Syn @ 21 Weeks

Jun 18, 2011 | Syn's Story

A very strange day today. If I ever think teenagers don’t have a rough time of it, I can remember today.

First we went to class and had a grand time. She Lazy Leashed brilliantly past toys and a dog dish with food in it. She learned to run through a weave pole chute. She ran tunnels from my left side, right side, 6 feet back, and 5 feet to either side. She played the solo Come Game over a jump. She retrieved a toy several times. She thought about waiting her turn. And big surprise – the Cairn puppy and Wire Dachshund that have terrorized her from the first day of puppy class looked CUTE today. FUN. She pawed at them and had a game of Dodge Dog with the Cairn. Then she wanted to approach every dog that was there. Who ARE you, and what have you done with my puppy?

When we got home, she suddenly decided that I was scary when I was standing up. She couldn’t come to me. She ducked and looked for a way out and walked casually away. What?

Her crate behaviours have been terrific lately. She runs in her crate at the vaguest hint that I might be asking her to. I asked her to get in her crate, and she started toward it, but stopped immediately, looked at it, looked at me, backed up three steps and headed into the dog room. I called her, and got nothing.

I ignored her and went about my business. Later I asked her to come to me, and again got the start, the hesitation, the stare, backing up, and leaving. Okay.

Several times I made invitational gestures but without actually asking her to come. ANY suggestion that I might want her got the same reaction.

Without thinking about it too much, I invited again. Then I sat down, and she hesitantly came to me. I praised her and petted her, then got up and walked away. Repeated it. And again, and again.

Then I didn’t sit down, and she walked away. I walked after her. Without doing anything more aggressive than walking calmly and slowly after her, I trapped her beside my desk. I stopped 3 feet from her and invited her again. She looked for a way out but, finding none, she came, creeping and leaking. I petted her and praised her, rubbing her muzzle and doing her other favourite rubs, then I straightened up and walked away.

I repeated it a few minutes later, and this time she didn’t leak when she approached me.

The next time she didn’t creep, and then she was OK – until I backed into the bathroom, when she ducked and walked away. I followed her and when I could see her, I stopped and invited her, and she came, then I backed toward the bathroom again. It took 3 restarts, but we finally made it into the bathroom, where we had a little party. As we walked out of the bathroom, she turned back and scolded me.

An hour later, I went into the bathroom and called her, and she galloping in as usual, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Hormones? Full moon? I have no idea. Seems to be over, but I’m watching for it now.


I wasn’t happy with my solution to Syn’s behaviour yesterday. I woke up with a Plan. The pup is actively avoiding coming to me. I’m certainly not helping by continuing to expect her to come to me and then threatening her (however mildly) when she doesn’t. I have no idea why she’s behaving like this, but I don’t really need to know, I need to deal with the behaviour.

One way to deal with it would be to go back to the very beginning and retrain her to come, starting with clicking for looking in my direction. Hmm. Might come to that, but I have another idea.

A theory I have, that I’ve been working under for more than 20 years, concerns fear periods. Most, if not all, pups have fear periods. The “normal” times for these to show up are 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 8 months, 16 months – and once in a while 32 months, give or take a few weeks or months. In my experience, working breeds like Giant Schnauzers are particularly prone to big deal fear periods.

So here’s my theory. A 4-week-old pup starts feeling big. “I can go in the kitchen!” she tells herself. “I’m big, I’m bold, who does that human think she is, keeping me in this stupid whelping box? I am by golly gonna climb out of here and go in the kitchen! I can handle it!”

Now if you’re lucky, at that moment you happen to come by and gaze fondly into the whelping box at the puppies and Miss Thing looks up, waaayyyy up, and thinks to herself “Wow, she’s big! Bigger than me! She must be the Queen Of The Kitchen!” and that’s the end of the 4-week fear period.

If you’re not lucky, Miss Thing climbs out of the whelping box, toddles into the kitchen, looks around and thinks “Holy cow, kitchens are BIG! I had NO idea! I can’t handle kitchens! I’m just little!” and this realization kicks in the fear period. Not only that, but she can’t count on you because she’s already convinced herself that she’s bigger than you, so since SHE can’t handle the kitchen, obviously YOU can’t either.

So she’s going to be afraid for a few hours, a few days, or, in the case of Giant Schnauzers, a few weeks or even months, until she starts to respect your ability to handle the universe again.

One way to convince a dog that you can handle the universe is to put the dog in Leading The Dance. When I came up with this (certainly anthropomorphic) theory, I started putting any Giant showing any signs of incipient fear periods into The Dance, and I dropped the length of those fear periods from our standard 4 or 5 weeks to 4 or 5 days.

So this morning I asked Syn one more time if she’d come to me and when she declined, I put her on leash, attached the leash to my ankle, and just went about my business for the day, ignoring her completely. About 11 AM, I asked her to come to me. She started left, felt the leash, started right, felt it again, and then crept to me. I told her what a great job she did and then went back to ignoring her again. Asked her again at 2, and she came brightly and cheerfully to me, making eye contact and wagging her tail. I praised her again, and ignored her again for another hour. After that I asked her every hour or so, and each time she came cheerfully. At 6 I took the leash off and she’s been cheerful, cute, and attentive for the last 3 hours. If she shows any signs of uncertainty later, I’ll put her back on the umbilical cord for another day.

An added advantage is that she’s figuring out how to keep from getting her leash tangled or stepping on it.


An ideal world would have a bank of 15 dog training experts watching video of my every move, and another 15 watching the dog’s videos. Something that I hadn’t noticed when it was happening – one of those subliminal annoyances that hasn’t quite made it to the brain’s surface yet – is that when I was approaching Syn in her crate to let her out, she was “sliming”. By that I mean giving minor appeasing signals – rolling on one hip, wagging her tail sideways, throwing her head gently against the side of the crate – nothing as blatant as rolling belly-up, but now I think it was pretty blatant. Since The Day Of The Dance, when I approach the crate, she’s sitting up confidently with a big smile, waiting to get and say hello.

All day she was cheery, attentive, cooperative and bold.


Syn had a BIG day today. It started with a visit from an 11-week-old Giant Schnauzer puppy. Since she decided in class last week that dogs are fun, she was more than ready to be a good hostess. It took over an hour of this:

and this:

to finally arrive at this:

A grand time was had by all.

We started a new class this evening. It’s called “Out and About” and we’re going to meet each week in a different location around town. The interesting thing is that most of the dogs in this class are working through over-reactivity problems. I was afraid it might be too much for Little Miss, but I was very careful.

We stayed back away from the class for quite a while. I clicked her for a loose leash, for keeping her attention on me, for looking at the other dogs when they barked or threatened each other, for staying in heel position – basically for anything she did. It took her about 5 clicks to decide that their swearing at each other didn’t mean anything to her.

First the class went for a walk. We let everyone else go ahead of us, partly because I can’t walk very well, and partly because I didn’t want to need to back up or stop and have to worry about running into a reactive dog. This is the first walk we’ve ever gone on when I was trying to go somewhere. The walks we’ve taken at home are just sauntering along on a longish leash letting her sniff. This was different.

The hardest part for Syn was remembering not to walk in front of me. When she did, I shortened the leash enough to keep her from dodging over to my right, and then continued to walk slowly forward so she jumped over to my left where she should have been all along. By the end of the walk, she was much better, but it’s a continuing project. I’m very happy with how good her foundation is. The work we’ve done on Lazy Leash, on moving out of my way, on focus – this walk, which could have been a discussion from beginning to end, was a simple 3 Minute Behaviour. We put together what she already knows to produce something new. It was exciting to see how well she did.

The second hardest part was remembering that we were going for a walk when she found a really good smell. She’d stop dead with her nose buried in the sidewalk. The good news is that as soon as she felt the collar begin to tighten, she came right along.

Next the class stopped and sat down on benches around a fountain. A great place for a lesson! One of the participants had an older kid who ran many times around the fountain while we all kept our dogs’ attention. The kid didn’t disturb Syn at all. Then, one at a time, the dogs were walked around the fountain. That didn’t bother her either, even when one or another would “go off”.

We moved on and practised sit stays and down stays. Syn had a hard time getting into staying, having just spent 40 minutes practising walking. It took me nearly 15 clicks before I could take 3 steps away from her without her trying to follow me. After that we worked on me going from side to side. Also difficult, as she wanted to turn to face me when I got even with her hip in either direction.

The neat thing there was that I lured her over onto her side and she very easily offered me a relax. I got a photo but it’s on another camera so I don’t have it yet.

Finally we did a looooooong restrained recall. My little brown rocket! Then we walked on a lovely Lazy Leash back to the car and came home.


Big news today. I dropped a sock going from the washer to the dryer. I called Syn over, pointed at the sock, and asked her to get it. This is well beyond our expertise level, and really, I was just thinking that I really need Stitch to come home and get back to work – but Syn reached down, picked up the sock, and handed it to me. !!