Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Adding fuel to the fire

In response to an earlier entry (Day 127) a writer, who didn't even have the courage of her convictions enough to actually sign the post, criticizes even the thought of having a toddler and dog(s)loose in a large room. Mz. Anonymous appears to feel that any human under the age of 10 must never be exposed to a dog at all. At least that was the way I read what was written.

The exact quote goes like this,
Shocking disregard for the child's safety and that is where the statistics for child dog bites originates--with the adult supervising, or not supervising.

My first reaction was HUH? After several more reads, I reached the conclusion that Mz. Anonymous is actually one of those poor souls who was raised in total isolation of animals until she was past age 10 and now finds herself fearful when faced with a situation she doesn't understand. I'm sorry for her, but that is not a sufficient reason for me to discontinue teaching something that I consider to be of extreme importance.

To wit: young animals need to learn how to behave and get along, not only with their own species but with other species. In this case, the toddler and the pup both learned a lesson that will stick with them for the rest of their lives. Both will need several reminders over the next few months to insure a permanent memory. Those training sessions will be dutifully arranged.

Second point to note. There were actually three loose dogs in the training studio along with one loose toddler and two very attentive adults. Each dog brought something special to the lesson. Wrap, (Doberman)semi-retired and an old hand at toddler training and puppy training, lounged on her couch until needed to help with the teaching. Rosie,the black and white Armenian street dog,with me as a board and train had clearly told me she would be steady and stable around a toddler. Then of course, there was Sanity. At six months and counting, she is still seeing everything as new and interesting.

The first game of tug was between my two. As Wrap and Sanity began to play tug they also began to do that Doberman thing called talking. These growly noises are a pretty good indication of just how intense the game is becoming. So, I have always insisted that it be played silently. When silent, they don't any of them seem to be able to go beyond a low level of intensity. This low level keeps the game a game and never allows it to spiral out of control. It is a behavior that MUST be taught, since it doesn't appear to come naturally to the dogs. So be it. I teach it.

Unfortunately, to those with no dog savvy, it seems to look and sound like a fight. Which is exactly what Baby Jake's mother thought was happening. I hushed her. Downed the dogs and stepped between Baby Jake and all the dogs. Why? Because once again, he was going to rush in, fists raised and feet attempting to kick, all the while screaming. Notice here, I used the down command to control the dogs while I physically stepped between dogs and child. If you don't have a reliable down command then this is not the time to worry about teaching one.

Tug game put on hold, toddler diverted to another activity and mother lectured on the dangers of telling her child the dogs are fighting. Even if they are fighting, there are much safer ways of moving the child out of the way. Gee, how about a game of fetch?
Need I tell you that didn't last long either. He became intrigued with trying to throw the toy into the mirror. Ain't kids wonderful when they are two?

When going into a training session of this type it is critical to remember this is not the time to be trying to introduce a new command. It is not the time to be trying to proof a just learned command. This is the time when you take the commands that are truly basic to living and begin to use them in real life ways that are set up to help the dog learn responsibility and taking control of maintaining their own emotions or behaviors. The sit and the down commands are wonderful as stop action commands. The come command removes the dog from the problem area while teaching that it is acceptable to "run away" some of the time. The place command, in this case morphed into a go to bed command makes it possible to sent one or more dogs to an out of the way location while you are focusing on the remaining dog. One more time, I stress that this is not the time to begin to teach the commands nor is it the time to begin the proofing part of the training. The dogs must know the commands cold before you even consider starting the toddler or small child part of the training.

Day 132

Wednesday. I didn't write a single note on what happened this day. Now here I sit trying desperately hard to remember. All I remember is a work session in the yard that was mixed with a lesson for Rosie and her owner with Sanity helping to set the tone and Jersey trying super hard to take Sanity's place. It was rather humbling for me as I recall. Perhaps that is why I am having a hard time remembering.

Dog training. Training a dog to do a specific thing that you want and maybe the dog doesn't want or at least has little to no interest in doing on its own. It has always seemed to be so easy. I actually don't ever remember a time when I couldn't do it. Well actually, I started out learning this training stuff by training a cat, and then some goldfish and then another cat. I actually did manage to get the first cat to walk on a leash, come when called, use the toilet (I hate litterboxes) and turn on the faucet in the bathroom sink for fresh water. The toilet trick got me in trouble because my brothers would forget to put the seat down or my mother would close the lid. Either way the toilet would become unavailable to my cat and she would then default to the bathtub and do her best to hit the drain hole. The water turn on thing got me in big trouble with my father, since in one house it ran the well dry and in the next house it ran the water bill through the roof. Oops.

Then came the goldfish. I was feeding them this wafer type fish food and noticed they would all swim to the surface when my hand started to put the food in the bowl. So I started holding the food a little bit above the level of the water. It wasn't long before I had two of the three fish jumping up to grab the food. I just keep on working with them and before the summer was over I had the two jumping out of the water and over a pencil and back into the water on the other side. Then I would feed them. One of my brothers decided he would do the same thing when I wasn't around and jumped the two fish out of the bowl, on to the floor where he proceeded to leave them to die. A week later the city came through spraying DDT like they used to do in the summer and bang, the third fish was dead. So much for my stint as a marine trainer. I went back to cats, cause that was all that was available at the time.

The next cat never did learn to use the toilet. I started to early and she fell in, pulling the lid shut as she fell. She never would have anything to do with toilets after that. I did get her to turn on the water in the sink and that is when I found out just how bad an idea that is. See, by then I was paying my own water bill, ouch. Best of all I taught her to retrieve a sock filled with crumpled up cigarette packages. All this time what I really wanted was a dog.

So I say to this student, its easy. You just break it down into small pieces. Train all the small pieces and then start putting the pieces together to get what you want. The real trouble is that most people can't see the big piece much less all the little pieces that come together to make that big piece. So after working on come and sit and saying, "never mind heel or stay, because you still don't have come or sit"; I realized we needed to go in the house for a lesson in seeing. And so we did.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Day 131

Tuesday. Started out the day with the usual stuff. Training mixed with yard work. Sadly my elbow as bothering me so much that while the dogs got worked the yard never did get finished.

After a rest, Sanity and I headed out to run some errands. Office Depot as our first stop would have been just a routine store but for the sliding automatic doors. Sanity thought they were quite interesting and from her behavior I'm willing to bet that one of these days, when she gets a chance I will catch her playing with a set of automatic doors. I remember when Wrap almost managed to get us both in trouble because she was playing with the automatic doors at a motel we were staying in. But that is another story.

The real kicker happened at, of all places or maybe not, Petco. I asked for help to carry a bag of food to the car. The cretin who was ordered to help me, just couldn't keep her hands off Sanity. Mind you I am not talking about a quick, sneak pat or two. Nope. I am talking about both hands on her and pulling back from the shoulders to the hips. Sanity just stayed focused on being beside me and didn't even turn her head.

I, on the other hand, all but freaked out. Here I am pointing to the symbol on the vest. And she says to me, "What's dat fur?"

"It means do not pet", says I.

"How cum?", says the person.

I point to the patch that says,

And as she is trying to reach Sanity to fondle her some more she says, "What's dat mean?"

Meanwhile, in the store the person who told her she had to help me is bent almost double with laughter. Realizing there was way more going on that meets the eye, I figured it would be best to just continue to block her hands and insist she pick up the bag of food, while at the same time getting Sanity loaded in the car and out of harm's way. So I took the coward's way out and "ran away". I really hate that store.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Day 130

Monday and Sanity is 7 months old today. The weather sure has nothing to do with the calendar. It was warm all day. So much so that I was able to teach and train outside and didn't even have to wear a coat. They say the same will be true tomorrow at least until the rains come. What a treat.

In the retrieving department, we continue to work on the six foot placed retrieve and I am finally starting to see some of the reactions I look for. She is now lunging toward the dumbbell as I place it. When I place it behind the leg of a chair or under the chair she is getting out there and figuring out how to reach the dumbbell and then how to get it in her mouth and back to me FAST. This is another one of those times when wanting to move forward with the retrieve material will only cause problems later on. So we continue to make haste slowly.

A former client and student of mine just passed away and Sanity and I went to the funeral home for the viewing. Wonder why they call it a viewing? It has always seemed to me that it would be better to call it a farewell. Anyway, we went with Pam who is a sometimes student and I like to think is always a good friend. Because of the circumstances surrounding this event there were quite a few assistance dogs present. All the dogs had been trained by the organization I founded all those years ago.

About Sanity.

She was great. She is getting much better at adjusting her speed to mine. It isn't so much that she takes shorter steps, it is more a case of her taking a couple of steps and stopping, then taking a couple more steps and stopping. I know it is hard for her to do, so I don't require close heeling for very long before giving her a break. Her behavior was every bit as good as that of each and every adult assistance dog present. Not one single person wanted to believe that she is only seven months old and that is seven months as of today. She was doing tight heeling, fast, straight sits and immediate downs in very hot, crowded conditions with several strange dogs present. Not too shabby.

After leaving the funeral home we stopped at Chipotle's. Mind you, I like good TexMex food. I don't consider Chipotle's to be in that category. However, since it is run cafeteria style and since that was something that was on Sanity's "Things To Do" list, I said, "sure, let's go."

The table was dirty. The floor was cold and dirty. So okay, its true;I did pick the table. I picked the table because I could put Sanity back in the corner and not have to worry about some fool sneaking up behind her and doing who knows what. I picked it because there was food on the floor and I wanted to work on food refusal. I also picked it because I want Sanity to begin to have more choices.

Dirty, cold, hard, drafty floor equals staying right beside me, while at the same time a down becomes optional. She didn't down at all the entire time we were there. However, she did keep her nose away from the table even though it was at exactly the right height to use as a nose rest and do some begging at the same time. She kept her nose off the floor and rejected the temptation to suck up all the bits and pieces of food scattered around her feet.

All in all I don't think I had to tap the button a half a dozen times as a reminder. At the rate she is soaking up knowledge she is going to be off the ecollar and doing independent work by the time she is a year of age. Pretty impressive stuff and just one more reason why I like starting them early. Actual corrections are very rare these days. Only light reminder taps are needed and then they don't happen often.

I continue to think she is small. Others continue to insist she is large. Could it be that I think she is small because she is light on her feet and very compliant of my wishes? Could it be that others think she is big because she behaves more like how they envision an adult dog behaving? Maybe the real truth is that she is exactly the size a good Doberman should be, medium.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Day 129

Sunday. Slow, quiet and lazy. Of course this means that by evening Sanity was starting to drive me insane. She was just one twitching muscle that went from getting in trouble for first one thing and then another.

Some how I am beginning to get the feeling that Sanity does NOT like Sundays at all. By bed time this is pretty much what my living room floor looks like. Mind you, she is not interested in playing with any of the toys. Her main interest is in dragging them all out and arranging them in some sort of artful design around the room. Guess that is actually an improvement over what Wrap used to do at the same age. She used to re-arrange all the furniture and the rugs in the living room. But that was a different house and there was way, way more space.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Day 128

The most important thing that Sanity did today was to work beside me in the front yard. I have a sometimes student who has a six month old Doberman male. This owner just doesn't seem to "get it". She took a total of three lessons back in September and then was too busy to continue with her training. Notice I said "her training". Since I last saw her she has been working overtime on one task. That task is the one of pulling. Yes, she went from longe line to six foot leash without bothering to lay enough of a foundation and in the process exchanged a pleasant walk for a lesson in pulling as hard as physically possible.

I figured the best way to get a crack in the fence that was blocking learning was to train outside the fence, and so we did. Owner with dog on a 15' longe line and ecollar, Sanity wearing nothing but her ecollar. While we were out there the heavy trucks whizzed past the house at about 35mph and one long freight train thundered by. Over and over again, Sanity and I showed the owner how to stop walking, tap, call, praise, start over again. By the end of the session Sanity was beginning to glare at the owner and I think she felt sorry for the dog. Yes, they left having managed to walk from one side of the yard to the other without any pulling and with the dog more or less on the left side and sort of watching. Believe me, that was a major accomplishment and I think it went as well as it did all because of Sanity.

Late afternoon found us at the home of the very same niece who visited us yesterday. So how come there are no pictures? Easy. We did our homework far too well. Neither child nor pup were the least bit interested in each other. There was no fear. There was no curiosity. There was just plain no interest. They sort of acknowledged each other when we first walked into the house and after that it was almost as if each could no longer even see the other. Interesting response.

The other interesting thing was the difficultly I had in convincing those present that Sanity was only 6 months old. Granted, she will be 7 months old in just a couple more days, but I just couldn't stop myself from milking her super behavior for all it was worth. After all, it was her first time going to someone else's home. It was her first indoor human party. It was her first time in the house of another dog. Yes, there was another dog there. A totally ancient Pug, who took one look at Sanity, snorted and walked away. Sanity was very careful to never get in said Pug's way or even make eye contact. Her canine manners were every bit as impeccable as her manners when around humans. Good girl! Good girl, indeed.

So my niece says to me, "how come Smusy doesn't mind your dogs and hate any other dog that come here?" Me: "Most likely the other dogs had bad manners." What else could I say?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Day 127

The day after Thanksgiving presented a perfect opportunity to get in some "little kid" training. My niece came over for a visit with her two and a half year old son. Now in my book neither toddler nor puppy belong in the living room and so we headed for the training studio with its open space and room to play or learn or better yet, get in a good dose of both.

I am pretty much not able to stop training or teaching so Baby Jake and his mother joined Sanity, Wrap,one of my board and train dogs and myself in an interesting couple of hours. It actually wasn't until I got a chance to look carefully at the pictures taken that I realized just how valuable the time was in terms of teaching/learning for all the young ones.

If you have ever wondered why children under the age of 5 have more face bites than any other age group, just take a look at this picture. For starters, this is not a "cute" snapshot.
What I saw was a young dog totally unsure as to how to react to the human in front of her. Take a look at her ears, level of her head and her neck extension and then realize that the blur around her tail tells you she was wagging it.

The child has a very threatening expression on his face and he was making very angry sounds. He has inclined his body forward in a rather combative pose and just after this picture was snapped his left arm came up in preparation to what? I really don't know because I had already taken the necessary steps to defuse the situation and move them both on to other things.

What is even more interesting to me is that so far, in showing this picture to a diverse group of people not a single one realized just how serious a problem this little snippet of time could have become. It didn't. Instead it was turned into a good learning experience for mother, child and pup. And yes, it was even a good learning experience for me, since I actually hadn't realized just how lacking in basic animal savvy our population has become.

What did I do? Is that what I hear all of you asking? Simple, I called Sanity to me. Great use of the come command, gave me a chance to praise her and at the same time showed her she could walk away from a situation like that one.

In this next picture I am working on teaching Baby Jake how to hold a tug toy and offer it to a dog without getting bit. Notice how I have my finger hooked in Sanity's collar? By placing my hand in that position it is easy for me to feel what Sanity is planning on doing and at the same time it is easy for me to help her maintain her emotional control without being overpowering about it.
With Baby Jake, the major problem was to get him to hold the rope still and at the same time to keep his fingers back far enough to stay out of teeth range. Success did happen and Baby Jake and Sanity did get to play a few super short games of "tug". My goal with Sanity was to begin teaching her to pull gently when she is playing with a very small and/or young person.

In my general training plan, today was one of the most important of all training days. Good things were learned all the way around.

Footnote: I have no choice but to use the name "Baby" Jake since I am dealing with one human and four dogs all sharing the same name. I sure hope that the popularity of the name Jake abates well before this Baby Jake is old enough to understand what is going on in the name department.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Day

Everyone is always asking me what goes on here on a day that is a holiday, so these pictures give something of an idea. We got up this morning to a cold, dreary day, damp and still, the sort of day where first I have to all but "beat them out with a stick" just to get the dogs to go out in the first place. Then because it is cold, damp and grey no one can rest. The very weather itself conspires to force everyone to keep moving, keep active. Sure doesn't take long before they are all ready to head back in the house and take a long nap.

This first picture I call "Waiting for Godot". In weather like this I see a single dog in this pose pretty much all the time. They never share the platform when they are doing this particular activity.
This is just a general shot of the yard. Not all the dogs made it into the picture, but it does give some idea of just how they have to stay active in order to stay warm. Oh, how I hate it when the leaves are all gone, the trees are bare for another year and I feel so "exposed" to the rest of the world.
The next couple of shots are of one of the Rosies who happen to be here this weekend. There were actually three shots, one sitting, one stretching and one standing. She had been watching everyone else and finally decided to join in the activities. The shot of her sitting is missing because for some reason or another I couldn't get a single one of them to upload. Actually, uploading pictures the past couple of days has been a real PIA.

Here you can sort of get an idea of what Rosie was watching.

Study this shot. In it you see the Weimaraner and the big PoodleX stalking each other while at the same time Dobermans, Jersey and Sanity are in full pursuit of each other and just barely visible on the right hand side Wrap looks on with some disgust.

A short break is almost always guaranteed to get someone in trouble for either digging in an unapproved area or chewing on an unapproved object.
Even thought it is hard to see in the picture the object of their attention happens to be a ball and the problem they were having was what they were going to do with said ball. Carry it around, or bury it. Bury it or carry it around? Finally they just gave it up as a hopeless task and moved on to other things.
A serious game of "King of the Mulch Pile" was just about to start when I shot this picture. He really did seem to think he was guarding the mulch pile from a major take-over.
As you can see, in the following pictures the Mulch Pile Guardian was totally unsuccessful in preventing a take-over.

Finally there were small groups of two or three dogs at various points all over and around the Mulch Pile and they were all vying for the top spot.

The scuffle continues to rage.
It is beginning to look as if the tallest dog will rule this day.
Sanity took one last shot at the ruling position and lost her bid. For today, tall rules.

They all came in and took a long nap and then went back outside for another shorter play time. It was much colder and windy. Then in for dinner. Dinner was special since I cooked up a large pot of chicken pieces, cleaned the meat and skin off the bones and using the resulting broth cooked up a pot of rice. The chicken and rice with the additional broth got blended together and that became the major part of everyone's dinner. I sure didn't have any complaints about the food.

So you now have the highlights of what happens around here on what is a holiday for everyone else.

Happy Turkey Day to one and all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Day 125

The day before Thanksgiving and the holiday boarders have already started pouring in. It is windy and quite cold outside and none of the dogs are really happy about being out. So this promises to be another of those days when I spend a great part of my time as the doorkeeper. In. Out. In. Out.

During one of the outs, I discovered I am starting to have a problem with part of the fence. Well, actually Sanity discovered the problem.
Seems a small tree that I thought was growing on the other side of the fences, is actually growing between the two fences. I will have to have the stockade removed, the tree cut down and then the stockade replaced. Bummer. I hate having to cut a single healthy tree, but I really do have to have double fencing in this area. So, byebye tree come spring.

Just general training done today. All little work on come, sit, down, stand and of course the ever present fetch.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Day 124

I have decided that I am nuts, even by my own standards. For some reason, I up and decided that Sanity was ready to take the next big step. And so without any more thought on the matter, off we went to the GROCERY STORE on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. She was great. I only needed to get a few items which meant we weren't there very long. Oh how I wish I had taken a camera with me (as well as someone to use it).

Going into the store we had to pass a full size mechanical Santa, doing the hand waving, ho ho ho thing. I thought her eyes would pop right out of her head. Then we actually entered the store and she really wanted to climb on the lower rack of the cart and ride. Now I realize that for some behavior like that might seem to show a lack of courage or something. I know better with this pup. She was hoping to ride so she would be better able to watch everything at once and not have to worry about where she walked.

As it was, I sort of lost track of the number of times she walked into me because she was so busy staring at something new. Or the number of times she tried to walk backwards so she could keep on watching something that was interesting to her. Me? Oh, I just keep on walking at my slow, plodding pace and she just had to manage. By the time I was finished with my shopping she had pretty much managed to get it together and stay right where she is supposed to be beside the cart.

Besides the crowd, I really hadn't expected to run into senior citizens who were suddenly energized to actually run after me. They all wanted to pet the dog. Mind you this is in the middle of the store and Sanity is struggling to hold it together and maintain some decorum. No way was I about to let anyone interrupt her concentration. Guess that means I am mean or something, because I just kept on saying, "no, sorry, she is just learning how to work" and "no, you can't pet her she is working" and "thank you for saying she is pretty, but no you still can't pet her".

Yeah, that was the other thing I had forgotten. Tuesdays is Senior's day at the grocery store and they bring them in by the busload.

I promise I will get a picture of her in her super cute, homemade sweatsuit. I realize that it was the fact she was wearing the sweatsuit as much as anything else that caused all the attention. Doesn't matter, there is no way I am going to require her to work naked when it is cold outside. If I need a coat, I figure she does too. She is pretty good about standing and helping put it on. Taking it off was a whole different ballgame. Some how she managed to get both her front legs in the same pant leg. It was pretty funny and we did manage to get it sorted out.

The retrieve continues to hang at the 6' placed level and no way is she ready to start adding different articles as yet. Slow but steady will win the day.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Day 123

Hung out with the Newfies this morning. They thought her clothing was pretty strange and managed to get it totally slimly. Sanity's clothing consisted of a sweatsuit I originally made for Wrap when Wrap was a puppy. Since they are no longer making sweatsuits like this anymore and since all the original ones have pretty much seen better days, it looks as if I will have to get busy and carefully tear one of the old ones apart, make a pattern and then make some new ones.

The tear apart, make a pattern and make a new one was how the puppy sweatsuit came into being to begin with when I realized I couldn't buy a new one for Wrap. Pictures will follow in a couple of days.

Class went well. She is definitely lunging for the dumbbell when it is placed at the 6 foot point. So I know we are slowly making progress.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Day 122

Sunday. Other than working a bit on the retrieve we didn't do a single blasted useful thing all day. I hate cold weather and cold, rainy weather is even worse. End of whine.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Day 121

Totally yucky day for me. Luckily I didn't have any students other than my Saturday assistance and the "Doberman Gang". At one point, we tried to take pictures of Sanity and Leda to show the difference in size between the two of them. Much to my surprise, Sanity is no longer so much smaller than her sister.

The pictures did point out two other things. Sanity isn't doing such a poor job of learning the stand and she really is growing. I am just not used to a pup who grows at such an even rate. She just seems to stay in correct proportions all the time. Makes it hard to see the growth when everything is even all the time.

Now this picture really surprised me. I was so sure that Sanity was at least a couple of inches shorter than Leda. This pose was set up to show just that difference. Funny how you are hard pressed to even see Leda is on the other side. Guess Sanity isn't so short after all.

So I sez, well Leda is thicker. Meaning she has more bone and to prove that we set up this picture. Nope, wrong again.

Ok, so not being one to give up we tried to set them up in a line. Trouble was that by the time we got this far, Leda was totally fed up with the entire business and insisting we do something else. It was at this point that I conceded on the size issue and realized that Sanity is doing a pretty fair job of handling the stand. Gag, in taking a last look at this one, I realize I really should have cropped my fat belly out of the picture. Ah well, maybe later.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Day 120

Friday. And just what sort of training did you do today?

Nothing. Nada. Not one single, blasted, tiny, little bit of training managed to get done today.

I hate cold weather. Went out to start training three different times and decided it was too cold. I wasn't dressed properly. Then, finally, I was dressed properly and I had on so many sweaters, vests, coat, hat, gloves that I could hardly move. On second thought, all the younger dogs learned that you DO NOT attempt to remove gloves from the cold hand that is trying to pet you.

Guess it is time to move the training inside again. UCK! I don't know how people who live in colder climes survive. My dream would be to be able to head for the Southern Hemisphere in November and then head for the Northern Hemisphere in March or April. That way I could just chase summer all year long. Sanity thinks that would be a fine idea.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Day 119

This morning I tested Sanity with the 6 foot retrieve again. Dogs in the way. Dogs trying to push her out of the way. Dumbbell on top of a stool. Dumbbell part way hidden behind the leg of a stool. Not a single hitch in her response. Great!

Then because of holiday plans, my nail day had to be changed from the normal Friday morning to Thursday afternoon. This meant that instead of taking an afternoon nap, we were off to the nail salon. I thought it would be the perfect time to do one final test before moving on to more difficult things. SOB! She didn't pass the test. All she could see was her rug and I guess nap time and she was having nothing to do with anything else. So we shall try again in a couple of weeks.

The interesting thing that did happen was that Sanity went from the house to the car and from the car to the shop and then to her rug all without the use of a leash. I confess, the lack of a leash from the car to the shop was a mental blip on my part. I didn't even realize I had forgotten to put the darn thing on her until we were in the shop. Since she failed the retrieve test, you can best bet she was on leash when we left. I just keep on reminding myself that haste makes waste and in this case hasty training means wasted time having to backtrack and fix holes left in the training foundation. (Side note: she fell so fast asleep that she was actually snoring.)

I guess I have now seen it all. In the shop was another woman with a dog. This was not a service dog or a service dog in training or even a dog in training. This was a dog playing the part of being a baby. Dressed in clothes and being pushed around in a stroller was a medium sized Yorkie. I couldn't believe my eyes. All the hair dressers were making over this "THING". Passing it from hand to hand, holding it, cuddling it and cooing over it. I suppose Wrap and I and now Sanity and I must be a real disappointment to all of them.

The owner of this "thing" was horrified that there was a DOBERMAN loose in the shop. Except no one was interested in what she had to say, including Sanity who slept through the entire thing. As for me, well I got my knuckles cracked twice to remind me to keep my mouth shut and look the other way. Seems I was staring complete with my mouth hanging open at the spectacle. It is no wonder dog owners are in trouble, when dogs are being treated as if they were humans.

This being Thursday meant evening class. Another great place to test how we are doing with the retrieve. But first she had to break her down/stay not once but three different times. Who knows why? She is normally rock solid with the down/stay and shaky on the sit. So maybe I have been practicing the sit/stay too much this past week? Maybe. Balance is so hard to maintain. Now on to the retrieve test.

The other two dogs in the picture are interesting. The little Australian Terrier is 8 years old and just now learning to retrieve. He is doing a great job. The mixed breed is 2 years old and learning to retrieve so as to have much better control over his impulse to bite first and ask questions later, as well as pick fights with other dogs. Now he bites the dumbbell and carries a ball around in his mouth when he is around other dogs. It is definitely working. All you have to do is keep the mouth busy and it stays out of trouble.

And then there is Sanity, remember she is 6 months old. Sanity didn't pass the test BUT she did do something that really pleases me. When faced with the three dumbbells so close together like the three were, she had to carefully sniff the other two before picking up the correct one and returning with it. Needless to say, I did not correct her for her interest in scent. That will most certainly be the next thing on the training agenda, just as soon as the basic retrieve is in place. Since we have two weeks before the next class and the next test, who knows? Maybe she will pass next time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Day 118

I think I got a major break through today. Sanity managed a six foot retrieve three different times with what I think are pretty heavy distractions. Specifically, she was having to fight her way through the pack to get to the dumbbell and then push and struggle through the pack to get back to me. After the third success we stopped. I sure didn't want to spoil a good thing.

Later we practiced distance sits and downs along with the rest of the pack. The problem between JerseyGirl and Sanity seems to be just melting away. Any testiness between them and I am on them to do "push-ups" (i.e.: sit/down/sit/down/sit/down until they forget what it was that was bothering them. Interestingly enough, both of them appear to be having a hard time with the "OK" release command right now. I say, "OK" and they both continue to do whatever the previous command was and don't appear too interesting in stopping. Since I like to stop before they do, I figure this just helps to make them all the more eager to work for me. At least, that has always been my plan.

Its really pretty wonderful, the way jealousy may be turned into a training tool.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Day 117

Today was something of a holding pattern day. We did work on random recalls and distance sits. Her response to the down command is starting to get sorted out and she is beginning to down at a short distance, at least some of the time. As for the retrieve, it is neither better or worse.

The one thing I have to keep on reminding myself of is that she is only six months old and she has quite a bit of material to sort, file and then access properly. It is only reasonable that she get the commands confused and as long as she is trying, I am willing to continue to help.

JerseyGirl is another one who is having a problem getting the commands sorted out. Today she was sure that no matter what I said, it meant she was to sit. When I called her, she sat. When I told her to sit, she sat. When I told her to down, she sat. Basically, she gave me a sit no matter what I was telling her to do. This did sort of help to remind me that both girls need time in a holding pattern every so often to give them a chance to figure out all the different requirements.

The new dog, one of the Rosie's, has had very little interaction with other dogs and so is just hanging back and watching. What was interesting is that she started copying whatever Sanity and JerseyGirl did. I said sit and I was getting three dogs sitting pretty much at once. Then, the next thing I knew, I was getting five dogs sitting on command and by the time I was ready to stop the training I had twelve dogs sitting when I said sit. This is really the reason why the dogs all learn so fast when they are here. Learning is a pack activity.

Know what I wish? I wish for some feed-back. At this point, I can't decide whether I am writing this for my own benefit or because there are a few others out there reading it or because I just like to see myself chatter into a black hole in space.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Day 116

Had a new dog check in today as a board and train. Things are going to be rather rough around here for a while, what with my having to train not just Sanity but two other dogs. Well, at least the new one doesn't need anything fancy.

I didn't manage to get to working on the retrieve until tonight's class. Pitted her against Sage. Sage won each and every single time, but I could see the wheels a-turning in that little pointy head of hers. Somehow I think a change is in the wind.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Day 115

I just managed to piss everyone, or at least all the dogs, off today. Got a bee in my bonnet that said I just had to clean. This means not just run the vacuum a little bit and call it good. It means getting the carpet shampooing machine out and using it after the vacuum part was done. All the dogs left the house and spent the day outside. When I went out to do the yard work all I got from the pack of them was glares and a cold shoulder.

If I wanted someone, I had to formally call that dog. Then, the dog called and only that dog, would come to me, stay just long enough to hear "good dog, ok" and split. Goodness, you would think I never clean from the way they were all behaving. Wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that yesterday we cleaned the kennel room?

Other than some minor retrieve work, Sanity got the day off.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Day 114

Sanity actually was able to demo the beginning remote sit work. Great for both of us since I really need a dog who can show students just what the remote sit is all about and Wrap is really too tired to want to be bothered with having to do it. There was a time when she loved chasing out across the yard after a squirrel and doing a leap, spin, and land in a sit facing me. I just hope that some day Sanity will be able to do something similar.

Anyway, today she helped me show a couple of students how to get the entire process started. Being able to show that this was an exercise worthy of practicing in the house makes a difference in how much a student will work on getting a good response.

The retrieve. What can I say? We worked on it. She is still arguing about whether or not she is going to come back with the dumbbell. One thing I did discover is that a tap on the button coupled with a second fetch command after she has her mouth on the dumbbell will bring her back to me better than anything else. Interesting.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Day 113

Nails and not much else. Now I don't know why I would start that way other than we really didn't move forward on anything and we didn't fall back on anything and I didn't introduce anything new.

It really is important to go into a holding pattern every so often to allow the dog the time to get all the material properly sorted out and filed. She is so close to not needing a leash when we are out and about doing our regular errands. I really have to fight with myself to continue using it since it really is a total nuisance most of the time.

The one thing that did happen was a mother/young daughter team tried their very best to get Sanity to leave her rug and come to them. I didn't realize what was going on at first since they were operating behind my back. Janene, my manicurist, caught them and started to just glare at them and shake her head. When I caught on and started to turn around the team of nasties left in a hurry. Janene said they were using food to try and entice Sanity to come to them.

What? You want to know just what Sanity did? Easy. She never even bothered to lift her head and acknowledge they existed. Mind you, this is a pup who never turns down a chance to eat. Seems she has also developed a pretty good sense of work ethic. Love my dog. Don't much like some people.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Day 112

Used the time before class to gather a couple students with dogs working the retrieve at just about the same level of Sanity. We formed a triangle and all worked on the retrieve facing the center of said triangle. What a wonderful difference the group work makes. I know that. I have always known that, but sometimes the old knowledge just looks all bright and shiny new.

Sanity is still hanging back and not willing to return with the dumbbell unless she gets some sort of sign from me and she doesn't much care if it is positive or negative. I will just keep on plugging along since I know "this to shall pass".

The last third of the class was devoted to out-of-sight recall in a group as well as random sits and downs as a group. What a great way to sharpen up her response to sit and down at a distance and with distractions.

As for the out-of-sight recalls. It was really interesting to watch her enter the hallway at the far end and then systematically work her way from person to person. She checked each person by smell and quickly moved on to the next person. I had deliberately placed myself at the very back of the group so she would have to do some serious hunting. At no time did she ever show any signs of worry or thoughts of stopping. She remained cheerful and pleasant as she sniffed and rejected one person after another. She really seems to like games of this type. Will have to set them up more often.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Day 111

She hates me. I just know she hates me. Or is it that at the magic six months mark she has decided I don't know anything and she knows everything.

I swear, with the exception of the recall, she wants to make a major production out of everything. Fetch? What is fetch? Never heard that word before. I realize this is the big wall and that on the other side is warmth and sunlight, but man is it hard to keep on plugging. Heel? Is that some sort of food group? Sit? Naw, I don't need to right now and besides which you said I wasn't supposed to do that in the house. Down? Not now, I'm not tired.

My suspicion is that she is trying to go on strike because of Jersey. She really doesn't like me working Jersey. Jersey is okay as a playmate, but she needs to stay stupid. Or at least, that appears to be what is going on. If I work Jersey first, when I then try to work Sanity it is a battle royal. If I work Jersey second, Sanity does her very best to get in the way. So we are now working on getting rid of the green demons as fast as possible.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Day 110

I could write about the boring everyday stuff. About how we worked on coming, staying, sitting, heeling, the retrieve, the stand, all that sort of thing, but I think it will be way more interesting to write about what happened in the evening, when all the training to date was put to a real life test.

I am a member of a Citizen's Advisory Committee for the City of Laurel. This particular committee happens to be the one on Person's with Disabilities. We sort of deal with accessibility issues, but that's another topic all together.

Last evening Sanity went to her very first CAC meeting and this is pretty much a step-by-step of what happened. First I took off the Pro 500 ecollar she was wearing and traded it for a Sport50G2. Smaller sized receiver and transmitter which makes for easier use when out and about. Next I had her stand and put on the service dog in training cape and then put on my own coat and picking up cane, keys,a purse and a 6' leather leash headed out the door. At this point, Sanity is not wearing the leash and I have stuffed it in my pocket for later use. At the open inner gate, she waits until I tell her she can go through. The same thing happens when I open the outer gate. She waits until I tell her she may pass and then she sits on the other side while I close and latch the gate. Next we head for the car. Sanity is traveling in a more or less heel position, not because I have told her to, but because she has already learned that is the most efficient position to be in and be able to watch both me and what is happening around us.

At the car, she sort of sniffs around while I open the rear door and tell her to get in. She hops in and sits ever so properly in the middle of the rear seat. When we reach the City administration building, she patiently waits for me to gather up all my "stuff", get out of the car and then open the rear door for her. She continues to wait without being told until I have managed to clip the leash to the live ring of her chain training collar and call her out of the car. Then in a loose heel position, never moving in front of me or falling behind me or so much as causing the leash to tighten, we headed into the building. A building she had never been in before and of a type she had never seen before. She held her heel position and other than a single tap to the remote to remind her that this was not the time to sniff the floor, did every thing I required.

Once in the conference room, she waited beside me while I selected a chair and put my stuff down. Then, single whispered command, she heeled beside me while I wandered off to find the soda machine and buy a Coke. For the record, this was her first experience with a soda machine. She held her sit/stay while the bottle dropped almost under her nose. She visually acknowledged the person next to us at the junk food machine and didn't even blink at the large and rather bulky powerchair he was using.

Back in the conference room again, she slipped under the table and lay down on a single whispered "go under" command and gesture from me. During the hour long meeting her rather well-timed soft moans or groans or mumbles were not enough to be distruptive, however they did cause some laughter from the other committee members. It was the timing of the sounds that got us all.

I am still trying to decide how I feel about the behavior of the committee chairman. We had some blueprints to look at for a new business getting ready to open. It just so happened that the best place to put the blueprints also caused him to be standing right beside my chair. He was so worried about the possibility of stepping on Sanity's nose that he took his shoes off. Now there was a bit of a problem. Sanity wanted so very, very much to check out those stocking feet and the wonderful, smelly shoes. That was the one time when I did have to issue a mild correction, using both chain collar and ecollar. Message heard, received and the nose got put in my lap where it would stay out of temptations way.

After the meeting was over, I called Sanity out from under the table and told her she was free to "go say hello". She went from person to person and very, very politely placed her head and body in a please pet me position. Meanwhile I struggled to answer questions about her, her age, her training, what had happened to Wrap and how was Wrap handling the retirement. Only one member of the committee is less than fond of dogs and he left as soon as the meeting was over so there was no worry on my part of our infringing on someone else's rights.

Once the hellos had been made and the questions answered, we said good night and headed back out to the car. Just as soon as she was in the car the leash came off and stayed off. Home and she waited until told to exit the car and then walked with me back to the gate, where she waited while I unlatched and opened the first gate and then the second gate and finally when I told her to "go in the house" she headed up the ramp and waited at the door. Once inside, I took her service dog cape off, opened the door again and released her to do what I refer to as "doggie things". End of day.

Yes, I do think Sanity is on her way to becoming a pretty durn good service dog someday.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Day 109

I missed it. Darn it! I totally missed a great set of pictures. Sanity and Leo spent about 20 minutes chasing up, down, around and over the mulch pile and then finally took off in a wild game of chase. I think Leo was chasing Sanity, but it was pretty hard to tell, what with Sanity doing loop-de-loops around him as the raced around the yard. It all came to a screeching halt when, while looking over her shoulder, Sanity ran full-tilt into Callie. Callie, who normally hates that sort of thing, just looked both surprised and amused.

Stays. Sanity does the down-stay without a single problem, but the sit-stay, oh my, the sit stay causes her no end of grief. Anything over a minute and she is sure she should be in a down position. The sit stay is going to take a lot more work, before I will consider it solid.

As for the Monday evening class, well let's just say that the class got to see exactly how to handle a willful refusal of a simple arm's length, placed retrieve. Goodness, I'm not at all sure just where that fight came from, but she sure was determined to not pick that dumbbell up in front of everyone. In the end, she did a nice pick-up, although her return was rather slow. I would much rather be dealing with these issues now than to wait until she is 30 pounds heavier and I am several months weaker.

On top of everything else, I think I over fed her today and her solution was to simply barf it all up. So now I have about 10 barf stain spots scattered around the living room rug. Don't know why I had to be so stupid as to increase her food by so much. Dumb me.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Day 108

Not much to say about today. A slow, quiet Sunday with suprisingly warm air and sun. I actually got my lounge chair out and sat in the sun for a couple of hours during the afternoon. Sanity and Jersey agreed with me and spent the same time dozing in the sun. Good day to just take it easy.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Day 107

Considering how her appetite has increased again, I guess she is about to do another growth spurt. Hope so, cause right now she sure seems small for her age or maybe it is just that sister Leda is large. Didn't manage to get any pictures of the two of them together today, but will try to do so either next Thursday or Saturday. The difference is really quite a bit.

I really wanted to use her to demonstrate how to teach the figure 8, but that was not to be. Her heeling is way too sloppy as yet to allow her to do a proper figure 8. However, she was good a showing how to teach heeling on a curve and then Wrap was more than happy to come out and show how it is done correctly.

Unsatifactory as her figure 8 was, her demonstration of how to do the beginning steps of the place command were really impressive. (Note to self: really start working longer distances now.)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Day 106

The very first thing that happened today is that Sanity got to meet and greet and deal with her very first up close and personal TODDLER. This one needs lots of training in the art of not squealing, screaming or hitting, but there is much hope. Meanwhile, Sanity studied her with great care and decided she probably wasn't too bad. Besides just how awful can even a very small human be if they are willing to throw a ball for you?

After all the dogs coming in for day care or boarding got settled it was off to do the normal Friday errands. A stop at the bank and then on to get nails done and hair cut. When we got there Sanity's rug wasn't in place as yet and even though Pam was already there, Sanity was not at all happy with the missing rug issue. Here is what she looked like right after the rug appeared.

We managed to work on the retrieve while waiting out turn. Then since this was also a hair cut day for me Sanity took a big step forward and stayed on her rug the entire time I was in another part of the shop getting my hair cut. Notice that she no longer needs to wear a leash. This is a good indication of how she is doing in the self-discipline and responsibility areas. She is doing pretty good a ignoring people when she has her vest on and is working.

And the rest of the day was just normal, routine stuff.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Day 105

The retrieve continues to be a battle. Today I figured I would just keep it inside and lower the distraction level and keep my hand on the dumbbell. None the less, it was still a battle, with me saying "yes, you will" and her saying, "no, I won't" or "make me". Two sessions pretty much the same with each ending when we had two good clean retrieves.

Class night and she all but puts the Service Dog vest on by herself, trots out to the car, waits for the command and then hops in just like she has been doing this for years. When we got to the building, she got so busy saying hello to some of the other dogs that she forgot to keep track of me. Realizing that she was not in the group of dogs that entered when I did, I keyed in the security code and then hid in the dark corner.

She came trotting in with some other students, went right on passed me and into the training room. Pretty quick she was back out and headed for the lobby and the front door. At that point Linda came in carrying my training equipment bag. Sanity zeroed in on the bag, ran up to it and started sniffing as she followed Linda back to the training room. I continued to hide and watch. Very quickly she was back headed for the lobby again. This time she looked worried. A couple more students came in and she gave them a short once over and continued towards the front door. About then Linda came out headed back to her car. She spotted me and asked what was going on. I held my finger up to my lips and then whispered "Tell Sanity to find me."

"Oh," says Linda and then, after she gets into the lobby I hear her say, "Sanity, where's Margot? Go find Margot. Go find her."

Now Sanity is pretty much running back to the training room. From where I am standing I can see her looking around the room. Then she is out of my sight, but I can hear different ones asking her where I am. She comes flying out of the training room, tears passed me and heads for the front door once again. Another student comes in. Sanity sniffs them and then starts to return to the training room again. Only this time, she is moving very slowly and her head is swinging from side to side. Sure enough before she reaches the doorway to the training room she turns around and head still swinging from side to side starts to cover the entire lobby area a little bit at a time. Finally she spots me standing back in a very dim corner.

Grrrr! Woof! Slow approach with that head still moving slowly from side to side. Oh, its you! The entire rear end starts to swing from side to side and the front does a little victory stomp. With much praise for her successful find we both head into the training room and class. My bet is that it will still take a couple more such experiences before she realizes it is her responsibility to keep track of me. What a fun game to play and one I seem to never get tired of playing with my pups.

Did a Novice run-thru with her at the end of class. Her on leash heeling isn't too bad. Off leash is sort of a joke since she still has a long way to go before she does more than approximate heel position. Her sits were awful. Every single one of them was done with her swinging way to the left with her butt. The stand was nice and steady and the recall was done a exactly the speed I want. In the group exercises, she is holding a 3 minute sit and a 5 minute down with no problem at all.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Day 104

I knew we couldn't just sail along forever without a bump or two in the road. Today I got my first flat-out refusal to retrieve the dumbbell. Now mind you, I haven't move it forward nor have I changed anything since yesterday. My suspicion is that she was sending up warning flags for at least a week. All the slow to respond stuff she has been pulling and then the sudden decision that I was no longer going to be "allowed" to touch her ear.

Well it all came together today, in not one but two training sessions. Each session was pretty intense. First I got everything ready and then I went to adjust her chain collar, no problem. Next I started to lay my thumb next to her ear, problem. She protested. I said, okay just so long as you actually do as told. Put the dumbbell on the ground about 3 feet in front of her, removed my hand and said "fetch".

I get that sideways glint I have come to recognize as her way of saying, "go to *ell". That particular look is always followed by her NOT doing something she has been told to do or by her DOING something she knows she is not supposed to do. Anyway, I get the glint and she promptly turns her head away in the classic "I don't see it, so I don't have to do it" move. BAM! I am on not one but both ears and she is taking me to the dumbbell at top speed. The pick up is fast and clean and the return is good. For the next five tries she pulls the very same stunt. Then on the sixth try she is lunging for the dumbbell almost before I can get my hand away. Two good retrieves with good returns and we quit for the morning.

Along about mid-day the she works better than any of the others when it comes to doing sits/downs/recalls/place commands. I almost get the feeling she is showing off to them since she is the youngest by several months. (The others in this case being Zeus and Jersey.) Since I am back to working alone, I find it much easier to work all three at the same time when doing the "yard work" part of the training.

Evening and we revisit the retrieve again. Again, it is a repeat of the morning session. I think it is interesting that she has chosen the retrieve as her challenge exercise. It almost seems she must have read a book on growth and development cause she started with the challenges at six months of age.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Day 103

Had Sanity, Jersey and Zeus all doing random sits around the yard today. Sanity is finally getting the idea and has started sitting as soon as she hears the command. She was taking the sit command from distances of up to 30 feet. The trick now is going to be to convince her that she has to hold that sit for more than 3 seconds. She sure does respond well to competition from other dogs. I got the feeling she felt she just had to be the first one to sit each time. Sure was proud of herself.