Monday, August 18, 2014

Positive Dog Training

Like every dog owner I know, I have had moments where I get extremely frustrated with my dogs.  Even though I know that being positive is the best way to get results I have yanked a leash or yelled at my dogs during tense moments.  Not too long ago it felt like there were more tense moments than happy ones so my husband and I sought help from the professionals.

First we contacted a local dog training company that came highly recommended.  Two trainers came out to our house and observed our reactive dogs and recommended cages and pills right off the bat.  I understand that these are tools that might be necessary.  But to recommend these tools before trying anything else, was extremely troublesome to my husband and I.   They didn't ask us how much exercise our dogs received.  We didn't go for a walk or do any obedience.  Yes, my dogs are highly reactive but I have seen worse.  I thought were were going to come away with a plan of action but instead we were even more frustrated and out $180.

I consider myself a pretty experienced dog owner.  I grew up with dogs.  I have volunteered with animal rescue.  I have read more books and articles about dogs than may seem normal.  Not to mention my years of watching The Dog Whisperer, It's Me or the Dog, Animal Cops and just about every other show or documentary involving dogs.  People come to me with their dog problems and I can usually give them solutions.  But I cannot control my own dogs and that is something that I am not proud of.

After our negative training experience, we gave up for a few months.  We just accepted that we were the house with the bad dogs.  The dogs that bark maniacally at every noise, shadow, mammal that comes any where near them.  The dogs who bark at the UPS guy even when he's not at your house.  

After a few months of this we contacted a new dog trainer that we saw advertised in the local paper.  He promised quick results for even the most reactive dogs.  We went in for our free consultation with our dogs, hopeful but skeptical that he could help us.  He explained to us that they used training collars to reinforce verbal commands.  So that when you say sit, you hit the button and the dog receives a physical correction to go along with the verbal one. 

Neither my husband nor I are advocates of training collars but we had to admit that it made sense.  The dogs were extremely responsive to these collars during our one on one sessions with him.  We could achieve results on fairly low settings and were able to be in a room with 2 other dogs without constant barking.

When we were back at home we found that we had to put the collars on higher settings to achieve similar results.   Walking around the neighborhood still presented a challenge.  Everything that passed them warranted barking and lunging.  The worst incident occurred when we passed a family riding bikes while their dog ran beside them.  I had to turn the collar up to it's max level to get my one dog to respond.  He yelped and whimpered as I continued to pull him away from the family while giving him corrections.  My other dog continued to bark and lunge at the family despite being shocked at the highest level. 

When we expressed our concerns that the shock was actually sending a negative message to the dogs the trainer disagreed.  He indicated that the dog yelped out of frustration not out of pain.  He said the dogs would become less reactive with repetition of the training over time.  There was no way I ever wanted to repeat this incident and I could tell by my dogs' body language that the collars were having a negative affect on them.

When we attended group training classes with our dogs it was obvious that the trainer was very knowledgeable about the collar but not very knowledgeable about dogs.  None of the standard animal behavior and training methods were ever discussed.  Maybe Rover just needs some more exercise.  Maybe he's just being a puppy and you need to be patient and teach him basic obedience.  Maybe he's bored and needs more stimulation.  At times he said things that seemed to completely contradict "doggie common sense"and basic animal behavior.  This guy was shocking dogs into submission without teaching them anything.

We decided to stop attending group classes and work with the dogs on our own.  We lowered the collars to the vibration setting and turned off the shock completely.  The dogs were immediately more responsive to training with the minimum amount of correction.  We felt much better about using the collars and, as a result, used them more often. 

We moved out of our house for a month during renovations and saw it as a chance for a fresh start with our dogs in a new location.  In our temporary housing we didn't have a large fenced in back yard to let our dogs run in.  We had to walk them multiple times a day, every day.  For the first week we put the collars on the dogs every time we went outside.  We even used them inside to work on the barking at the windows.  By the end of the week it seemed like the dogs were having a negative association with the collars so we stopped using them. 

There happened to be an article in our monthly issue of The Whole Dog Journal that reminded us that positive reinforcement is always the best way to go.  So we clipped on our bags full of high-value treats and shoved treats in our dogs' faces every time we ran into an obstacle.  For our dog who is not responsive to treats, an obedience command and lots of praise on a loose leash did the trick.  And you know what, the past 4 days have been significantly more peaceful than the previous 7. 

Yes, I still have highly reactive dogs but I also have hope that they can be less reactive if we are consistent with the training.  Maybe we'll even keep walking them once we get back to the big backyard.  Maybe a pet store one day.  Or dare even dream of a concert in the park or outdoor cafe.  All things that I have gotten to experience with previous dogs that I haven't been able to do with my dogs.....yet.  As always, dogs are capable of learning new tricks, as long as their humans learn how to teach them. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Marriage is Hard

I often get frustrated with my husband because it seems like he asks for permission to do everything and/or volunteers to inconvenience himself for no good reason.  Whether it is work or family, he frequently invites people to take advantage of him by taking on more than any one else.  

I don't think people should steamroll their way through life but there is no reason to accommodate everyone to the point that your are putting yourself last.  Sometimes these incidents lead to friction between us which I'd like to avoid.  I am working on taking a breath and evaluating situations before I react.  I have a tendency to jump to conclusions and overreact and that never ends well. 

I'm trying to consider the alternative.  Do I want my husband to be so brash that he never considers someone else's opinion?  Of course not.  I have dated men who considered me as an afterthought.  Who blatantly commented on how beautiful other women were to me but never complimented me.  Who forgot to pick me up for dates.  Who always made me feel guilty for expecting any attention.  Those guys were jerks.  I never would have married those guys.  I didn't have healthy relationships with them.  I didn't value myself and I let them treat me like crap.   My husband would never do those things.  He is a very loving and supportive person.  

Maybe my husband will stop being so accommodating as his self confidence increases.  Maybe he won't.  He's already been like this for 37 years.  Maybe I just have to accept that we are very different people and that this is one of those things that I just have to learn to deal with.  Pointing out where he is weak doesn't make me strong and it definitely doesn't make our relationship stronger.  Ugh.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

10 days left

I can't believe it's been 90 days since this whole "new me manifesto" started.  I can't say that I've changed a lot so I guess this 100 days thing doesn't really work unless you commit yourself to doing something every day for that time period.  

My husband and I are in the process of selling our current house and buying another one.  The level of stress that this brings to my already fragile existence is insane.  It seems to amplify all the issues that I already have and bring up new issues that I didn't even know existed. 

The freedom of my flex time schedule has meant that I'm the one overseeing the contractors and cleaning the house while my husband goes to work every day.  I already tend to go stir crazy when I overuse my work from home privileges but this is worse than normal.  Not only am I sitting in my house all day, I have endless projects that I need to do to get our house ready to put on the market.  I know it will all be worth it in the end but right now it's making me miserable.  

Positive thought for the day: Packing and storing our stuff has helped us get rid of a lot of junk.  It's kind of freeing to get rid of clutter and exciting to think about buying new furniture.  I struggle to throw things out sometimes because I love the idea of re-purposing everything.  I rarely have time to follow through with those projects so I end up with a lot of piles of half finished projects and I stress over not getting those projects done.  As hard as it is to let go of some of these projects, it's a relief too.  

Goals for tomorrow: Carve out some me time before/after the contractors so I don't feel so trapped.  Plan my day over breakfast so I don't get derailed trying to do a million things.  Ask my husband for help/support.  

Monday, July 7, 2014

65 Days and Green with Envy

Social media is making me jealous.  I used to have a lot of friends who were curvy and fit like me.  Now they are all skinny and uber fit and I'm on the only curvy one left.  Sure, I have plenty of friends who are obese and inactive but I don't want to be lumped into that category. 

Two of my curvy friends starting taking Zumba classes.  I encouraged them because I love Zumba and it turned my life around 5 years ago.  So of course now they go non-stop and have lost tons of weight.  They know have their own clique of front row divas and know as many instructors as I do.  At least they could have lost weight by attending my classes.  No, that would have sucked more. Nevermind.    

A handful of other friends starting running.  I have been running road races for 20+ years.  It is my time to meditate and reflect.  Even though sometimes my body hates it, my brain is always in the mood to run.  I always recommend running to people because it's cheap; a pair of shoes and a sports bra and you're good to go.  Of course they all now do road races regularly and are much faster than I am. 

I know I should be happy for them but I feel like everything that defines me has been hijacked by other people.  So you've been doing something that I love for a short period of time and are better at it than me.  Awesome.  Please show me another picture of yourself in your bra top and your short shorts winning your age group.  I know.  It's childish.  

The reality is that they were all bigger than me and now they are all smaller than me and it pisses me off.  They were all more disciplined than I have every been about my diet and exercise and, as a result, they have seen amazing results.  I can't be jealous that they worked hard and got rewarded in the end.  But I am.  I am happy for them (to their faces) but my insides are boiling inside and with every happy post I just want to punch the computer screen.  

I know.  If I were happy with me I wouldn't be so jealous of them.  If I tried harder and was proud of my accomplishments I wouldn't waste so much time obsessing over theirs.  Believe me, I would never admit to being this shallow to outside of this blog.  I am pretty ashamed of myself. 

I'd like to believe that this will motivate me.  That the chance to one-up the people who accidentally one-upped me by getting their shit together will be the final piece to motivate me but I doubt it.  Somewhere within me is the motivation.  I just need to find it. And do squats instead of logging onto Facebook.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Learning Discipline

Yesterday I ate so much food that I threw up.  This has never happened to me before.  I've been sick from food poisoning, food allergies, stomach bugs and alcohol but never from stuffing myself.  

I have been very good about making healthier choices when I go out to eat and not giving in to all of my cravings.  If I'm stuck getting fast food when I'm traveling I get the burger or the fries, not both.  I pack healthy snacks into a cooler and keep them in my car so that between meals I won't be tempted by Dunkin Donuts and other highway evils.  I eat a lot less than I used to and notice that I get full quicker. But yesterday was a long day.  

After my second day out of town I was tired of having salad for lunch and steamed broccoli instead of french fries with dinner.  I wanted to get a refill on my drinks rather than just drinking my one lemonade and then water.  I had survived a rough stretch of days and I wanted to reward myself rather than deprive myself.  

So I went through the Dunkin Donuts drive thru and ordered a breakfast sandwich, a donut and a coolata.  I'll admit everything was pretty delicious but also painfully rich compared to what I've been eating.  Then when I got home we picked up Mexican food.  My husband asked me if I was hungry.  I wasn't but I liked the idea of a delicious quesadilla so I said yes.  I couldn't think of the last time I had a quesadilla from a restaurant.  The gluten free, low fat quesadillas that I make at home are good but not nearly as satisfying.    

Halfway through the quesadilla I felt full but I kept eating anyway.  After a couple more bites I felt a strong urge to throw up.  I ran to the bathroom and the quesadilla reappeared.  I am ashamed of myself for not listening to my body.  For rewarding myself with unhealthy food.  For lacking the discipline to make healthier choices. But I am also kind of proud of myself.  The old me could have eaten 2 quesadillas in one sitting without blinking an eye.  

Eating smaller portions and healthier food has changed my stomach.  I couldn't gorge myself if I tried.  My body just won't let me.  That in itself is proof of my progress (in a sort of backwards, way I know).  So this morning I'm drinking my high protein smoothie and heading off to yoga to recenter myself and get back on track.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Finding a Happy Diet Place

During the past few weeks I have gained back most of the weight that I lost this year.  It's hard not to beat myself up for this.  Yes, I could have made better food choices when I was on vacation.  Yes, it is unreasonable to expect to maintain my weight when I spend a week sick in bed after a week traveling.  Yes, some of the weight will come off once I get back into my routine.  Yes, there is still a lot that I need to work on.

I have been struggling with severe IBS since my late 20's.  I have had limited success with gluten and dairy free diets but I have not stuck to anything long term. I have made a lot of changes to my diet but I still have a long way to go.   If my digestive system were more predictable I would feel better over all.  All the science in the world shows that losing just a little weight will lead to improvements in almost every area of my life from sleep to physical endurance to joint pain and injury.  

I have tried different diet plans hoping to find a silver bullet that would fix everything with minimal effort from me.  The reality is that I have picked up great things from every plan that I have tried but haven't committed to real change.  The moment a couple pounds come off I get comfortable and slowly slip back into my old ways.  I have nothing bad to say about any of the diet plans.  If my mind were in the right place, any of them could have put me on the right path.

With Nutri System I learned portion control.  I didn't have to eat an entire burger to feel satisfied.  No one was going to gawk at me for taking half of my food home from a restaurant.  Eating mail order food for the rest of my life isn't realistic but having all my meals and snacks prepared ahead of time was huge for me.

Weight Watchers taught me that there was a price for the high calorie foods that I loved.  The point values made it clear that a 5 point splurge at lunch wasn't worth it if I didn't have enough points left for dinner.  No eating all the veggies you want isn't exactly exciting but it's easier to choke down those veggies if you're saving those points for a bowl of ice cream later.

The 3-1-2-1 diet taught me about eating foods in the right combination to feel satisfied and have better energy during the day.  It also made it easier to behave when I knew cheat days were coming every 2-3 days.  Not feeling sluggish after a meal or bloated during a workout should have been enough incentive to maintain this plan long term.  

I saw a nutritionist for a while who taught me about portion control and eating the right things to support my body after a hard workout.  I was making meals and serving my husband and I the same amount even though we are no where near the same height and weight.  I was also rewarding myself after a workout with a lot more calories than I had burned.

I saw a holistic doctor who reviewed my medical history and recommended that I try gluten or dairy free diets.  I learned that I have sensitivities to both.  Nothing as significant as someone with Celiac's disease but I have permanently replaced some of my staples with dairy and gluten free products.  I can still eat some of the foods that I love but when I overindulge I pay for it.

Yesterday I started The 21 day tummy from Reader's Digest.  I am trying to reduce my dependence on prescription medicine and supplements and have a healthier gut.  I am also trying to get down to a healthy weight and maintain that weight.

I planned all my meals and snacks for the week.  I went grocery shopping.  I separated all my meals and snacks into ziploc bags and rubber maid containers.   I know what I should order from restaurants.  I will not use work meetings and my weekend trip as excuses to binge eat.  I will have non-food rewards to celebrate my successes.  I will continue to employ time and stress management practices.  I don't think I will ever completely separate myself from emotional eating but I can get a better handle on things.  

A Month Later and Still Learning

Almost one month into the my rebirth and I'm starting to struggle a little.  After taking the planned 2 weeks off of fitness I came down with a bad case of bronchitis which resulted in another week off.  I was pretty angry at my body since it feels like I always get sick at the wrong time (like there is ever a right time to be sick).  But in reality my week in Europe wasn't much of a week off since I was walking constantly and cramming myself into tight airplane seats.  My body needed another week of rest and since I wasn't going to take it otherwise my immune system decided to give me a push.

I was a little disappointed in myself for not working on new choreography during my time off.  But, realistically, I wasn't well enough to get it done for a third of the time and I was on vacation for another third of the time.  I did manage to schedule new choreography into my first week back to work and felt like my energy in my classes was great as a result.  The combination of taking so much time off and feeling confident in my choreography was huge for me.  Yes my students missed me but they were still there when I got back.  I have stood in for instructors who were out for 6 weeks due to surgery/pregnancy.  When they came back their people hadn't forgotten them.  I'm not sure why I thought this would happen to me. It's all that negative self talk that I'm trying to stop doing.

I did attend a time organization seminar.  It was all about managing multiple priorities and dealing with stress.  It is a seminar that I selected that my employer paid for me to attend.  The contents of the seminar were perfect for someone like me who sets their own schedule and can easily get derailed.  Between work, fitness, hobbies and family I often get stressed out because I don't feel like I have time to get anything done.  The reality is that I have plenty of time.   I just don't know how to manage it properly.  This seminar was great for me.  It was the perfect reminder than I can dictate what I do for my job and that I need to do that more often.  

Sunday night I got the best night of sleep that I have had in months.  I had prepped my meals, organized my fitness bag and planned out my day.  I stretched and meditated.  I reflected in my journal.  I took melatonin and read a book with a clear head and fell asleep without struggle.  I slept through the night until my alarm when off and woke up feeling good for a change. 

Of course I didn't do this last night because I let my day get off track.  Last night I tossed and turned, sleeping for short periods of time but mostly staring at the ceiling and trying unsuccessfully to clear my mind.  Part of me wants to blame my husband for working late or a work project that I had to complete but the reality is that I knew about both of these things well in advance and should have planned my day around them.   I'd like to think that I have learned my lesson and will get back on it tonight...