Syn @ 10 Weeks

Apr 2, 2011 | Syn's Story

Go for a long walk? Apparently I have no brain at all. I dreamt of being tortured all night and woke up in agony. Syn is still sleeping, an hour past her normal second-get-up time, and didn’t pee when she was taken out at 6. Maybe next time we’ll go for a SHORT walk.

I felt ill the rest of the day – sore, headachy, whine, whine. Syn had 4 accidents, ate 2 electric cords and a shoe, got poop on her foot and walked on my beige parlour carpet, and looked so cute when she fell asleep on my lap that I almost cried.

I ran through some of the Level 1 behaviours we’ve been working on – I think she’s finally getting the hang of Zen without jumping up and trying to suck treats out of my hand before she backs off. Sit and down were excellent, and she was giving me downs on her mat. I took her out on a leash once and she was very good.

We did one whole meal working on Stitch’s-food-Zen. At the end of the session, she was proudly staying away from Stitch’s dish, her little tail wag-wag-wagging.

Then I went out and bought two short PVC exercise pens that come apart, and put them around a) my 10′ kukui tree, b) all my computer cords, and c) at the entrance to the computer room so I don’t have to keep trying to keep it blocked with assorted cardboard boxes and briefcases. Tomorrow should be easier.


Excellent start to the morning – and without me having to think too much.

Ron took her out at 6:30 and put her back in her crate. I slept until 9, and she sat in her crate admiring her toenails until I got up. Marvellous. I wanted to push her envelope a bit. She’s had a few accidents I haven’t seen happen, she knows where the door is now, and her puppy vaginitis seems to have cleared up, so I want to add a tiny TINY bit of stress to the “don’t drop it in the house even if I didn’t open the door yet” idea. She waited while I got up, got dressed, came downstairs. She ran ahead of me to the door – and squatted before I got there.

I gave her an AACK! (I know, I hate it too, but just one, OK?) and she stood up immediately – maybe 2 drops of urine on the tile – and asked me to hurry up and open the door. I did, she went out and peed. Good pup!

She got part of her breakfast working Zen with Stitch. Dogs DO understand the idea of fairness (scientists have just decided that. Trainers knew it all along) and I’ve done this with all my dogs. It’s a wonderful way to teach them not to butt in on another dog’s meal, not to try pushing you off another dog – in other words, not to act “jealous” – and to help them feel that they and their meals are safe even if there are other dogs diving around at the same time.

I get a handful of each dog’s kibble. The dogs are in front of me. Stitch sits automatically. So does Syn. I say “This is for STITCH” and hand Stitch a kibble. WAHOO, thinks Syn, and jumps on Stitch to try to get some. Stitch knows the game and swallows her kibble. I say “This is for STITCH” and hand her another. Syn jumps on her harder. Stitch swallows. I say “This is for STITCH” and hand her another. Syn jumps harder. Stitch swallows – rather smugly, I think. I say “This is for STITCH” and hand her another. Syn sits. I say “This is for SYN” and go to hand it to her, but she jumps on me, so I say “This is for STITCH” and hand one to Stitch. Syn sits. It takes her 5 tries before she manages to stay sitting while I hand it to her – and even then I’m being generous and defining butt-on-the-floor as a sit rather than front-paws-also.

Soon we develop a nice rhythm. “This is for STITCH”, hand one to Stitch. “This is for SYN”, hand one to Syn. “This is for STITCH”, hand one to Stitch. “This is for SYN”, hand one to Syn.

After the next 5, her paws are on the ground as well. She’s trusting me to deliver it to her, and trusting Stitch not to try to get it away from me when I do.

Even better, her tail starts to wag as soon as I say “This is for STITCH” and she’s so excited she’s almost quivering. This is what I want her to know: when another dog gets something, it’s a virtual guarantee that you’re going to get something too if you just be sure you give me what I want.

The second half of breakfast I put in her dish and gave her on the grooming table where she was a bit frightened yesterday. No problems today. I thought about turning on one of the tools, but decided she needed a few days of getting used to the table before I set her up to work on the noise again.

Strange noises seem to be a small problem of hers. I say problem because she’s reacted badly to several unusual noises. I say small because she’s just a bit scared and her recovery is excellent – even the recovery from the first or second day when Stitch came in the dog door with a loud THWAP THWAP and made her scream and run. Since she’s a bit reactive to noises, I want to be sure that I’m aware of them and not messing up something I’m trying to teach her with a scary noise. For instance, I won’t try to get her used to the clipper noise and being on the grooming table at the same time, and I won’t try to teach her to go through the dog door while I’m trying to housetrain her. She could very easily decide that going outside isn’t worth it if she has to deal with the noisy dog door at the same time.

And then the MOST amazing thing happened – she scratched at the door! I got all excited and let her out. When we got back in, I hung the bells right where she’d scratched and 10 minutes later, she rang the bells! Partly she wanted to go out and play, but she peed while she was out there, and I’m thrilled. On the way back in, she bumped the bells with her nose quite deliberately and I got excited and wrestled her a bit.

Later in the day we had a brief shower together with me holding her. No problem except for the whining – sounded like Stitch when she was a puppy – “That’s skin temperature! It’s raining on me! I hate that! Eeeeuuuwwww!” But after a minute she shut up and enjoyed the cuddle.

Then we went for a swim. Well, no, I went for a wade. Syn went for a safe-in-arms wet ride. She wasn’t thrilled but she wasn’t upset. Water was about 92 degrees. I gradually let her back legs float free, but she got a little concerned when she thought her front legs might be going too. Ah well, her HAIR floated at least! And she got lots of ham. Another shower to rinse off any chemicals, and then a long, warm towel-dry and nap. Awww, she feels so soft! Amazing how dirty a puppy can get doing nothing more disgusting than wrestling on the floor.


I took a neat series of photos today. My husband was badly bitten by a dog when he was a child, and when two dogs start playing really rough, he gets concerned. I think these photos are perfect for demonstrating the difference between rough play and serious annoyance.

Playing. Look at Syn’s body language. Her tail is up, she’s jumping at Stitch. Stitch is ready to grab her by the throat with a big enthusiastic grin.

Argh! Going for throat backfired! Puppy has her down! I love to watch adult dogs play “rough” with puppies. Look at the ridiculous expression on Stitch’s face. She’s really hamming it up to play with the baby.

And then Syn makes a serious error. She grabs Stitch’s tail.

Look at Stitch’s face. Her muzzle is all crumpled up – not the happy toothy grin she’s showing in the first picture – and the corners of her mouth are pushed forward. NOBODY touches the flag, Jack! Her voice has changed, too, from a cheerful “ung-ung-ung” to a lion roar. Syn hasn’t had time to react bodily yet, but she’s just pulling her ears back.

Here’s a better look at that crumply muzzle. Stitch is SERIOUS, and she’s letting Syn know it. Puppies who bite tails get in BIG TROUBLE.

No fool, Syn realizes her error. She’s pulled her ears tighter back, let go of the tail, and she’s backing up as quick as she can and turning her head away. If I didn’t know the dogs and saw this picture cold, I could easily think that Syn was about to be seriously injured. Stitch didn’t stop at just yelling “OW!”, she’s still coming, and she looks dead serious.

When she gets to Syn, though, her muzzle is starting to un-crumple, and since Syn stopped biting immediately and is accepting the correction by turning her face away, Stitch is content with a sideways bump to say “And I COULD have killed you if I’d wanted to!”

This is REAL dog communication, between dogs who speak Doggish. No actual force necessary, no matter how grievous the offence.
20 seconds later, Stitch offers Syn a better alternative for playing tug and Syn, understanding the lesson she was taught and taking no offense from it, is happy to accept.


I feel like I’m on a roller coaster. With an entire class of 8 year olds.

Today was a super day. I paid better attention and there were no accidents (of course I use the word “accident” lightly – any accidents are totally my fault). We’ve tested out every behaviour and every extra in Level 1 and she’s PASSED. And she walks pretty well on leash. And she rarely bites at or claws at the walls of her crate. And she came in the dog door once – I suspect she came in between Stitch’s legs because the next time I found her curled up quietly waiting outside the door.

We went to the vet to get her second parvo shot. She loved up everybody and was intensely curious but unfazed by the various noises we encountered – the printer, the phone, busy people whirling by, a dog whimpering in the back. She sat on cue on the scale, and when I put her on the examining table she responded to the sit, down, touch, and Zen cues. Doesn’t seem possible something this young can think of all that. She whimpered for a moment in the car on the way there, but quickly stopped and mellowed out for the rest of the ride. Whimpered once or twice on the way home, then curled up and went to sleep. Puppy vaginitis has cleared up, but she’s got a bit of unfriendly bacteria in her ears so we got some meds for that. She was excellent when I cleaned them yesterday and when the vet looked at them today.

Wow! On to Level 2! And in another week she can go to puppy class (there’ll be 2 classes left when she’s OK to go, and she’s been invited to come out for them).

I have to start trading her a treat for things she has that she shouldn’t have, instead of just grabbing for them. She’s starting to turn away when she has something in her mouth and sees me coming.

Maybe the most impressive thing she did today – for supper I had them both sitting, one on each side of me. I picked up one dish in each hand. I looked at Syn and said “No. (our Leave It cue) This is for STITCH.” Then I put Stitch’s dish down and Syn held her sit and waited. Then I said “This is for SYN.” and put her dish down. There they were – each eating politely (OK, gobbling hysterically) from her own dish, and no more than 2 feet apart.


I have 2 dog doors (cold climate, eh?). One is in 3 parts – inside flap, outside flap, and insulated flap in between. Further inside the house, there’s a plain plastic see-through one. I’ve been holding the heavy one open for Syn to come through, but haven’t bothered with the lighter one yet. This morning, using Park (sit) and No (Zen cue), I got Syn to stay with Stitch in the little porch between the 2 dog doors while I came into the house and closed the big door. Then I asked Stitch to come in AND SYN STAYED SITTING IN THE PORCH!! OK, that’s just unbelievable. And people, THIS is what I want my training to be – that I have a chance of getting a behaviour the dog doesn’t know by combining things she DOES know. Not that I thought for an instant that at this age and with this much training I could get Syn to do a sitstay while Stitch ran away from her and disappeared. And I must remember not to rely on this EVER happening again. Still. Wow.

Anyway, then I called Syn and tapped on the see-through dog door, and she pushed right through it and came in the house.

Bad night last night. We were out late and that threw her clock all out of whack. She woke up at 5 AM, ready to play. Didn’t handle it well – muttered at her periodically to shut up until Ron took her out at 6. Then she slept until 9, wretched little brute.

Between the frozen peanut-butter-kibble kong (which she only gets when I’m leaving her in her crate), Scuba in the crate right next door, and me mostly remembering to put her in her crate when she lies down for a nap, she’s getting pretty darn good at being in her crate. If I’m going out and she doesn’t have her kong (sometimes I can’t find it), I sprinkle a little kibble inside the crate so she has to hunt for it. Then she whimpers a couple of times when the kibble’s gone, then she settles down.

A few times she jumped up yelling when I came home, but I just stayed out of sight (or retreated out of sight) until she shut up and either sat or lay down, and now she sits silently until I open the door. Then she circles my feet all the way to the going-outside door, grumbling madly the whole way to let me know what she thinks of the idea of being left behind.

In the afternoon we went for our second walk, hoping there would be some dry ground on the road. No such luck for at least 200 feet out from the house. Then we hit dry road and wow again (maybe I should change her name to Wow). She remembered the tiny bit of mud Zen we were doing the first time out. She’d sniff a clump of mud, get ready to pick it up, startle, stare at me, get a treat, and walk on. Leash was tight several (many) times, but she was lightly hitting the end of it and then coming back to stare at me rather than getting to the end and pulling. Most of the time she was conscious of where I was and how much of the leash she was using.

So many wonderful smells and textures!

This time on the service road we got to work on Horse Poop Zen and, once again, wow. She blundered into the scent cone from the first batch and walked to the end of the leash. Since she wasn’t really pulling and we were going on HER walk, I just stood and let her sniff it. After a few seconds, she startled again and came back to stare at me. Click! We walked by more bunches and she scalloped toward it but never went close enough to grab any. On the way back, she actually walked OVER a clump of manure, dropped her nose to smell it as she was walking, and kept right on coming.

Back in our lane, with long dead grass on the sides, she got “the rips”. She’d come to me for a treat, then drop her back end low, spin her tires, and race through the grass to within an inch of the end of the leash in front of me, spin and race to within an inch behind me, then forward again to stare at me to get a treat. That was WAY fun until one of her stunt-driving turns picked her up off the ground into a full airborne somersault and landed her with an audible thump on her back. That hurt. She squealed for a minute with her tail down. I picked her up and some part of her butt hurt but she got over it in a few seconds (and a few kibbles). That settled her down, no more ripping around. She walked politely at my side for at least 45 seconds.

Whatever problem she was having with sounds last week seems to have blown over. The hose in the dog tub made a strange gurgly noise that would have bothered her last week but was only mildly interesting this week, and I did her nails with the grinder again with no trouble (and very little peanut butter).

AND another “accident” because I wasn’t paying attention. She’s doing a good job – she’s going right to the door and putting it there, so she certainly has the idea of housetraining. Now we just need to work on communication (HEY, STUPID, I NEED TO GO OUT!). Started with 1/3 of a meal shaping her to ring her bells. The next 1/3 I hung the bells on the door-to-outside. The final 1/3, I closed the door. When she rang the bells, I clicked, opened the door, and tossed a couple of treats on the other side of the door. See? You ring the bells and the door opens so you can get what you want…

Finally, since she’s no longer fussing about noise, I got the outsides of her back legs shaved, and scissored her muzzle. I’m sure George Washington Carver didn’t think he was inventing peanut butter so I could shave my pup’s butt, but he goes down in my book as a great man anyway.

Long day, good day, synced Syn into the ground. Amazing the lengths I will go to to avoid doing income tax.


I was right about trusting her bell-ringing. She’s forgotten what that’s about, so we’re starting back at the beginning, reteaching it and reintroducing it.

The only training we did other than that today was making up for that killer acrobatic manoeuvre she did yesterday. We went for another walk and she was behaving very seriously, walking directly behind me with her tail down. It took me almost 15 minutes to get her running beside me with her tail up. I hope tomorrow goes better.


Gosh, the days are flicking by so fast!

Today she came in through the triple dog door all by herself, and went through the single several times without thinking about it.

I’m changing her feeding back to 3 times a day, she seems to be spending a great deal of time with a full tummy – not that she wouldn’t eat until she exploded.

I bought her a new smaller soft crate yesterday and put her little bed inside it last night. No deal, thank you very much. This was not HER crate, and she was NOT having anything to do with it. I put her back in her big crate and she went promptly to sleep.

I probably won’t get to go for a walk today, I’m busy getting ready to leave to await my first grandchild’s appearance in a slightly closer location, but once we’re ensconced in a hotel and waiting, I expect we’ll have lots of time to play outside on dry (paved) ground.

And start training Levels again.

That’s a lot of work for 5 minutes, but she dug right in and got the job done!