Syn @ 8 Months

Sep 27, 2011 | Syn's Story

I’ve been SO looking forward to getting home and STAYING home for a bit. Not only do I have a lot of work-related stuff to clean up and a house that needs me, but Syn hasn’t been worked in weeks-and-weeks. To make matters worse, for a month or so before I left we were working exclusively on competition behaviours and not on Levels behaviours. Oy, I bet we have work to do!

I got home last night. This morning for breakfast we did a little semi-testing to find out where we are, though I have every intention of running through the behaviours right from the beginning of Level 1 to REALLY find out where we are.

Yep. She’s eager-eager-eager to do something – anything, in fact. She’s apparently been getting bored with shredding every shredable object that wasn’t nailed down (and a few that were) in the dog room and the small outside pen while I’ve been gone. Paper towels – fair game. Shampoo bottles? OK. Bathmat? Yeah, that’s reasonable. But a RUBBER BOOT? What kind of maniac shreds a rubber boot?

So Come, Sit, Down, and Squirrel (our heel cue) look pretty good. Lazy Leash has gone to pot, but I knew that after I started showing her in conformation. It’s the duration behaviours that have really suffered. Sit Stay? 1 second. Down Stay? 3 seconds. Eye contact? Using half her breakfast, we got that up to a fairly solid 6 seconds and one 9-second offering. Holding the dumbbell with me is gone – she tries to tug it out of my hand. When I hold my hand steady and won’t let her move it, she gives up immediately.

No worries, just some backtracking to be done.

On the other hand, we started a new beginners agility class this evening (though the class has been going on for 3 weeks already). Oh my GOODNESS!

I had to close the door to the building three times before we were able to walk in on a loose leash. Syn clearly recognised the place from her baby puppy class and was eager to get inside.

Once in, she had a momentary flashback to that first set of puppy classes when she was scared of the dogs, but she met a few friendly ones and her tail came back up immediately. She was very happy to see the people.

We started with running through a channel of weave poles. I’ll be using 2×2 to teach her weaves when she’s old enough (18 months, maybe), but I don’t mind if she runs through channels a few times in class in the meantime. Neither does she. The helper and I had a slight miscommunication. I handed her my bait bag, thinking she would put down a target plate and put some treats on it. She thought I wanted her to put the bait bag down, so that’s what she did. Syn went through the channel like a little brown rocket, grabbed the bait bag, tossed it a couple of times, and then brought it to me! She got a little jackpot for that.

Since the bait bag worked so well, we used it some more. Each time Syn was very eager to get it and brought it immediately back to me. So she DOES remember retrieve, just not the holding part.

Stays were a bit better in the class than they were this morning at home (we weren’t practising stays in class, just me trying to get away from her a bit).

She remembered her go-around work and cheerfully went around jump standards (which looked like going over jumps to the rest of the class) and the tire.

I think I’ve decided on having her lie down on the ground at the end of the A-frame and dog walk as her contact behaviours, so we practised lying down after a very low A-frame. When we moved to a very low dog walk, she really got going. The helper was putting five or six pieces of kibble on the ground to slow her to a stop at the end, and she was FLYING. At one point, she went about 4 feet up the ramp, jumped the rest, clearing about ⅔ of the up ramp and ⅔ of the down ramp, did the bottom 4 feet of the down contact, and ate the kibble on the floor. This dog is going to be FUN in agility! I used Look to get her focused on where she was going, Watch to get her to focus on me while other dogs were running, and her awareness of what works and what doesn’t to teach her that she had to go the whole distance on the board even if she thought going on the floor would be faster.

Where she really excelled, though, was on the pause table. I stood 5 feet back from the table, cued her to Go To Mat, and she ran for it, folding up her legs into a down even as she was landing on the table. Clever girl!

In short, we had a grand evening. Class was fun, Little Miss was a Synsation, and I can see Training Levels in everything she does during class. The next few years are going to be SO FUN.


There are 150 pieces of kibble in ⅔ of a cup of Syn’s breakfast. That got us through all of Level 1 and Level 2 Zen.

The good news is that she was In The Game, eager to work – I might even say thrilled to be working again instead of sitting around the house having to think of what to shred next – and clearly considered almost all the Level 1 behaviours to be baby steps.

The bad news is… well, there isn’t any bad news. She was In The Game, eager to work, and well ahead of where we were working, for the most part.

Still, I’m VERY glad I decided to start again at the beginning. The time it took was very short (one meal), and now I’m sure of what she remembers and what she doesn’t. What she doesn’t remember is minor but could be a problem later if I ignore it. Being a “mover and shaker”, she has a tendency to assume what I want and throw it at me with enthusiasm, without waiting to see if that was, indeed, what I wanted. For instance, in one of the Target behaviours, she has to move 3 steps to touch my hand. For another, she has to touch twice for one treat. I noticed that it’s about 3 steps to go from my left side, around behind me, and up on my right side. That’s one of the behaviours we’re working on with Freedom Dogs to create space behind the Marines, so I decided to use it for one of the Comeafters (designed to help her generalize the behaviour and make it more useful). She was all about touching my hand when it was in front of me, but as soon as I asked her to touch it behind me, she whipped into heel position (WHEE! I KNOW THIS!) so I had to slow her down a bit and get her thinking before she could follow the steps. Also she has forgotten the meaning of “Park”. Maybe it means sit, maybe it means down. More often it might mean down, so I have to stop using it for a couple of days, get her offering me sits, and then plug the cue back in. That’ll take care of supper…

All in all, she’s forgotten less than I thought she had. The basics are there, so we’ll be moving ahead again soon.


One thing Syn learned very well while she was alone with my husband – counter surfing, that time-honoured talent of Portuguese Water Dogs everywhere. So hubby and I decided last night that Miss Squirrel should stay out of the kitchen altogether. This won’t be an easy task, as the kitchen, living and laundry rooms are all one. There is an island in the kitchen, however, so we decided that she could stay out of the aisle between the island and the kitchen counters, thus anything on the counters should be safe.

That’s the theory.

So I bought two rug runners and put them in the aisles. I blotted each one with vanilla and did a bit of work with Zen and a vanilla-blotted rag. Then I drew a line with my finger on each runner and gave the dogs the Zen cue: “You Shall Not Pass”.


Stitch looked at me like I was crazy and clearly decided that since she wasn’t interested in vanilla anyway, this had nothing to do with her, so she walked right to me on the runner. I jumped up and down a bit, intoning ACK in my most horrified voice and pushing her off the runner. She went and sat on the stairs and glared at me.

Syn, seeing this exchange, came to the right conclusion (“dogs are not allowed on the runners”) and came up with a solution which might have given us both what we wanted (I obviously wanted dogs not to walk on the runner, she wanted to be in the kitchen): she tiptoed daintily in the very narrow space between the runner and the cupboards. She also got an ACK, though it was hard not to laugh.

Maybe I haven’t thought this through quite enough. After Syn’s ACK, Stitch had to get a toy to calm us all down, while Syn kept asking exactly how far she had to be from the runner to be legal. Later, when I was sitting in the living room, Syn went wandering through the kitchen, looking innocent. When I stopped her she said “But I thought we were staying away from YOU in the kitchen!”



I put a piece of string across each entry to the kitchen about 8 inches off the floor and did some string Zen. That seems to have done the trick. The only people who have been caught by this trap today are me and my husband. In a day or two I’ll take the string down and do a bit more runner Zen before I think about trusting it.

Having finished our review of Level 1, we started on Level 2. In our recent water trial, the judge said “Junior Water Dog is all about instinct. Apprentice (the next level) is about self-control”. Gee, as we were doing this I was thinking “Level 1 is all about getting to know her. Level 2 is about self-control”. Aaaaand… we don’t have any ;*D

Level 2 Zen went very well. She’s all about Zen (no self-control? Wait for it). I can put treats on her paws, on her muzzle, on my feet. I can toss treats in the air and softly say “no” as they’re falling and she’ll levitate backwards away from them. I can cue “no” when she’s leaping on Stitch and she’ll stop.
Yes, even this can be stopped with a single quiet “no”. I know, you’ve seen it before, bit I love it.

Level 2 Focus took a few tries to build up to 10 seconds. Apparently there are much better things to look at than me, though for the time she gives, she’s locked on. We got 10 seconds, but I want to work it more so she can give it to me cold ALL the time.

Level 2 Come – more distance, come to grab her or put on a leash – no problem.

Level 2 Sit and Down – aha, here comes trouble.

She is, as I mentioned, mixing up sit and down. This is probably because I was so delighted with her ability to do rock-solid downs 20 feet away from me that we practised a lot. Also because while I was away she was thinking about Chill, which is our cue for rolling over on her side and playing dead (except for her tail), which she was unable to do on her own when I left and now offers at the blink of an eye.

The bigger problem (not really a problem) is that she has 11 seconds of duration on sits AND downs. Pushing to see what she’d do, I got her once up to 60 seconds by reminding her what she was supposed to be doing every 10 seconds. It was VERY funny, and NOT a 60-second stay! She rolled from side to side. She played dead on her left side, then her right. She put her head down, then rolled just her head so her left cheek, then her right cheek, was flat on the floor. She wagged her tail furiously, then sighed and moaned a little. OK, won’t do that again. Level 2 Sit and Down, here we come.

Well, Lazy Leash will be OK… not. She has forgotten how to loosen the leash. HURRAY for the Levels, where we get to actually find out where the dog is, instead of assuming!

Oh, one more thing. While I was gone she thought up something about being groomed (?) or the grooming table (?) that she doesn’t like. I went into the dog room with a handful of kibble and sat down at the grooming table. Syn immediately dashed out the dog door. I had to play work Stitch for a bit, tossing treats around the room and praising her loudly, before Syn thought it might be safe to come back in the room. What’s that about? Oh well. Work the dog who shows up (however slowly she shows up), not the one you thought you had.

She was obviously upset about the whole situation, but really wanted the treats. I tried calling her and she brightened and came to me, but I didn’t do anything with her except hand her a bunch of treats and then go back to looking at Stitch. Syn “escaped” into the living room but soon came back and asked for treats again. Soon she was staying in front of me, so I tapped the grooming table and suggested she might like to jump up on it. Sure, no problem. I gave her a bunch of treats, lifted her down, and went to do laundry. A few minutes later I sat down at the grooming table and went through the whole floor show again. This time while she was on the table, I shaved her butt and face, which she accepted with no trouble at all. I lifted her down and she was fine. Asked her to jump up again, no trouble. Played with her on the table and lifted her down again.

I went away, came back, sat at the table, and again she darted out of the room. Hmmm. Lots of meals on the table in the next week or so…


Six times today Syn and I worked on the dog room. I started sitting in the room playing with Stitch, tossing treats around the room, while Syn sat on the stairs and wished she was with us. Then I’d get up and move to where I could see her, invite her to come into the room, and then go back to sitting at the grooming table. At first she’d come to the door and peek in and I’d toss treats at her until she decided it was safe to come in. Strangely, the hardest part seemed to be about 5 feet away from me. Once she got past there she was eager to come all the way to me, though her pupils were popped throughout.

After the first three sessions, sometimes she came into the room nonchalantly with relaxed eyes, and sometimes she peeked in the door and worried about it. Very odd. Regardless of how she came in, she was eager to jump up on the table. I stayed relaxed and happy, feeding her when she came to me, sometimes letting her jump on the table to play, sometimes playing with her on the floor.

So this evening when we started training for supper, I wanted to do something fun instead of diving right into duration on the down. My dogs have all retrieved their dishes – setting the table for their supper and putting the dishes away when they’re done. Syn thought her dish was too heavy and too… metallic. She’s got an excellent retrieve, so I started by putting the dish on the floor and shaping her to target it. Then I picked it up and started shaping her to put her mouth on it. That didn’t take long – 20 reps. Then I put it on the floor again and shaped her mouth onto it. She got it right away and surprised me by starting to lift it almost immediately.

Within another 20 reps, she was happy to bring it to me and, sitting or standing, hold it until I asked for it. Then she picked it up a bit sloppily and it slipped out of her mouth…

and landed upside down. Now I’ve been using the same dishes for 20 years, and no dog has EVER been able to pick them up when they land upside down. They try for a few seconds and then look at me, asking me to help them. So I wasn’t in a hurry, I thought she’d do the same.

Well, no. The Flying Squirrel is a bit more resourceful than that. She examined the dish for a moment, and then

just picked it up and brought it to me.

Next we worked on the down stay. She was a bit more settled this evening, and we got up to 15 seconds with little trouble

And then the sit. It quickly became obvious that she has completely forgotten what Sit means. Down has been paying off well for 2 days, and if I opened my mouth she’d go down, no matter what I said, so I shut up and went back to the beginning, luring a sit, getting her to volunteer it, and then very quietly starting to put the cue back on.


We’ve been working on nothing much but staying out of the kitchen and stays for a few days. Neither going brilliantly but some progress being made. She can stay FAIRLY well when she’s not In The Game but if I’m holding a treat and she’s been working, she really, really needs to do something to prove she’s thinking.

Yesterday was her beginners agility class again, and more fun. It took a few minutes to get into the building as she was eager to be there and had trouble remembering the Lazy Leash. Once in, she was great. She went over a very low teeter for the first time and it didn’t bother her. Ran through weave channels with enormous enthusiasm, and raced through a tunnel to a target. In the second half, she was re-introduced to the collapsed tunnel (which wasn’t collapsed but held open by one of the instructors so she could get used to it). She ran it

three times before we moved on to something else. The fourth time I went past it, I was thinking about something else for a fraction of a second and she went through it without anyone holding it. I would have called her back when I saw her going, but calling a dog back when she’s going through this thing is almost guaranteed to get her tangled in the cloth and scare the dickens out of her. One-way only! Anyway, she was successful and thought nothing of it.

Finally she tried the A-frame (just a bit lower than this one). She was a bit hesitant the first time, tiptoeing over it and stopping once to look back and ask if she was doing what she was supposed to, but after that she flew. Throughout the class, I was almost always able to send her out ahead of me or leave her while I led out in front of her, or go off to the side and have her commit to the obstacle without me “babysitting” her. Nice.

I made good use of the Level 4 Focus behaviours – asking her to Look where she’s going to go before I sent her. She was so good at it I had trouble not jumping up and down and shouting “That’s Level FOUR! That’s Level FOUR!”


Thomas Brezinski, my nephew, is here from Toronto making a documentary about our family. This has included following me and Syn to the lake, to the water trial, to class, and today, out to a park near the university to film her doing various cute behaviours. I hope to have links to some of his footage of the dogs later. It’s amazing what a difference a decent camera, someone who knows how to use it, and a monopod make to video!

Oh, it was a perfect trip! We drove to the park. Syn and I got out (leaving Thomas to carry the camera, bags, and other equipment across the parking lot and field) and started walking to the spot he’d picked. Lazy Leash all the way, with no effort on my part. Syn was excited to be going somewhere new and excited about all the wonderful smells, but she was careful to keep the leash loose the entire time. She had one bad moment when we arrived. There was a large sculpture made up of long lengths of pipe, maybe 20 feet tall (that wasn’t her problem). Her problem was a large pale rock near the sculpture, sitting all alone in the field. She was highly suspicious of it. She growled and barked at it, raising her hackles and glaring at it. I laughed at her and took a step back, asking her to look at me, sit, down. She did these things, but kept looking over her shoulder at the menacing rock. As this wasn’t a major crisis, just a moderate suspicion, I kept laughing and walked closer to it. She ducked in behind me a bit but kept coming. She had stopped barking, which I took as a nice sign of her nearly trusting my opinion. When we got close enough, she cautiously stepped forward to sniff it, then relaxed. I asked her to jump up on it and she had no trouble giving me that. We don’t have rocks in our soil here, so I’m sure this was the first person-sized rock she’d ever seen. Her bounce-back from little scares is amazing.

Then we sauntered casually around the area for a couple of minutes, giving Syn a chance to sniff. Still she kept the leash loose.

When Thomas arrived, I took the leash off and we worked on the Come Game, retrieving, Relax, and some shaping. Through it all, Syn responded just as she would have in the living room. Joggers and bicyclists went by, some with dogs, and the Flying Squirrel kept right on paying attention, right on eagerly playing the game. Gosh, does this training actually work?

Yes. Yes it does.


Now that Thomas has completed the filming part of his documentary and is heading home to begin the REAL work, the “post” part – editing, fixing, arranging, etc, I thought I would show you a couple of neat photos he took of my squirrel.

This is Syn relaxing in her chair after an exhausting session of earning her Junior Water Dog title.

And this is a still cut out of the film which pretty much captures her entire attitude to life: I’mgonnagetit, I’mgonnagetit, I’mgonna EEEEEHAAAAHHH!!!! I GOT IT! Photos, I proudly add, by Thomas Brezinski.

Over the last couple of days, Syn and I have been working on her understanding of the idea that sit and down are two different things, each with its own specific cue. She’s better now than she was when we stopped working Levels a couple of months ago.

This evening we worked on her stays again. Trying to short-circuit her tap-dancing, I started by putting a big cushy dog bed on the floor about 8 feet away from me and telling her to go to mat. She did and I started clicking her for lying down on it, then gradually working on clicking her for staying down without flipping around, getting up, swinging her head wildly back and forth, or kicking her back legs. It took a while to get past 3 seconds, but once we got it, she went fairly quickly up to 25 seconds with only a few restarts.

Then I tried sit with her on the floor. It didn’t work. I took the cushion out of the dog bed and got her to sit inside the ring. That worked MUCH better. It’s fun to see her desperately trying to control her urge to dance. We got up to 15 seconds a couple of times, which is a vast improvement on a few days ago.

Then I got an exercise ball and clicked her for pushing it with her nose. I’m not sure I can get her to bring it to me in the small space I have to work with, but once I get the point across that I’m talking about her nose rather than her teeth or her paw, we can try it in the hallway.

We finished the session with a bit of free shaping. She’s not as confident as Stitch is in the process, but she’s eager to figure it out.


We had a very good time today, though it didn’t turn out as planned.

We went to a drop-in conformation class. I was surprised that it wasn’t cancelled, being it’s the day before Thanksgiving, a major holiday. Well, turns out it WAS cancelled, but the roof had leaked so I helped move equipment and mop while Syn played with a 2 year old Lab. This was nice to see – the Lab was very enthusiastic and excited to see her. It came racing over and all but bowled Syn over. I thought this would scare her (but it was too late to do anything about it before it happened), but she took the charge as a play overture so it didn’t frighten her. She also rather strongly objected to how rude it was and definitely told the dog to get out of her face. Good pup!

(Later a Golden came in, got the same greeting from the Lab, and responded the same way – by politely but firmly telling the Lab she was being inappropriate. The Golden, unfortunately, got a pinch-collar correction for being “bad”. Sigh.)

After moving equipment, the Golden and another Lab were practising for an upcoming obedience trial, so Syn and I tried some obedience moves as well. Well! I’m thrilled.

Her attention was fantastic. While the poor Golden was being niggled to death with the pinch collar to try to get it to pay attention, Syn was glued to me. I started asking her to heel, which she has only ever done a few steps at a time except in her Rally Novice trials. She was great. When I used the heel cue “Squirrel!” she bounded once, then leaped high and came down bounding. This is EXACTLY what I want! Then I thought about a Rally trial coming up in 3 weeks and tried heeling again but this time asking her to “Watch”. She took off smoothly and fairly precisely, eyes glued to mine. Wow! I had to cue most sits as I stopped, but then I’ve never taught her an automatic sit.

Then we did some figure 8s. Her inside circles were fanTAStic. She was pulling her butt in as we went around, which made her sidestep the circle (her back feet travelling in a bigger circle than her front feet). Very pretty, I couldn’t have asked an experienced dog to do that any better. The outside circle wasn’t as good. She didn’t realize how fast she’d have to go to keep up with me, and it’s quite a change of pace after the inside circle – which is the point of the figure 8, I imagine. I could get her to do it by building up some anticipation as we came out of the inside circle and by cueing “Squirrel!” at the point where I wanted her to speed up. What a fun puppy!

Next, recalls. Bear in mind we were working on 10-second sit stays yesterday, so I thought I’d try to get across the room so I could call her, but I wasn’t expecting much (OK, granted, I wanted to show off what an 8-month puppy who had never worn a pinch collar could do). I asked her to sit, asked her to stay, and walked away. She started to follow me when I was about 15 feet away from her – which, again granted, gave me a good opportunity to say “no, silly puppy, that’s not what I wanted” in contrast to the other trainer who was yanking and scolding. I took her back, rewarded her for sitting, asked her to stay again, and this time I got all the way across the room and counted to 10 before I called her. She came with her usual Superman recall and sat in front of me (considerably crooked), then came around behind me into heel position again when I asked her to.

By then I was getting a little depressed about the other dog so we practised a few sit and down stays and then went home. We got up to 1 minute each with no problem at all. Of course, that won’t translate into any improvement in performance in my parlour, but it was lovely to see, and lovely to look across the room at Little Miss staring at me with eagerness and trust.

And nice to know that I’ll be doing a seminar for this club in 3 months. Maybe Syn and I can get one person to tuck her pinch collar quietly in a drawer and not use it any more.


Agility class again this evening. Syn is getting higher and higher each week. I’m constantly astonished that she’s able to control herself so well and then explode into leaping, running and jumping.

But. Last week the teeter was on the floor and only able to tip about an inch. That didn’t bother her at all. This week it was up about a 8″. I was asking her to walk over it as I walked beside her, but she was overcome by the joy of it all and ran ahead before we were ready. As she felt it dropping, she skittered off the side of the contact zone. She appeared not to have been affected by it, but the next time she bailed off several times. I started shaping her paws onto the solid end of the board rather than asking her to go the length of it. That went very well and soon she was sitting on the down end cheerfully taking treats while a helper lifted her end of the teeter up and down. Syn wound up riding almost the entire distance up and down without any problem at all (these people are good) and the next time it was our turn, she went over confidently, letting it tip and riding it down. Again I’m thrilled with her rate of recovery. I don’t care how many things startle her if she’ll accept my explanation that her minor fright wasn’t a reasonable response.

Then there was the usual jumping over, running through, etc. I’m loving Syn’s Look and Watch cues. It’s lovely to be able to tell her to Look and have her snap to focus on the target on the other side of a jump.

Also my dog-in-law is in the same class but my daughter-in-law’s out of town this week so I took Phoenix AND Syn to class and handled them both alternately. This proved much better for Syn, who has been flagging a bit near the end of the 1-hour class. Having to sit out parts of the class while I worked with Phoenix certainly brought Syn back with renewed vigour!


We had a grand time this morning. I’m getting bored with working 3 seconds at a time trying to get Syn to sit without tap dancing, so we moved on and worked on her stays when we were nearly done. That was a lot more fun.

We started cold at the beginning of Level 2, tested out what we could and trained a bit on what we couldn’t.

We polished off all 5 behaviours in L2 Zen, including the Comeafters. Not a big deal – Zen R Us. She’s very, very good at Zen.

Also went through L2 Focus, which was a bit of a surprise, and I didn’t want to dwell on it because she was tap dancing a bit while she was staring in my eyes, but she did get the 10 seconds of eye contact easily.

L2 Come – another one of her basic great behaviours. No problems.

L2 Down – we worked on it a bit. We’ve got Steps 1, 3, and 5. Step 2 is staying down for 1 minute, and 4 is staying down for 1 minute with me 20 feet away. The 20 feet aren’t a problem – in fact she’s better with me further away than she is with me up close – but she’s not ready for more than 15 seconds without rolling back and forth (the down version of tap dancing), swinging her head around, and generally thinking too hard about it.

To work on this, I started her out on a big cushy mat. She had no problem giving me 1 minute of silent body and mind on the mat. We did that a few times, then tried it on the floor, and that’s how we got up to 15 seconds on the floor. We might have been able to go further, but she was doing very well and I didn’t want to push her.

L2 Sit – again, the duration is a problem. We got Steps 1, 4, and 5. 2 and 3 are a 30-second stay and a 1-minute stay. I’m pretty sure she could have done them both, but I’m not going to ignore the foot movement. I seem to remember that I spent an afternoon once shaping her to shuffle her feet – bad, bad, bad idea. Won’t do that again until she’s 42 years old.

L2 Lazy Leash – sweet, no problem.

L2 Target – the same. She likes closing cabinet doors with her nose.

L2 Go to Mat – a foundation behaviour she obviously considers to be one of her… umm… foundation behaviours.

L2 Crate – I didn’t expect a problem with this – it’s taught as a Go to Mat with bars around the mat – and we didn’t have any.

L2 Distance – here we had a momentary problem. I used a very small collapsible laundry basket as my “pole” and Syn wasn’t listening when we started. She tried to retrieve it so we practised basket Zen for a minute or two. Then she tried to retrieve the llama harness that was in the basket, so we practised llama-harness Zen for another minute. Finally she realized it was supposed to be a pole, and went around it with no more trouble. When she had that, we went into another room and I asked her to go around a big crate, which she did without hesitation.

L2 Jump – we didn’t test this one, as we were doing it last night in agility class.

That’s as far as we got, but we covered a LOT of ground. Next time we’ll start on L2 Relax.


I sat down yesterday to jump through the rest of the behaviours in Level 2. HA HA HA HA HA

Syn was eager eager to work, so I decided to leave L2 Relax until the end of the session. When we finally got around to it, it was brilliant. When she’s relaxing, I’m asking her to go over flat out on one side. When we started training again after our “vacation”, she had absorbed the flat-out idea and was offering it to me – something she hadn’t thought of when we stopped working on it. Also we hadn’t gotten any real duration on it. Nevertheless, I asked her to go on her side once and immediately she was offering it to me. I noticed that she was wagging her tail heartily for a few seconds, then it would slow and stop, so instead of looking specifically for duration on the side, I started clicking the lack of tail wag and then working on duration of no-wag. This is hard for me because I think it’s very cute when she does something studious like Zen and then wags furiously to let me know she’s doing what I want. But, by looking at no-wag duration, we got up to 1 minute of Relax in 3 tries. Wow. I’m not saying she knows it, going to 1 minute in 3 tries was really pushing the envelope and I’m not going to pretend she has the behaviour, but she’s sure got a good start on it. That’s L2 Relax Step 3. Next time we’ll go back to Step 2 and build up from there.

So we started with L2 Handling. Yeah, yeah, touch my ears, hold my muzzle, open my mouth, play with my teeth, count my toenails WHERE’S MY TREAT? We worked on focussing on letting me handle her as a way to get treats rather than regarding me as a hindrance in the snatching of them. Check.

On to L2 Tricks. That’s where we got stuck. She’s getting 230 bits of kibble in a meal now, and almost all of them went to Tricks. I thought I’d focus her attention on her front paws a bit more and maybe that would help with her tap dancing sit stays. I started with getting her to paw her nose. I put a bit of tape on her nose and clicked when she raised a paw to try to scoop it off. My goodness, she’s an athletic little cuss. Stitch could never get her paw up further than her muzzle, so I had to teach her “there’s a fly on your nose” instead of “hide your eyes”, but Syn easily gets her paw up over her ear. I got the behaviour immediately, but soon got bored with it and decided that if she’s that athletic, I’ll teach her to raise one paw (who wants a treat? does anybody have to leave the room? who’s going to get that for me?). Instantly I saw a problem. I do NOT want to click her for simply lifting a paw – I actually spent 5 minutes once clicking her for that – that’s how I got the tap dancing 8*{ . Instead, I thought I’d get her to target my hand with her paw, then raise my hand, then fade it. Not so easy. We had a lot of trouble with her wanting to target my hand with her nose. I’d say no, she’d stop, but as soon as I clicked her for shifting her weight away from my tickle fingers, she’d start nose targeting again. Her eyes were starting to dilate, so we went on to something else.

Last week in class while others were working on getting a swing finish with their dogs’ front feet on stools, Syn wouldn’t put hers on (I missed the first 3 weeks of class, and since she’s already got a good swing finish, I didn’t bother with it at the time), so I got a stool and started on that. Wowzers, she’s really got retrieving on the brain! She kept trying to retrieve the stool, and her pupils weren’t going down, so I took the stool away and tried shaping her to put her front feet on the lowest stair in the room.

Interesting. She started putting her feet on the stair, but she was thinking about what position her head was in when I clicked, or where she was looking, rather than what her feet were doing. I was right, doing something with her feet really should help with the tap dancing. I saw it hit her. Suddenly she knew I was clicking for her feet!

Once she had both front feet on the stair, I put the stool in front of the stair and watched in delight as she lifted her body cleanly over the stool to plant front feet on the stair with back feet still on the floor. Clever pup.

So we worked on front-feet-on-the-stair a little more, and then we moved away from the stair, I put the stool down, and started from the beginning shaping her to put her front feet on the stool. She got it almost immediately. With that amount of work, I’m thinking that could be a trick all by itself, but I still want to take her on to raising a paw.

With 20 kibbles left, we worked on Relax, and then we were done.


We spent almost the whole session yesterday working on that trick. Having had good luck shaping her front feet onto the stool, I switched to shaping her to touch my feet with her front feet. Unfortunately I hadn’t noticed how roughly she was “touching” the stool. Yikes. I tried to hold still, but she hit my knee first and clawed down from there. If I held the click in the beginning, waiting for a (my) toe touch, or waiting for a lighter touch, she’d decide she was wrong and go looking for something else to do, so I gritted my teeth and clicked the raking.

Then last night I bought some new music and immediately found a song that would make a GREAT freestyle routine, especially for this dog – Queen’s We Will Rock You. I got so excited I played it about 50 times and while I was working out some moves, I suddenly found myself dancing. Wow! My new meds are working! Don’t know if I’ll ever get to having an actual routine again, but it was sure fun letting my feet think about it.

We started today with the paw touch again, and overnight she’d figured out how to touch much more gently, and to keep working it while I held off for even lighter touches. By holding my foot high off the floor I was able to start clicking for the paw lift BEFORE she actually hit my foot.

We moved on to L2 Communication. Step 1 is the dog backing up. We got that, but not on cue yet. Step 2 is moving out of my space – no problem. Step 3 – same but always to the left. Got it. Step 4 – untangles leash from around (husband) – check. Step 5, untangles leash from front leg. We have the leg lift in response to the leash cue, but we don’t have the assured untangle yet.

And then we moved on to… holy cow, L2 Homework. We’re at the end of the Level! We’re not, of course, DONE the Level. We still have lots of duration and cueing to work on, but it’s very encouraging to have gone through everything and seen that we’re not going to have any serious trouble with anything. What a good puppy! What a FUN puppy!