The Rest of December, 2001

December 16, 2001

The honeymoon is over.

<grin> With new dogs, that usually means the dog has settled in and is no longer on his best behavior. In this case though, it means the new dog is settled in and is now stepping into full training. I'm starting, formally, primarily with the behaviors he'll do in his puppy kindergarten. My goal is to do one or two short (30 second -to- two minute) sessions of each behavior a day. I've made a chart to track the sessions. Here's what it looks like:

  12/16 12/17 12/18 12/19 12/20 12/21 12/22
Attention/Name x            
Sit x            
Down xx            
Recall x            
Nail trims F            
Sit for ______ x            
Leave It              

Here's a brief description of each...

  • Attention/Name -- Pax will offer and maintain focus. His name is a cue to offer eye contact and attention.
  • Sit -- Pax will assume a sit from either a stand or a down.
  • Down -- Pax will assume a down position from either a stand or a sit.
  • Recall -- Pax will come directly to me, sit in front of me, and let me take hold of his collar.
  • Loose Leash Walking -- Pax will walk on my left side, on- or off-leash.
  • Handling -- Pax will let me (or other person) examine his eyes, ears, mouth, paws, and private parts. He will let me brush him, bathe him, and use clippers or scissors.
  • Nail trims -- Pax will let me either cut or Dremel his nails. He will offer his paw and hold it out until I'm finished.
  • Sit for ____ -- Pax will offer and hold a sit until I put his food down or open a door and while people are petting him.
  • Stay -- Pax will stay within a specified boundary (such as on a pillow or mat or in the circle of his leash) until released. He may change position at will, but he cannot leave the boundary.
  • Leave It -- Pax will take two steps backwards from the indicated object and leave it alone.

Each behavior is actually much more complex than that, of course. There are elements like duration, distance, latency, etc. But right now, we start with the very, very basics -- getting the behavior. I capture or shape behavior, rather than lure it. I start with what I can get, and I gradually build to what I want. So right now I'm starting with the following responses:

  • Attention/Name -- an offered glance
  • Sit -- butt on the ground
  • Down -- body flat on the ground (clicking when the elbows hit the ground)
  • Recall -- running between me and Jay with us in the same room
  • Loose Leash Walking -- walking beside me, leash loose
  • Handling -- single touch on different body parts with no mouthing
  • Nail trims -- clipping nails without pulling away
  • Sit for ____ -- hold a sit while I put the food bowl down or while a person pets him
  • Stay -- stay within a specified boundary (such as on a pillow or mat or in the circle of his leash) until released. May change position at will, but cannot leave the boundary.
  • Leave It -- take two steps backwards from the indicated object and leave it alone

I will continue to socialize Pax and informally reinforce good things I catch him doing around the house. My goal is to take him one new place every day. Because he had a such a busy weekend, I chose not to take him out today. There's also a weather issue. I don't know if you've heard, but it rains in Seattle. I'm having a really tough time thinking of places to take Pax to meet people!

December 18, 2001

Not too much to relate. Yesterday was Jay's birthday, and we went out to dinner. Yes, I could have crated Pax, but the last thing I wanted was for him to sleep during evening hours. So instead I asked our regular pet sitter -- "Uncle" Randy -- to babysit. He took Pax to his house and let him terrorize his dogs. :-)

Today was an easy day. We trained here and there, but didn't get out except for a quick walk across the street. He has figured out how to both go in and out through the dog door, but I'm not positive whether he has taken himself outside to use the bathroom or not. I am positive that we haven't had any housebreaking accidents today though.

I tried to get some pictures today, but the lighting in every single room of our house is lousy. There is not a decent light in the entire house. I hate that. Here's the only picture that didn't totally suck.

December 22, 2001

I did it again. I swear it's not intentional. In fact, I swore I'd actively work to prevent it from happening this time. But it happened anyway.

Pax is a momma's boy.

You think I'm kidding. Um, no. Like any puppy, he naps frequently throughout the day. Does my dog curl up in a corner to nap? No. He comes over, sits in front of me, raises his front paws, and asks me to pick him up. When I do -- okay, could you resist that? -- he finds a comfortable position and falls asleep.

Ah, but it gets worse. He can't stand for me to be out of his sight. Mama went into the kitchen? Then Pax must climb the baby gate to be with her. Mama went to the bathroom? Then Pax must be with her. Jay is, apparently, not a valid substitute. Three times last night I left Pax with him while I did other things. No dice. The first time, I went upstairs and took a shower. When I came back down, both Jay and our friend Debi were desperately trying to protect themselves from Pax's manic onslaught. I just sat down and distracted him with a ball, and a few minutes later, he was ready to curl up and take a nap. The second time I was just in the kitchen, and I watched Pax throw a constant, wiggly fit trying to get away and get to me. The last time, I went up to bed early. Half an hour later, Jay brought the pup up, offered to show me the scratches on his arms, and put Pax in bed with me, where he curled up and slept until Jay came to bed and put him in his crate. Jay said he had climbed the gate to get upstairs, and when he couldn't get into my closed bedroom, had gone into the bathroom to curl up in my clothes.

Satch and Rain are momma's boys too, though not to this extent. We can't take Satch on family outings to the beach anymore because he gets too upset when I go in the water. He'll frantically pace the shore until I get within wading distance, then he comes out, takes my hand in his mouth -- this from a dog that won't even lick human skin -- and leads me to shore. Rain isn't much better. He doesn't want me in the water unless he's there with me. That's fine -- until he's too tired to swim. Then he just cries. They both get depressed when I go out of town. Even my neighbor, who isn't a dog person and who almost never sees me when I'm home, knows when I'm out of town because "Rain is sad."

I swear -- I don't do anything to encourage this behavior.

We leave for our Christmas vacation at an ungodly hour tomorrow morning. Pax is going to stay with fellow-clicker-trainer Maggi McClure. Hopefully, Maggi, her other two boarder puppies, and her own pack of five adult dogs will keep my boy occupied, and he won't stress about me not being there. Rain and Satch are going to stay at home. Their "Uncle" Randy will come over several times each day, walk them, feed them, play with them, and watch TV with them. We have a dog door, so I don't worry about them needing to go out when no one is home. They'll miss us, but it's less stressful for them to stay here than to go to a kennel. The real one suffering separation anxiety this week will be me. I can't stand the thought of leaving my boys behind. I know they're fine, but I miss them!

We'll be back next Friday, so my next diary update will be either Friday or Saturday. Sorry I fell behind this week. Nothin really exciting happened though. I trained Pax off and on -- had some good training days and some lax ones. I made the mistake of starting a short story.

I quit my job at the end of June in order to pursue my dream of becoming a "real" writer. Well, I've been successful so far. I have a clicker training book scheduled to come out in April! (Hooray!) I've also got a screenplay two-thirds of the way done. What's funny though, is that I've done almost no short-story writing. My short-stories are for me -- they're not publishable. They're my very favorite thing, and when I write them, everything else ceases to exist. That's why I haven't been writing them. I had "real" writing that needed to get done, so I couldn't allow myself to get caught up in one of the stories I love so much. I keep promising myself I'll find a way or a time that I can get back to them though.

Back to training. Someone asked me about keeping records. I am a fanatic about recordkeeping. Otherwise, it's too easy to blame the dog for lack of reliability. "He knows what to do." Well, if I have records, I know exactly what he is and isn't capable of. At this point, however, I haven't kept records except for the chart above. At this point, I'm just capturing the behavior, and I'll continue reinforcing all offered reps until Pax is actively, frequently offering the behavior. Then I'll begin perfecting the behavior -- and keeping records.

We're going to the vet today. Pax has what feels like a cyst on his neck. I've felt cysts before, and that's what I think this is -- but he's really young for it. I'll try to get some pictures and an updated weight for him. I'll also try to remember to give the camera to Maggi, so she can get pictures of him over Christmas.

December 31, 2001

Wow! It's been a long time since my last entry. My Christmas trip lasted a bit longer than planned. We were supposed to be back on Friday, but we ended up driving home from Oklahoma City. We got back last night. We called Maggi and asked to pick Pax up this morning. That gave me one more night to sleep, and it gave me a chance to bond with Satch and Rain. They missed me as desperately as I missed them. Our vacation was fun -- it was nice to see our families -- but I was terribly sad to be without my dogs. I had already discussed the issue with Jay -- this was the last trip without the dogs. From now on, it's strictly driving trips where dogs are welcome. We're already planning a two-week trip to San Diego (down Highway 101 along the west coast) in the late spring.

We picked Pax up this morning. First the bad news -- no pictures. The batteries in the camera died. Bummer, dude. The rest is all great news -- Pax had a terrific time, he grew like a weed, and he came back better behaved than he went. Maggi McClure did a wonderful job with him. An update on his progress...

  • His bite inhibtiion is simply wonderful. He still mouths (which is absolutely acceptable, desired behavior) but it is almost always gentle.
  • She really emphasized "sit to get what you want," and he offers sits constantly to get petted, to get picked up, to have the baby gate moved, etc. No cue has been added to sit though.
  • No housebreaking accidents so far. We have a dog door, and he'll go out on his own. However, I haven't seen him go out to pee on his own. When he needs to go, he'll go to the door and go out and back in. Very funny. He's learning though. I'm guessing that Maggi emphasized "first pee, and then you can play," because he pees almost immediately once he gets to the grass.
  • His nighttime ritual changed. At 6:00 this morning, he wasn't particularly convinced that lack of daylight meant good puppies should still be sleeping. He also didn't fall asleep as soon as he hit his crate. I'm guessing Maggi used the crate more than we do, and he wasn't always ready to sleep when he was put in. So he kind of overcame the conditioning to sleep when put in his crate. No biggie -- we'll be back on our schedule soon.
  • His socialization is coming along fabulously! At Maggi's house he got to interact with children, toddlers, adults, adult dogs, adolescent/older puppies, and puppies roughly his own age. So wonderful!
  • Maggi said he's a retrieving fool, and she thinks he'd make a terrific agility dog. He is so brave, and is great at climbing and exploring.

Other training has been on hold for roughly ten days. Man, I have to get back on the ball -- he starts Puppy Kindergarten on Saturday!


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