Syn @ 10 Months

Nov 23, 2011 | Syn's Story

Ten months old, and Little Miss moved on to Level 3 with a bang. Starting at the beginning, we zipped right through L3 Zen (dog doesn’t dash through open door, waits 30 seconds with door open, waits 1 minute while I carry stuff in and out of the house, other doors, life situations. She passed everything with no trouble and NO CUE. What a good puppy! The only thing left is getting someone else to do the open door with her.

Good time to reflect on how far she’s come and who she’s turning into.

Physically, she’s growing into herself slowly but surely. I think she’s going to be a very pretty dog when she grows up – and maybe retain some of the Red Fraggle/Gund quality everyone comments on. She’s a sound dog, except for a little turnout in the rear which comes, I think, from growing so fast. She’s definitely getting it under control as she gets more muscle. Her tailset and topline are grand, great shoulders, and good angulation in the rear. She could use a bit heavier muzzle, but her skull is nice and wide. And she really is cute.

Mentally – well, she’s smart and willing and cheerful. She trusts me, she’s willing to do almost anything for a treat, and she’s got good mental stamina. She’s naturally a bit leery of things moving under her – the first time I moved the cart she was riding in at 6 months, she leaped out – and of big or rowdy other dogs – though she does love Giant Schnauzers and Dobermans (but Goldens are a little scary) – but she has excellent bounce-back. She gets over scares quickly and easily and is willing to believe me when I tell her she can do something even if she thinks maybe she can’t.

She needs more practise being shaped, she doesn’t have a lot of stamina for guessing games, though she’s willing to try. All in all, she feels like she’s ahead of where Stitch was at the same age. Maybe she isn’t – I’ll have to go back and read Stitch’s blog for the same time frame – but for sure she doesn’t have several of Stitch’s vices that we had to work to overcome (chasing cats comes readily to mind).

So. 8 months of work, and I’m pleased with the results. Not to mention that my puppy’s very cute and cuddly.


I’ve been away for a week. Tonight we got back into Level 3 (Level 3!). L3 Focus Step 4 – Dog holds eye contact for 10 seconds with you not looking at the dog. That was fun, and pleasantly surprising. Not as difficult as I thought it would be. It took us 4 clicks to get up to 10 seconds, based mostly on the idea that when I want to shape her I look where I want her to be. This is also the cue I use when I want her to Look at something rather than Watch me. After 4 clicks she had it, though. We’ll see tomorrow if she’s got it well enough to pass testing.

Syn giving me 10 seconds of Focus while I look in the mirror. Her tail is wagging furiously. Idn she CUUUUTE?!

We moved on to L3 Come. Step 1: Dog comes 5 feet with distractions. Late evening at home out in the country – I couldn’t think of any distractions other than kibble on the floor, so I spread some. She couldn’t come to me through it. She tried going around the coffee table to get away from it, but it was spread there too. I backed up to something she knew – straightforward advanced Floor Zen, which she’s pretty darn good at.

Once I was sure she could do that comfortably, I started asking her to Come through the kibble, but it was still very difficult.

I put a treat target in her face and led her through the minefield a couple of times, then just walked through with her a couple of times, and after five or six of those, she was able to do it – but still not comfortable. We’ll try again tomorrow.

I’m glad to be home. I missed the little pumpkin.


For breakfast we worked a little more on the distraction of kibble on the rug. She’s not ready to wander over the food as if it isn’t there, but she’s getting closer. Her panting this morning is because the sun is shining in the windows and the room is hot. Her tail is wagging with eagerness to play the game, even though it’s still tough to do.

A little Floor Zen easily teaches the dog that constant floor-diving isn’t a way of life. Syn has the scattered kibble on the rug, and I’m also tossing kibble to her as her reward following “Yes”. At one point she eats (what she thought was) the treat I tossed, but very obviously doesn’t eat the next one she sees, which is one of the Zen kibbles. Clever puppy!This morning her face is much more relaxed and happy.

L3 Sit – dog sits from a down 2 feet away from you – Comeafters – with a distraction. Also Step 4 – down from a sit 5 feet away from you – Comeafters – threefers, a down, a sit, another down. Plus L3 Come Step 1 – dog comes 5 feet with a distraction. Also Floor Zen and getting her comfortable with the whole idea. My voice is a little demanding, which I don’t like – she was having a little difficulty hearing what I said with the distraction. Yes, treats on the floor make a dog go deaf.

Interesting little glitch in my brain. Every time I get to Level 3, I have a niggling little thought telling me my dog isn’t ready for it. Like there’s going to be a huge chasm between L2 behaviours and L3 behaviours. Like leaving Grade 8 and heading right to university. Don’t know why I don’t trust the author more… Syn is clearly ready for Level 3! (also I’m still gobsmacked that my baby puppy is ready for L3).


Syn had a her first Open obedience class this afternoon. I was worried that she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the class – well, worried isn’t the right word, since I would work her at her own level no matter what, but I wouldn’t want to hold the class up waiting for her to do something (or more likely, lower the jumps or otherwise take more time to take our turns). I thought I might have to drop out. She IS only 10 months old, with a puppy’s enthusiasm and attention span.

First things first. We started with heeling. Her heeling isn’t perfect. I need to concentrate on keeping her eyes on me – when her eyes wander off, she gets wider and wider as we go along. And, since we were doing conformation in the same building 2 weeks ago, she’s not sitting automatically when I stop. On the other hand, she was the only one off leash and the only one not getting corrections. Some were (sigh) on pinch collars. Syn was trucking along cheerfully doing a grand job with a big grin on her face – in between gazing around like a hick in the big city. When we did figure 8s, I discovered that we need to work more on speeding up when she’s on the outside, but her sidestepping inside turns were a thing of beauty.

Then we did stays while one by one we worked retrieve over the high jump. Her stays are not excellent yet. She would like to assume that I wasn’t talking to her when I said “Stay” and instead meant for her to come right along with me. BUT when I asked her for a down and stay, this is what she gave me:

Yep, that’s a Chill. 10 months old and she’s offering me a Relax. In public. And stayed that way for 2 minutes with me 20 feet away. Wow! She couldn’t hold it while I walked around her, but all she did was roll into a normal down position (like the dog on the left in the photo).

I thought I’d try a 3-board broad jump just once to see how much work I’d have to do on it – not much, apparently. I treated it like an agility obstacle. I put her back about 15 feet from it, “led out” to it, and turned as I would in agility to send her over it. She soared. And then ran back to me all excited – “I did it! Did you see me? I jumped right over it! Did you see? Did you see?” And twice more.

On to the retrieve over the high jump. We worked with a jump about 16 inches high. She was thrilled to do this too, and I spent some time tossing the dumbbell off to one side or the other so she had to curve her path to be sure to go over the jump.

Finally, the drop on recall. No problem, she’s been doing that for 7 months. And that was our class. She was a long way from “keeping up” with the class. The other way around, really. She needs work on duration, on distance, and a bit on distraction, but she’s got difficulty cased. She needs to practise these things until she’s doing them because she knows how to do them, not because I’m giving her extra body language cues to help her understand what I want. But she’s got the exercises cased. She knows how to do this. Heck, she’s in Level 3 now, she can do ANYTHING!


Boy, howdy.

My name is Sue Eh and I’m a lumper. Chartered member of Lumpers Anonymous.

A couple of weeks ago I worked a bit on getting Syn to retrieve a dog bucket with her dinner in it. I got her to retrieve the bucket a couple of times, then I did a couple of Hand Zens, and then I put the kibble in the bucket. I thought she was slightly afraid of the bucket.

Well, today I noticed that when I ask her to get her bucket, she confidently and cheerfully backs away from it and sits oh-so-politely at my side. She’s doing Bucket Zen. No way no how she’s going near that bucket unless I put my hand on it and specifically hold it out to her. Did I tell her not to touch the bucket? I THOUGHT I was telling her not to touch the kibble IN the bucket, but of course, not speaking English all that well, that’s not what she heard. Stupid dog, not speaking perfectly good English!

So we spent half her breakfast shaping her to look at the bucket, go toward the bucket, touch the bucket. When she finally managed to pick it up, we had a huge party and ran to the pantry to put the rest of breakfast in the bucket.

Welcome to the Flat Forehead School Of Dog Training.

By the way, she started something cute yesterday. When I suggest it might be breakfast time, she starts leading my to the pantry, talking a mile a minute and looking back over her shoulder to be sure I’m coming along.


Well, we got past the scary-bucket problem pretty quickly. I just sat back and shaped her from the beginning – look at the bucket, look again, take a step toward it, take another. I started with the bucket on the rug so it wouldn’t make too much scary noise, and when she was ready I put it on the tile floor. No problem now – in fact it’s hard to keep her from grabbing it just because it’s in the same room she is.

Since she was doing a good job of getting over scary noises, and the vacuum cleaner happened to be sitting nearby, I started working on that. We worked first with it just standing still being as unscary as a vacuum cleaner can be, and she was a bit tentative but got into the spirit of sniffing, looking, touching… after about 1 minute I rejoined Lumpers Anonymous and asked her to Go Around, which she wasn’t ready to do. I’m sorry to say that she immediately lay down – her version of Take This Job And Shove It, and not only did I see her do it, but I asked her to Go Around again. And then I DEMANDED that she Go Around (earth to Sue, come in please), after which I realized what I was doing and stopped to play with her for a minute. Then I led her around it a couple of times and when we came back, she was fine with it – both with touching it AND with going around it. End of session.

The next session, I started with the vacuum turned on, and we started right back at the beginning, look at it, think about it, take a step, take another. I tried to shape her to go around and finally got her to go around it once – at least this time I was prepared to let her make the decision. I could see a fair bit of “I know you think I should go around that thing but I also know it’s going to eat me if I do” going on, but she stayed In The Game and kept trying. End of session.

The last session of the day, she came back ready to go around the vacuum. She’s still not comfortable doing it – you can see the hesitation each time just as she commits to going behind it – but there’s no external (read: nothing from ME) pressure to go around it, she can decide not to but she doesn’t. Good session, we’ll work that again in another couple of days. I’d like her to retrieve it?


Wow, this dog training stuff is TOO much fun, especially when I get such marvellous proof of how well it works! My vacuum is in the shop – and appears to be settling in nicely, planning on staying awhile – so I splurged (that holiday thing where “since I’m spending money on everybody else I might as well spend some on myself”) and bought a robot vacuum.

It was all charged up this morning and ready to go, so I pushed it’s little button and got set to work on getting Syn comfortable with it. First thing I noticed, it’s a lot quieter than the upright, so Syn’s already more at ease with it, though it’s kind of scary when it appears to be hunting her down. She took a few minutes getting to know it. Second thing I noticed is that I’m so busy watching the little vac do its job that I had a hard time marking Syn’s behaviour at the right time, so a lot of my Yesses were late.

But the excellent part is when Stitch came in and found us training. She knows she’s not supposed to butt in, so she stayed back and watched. At one point, she lay down to watch. The contrast between Syn just learning to handle the world around her, and 7-year-old Stitch having been through it all before – even well beyond wearing the “I’m a trained dog” t-shirt – is very funny.

We have done a bit of training besides this, and went to another Open obedience class with Syn the other day – where she was once again remarkable. She did get away from me once when she hared off across the room to retrieve someone else’s dumbbell – but I think I could have gotten her back if I had given her a dumbbell-Zen cue and called her back rather than just standing there blubbering “Syn! Syn! Syn!”. “Yeah,” she replied. “I’m just gonna get this dumbbell for you and then I’ll be right there!” Oh, and she forgot how to stay, so I spent part of the class playing Chutes and Ladders with sit stays. Dear little Tat.


Tonight I’m in a depressed funk. Not because of Syn – she’s grand.

This afternoon we went to our Open obedience class. It’s chock full of dogs getting yelled at, people with very crabby voices, and me and one other trainer speaking in normal tones to our dogs. That didn’t bother me – it’s what the dogs are used to. What DID bother me was one dog who broke a sit-stay, and was corrected (on his pinch collar). He pulled his lips back in a big nervous grin/pant and came forward to apologize – thus breaking the stay again, and was again corrected for the grievous error. And again he broke, and again he was corrected. And again. And again. And again. And again. As he was approached for another correction, he was crouched on the ground (creeping forward, the scum bucket) feebly wagging his tail, and the instructor yelled “Stop wagging your tail!” before correcting him again.

I’m not sure whether I’m going to get tossed out of this class for butting in and telling the instructor why he kept breaking, or whether I’m going to quit on my own. My stomach is upset and I don’t feel at all Christmassy this evening.

Syn broke her sit stay a couple of times. I said (quietly) “no, no. That’s not how we do it.”, led her back to her spot, asked for the stay again, and then Laddered her up to a full 3-minute stay with me across the room. How can they not see? How can they not see? How can they not see?


Alright, I’m feeling a bit more myself today. Syn, of course, feels… Synful. Full of herself, as always. Or, another way of starting today’s blog would be:

Now that I’ve gotten over other people trying to kill their dogs, I’m ready to strangle mine. This afternoon a friend looked out in the back yard and found Little Miss and Stitch gleefully opening Christmas presents. No, not THEIR Christmas presents. One has a tooth-sized hole in it. The others just need to be re-wrapped. Whee. Wrapping is my favourite part of the holidays. Not.

This evening we moved on with Level 3. Except for a few behaviours and Comeafters that involve other people and going (brrrr) outside, we’re all the way up to L3 Crate.

Sit from Down is good – when she’s listening. When she’s not listening she just throws the next thing at me, but we’re working on that.

The out of sight L3 Downs were excellent. She even offered me Chill (over on her side – AKA Relax) and didn’t bother rolling up into a regular Down when I came back to her.

Hard to work Lazy Leash in the house, and it was cold and dark outside so we worked on heeling instead. I’m putting my left hand at my waist and having her stare fixedly at the hand while she’s moving to distinguish heel from LL. She’s getting it. Not ready to give it to me in class (or out in the world?) yet, but at home it’s going well. The neat thing is that once we get the duration on heeling, she’ll be ready to whip through Novice AND Open obedience.

We tried all kinds of different things for L3 Retrieve – a pen, a clicker, an intact wrapped present, a shoe, a big purse, a dog bucket, a sock. The most difficult thing I asked her to hold was my finger. She was quite sure that was a mistake but we shaped it up to a fairly decent hold. Once in a while when I asked her to do it, though, she’d dive to the front hall to get a leash – apparently holding a leash is a lot safer idea than holding a finger.

L3 Target is Paws Up. I’ve been having her come up on me to get her collar on and off, but haven’t actually taught the behaviour, so we started cold on this one. She got it immediately and enjoyed doing it. The only vertical surface I tried her on was me, though, so far. I figured eating presents was enough for one day, we didn’t have to add scratching the walls.

We had a bit of supper left over so we did 20 reps of Watch. I introduced Look a little too soon after Watch and while her Look (at something else) is pretty good, her Watch (me) is a iffy. She’s not quite sure WHAT she’s supposed to be Watching.

Then we did some shaping practise. One of the things I’ve been wanting to work on is the idea that where I’m looking is what she should be working on. Stitch got this right away, but Syn hasn’t figured it out yet. I sat facing east and shaped her to put her muzzle on a package, then I ostentatiously turned and faced west. She tried touching the package four or five times, and when that didn’t work she did Paws Up on three chairs and the coffee table. When that didn’t work, she tried a distance Down, thought about her life for a minute or two, and then came around in front of me to ask what was going on – and of course got a click. Then I shaped her to look behind the Christmas tree and when she had that, I turned and faced east again. Another round of Paws Up and a Down… oh! Wait! In FRONT of you! And she had it. Clever little tyke.