ was still quite suspicious of him and would come out forcefully barking at him for not much of a reason that I could see. About the fourth time he did it, I turned to him and said,"BJ! That's enough!"

My friend Kathy said "look at him, Helix". I turned to look at BJ and oh my!!! If looks could kill, I'd be roasted to a cinder at this point. He gave me The Look. I wasn't really addressing his ability to manage up startyouths. I just reflexively turned him off the way I do for alert barking(I wasn't totally up on line given the pain, the vicodin and my knee).

And I'm not kidding: he glared at me without stopping for several full minutes!!! Everyone watching was really impressed and, of course, laughing at how intense he was and how very distressed he was with his oh-so-unthinking mum.

It was pretty funny. The next time he was called upon to issue a warning, he did so but immediately turned to look at me and, of course, I praised him for his good judgment and good timing.

I think Kathy used the interruptor with Redford a couple of times and then he was quite over it.

Aztec had two really great sessions. In the first one we did not have the other adolescents (Joey and Harlee) out. Aztec really really wanted interaction with Scout and she was really quite interested in him too. Her tail was going a mile minute in that stiff Airedale way. If she were younger, I'll bet there would have been some chest thumping happening.

Daisy took over with Aztec and alternated between trying to get him to play nice and correcting him. She really wanted him to lie down and play with her. She tried and tried and tried. At one point Aztec almost made it into a down but just not quite. Very interesting how Daisy uses being in a down to get another dog to play in a good way. I would really like to see Aztec follow through with learning to play from Daisy so we'll see if we can work on that again.

Jarita asked if Aztec could work on the interruptor as Redford had been doing. I have liked sneaking up on this with lesser criteria but we gave i ta try. He did wonderfully. Jarita interrupted him several times and he definitely started to get it. Aztec had two really great lessons this time!

Harlee, the BC/ACD cross, who is looking for a home did wonderful in his time with the other dogs too. He was not sure of himself at first with so many dogs - Layla, Daisy, Scout, BJ, Daisy - but he loosened up and had some good running with Daisy and Layla, then Joey too.

I'm going to set this entry in the DogPark blog so that you can add comments. If you would like to add more description about what your dog did or what you learned, please feel free to do so. The blog is at

Thanks, everyone, for another good time! And I'm sorry some of you missed out due to my cancellation. We'll add another session to the end as a makeup.


Saturday, March 12, 2005


I would also like to tell you a bit about Redford, the Golden that Kathy is fostering. At Saturday's Dog Park we put Redford in with the good teachers. His behavior with other dogs was a complete unknown.

"Aztec and Redford both elicited a more watchful eye from the teacher dogs.The two of them were similar in their styles of approach - just a little too fast and too head on. The dogs, even Daisy!, were right on top of that and kept very tight boundaries on both of these dogs. Aztec never got into any kind of a play rut which was great. We did not challenge either of these dogs by exposing them to much in the way of players at this time. Next time we'll up the ante on these two a little bit."

Kathy brought Redford over yesterday to have a harness fitted. We put him off leash with Joey and BJ. BJ hung out in the background while Joey andRedford tried to sort out how they might play together. It was quite impressive to watch!

Redford pushed Joey too much and Joey would just flop to the ground in a submissive pose. This wasn't doing much for changing Redford's approach! Joey had to do some hiding between Kathy's legs or mine every once in a while. Just when Joey thought he could make a play signal, Redford would come on too strong. Joey would go running off with a mix of play and running away which further aroused Redford.

A few rounds of that and Redford started to get it that play wasn't happening and he backed off nicely. This gave Joey a break in which he was able to stop making play signals and just sit back. That then gave Redford a chance to sit back too.

From there they evolved to more appropriate attempts at play. Joey could even turn his head away and Redford even read that correctly!! This is a big step for both dogs. Joey for giving a signal and Redford for reading it. It was quite impressive. Had Joey continued to respond with dramatic submissive responses, it could have easily brought out the worst in Redford.

BJ, of course, had things to say about them occasionally. There's a reason I have him out with me when testing new dogs!

Eventually Redford and Joey started play wrestling in close and Redford started nose-poking Joey while grunting/growling. Joey tried submission, that didn't change things, Redford kept poking. We gave Joey a good chance to change things but he couldn't so we interrupted Redford (a la JeanDonaldson) and had him relate to me for a minute. Then back to play.

And that was the end of the poking!!!! That was pretty darned amazing!! From then on Joey and Redford were at the sniffing/getting to know each other stage and they did very well at it.
What I found so interesting is that one interruption of Redford stuck in a play rut and he got out of it completely. Wow!!



Hi Everyone!

We had a really awesome time yesterday!

Dogs present:
BJ, Any, Scout, Daisy - we all LOVE Scout! Her communications are so clear
that everyone gets it! [Scout is an elderly Airedale bitch. She just IS.]

Layla, Marcus, Taz, Joey

Working on being good players
Zorro, Bugs, Aztec, Riley

Kathy B. had a Golden, Redford, that she is fostering and we checked him out with the elders. In addition, Maya (Border Collie) brought us a good example of a group dynamic one does NOT want (more on that below).

Zorro did wonderfully. Mary Lynn is doing an awesome job of planning just exactly what she wants for him in the group and naming the dogs that fit her plan. This is exactly where I would like all of those with "issue dogs" to work towards doing. And hey! Why not test the other handlers too? Be ready I might ask someone else what would be a good plan for a specific dog!

Bugs did some minor woofing at the good teacher dogs (who ignored him) and then toddled off to sniff at the perimeter. I felt like Bugs didn't get enough of this so next time I want to make sure to set things up so Bugs gets a good long time just hanging out at the edges. I made Riley a priority this time as I thought he didn't get as much last time. Two dogs I do not want together at this point are Riley and Bugs (due to Riley's small dog issues).

Aztec and Redford both elicited a more watchful eye from the teacher dogs.The two of them were similar in their styles of approach - just a little too fast and too head on. The dogs, even Daisy!, were right on top of that and kept very tight boundaries on both of these dogs. Aztec never got into any kind of a play rut which was great. We did not challenge either of these dogs by exposing them to much in the way of players at this time. Next time we'll up the ante on these two a little bit.

Riley was perfectly appropriate in his interactions with all dogs present in his group. We're going to keep Riley right in this groove!

It would help me if those of you with Bugs, Zorro, Riley, Aztec would drop me an email listing exactly which dogs your dog was in with. It's a lot to keep track of!!! I need to bring my pocket tape recorder out there next time.

Which brings us to Maya: Maya does all she can to avoid a confrontation. She signals to approaching dogs to leave her alone. The dogs do to a degree but they come back to her. I would guess that her signals are not clear and strong; she seems to lack the confidence to signal well enough. In addition,she reached a point where she chose to evade a dog (Zorro I think) by running off. However, she did so in a slinky, unconfident manner which brings out the worst in many dogs. This was a really great example of what you DON'T want in a good off leash group!

Jarita, if you would like to work on this with Maya, I have some suggestions for you as to how to back her up when she signals and boost her confidence in her ability to deal with other dogs. It's your choice - if you want to work on this with her, we can do it. If you have enough with Aztec and your other reactive dog, then that's fine too.

All in all, a very successful dog park session!!!

How can we ever say enough thanks to those of you who bring your "good" dogs to help out? The success of doing this totally depends on BJ, Any, Daisy, Scout, Layla and other dogs with good temperaments and good communication skills. We love you guys!!!



We then brought out Zorro who is described as wanting to slam into everdog he meets off leash. We took some dogs out and left just the good teachers - BJ, Any, Dart and Daisy. Ha! Zorro read things right - he didn't try to slam anyDog in that group!

Poor Zorro, he wandered about trying to find someone to do something with but no takers. We were all able to note how well he read the other dogs though. This was a very good system to use for Zorro. He just had no opportunity to plow into dogs!

We added Layla to this group. She's a shameless flirt. As the time wore on, we saw Layla over and over and over be the Ambassador of Play. She made it her mission to invite each dog hanging out on the fringes or newly added to the group to play with her. She's great too! If they didn't take up the invitation, she moved on to something else. Layla got him playing a bit and Zorro had a very nice time with her.

We then took Zorro out and added Bugs. Bugs' M.O. is to bark/lunge at other dogs in a reactive dog mode. We had only the good teachers out withBugs. He tried, he popped off at each dog, very much in defense mode. None of these dogs had the slightest interest in reacting to Bugs and that was the end of it. Bugs did not engage other dogs at this point but rather wandered the periphery sniffing and sorting things out.

After some time watching Bugs sniffing about, we added Layla so as to see if Bugs would react to a new dog in the group. He did finally notice her and had to pop off at her too. After that he was quite relaxed with all dogs present. We didn't push it by adding Joey or any of the others.

We then had Tag the Airedale in with the good teachers. Tag was one of the dogs I started this for. He's a friend's dog and he hasn't been around a lot of good adults very often. Dart is his housemate and Dart lets him do anything he wants. We were visiting there recently; Joey and Tag had a play session in which Tag got stuck in a play rut (standing over Joey, pushing him over). No matter how Joey submitted, Tag escalated. We stopped that. Tag's owner is a very good trainer. She devised a training plan for Tag that she has had some wonderful opportunities to implement by having just the right dog stay at her house (serendipitous!)

She's using the interruptor a la Jean Donaldson and is to the point where play heats up and Tag can interrupt himself at times. This is really hugely wonderful progress for him. In this group we did not put Tag into a situation where he could be over-stimulated. Instead we let him mill around with the adults and read all of their rebuffs correctly which he did.

We did add Layla back in and she flirted her little fanny off at him and never gave him a chance to get pushy. We ended with Tag on a good note and called it wonderful.

Our last "problem" dog was Riley. Riley is said to charge at other dogs in a Tarzan fashion. Again, we put Riley with the good teachers (those kids worked so hard today!) with no problems. He came too close to BJ, BJ snarked him, Riley respected that. His owner says if small dogs are "aggressive" to him that he responds with aggression. She says months ago he would have responded had BJ done that. I wasn't able to make it clear to her that not all small dogs are created equal and that he didn't respond to BJ because of what BJ projects. Oh well, I'll keep working on it!

None of the dogs presented with play issues experienced any overload. All responded to the good teachers appropriately. I think everyone learned a lot and all said they had a great time!!
It's my hope that the next time most of these same dogs will be there and we can see how they integrate and sort things out now that they have a sense of familiarity. We meet again in two weeks.



I promised to keep you all updated about the Dog Park Series I'm doing. We had our first one today.

Dogs who are good teachers:
BJ, 10 year old Hav
Any, 6 year old Cocker
Dart, 5 year old Rough Collie
Daisy, 3 year old Beardie

Dogs who are good players:
Daisy, 3 year old Beardie
Layla, 1.5 year old Sheltie
Marcus, 4 year old Hav
Taz, 3 year old Bichon
Joey, 10 month old Beardie

Dogs with minor issues:
Tag, 13 month old Airedale
Zorro, 3 year old Cocker
Bugs, 4 year old Bichon
Riley, 8 year old Golden

The first thing we did is put all the good teacher dogs and all the good players off leash together so that everyone could see what normal dog play looked like. These dogs did not play a lot at first but rather circled, sniffed rears, sniffed the ground. IOW, lots of sorting out of the situation and who's who. Very very informative!

People got to see lots and lots of appropriate dog behavior as the dogs sorted out whether or not they each were comfortable with the group. As expected, noDoggie approached BJ or Any with any play overtures. Layla really followed Any around a lot hoping for play but she read Any correctly that it wasn't going to happen and went looking for other things to do yet she did go try every once in a while.

We had occasion to see Marcus start to mount Taz and I could use that as a springboard to the problem dogs. My narration explained that Taz could do something to change the mounting situation if he didn't care for it. IF Taz tried and tried to change it and Marcus was relentless, then we would step in and help Marcus chill out. However, Taz just flipped and pivoted and deflected Marcus and Marcus moved on to other things.

This was a perfect example of the way it *should* go and gave me a chance to describe what happens when one dog stays stuck on a particular behavior and the other dog can't change it. We had a couple of other instances like this too - and the other dog was able to quickly change things. So that was great!!!

As the good teachers and good players milled around getting to know each other, Layla started to make little flirty play passes at various dogs. She really couldn't get much going not even with Daisy the Beardie though, bless her heart, she really tried. So we added Joey to the mix.

Nothing deters Joey from playing because, well, because he's a PUPPY!
Zoom!!! Off goes Joey into the mix, the herding dogs all "woke up" and the circles began. Joey, Daisy, Layla - running about having a great time. Occasional forays at BJ or Any with very good response from all of them as the adult dogs signaled disinterest. Dart, the Collie, is a dog who lets everyDog do anything and it never fazes him. Dart bounced around after various players a bit. Marcus and Taz joined in as well as they could, a little chasing and so on. All very good examples of everything you would want from good dog play.
(continued in part 2)

Friday, March 11, 2005


HI Everyone!

This is the line up we have for the first Dog Park on Feb. 19th (Saturday).

Small-ish dogs:

BJ, Havanese, stable adult, good teacher
Taz, Bichon, good player
Layla, Sheltie, good player
Marcus, good player
Bugs, Bichon, possible minor play issue

Medium to large dogs:

Daisy, Beardie, stable adult, good teacher
Joey, adolescent Bearded Collie, good player and maybe ??
Dart, Rough Collie, non-interactive, but let's dogs walk all over him
Tag, Airedale adolescent, minor play issue
Riley, Golden Retriever, we'll see what he tells us

That's a good mix of dogs!!! Thank you, everyone! Let me know if I have
mis-categorized your dog.

I am attaching two articles I would like you to read. One is Pam Butriaglo's
article Debunking the Dominance Myth. The other is by Terry
Ryan and it's about Turid Rugaas' identification of calming signals (also
called cut-off signals) dogs use to communicate with each other.



This is mail to everyone who has been on my Dog Park list, to R&R graduates and to new people who would like to participate. Please let me know if you would like to be removed from this list.

Recently I have encountered a number of dogs with minor play skills problems. These are problems such as fixating on one mode of interaction with another dog (for example, mounting, front leg over shoulders, body slamming). Jean Donaldson refers these as Play Skills Deficit. This is a fixable behavior but requires other dogs for context. In some cases the other dog is skilled enough to work out how to shift the fixated dog out of his rut. This is the optimum situation! In some cases the fixated dog cannot be shifted easily by the other dog and a little behavior modification is called for.

I will be doing a series of four private dog park sessions at my home in Albany. These will be structured for problem-solving and it is hoped that people can attend all four so as to benefit from several repetitions of solutions for your dog in dog play situations. Dogs who are skilled at playing and communicating are definitely welcome to come for play and exercise! Much of the benefit in these sessions will be for the humans - learning about appropriate dog play, learning how and when to let dogs work out how to play together and shift roles, learning when to intervene and help a dog learn to change his behavior.

There will be three levels of participation:
1. There is no charge for anyone who brings at least one stable, adult dog. These dogs will be our mainstay for helping the younger dogs learn to solicit play appropriately. If you bring a second dog that falls in one of the other categories, it is still no charge for you.

2. There is a $10 charge (each session) for anyone who brings a dog for the experience and exercise, a dog who plays well with others and does not need to have a training structure designed for him/her.

3. There is a $15 charge (each session) for those bringing dogs with minor play deficit problems. For these dogs we will work on teaching you how to mark and time out and train the dog to learn to play effectively. As an incentive to commit to four sessions, you can pay $45 for the four-session package, due and payable at the first session.

[NOTE: there are certain people to whom I owe a lot and for you there is no charge at all - you know who you are. ]

If I do not know your dog in person, I would like to meet with you prior to your first dog park session.

WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 19, March 5, March 19, April 2 9:30 to 11:30
WHERE: home of Helix Fairweather, Albany, OR (ask if you need directions)
FEE: as above

I'd like to tell you a little about the private Dog Park concept. This is the creation of my friend, Dani Weinberg. The following is her introduction to the Dog Park concept which I have adapted and used for my Dog Parks.

"There is a HUGE amount to be learned, both by dogs and by people, in allowing one's
dogs to run free with other dogs. Public dog parks may not be the place to
introduce dogs to dog play in a safe and supervised manner. So I have
decided to offer this activity - a private Dog Park - to my students and
friends. If you are receiving this mail, it's because you have dogs that I
think would be an asset to a Dog Park experience or because you have dogs
that would truly benefit from learning effective dog communication and from
learning confidence in that communication.

The success of Dog Park depends on several things. First, this is not a
public activity
. I know all of the dogs who are invited to come.
Occasionally, as a special case, we'll have a dog with issues, and, if we
do, we'll take special precautions, to make sure that no one gets hurt or
intimidated or has the fun and learning of the experience compromised. I am
inviting my students with recovering reactive dogs to come participate.
Great care will be taken in the introduction of these dogs to free-time with
other dogs.

Second, we have 3 Solemn Rules of Dog Park:

1) Dogs must be taken off leash the moment they enter the lawn (or, in the
case of special introductions, i.e. recovering reactive dogs, the moment I
say to take them off leash).

2) People must refrain from interfering/intervening with dog-dog
interactions unless specifically directed to do so.

I take responsibility for spotting something serious developing and knowing
what to do about it. I do not carry a spray bottle or any other aversive.
I don't want to interrupt a normal doggy discussion, even if it looks to us
humans to be very intense. I do know when things are getting out of hand.
MOST dog interactions, however, are NOT dog fights and will never become
dog fights - especially if we humans stay out of the way.
If you're not sure about your dog, let's talk about it before Dog Park. And
if you'd just like to come by yourself, dogless, that's just fine. There's
a lot to learn from watching all the other dogs!

3) People must observe - and learn! "

It depends on what dogs will be present how I structure each Dog Park. You
will need to be able to crate your dog or put him in an Xpen or in your
vehicle if requested to. This may be necessary if I need a quiet time to
introduce one dog to another in a special manner. Dog in crates, Xpens or
vehicles are expected to be fairly quiet in deference to my neighbors.

Puppy participants: Your puppies need to learn that other dogs are not
scary and they need to learn proper dog etiquette from stable, adult dogs.
The key here is we don't want them to grow up needing to be in my R&R class
for reactive dogs (dogs who bark/lunge at other dogs on leash out of fear
and worry about other dogs). Any dog interaction with the puppies will be
with good, stable, adult dogs so that they get off to a good start with
other dogs.

Dogs will be in play groups in short sessions. Play groups will be determined by size, age and ability to communicate with other dogs. Dogs will be rotated in and out of play groups so as to cover the problem-solving for that session and so as to maximize learning to observe dog behavior for the humans. Dogs in category #3 will be given a homework assignment based on behaviors presented in play.

Please email me back with the following information:
Dog's name:
Breed (or mix):

Category of dog:
Stable adult dog
Good player coming for the experience and exercise
Has some issues in dog play (describe the issues)

I plan to attend:
All four sessions
Feb. 19
Mar. 5
Mar. 19
Apr. 2

Please write or call if you have questions!
Thanks very much,
Helix Fairweather