Syn @ 11 Weeks

Apr 9, 2011 | Syn's Story

I was busy today.

Ladies and gentlemen, Simon Ailsby, my first grandchild.


Several eventful days! Not for Syn, but for me. My son called to tell us our daughter-in-law was in labour (this was, of course, not unexpected), so I booked a hotel, packed up the dogs and all our junk, and headed off on a 2.5 hour road trip with a 10-week-old puppy. I was NOT looking forward to this (the travel with the puppy part, not the having-a-grandchild part).

The setup: I put two wire crates in the back of my SUV, one for Stitch and one for Syn. Syn’s crate had a couple of toys and the towel and cuddly bed from her soft crate. I also took the small soft crate that I had tried to introduce her to the other night because I don’t want to have to carry the big wire one in and out of the hotel several times a day.

Before we left, we played a rousing game of tug and chase to get Syn emptied out. I put them each in their crates and then sprinkled their breakfasts, dry, on the crate floors to give her something to do while we were leaving the yard. I put them in their crates. They both did the mighty Kibble Hunt, then Stitch lay down and went to sleep, and so did Syn. I stopped once on the trip to let her pee and give her a drink, and again she went into the crate and went right to sleep (or if she was awake, she was playing with her toenails and not saying anything).

When we arrived the “kids” were home from the hospital awaiting further developments, so Stitch and Syn had a chance to come in, work the room, and stretch their legs (this is the marvellous home that recently said goodbye to old Scuba). They went back to the hospital and we went to check in at the hotel.

I do like to get pups into hotels relatively early so they can learn that they don’t have to bark at every sound. This is quite a bit younger than I generally do it, though.

S&S played for a while, explored the space, went out to pee a few times (reinforcing the idea that even in this strange place, there is another choice than dropping on the spot). Then Syn asked if she could come up on the bed with me, and promptly fell asleep, where she stayed until I went to the hospital. I sprinkled another handful of kibble in the crate when I went in, and they were both sleeping when I came back out. (Crate in the car, by the way – did NOT leave them alone in the hotel!)

That was plenty of sleeping and I expected to have trouble getting her to bed that night, but when I finally put her bed, her towel, and her toys in the little crate, I didn’t hear another word from her until 5 AM when we all awakened to my phone ringing – IT’S A BOY! Since this is Syn’s blog, I won’t go into that…

Took her out to pee, set my alarm to get up at 7 to go meet the little man, and woke up at 8 – I guess I can’t read numbers at 5 AM.

Another round of car crate, then back to the hotel.

She wanted to play, which was fine, but when she and Stitch started really getting into it and she started to bark, I brought her up on the bed so I’d have a little better control of her mouth, and she fell asleep again immediately, and stayed asleep off and on until 3 when we went back to the hospital and then came home since I was the designated cord-blood shipper.

But what a rip-and-tear there was when hit the living room again! So another Wow! Wow, she was terrific. Why is this dog so sensible? It’s a little scary.

Re the barking-in-hotels. We had a ground-floor room with a glass door out to the parking lot, so once in a while someone would walk through her line of sight. The first time she saw someone, she coughed at them and ran right up to the glass to watch them. Her body language was halfway between “Boy, are YOU guys in trouble!” and “Holy cow, are WE in trouble!”. She’d watch them for a few seconds, glance at Stitch (who yawned and rolled on her back), look at the stranger again, then run back to me so I could go drive them off. Instead, when she came back to me for support, I told her she was a good girl, gave her a little pet and a bit of kibble, and then went back to the computer. She’d go back to the door and watch, sometimes going through the same routine three or four times before the ogres disappeared. By the third stranger, though, she was just watching, with calm body language – even when a couple of skateboarders went through the parking lot.

While we were gone, I’m sure her legs grew 3″, and when we got home she just casually walked through the indoor AND the outdoor dog doors to pee. When I congratulated her, she looked at me like “Yeah, that’s what they’re FOR, eh?”

Finally got around to taking our official “generations” portrait.

This is Scuba on the left, Stitch at 8 weeks on the right.

and this is Stitch on the left and Syn at 10 weeks on the right.


Back in the swing. We went for a walk today, and she’s not coming under my feet, but she’s happy again and galloping here and there. She runs to the end of the leash and then curls back to look at me, comes around behind and runs by me again. The circling will have to stop eventually, but it’ll be easy to stop and right now it’s just cute because the reason she’s circling is because she’s looking at me with the leash loose. If she was just barging out to the end of the leash and then leaning on it as she went around me, I’d stop it right now.

She did so well on our trip that today I took her into town to get groceries – alone! She put paws up on the bumper to be boosted into her crate. Then I sprinkled a handful of kibble in the crate and started off. She was quiet the whole way, didn’t say anything when I got out and went into the grocery store. I didn’t greet her when I came back to the car, just got in and drove away, and she was quiet all the way home. Yee hah! There’s hardly anything I appreciate more than a dog who’s good in the car!

AND all day today she’s been heading outside on her own. Once she was playing tug with Stitch, gave a little startle, and then ran out the dog door. When she came back in, she picked up the tug toy and continued with the game. What a good puppy.

Since we’ve been going over what shows are coming up after her 6-month birthday, I checked for matches and yes, there’s a conformation match in 2 weeks. Today we started practising stacking. All we accomplished in the first two sessions was to convince her that MAYBE she didn’t have to sit at every single opportunity. That’s a good start! And while she was standing, I got to move her back legs a little bit.

We moved on to Level 2. We started with Zen. She’s not quite ready to test yet, but after one what-the-heck-are-we-doing-now? mistake, she’s great at it. Since we’ve been practising with her NOT diving into Stitch’s meals, she’s very, very good at Zen. L2 Step 1 is floor Zen, that’s easy, no matter where we do it. Step 2 is staying off for 10 seconds – not a problem. After 4 seconds, she scooches backwards, lies down, and turns her head away from the treat. From there she looks like she could go for 3 minute Zen. Outside and other rooms makes no difference.

On to Focus. I haven’t done any shaping today so she’s easy to get eye contact from. We go outside on the front sidewalk. She glances around once and then swings in front of me, grabs my eyes, and sits. From there she zooms up through 2 seconds to 6 seconds with no discernible difficulty. It’s awfully tempting to push her too far, but I resist. I started Focus sitting down, so I tried it kneeling, then standing up. No problem. Once I was standing, she developed a serious drift to her left (towards my right hand). Since she was doing so well, I started turning my back on her when she drifted too far away from front. The first two times she decided that staring at my hand would be as good as staring at my eyes and I had to call Puppy Puppy to get her to come in front of me to find my eyes again. The third time, she gave my hand half a second of staring and then whipped around, finding my eyes, sitting, and starting that “Look, I knew what to do!” tail wag.

Can’t wait for tomorrow!


We had a quiet morning. Playing with Stitch first thing, she hurt her front leg and wouldn’t put it on the floor. 2 hours of resting seemed to have cured it but we planned on taking it easy for the rest of the day.

Not counting the shower we took together and the paddling lesson, she had her first bath today. I think I’ll buy a peanut butter company. She was busy with the pb for the bath, but it took a bit more than that to get the blowdryer on her. Peanut butter on the wall, on me, on the table, on the dryer hose, lots of cuddles. I dried her tail for about 10 minutes before she let me dry her hips, but it went quite quickly from there to her back, sides, and front legs. Didn’t attempt the head. She popped her pupils once, but more pb and cuddling settled her down quick enough and she was OK from then on. When we were done, of course, she got the rips and just about wore Stitch out. So much for taking it easy. Leg seems fine. She’s all fluffy now except for her naked little butt. She looks like a cross between a brown and white pansy and a baboon that stuck his finger in an electric socket.

OK now, seriously, this pup is starting to scare me. Scuba was exceptionally smart. Stitch is a lovely dog, knows a lot, is reasonable and reliable and fun – but she’s not the sharpest crayon in the box. This isn’t something I think about a lot, since, compared to Scuba, nobody is. But this puppy is SMART.

Or maybe it’s because we’re working word-for-word with the new Training Levels book, it just makes her seem smart. Yeah, that’s it. I’m sticking with that.

Second day of Level 2.

Zen – Step 1, complete. She doesn’t just stay off a treat on the floor. She actually turned her back on it and stared at me over her shoulder.

Took it outside on the front step – WHOA NELLIE! Totally different story! Thank you, Syn, for pointing out that you are a real puppy and not Scuba reincarnated or something. She had NO idea what the cue meant, so I stopped giving it. I had to teach her right from the very beginning, she had apparently never heard of Zen before. The neat thing, though, was that she was so engrossed in figuring out how to get the kibble out from under my foot that she paid no attention whatsoever to the big wide world.

Focus – she found my eyes with no trouble at all, even in other rooms and outside. When I started building duration, though, she made worse what had been cute-but-barely-noticed yesterday: remember that I’m-doing-it tail wag? It was so successful it moved to her feet and her vocal chords, so when doing any duration behaviours, today she decided to stamp her feet and warble to speed things up. THAT is not going to continue, so in spite of the fact that I was easily getting 8 to 10 seconds of eye contact yesterday, I dropped right back to zero today and made sure I was only clicking for silence and a quiet body.

Come – she’s excellent, it’s her favourite thing. Today we tested coming past my leash hand so I could snap her leash on without her eating my hand or the leash.

Down – the dancing and singing took over her down as well, so we worked very slowly on Chutes & Ladders.

Sit – she knows this one. I can walk 5′ away and come back and she stays. I started moving from side to side.

Lazy Leash – this is the one that scared me. She sat in front of me and I put slight pressure on the collar. It took her maybe 5 seconds to think of releasing the pressure. The next one took another 5 seconds. Then she had it. Left or right, I couldn’t get her to leave pressure on it (not that I wanted her to, but gosh). I tried pulling forward on the leash. For an instant she thought about panicking, started to rear up, then gave a little startle and moved with the pressure, doing that I’m-doing-it tail wag.

Target – she did my hand in Level 1, and my feet. Now we’re doing twofers on a pencil. She tried touching the hand HOLDING the pencil but didn’t get a click for that so now she aims at the pencil. And that used up almost all of her meal.

Stitch wanted to do some work too, so I thought I’d start Syn on understanding that she has to do what I want her to do (rather than barge over and grab) even if another dog is getting something, but either she really is as smart as I think she is or the “This is for STITCH, this is for SYN lessons are totally assimilated into her little brain. I put on her collar and leash, put her comfy little bed near a heavy chair, and tied the leash to the chair, giving her just enough leash to get off or get on the bed. Then I moved across the room and started working Stitch through all of Syn’s behaviours.

She didn’t even try to come over. She sat on her bed and wagged. I tossed her a treat every now and then. Once or twice she got off the bed, but then the treats stopped so she climbed back in. Once she tried barking at me, but that didn’t get her anything, so she shut up and re-arranged her paws to let me know she was DOING what I wanted. She’s not ready for me to take the leash off, but holy cow.

And she’s listening to my voice and learning the cues. Teaching reliable voice cues is one of my worst things and she’s getting them.

My fingers are tingly.


Much more reasonable day today. Last night after her supper, Stitch showed her how to open the door to the pantry and they both chowed down on a lot more kibble than they should have. Then Syn had a big drink, stretching her poor baby tummy until it felt like a balloon about to burst. At least that’s what it felt like on the outside. It must have hurt a lot on the inside, because she came to me crying but didn’t want to be picked up until after she went outside.

Then she had to go out three times during the night.

Zen is excellent, but not a default yet, and this morning I forgot to give her the cue, so she knocked her breakfast out of my hand and spread it all over the kitchen. She dragged 3 dozen bits of dead weeds into the house from the dog yard, and this evening she threw up peanut butter, kibble, and dead-weed-bits all over her new dog bed.

When I went out this afternoon, I left her in her crate and Stitch loose in the house, which was apparently a lot more annoying than having everybody locked up, because when I came home she did her best to demonstrate the many of the joys of separation anxiety – yapping, clawing at the crate, screaming. Unfortunately the poor baby got no attention at all for this amazing display of pique and had to wait until she settled down before she got to come out of the crate.

At supper, I used 3 treats per behaviour and ran through everything we’d done so far. Most of it she remembered and performed amazingly well. The leashwork we started yesterday was remarkable today, though. I put a little bit of pressure on her collar and she did a complete backflip and spin (this must be a triple Salchow, or a half gainer with a twist, or something grand like that) to loosen the lead. Sounds like a freak-out EEK MY LEASH IS STRANGLING ME reaction, right? Nope. She was perfectly calm, and did her there-I-did-it tail wag when she was done. I was so surprised that I clicked it and gave her a treat, and then she repeated it. By this time I’d figured out that she wasn’t really loosening the leash and that I didn’t really want her to do this every time she felt the collar tighten on her neck, so I stopped paying for it, which made her do it even harder. Eventually she stopped and did it my way, but I feel like I just told Beethoven to quit making so much noise.

Anyway, she is a puppy after all and not some freaky reincarnation of Scuba.


According to her vaccination schedule, Syn is “street legal” today, so we went to a puppy class.

My, didn’t she have a good time! She walked on a loose leash from the car to the building, had to think about stepping in the door for a moment but when I gave her the moment, she decided to go on in.

Inside, there were PEOPLE! People to play the Come Game with! And boy, did she! Wheee!

And then a horrible, monster 5-pound Cairn Terrier puppy showed up. This thing must have been related to Godzilla! It LOOKED at her! It wagged its TAIL at her! The HORROR! She squealed and ran behind me and peeked out through my legs. Yep, it was still there. Mom! Pick me up before it kills me!

So I picked her up, got a chair and sat down, held her in my lap for a few seconds, and then put her down and started giving her treats and asking her to do things – sit, down (would I settle for a sit? Yeah, OK), touch my hand.

Then a Miniature Dachshund puppy arrived. This was even smaller and nastier than the Cairn! It wanted to VISIT her! Back up on my lap.

When the class started, we made our way slowly around the outskirts of the room, sniffing good smells and eating treats. When we got back to our chair (alive! A miracle!) I set up her little soft crate and she dived gratefully into it. 15 minutes later she was making little forays out into the room to get treats, and backing slowly into her crate whenever a puppy came too close (a big improvement over screaming and diving into it). At one point she even had the nerve to sniff the back end of a Cavalier puppy that wasn’t looking at her (if you can’t be brave with a Cavalier, you can’t be brave with anybody!).

Near the end, a lovely, calm, rational adult Collie was put on a down about 4’ from Syn’s crate. She made a few treat-forays with him there, and then started offering me downs and sits. Maybe she thought he was big enough to protect her from all those dangerous monster puppies!

The class has been going on for 6 weeks already, and Syn was just invited for the last 2 weeks, so the other puppies are used to each other and the situation. If I had been expecting her to run into the middle of the class and show everybody how it’s done, I would have been very disappointed, but you can’t think that way. She’s a baby and she needs what she needs.

Right then she needed reassurance and a chance to assess the situation reasonably without being pushed into anything she didn’t want to do – and she responded brilliantly. Four things I was very happy about – first, she never stopped wanting treats. Second, she thought that if she came to me, she’d be safe (and she was right, I never stopped her from coming back into a safety zone). Third, she bounced back from her scares. By the end of the class when the pups were taken off lead to play, she was sitting in the door of her crate watching them run. And fourth, she was almost always willing to look at me and give me behaviours. If I can get a dog to give me behaviours that she knows, it helps to make her feel like she’s not totally helpless.

Before next week’s class, we’ll keep working on the Levels, and I’ll try to get there early so she has a chance to play the Come Game with the people again before the other pups arrive – and maybe say hello to that big Collie.