Syn @ 19 Weeks

Apr 6, 2011 | Syn's Story

Excellent class this morning. It’s called K9 Fun 101, and it is. In the first 15 minutes, we started doing collapsed tunnels – uncollapsed in the beginning, of course, and by the end of the session Syn was diving through with it closed. Only trouble was she couldn’t turn around and run through it backwards like she did last week with the open tunnel. Bummer.

Second session she was “jumping” through a tire. She’s pretty much decided that going through anything will result in getting a treat on a target plate. She’s doing an excellent job (well, for a baby) of focusing on the obstacle to let me know she’s heading for it, not even thinking about ways to get around it instead of through, and racing through at top speed – and, especially important, refocusing on me once she’s had the treat. In fact, once while I was telling her what a great job she did as she approached the target, she swerved off and came to me instead.

Third session we worked on Zen (um, yeah, we can do that), hand touches (um, yeah, we can do that), and then backing up. We haven’t done a ton of backing up, but she figured it out fast when I put a treat in her face and then used it to pull her nose down along her chin toward her throat (that sounds disgusting). Then something really exciting. They put out barriers. The idea was to stand with the dog standing beside the barrier on my left side, and then use the lure we’d just taught to get her to back up in heel position. While I was waiting for a barrier, I did what I’ve done with adult dogs who already have a really good swing finish (you may recall that Syn has a really good half-trained swing finish). I stood with her in heel position, turned towards her slightly, cued the swing and took half a step backwards at the same time AND SHE BACKED UP WITH ME. It was totally sweet. And she did it again and again. At one point, I took two big steps backwards and she stayed with me. GOOD PUPPY!

Fourth session we did really fast and excited comefores. Also excellent. She is SO much fun.

When we were done, I spent 5 kibbles working up to a 15 foot drop on recall, and got it five or six times. Dang. Training dogs is tough, tough, tough.

For supper, we went swimming again. This time I had trouble keeping her on her bench long enough to get to the other side to call her into the water. I finally started telling her to stay. She really wanted to get in the water. She swam off and on for about 10 minutes (lots of rest breaks), chasing my hands to touch and learning not to climb on me (in Portuguese Water Dog circles, it is considered bad form for the dog to stand on your head during the Swim With Handler exercises). It wasn’t difficult to teach her since she wasn’t trying to use me to get out of the water, she just thought it would be fun if we both swam in the same 8 inches of water. I used my target hand to move her out. At the end of the session, I took her life jacket off and let her swim once without it. She didn’t seem to notice.

I think I wore her out for once. I think she wore me out too.


I’m beginning to feel like one of those madly grinning bobble-head dolls – everything is FINE, isn’t this FUN, aren’t we having a good TIME!

Well, sorry, but I AM having a good time.

I didn’t feel like doing anything active today. so Syn and I worked one meal on retrieving. Since her mouth is currently made up of 6 barely-visible upper incisors, one lonely bottom baby canine and a lot of swelling, I didn’t ask her to hold anything hard. I have a bit of crocheting that I decided wasn’t going well, but it’s made of soft smooth fluffy yarn. Just the thing.

She’s got a good hold, with 15 seconds of duration, and we’ve done some work on tugging, so I went with the final stage – picking something up off the floor and handing it to me.

We started with some touches with the rag in my hand, then moved quickly to having her hold it with me. Then I put it on the floor and shaped her to target it with her muzzle. After three targets, I held the click and she reliably started putting her mouth on it, then lifting it. That went well, but when I reached for it with my left hand, she dropped it and lunged for my hand.

Right. She thinks I’m handing her the treat. So we worked ten kibbles on letting me touch her collar without her licking/mouthing/chewing on my left hand, then petting her head, then lifting her feet. Finally we went back to picking up the rag and she let me reach my left hand toward it (kibble in my right hand) without dropping it, and two clicks later she was handing it to me.

She had several minor problems that we’ll work through. One was that she’s not used to being shaped to go to something at floor level. Go under a chair, sure. Around a suitcase, sure. Up on a dogbed, yes. But not something on the floor. She kept forgetting where it was and what we were supposed to be doing with it. She’d try lying down, rolling her back end left and right, looking this way and that. At one point she tried to pick up the coffee table – not a problem, of course, since she has no teeth right now she can’t do any damage! Finally it clicked and she began remembering what we were doing and looking immediately for the rag after she got her treat for the previous retrieve.

The other problem was that her body occasionally thought we might be working on tug, so as she approached me she would take a funny little half-step backwards as I reached for the rag. Then she’d startle and come forward again – “Oops, darn, that’s not what she wants!” Cute.

Otherwise, excellent session.


And this morning, I dropped my wallet and Syn nonchalantly picked it up and handed it to me. !

We can’t do anything outside because it’s raining buckets. I have a llama show to get ready for, I’m a month overdue finishing shearing, the barn isn’t clean, my baby llama is 3 days overdue on his 10th Lazy Leash lesson, and we can’t do anything. The good news is that Syn has decided she would rather pee outside in the rain than stop halfway out in the back porch.

We worked on retrieve some more, since she was starting to think of it on her own already. First I worked on orienting her to the crochet rag, and then lowering her field of vision from rag-in-hand to rag-on-rug. That went fairly well, though once in a while she forgot and went back to trying out sitting and downing and admiring my treat hand.

Syn is standing, her fur is soaked and she is holding a soggy toy in her mouth.
I told you it was raining here. She’s WET.

Her return-to-my-hand-without-dropping-it rate was about 80%

She seemed to me to be thinking an awful lot about my treat hand, so we did a little hand Zen to remind her, and then tried some floor Zen. That went well so I went back to retrieving the rag – with the Zen treat on the floor.

Boy howdy, THAT was tough! At first she couldn’t move, not going for the treat – her floor Zen is excellent – but mesmerized by its siren call. I had to pick the rag up and put it right in front of her face before she could open her mouth the first time without risking the treat jumping in.

As she got better and better at being able to breathe and pick up the rag and resist the kibble all at the same time, I put the rag closer and closer to the kibble. This was about as close as she got, and you can see that she’s left her right front paw behind to anchor her in case the kibble tries to drag her over.

Then she lost her nerve. Too much struggling to keep out of that black kibble-hole. She went back to doing what she knows – when in doubt, Zen is easiest if you just stay away from the whole area.

Sometimes the better part of valour is just not playing. Too much thinking going on here. After this attempt, I picked up the floor kibble and we just practised holding the rag together for a while. She was still eager to play retrieving with me, as long as we didn’t have to think about that evil kibble on the floor. Since I spent several weeks rewarding her for any tiny tug on a toy or her leash (when I offered it to her), and we built up to some pretty hefty tug wars, she thinks that if we’re both holding it, she should be pulling it away from me. Which is a pretty small glitch, considering how far she’s come in the last couple of days. I got my wallet again and worked with that. She can’t really hold it because it’ll slide right out of her mouth (I mentioned no teeth before), but it didn’t feel like something she should try to tug on either, so we got some nice steady two-person holds.


What a pleasure she is. Sometimes.

Once a week I grind a dog’s nails and do whatever grooming is prudent or necessary, so each dog gets done once every two weeks. Today was Syn’s turn.

I took her breakfast to the dog room and sat down at the grooming table. She came over and put her paws up on the table so I could boost her up. Kibble for that. She turned around and sat facing me. I picked up one front paw and did the nails. Kibble for that. Did the other front paw. Kibble for that.

I asked her to lie down, then lured her over onto her side and waited for her head to go down. Kibble for that. Did one back paw (yes, kibble), and then the other (kibble). Six pieces of kibble and a very sweet nail grooming session. Life is good.

Then I took her muzzle in my hand (kibble? kibble? kibble? Syn, no. Oh, OK). She rested her chin lightly in my hand and I did a little trimming of her bangs so she could see where she was going. Kibble for that.

Lured her into a stand and did some work on a conformation stack, luring her back and forth and placing her back feet once in a while. When she moved a foot, I pulled the bait away for a second, replaced the foot, and then continued.

We finished the session (and breakfast) working on relaxing on the table. Very funny. She has a hard time holding still because she wants to paw at the table to remind me that she’s “relaxing”. I put my palm on the bottom of one front foot and she visibly relaxed. I didn’t push it, we haven’t worked on it much, but got a good solid 5 seconds.

When I put her down she got the rips again while Stitch and I just watched in awe. Skidding around corners, crashing into things (noticeably my knee), tail down, head up, growling like a semi building up speed through the gears. She ripped for maybe 2 minutes, then went to her bed, picked up a squeaky to suck on, and fell asleep. Dear little Tat.

We went to the pool for supper. I don’t think I have a lot more to teach her there, but I don’t want her to forget that she enjoys swimming. Of course, cold water and waves might be a completely different story but we have a good foundation, anyway.

As she swam around me, I handed her bits of wiener. At one point, I thought I’d start showing her the idea that wieners might appear slightly UNDER the water, so I began holding each piece at the water line instead of above it. No problem, and she was soon blowing bubbles as she reached for the pieces. Then, because she’d been swimming for long enough without a rest, I looped an arm around her and held her beside me. I was thinking about what to do next, and my other hand drifted under the water. To my astonishment, she pulled forward, dove her ENTIRE head under water and took the wiener out of my hand.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a WATER DOG!

I didn’t ask her to go that deep again, but we spent the next few minutes with her putting her muzzle and up over her eyes under water, in my arms, and while swimming. Zowie!


We have all developed an unfortunate behaviour. I sit in my recliner with my laptop on my chest (because I can’t see the screen if it’s further away than that) and the dogs jump on my lap and we all have a cozy afternoon.

That’s what happens when ONE dog jumps up, or even when two tired dogs jump up, but when one youngish veteran and one 19-weeks-5-days flying squirrel jumps up, they end up having wrestling matches on my lap. Which is OK, but when they brought in the scantily-clad sign holders and the referees, I decided to draw the line.

I worked on the computer for 3 hours this morning, and got 7 jump-ups in the first hour, 3 in the second hour, and one cute little nose over the arm to see what I was doing in the third hour. All I did to get this change was to tell them to get off immediately when they got up. I’m going to keep this up for a couple of days and then start letting them know that they can come up with an engraved invitation only. Next year we can go back to anytime-they-want-to-as-long-as-there-are-no-sign-babes-or-referees.

For supper Syn and I went back to the book. I know we finished Level 1, but I’m not sure how far we got in Level 2, so we started at sort of random in the middle, with Target. Touch a wooden object, check. Touch a plastic object, check. Touch a metal object, check. We have definitely completed these before. Touch up and down and all over town, check. Touch a Post-It note on vertical surfaces, check.

Oops, close a cabinet door. Haven’t done that. I don’t have a cabinet door (that doesn’t have stinky garbage behind it) so we work on a drawer in the kitchen instead. I put a Post-It note on the drawer. She couldn’t find it. I got her touching my hand and led her over to the note (I would have put the note in my hand but she wants to retrieve it – dang, eh? – so I had to tape it solidly to the drawer). Once she saw it, she was all for hitting it. The drawer was a good one for training because if she got it moving fast enough it closed the last inch or two on its own, with a satisfying little thunk. We finished with her closing it about 8 inches with two clicks for the 8 inches and another treat for the thunk.

And it’s not part of the behaviour, but by golly she wanted to retrieve the drawer. How cool is that?

Then we moved on to Go To Mat. I put my coat on the floor about 5 feet away. Yep, we’ve definitely done this behaviour all the way through as well, except for Step 4 (add a distraction) and Step 5 (start doing stuff while she’s on the mat). Well, wasn’t that fun? Turns out she’s fine with Stitch in the room, or my husband, or toys, or the door open – but if my treat hand is moving, she can’t do anything but stare at me. Excellent! An easy distraction to arrange and work on! After 20 treats she was only hesitating for an instant (engage brain, mom said something. What did she say? Oh, yeah, go to mat!) before heading for the coat.

Step 5 was harder. We’ve been working really hard on her heeling (bounce-walk-walk-bouncebounce-walk-bounce) to the cue of SQUIRREL! and she thinks that if I’m walking around, she ought to be bopping along with me. I had to start just waving my arms around a bit, and even that was tough. After a few minutes, though, she was able to stay on the coat while I walked around the coffee table and did pretend jumping jacks.

We finished up with a few conformation stacks on the floor. Fun session.