Surgical time out

The good news - I got a new shoulder joint.

The bad news - I can't possibly do anything but warehouse and screech at a 90-pound 10-month-old Giant puppy while trying desperately not to move my arm and guarding it to be sure it doesn't go in a naughty direction (because if it dislocates we have to start all over again). I wasn't ready to do anything sensible but fortunately friend Dawn suggested I send him out for a board-and-train with friend Barbara ( By the time I was out of the hospital, I was more than ready and Barbara agreed to keep him until I get the green light from my surgeons to use my shoulder normally. The more I think about this the more grateful I am to both Dawn and Barb, because I can't think that Serra and I would have come out of this with any kind of positive relationship if I was trying to keep us both sane and safe while not being functional enough to actually think or walk around.

And while I'm thinking about this, I'm so thankful that his training is 100% non-physical, which means that any control comes from his brain and not from me yanking him around, so the only danger we'd be dealing with would be his 10-mo baby brain and momentary excitement. Can't wait to get him home! (and to be able to drive again, and to be able to move my arm without taking a pill first, and to walk outside without having a bodyguard on either side of me, and to sleeping in a bed instead of a recliner... )


This morning we tried some nosework. He was thrilled to smell the tea and started bopping the container (yes, I used a container) immediately. Got a couple of treats for that, then I shut him in the bathroom and started hiding it. He got the easy ones immediately so I started asking for a down as an indicator when he found it. That confused the very heck out of him. Finally he lost his brain completely looking for an easy hide. When he couldn't find it, he offered me a down! Down, right! I got him up and showed him the hide and then quit.

Did a some retrieving - excellent. Last time we worked he couldn't get it unless it was in the middle of the room, but today my first toss went under the coffee table and he went right under after it with no trouble. I did some holdbacks that really got his adrenalin up (that's good to know), yet he remembered to hold the thing with me when he brought it back. Good boy!

Then, while he was feeling spunky and I had salmon treats, we did some food follows in heel position. I tried them yesterday with kibble and got zip, but this worked great. I got some strut step in the tiny length of my parlour. That adds a little enthusiasm to MY thoughts on the subject as well!

Hello, who are you?

Wow, almost a month since we trained. I slipped on ice and got a really bad concussion. Lost several hours and couldn't turn my head for two weeks without taking a moment for the world to stop spinning. Then we went out of the country for a couple of weeks and just got back.

To celebrate being allowed to drive again, Serra and I went for a walk downtown. Auntie Barbara, his babysitter while we were away, reported that in situations that aren't outside stores (where we work a lot), his leash work is... not his best thing. The goal of this outing, then, is to work on a loose leash somewhere else.

He started the session out less than brilliantly by diving into the garage hoping to find a cat (he didn't). I wasn't ready so was holding the leash in the arm with the shoulder that's going to be replaced next week. I was not amused. There may have been some unkind words.

When I parked downtown, I put his halter on (still thinking about my shoulder). I was determined, if possible, to use as little bait as possible. Up until today, he's been paid almost every time he does something right, but he's not going to be paid every time for the rest of his life. This would be a walk-walk, not a sniff-walk, and not a heeling session. Criteria would be a leash long enough for him to walk comfortably without looking at me, short enough for him not to reach the ground with his nose and for "walk comfortably" to take place in a very loose heel position. No sitting required, no watching required.

He started out eager to look around but more eager to get a treat. One treat for hitting the ground, one treat for keeping the leash loose as he got out of the car, one more for starting his walk. We're on the north side of the street and there's ice on the sidewalk, which makes me nervous. I'm glad I've got the halter on him. Wish I had a harness too so I could hang on to hit.

Then we started walking with no treats. I backed up a few times when he got to far in front of me, and bumped the leash a few times and sidestepped right when he got to far away to the left (don't make it better, make it worse). Pretty soon we were having an enjoyable walk!

There were a bunch of kids on the steps of the library, which were on my right as we walked by. He didn't exactly tighten the leash but he came around in front of me on his way to tighten it. Nope, sorry, buddy. I shorten the leash enough to keep him on the left half of in-front-of-me and shuffled forward into his feet. I was impressed with how nimble he his. Over the course of the walk, he tried going in front of me twice more with the same results, and after that he appeared to decide that walking in front of me wasn't a viable option.

We stopped at a sculpture on the outdoor mall where I asked him to hop up on the base and lie down to watch people walking by. Fun to watch people see him, think about going wide around us, and then see his little tail announcing his love to the universe.

We walked the mall several times. No problem with people passing on my right. He didn't lunge or even veer over for people walking on our left, but sometimes he had to stop, hold his position, and wag them past.

Two people tried to pet him. I said sure, but ONLY when his feet are on the ground. That didn't work. Too general, I think. They DID stop when he jumped, but they couldn't see the precursors and the only thing that kept him from flossing their teeth was the leash and the halter.

The third Interested Party was a teenage girl who approached reasonably and asked politely. This time I said ONLY when he's sitting. If he stops sitting, you have to stop petting him. That worked brilliantly. Five times he broke his sit, five times she stood up and backed off, and five times the leash and halter kept him from French kissing her. Each time I asked him to sit again and she approached again. The sixth time, he stayed sitting and got his loving. Then she blew it. She was so excited by his success that she squealed OOOOH WHAT A GOOOOD BOOOY! and ran off to tell her friends while he tried desperately to hold her back. Sigh.

Then I got a phone call and talked for 20 minutes while Serra lay at my feet watching people go by and wagging quietly to himself.

Lovely outing.

Incidental learning

Thinking about incidental training today. Things I can teach him without putting any effort into it.

I can't throw the ball if I don't have the ball. I started out by throwing it for him a few times, then I sat in a recliner working on my iPad. He came and stood over me and chewed the ball. I ignored him. Then he chewed the ball with his chin on my lap. I ignored him. Then he dropped the ball on my lap. I picked it up and threw it. He tried suckering me into trying to get it from him a couple of times, but I'm not playing that game so he gave up and now drops it every time (sometimes he needs to give it a couple of extra chews first). Now if i don't respond to the ball in my lap he'll poke it with his nose until I wake up and throw it. This is going to be a TON more fun for me when I have a new shoulder.

I don't throw the ball until he makes eye contact. This isn't something that will have to continue forever, but it introduces the idea that the ball getting thrown doesn't happen because he willed the ball to fly but because he earned the flight, right now by making eye contact, later by responding to a cue or even focusing on the where it will land, depending on what *I* want out of the deal.

I already talked about how he can't lie in the path of people who are walking.

He has to go down or up stairs ahead of me. No way am I getting on a flight of stairs with that rhinoceros behind me!

Syn can hump him if he lets her. He can't hump anybody ever.

If he loses his ball or anything else under furniture, he tries to get it out and can't, and he comes and stares at me, I will ALWAYS help him get it out. Yes, maybe the third time in a row he won't get the ball back, but I will ALWAYS respond to his asking for assistance. Dogs in the past who have known this have even come to me with things stuck in their skin or wrapped around a paw. When he's doing a nosework hide and doesn't have the confidence to keep looking when he can't find it, if he asks, I will move a step or two (sometimes toward it, sometimes randomly) to encourage him to keep looking (or better yet, not put him in that position).

Another dog getting something isn't cause for struggling to get it, it's cause for sitting back and waiting because it's a gold guarantee that he'll get something too.

Whining when I'm working another dog gets him crated in a far corner of the house.

Bugging me for supper at 18:01:23 does not make supper arrive faster.

Fondling will occur if he's lying quietly beside or on me. ONLY when he's lying quietly beside or on me. This has resulted in him getting very quietly cuddly.

I love to play bitey-face with gentle mouths. He loves to play bitey-face so he's very gentle. It thrills me to the core of my being to be playing safely with my hand in the mouth of a large animal with 3 cm teeth. He hasn't quite figured out yet that feet are slightly more delicate than hands, but it's coming.