Syn @ 16 Weeks

May 14, 2011 | Syn's Story

4 months! Has she lived with me 8 weeks already? THEN WHY IS SHE STILL CRYING IN THE CRATE WHEN I LEAVE HER ALONE?

Ahem. Possibly because I have taught her to be happy in the crate when I’m there, and when I’m not there, but haven’t done anything to explain being happy in the crate when I’m LEAVING her alone? Nah, that couldn’t be it…

Last night we tried Lazy Leash Step 3 (dog keeps the leash loose with a treat on the floor at her feet while you take on step in any direction) and Step 4 (dog keeps the leash loose while you both walk past the treat on the floor). Gee, just when I was complaining about her not being able to leave a treat she thinks might be still on the floor, along comes a Step to eliminate the problem! Whoever wrote these Levels must be a genius! (okay okay, quit snickering). Step 3 was Very Difficult for her. She was great when I was standing still (yeah, I know how to do THIS!), but as soon as I moved, she darted for it. “Unfortunately” the leash was too short for her to reach it, so she moved around me and tried again from the opposite direction. Nope, that didn’t work either. We tried again with it farther away. That was easier, but it took her a long time to be able to give me eye contact with the treat on the floor, knowing I was going to move away again soon. It was even harder for HER to move with me. I had to call her to get her to move! Finally she figured it out, and gradually she was able to watch me AND walk with me.

Now that she’s started losing her baby teeth, she’s starting to feel grown up. Like she has some control over the way things run and like she doesn’t have to obey the rules even if I say that’s the way things are. Like she has an opinion and should be listened to.

For instance, I asked her to go in her crate this evening. She thought about ducking into the dog room. Changed her mind. Thought about going in the kitchen. Changed her mind. Thought about going behind me. That didn’t work. When I stopped asking her to get in the crate and asked her to come to me instead, she came, leaking all the way. I helped her into the crate, closed the door, cleaned up the floor. I thought. I let her out of the crate and asked her if she wanted to go outside. YES!! She ran outside and peed. Then I asked her to go in her crate and she ran right in. Earth to Sue.

For instance, this morning in class she had a lot more trouble not hitting the end of the leash. She’s still not PULLING on the leash, just forgetting it’s there and bouncing off the end of it, sometimes two or three times before she remembers that I’m there and comes back to give me eye contact.

Still, it’s amazing how well she can pay attention in the class. It’s a busy class divided into four groups, all doing different things.

Today she went whipping through tunnels again, and we practised looking at a treat over THERE on a plastic margarine tub lid, to be used later as a target to reward her for going over other agility obstacles. She got this right away, and I started using the cue “look” when she was staring at it and wanting to run to it, then “go” to release her or “go through” to send her through the tunnel. In between turns, even though she clearly wanted to run to everybody else’s target lid, she was able to keep the leash loose, so I also started giving her a little leash pressure to lean on when it was her turn.

We did a version of the solo Come Game, and then the class did a neat thing for jumping up – loop the dog’s leash around a door handle, go to the other side of the door, and close the door. Now the puppy is securely fastened to an immovable object and people can approach and move away to reward four feet on the floor or punish jumping up. This is a good idea, but we declined to play right now for two reasons. First, I want Syn to be comfortable jumping up on me because she’s going to have to Paws Up as my service dog. That’s an excuse, though, since the DOG isn’t being punished for jumping up, just not getting what she wants (eye contact, touching, talking, closer to the person’s face). The real reason is that she’s still doing that submissive urination thing (not as often, but she’s getting more excited than she did before) when she says hello to people and I WANT her to greet people standing up on them, since she’s less likely to feel submissive and pee when she’s standing up.

We did some Lazy Leash, and she was fabulous. When she thinks we’re working, she’s jump-jump-jumping along in heel position, and doing swing finishes when I turn around. Excellent, and lots of treats for enthusiasm.

One thing I did in spare moments was reward her for putting her mouth on the leash and a rag I brought. Gosh, I’m glad Stitch will be coming home tomorrow, I’ll be able to cut my pain pills in half when I’ve got somebody around who knows how to pick things up… Anyway, I noticed when we had to stand and do nothing for any length of time, Syn started mouthing her leash. This isn’t trying to grab the leash, it’s the deliberate “look, ma, I’m doing that retrieve thing! Pay attention!” so I sat down and offered her the rag. We got up to three really good tugs, which is grand. I’m so excited about how this pup seems to remember things for long periods of time. We haven’t really worked on retrieving all week, but she remembered what we were doing. I HAVE to be careful to work her where she IS, not to expect her to be where we left off a week ago (or a month ago, or yesterday).

When we left the training building, I put a couple of treats on the ground in the parking lot and walked away from them. She came right with me with no trouble at all (even though I WAS ready to start training it again, right from the beginning). By the third or fourth pass by them, she apparently wasn’t even thinking about them any more, so I built up a little pile of treats. Nope, not interested, thanks, I’m working here!


Well, the vacation’s over.

With the arrival of the tip of her first REAL tooth, Syn has begun to exercise her teenager-rights. She still has all the basics she’s learned so far (thank GOODNESS she has all the basics she’s learned so far!) but apparently thinking INSIDE the box is no longer a personal choice.

Having been blocked from going up the stairs by an ex-pen, bungied Diet Coke boxes and dog books on one side, a baby gate in the middle, and 2 crates on the other side, instead of meekly accepting the state of the universe, she found another way up – over the couch.

Having made her first official countersurfing “kill”, she now FLINGS herself at the kitchen counter when she can’t reach what I’ve put on there.

Finding herself shut out of the bedroom this morning (and having successfully found a way up the stairs), she scratched the bedroom door all to heck to get in to me. Unfortunately at the time I was in the bathroom having a shower.

When she sees other dogs now, she flings herself forward to meet & greet. She still doesn’t attempt to pull on the lead, but it seems to come as a shock when she hits the end of the leash – a shock and no longer a hindrance, but something that can probably be overcome by flinging herself at the end three or four more times.

Yes, we have left the fear period and entered the fling period.

While I was writing the previous paragraph, she came in from the yard with a very dead squashed robin. This is a LARGE bird, as songbirds go. When I realized what she was chomping so gleefully on I was reduced to screaming SYN SYN SYN STITCH SYN (here she dropped it) YES SYN SYN SYN C’MON GIRLS as I shuffled them hastily into the dogroom so I could clean up the mess. Not exactly a coherent training moment. Now she’s searching every inch of the living room, sure she remembers leaving a dead bird in here somewhere…

On the weekend we took 5 llamas up north to be neutered, met Stitch and my friend Dawn at a sheepherding clinic on the way, then went to visit my parents and pick up a truckload of books, then to my son’s place in another city to deliver the books, then home. Nearly 10 hours of driving.

We delivered the llamas to Dawn at the herding clinic. All the dogs looked like FUN FUN FUN to Syn, except the Giant Schnauzer (who was fun last month, but now seems dauntingly large). She was glad to see Stitch – gladder than Stitch was to see her, I’m sure – and spent several hours bouncing on her head and biting her ears.

How did Stitch do at the herding clinic? She earned another title! How does a dog earn a title at a clinic? Well, she did! She is now officially TWMUPHD. The World’s Most Useless Potential Herding Dog! Herding is really Not Her Thing.

Syn, on the other hand, did pretty well. No, she didn’t get to herd sheep, but she walked well on leash, stopped jumping on Stitch’s head when I asked her to (for a minute or two, at least), relaxed at my feet while we were watching the clinic, and once again was a brilliant traveller.

She bullied my mom’s Mini Schnauzer and didn’t listen well when he told her to leave him alone – but I expect Stitch will sort that attitude out over the next few weeks. And again, she stopped when I told her to. And made her. And told her to. And told her to.

What I have to do over the next couple of weeks is get her out in public and retrain what she’s already learned – Lazy Leash in spite of distractions, come, sit, down (down? why?). And we need to spend some serious time on staying quietly in her crate whether she can see me (or Stitch) or not.


We started working seriously on the separation-when-she’s-in-a-crate thing.

Here’s the setup. The lid of the crate hangs down and blocks her view of me out the window.

This gets a click for going in the crate.

Syn the puppy peeks out of the top of her soft-sided crate.
Nope, no click for peeking.

Syn the puppy's tail is visible from the open top of her crate.
Click for not looking at me.

Syn the puppy is totally inside her crate
Click for lying down. Now we start Chutes & Ladders.

We got nicely up to 10 seconds. Of course she knows where I am (sitting on the couch 10 feet over here), and 10 seconds isn’t long, but on the other hand, 10 seconds is as long as we’ve got on any other duration behaviour (down stay, sit stay, focus), so I’m happy with it. I can get further from the crate, step out of the room, and do up the doors and windows later, when we have the behaviour better. I’m loving this crate. The open top means I can toss kibble into the crate without interrupting her behaviour (and most of them land in the crate – I’m only 10 feet away). Good session. Makes me feel like I’m doing something more useful to solve this problem than screaming SHUT UP at her.

Puppy class this evening. Still a little scared of evil dogs (14-week-old Bulldog puppy, cute as a bug, name is Lemon), but only when she came right over and pushed into her face. I got a LOT of focus work in – got a really solid 14 seconds. Also clicked her for looking at the other puppies.

When class was over we went upstairs to the vet clinic for her final distemper vaccination. While we were waiting, we worked L2 Lazy Leash Step 4 (walk past a treat on the ground) and Step 5 (LL in new places). Excellent. We also got in L2 Zen Step 4 (drop a treat and give your Zen cue as it’s falling). What a good puppy! We worked for about 10 minutes on this, and I think she got one treat off the floor as she was walking slowly over it. This stuff really works! (I’m not shocked, I’m just really pleased).