9 Weeks- Intro to Water Training

Sep 9, 2004 | Stitch's Story

Doing this blog is good for me. Keeps me focused on what I’m doing and why. I take her breakfast up to the bathroom and dump the dry kibble into about an inch of water in the deep end of the bathtub – some on dry land, some wet, some floating. Her first day as a Portuguese Water Dog. When I thought of this, I thought it didn’t have much to do with service dog training, but I change my mind as we go along. First I feed Scuba in the kitchen, then ask Stitch to follow me up the stairs. “But the FOOD is in the KITCHEN!” No, it isn’t. The food is with me! “But SCUBA’S eating FOOD in the KITCHEN!” Takes her a minute to decide to follow me a third of the way up the stairs, where I give her a little handful to reward her. Then she wants to go back down to the kitchen and I have to persuade her to keep following me. That’s a good lesson I wouldn’t have thought of – even if you KNOW there’s food there, come here. Kitchen Zen. Then I put her in the tub, where she has to contend with the little bit of water and the slippery tub with her feet – doesn’t bother her at all, but another good lesson.

Then she gets into the Water Dog stuff – trying to get the food out of the water without swallowing or breathing the water. Pretty soon I start hearing bubbles as she figures out she has to breathe out when she’s putting her nose under water. Clever child. She eats about 3/4 of the food – silly of me to put the whole meal in the tub, duh – and drinks what looks like about a cup and a half of water. Scuba cleans up the rest. It’ll be a good afternoon for housetraining!

I have a sailor’s account of a trip down the coast of Portugal 300 years ago. He describes these dogs exactly, down to the white markings, and talks about how they taught the puppies to dive by holding bits of fish at the water, then further and further under the water. Hmph, new-fangled food training! It’ll never work!

Spend another meal on retrieving. I decide the reason she’s a bit sluggish about getting into the training is not that she’s working for kibble, but that she isn’t really noticing the tiny kibbles as they go down. Rewarding her with TWO kibbles for each click vastly increases her interest and decreases her response times. Start with about 25 clicks for eye contact and sitting in front. Then present the dumbell. Today I won’t click for touching the bell, only the bar. She spends some time again trying to force me to give her the food by jumping on the couch, whining, etc, but gives up and starts touching the bar.

Soon she’s really getting into it, and starts giving me an open mouth on the bar maybe every fifth touch or so. Ee hah! Then I put it on the floor and click her for touching the bar with her mouth. She seems to have forgotten that yesterday she was trying to bang it with her paw. She’s fast today, and accurate. When I move the dumbell around on an 8X12′ rug, she goes once back in the direction it used to be, then starts looking around for it. Very deliberate, and when she finds it, runs to it. Excellent session.

Later, in the living room, I’m eating a sandwich on the couch when she decides that she can get it if she tries hard enough. She flings herself at the couch a dozen times (I’m ignoring her as she obviously isn’t going to get high enough to get on the couch), and finally succeeds in getting up. !! So I put her back down and put my leg in her way so she REALLY can’t get up. She tries another dozen times, then gives up and just cruises back and forth in front of the couch until I finish eating. The white tip on her tail looked remarkably like the white tip on the dorsal fin of a reef shark as she goes back, and forth, back, and forth…