Saturday, June 6, 2015

What Comes Around Keeps Coming Around

It's that time of year again...

What has Stewie found?

Stewie and the toad stare each other down.

Scrappy is too blind to see the toad unless it moves.  He didn't know what I was pointing him at.

Smug little buggers.  They are already trying to sneak into our garage each night.  Yes, I know they are poisonous to dogs that try to eat them.  That's why I have the dogs on leashes.

The fire ants are back too.  I can no longer get away with wearing flip-flops or clogs down to the barn.  I should be wearing knee-high boots, because they crawl up my pant legs and start biting me anywhere they can.

I had a bit of a dog and horse training revelation today.  I've been feeling my annual frustration over the animals always misbehaving when it gets super hot and humid outside.  I bought myself a unique dog training book and a couple of horse training books hoping I could learn something new that might offer me some relief from this seemingly endless slew of behavior problems.  I was looking for something that would really delve into the psychology of animals.

I mentioned to my husband that Stewie hadn't eaten in days.  All he does is hide during feeding time, and then attack any dog that goes near his bowl, but he won't eat the food himself.  He's not sick.  It's a behavior problem.  I figured he'd eventually get hungry enough to eat, but in the meantime, his behavior was a pain for me, because I had to keep Midge away from his uneaten food since she has a strict diabetic diet.  I don't want to have to supervise the dogs at mealtimes and coax Stewie into eating.  I just want them to eat and be done with it, so I can get on with my life.

My husband said that he thinks Stewie is waiting for me to give him permission to eat.  He wants to know it is okay to eat, but I am always irritated with his avoidance tactics, and my irritation is communicating to him that it's not okay to eat.  It's one of those freakin' cycles like when a horse spooks and makes the rider nervous, which makes the horse spook more.

Of course, the whole time I've been telling the dog to eat, but he wouldn't because all he understood was my mood and my tone of voice.  So, tonight I made a point of being very soft spoken and said in a friendly tone, "It's okay to eat."

And he ate.  Simple as that.

I started wondering why I do get so irritated at feeding time.  It doesn't seem like Stewie avoiding his food is enough for me to come across as a raging Goliath.  Then I went out to do my barn chores and within five minutes I had steam coming out of my ears.  The horses were being butt heads, the flies were flying up my nose, the fire ants were eating me alive, I kept choking on my own hair, and I got my foot stuck in my own butt after kicking myself for forgetting for the umpteenth time to pull my hair back into a ponytail before doing barn chores.

I realized that I usually feed the dogs after I do my barn chores, so they definitely get the tail end of my irritation.  I usually stumble into the house over-heated, parched, hungry and exhausted, and while I'm groping for a glass of water, the dogs are getting under my feet, tripping me the whole way because they are excited to eat.  I feed them, and all I want to do is sit down to rest, and then Stewie refuses to eat.  It's like the straw that broke the camel's back.

So, I'm going to try to remember to feed the dogs before doing barn chores, give Stewie friendly, happy permission to eat, and see if that does the trick.  The horses are a different story, yet the same.  I'd swear that they think it is funny to mess with me when I'm angry.  One thing I really regret is letting the guy who built my barn talk me out of putting a gate at the inside end of the barn.  Originally, I wanted three gates, but we had a misunderstanding and he was only going to give me one.  That was all he budgeted for.  I talked him into two, but knew that three would be pushing it.  Now I desperately need that gate to keep the horses out from under my feet when I'm cleaning stalls.

They get so hungry during the longer days of summer that they don't have the patience to wait for me to clean their stalls before they eat.  They know they get to eat as soon as each of them is in their assigned stalls.  So, they barge right in and kick nice, neat manure piles all over the place before I can clean them up.  Then I try to chase them out, but they refuse to leave.  I bounce the plastic pitchfork off their rumps and they just stand there saying, "Ahhhh, that feels nice."

Once I get them out, I try to position the wagon and the gate to block them from getting back in, but they either push the gate open or push the wagon out of the way and barge back in.  Trying to get the wagon into the stall and locking the gate behind me is a difficult maneuver, and the horses can open gates from the outside anyway.  But if I had a gate across the end of the barn aisle, I could lock the horses completely out of the barn and clean each stall in peace.  I'm contemplating just getting a random, lightweight aluminum gate and strapping it to the end of the barn when I need my space.  I did try draping a rope across there, but the horses immediately untied it and knocked it down.  I was chasing them off with a long whip, but that was creating other problems.  Rock got scared of me and wouldn't come when I call or let me reach out to pet him anymore.  I need to keep it simple and just get a gate.

I'm glad they are all going into their stalls in an orderly fashion now, but they need to wait until I give them permission.  They could take a lesson from Stewie.  Of course, as soon as I finish cleaning up the mess they kicked around, there's always one horse who refuses to go into her stall, because just moments before, I was chasing horses out of the stalls.  If horses can understand that one minute we want them to go left and another minute we want them to go right, one would think they would understand that one minute we want them to stay out and another minute we want them to go in.  I guess I will have to change my tone and mood to friendly and happy when it's time to go in if I expect to get results.


TeresaA said...

funny how simple the answer can be isn't it? I'm glad you figured it out with Stewie.
As for the horses- can you fasten up one of those mesh stall guards? that would keep them out while you work.

I find that at supper time the horses like to come over because they know it's almost time to eat. Steele used to come in and bug me "are you done yet? can we eat?" and I had to close the stall door.

Dreaming said...

LOL at your dog... isn't it Cesar Milan who says that dogs have people problems?
You should see my horses (visiting) when I feed Malachi. I have to bring him out of the barn and paddock, and feed him where I used to groom and tack. Generally three of the other horses will crowd into one stall and peer longingly over the door as Malachi munches away. He is the only one of 6 that gets anything other than the lush grass we have in our pasture.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

TeresaA - I can't seem to find a mesh aisle guard that is long enough. I know I can jerry-rig something to extend them, but then I'm not even sure if the eye bolts can be screwed into iron and then stay with the iron being all rusty. I think most people have wood barns. My entire barn is iron. I don't want to spend the money on a product if it's not going to work with my barn. I suppose I could tie twine around the posts and then clip the mesh guard to the twine, and leave the eye bolts out of it all together, but then I'll worry about them chewing the twine and getting it into their intestines. I know there are gates that are the right size, and my horses can't eat them.

fernvalley01 said...

Stewie is soo cute! been so absent lately, looks like I have a lot of catching up to do, hope your foot mends quickly

Mrs Shoes said...

Hey Nuz,
How about having a stall guard made to order? You can buy those wide nylons straps by the foot, or if you can't find it that way, buy long tie down straps like you would use for hauling hay and ditch the rachet ends.Take it to a tack maker, a saddle shop, a marine dealer usually has someone who does custom boat covers, some shoemakers will do it - really, anyone who has an industrial sewing machine can sew those heavy duty straps into stall guards that would work for your set up.
Let us know what you come up with!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Mrs. Shoes - Yah, sounds like a lot of work ripe with the potential for plenty of screw ups.

Cut-N-Jump said...

My horses know they get fed when they get fed. They have also learned not to try and grab a bite of hay from me while I still have a hold of the flake. A well timed, loudly yelled, "Knock it OFF!" gets their attention and let's them know where they stand.

Aruba has learned she doesn't have to be pushy and grabby when I let her get a bite of pellets before dumping them in her tub. It took a while but she's finally got the idea.

It's all in your demeanor when you're in the barn. Whatever type of behavior you expect or accept? The horses will be happy to oblige.

I can get the wider web strapping if you'd like something along the lines of a stall guard only for the end of the barn. Chain would work too, just cover it with plastic hose and leave the ends long enough to wrap it around and snap it back on itself.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Stewie is back to refusing to eat. My daughter made a game out of eating one morsel at a time and sitting on the floor next to him while he ate, and he ate about half of it.

Thanks for the offer, CNJ. I'm not sold on a mesh aisle guard idea just yet. I have some other issues with it and don't want to write a novel explaining why. I need to work some other things out first.

achieve1dream said...

How big around is the pipe? Could you use a bungee cord? I actually kind of like the chain idea. They can't chew on it or break it and you wouldn't have to anchor it into the iron. You could just wrap it around the pole on each side and clip it back to itself. A gate would probably be the best solution though if you can find one. How do they have your other gates anchored to the iron? I never paid attention to it.

I wonder if Stewie is just tired of the food? Jackal will eat anything and everything but he got to where he stopped eating the Taste of the Wild that I was feeding. When I switched to his current diet food he wolfs it down again. I'm not sure what he didn't like about that food.