11 Weeks 5 Days- Back Home

Sep 28, 2004 | Stitch's Story

Three accidents when we get home. Probably being confined in the small area of the trailer has led to her forgetting that she has to go outside from the living room. No accidents when they’re shut in the dog room, so from there she remembers to go out the dog door (to refresh – living room/kitchen to dog room, through dog door to porch to kennel, through dog door to outside). My trainer brain is going duh, hey stupid, have you considered TRAINING your puppy instead of sitting on the couch? My disabled brain is going OK, ONE more accident and she’s going on the umbilical cord. Guess which brain I’m proud of? But I’m still sitting on the couch.

Stitch and Scuba are well and truly buddies now. Scuba runs in and out of the house, fully aware that the pup is following her. She chooses which toy she picks up based on where the pup is – close enough to play tug without SEEMING to be invited? Or too far away, in which case a solitary-type toy will suffice. Scuba still picks the longest tugs to tempt the pup, even though Stitch is now big enough to launch herself (I can’t call what she does “jumping” – it isn’t coordinated enough to be jumping yet) and catch the toy in the middle.

The time in the trailer has given Stitch faith that she didn’t have before – faith which in my opinion is a very important part of training a dog. She has faith that, if she tries to eat Scuba’s food, she’ll be driven off, but more than that, she has faith that if Scuba gets a dish, if Stitch sits, she will get her OWN dish. There’s nothing I want her to have faith in more than this – to get what you want, trust me and do what *I* want. Zen as a way of life. Zen as a default belief. A big step.

Because of the enforced idleness of the last five days, Stitch has been over the top in her playing. While she still remembers to keep the leash mostly loose, her biting has gotten rougher as she’s more excited than usual when she’s playing. The control she had over her teeth was sufficient for her normal incredible joy, but this REALLY Incredible Joy demands a higher degree of control. This morning she hurts me, and I’m not expecting it. She’s been responding very well to my voice – UH! or even a quiet No has been getting a response. So when I say UH! I expect her to back off. When she rears back and chomps me again, I’m not expecting it. I screech OUCH! and think I’m jabbing her in the side of the neck with my finger, but what I actually do is swat her on the head. Which drives one upper canine quite thoroughly into my hand. For a tiny puncture, there’s a goodly quantity of blood, a fair amount of pain, and a pretty good bruise. Well, there we have it. She’s obviously a dangerous dog! And while I’m nursing my hand and swearing at myself, she’s on the floor trying to shred my jeans. Boy, I’m glad to be home where she can wear off some of this energy!

There was definitely a fear period in there somewhere. She’s not scared of the world, but she’s a bit more careful of life in general. She wants to examine the little bridge from the living room out into the greenhouse before she crosses it, and when I ask her to come out the door from the screen room to the agility yard, she needs to examine that too before she makes a decision about it. Fear periods are about balancing the dog – cutting her down a peg so she doesn’t walk blithely off cliffs. But training is about balancing as well – teaching her that if *I* say walking off the cliff is OK, it’s OK. So when I see her thinking about whether it’s safe to come out the door, I take a handful of food and head for the dog walk. We spend that handful getting her to walk up the contact, turn around, and walk back down again. A height she could jump off safely. In fact, a height she could fall off onto the lawn and not hurt herself. One back leg slips off halfway up, but it doesn’t bother her. She’s a bit happier to successfully walk OFF the contact than she is walking on it, but there’s no force involved and she’s OK to be doing this. Now she knows how to get off it if she wants to. My thinking on that is that if (no, WHEN) she ever gets to a height where she loses her nerve and has to bail off, she’ll know that she can get off safely. When I want to continue working on the dogwalk, I’ll take it apart and teach her to walk the board on the ground.