Monthly Archives: August 2010

First day of training

After River’s early morning nap, I decided to break out the treats and try some training. When I opened the dog closet, the first treats I saw were Kong Tots. Low cal, so I decided to give them a try. Turns out they’re really too big and crunchy for him at this point. I went ahead and did the whole session with them, but switched to tiny pieces of moist cat food for later sessions. The cat food worked beautifully, but I was almost out of them. So then I switched to some kind of tiny moist dog training treats I found in an almost-empty bag at the bottom of the box… and used those until I ran out. LOL. By the end of the day I was down to a dog food sample that happened to have tiny, tiny pieces of kibble.

Needless to say, River’s digestive tract is a little out of whack!

Today we worked on sit, a little bit of Doggie Zen, sit on a mat, touch (my hand), and eye contact. Mostly it was sit. No cue added, just paid off for all the ADORABLE offered sits I was getting. River figured out SO quickly that sitting was what I wanted, and after that it was a entire day of FEED ME, MY BUTT’S ON THE GROUND. Okay, so I can’t pay off for that forever, but it’s a great start, so he got a little leeway today.

I tossed a couple of toys a foot or two away for him to chase, but I haven’t tried any puppy retrieves yet. His vision is still developing, and he has trouble tracking beyond a couple of feet. It’s okay — I have plenty of time for that. When he did chase a toy and bring it back, he got lots of praise.

Housebreaking is going well! The rain actually ended up helping a bit. He learned early today that he would be allowed to go in once he pottied, so he started doing it quickly, if he needed to go. Mistakes have been minimal. Once I asked if he wanted to go potty and motioned him to follow me… and he squatted right there. I should have picked him up! Another time, he went to the door and poo’d right at it. Good boy for trying to get out. Bad Mom for not seeing him try.

Overall it was a good day. Jay worked today, and I missed having him here. It’s exhausting to focus on the puppy all day. I was proud that I managed to get a load of laundry done and managed to straighten the house up. I dread work next week though. When Pax was a puppy I wasn’t working at all. (Note to the Universe: I love my job and paying my mortgage. I am not suggesting that I should become unemployed.)

Today’s pictures are pretty boring. It rained all day, so I didn’t get a chance to go outside and snap some fun shots. No pics of Pax and Pflouff with him yet either. Pflouff is in heat, and so right now the only thing she and Pax are interested in is each other. He’s neutered, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. All day.

It’s a good thing, really. It means they’re getting used to River being here without paying much attention to him. They check him out every once in a while, but they haven’t tried playing with him yet.

I think tomorrow I’ll introduce Susan Garrett’s Crate Games.

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Our first night

River is from Ohio — Eastern timezone, I believe. So his clock is three hours ahead of mine. About 6:30 last night, he started to crash. I bet he was exhausted. He’d gotten up extra early, traveled across the country, and met strange people and dogs. That’s a big day for anyone, much less a 9.5 week old puppy.

I thought he might be down for the count then, but he wasn’t. He was up and down, following me as I did some of the things I hadn’t been able to do while watching him earlier in the day. (You know, like eat dinner. It’s important to make only food that can be eaten cold when you have a new puppy, because it may take you a while to actually eat all of it.)

I took him up to bed about 8:30. I’d turned my nightstand sideways and put his travel crate on it. It was already dark, and he was tired, so I figured I’d just pop him in his crate. NOPE. He was having none of that. He didn’t just cry — he screamed. In fact, he was so upset, I thought he might have a desperate need to potty, so I took him out — yes, while he was screaming — and carried him outside. He didn’t potty. So I carried him back upstairs. This time I put him in bed with me.

For those who don’t know, the dogs are ALWAYS welcome to sleep in our bed. Pax sleeps there every night. Pflouff (and Rain and Aslan before her) usually comes up for part of the night unless it’s just too warm. It’s colder outside, so she prefers to sleep on the back deck most of the time. My only hesitation about having the puppy in the bed all night is that I don’t know his potty habits well enough yet. If I can trust him to stay put until he needs to go — and then wake me — he’s welcome!

So I laid down with him, expecting him to cuddle up and fall asleep. Not even close. He was seriously upset — shaking and crying. I’m totally anthropomorphizing here, but it was like it suddenly hit him that he wasn’t with his mom and siblings. I held him close despite his struggles and murmurred in his ear until he settled. “I love you. You’re safe. You’re not alone. I love you.”

He doesn’t speak English. But I do, and it made me feel better.

He settled, and we slept until about 10:30. I didn’t sleep well, because I was staying so attuned to him, so at 10:30, I got up and put him in his crate. He whimpered a time or two, and then went back to sleep. Score!

At 2:30 he woke me up. I got dressed and carried him outside. He ran over to the fence and pottied — both poo and pee. Yay! When he was done, he ran back to me. I picked him up, carried him upstairs, and put him back in his crate. I expected an argument, because I have no doubt that excursion woke him thoroughly, but after a minute he settled again.

He was up for good at 4:30. He’s on Eastern time, remember? I expect he was starving! So I got up without a fuss, took him out, and made him breakfast. Chow. Hound. Then we played for about an hour. This first hour after he wakes up will be a GREAT time to train him. Sooo much energy.

I know from past experience that puppies have a lot of energy first thing in the morning, but once they expend it, they’re ready for a long nap. When he began settling around 5:45, I took him upstairs. Interestingly, his initial reaction was the same as last night. He started shaking and crying and didn’t want to settle. But I held him, and eventually he did.

Jay was beginning to wake for work, and the big dogs came up and settled on the bed with us, so the whole family was there. It was nice! After Jay got up, River and I slept until 8:30. Nice nap!

So all in all, it was a successful first night. Hopefully I can get some pictures or video today — it’s his first training day. It is, unfortunately, cold and rainy, which limits our options.

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River’s here!

Thank you, Dawn Fleming. He’s beautiful, and we adore him!

We picked him up at 11am at Continental’s Air Cargo center near SeaTac airport. He was so excited… until I opened the door, and he realized he didn’t know me. LOL. But that reticence didn’t last long! I gave him a chance to stretch his legs while Jay rearranged the car so he could sit in the back and poke his fingers in the crate. River wasn’t thrilled to go back in his crate, but he settled quickly for the hour’s drive home.

When we got home, we decided to introduce the dogs to the pup in the fenced front area, rather than in the main yard around the house. I gave the big dogs a chance to sniff me, but they were more interested in getting to the car — and the crate. Jay put the crate on the ground and let them sniff it, then we opened it. “Gentle,” I told everyone. “Gentle dogs.”

River wasn’t quite sure what to do with these strange giant dogs. Pflouff was very excited, but not threatening (except with her big feet). Pax growled once, but I blocked him and cautioned him to be gentle, and then he relaxed a bit. The puppy would duck under the car when the investigations got to be too much, but pretty soon everyone was walking around together.

Initially Pflouff was EXTREMELY interested if the pup ran, but she was responsive to my voice, and so we didn’t have any real problems. River is delightfully bold about exploring, inside and out. He doesn’t even mind being out of my sight. There’s a lot of exploring to do here, so he’s having a grand time!

I haven’t done any training yet. I fed him at 2PM, and he cleaned his bowl. He’s drinking a lot of water. So far — fingers crossed, knock on wood, any luck spell you can think of — his pottying has been outside in the grass. He has taken two naps, one on my lap and one on Jay’s.

It has been great having Jay here to be an extra pair of hands today! I’m sure I’ll be begging for a break when he gets home from work tomorrow and Wendesday. I don’t have any good chewies to keep him (River, I mean) occupied. I haven’t had a chance to make any tuna brownies either.

Anyway, here’s what you really want: PICTURES!

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Do electric collars hurt?

A friend of mine on Facebook is having his dog snake-proofed today. The dog works in the Oregon wilderness where there are rattlesnakes, and snake-proofing ensures that the dog, upon smelling or seeing one, will go in the other direction.

The training is done with an electric collar. The collar is put on the dog, and the dog is taken on a walk where he will encounter a snake. If he goes to investigate — and my friend is certain that’s exactly what his dog will do — he is zapped with the collar. The process is repeated until the dog avoids the area as soon as he smells the snake. It’s classic avoidance training.

Okay, for the record, I support my friend’s choice. Working with rattlesnakes is potentially lethal for both handler and dog. Although a positive trainer has suggested a non-e-collar-based solution, that solution has not been tested. If it fails, the dog could die. Who wants to volunteer their dog? Hands?

I’m lucky. I live in western Washington state, and the only snake we have is the garter snake. I don’t have to make this choice. There are people in some states who find poisonous snakes in their back yards. For them, this training is much less optional.

One of the commenters to my friend’s Facebook blurb tried to assure my friend that e-collars don’t really hurt. He uses them on his dog, and he tried it on himself first. It’s just the surprise, not pain.

To which I say: balderdash. (I’d say something different, but there are children reading.)

First, lots of people do exactly what this person did: Before putting the collar on their dogs, they try it on themselves. (Around their arms. For some reason, no one ever seems to want to strap it to their necks.) Their experiences vary. Some people have to go up several levels before the collar becomes truly unpleasant. Others cannot tolerate it on the lowest settings. Dogs are the SAME way. Some clearly find it aversive even at very low levels. Some, though, don’t register even mild discomfort until several levels up.

Regardless, this is the takeaway: Your experience is not your dog’s experience. You do not get to say what is and isn’t aversive to your dog.

(Folks, I have a mouth full of cavaties, I’m sorry to say. All but one in the last ten years was filled without the use of Novocaine or other pain killer. The pain just doesn’t bother me that much. So… should the dental industry base their pain-management on my experience? I’m betting not many people would go for that. People vary. Dogs vary.)

Second, let’s be real about what an aversive is and how it works. An aversive is a stimulus that suppresses behavior. It has to be strong enough to suppress any natural desire that’s encouraging the animal to do something different. It’s highly unlikely that “surprise” would be enough to stop a dog, more or less permanently — or at least for a good long time — from doing something he really truly wants to do.

Let’s take an example of a field dog — a hunting dog — being trained for retriever field trials. A common “factor” that these dogs have to face is brush filled with thorns. However, they are supposed to persist THROUGH it, not cheat around it. (I think it’s nuts, but they didn’t ask my opinion.) The field trainer sets the dog up on a line through some brush. If the dog veers around it, he is zapped with the e-collar.

The stimulus of that e-collar has to be strong enough that, with just a few applications, the dog would rather run through blackberries than veer around them.

That ain’t surprise.

The snake breaking ain’t surprise.

I’m not going to say that the collar is, simply because of what it does, a horrible cruel thing. I don’t like them, and I don’t plan to ever use one. BUT, as I said above, I haven’t been put in a situation where my dog’s life might rely on it either.

I just want you to understand this: If the collar is effective at stopping behavior, chances are the dog isn’t having a good time. Don’t whitewash that. You may decide that the payoff is worth the choice, but don’t whitewash how the collar works. “Discomfort” and “surprise” don’t suppress behavior in a high drive dog. Period.

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AKC Hunt Test

This morning I dragged Jay out of bed bright and early, and we drove to Bob Pepper’s Training Farm a few minutes south of Duvall to watch an AKC Hunt Test. This was my first visit to Pepper’s, and I have to say, it’s a field trainer’s Nirvanah. Bob Pepper was an avid field trialer 50 years ago, who would travel to a trial, see a lake or other feature he really liked, and then come back to his farm and recreate it. Now it’s open to anyone for a per-dog daily fee. Look at this gorgeous technical lake!

Master and Senior level were running today. Junior is tomorrow. We first went to watch the Masters test. The series we watched was a water series. It started with triple water marks. Gun station just off the center line originated two birds. The first was thrown to the right of the center line, even with the gun station. The second was a live flyer on the other side of the gun station. The third bird (go bird) came from the far left. A diversion shot was fired on the way back from the second bird. After all marks had been picked up, there were two blinds. One was along the shore to the far right. Another was up the middle, on a line close past the blind. Dog had to go in and out of the water three times to get to that one. None of the distances were very long — but I’m not a great judge of distance, so I can’t give a good estimate.

One of the fun things about Hunt Tests is the variety of dogs. It’s not just black labs! There were chocolate and yellow labs, goldens, and even an Irish Water Spaniel!

I was thrilled to see that dog. I would guess, too, that not many of the dogs running were from field trial lines, because only a few seemed really high octane, if you know what I mean. That could, of course, be a mistaken impression on my part.

I asked a lady near me a couple of questions, but unfortunately, she was there only part of the time, and I wasn’t able to ask a lot of questions. I got the idea that straight lines to a mark aren’t terribly important in Hunt Tests — even when the dog cheated the water. Again, that could be a mistaken impression on my part. I didn’t get to ask a lot of clarifying questions.

After we watched the Master series for a while, we drove over to the Senior test. We got there between series during the lunch break. This turned out to be fortuitous, though, because we met Joan Fetty. Joan has a dog school 20-25 minutes from my house. (I took Pax there for a class long ago.) She offers an Intro to Field class, and she helps people get hooked up with training groups. She is the one who told me the history of Pepper’s and explained the usage rules.

We chose not to stay for the next series and left shortly after that. Plan is to groom and bathe Pflouff this afternoon, so I can take her to Marymoor tomorrow to see her breeder. Maybe Pflouff and I will stop by Pepper’s tomorrow and see the Junior test. I’m not sure if she’s up for that or not, since she wouldn’t be allowed to play in the water or retrieve the things being thrown.

Here are a few more pictures I took this morning.

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