Syn @ 17 Weeks

May 21, 2011 | Syn's Story

I like to think the maniacal expression is due to the colour of her eyes and not her personality. Yeah, that’s my story…

Syn the puppy runs in a field of dandelions

On the other hand, I’m not sure Stitch agrees with my assessment.

Got in several good sessions today. Once I get further away from the crate than 5 feet, yesterday’s setup isn’t viable any more, since I can’t reliably hit the open roof of the crate with a bit of kibble, so she spends more time running around the room after bouncing kibble than she does sitting in the crate.

Instead, we went out to the car. I have wire crates in the car. I covered one side of one so she can’t see to the downwind side of the car, put her in the crate, and then started doing Chutes and Ladders while standing quietly off to the side (I just discovered audible books to play on my iPad while wearing earphones). We easily got up to almost 3 minutes.

It rained all afternoon so we found a closed strip mall with an overhang so the sidewalk in front was dry. Since it was closed, the parking lot was empty, which made a nice dry isolated area for training – aside from the spilled french fries. BUT since we worked on the kibble on the floor of the vet’s waiting room the other day, I just gave our Zen cue as we approached them and she walked right over them with no trouble at all. We worked in that area for about 10 minutes and I only had to remind her that the fries were off limits once. Good puppy!

We started at the beginning, working on hand targets (that is, jumping all over the place in her eagerness to bop my hand) and focus. Got a nice 10 seconds of focus right away, that was very nice.

Since she seemed to have a little too much starch in her shorts, we did some Lazy Leash/heeling. She could pass a novice Rally test right now, I’m sure (well, y’know, assuming she actually stayed sitting when I asked her to and stuff like that). Of course, 80% of her LL time is spent airborne (just like she is in the photo above), which makes it a bit difficult to keep her leash untangled, but she IS beside me and she IS having a good time.

We did fasts and slows and figure 8s and about turns. Wow! No precision, but she definitely understands the exerci… wait, why is that brown and white pup in the window watching us? Why is she following us? Is this legal?

Once she got her reflection out of her system, we did some sit stays. I was able to work up to 10 feet away and 10 seconds duration! I still can’t walk around her because she thinks I’m asking for a swing finish every time I try, so we worked on sit stay a bit with me just moving one leg this way, then the other leg that way. I actually got to shift my weight onto an outside leg once or twice.

And last night she slept alone in her crate in the living room while Stitch slept in her own crate in the dog room. My baby’s growing up. Very few puppy incisors left, and she’s chewing EVERYTHING.

Good day.

This morning I looked around the house and saw nothing but pieces of ex-pen. Ex-pen blocking the stairs, ex-pen blocking the door to the computer room, ex-pen blocking the door to the front room, ex-pen blocking the garbage can in the kitchen, ex-pen blocking the stairs, ex-pen blocking the grooming area. Phooey.

Syn has not been excellent about being away from me, and I spend a great deal of effort making sure she doesn’t run past me into this room or that space. On the other hand, she’s been SO good with her Zen cue, I decided to start using it.

We live in the kitchen/living room. We do most of our training in the front room. Next to the front room is a bathroom, then the front door (most Canadian farm houses have a bathroom next to the front door – that way people don’t have to take off their boots to … ).

Every time I want to go to the front door or to the bathroom, I need to move the ex-pen, hold her back with my foot, and squeak through the hole, then block it again, and then listen to her squeaking and yapping all the time I’m out of sight. Worse, if she stops and thinks for a second, she can move the pen enough to get past it, so this scenario is actively teaching her figure out how to get out of and past barriers.

So this morning I spent a couple of minutes giving her the Zen cue and then moving the pen a bit, clicking and treating. That’s the equivalent of giving her my closed Zen fist. Then we moved on to me opening the pen so she could see her way clear to get into the front room.That’s open hand Zen. Next I started stepping away from the pen into the front room (floor Zen), and finally I went right out of sight.

She made three errors total. When she made a mistake, I chuted down to the beginning and explained it again.

By the third session (this afternoon), she wasn’t approaching the door with me, but hanging back waiting for her Zen cue. I was able to go right out of sight (I went to the bathroom by myself! How often does THAT happen?)(I know, TMI – too much information). The best part – this is the proof of the idea that the crate behaviours should be taught with the crate door open so the everybody understands that the dog is in the crate doing her job, not in the crate being held against her will. What happened? Once she knew her job was to not come through the doorway, Syn relaxed and did her job. When I came back in sight, she was not screaming and fussing, she was lying down on the floor on the correct side of the door. When she saw me she wagged her tail but didn’t get up until I clicked. Zowie!


We started breakfast with some off-leash Lazy Leash. She’s developed an almost-automatic sit when I stop walking, and it’s not straight with me yet, but it’s usually better than it was last week. I like to start with a movement behaviour because she’s excited to work and really, she’s going to move whether I want her to or not, so best to get it out of her system. Also I WANT her to be excited when we’re starting to train.

We moved on to the solo Come Game, side to side, side to side, fast and excited, and every fourth or fifth toss I called her to come sit in front of me and make eye contact. She loves this game. She always misses front because when she’s 3 feet from front, she launches in the air and blows on by in the air, then has to correct herself to get it right.

We tried getting more duration on eye contact but no go today – I was getting the eye contact but after 3 seconds she couldn’t stand it and had to start lying down, sitting, jumping from side to side – so we moved on to something else.

I did some free shaping. Since she’s so good at going into her crate and lying down, I opened two doors of the crate and shaped her to go right through it. Took her a few minutes, but she got it.

Then we did some retrieve work. I got some very nice 7-second holds on her Chuck-It stick.

And finally I thought she was worn down enough for me to try walking around her in a sit stay. I tried and tried, shift my weight to the left, click. Shift my weight, move my leg, click. Shift my weight, move my leg, put weight on the leg – and she swings into heel position. Couldn’t get it to work, so I switched to luring. I asked her to sit and stay, then put a treat in my left hand and held it on her nose. Took one step, stopped, click, treat. Stuck another treat in her face, took another step, stopped, click, treat. By the fifth time around, I could get around using only one treat. By the tenth I could take the first step without the treat in her face. It’s coming.


Yesterday Syn ate Something. I don’t know what it was, but her poor baby belly was swollen up like a balloon, taut and uncomfortable. She threw up a lot, but that didn’t seem to relieve the pressure much, and nothing came out but liquid and kibble. Not wanting to risk having her all the way upstairs, and not wanting to miss something ugly by leaving her downstairs alone, I slept in a recliner beside her crate. No, didn’t get much sleep. Had to turn the fan on for the fumes. She was a bit better by morning, and by late this afternoon was feeling pretty frisky again.

*I* was not feeling particularly frisky, however, having been sitting up all night with a sick puppy. Ron needed a hand with loading seed and fertilizer into the air seeder (working grain farm). This is a pretty noisy process with big trucks and big augers. I drove to the machinery with Syn on the seat of the Gator. She was tied to the box so she couldn’t jump or fall off the seat. She handled it very well. I shovelled a bit of kibble into her just before and just after we turned the auger on, and she thought about being upset about the noise, but her 24-hour fast obviously convinced her that the kibble was more important than the noise. I got to walk around the yard a bit turning this on and holding that, and she did her little Go To Mat routine on the Gator seat the whole time – no barking, whining, screaming or even scolding. Turned out to be a pretty good training day after all.

And today I entered her in a bunch of shows two months from now – 8 conformation shows (Junior Puppy), and 6 Rally trials (Novice B). Stitch is entered in Agility (Veteran Novice Jumpers With Weaves and Veteran Novice Standard) X 4, Rally (Excellent B) X 6, and obedience (Open B) X 6. We have some work to do!


This afternoon we went out in the field with the Gator. When we were past all the serious distractions (llamas), I put Syn on the ground so she could chase Stitch around. Syn had a great time. Stitch not so much, but it certainly encouraged her to run fast to keep ahead of the chopping machine (Syn).

On the way back, we stopped at the dugout and let Stitch show me that she’s still as enthused about jumping into water as she was last summer – hurray, I was afraid she might have forgotten. Syn had a drink, got her feet wet, and ate a few wiener bits I tossed in near the shore. Then we practised getting on (Go To Mat, or in this case Boat Up) things and jumping off them (Hup) with enthusiasm.

When we got home, Syn and I had a shower and then I put her lifejacket on and we went in the hot tub (which is a swim spa – sort of a cross between a very large hot tub and an incredibly small swimming pool, which is kept at exercising-temperature, not hot-tub temperature).

I’ve introduced a lot of dogs to swimming, but I never used a life jacket before. I took her in a couple of weeks ago without it, with me holding her and gradually getting down to swimming depth, but that wasn’t working. It seems I was explaining to her that she had better stay with me or she’d drown. This worked MUCH better.

I lifted her in by the handle on the back, lowered her into the water, let go for an instant, caught her and held her (and pinned her legs so she wasn’t thrashing) and gave her wieners. Let her go again and stepped back, caught her, held her, fed her again. The third time I let go, she was very relaxed, made a nice turn, and I backed up so she had further to swim. When I caught her and held her, she didn’t thrash, just hung calmly in my arms. Then we started playing chase-the-wiener and touch-my-hand. We had a great time. Every third or fourth lap I caught her and let her rest for a minute, then we’d play again.

When I put her out of the pool and went for a swim myself, she stood up with her front paws hooked over the edge and watched. I’m pretty sure that if I’d had any more wieners, she would have climbed in to join me. Excellent!


Syn’s got The Rips. Stitch is standing in the middle of the living room while Syn goes over the couch, through the crate, over me, under Stitch, around the dog bed and up on the couch again. Her head is up, her tail is down, and she’s on her 8th lap.

There’s nothing like a shave, pedicure and bath to make a girl feel GOOOOOD.

I haven’t had clippers on her since she was 7 1/2 weeks old, and that was pretty much a matter of holding on and trying to keep her occupied with dog food while taking the hair on her bum off. Just like the Training Levels, though, the more you work on building up competency and understanding in all areas, the more the ideas flow over into times when you need them. I put Little Miss on the grooming table, laid her down on her side, and ground her nails. She tried to get up on one elbow a few times, but I just laid her back down and she put her head down and went to sleep until I was done.

Then I put a gob of peanut butter on the wall and shaved her hips and tail. Then I laid her back down and did her lower legs, then sat her up and did her face. The peanut butter lasted through the hips. After that she just stood (or lay or sat) as I wanted her to with no fussing at all. Lovely! Finish it off with a bath and blow dry and she’s looking pretty cute.

Her teenage period has begun now that she has a couple of real teeth poking through the gums. She’s decided that she doesn’t have to go in her crate when it’s bedtime. In fact she doesn’t have to go in her crate ANY time. It’s much more fun to dance around behind me rurr-rurrring to see if she can get me to forget I asked.

Now this situation is quite specific. If she knows I have food, she’s DIVING into the crate. The problem is that I’ve asked her to go in the crate a few times over the last couple of days – and I haven’t paid for it when she did. And now I’m paying for it.

I thought a little teasing might make her a little more willing to gamble on the possibilities, so every time she refused (I only asked her three or four times, having no memory and temporarily forgetting that she had refused the last time I asked her) I get a few treats and gave them, one at a time, to Stitch. That made Syn crazy but didn’t translate into her wanting to go in her crate.

So I did what I should have done in the first place – started to teach it again from the beginning. We’ve passed the first instance in the Levels where I have to ask her to do something (sit, I think) without having food available, but sit is a lot cheaper behaviour than going in her crate is. I’m going to work the crate up until she’ll do it anytime with no obvious food in sight or smell. This week’s priority.