Syn @ 15 Weeks

May 11, 2011 | Syn's Story

New class started this morning – and it’s not a puppy class, it’s a regular class called “K9 Fun 101” where we’ll be exploring a bit of agility, a bit of rally, a bit of barrel racing, etc. First class was MARVELLOUS for Syn. This is the same place we went to where she met the monstrous evil Cairn Terrier puppy that wagged its tail at her, and the satanic evil Mini Dachshund puppy that actually LOOKED at her – and where she learned to play the Come Game through a tunnel.

She trucked along in the parking lot on a loose leash, but when she realized where she was, she was eager to go in the door. I carried her in, just to be sure she didn’t get scared again, but no, she wanted down and she wanted to say hello to everybody. No submissive urination, even though there were lots of people bending over her to pet her. She was interested and a bit curious about the other dogs, but not afraid. The M.E. Cairn Terrier is in the same class. Syn is now about 4 times its size, though she was only slightly bigger last time they met. This time she thought it might be looking kind of cute.

The class was divided into 3 stations. First station was getting the dog’s attention and then Zen. Fabulous eye contact, with none of the dancing I get at home. 10 seconds with no trouble at all. The third station was playing with toys and tugging, and there was some barking going on from the other side of the room, which bothered Syn, but she got a treat every time she looked back at me. She no longer thinks barking means she’s in imminent danger. She’s starting to trust that if I’m not upset, there are probably treats for her in situations that look dangerous. If she didn’t learn anything else this morning, that’s a biggie. Zen of course was excellent, in hand, open hand, on the floor. She is SO CUTE when she pushes back from the treat, then sits staring at it and wagging her tail furiously. I could dump all the treats I brought on the floor in front of her to reward her for just being cute.

The second station was a bit of walking on leash – again, excellent except for the part where I’m trying to walk slowly to give myself a chance to reward her and she’s curling around in front of me to see what’s taking me so long, and then I’m trying not to step on her. Maybe this week we should practise a little Lazy-Leash-in-a-straight-line.

And the third station, as I said, was playing and tugging. She will NOT tug in public, so I continued clicking her for holding the end of her leash, and she started getting into it. I got some really strong three-yank tugs. When she got tired of doing that, we worked a bit on having her go over on her side and put her head down. Nobody could believe that the pup who (2 weeks ago?) was screeching if another dog looked at her could relax enough to be on her side in the same building. *I* couldn’t believe it.

After the class, she got to meet an adult Beardie. She enjoyed walking around behind her sniffing her skirts, but backed off when the Beardie turned around to say hello. This dog was a pup in the same classes with Stitch 6 years ago. And I had someone hold her while I walked 40′ away. She watched me but didn’t fuss as I went. Then I got a fast, excited 40′ recall.

For supper Syn and I did some random shaping practise – I got her to go under two different chairs and touch a box. Then we did some eye contact, tried sitting up from a down on cue (iffy, took the cue off), worked the relax a bit more, and then some retrieving. Her grip is much firmer and solider now that I’ve been rewarding the almost-tug. I expected some trouble with her thinking she was supposed to pull the Chuck-It out of my hand, but I decided it would be worth taking the time to fix if I can teach her to tug on cue (it’s a great reward for times when you can’t use treats and praise isn’t doing the job. Stitch doesn’t do it, and neither did Scuba, and I missed it). In fact what happened was that when I lowered the Chuck-It toward the floor, she started picking it up. !

And then she pooped inside by the dog door because it’s raining out.


We had a fun day today. I’ve been slaving over the computer and doing pretty much nothing else, so when I stop I don’t want to think but I do want to do something with the pup.

There have been a couple of questions on the list recently about teaching the dog to walk beside the handler instead of sideways, head pointing at the hands and tail pointing to the rest of the universe.

I was thinking of many different ways of teaching a swing finish, which is what solves this problem. A swing finish has the dog going from in front of the handler (facing the handler) to the heel position beside the handler on the his left side. The dog gets there by moving her head a very short distance (from between the handler’s knees around to the left of the handler’s left knee) and moving her butt a long distance (from in front of the handler, tail pointing north) to beside the handler (tail pointing south).

Another reason I’m thinking about swing finishes is because it suddenly occurred to me that Syn, Stitch and I and several friends will be attending eleven rally trials and twelve conformation shows in three weekends IN LESS THAN TWO MONTHS ARRRRRGGGHHHH. So I read through the rally rules, just on a whim, and guess what? There’s nothing in there but the swing finish that Syn can’t do yet. Oh, sure, not with the necessary duration or difficulty and not necessarily on a single voice cue, but she CAN do them. Pseudo-heeling? Check. Sit? Down? Stay? Come? Yeppers. Moving sidestep? That’s a swing finish. Stay while I walk around her? Not yet, but it’s coming. Her attention and focus are excellent. I had only thought to put Syn in conformation, but hey, what the heck. Maybe she’ll be ready for rally too.

Syn and I started playing with the idea of getting from HERE to THERE because the swing finish has always been a complicated behaviour to teach. I started with Level 2 Communication, Step 2 – the dog moves out of your way. When I wrote this, I was thinking of it as a very small beginning of a swing finish. After about 2 minutes, we moved on to Level 2 Communication, Step 3 – the dog moves out of your way to your left. And holy cow, she started to get it.

The third 5-minute session – it’s incredible. I’m gobsmacked. Scuba and Stitch at 6 months didn’t have swing finishes as far along as Syn’s is after 15 minutes of training.

Then I started teaching her to do a swing finish to my right.

I’m very excited.


What’s even more fun than having a 15-week-old puppy doing left and right swing finishes (well, almost) is the look of shock and amazement on someone’s face when you show them. Very satisfying.

Today we got back to “work”. Since we’ve been playing around with stacking and swing finishes and pushing on into retrieving, today we went back to the beginning and tested all of Level 1 again. Flying colours. I’m thinking it would be extremely worthwhile to go back to the beginning every couple of months and retest everything. Sort of like getting requalified on your CPR certificate.

While we were doing downs, I tossed a treat about 10 feet away and when she was on her way back I asked her to down and she did! It was only 5 feet away from me, but she stopped so fast she almost did a somersault. Yeah. Drop on Recall. That’s the exercise Stitch failed in the obedience trial last weekend…

Once through Level 1, we started on Level 2. We hadn’t finished Zen – Step 3 is staying off a treat on the floor for 30 seconds. Two weeks ago that was a Never-Ever behaviour. Just Ain’t Gonna Happen. And Step 4 is staying off a treat that I drop to the floor when I don’t give the Leave It cue until AFTER it leaves my hand. Well, ferholycow, she did both of them. She needed my foot on the drop treat the first time, but after that she was backing off brilliantly.

Focus didn’t go quite as well. She got Step 4 – holding eye contact for 10 seconds – the first time I asked for it, but the second time, she decided there were faster ways to force me to give her a treat and she started flipping her head and rolling from hip to hip, sitting and downing… needs work.

Got all the way through Level 2 Come, she’s GOOD at that. There’s something she’s missing though. We did a little bit of work one time on a grate in the city where I’d toss treats down the drain and then reward her when she refocused on me. We need to do that again. Once she’s on the trail of a lost treat, she’s tough to get back until she’s found it. Oh well, she’s VERY good at concentrating!

And that’s as far as we got. It was an excellent session. Come to think of it, the only times that AREN’T excellent with this pup are when I’m thinking about nothing else except how young bitches with puppy vaginitis are hard to housetrain. What an excellent puppy!

I had to get this photo before all her baby teeth fell out – one’s gone already (middle bottom). I love this stage – the huge mouth and the ridiculous little tiny teeth.