Syn @ 23 Weeks

Jul 4, 2011 | Syn's Story

Here’s a photo from last week when we were working in the park with the Out & About class, where we came to the steps of the Legislative Building and I asked Syn to Relax. Not perfect (right back paw is slightly gripping the cement), but not bad considering all the other dogs, random people on bicycles and skateboards, and frisbee-tossers.

Syn and I just got back from a jam-packed loooong weekend of agility camp. Not that Syn was entered in an agility camp at 5 months – no, Stitch and I were entered. Syn came along because I didn’t have a babysitter. Good news, though, the camp was broken up into 4 daily segments, two of which were agility “stuff”, one was clicker, and one was physiotherapy, massage, warmups, cooldowns, etc. So Stitch did the agility parts and Syn did most of the other parts.

In a room with 6 other dogs, doing shaping or having a massage – that’s easy stuff. Not being scared when strange dogs are walking right by her, that’s tough. Maintaining her composure when other people want to talk to her – hey, she’s 5 months old! Keeping a Lazy Leash when returning to a room where she was stuffed with treats – hard, hard, hard. But the one I would have bet against was remaining calm when I wasn’t within 5 feet of her, whether in a crate or on a mat. Oh my goodness, did Little Miss come through! She was BRILLIANT. During supper she lay down on the floor with Stitch in a chair beside her. Stood up once in a while. Watched everyone go by. Stood up once in a while, lay down again. Went to sleep. Followed conversations. Brilliant.

I started her in her crate with a chewstick. Had to tell her once or twice to hush up but after that she was quiet. Lazy Leash was… pretty good. Excellent considering all the new things she had to look at and think about. Her training is really coming through. I was afraid she’d be overwhelmed by the big shows we’re going to next month, but I’m not concerned now. She handled everything with rational enthusiasm.

AND she found a friend. Hawkins is 90 pounds of 14-month-old Giant Schnauzer. The first few times they met, Syn was overwhelmed, but five minutes into this meeting, they were BFF (best friends forever). It’s 8:40 AM, and they’ve been playing non-stop since 5:30. 6 hours yesterday afternoon. Oh, did I mention Hawkins is here for a week-long sleepover while Stitch, who pulled a groin muscle at camp, is having an easy week at Hawkins’ house of entertaining children and having her tummy iced.

And I must say what a pleasure it is to travel long distances with dogs who are well-trained and quiet in their crates in the car!


We went to a new class yesterday – a hodge-podge group of friends-with-puppies, all contributing teaching time, class space, or snacks. Potluck dog class. The others are a couple of Mini Dachsies, 4 12 wo Wheatens, 2 11 wo Scotties, and a 12 wo Giant Schnauzer. Syn, being the oldest, knows “everything” BUT.

But clearly at the agility camp last weekend while I was admiring her ability to deal with people and other dogs, she had been learning that she could pull on the leash when I wasn’t paying attention – and she did. Whether I was paying attention or not. Compounded by the fact that she was wearing a new show lead that got caught on her hair and was too short. Back to square one on Lazy Leash – and I do mean back to the beginning. For breakfast we had a session of give-to-pressure, and we’ll go for a walk this afternoon.

We spent the afternoon in the park watching the world go by. Frustrating to start with. Syn thought she could walk along with her nose buried in everything we passed, and gave no indication of ever having been taught about loose leashes. As a friend of mine said “The 12th time the Zen cue doesn’t work, KNOCK IT OFF comes into play”. Another new adventure that’s obviously been creeping up on us that I hadn’t noticed – she can wait 10 seconds after a Zen cue, then dive right into whatever it was I told her not to dive into, be it a bait pouch, my hand, someone else’s hand, or miscellaneous non-edibles on the ground.

I felt like strangling her, but once I got back into training mode, things picked up relatively quickly and she settled down. Interesting how quickly anything that came within muzzle-range became fair game. Also interesting how quickly it became unfair game when I started training her again.

We’ll do another city walk tomorrow morning, with treats left in strategic locations en route.


In the last couple of days I’ve discovered a few more indications that I’ve been ignoring Syn (and her behaviour). The problem isn’t limited to the Lazy Leash scenario.

This morning I gave Syn and the Giant Schnauzer that I traded Stitch for (just for the week) a breakfast of salmon patties instead of the more normal beef or chicken patties (which the Giant Schnauzer had polished off cheerfully). It’s a ridiculous fact of life that most Giants don’t like fish and Hawkins took almost five minutes of picking politely before she finished hers, while Syn inhaled deeply and then was left staring at an empty dish. So she went over and tried to push (90-pound) Hawkins off her dish. Hawkins told her to get lost, but she didn’t listen and got a large open mouth upside the head for her troubles (associated death-screeches followed by pouting as close to the dish as she dared to sit).

She snagged a head of lettuce off the kitchen counter this afternoon, and almost succeeded in snatching a piece of cheese out of my hand as I walked by her.

And she almost got the police called on us when she ate-and-clawed her way out of a cloth crate while I was out and walked all over the house setting off alarms. Greeted me cheerfully at the door.

We spent this afternoon working on Zen. Floor Zen. Hand Zen. Dropping-food Zen. Bait-bag Zen. Pocket Zen. DOOR Zen, for Pete’s sake, which has been perfect for MONTHS.

“Oh,” she says. “Nice to see you’re back! I missed you!”


This is where we switch from counting days to counting months, and it doesn’t work out right. Syn’s not 6 months old until next week, so I guess I’ll just make myself look dumber and keep counting 5 months until we get there. Sigh.

Anyway, apparently I’m a much better trainer when I don’t have an allergy headache (poplar trees. Lovely to look at, splendid to hold, but if you inhale it… yuck.). Took some heavy duty meds last night and woke up this morning ready to actually train my dog. 2 1/2 weeks to her Big Deal Show debut, conformation and rally, so today I started teaching her to stand (rolling eyes at myself). She’ll need stand for conformation AND for rally. It’s OK (really it is!) if your show dog sits once in a while in the ring. Not cool if she’s slamming her butt to the ground with enormous dedication and enthusiasm every time you almost think about slowing down.

Yesterday I taught both Syn and her Giant Schnauzer buddy Hawk to catch. We started with large pieces of bread. I began by holding a piece high over her head and lowering it slowly to her mouth. When she was anticipating getting it by jumping up, I started letting her have it by dropping it when her mouth got close to my hand, then further and further away. She missed the first few, but I gradually adjusted my hand position until she could catch them by just opening her mouth. Then she almost missed a couple but snagged them after they hit her nose and before they hit the ground. By comparison, Hawk’s huge mouth in an almost-unmissable target.

Then I started lowering my hand slowly toward her mouth and then dropping it before she started to jump up – et voila, she’s catching.

Finally, I stood back and tossed each piece in an arc from my hand to her mouth, but the last half of the arc had it dropping in exactly the same position as when I had just dropped it.

From bread, we went to bits of turkey (so they had really good incentive to catch), and from there to kibble.

My dog can catch!

Then I made it useful by capturing her standing and rewarding that about 2 dozen times, then tossing treats at her only when she was standing. When I noticed her starting to sit and then deliberately remaining standing, I started putting a cue on it (Out…Standing!).

As I’m typing, she’s very busy offering me stands.

Before bedtime we had another session of capturing stands. She had it the second time. An occasional error, but she’s really standing, not crouching, not almost-sitting. She’s in a nice, comfortable stand which could easily be pulled forward into a show stack. Not good enough for me to walk around her (for rally) yet (she still wants to watch me all the way around, and her feet move when she does), but when the stand is very solid we’ll do a few more walk-around sits and walk-around downs and then move on to the walk-around stand. A good day.


In Syn’s Out & About class today, while everyone else was working diligently on Lazy Leashes and dogs paying attention, I was working just as diligently on having her walk on a tight show lead, leading out ahead of me, and clicking while she was NOT looking at me. My goodness, she’s a clever puppy. Here’s the problem: I have taught my dog to walk on a loose leash, and now I need her to lean into the leash. I’ve taught her to stay with me, and now I need her to lead out ahead. I’ve taught her to check in often or watch me, and now I need her to look where she’s going.

I’m quite sure I’ve mentioned how every bit of training you do is guaranteed to interfere with some other bit of training. The first thing that happened was that when I tightened the leash, she backed up to relieve the pressure. Thinking to explain it in more detail under more control, I stood her on a bench and put pressure on the collar with my hand, thinking to click her for NOT relieving the pressure and then for leaning into it. Oops. I was a bit too slow with the click and when she tried to relieve the pressure and couldn’t, she put up a good imitation of a hissy fit, bucking and kicking. I let go, got ready, and started again. Oh! That’s strange, but OK. Lean into the pressure and get a click. You are one weird person, mom!

Once I was ready to train when I started training, it went fine. She picked it up right away. In the hour of the class, we didn’t get more than a few seconds duration on her looking where she was going, but she picked the whole thing up nicely, and rarely sat. An excellent first session.

It’s 2 weeks to her show debut. Also 2 weeks to her rally debut. She’s going to be SO confused: lead out, stand, don’t look at me! Stay with me, sit, hey! Watch me!


Today I decided to stop pretending that Syn knows how to be a show dog and start teaching her. (duh).

We spent breakfast on teaching her to keep her back feet still while moving her front feet, by moving her front feet back and forth in an arc so she has to throw her weight back on her rear to lift her front. This is a LOT easier with Giant Schnauzers, being bigger, heavier dogs. Syn can move any foot whether there’s any weight on it at the time or not. We used 3/4 cup of kibble before she started to get the idea, but once she got it, it was pretty good. We’ll try again later (3/4 cup is about half her allotted breakfast).

Then we had a visit from a friend – that same 14-week-old Giant Schnauzer she was ripping up the house with a week or so ago. Syn seems to have gotten over her fear of other dogs. Or at least Giant Schnauzers.

I must say it isn’t easy to take good photos of two puppies at once.

2nd Stacking session at lunch. I did this one on the grooming table – much easier to get her balanced. We got the back feet fairly well anchored, but alas we have built in a step-step with the front feet as she chews each treat. I put my hand on her withers and applied a bit of pressure, thinking to thus keep her front feet still while she chewed and reward her for it. I could feel her weight shift as she tried to move her front feet, but couldn’t because of the pressure on her withers. As I opened my mouth to Yes, she shrank to the table to get out from under my hand and THEN moved her front feet. Sigh. We’ll work on that. At least the back feet are coming along nicely. On the good side, there’s nothing wrong with her front, so at least when she shuffles her front paws she’s not showing off some hideous deformity ;*D

Next we’ll have to work on letting me open her mouth to show her teeth without her trying to grab the treat in my hand. I’m thinking this won’t be much of a discussion, just a quick reminder of hand Zen should do it.

Speaking of Zen, now that Stitch is home again, both Stitch and I were getting rather fed up with me trying to talk to Stitch and Syn constantly interfering. Also it’s kind of hard to type when Stitch is sitting on my lap and Syn is wrestling with her. Between meals this morning, I asked Stitch to come over and gave Syn her Zen cue (No). I had to push her away once, and once I used the mealtime Zen cue (This is for Stitch) but after that she GOT it. I’ve had to remind her twice so far today, but she really understood the food Zen cue to mean “Stay the heck away, this is petting-Stitch time”. When I’m done petting Stitch, I ostentatiously invite Syn to come over and get a squirrel-rub as well.

Afternoon musings – we have a nice young man from Bhutan staying with us while studying for a couple of months. He really likes the dogs and is constantly touching them, playing with them, asking them to do tricks, and watching me train. I don’t often think about what watchers think of how I’m training, but this morning it occurred to me that I’m sort of glad I don’t have a Buddhist in my house watching me yank my dogs around by the neck.