4 Months 3 Days- Cooperation

Oct 30, 2004 | Stitch's Story

Late midmorning she decides she can pee outside whether she really has to or not. Two reasons this is important to me – first because I have dog doors. This means I don’t get to moniter their output all the time. It’s only good management to be able to tell what that output is when you need to. Second because I hope she’ll replace Scuba as a service dog as she approaches retirement age (can this be possible? Why, Scuba’s only 8 weeks… months… dang, years!), and for that she’ll need to know in her soul that she goes when I tell her to as she may not have an opportunity later. Anyway, away she goes, and we start training.

I’m always excited when I discover a new training law. Here’s another one. Never go for duration with a really hungry puppy. I’m asking for 2 seconds of Eye Contact, and she can’t do it. She flicks onto my eyes, then she whines, Stands, Downs, Sits, gives me both paw tricks, paws me, yelps. I stop asking for duration. We do simple Eye Contact X20, and we get up to 3 seconds, but I invent a new kibble-delivery system too – 1 kibble for 1 second, 2 kibbles for 2 seconds, 8 kibbles for 3 seconds.

Then we do some puppy pushups – Sit, Down, Stand. I notice that in her eagerness she’s sitting from Down almost immediately, so I start cueing Sit from Down. This goes very well. We do pushups X30, including Sit from Down AND doubles – that is, Sit, Sit, Down, Sit, Down, Down, Sit, Stand, etc – and she’s hitting about 90% accuracy. And I know I’m not just guessing right because once in a while she starts to give me the wrong behaviour, startles, and gives me the right one. We switch to puppy pushups X50 with Princess Paw, Sore Paw, and hand target added, and the accuracy stays up there.

The food’s starting to kick in. We finish the session with Eye Contact X 50, and we manage to get up to 4 seconds.

When I ask her to go out at lunchtime, she runs out and pees. Then she comes in and puts Paws Up on my chair by the grooming table. We play Chutes & Ladders Kibble Eye Contact. Chutes & Ladders Eye Contact would be 1 second, c/t, 2 seconds, c/t, 3 seconds, c/t etc. Chutes & Ladders Kibble Eye Contact is 1 second, c/t, 2 seconds, c/tt, 3 seconds, c/ttt, 4 seconds, c/tttt etc. I don’t know how many reps we do, but we go through 200 kibbles, at the end of which she’s giving me a 70% solid 8 seconds. There’s obviously some terrible nutritional deficiency from that one missed meal, as she’s totally focused but having trouble concentrating.

At one point I switch to side-down on the table to get her to stop bobbing – she looks like one of those car-window dogs.

We spend the last 50 on puppy pushups – Stand, Sit, Down, Princess Paw and Sore Paw. She’s got the standard cues down 95%, Sit from Down is at 80%. I’m starting to switch her from the hand signal Stand to a voice cue, so I give the voice cue, then the signal. She hasn’t actually anticipated the signal yet but she’s getting very light – obviously READY to Stand when she’s heard the cue. And once standing, she’s very solid. I can move her feet, hold her tail, lure her weight forward.

All the work we’re doing on the table is with the kibble on the table beside her. Even this morning, she never thinks to reach for the food beside her.

Poor Scuba. I let her watch the morning session. She gives me Sit and Stare throughout. At lunch, I feel sorry for her so I take a dozen of her kibbles to the table. Every time I take a new handful for Stitch, I toss one to Scuba. Not fair, won’t do that again. While Stitch is having trouble looking at me for 8 seconds to get 8 kibbles, Scuba stares at me for half an hour for four. And every voice cue I give Stitch, Scuba responds to. She doesn’t even have the same voice cues, but there she is, the old bag, doing puppy pushups.

Supper continues lunch. Her concentration and ability to be still is increasing. We start with Eye Contact. She gives me 70% correct on 12 seconds, 90% on 10 seconds. To her credit, when she blows it, she’s not leaving or wandering off, she’s just thinking she should be offering something else besides. So she lies down. Or sits. Or swings her paws. She watches while she’s offering these other behaviours, but she glances down to make sure the table’s still there when she lies down, so I’m not counting that. She’s doing pushups so fast I finally tell her Down. That helps. There’s another trick to it – if she’s going to keep watching for a long time, she slowly moves her head back. She reminds me of an ancient librarian slowly tilting her head to see through her bifocals. 150X Watch. I’m starting to use the cue.

That leaves 100X for pushups. It’s so exciting to see her responding to all these cues!

Exactly how far is one expected to go in puppyproofing a room? I let her into the computer room the other day (mostly I’m using a laptop in the living room). There was a little suspicious rustling and I went to look – I had four llama fleeces in bags that were ready to enter in a show next month. One of them didn’t survive.

Yes, that one was my fault. No question. What puppy could resist an entire plastic bag full of hair? BUT this afternoon she looked like she had her cheek glued to the kitchen cabinet. Huh? Then I realized – she had a drawer pull firmly in her molars. Eating the drawer pulls? NOT my fault!