12 weeks

Stitch left on a 3-week working vacation this morning. That’ll give Syn a chance to be an only dog for a while and learn to rely on me more than the obvious draw of the other dog.

I’m re-reading Stitch’s puppy blog. One big difference I see right away is that the kibble I was feeding Stitch was very small. I got many, many repetitions per meal, but she had trouble paying attention to them so I ended up having to give her 3 or 4 bits at once. Syn’s food is a more normal kibble size, big enough to keep her attention, but fewer repetitions, so I’m “forced” to concentrate on fewer behaviours at a time. I think this is a good thing. Because of that, and working diligently through the Levels, Syn is getting a much better foundation than Stitch got, though Stitch’s foundation was better than most dogs have.

So. We had a very good session this morning. I moved to another room with a tile floor instead of carpet, and the frantic behaviour-throwing didn’t kick in when I asked for eye contact, so she passed the 2-second test. I’m not going for longer duration on any behaviour until I convince her that doing nothing IS a behaviour. LOTS of Chutes & Ladders!

She threw a few half-hearted somersaults at me when asked her to give to the leash, but she got nothing for it and soon started calmly releasing the pressure I put on.

She passed the first three Steps of Level 2 Target, up, down, sideways, over HERE, over THERE, with wooden, plastic, and metal objects, so we moved on to Step 4 - touching a sticky note on a wall. I got her to touch it first in my hand. That was a no-brainer. If I’m holding it, she’s touching it. I moved it around, then put a second note on the wall and moved the one in my hand near it. Still good. I put the first one away and tried pointing at the second one - no go, she focused on my hand until I wiggled the note a bit, then she had the idea. Sweet. That took 5 clicks from the beginning. (!) Two more and she was going 4’ to touch it.

Since we were in a new room, with her bed 8’ away, I shaped her to go to the bed. Took awhile for her to get started, making me think about how shaping is a learned skill for trainer AND dog. About 10 clicks in, she seemed to get a clue about what we were doing. Shortly after that (maybe 5 clicks) she was jumping into her bed and lying down.

Since she’s so eager to target things, we finished the session by jumping to Level 3 Retrieve. Step 1 is putting many different objects into her mouth. She got that right away, with 2 different objects - a wooden pencil and a metal spoon handle - and we worked on getting them all the way into her mouth, and on twofers - two “bites” for one click.

For lunch, I was still excited about retrieving, so we worked on that some more. Got a pretty good 1-second quiet hold of the pencil (of course I was still holding it as well).

For supper, I was still excited about shaping, so I shaped her to bump a big ball with her nose. That was fun. She kept forgetting what we were doing, but about midway through the meal she clued in and after that she got every click on the first try.

We went out this evening and left Syn in the big soft crate. When we got home, she wasn't in the crate. I have no explanation for this, unless she climbed out the window in the top, through a tiny bit of open zipper, over her head, without leaving any snags in the mesh on her way out. Very strange.

I thought maybe my husband had put her in the bedroom crate upstairs, so when I saw she wasn't in the soft crate, I went upstairs in the dark to let her out. She was hiding on the other side of my bed and peed when I came into the room, while alternating between barking and whimpering (Please don't eat me, I'm little, but I'll kill you if you come any closer!). She was so excited when I turned on the light and she saw who it was. For once I rewarded her frantic greeting - this time because she really WAS frantic. She calmed down after about 10 minutes. I think she ate something she shouldn't have because her stomach is taut and uncomfortable.

This incident makes me think about puppies left home alone without a crate. We tell people that a crate is a safe place for a puppy, from the owner's point of view AND the puppy's, but this really brought that home. Being loose in the house left her responsible for the whole house - and clearly too young for the task. That wasn't a kindness, it was just a scary time for her. Poor little tyke...

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First thing this morning I put Syn in the big soft crate, opened the top like it was last night, and sprinkled her breakfast on the floor around the crate. Then I sat down just out of sight. Sure enough, the little monkey climbed up the mesh using the official water-dog-getting-into-a-boat move where she pushes her head back against something (the closed part of the lid) to give her traction to climb.

Told her No (our Zen cue) and she stopped immediately. I picked up her breakfast and used it to reinforce her for being in the crate and quiet.

Then we had a rip-roaring playtime that Stitch would have done with her if she'd been here. This is exactly why Stitch isn't here - I'm forced to tire Syn out myself, which means *I* get the bond, not Stitch. When she started to slow down getting ready for a nap, I used 5 kibbles to shape her to go into the big crate, then shut her in with the roof open. She stood up, but I said No, and she settled right back down and went to sleep.

Yesterday I thought "I should work one meal on the Levels, one meal on retrieving, and one meal on shaping practise."

Today I thought "I should work one meal on the Levels, one meal active behaviours and one meal on duration behaviours like Focus and the stays."

And then I worked on my new website until I was too tired to think and put her second meal in her dish and she ate while I had a nap. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions...

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My baby's growing up. Her feet are growing an inch a day, her legs a bit more. Her mouth has reached the tiny-baby-teeth-in-a-huge-mouth stage (which will shortly be followed by the huge-monster-teeth-in-a-little-baby-mouth stage). And as of last week when we went to her first puppy class, she has reached the I-thought-I-was-invincible-but-I-was-wrong stage where almost anything could be fatal.

Yesterday a folded ex-pen slipped to the floor with a bang, resulting in poop, pee, and a major screech. Then some friends came over to visit in the evening, and she was visibly torn between wanting to greet them joyously and fleeing screaming from the room before they murdered her. Greeting won out, but with a large submissive urination.

Her turn-her-back-on-Zen-objects has morphed into a submissive slink-in-a-circle. I've got to be careful now.

Today I took about 3 meals' worth of kibble and wieners and went to PetsMart. We spent 10 minutes in the parking lot. A few adult dogs walked in and out of the store. Syn was interested but they were far enough away that she wasn't really bothered by them. I concentrated on rewarding any offering of eye contact, and if she stared at anything for more than a moment, I'd click and reward for looking at the dogs as well - or looking at cars, or people, or anything else.

When she was comfortable, I found a drain in the pavement and we played a game designed to teach her not to "mat dive" - once a dog has been "allowed" to pick up treats off the ground, she tends to not want any to escape, so she keeps searching until she finds one. I want her to know that if she doesn't find one she thinks is on the ground in, say, a second, she can come back to me and I'm guaranteed to replace it with one from my hand. The game is easy - I reward her for making eye contact four or five times, then I toss a treat down the drain. She looks for it... and looks... and looks, and finally gives up and looks at me. I treat her, then four or five more for eye contact, then another one down the drain, and so on.

Next we went to the automatic doors into the store. She thought she should be scared of the whoosh of the doors, but we moved away, did a few behaviours, and approached again. That went well. Did the same inside, then started to go into the store - oops, a large (calm, well-behaved adult) Sibe walked past her. Well, no screeching anyway, but she turned and booted it back outside.

I followed her out, worked her outside and in the doors again, and her recovery was excellent. Then we started going up and down the aisles, starting in the fish department where it was less likely we'd meet another dog. FanTAStic contact, sits, down, a little Zen (I'm not going to work much Zen until she forgets about that slink-in-a-circle thing), and a marvellous loose leash.

By the time we'd done 1/4 of the store, she was starting to lead out ahead of me, examining merchandise. We finished the entire store without incident, used up almost all the food, and then paraded out to the car with her flag flying. She's started putting her front paws up on the back bumper to be lifted in to the crate in the car.

An excellent session.

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Had a good breakfast session, fooling around. A 5-foot sit stay straight ahead and 3 feet out to each side. A bit of eye contact without slinking - I'm sitting in a chair, tossing a treat and then playing the Come Game alone, having her sit when she arrives in front of me, and then I get several seconds of eye contact without dancing, head-flipping or anything else.

Then because a friend was having trouble figuring out some Level work, we videoed Level 2 Distance Step 3 (going around a suitcase), Level 2 Jump Step 2 (going around a suitcase with a bar on the floor), and L2 Jump Step 4 (going around a suitcase with a bar 6" off the floor. Videos are on YouTube under my name.

Then, because she'd just been introduced to jumping, I taught her to jump over my foot (heel on the floor, toes up). Man, this dog is SMART. I wish I had THAT little session on video. She was lured over my foot once, went around it once and got nothing, then jumped it back and forth about 8 times.

For lunch we visited a different PetsMart. This one had a doggie day care behind glass (didn't look like much fun to me, just a room with some dogs in it and a couple of toys).

Again we spent several minutes in the parking lot. Syn looked like an old hand, surveying the property. No trouble with the doors today, and we again worked in the foyer until I thought she was ready to go in. She immediately heading down the first aisle, alternately exploring and offering me superb moving eye contact.

Eventually we came to a cat room (also behind glass) and the dog room. She stopped walking to stare at the cats, and I clicked her for looking at them, but they were all still and silent and didn't present too much of a challenge. One step further down the aisle and she could glimpse the dogs - and they could see her. She backed up rapidly, but came right back when I offered her a treat. She was able to sit and down, peeking around the corner to see if the dogs were still there.

One of the dogs saw her owner and started barking, but she was saying happy things and this didn't bother Syn. Much.

After several minutes of performing, peeking, and being treated, she swung out in full view of the dog room to give me a sit - then glanced over her shoulder and saw where she was. She stood for a moment staring at the dogs, thinking of what to do. Then she tried out a mighty BARK! BARK! and was wound up for a third one but lost her nerve, her voice broke, and it came out more EEEEEK! By then I'd managed to move her back out of sight. She recovered well and we continued our tour of the store, coming back a few minutes later. This time she was able to look at them with her tail up, staring fixedly at them between giving me eye contact and offering sits and downs.

Finally we walked confidently out of the store. There was a police K9 unit in the parking lot, the dog vigorously warning everyone to stay away from his car. That DID bother Syn, but she remembered she'd be safe if she stuck with me, and she was. Halfway back to my car, she almost forgot about the police dog and started getting silly. Another successful outing. Puppy class again tomorrow night.