13 Weeks 5 Days- Amazing Day of Ideas

Oct 12, 2004 | Stitch's Story

This morning as I sit at the computer, Stitch comes running in from outside with a medium-sized fuzzy toy in her mouth. She puts paws up on my leg and shoves the toy in my hand, accompanied by immense growling. Another milestone. We’ve played tug with toys a lot, but I have to have the toy first and offer it to her. This is the first time she’s asked ME to play with HER toy.

Another milestone. She’s starting to realize that being petted may be better than wrapping her mouth around my hand. And I can’t pet and be bitten at the same time. So she’s beginning to approach me offering her back or hips rather than her mouth. My baby’s growing up!

Interesting breakfast. She’s back up to snuff, ready and eager to work and totally in the game. She retrieves everything immediately, several objects get back to me with just one click. The harness ring is no trouble at all. This morning I’ve added the nail clippers to my pile of retrievables. She runs right out to it, I click but she picks it up anyway and brings it halfway back before she bothers dropping it and coming to get her kibble. Then I try with the tennis ball, thinking I’ll click for pushing it around, but she picks it up right away as well. When did my baby get so big?

Then the tennis ball rolls under a chair. She’s uncomfortable being under the chair and can’t organize herself to pick up the ball under there. I click her a lot just for being under there. At one point she stands out from under the chair and actually puts her mouth on the chair leg rather than go under and get the ball, so we quit on the ball.

Then we do some work on Down. We’ve pretty much eliminated the downing when I’m asking for Sit, and it takes her 6 clicks to start offering down. By 10, she’s either responding to the Down cue or I’m getting very good at predicting it.

To end the session, we try the Get Lost game again. I stand up to click 10X for Eye Contact before getting into the game. At 6, she startles and runs around me, to give me Sit and Stare at the back of my head. Oi. OK, she’s got the moving-around part, but is having some trouble with the find-my-eyes part. If I say her name, or do nothing for a while, she’ll try several positions, then glance up, see my eyes, and give me eyelock, but it’s like Oh, hi! What are you doing up there? Like she’s given up trying to figure out what part of running around me is going to make the click and has decided to go with Sit and Stare instead. Half the fun of clicker training is looking into their brains, and this is definitely a response I’ve never seen before. I’m doing Contact X 10, then turn from Contact and wait. She’s coming right around and finding Contact again about 60% of the time. It’s the 40% that’s so interesting. Still, much better than last week. I think I’ll leave this another few days and let it percolate.

Lunch is silly time. I put out each of her dumbbells and a few other objects, which she brings back right away (don’t think that she’s actually retrieving yet, she runs to the object, picks it up, turns back toward me with it, and then either drops it or gets clicked for holding it and THEN drops it. Then she has to pick it up again and bring it a little closer, then she gets clicked for holding it again. Most of these objects now are coming back to me regularly with only a click halfway back and another click when she arrives). Then I put out her stainless steel puppy dish – about 8″ in diameter and 1.5″ tall. She clearly asks if I’m insane. This is a DISH. It’s for EATING OUT OF. It takes 18 clicks for targeting it before she thinks to pick it up, and 30 before she gets it most of the way back to me. A difficult concept. We finish the retrieving portion of our program with the pen and collar.

Then I put a large stuffed dog, known as Leroy, on her towel and see if I can get her to Go To Mat on Leroy. Another difficult concept. All her normal objects are turning into working objects. Very strange. And Leroy is lying on her towel, so how is SHE supposed to lie there? 20 clicks before she sits on the towel beside Leroy. Two more and she’s lying down. Another 10 to glue the idea into her head, and I move Leroy to the other side of the room withOUT the towel. With much apparent relief she flops down on the towel, but I’m neither looking in that direction nor clicking her for it. She gets up, prowls around, and finally arrives at Leroy’s nose. C/T C/T and she starts running back to Leroy. She walks around Leroy, she bumps his ears with her nose, finally she steps completely OVER Leroy. She gets clicked for all of these and then starts JUMPING over Leroy’s back from one side to the other. Too bad we’re not working on jumping! Finally she lies down beside Leroy, and we click that X10.

Then I move Leroy again, and she’s on him like a dirty shirt. He’s barely hit the ground when she lands in a Down beside him. Leroy has become Leroy The Miracle Dispenser.

At one point during all this she spies the tennis ball under the chair and tries targeting it a couple of times.

Then we come back in the house, she wanders around for a minute, then pees on the floor. ARGH! YOU BAD PUPPY! WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH… oh, I’ve shut the door to the dog room so she can’t get outside. Duh. NEXT week I’ll try to remember to hang a bell on the door and teach her to ring it to get the door to open. That’s a lie. Such is the state of my housekeeping that Song’s bell is still hanging on the doorknob. Song, who died at the age of 10 years nearly 5 months ago. However, next week I’ll hope to get around to teaching Stitch to use it.

We spend 4 X 10 minutes in the afternoon taking blueburs out of her coat. These are the tiniest, stickiest burs I’ve ever known. I patrol the yard twice a week for the plants, but the dogs always seem to be able to find more. At any rate, she has one bout of interminable whining/fussing/yapping. I try to wait it out but it doesn’t stop, so I put her down and she goes outside to pee. Then she comes back and wants up again so we go back to work. She’s much better at this skin/hair/body manipulation than Scuba was as a pup. Am I a better trainer, am I paying attention to this because Scuba wasn’t good at it, or is this just a dog with different priorities? I dunno. I’m grateful for it, though. 40 minutes of de-burring a puppy with no training and no patience would have been total hell.

Another milestone. To add to our pile of retrieving items, I take to the screen room tonight a book of matches, car keys, a small rolled-up elastic bandage, and a wrapped roll of dimes. Also the dish with her supper, Leroy, and a leash and collar so we can go out and check on llamas when we’re done. On the way out, I drop the leash and collar. Rather than go back in the house to get Scuba to pick them up, I sit down and click Stitch to bring them to me. Her first real Service Dog service! Then she retrieves everything else. It’s a flurry of retrieving. If anything hits the floor within 5′ of me, she picks it up and works it back to me. If it lands further than 5′ out, she needs a few beginning clicks to build up her security to go that far away to get it. Surely, if it’s that far away, I wouldn’t be interested in it anyway? Wow, what a day. What a week.