Syn @ 9 Weeks

Mar 26, 2011 | Syn's Story

Great night – she asked to get out of the crate at 6:30 so hubby took her for a pee, then put her right back in. When I woke up she was curled tight in her doughnut-shaped bed in the crate, calm and happy and looking at me.

Good: I take her out on a leash to pee. It’s cold out (wasn’t there supposed to be a spring this year?) – minus 18C and she’s not inclined to explore. She pees immediately. If she has to poop she walks around the car once or twice. Then she’s ready to come back in RIGHT NOW. She started out galloping for the door. The leash is long enough that she can run until she gets to the start of the paved walk. Then she’d run into the leash, I’d have stopped, I’d call her and give her a kibble, then I’d start walking forward and she’d gallop the remaining 10 feet to the front door. Today she was galloping to the place where she would have hit the tight leash, then turned around before she made the leash tight and came back to me. I gave her a kibble and she galloped to the door. GREAT. Lazy leash all the way!

Bad: she learned a nifty little chain when we’re outside. “Hmmm. No treats in a long time. How to get mom to give me a treat? Oh, yeah, I remember! Stop, sit, don’t walk. Then mom will look at me, show me a kibble, then I’ll run over and get it! Cool! Boy, training humans is EASY!”

Stitch mopped the floor with her this morning. Literally. Syn lay down while holding onto a tug toy, and Stitch dragged her back and forth like a mop. Very cute.

Another training session.

I’m using her meal, which is about 60 bits of kibble, give or take (or, y’know, spill).

She didn’t lose her sit when she started offering downs – she got the sit back immediately at the start of this session. I’m about a quarter of the way through telling her what it’s called (Park) before I try asking her to do it – so, 40 or 50 reps with the cue so far in our explanation of sit.

I lured a down once, and she started throwing those at me again. I started telling her what the cue is.

Then we did touch. Still opening her mouth on my fingertips or licking (LOTS of licking – I almost always meet tongue when she’s touching my hand), so I switched from my standard fingertips-together hand position to presenting her with my open palm and fingers. That worked better.

And on to Zen. Still licking my hand a lot. I’m going to blame the Linkable toy that she has to lick and bounce around to get treats out of. Still, it’s worth it because it helps keep her occupied. She soon remembers that we’re talking about Zen, but almost every time I present my Zen fist, she licks first. It is SO cute when she suddenly backs off my hand and wags her huge tail furiously: “I’m DOING it! Watch me! I can do ZEN!”


Taught Syn to climb the stairs today so I could take a photo for the cover of Volume 1 of the Training Levels book. I like this one best

but this is the one that got “voted in”


Missed a day – between me and Stitch and Sync, we managed to drop my laptop on the floor. It doesn’t feel well, and it’s got the first half of yesterday’s blog on it, so I’ll just skip it and move on.

I got an email yesterday from owners of one of Syn’s littermates – an amateur dog owner. A person with a lot of questions about how to care for puppies. She said “Sit, down, come, crate, and ringing a bell to go out are great. Loose leash is so-so.” That sounds like a challenge me, Miss Emme Lou B.! Maybe I’m just a lazy mommy…

Today was a very mature day. Several ideas came together.

Sit – I’m pretty sure Syn responded to a Park cue several times when she wasn’t really thinking of doing it. Difficult to tell since she’s really into sitting, but that’s what it looked like. Passed Step 1, including Comeafters. Also passed Step 2 and 3 complete with Comeafters. She REALLY likes sit.

Down – I’m adding the cue. She’s certain of what I want and she’s throwing herself down with enthusiasm. Could pass Step 1, but I’d like to see some understanding of the cue and I only started using it yesterday. Once we have that, she’s ready to test Step 2, 4 and 3 (except for the Comeafters) right away.

Touch – is excellent except for once or twice when she suddenly remembered Zen. She’s passed Step 1, 2, and 3 with Comeafters. Haven’t asked her to target twice for once click yet. I think that’ll make her bark at me – she’s pretty vocal in a Portuguese Water Dog grumbling, scolding, and discussing sort of way.

Zen – she’s passed Step 1, including Comeafters, and can easily do both Step 2 and Step 3, but not cold yet because she’s not responding to the cue yet so I have to explain it once before she remembers to Zen instead of touch.

Come – I’m dropping kibble on a tile floor, so passing Step 1 wasn’t a problem. She’s not quite old enough to follow them as they fall yet, but she can really hone in on them by hearing. Finding them on carpet is a little tougher since she can’t hear them fall, but she knows they must be there somewhere and she looks diligently down at the “magic” treat-growing carpet. Very funny. Haven’t been able to snag Ron yet long enough to start calling her back and forth – although we did that on the stairs two days ago when I was trying to get a photo of a puppy doing Steps To Success for the cover of Volume 1.

Yesterday I couldn’t stand it anymore. I wanted to shape something, so I started working on L2 Go To Mat. She was intent on staring at me, offering sits and downs, so I started really easy. She turned her head about half an inch away from me and I clicked and tossed the treat toward the mat (which was just to the right of my right foot, so close but not directly in front of me). Then I clicked again while she was still facing the mat and tossed another one at it. The next landed on it. I got about 15 clicks in before she started thinking about where she was rather than her position. The first test she did was to very slowly reach out one front paw and lay it very gently on the mat. Click! Three more tries and she put her weight on it. Two of those and she put both front paws on. That’s enough for one day!


She did so well yesterday, and she follows the treats so well on the floor, that I started today with the mat 4′ away. Again I shaped the first tiny responses, then lured by tossing the treats toward the mat. OH! she growled. THE MAT! GOT IT! and within 5 more clicks she had all 4 feet on the mat. I waited a bit from time to time to see if she’d sit or down, but she didn’t think of it before she thought of getting off the mat again, so I stopped. Several times I tossed a treat far enough off the mat that she had to step her front paws only off the mat to get it – then she backed up until all 4 paws were on again.

After this exercise, though, I had virtually lost her brilliant natural eye contact because when she was facing me, she was busy offering me head-turns toward the mat. Combine that with staring at the floor during Zen, waiting for a treat to grow out of the tiles, she was no longer staring at me, so I moved on to another Level 2 behaviour – Focus. I worked 15 treats and it took 12 to get her to offer to watch me again. The first dozen needed lots of noise. In the meantime, she was very busy offering me head turns, tile-staring, sits, and downs.

So the two really exciting things that happened today.

First, I was washing and cutting up pea pods and celery for supper. Can’t do that without giving some to Stitch, of course. Stitch is sitting politely, sure she’s going to get something. When I give her a pea pod, Syn gets very excited. She jumps up on Stitch, seeming intent on grabbing the pod right out of her mouth, clawing at her face and yapping. Guess what? Syn gets ignored and when Stitch sits again, she gets another one. Again Syn gets hysterical, jumping and barking and clawing, but suddenly she startles, turns toward me, and sits. With huge staring. HEY! I REMEMBERED! DON’T I GET ONE TOO? Of course, she and Stitch got quite a few more.

Then I tossed Stitch a piece of celery. Syn sat and I gave her a little piece. She took it politely, dropped it on the floor, and then sat and stared at me again. WHAT IS THIS INEDIBLE PIECE OF LLAMA FODDER? I THOUGHT WE WERE DOING PEA PODS! Then she heard Stitch chomping vigorously on her own piece, turned to look at her, thought better of her decision, and promptly ate the entire bit of celery. SO funny.

Second (having heard about Emme Lou starting to ring her bells), the going-outside thing. To be fair, it’s been -20 degrees with high winds. It’s bloody COLD, and Syn has bare footpads and a bare behind. Also there’s a snowdrift out the back door in the dog yard that I can’t get over. I put Syn out there once and she climbed over it and got “lost” on the other side of an open gate, so we’ve been going together out the front door, which involves me putting on boots and a jacket and her leash and carrying her 15′ down the sidewalk to the driveway before I put her down. Today it was only -5. I could go out without a jacket and she could actually enjoy being out there for a few minutes. About the fifth time she had to go out, I caught her starting to circle and sniff. I called her to me and asked her if she wanted to go out. I have no idea if she understood at that moment, but she looked interested. I got up and went to the door with her following me. She went right to the door and sat while I slipped on my boots and attached her leash. When I opened the door, she trotted right out, did her business, walked on a loose leash back to the door, sat and waited for me to open the door, went in the house, sat again while I undid the leash, and then went ripping three times around the kitchen growling ferociously. MAN this dog is cute.


Finally corralled Ron long enough to move on to L1 Come Step 2. Interesting (she pouted). At first Syn couldn’t hear Ron calling her at all. He had to get quite close and make silly noises to get her to look away from me at all. Once she figured out that we both had food, she couldn’t wait to get to him. In fact she was RUNNING to him and trotting to me, and a couple of times she turned from me to go back to him, whereas I had to call her each time. Fine. The ungrateful little wretch can be HIS dog! I think what it means is that I’m the one who’s been forcing her to go out in the cold to pee 50 times a day and he’s the one that cuddles (yes, I cuddle too, but it’s clearly not overcoming cold pads).

*I* cut llama toenails, file teeth, shear, worm, etc. I say “Honey, would you bring the llamas into the barn before you go to work? I want to do some toenails today.” And HE says “Why don’t you just call them? They’ll come running!”

What I try to tell him is that they come running to HIM because he goes out every morning and passes around the oats. *I* go out and cut toenails so when I call, they look at me, chew their cud, and wander nonchalantly off in the opposite direction.

However, didn’t Ron do something remarkable this morning!

(Here’s the really neat part – he said he was “proofreading” the Training Levels books, but ever since he read them he’s been MUCH more interested in helping with the puppy.)

I’ve been dutifully trudging out the front door in my jacket and boots, leash and harness 50 times a day. I put her out the back door once last week and she got lost and I had to go out in my socks and rescue her.

This morning Ron led her and Stitch to the back door (wearing his slippers in case she needed to be rescued again) – successfully. When I asked her an hour later if she had to go outside, she got all excited and headed toward the door! When I got there and opened the door, she galloped right out in the snow (snowing. Again.) and did her thing. Whee!

And then, while I was getting ready to go out and momentarily not paying attention, she went to the BACK door and pooped! After going there 3 times in 10 days! Puppy having an accident? Dang. Puppy having an accident at the door to the dog yard? PRICELESS! Now I know we’re both on the same page cleanliness-wise, we just need to discuss communication. So we started on the bells. I got some Cheez Whiz, put a dab on the bells, and clicked and gave her an extra lick from my finger when she made them ring by licking them. First we’ll talk about ringing the bells, THEN we’ll talk about ringing the bells to go out. I hope we can catch up to Emme Lou B!


I didn’t feel much like working today – tired and cranky. That usually happens when I’m supposed to be doing taxes – learned helplessness at it’s finest. On top of that, I put my laptop on top of a trashcan next to my chair and the dogs ran into the trashcan, knocking the computer to the tile floor and killing the hard drive. Mid-afternoon, though, I heard that I’ll have it back tomorrow with a new hard drive, under warranty! If it wasn’t for the taxes, I’d feel grand.

Syn has had a spectacular day. No accidents in the house, and she’s actually coming and staring at me when she needs to go out. Or maybe she’s just staring at me hoping I’ll give her something to eat, but she pees every time I let her out and the behaviour looks real. She and Stitch even had a chance to play out side a bit, and they made the most of it. I didn’t have the oomph to work on the bells again today.

Tired and cranky translates into “shopping”, so I went out this morning and bought Syn a new, bigger doughnut-shaped cushy bed and an adult-sized soft-sided crate that I can stand on it’s end to make it smaller for her when I leave her alone now. I put the bed in the crate and shaped her to go to mat on/in it. That went well. Then I brought her back to her original mat and asked her to down on it several times, after which she offered it to me numerous times. Once in a while she decided I wasn’t talking about the mat – since I wasn’t clicking for just being on the mat – and I had to start from the beginning to reassure her that I was, indeed, talking about the mat.

Then we did eye contact, with me standing up this time. Once in a while a treat landed somewhat behind me, but I didn’t turn to look at her and she had no trouble coming back around to find my eyes again. Clever little tad.

I said last week I needed to do her toenails, but I didn’t get to them today. One of the worst things you can do is concentrate on doing toenails on a pup that doesn’t know how to have her toenails done. The best approach is to concentrate on TEACHING the pup to have her nails done instead. Yes, it might be a long time before the nails get done, but you’re not going to spend the rest of her life fighting over her nails.

I put her on the table and we had a little giggle. No problem. I picked up her feet and gave her a treat for each one. No problem. I turned the Dremel on to a very low setting. WHOA! PROBLEM! She really didn’t want to stay on the table with that noise, but I had a spoon of peanut butter ready. Smeared the peanut butter on the wall (tile wall, thinking ahead!!) and she promptly forgot about the Dremel noise. While she cheerfully washed the wall, I ground each of her nails. She backed off once, but I didn’t have to turn the Dremel off and easily lured her back to the wall.

As long as she was busy working on the peanut butter wall, I turned off the Dremel and turned on the clippers. Oh. Another problem. She tried to get off the table again. I scooped her into my lap and cuddled her with the running clippers on the table, peanuting all the time. When she settled down, I could finally pet her hip with the clippers, but didn’t try to clip her. I shaved her back end before I brought her home, but she was too young to bother about it then. Her back legs and feet haven’t been done yet, though.

And we played. And played. And played. With each other and with Stitch. What a cute puppy.


I lost a couple of blogs between this one and the previous one. Don’t know how that happened but thanks, Ari Kornfeld, for finding them for me instead of working on your PhD deadline…

The last day of her 9th week. Is it really 2 weeks since I first met her?

What a change in my attitude since yesterday! Thinking that she might actually ask to go outside has changed her in my mind from a walking, talking poop and pee machine to a very smart new baby dog.

We started the morning with a brief run-through of everything we’ve done so far. She’s definitely responding to the sit cue!

Then a nap – I’m starting (starting!) to feel the pressure of a deadline. My first grandchild was due today, which means that sometime in the next 7 days, I’ll be suddenly going on a trip. Of necessity, Syn will be spending some time in a crate while we’re gone (she and Stitch are coming with me). I introduced her to the world’s most important invention – a small Kong stuffed with peanut butter and kibble – and I’ve been putting it in the crate with her whenever I think of it (mostly every time I go to the bathroom). She’s doing so well at night that I’ve moved her bedroom crate from beside the bed to the foot of the bed.

The weather was beautiful this afternoon – almost 7 above zero. Snow is squishy, mud is muddy. Stitch went to an obedience match with her friend Fish, so Syn and I went for a long squishy, muddy walk. She hasn’t worn her harness and leash for four days, but she hasn’t outgrown it (quite) and she remembered how to walk on the leash. She had a blast! She ate about 4 pounds of mud and half a bale of dead grass – let’s see, mud and dead grass, gosh, she’s making a brick! I hope it comes out before it sets… She got “the rips” and ran big circles around me, respecting the leash but not inhibited by it at all. She found horse footprints on the service road in front of our place and had a wonderful time following them, and then (gasp) a truck went by ponying some racehorses from the nearby track. I picked her up so she could watch them go by, and then she tracked them again. She got tired about halfway home so I carried her the rest of the way. I rinsed her muddy feet and belly and we had another long warm cuddly nap.

And we ended the day with a 3-way Come Game. Boy, does she know the Come Game! She plays it at the least hint that somebody might want her, racing enthusiastically back and forth between people. If she isn’t tired tonight, she never will be!