12 Weeks 3 Days- Waiting her Turn

Oct 3, 2004 | Stitch's Story

She jumps up twice this morning to look at my breakfast. I put her down twice, after which she resorts to Sit and Stare, which also gets her nothing but OTOH doesn’t get her removed, either.

We go outside and spend half of breakfast going around a pole. I want to shape it, which goes well except for the grass (we have grass! First time in five years! Summer was rainy). She can’t hear the kibble hitting the ground, and even if she sees it land, she has an awful time finding it and digging it out of the grass. Next time I’ll put the pole on a mat, or use a toilet plunger in the house. Anyway, she gets clicked for turning her head, moving in the right direction, being behind the pole, and coming around the pole back toward me. I’m “cheating” by adding a bit of luring – I’m trying to toss the kibble to land slightly closer to where I want her than she was each time. By the end of the session, she still needs that lead-in to get her started, but once she’s approaching the pole, she goes around it by herself. I’m being very careful not to mention the pole itself to her, or reward her for interacting with it in any way. I made that mistake with Scuba, and it took me months to get her to stop whapping the pole.

Thinking, alright, the little turnip has had half her breakfast, she should be slowing down a bit, I put her in the screen room and took Scuba out on the lawn to do some weaving. Oops, big mistake. Stitch yapped and tried repeatedly to come through the screen door. This is where people say “I can’t even LOOK at my other dog without this dog getting hysterical!”

So we spend the second half of breakfast working both of them. Scuba lies down on my right, about 3′ away from me, on the floor. I put Stitch’s mat about 4′ away on my left. First I work Stitch until she’s running to the mat and lying down on it. Then every third bit of kibble I toss to Scuba. It takes Stitch 4 kibbles to realize what’s happening, then she runs off the mat over to Scuba. At this point I give Scuba another five kibbles, one at a time, then just sit and do nothing. Stitch sniffs around, tries Sit, Down, Stare, and finally runs back to the mat. C/T. Two more and she’s lying down on it again. I start doing Chutes & Ladders on the mat. I have to restart the count twice. When I get up to about 8 seconds, I start giving Scuba a kibble now and then. This is really hard on Stitch, she thinks about coming off the mat frequently, but holds her Down. We get up to 15 seconds, with me feeding Scuba about every 5 seconds, before we run out of breakfast.

Why isn’t the simplest thing ever simple? Does it count if she hangs her nose off the mat? Yes. Does it count if she’s touching the floor with a paw? No. Does it count if she’s jerking while thinking about getting off? Yes. Does it count if she’s whining? No. Decisions, decisions.

I can’t put it off any longer. Lunch goes to cutting toenails. I start with being allowed to hold her head. This is a biggie for her. She yelps, tries to back out, wiggles, uses her teeth (but gently). I back up. Hold skull, C/T. Hold skull C/T. Hold skull fondle ears c/t. Hold muzzle c/t. Hold muzzle c/t. Hold muzzle c/t. Hmmm, this might be worth putting up with after all… Hold muzzle c/t. Hold skull c/t. Hold head c/t. Hold head lift lips c/t. By now she’s into it, and immediately I can lift her upper lip and pull down the lower one to look at her incisors, a show dog trick.

Then I lie her down in my lap. Hold front paw c/t. Hold front paw c/t. Hold front paw play with toenails c/t. Hold front paw put nail clipper on nail c/t. Hold front paw cut nail c/t. No big deal. Get all 4 nails done and move to the next paw. Woops, this one’s a bit more sensitive. She wants to leave. Nope. Yes, I DO! Nope. But if you stay, you get kibble. Oh well, OK. Then she doesn’t want me to hold her paw. Yes, I will. No, you WON’T. Yes, I will. But if you let me, you get kibble. Man, you’re pushing your luck, but OK. Then she settles down. One treat for letting me tweak each nail, then another for letting me cut it.

She draws the line at her back feet. She’s doing the dying-puppy yelp and definitely planning on leaving. I stop thinking about nails, turn her upside down in my arms and just hold her until she settles. Then we have a little hand-wrestle. Then I go back to the paws and cut the nails without any trouble, one treat per nail.

While we’re at it, I clean her ears, which she puts up with without comment. This is going so well I’m inspired and, much to her dismay, I do Scuba’s nails too.

Stitch and I go out to the screen room for supper. We start with Contact X 20. I’m obviously being a sloppy clicker, because she gets a 1-second eye lock, then looks at my food hand. I concentrate on waiting out the hand-glance and starting my count when she comes back to my eyes. We get up to 4 seconds.

Next, the dumbell. Again, I’ve been sloppy. She pushes the dumbell out of her mouth with the back of her tongue, which pushes the tip out between her teeth. Unfortunately, I notice tonight that I’m clicking her tongue tip, which means I’m clicking her for starting to spit out the db. Duh. She’s so FAST! So I really, really pay attention to clicking a quiet mouth and NO tongue (sounds like interviewing your daughter’s first boyfriend… ). Occasionally I had to wait through six bites before I got the quiet mouth.

Next I put her mat up TWO stairs into the greenhouse, and I sit 10′ away at the far side of the screen room. Three clicks to get her to the mat. She BOUNDS up the stairs and PLUNKS herself dramatically down on the mat. Now, I can play two different games at the same time – she runs to the mat, I add the Hit The Rack cue, click and toss the kibble on the mat. Then we play the Come game. I call her name. She looks at me like, are you sure? I thought this was about the mat? but then she comes galloping over to me. I click and drop the treat on the floor at my feet. She eats it, then tries Sit and Down. What next? I cue Hit The Rack! She looks over at the mat, then gallops back and flings herself on it again. How fun! We play this double game X 30.

Now she’s nearly full. I try playing Get Lost again. She’s obviously been thinking about what went wrong overnight. She’s still not good at it – overshooting or not coming far enough around, and swinging very wide – but she’s a lot better than she was yesterday. We do that X 5, have a little wrestle, and come back in.

That was quite an amazing day. And her toenails are cut! Maybe tomorrow I’ll have the nerve to start shaving her back legs… or maybe not.