January, 2002

January 1, 2002

Happy New Year!

Nothing special to report. Just wanted to post a picture of Pax. It's hard to tell, really, but he has grown a lot. (He's standing next to a folding chair in the picture. Maybe that will give you an idea about his size.) He has super-long legs and big feet. And, as always, he has the prettiest, sweetest eyes in the world.

January, 2 2002

Pax is definitely going to be a water dog. We have a baby pool in the back yard. This pool is called "Step 2" -- it's for older toddlers. It's hard plastic with a drain, not soft plastic meant to be "tipped." And it can hold a full 12 inches of water. We keep water in it for Rain, our Newf, to play in, which he does after every walk. Right now there is just a couple of inches of water in it. Before our vacation, Pax had bravely gotten in a time or two, one time even walking on bits of ice. It hadn't frozen thickly enough to support him, so he would bob the pieces with his paw.

This morning, he decided to check the pool out again. Like last time, he seemed to think it was colder on his back feet than his front feet. Or maybe the cold water just made him cognizant that he had back feet. Either way, he was picking up his back feet very carefully. He would get in and get out, get in and get out. After a few times, he stayed in and began playing with his reflection, the waves, and the splashes. What a cutie! I got out the video camera, but wouldn't you know he wouldn't play -- just pop in and out. But here you go anyway:

Pax in the pool -- 1.3 megabyte .mpg file

Note that I never forced him into the water. He could come and go as he pleased. In fact, originally he got in because his Newfie brother was in there. I do praise him for going in, however. I want him to know that I really do like it when he plays in water -- even if it does get my carpets wet and cold.

He's also cognizant of birds -- a good sign for retrieving later, I hope. A hawk flew over this afternoon. I watched it, then looked down and saw Pax intent on it. He not only watched it as long as it was in sight, he also got up and went to the fence to try to see it longer.

We started his training again today. He is offering sits frequently, so I began adding the cue. I add the cue by saying it as he is doing the behavior, so he can associate the action with the word. I've decided, by the way, that the verbal "sit" cue will refer to the imprecise, everyday "put your butt on the ground" behavior. I'll shape a competition-quality sit and assign it a hand signal.

We had a breakthrough with downs today. We did several sessions of down prior to my vacation. Although the behavior was occurring fairly frequently, I never really got the impression that it had quite "clicked" with Pax. It would take him a long time to offer it the first couple of times -- it just didn't seem to be part of his repertoire. The first session today was like that too. In the second session, he offered a sit and then he very deliberately plopped into a down. We flew through those reps, even when I moved to a different place (and position -- standing instead of sitting). How exciting.

One of the things I've noticed is that Pax is already becoming more reliable and less time-intensive in the house. I don't have to be on the floor with him all the time. In fact, I'm pretty free to work on my computer. I still have to keep an eye on him, of course, and there are times that he's more active -- and thus higher maintenance. He explores other rooms on his own occasionally, and he goes outside through the dog door whenever he wishes. Thus far, he has stayed out of trouble doing it, and he eagerly comes running back when I call him.

Here are a couple more pictures...

King of his castle on the ottoman

The little prince asleep in his mama's arms

January 3, 2001

Aarghhh! I quicked Pax tonight. (Cut into the quick when trimming the nail.) I did it a couple of nights ago and thought I must have simply misjudged the nail in poor light. (I felt so bad.) But tonight I saw it clearly, and I even cut it shallowly. The quick was definitely long -- well beyond where it's supposed to stop. I'm going to have to switch to a Dremel. Sigh. Fortunately, Pax doesn't seem to be particularly fazed by the incident -- or the first one. He has a pretty high pain tolerance, I think. That's definitely going to work for me in this situation. I feel bad though -- he got hurt through no fault of his own. Makes me sad.

I tried something different today. I have trouble making time to work with Pax. (Who doesn't?) So today, I got a digital kitchen timer and set it for 30 minutes. Every time I started working with him, I started the timer. When we finished our training period, I stopped it. My goal was simply to use all the time on the timer -- which turned out to be easier than I expected. A nice bonus, however, was that it made me aware of how long each period lasted. At this age, I really shouldn't go over two minutes at a time with him.

One issue we have -- a common puppy issue -- is jumping and nipping at clothes while we're walking. Up to this point, I've been (inconsistently) stopping -- taking away all of the fun movement (and definitely all of the attention) until he calms down. However, it's always better to teach the dog what to do rather than simply suppressing the wrong behavior. So I started using inside the house the same method I've been using outside the house to teach Pax to walk next to me. I taped a paper plate to a long-handled wooden spoon and smeared the plate with baby food. I clicked and treated for calm walking at my left side. I'm not using the spoon as a lure, merely as a method of delivering the treat without bending down. I'm not worried about having to fade the food treats later. Of course I'm not going to click and treat every step for the rest of his life -- or even carry food treats on walks for the rest of his life -- but now he is learning and building a reinforcement history.

Up until now I haven't been keeping records, other than noting that I worked on the behavior. Instead, I've just been concentrating on getting a strong enough offering to work with. Well, I think I've got that now. It's time to begin keeping records.

January 5, 2001

Pax started puppy kindergarten today! There's not a clicker trainer near us, so I chose to take Pax to the same traditional school that Rain went to. The school, PawsAbilities, is located just five minutes away. It's owned by Dana Babbs (and her husband), who is teaching my puppy class. Even though Dana and I disagree on training methods and various bits of dog behavior, I like her very much. She's a really nice person, and she loves dogs. (I get so irritated when people classify traditional trainers as cruel, abusive, horrible people. It just ain't true in the vast, vast majority of cases.)

That said, we do differ on training techniques. I'm going to stick to my techniques, but I certainly wouldn't dream of contradicting her in her class or confusing her students by doing something obviously different during class. To do otherwise would be disruptive and rude -- not the impression of clicker trainers I want to leave people with. I'm leaving my clicker home during class and simply delivering the reinforcer directly (or clicking with my mouth). I noticed that Dana frequently borrowed other people's dogs to demonstrate various skills -- not unreasonable or unusual. However, because I'm teaching Pax differently, I'm going to ask her not to use him for demos.

PawsAbilities is located in a retail warehouse district. It's absolutely huge -- a wonderful place for training. The puppy kindergarten is held in a separate, slightly smaller room than the other classes. Another class was, predictably, going on in the main room when we arrived, and we had to pass through that room to get to the kindergarten room. That's quite a distraction for my young puppy, so I carried him in and held him while we checked in and got settled. Why? Because I didn't want to reinforce any pulling-on-leash behaviors! It was fairly chaotic, and I needed to give my attention to the people and dogs around us. That meant I couldn't concentrate completely on Pax or necessarily spend the time necessary to get him all the way in without reinforcing pulling. So I managed the situation and picked him up.

Once checked in, we chose a chair between a woman with an adorable Boxer and a family with an older Great Pyr and a Bernese Mountain Dog pup. I didn't count, but I would estimate that there were at least 20 dogs in the class. That's huge! Everyone was seated in chairs, shoulder to shoulder. I arranged to have an extra chair between me and the boxer puppy on one side, and the boy holding the Berner was kind enough to keep him out of Pax's face the vast majority of the time. There will be plenty of time for Pax to socialize with these dogs later, but this wasn't the right time. Socializing turns into playing, which is too exciting, and the pups don't understand that when class starts, they're supposed to stop interacting! So I just ignored the other dogs and concentrated on reinforcing behaviors I liked in my own.

Obviously "calm" was the buzzword of the moment. I first reinforced any sit and any glance at me. After several minutes, Pax offered a down! Ooh, I liked that. I upped my criteria and began delivering treats only when Pax was lying down -- especially when he made eye contact with me. I tried to maintain a high rate of reinforcement. I really want him to learn that relaxing in new, unusual, or chaotic situations is the way to go! I'm going to call Dana and see if Pax and I can observe classes on other days, just so I can get him accustomed to relaxing in that environment. That will also give us a chance to practice our loose leash walking there.

In this first class, we talked about housebreaking, name recognition, and the basics of "No bite." Rather than discuss what they teach, since I don't agree with all of it, I'll just tell you how I deal with these issues.

Housebreaking. When a pup is young, they are unable to control their pottying. They feel the urge, so they go. An important thing is happening then, however. Through classical conditioning, they are developing substrate preferences -- they are associating the surface they're standing on with pottying. As a new puppy owner, your job is to be proactive enough to make sure your puppy potties on surfaces you want him to potty on (grass, dirt, concrete, gravel) -- and doesn't potty on surfaces you don't want him to (carpet, wood flooring, tile, plastic crate trays) -- so he'll form the correct associations.

As the pup grows older (roughly nine or ten weeks), he begins to develop control of his potty habits. This is when praising or otherwise reinforcing the pup for going in the correct spot begins to make sense to the dog. If he has developed substrate preferences you don't like, you can reinforce the choices you do like by clicking and treating the pup for going in the right places.

But what about mistakes? If your dog makes a mistake, it's not the end of the world. It's just a mistake. A mistake means *you* weren't watching your dog closely enough. It is utterly unnecessary to "correct" your dog for your mistake. If you continue to set your dog up to succeed, to make sure to minimize mistakes and maximize reinforcement, the undesired behavior will extinct. If you catch your dog in the "act," you can interrupt him and take him outside. If you don't catch him in the act, however, draw as little attention to the situation as possible. Put the pup in the other room, and thoroughly clean up the mess. Don't scold the dog, get angry, rub his nose in it, or anything else. At best, you'll simply convince your dog that you have a real issue with pottying -- and he'll hide it from you. It simply isn't necessary to punish. If you are doing your job and preventing accidents most of the time, the dog will learn to go outside.

One thing Dana discussed that I don't personally do (because we have a dog door and the dogs can take themselves out without letting us know) but that is really great for most owners was how to teach your dog to tell you that he needs to go potty. She talked about teaching a dog to ring bells or to bring you his leash or to associate any behavior you choose with getting to go outside. Oh, she also talked about monitoring the dog's food and water intake so you'd know how much is inside needing to come out. Great lessons!

I forgot to mention, by the way, that Pax is doing fabulously. He is taking himself out to both poop and pee. Does that mean I consider him housebroken? Nope! He's on his way though. I still make sure to remind him to go out when he starts looking restless. Also, even after he's reasonably reliable, there may be occasional accidents. It takes time for a dog to become truly reliably housebroken!

Name recognition. I like how Dana teaches this. She explains that many puppies don't know their names and points out that when they do learn them, they often learn a particular intonation. The same word said in different tones doesn't mean the same thing to the dog. One thing she didn't mention was that people frequently give the pup's name a negative association. People use it when they're displeased with the pup or with what the pup is doing. They use it as an interrupter. They scold with it. They nag the pup incessantly, saying the name over and over even though the pup quickly learns to ignore it.

As hard as it is, the best plan is to absolutely, under all circumstances, use the pup's name only with good things. If the pup is doing something you don't like, interrupt with a clap or other sound, and then go and get him. Don't nag him. If he's into something he shouldn't be, it's because you failed to puppy-proof or because you aren't right there to redirect. Get back to work, and watch the puppy. Save the name for good things!

Dana taught name recognition basically the same way we condition the clicker. She says the name and gives the dog a treat, says the name and gives the dog a treat. This is exactly when I find a clicker so wonderful. Once the dog is responding to his name, you can mark that look -- even when he's not right next to you -- and then reinforce. I like Dana's method. I usually teach name recognition as part of attention, getting offered eye contact first. Then I add the dog's name as a cue for eye contact.

Bite inhibition. I explained on December 8 why I teach bite inhibition before I teach "No bite." You can read it again here. (Use the Back button on your browser to return here.) Pax's bite inhibition is going wonderfully. It really improved while he was at Maggi's. I'm not sure if that's because he had so much wonderful dog interaction or because Maggi is a miracle worker. :-)

Anyway, that was class for the day. Satch and Rain were due their lunch, so I didn't stick around to socialize. I'll call Dana later about observing other classes.

Pax has been quiet the rest of the day. He's probably stuffed to the gills. I upped his food yesterday -- he has grown a lot since I got him -- plus he ate the equivalent of two hotdogs and a handful of tuna brownie during class.

Oh, one other thing to add. Pax isn't at all thrilled about the idea of me handling his feet. Darn!! I really need to get the last two nails trimmed -- I can't wait for the Dremel. I'll have to get Jay to help me. Bummer dude.

January 6, 2002

June 6, 1990 -- January 6, 2002

Satch, my Great Pyrenees, died this afternoon. He was eleven and a half -- a respectable age for a giant breed. It happened very suddenly -- the vet said he probably had a tumor inside that ruptured. He barely made it to the vet clinic down the hill. All they could do was humanely end his life. I'm grateful that I got to be there with him. A longtime member of ClickerSolutions sent me a note that said, "I find advanced age does not ease the sadness; it only aids the comprehension." Exactly.

He was a special dog. A friend of mine called him the Dalai Lama of dogs because he had such wise, understanding eyes. He made friends everywhere he went. On his regular walks, people come out of their houses on a daily basis to greet him. At the daycare nearby, the opportunity to pet Satch was a reward for the children. People who spent time with him began treating him like he was human -- holding conversations with him, including the silences where he was supposed to be responding to their questions. (It was really quite funny to hear this -- and it wasn't just dog people who did it.) I remember going on trips and leaving my best friend to stay with him. Every trip, I would call, and conversation would go something like...

"How's Satch?"
"Oh, he's fine. Well, actually, we're not speaking."

By the time I would get home, the two would come at me from different corners of the room, "Do you know what she/he did?" One of my favorite stories came from one of these trips. Satch had to take a lot of medicine during his life, and he was quite a gentleman about letting me pop a pill in his mouth and down his throat. After one trip, my friend demanded to know how I ever managed to give that dog pills. It seems he would lie on the floor on his back, put his paws over his nose and roll around to keep her from giving the pills. Quite a a tantrum.

He had quite a bit of... personality. He was a dedicated counter-surfer. He was a walking stomach. He would take food off your fork as it went to your mouth if he thought he could get away with it. His stomach declared it meal time at least an hour -- and sometimes two hours -- before it really was, and he'd huff and puff and jump in place to show his displeasure at being ignored. These tantrums were really quite amusing to watch -- especially when he would seek out the one square of wood floor in the house so his nails would make noise when he jumped.

He would pretend to be trained to impress people. Yes, he was trained as a puppy, but we didn't maintain the behaviors -- and I certainly didn't generalize them. I was happy with normal, calm, "well-mannered" pet behavior. But when a new person came over or when we went to visit someone he didn't know, suddenly, he was an obedience champion. I remember the first time he went to visit one of my now-best-friends-in-the-world, Ashley. Ash and I lived in the same apartment complex, just a couple of doors apart, and she had a puppy named Biz. We went to her house, and I asked Satch to sit nicely beside me. Of course. Anything you ask. Biz had lots of toys lying around, and I didn't want Satch to steal any of them, so I asked if I could leave him there while I popped back to my apartment for one. I asked Satch to lie down and wait. He did. Ash said that almost as soon as I left, Biz knocked a glass of Coke on him. Ash was desperately trying to clean up the Coke and Biz was jumping all over Satch, but Satch didn't move a muscle. When I got back, I released him, and he came and sat beside me. Ash was *soooo* impressed. I told her he was making it up, and she didn't believe me -- until she got to know him better.

He was one of the most gentle souls I ever met. That doesn't mean that he wasn't impressive in his prime, however. He had a bark that sounded like the roar of a grizzly bear. Although he was extremely laid back, when something sparked that protective urge, he would puff up and look incredibly imposing. More than one person decided to keep on walking after seeing that display. More than one delivery person threw the packages on the porch and played their own version of "ring and run." He wouldn't have hurt a flea though. He was gentle to everything. Especially cats. He adored cats -- wanted to press his nose into them and breathe deeply. He had no use for dogs though, and he didn't notice any other animals, except house flies. He loved to chase house flies.

He was a pet shop dog, puppy mill through and through, and he had the health problems to prove it. He was allergic to everything -- mold, grass, trees, meat -- you name it. His allergies were so severe that we were at the vet about every other week for the first few weeks of his life. I tried allergy shots. I tried every brand of food possible. He went course after course of antibiotics and steroids. When he was four or so, I found a vegetarian kibble. That didn't cure his allergies, but it reduced the frequency of outbreaks, so for the first time, we had to visit the vet only every four to six weeks. The diet had its drawbacks though. His teeth weakened and broke. We shaved his skin regularly to let the sores from the allergy outbreaks heal, and eventually the majority of the hair on his body stopped growing. His health went into decline, and at eight years old, both the vet and I knew he was on his way out.

At that same time, my new husband and I got a Newf puppy -- Rain. Rain's breeder fed a diet of raw meat, bones, and vegetables. I had never heard of such a thing. At first, since Satch had tested so allergic to meat, we tried to keep him away from the meat and bones, but after a few, um... testy, exchanges with him I decided that darn it, if he was on his was out, he was going to die happy. So I switched his diet. Something unexpected happened. He got well for the first time in his life. We switched his diet in August. He didn't have to go to the vet again until January. It was amazing. When he turned nine, I decided to have full bloodwork and x-rays done on him, so if he had any problems, we'd know about them. The outcome was really quite humorous. He was in perfect health. The vet kept looking from the records to the name at the top back to records and back to the name. He said he has two year old dogs who can't touch those kind of results. Even his heart and lungs were in great shape.

Of course, over time, he did grow old. He was mildly dysplastic, but he was more handicapped by arthritis in his spine, right over his hips. We put him on Rimadyl, and it helped, but his back end was severely weakened. He went deaf, and he was totally blind in one eye and losing sight in the other. He had worn down or broken all of his teeth. And, of course, his coat -- missing in large patches and growth-stunted in others -- looked horrible. But he continued to eat like a horse, demand the petting that was due him, and enjoy his daily walkies.

Tonight before I go to sleep, I'll say a prayer for my boy. I'm not worried about him. I know he's safe and out of pain now. I just want to thank God for loaning him to me for a while.

January 9, 2002

After doing very little for the past couple of days, I decided I'd better get back to work with Pax before he forgot everything he learned. I asked Dana, Pax's puppy kindergarten instructor, if I could observe other classes at PawsAbilities, and she recommended that we come to the Monday or Wednesday night classes. So, planning to do that tonight, I decided to concentrate on loose-leash walking and attention in new, distracting situations today.

First trip was to PetSmart, because I wanted to buy some sort of roll treat -- like Rollover or Red Barn -- to cut up into tiny training treats. We parked across the parking lot from the door. I clicked for sits and eye contact and steps in heel position. No matter where the desired behavior occurred, I did all my feeding in heel position. I used the clicker (obviously), however, I don't generally recommend using a clicker to reinforce the dog for being at your left side. Instead, it's easier to maintain a high rate of reinforcement by just "chucking food" -- delivering the treat directly. So why did I use the clicker? Because at this point, Pax is still learning that the clicker means great things, and it helps focus him in that extra distracting situation. Inside the store, we continued practicing loose leash walking to the treat aisle, back to the toy aisle, to the cash register, and all the way to the car. At this point, it seems we do a lot more standing still waiting for a reinforceable behavior, but I saw an improvement between the beginning and end of the trip.

Later in the afternoon, I popped his collar and leash on, and we went to practice on the street in front of our house. That session was much better for several reasons. First of all, I was able to use baby food (smeared on a paper plate taped to a long-handled spoon) as the reinforcer. I can present and remove that *so* much more effectively than I can deliver individual treats. However, it's not practical to use away from the house. Second, I left the clicker in the house, simply reinforcing for correct position -- and doing so at a higher rate (thanks to the manner of treat delivery). Third, the environment, though more distracting than the house, was considerably less distracting than PetSmart. Fourth, the session was shorter and didn't tax his puppy attention span. We did serpentines and about turns and circles. It was a good session!

Then tonight, we went to PawsAbilities. We practiced loose leash as far as the steps, then I picked him up and carried him in. Class was in session, so I got a chair and set it behind the other spectators, away from the dogs in class. It took just a minute for Pax to figure out that sits and eye contact earned treats. A few minutes later I was joined by two young teenage girls -- very sweet, and very polite. They asked if they could pet Pax, so I asked if they'd help me train him. I gave them treats, and they repeated asked for sits and treated him. They stayed with me the whole time I was there. It was quite good for Pax, because they petted him a lot, something not many strangers have gotten the opportunity to do. They were even petting him while he was concentrating on earning treats from me -- wonderful distraction training. Occasionally a dog (and owner) would walk by. Pax was good about checking them out and then coming back to earn more treats. He even ignored one dog who was sniffing his face just so he (Pax) could maintain eye contact with me. The only downside to tonight's session was that we never got to any downs. The girls kept wanting to help him into a down and just didn't understand why I'd want to wait for him to figure it out on his own.

I think I'll go back tomorrow night as well. Tomorrow I'll work on down a bit during the day, so he'll have them fresh on his mind.

January 10, 2002

Darn it. I went back to PawsAbilities tonight but forgot to take the camera. I would have had some really great pictures too. I'll have to drag my husband along some night.

I realized tonight that Pax's loose leash walking is improving. We did a session in the middle of the day in front of our house that went really well, and then I took him back to PawsAbilities. We made it all the way to the door before I picked him up for easy maneuvering through unknown dogs, and we made it there much more quickly than we did yesterday. Inside, there was a basic beginner class going on in the main room and a conformation class going on in the smaller room. I slipped into the back row of the main room again and began reinforcing sits and eye contacts.

Today, I practiced a session of downs at home during the day, so when I asked for a down at PawsAbilities, he did it. Yay! Soon I was getting regular downs. That was when Dana, my puppy class instructor came up. She asked if I was planning to do conformation (breed ring) with him, and when I said yes, she took me back to observe the conformation class. How fun! I've never done anything with conformation, so I was very interested. I started off sitting behind everyone, but the instructor (Rosemary) told me to sit in the middle of the ring on the pause table so I could see.

The class was neat. They practiced gaiting in particular patterns, gaiting in straight lines, stacking their dogs, and stacking on the table for examination. As expected, the methods weren't what I would use, but that was okay. I did have to smile when the instructor twice told me disapprovingly to stop feeding my dog so much because then he'd only work for food. At the time, Pax was being a perfect gentleman, lying quietly next to me on the pause table while a tape of dog show sounds played in the background, dogs gaited around him, and class members clapped for their classmates.

At one point, Rosemary asked me to play judge to a Sheltie, and she took Pax. Remember how I said I didn't want people using my dog as a demo? Well, that still holds, but I made an exception because they weren't correcting the dogs -- just luring and modeling. She gaited him around, using the treats as a lure, and the put him back on the pause table and tried to lure him into a free stack. She seemed impressed with him. He was very willing -- maintained a lovely loose leash while she gaited him (most of the time, anyway) -- and tried to offer sits on the pause table. So funny.

I would definitely like to take the class, but I won't do it until I've already taught the behaviors. I don't want to confuse him by compelling him into performing behaviors he doesn't understand. I don't know anything about Curlies in the breed ring, so I've sent his breeder a few questions to get started.

Oh! I completely forgot to mention -- Rain and Pax have become friends. It's an absolute hoot to watch them play together. Rain barks and barks at him, and Pax either barks back or paws him in the face. Pax likes to get on top of the furniture, so he can look Rain in the eye when they play. Rain is still much larger, so when they get active, Pax spend a lot of time playing while safely hidden under the furniture. They are adorable!

I can't tell you what a wonderful dog Pax is. He is amazingly self-sufficient, taking himself out all the time now, except in the middle of the night. He is happy playing by himself too, and I can crate him without complaint while I run errands -- or so I can sleep later in the morning. We haven't been to field training yet, so I don't know how he'll react when he's crated and I'm in sight. He probably won't like that much.

Pax goes to his initial half-day at puppy daycare tomorrow. The daycare requires this of all new clients. I'm planning to put him in daycare one day a week starting next week. It will be great for his dog-dog socialization!

January 12, 2002

Pax went to half a day of puppy kindergarten yesterday. It went great! I stayed for a few minutes at the beginning to watch him meet some of the dogs. There were several pups and adolescents there, so he had quite a group to play with. I picked him up after lunch, and he was so tired, he fell asleep in the retail shop while I was paying for his daycare package. Jay was walking around the shop letting him check things out, and he found a dog bed on a bottom shelf. He crawled in and fell fast asleep -- one of the cutest things I've ever seen. He goes back to puppy kindergarten on Monday. I can't wait!


Today, Pax had his second puppy kindergarten class. Again, they teach differently than I would, so I'll tell you how I would do the things we talked about...

I forgot last week that Dana had told us to practice recalls while we were practicing name recognition. She encouraged us to play hide and seek and other neat recall games. I love those games, but I don't use my dog's name as a recall cue. I want his name to mean "Look at me." When we got there this week, we started with a little recall test. If you remember, there are at least 20 dogs in the class. So as we stood in line, I got Pax's attention and reinforced him. I found I was most successful when I had him facing me, and as the line moved forward, I walked backwards, calling Pax to a front sit, maintaining attention the whole time. Does that make sense? (I was facing the "wrong" way, so walking backwards moved me the same direction the line was going.) I was proud of him. He got distracted by the tight quarters and moving line, but once we figured this out, he was able to focus. When it was our turn, he practically flew to me and plopped into the cutest sit. What a champ!

Next, Dana went through and discussed different types of collars. She didn't discuss head halters at all, unfortunately. If you have a confirmed puller, or if you are in a situation where you can't give your dog your full attention or where a lunge might hurt the person on the opposite end of the leash, a head halter is a wonderful solution! They control pulling without the potential side-effects of chokes and prongs. Head halters work by giving you control of the dog's head. If he pulls, you can easily turn him and regain his attention, a reinforceable activity. I, personally, consider a head halter a management device to use while you teach your dog to walk on a loose leash. It does not teach your dog to walk correctly. Unfortunately, many people fail to fit and condition the head halter properly, and their dogs "hate" it.

I've never met a dog who truly liked wearing a head halter. However, that doesn't mean the dog has to hate it. Think back to when your dog was a pup. It didn't like its collar or the leash in the beginning either, did it? But as it got used to them, it accepted that they were things to be tolerated. Dogs can learn to tolerate head halters in much the same way.

When you first get the head halter, introduce it slowly and make putting it on a happy event. Go slowly…

  • See the head halter. Click and treat.
  • Head halter touches his body. Click and treat.
  • Head halter touches his head. Click and treat.
  • Head halter slips over his nose. Click and treat.

And so on, until you can put the halter on. If he's struggling, you're moving too fast.

Once you can put it on him, put it on and shovel yummy (tiny) treats for five seconds. Then take it off. When you take it off, do so without any fanfare -- all praise and treats stop when the head halter comes off. In the beginning keep your rate of reinforcement high enough that he doesn't have time to paw at his face. Over time, as he begins to accept it, you can begin delaying time between the treats.

Your attitude about the halter will have a lot to do with how your dog perceives it. If you hate using it and get tense and serious when you bring it out, of course your dog is going to be concerned. When you get out the head halter, act as though you've brought out your favorite party game. Be upbeat and happy. Let your dog know how lucky he is to get to wear the head halter!

Associate the head halter with every fun experience - not just walks. Dinner. Training. Games. Have your dog get "dressed" for the occasion! Do lots and lots of short, short sessions, so he'll form a positive association. When you do begin to venture outside, make sure to keep the rate of reinforcement high. Keep your pup moving, and keep the treats flowing. Don't give him a chance to worry about that weird thing on his face!

After that we talked about teaching dogs not to jump on people. Puppies greet adult dogs by licking their faces. When you bring your pup home, it's perfectly normal for him to jump up, trying hard to greet and elicit attention from you. When the dog is young, the jumping up is cute. Then the pup grows larger and stronger, and his exuberant greetings aren't as cute anymore. Unfortunately, every time the pup was acknowledged when he jumped, the behavior was reinforced -- and it continues to be reinforced every time he jumps now. Fortunately, even if your dog has a jumping habit, there is hope. Dogs jump to get attention. Therefore, teach them an alternative way to get the attention they want. Teach them to sit to be petted!

Start with your dog on leash. Go to a public place where people often want to pet your dog. When people approach, ask if they'll help you. The process is simple. Instruct the person to move forward and pet your dog when his rear is on the ground - and to stop petting and back away when he stands up. Your dog will quickly figure out that his behavior controls what happens.

Be proactive. We often get distracted and forget to cue the sit until the dog has already jumped. The dog quickly chains the behavior - jump, then sit. Instead, watch your dog. As soon as you see someone approaching, cue the sit. If he jumps, you weren't paying attention!

You can perform a similar exercise at home to teach doorway greetings. Does your dog mob you at the door? Stand outside the door and wait for your dog to sit. Reach for the doorknob, and begin to open the door. The moment he springs up, close the door and drop your hand. When he sits, start again. As long as he's sitting, proceed forward. If he stands up, back up. Do this every time you come home, and he will quickly choose to sit when you come in.

Use the same exercise to teach your dog to greet others at the door. Throw a beer, pizza, and dog training party. Tell your friends what you want them to do, and ask them to come in 15-minute intervals. When they arrive, have them ring the bell and go in and out five times, and then send them to the living room to enjoy beer, pizza, and conversation. By the end of the evening, your friends have had a great time, and your dog considers visitors to be no big deal!

But what about people who don't want to help? Not every visitor who comes to your house has time to help you train your dog. It's unrealistic to expect to train your dog when you're trying to deal with clients or carpenters or formal dinner guests. So don't! Set your dog up to succeed at those times by crating him or putting him in another room. Don't undo your training - or test your patience - by letting your dog reinforce himself by jumping.

How long will it take? Your dog will figure out what works in the current situation almost immediately. Lasting change depends on how ingrained the habit was and how much effort you put into training the new behavior consistently. The best way to solve the problem is to never let it start. If you have a new puppy, make a rule: No person may pet the puppy unless he is sitting or lying down. Then make sure to follow the rule!

Someone asked about free-play for the dogs, and Dana said there wouldn't be any in this class. That's okay with me because Pax is getting socialized in daycare (and other places). Let me give you my thoughts on dog-dog socialization... It's vital for your dog to bond with you and be well socialized and responsive to humans. However, no matter what you do, your dog will always be a dog. I don't believe it's fair to ask your dog to be anything less. So I think it's vital for dogs to be able to interact with their own kind. They have to learn to interact properly. They have to learn canine social rules and canine language -- and dogs that are never allowed to interact with other dogs once they leave their litter will not be able to do these things. That's why Pax is going to be in doggy daycare one day a week. I chose a daycare where the dogs are carefully observed and carefully taught how to interact with each other -- not just thrown in to "figure it out." Pax is already developing delightful dog skills. He is appropriate to older dogs and younger dogs alike, and as he grows, he will learn how to be appropriate at every age.

Does this mean that he will automatically know how to react to dogs when on leash? Of course not. I have to teach him when and how it's all right to interact with other dogs. There will be times when he will be required to ignore every dog around him. It's my job to teach him that too. But no matter what, he will get the chance to be a dog, first and foremost.

The last thing we talked about was teaching your dog to chew his toys and only his toys. I do this through simple redirection. Until my puppy is consistently choosing his own toys to chew on, I'm closely supervising him. If his mouth touches something I don't want him to chew -- and it will, because with young puppies everything is a chew toy -- I simply redirect him to his own toy. When he chews his own toys, I praise him and play with him. I make it fun for him to play with his own toys. Pax is pretty consistently playing with his own toys inside. If I make a mistake and let him chew on something he shouldn't, then I pay the price by having my things chewed up. It's my responsibility to puppy-proof the house. Yes, I understand that if you have kids, that's a challenge. Look at it this way -- if you don't manage the situation, you're setting your kids and your pup up to fail, by setting up a situation where one or both is doomed to get "punished." Is that what you want to do? Be proactive. Puppies can't chew what they can't get.

A couple of people in the class asked me about clicker training. The subject came up because Dana asked me for a clicker, and I mentioned to someone who asked that I was a clicker trainer. After class, I referred a couple of interested people to this Web site. My goal is not to steer people away from Dana and her methods. But I will provide information when asked, and Pax's behavior definitely speaks for itself. He was fabulous through the whole class -- doing sits, downs, and eye contact on cue. Someone commented that he was a calm puppy, and I had to smother a laugh. Pax is not a calm puppy. He's active and intense. But in class, I'm constantly reinforcing calm behavior. So guess what I get!!

Pax is exhausted now, and I'm off to lunch. Hopefully, we'll do some more training this afternoon.

January 17, 2002

Just wanted to give an update because I hadn't written in a while. This has been a lazy training week. I worked a bit on teaching Pax to stand up from a sit or down. Basically, what I've taught him is to target my hand -- and I'll probably continue using that as the cue for the behavior. I *hate* this behavior. If we weren't doing it in puppy class next week, I wouldn't even have considered doing it. It's completely useless in my training. It's different from a conformation stack, which is what I'll use later when I train things like "stand for exam." Other than the stand, we've just worked a bit on sit, down, and come -- just a bit though.

Pax got his second set of shots on Tuesday. He impressed the heck out of the vet staff because he was so focused and so calm and well-behaved. Well, that is, they were impressed until I pulled out my thoroughly-chewed credit card. Doh! Cover blown. The perfect puppy isn't perfect. They couldn't stop laughing. (Hey, it really is the only thing he has chewed up.)

He didn't feel well yesterday, but I don't think it was vaccination-related. His nose was a little runny last night, and this morning, the eye on the same side was red and oogie. I called the vet, wondering if maybe Pax had picked up an upper respiratory infection. He said to take his temperature and monitor his food intake and energy level today. Well, his temp was normal, he eats like a horse, and he was running, digging, chewing, biting, and being an otherwise normal puppy all day. His eye is still a little oogie, but it's not red anymore. I'm guessing it was just a little irritated by something. I'll keep an eye on it, and if it keeps being crusty, I'll run him into the vet.

Tomorrow is Friday. I'll need to hop back into his training again, so he'll be manageable at puppy class on Saturday. Loose leash walking, here we come! I really should have been working with him every day. Loose leash walking is such a tough concept for dogs. It would be easier on him if he had short, frequent lessons to teach him the concept.

I've been working on training plans for his various behaviors. They aren't finished yet -- I haven't been able to devote a lot of time to them, because I'm in deadline hell with my book. My final deadline is next week. I'm planning to get more serious with his training then, when I can work on the records and get everything carefully planned.

January 19, 2002

Pax had his third puppy kindergarten class today. He was more distracted and energetic than he was the last two weeks. I thought he might be. I put him to bed about nine last night, and I didn't get up and ready until nine this morning. That's a long time! He ran and played until we had to leave, but in class I essentially asked him to sit still for an hour and a half. That's a lot to ask of a 14-week-old puppy.

We started by talking about stays. Dana uses the opposition reflex to teach stays. She puts the dog in a sit and then pulls up on the leash, praising the dog for resisting. This is the opposition reflex -- the natural "You pull, I'll pull back" or "You push, I'll push back" tendency. I use the opposition reflex some too, though I don't use the leash. (I'm trying to teach loose leash!) Dana lumps duration and distance. I split them up, teaching duration first.

I start by simply delaying the click a second -- or a half second, if that's all the duration my dog will offer. When I'm consistently getting a second, I wait two seconds. I gradually increase the time before the click until the dog will remain in that position for 10-15 seconds. At that point, I begin varying the specific amount of time the dog has to stay, using times chosen around a median time. I teach distance similarly, starting with a single step away.

I haven't begun adding duration to Pax's behaviors. He's more than ready for it, but I've been trying to meet a deadline. Duration is definitely next on the agenda. It would be nice if I could get both basic duration and some distance added before class next week. I don't, by the way, do a lot with sit-stays with young pups. It takes time for them to build the muscles to maintain a tight sit, and sit-stays at a young age promote a sloppy sit.

Next, we worked on position changes -- sit, down, and stand. Dana taught these using lures. I prefer to capture -- except for stand, which for Pax is basically "target my hand." (I hate stand.) Everyone practiced those for five or ten minutes while Dana walked around the room.

The second half of class was spent watching a John Rogerson video called "The Dominant Dog." The content was pretty good -- Rogerson is excellent. I just cringe when the whole dominance issue comes up. Does it exist? Absolutely!! This article will give you some great information about dominance. Packs very definitely have a hierarchy. (Guess what -- so do human packs.) But I don't find dominance theory helpful when dealing with problem behaviors. Define the problem, and determine what you want the dog to do instead. Rather than dominant, I find most dogs to be opportunistic. They want something, and they figure out a way to get it. Their owner plays along, reinforcing the behavior, and then later decides they want the dog to do something different. When what he used to do doesn't get him what he wants, the dog escalates his behavior. The owner gives in -- lesson learned (and problem created). I have to laugh -- I watch human children play those same games, but people don't label them dominant. Spoiled, perhaps. But not dominant.

Anyway, the video had basically good information. It explains how owners can control resources to establish the roles in the household. It concentrates on four potential problem areas -- food, sleeping/resting areas, toys, and grooming. The solutions were fairly gentle, but more time, in my opinion, should have been spent explaining how to prevent the problems from ever happening. By being proactive, you can avoid a ton of problems AND make puppyhood easy and clear for your pup.

  • Food. Feed meals -- don't free feed. Ask your pup to sit before you place the food bowl down. Occasionally pick the food bowl up and put something yummy in it to teach your pup that letting humans handle his dish results in great things happening. Sit near your pup occasionally when he eats. Pet him and offer him something yummy. Again, you're teaching him that humans near food bowls mean great things.
  • Sleeping/resting areas. My pup sleeps in a crate next to my bed. That's so he's secure and so I'll hear him if he needs to go out. It also sets him up to succeed by preventing him from chewing during the night. When he gets older and more reliable, he'll be allowed to sleep loose in the bedroom and then anywhere in the house. He doesn't sleep on the bed, but that's not a dominance thing. I'm afraid I'll roll over on him or he'll fall off and get hurt. When he can jump up and down, he can choose to sleep on the bed if he wants. However, I teach a formal on and off cue. If I want him to get off, he will get off. Same goes for the furniture -- he is allowed up when and where he wants, but when I want him off, he gets off. Simple and clear!
  • Toys. I let the dogs keep and play with their toys. However, we do object exchanges, so they are comfortable with me taking something from them -- even something valuable like a raw marrow bone. I also play tug of war, and <gasp> even let my dog win sometimes!! LOL. I also train an "out" -- I teach my dog to drop toys on cue.
  • Grooming. To me, grooming includes being brushed, having nails trimmed, letting me (or a vet or groomer) handle his face, ears, mouth, and paws, and relaxing when being restrained. These are basic husbandry behaviors, and the dog has to be taught to accept them. They simply aren't natural behaviors. (Trust me, social grooming doesn't approach this!) Teach your pup now -- and make it really reinforcing and fun. Go slowly, reinforcing for accepting single strokes, single touches. Then build.

I must admit, there were a couple of things that amused me to no end in the video. At the beginning, Rogerson gave some examples of things that dominant dogs do -- like try to claim the prime resting areas, steal toys and hide them to chew on them, and train their owners to feed them on demand. Sounds like perfectly natural puppy behaviors to me! Pax does all of those things. In fact, he's quite a hoot with my favorite chair. Every time I get up, he sneaks in. He doesn't get to keep it though!!

January 26, 2002

I'm back!! Sorry for the week-long gap in the diary. Worse, it's been a week-long gap in Pax's training. Actually, I haven't done much with him in the last three weeks -- and it really shows! He is less responsive to me because I have been letting him entertain himself most of the time. That's exactly what I don't recommend you do with your pups. Spend time with them -- a few minutes many times a day. That will keep them much more focused on you, and it will keep you cognizant of what they're doing all the time. When you're not watching, you're forcing yourself to be reactive, not proactive.

So why have I been neglecting my baby? Real life interfered. I had a critical deadline this week, and I needed to be heads down for the last couple of weeks in order to meet it. (See -- I'm a real person dealing with real-life distractions too.) I made a choice -- I spent more time on my work and less time with my puppy. Now I have to face the consequences of my decision. I met my deadline, but my pup slid a few steps backwards in his training. That's okay -- I just have to buckle down.

With that in mind, I have created general training plans for each behavior I'm currently concentrating on. You can see them here.

Today was Pax's fourth puppy kindergarten class. Have I mentioned lately how much I like Dana, Pax's teacher? She's a really nice, genuine person, and I really, really appreciate her letting me use my own methods (discretely) in her class. She's very supportive and not at all judgmental. I know there are times she wants to handle a situation with Pax differently than I do, but she never interferes. I really, really like her.

We had a dusting of snow last night, and it was below freezing, so I left plenty early in case there was ice on the road. We got to class almost half an hour early. It was really nice because the building was almost empty. We took advantage of the space and practiced our loose-leash walking. He did so well! He's not even close to perfect, but he's really catching on. (My husband had to potty him on leash when he picked him up at doggy daycare this week, and he commented how good Pax was on leash. That's nice to hear!)

Turns out my practice was fortuitous -- we worked on loose leash walking this week. My method of teaching loose leash walking is explained here. During the practice portion of the class, I stayed in a corner and reinforced Pax for gorgeous sits in heel position. The room was too chaotic for me to want to walk him around -- I want him to succeed!

The second half of class, we talked about feeding our pups. I love how she did this section! First, she talked about bloat and encouraged people to give their pups an hour of quiet time after every meal. Good advice (though I don't do it myself). (Bad me.) Next, she took out labels from different brands of dog food and went over the ingredients. As she explained, corn is often one (or more) of the first three ingredients. Dogs don't digest corn well -- it's added to firm up what comes out the other end. Avoid corn-based dog food!! She also talked about the horrible preservatives (like ethoxyquin) that are found in some dog foods. After explaining what to look for in the list of ingredients -- few ingredients, meat first, all recognizable "real" foods -- she talked about a raw diet, which is what Pax gets. (Dana feeds a mix of kibble and raw.) Somewhere in an earlier part of my puppy diary, there's a link to more info on raw diets. I strongly encourage you to consider feeding raw!

Before I go, I want to share some pictures I took over the past couple of weeks but hadn't gotten around to uploading.

Jan. 13, 2002. Pax tries to play tug-of-war with me and Rain.
This was actually very funny, because Pax stuck his head in the middle
and licked Rain's face. Poor Rain wasn't sure what to do.
Pax and Rain play tug together now -- and it's adorable!

Jan. 15, 2002. Pax sitting nicely at the vet's office.
We've had several trips to the vet, and I'm always sure to take lots of treats.
He is so relaxed there now and is always happy to earn pets from other clients
and staff by performing his "tricks." He's so relaxed, he invariably
falls asleep on the exam table while Dr. S. and I chat.

Jan. 19, 2002. Remember my story about my favorite chair? Pax sneaks in whenever I get up.

Jan. 19, 2002. Most of the time, he has to snuggle with me 'cause I'm there first!

Jan. 24, 2002. He's getting too big to cuddle with me, so he has found a comfortable compromise!
Sometimes he's on the arm or back of the chair, sleeping with his head on my shoulder.

Last comment for the day -- Pax is just pretending to be a dog. He's actually a monkey! The furniture in my house is a jungle gym for him. I looked up the other day, and he was walking down the back of the sofa. He goes over or under rather than around most of the time. He's incredibly agile and doesn't have a fearful bone in his body. He's going to be an amazing agility dog!

January 27, 2002

Snow day! Okay, it was only two inches, but it's the first snow this year here in the city. (There has been a TON of snow in the mountains -- it's a fantastic ski year.) It was one of Pax's first snows -- he saw one in New York -- so I got the video camera out.

January 31, 2002

Just a quick wrap-up for the month. For me personally, it was a good month -- I met some key deadlines. Unfortunately, I neglected Pax for a great deal of the month. Pax did remarkably well despite that though. A quick summary of his progress on key puppy issues...

  • Bite inhibition. He has such a soft mouth. I'm so pleased with that. The next task will be to decrease the frequency of his mouthing. Since he is a retriever and by nature mouthy, I expect that will be a harder task than decreasing the intensity of his bite.
  • Jumping and nipping. This is one of our biggest challenges. I am not at all consistent with dealing with it, though when I do, he is wonderful. There are actually two separate issues. One is jumping and nipping while when we walk by, especially if we have something in our hands. This problem is the easiest to deal with. I can call him to sit in heel position and then use my finger as a target and use praise to encourage him to walk in heel position. The second problem is an explosion of mouthing when he's over-excited. Ignoring doesn't work because he'll bite clothing, legs, front, back, anything available. The best way to handle this is to stuff a tug toy in his mouth. Tug and retrieve are his favorite games, and one will generally redirect him.
  • Loose leash walking. His biggest success! God, he is so improved. I especially noticed last time we went to the training building and last time we went to PetSmart. In both cases, we were able to walk from the car to the building without him getting distracted more than once. Wow! That's really impressive, I think. The secret, of course, is consistency. He has never, ever been allowed to succeed at pulling. If I'm in a situation where I can't work with him, I pick him up and carry him. Otherwise, I stop as soon as he wanders in front of me, and I don't start moving again until he is back in heel position. (And he has the cutest sit-at-heel.)
  • Sit, down, and stand. Considering how little I've worked on these behaviors in the past weeks, he does remarkably well with these. The behaviors are basically on cue, but I haven't done any proofing exercises. Thus he occasionally anticipates the cue or offers a sit when I ask for a down (and vice versa). We haven't worked on duration or distance at all -- those are next on the agenda, and I need to get started!
  • Socialization. This dog doesn't have a truly fearful bone in his body. He's a bit cautious with people who loom over him or reach out suddenly, but he warms up quickly. He's not at all fearful of other animals or novel situations. He's much loved in daycare because he's so appropriate with all the dogs (and people). I need to get him out to places where we can meet lots of people. He needs work on sitting to be petted. Because he's a little reticent, I let people offer him food just for approaching, so he doesn't get the reinforcement for sitting to be petted. Then, when he gets comfortable, he tends to gently rise up on his back feet. Sigh.
  • Housebreaking. An amazing success. We had an "accident" a couple of days after Christmas -- I heard Pax go out the dog door, come back in, then he came over and peed right next to me. I was shocked! I went and looked and realized how dark it was outside. I turned on the outside light, and we haven't had an incident like that since. (It really isn't unusual for a young puppy to be afraid of the dark like that.) That was our last accident. He takes himself in and out through the dog door, and if I close the door, he scratches on it when he needs to go out. Nighttime is equally successful. I bring him downstairs around four, let him go out, feed him breakfast, then pop him in his downstairs crate with a marrow bone while I catch a few more hours sleep. It works well for us!
  • Chewing. I'm sure he would get into things if left unsupervised, but he's set up to succeed. During the day, I'm home and he's free. I close the dog door, because he gets muddy, brings in sticks and leaves, and strews gravel everywhere if he's allowed to play outside unsupervised. (We play together outside.) He amuses himself inside, and sticks almost entirely to his toys. He doesn't chew furniture or anything like that -- his vice is laundry. We just make sure to keep our bedroom door shut. He'll go through more chewing phases when he begins teething and then in adolescence when he has more energy than he knows what to do with. In the meantime, I'm going to continue building the chew-your-toys habit I want him to have.

Well, that's it. He's an absolute love, no matter how you look at it. I'll post a picture of him tomorrow, taken like the one from January first, so you can see how much he has grown.


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