Monday, April 25, 2005


Oops! I didn't mean to cause a panic with my mention of Shakespeare in the last post; I got a couple of emails about him. He's absolutely fine. :-) But I have been kicking around for a few months the idea of retiring him from competition.

Anyone who has spoken with me online or in person knows that he doesn't like trials. Our single biggest issue is trial stress. (And no, this doesn't appear anywhere else, and it doesn't seem to be based on my own trial nerves. It's unique to trials, where I think he can sense the general nerves and adrenaline of the crowd.) It's better sometimes than others -- I was surprised and pleased with his performance at our last Open obedience trial, for example -- but he's never "on" in trials and he's generally, well, depressed at the scene.

So I've been wondering whether it's fair to him to ask him to perform in trials. It's not like he particularly cares whether or not he's got the title, you know. He does it for me in the ring because he's the world's best dog, more or less, but is it fair for me to ask that of him?

So I'm thinking of severely cutting back on trialing to just those situations which I know are more Shakespeare-friendly. We don't trial much, anyway, due to this, but I have decided that I'll enter only one more Agility trial this year for him, at his home field, so to speak. I'll do UKC obedience, but probably no AKC obedience. (No group downs and often smaller trials.) We'll do Schutzhund obedience, where we're the only one on the field and it's an open area rather than crowded with spectators. We'll do Rally, where we can play and treat in the ring.

Some of this is coming up now because of something Armin Winkler said to me at the seminar last week: that it was cruel and horrible to see a dog fail a trial and be frightened because he was not adequately prepared or made to meet the challenge. He was talking about a dog being run off the field in protection work because he was scared by the aggressive helper, which is different; I would never place Shakespeare in that kind of situation if I felt he couldn't take it. But even if no one's scaring him out of the ring, he isn't having fun during the competition itself -- and isn't that the entire point of dog sports, anyway?

Shakespeare was my only competition dog for a long, long time -- Dante died too young, Chaucer was recovering dog-aggressive and a mixed breed, Tempest was not a candidate for public venues. Inky is my husband's dog and had major spinal surgery, anyway, so I would hate to ask her to be more physical than she volunteers. So it was Shakespeare or we sat at home, and he likes to train with me. It's fun. He just doesn't like to trial. Now I have Laevatein waiting in the wings, so there's hope of doing something else down the road, and maybe some of the pressure can come off him.

He also has a tooth which is looking problematic; if it's dead or dying, that will end bitework for him. I won't risk breaking a tooth and hurting him.

We'll see. In the meantime, he's not completely retired. We went to Michigan yesterday during a sudden snowstorm and, in two inches of falling snow and a cold wind, about fifty degrees colder than where he'd been working in Missouri, he completed his UKC-SDA Family Obedience title. :-) I watched the Protection Alert trial and knew he could have done it, but I hadn't entered him, coming off a week of traveling with the new puppy. Oh, well. There's always another chance, and he doesn't know we missed anything.


Friday, April 22, 2005

Training Pays!

I had a rough afternoon, thinking about Shakespeare's future as a performance dog. (More on that later, when I get my head sorted out.) It was relieved by working Laev on Armin Winkler for the second time in as many days. Today, though, I gave the video camera to someone who actually pushed the record button. ;-)

It was un-crazy-believeable what he did with her. I've always been a believer that both genetics and environment are important, and that you train the dog you have the best you can, but I'd never really seen the advantage that really solid genetics can give you. The video out on my camera is broken (grrr!) but I'll post the video as soon as I can get it.

Then I had a meeting tonight, and while I felt comfortable leaving Shakespeare in the motel room, I knew the folks in the room next door wouldn't want to listen to Laev scream. (She's doing much better, but on days when we attend a seminar and she only comes out once to work, she still has too much energy left and screams.) So I took her and left her crated in the car during the meeting, where at least if she screamed no one would hear.

Afterward we came out, and I brought her out to relieve herself, and a breeder I know brought out two puppies of her own, 3 days older than Laev, to play and exercise and potty. I was thrilled to have a way to burn puppy calories, so....

Laev was startled by the cups on their heads (their ears had just been cropped) but within a moment was making friendly overtures. [This line removed to avoid giving possible offense, since someone seems to think it was written in malice, which of course it was not. The line was to the general effect that Laev was social.] And I've been working really hard on name recognition this week, but it was hard to tell if it was paying off; Laev is never more than a couple feet from me. But tonight, as she ran loose with the puppies in the parking lot, they started to wander as they played, and we called them back.

Laev had a fast recall. Away from the other puppy. Which remained where it was.


Okay, so she's nine weeks and one day. Hardly an established behavior. But it's a darn good foundation. After the third or fourth recall, I finally realized that, and I got some treats out of my car so I could make sure the benefits of a recall were really sinking in. (She had been getting rewarded previously with jumping on me, and petting and praise and general enthusiasm, but I reflected that she could get that from the other puppy, as well, and this just made everything even better.)

Anyway, seeing my fearless puppy zoom about the dark parking lot and spin to come flying toward me when I called her name did a lot to improve my day. :-)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Puppy Tracks

Those are tracking exercises for Laev, not the marks Laev leaves on the floor.

I carefully prepared for Laev's first puppy track, only to have her attack the flag. See the relevant post. This morning, I laid an identical track, in another location. Twenty paces, scent pad, the works. Laev came out and did not attack the flag, but actually dropped her nose and looked for goodies. She found some. :-) Then she followed the track along, bobbling only once. My paces are a little long for her, but given her current explosive rate of growth, I think that won't be a problem for long.

Shakespeare fussed in the car, so I laid a second track for him and let him run it. Ooh, easy puppy track! He liked that.

It's kind of telling that my puppy tracks nearly as well as my older dog. Oh, well. There's nothing wrong with my dog's tracking that better handler practice wouldn't fix. ;-)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I am very grumpy at the moment, as I just discovered that the person I asked to videotape our work with Armin Winkler today never hit the record button. C'mon! It's even big and red! /sigh/

Laev had an absolutely amazing session; everyone was commenting on her work. She is 9 weeks old today. I so wanted to have that record. And the breeder had specifically asked me to send photos or something of her seminar work, and so I had to write and tell her I didn't have anything.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

By Jove, I Think She's Got It

She's now offering sits when she wants something! This beats mugging, jumping and biting by a mile. Yippee!

Trying the hand signals for the first time from another person today was rough. But we managed, after a little review. I've got to be careful about soliciting help; when she didn't respond at first, my unfamiliar helper modeled her into position. Not inherently wrong, but not what I wanted, either.

Laev's also figuring things out. Last Friday she could not at all understand that there were two sides to a door -- when I tried to lead her around an open door to fetch a kibble which had slid through, she resisted, certain that it could only be gained from the first side! Tonight, however, I watched her sniff outside the crate in which I'd hid a bit of pizza crust and then confidently trot around the inside of the crate to look for it. Also this evening, she trotted into a corridor to pick up a ball. Backing up through it tangled her legs in some cables, so she had to figure out how to free herself in the narrow opening without turning around -- and she never dropped the ball. Getting smarter....

And -- most importantly -- she's not screaming in the crate. Not last night, not tonight. Is it because our days are so exciting that she's glad to rest? Is it because she's learning that good things happen in the crate? Or could it be the triple dose of valium that I slipped into her treat ball? Nah....

Monday, April 18, 2005


I'm getting a lot of anonymous comments -- which is fine, except that some of them ask questions and I can't respond without a point of origin! But here's a basic review:
  • Laev was born 16 February 2005

  • No, she doesn't have separation anxiety. She just hates confinement. There is a difference, and in her it's obvious. But we're working on that!

  • Yes, I can teach a puppy basic obedience without destroying "drive." What is drive, anyway? Intensity? Energy? How does early learning prevent that? Besides, when I see this little girl throw herself into a down and then bounce up into a sit, I think she's pretty intense and energetic. :-)

  • "Ascomannis" is the kennel name. (See "Laevatein" is a name from Norse mythology, specifically a weapon belonging to Loki, the infamous god of mischief and fire. It can be translated "wand of destruction," which I think is pretty apt for this pup!

A Tale of Ears. And Tail.

Forgive me for being a bit snarky, but it's been a bad ear day, so to speak. I was approached so many times today with, "What a cute puppy.... Oh, she has a tail. Hm. I don't know about that. Are you getting that taken off when you do her ears? What, you're not doing her ears? Oh, I hate that hound dog look. I'd never own a dog that wasn't cropped and docked. Why on earth would you want to do that?"

Well, no points for tact, that's for sure. I mean, I'd never appear in public in those pants you're wearing, but you don't hear me saying it out loud. ;-)

I just hated getting the c/d lecture when I'm not even against cropping or docking. It's just not important enough to me to put the dog through it. I'm more concerned with what the dog does, okay? And no dog person in the world could mistake Shakespeare's head for a hound's. Ye gads, people, give yourselves a little credit. I say yourselves, 'cuz I can see clearly the difference, and with so many years in the honored breed, why can't you? ;-)

I can see a real advantage to docking a thin, whippy tail, for health and safety reasons. But that doesn't mean that not docking a sturdy tail is wrong. Cropped ears can be easier to read from a distance, but natural ears are perfectly readable, too -- correct natural ears, that is. Heavy hound ears are indeed less mobile and therefore harder to read.

Fact is, cropping and docking is just personal preference. I can go with that and respect it. Defend personal preference, if you want, but don't try to make ridiculous claims that cropped ears are healthier (I've never seen evidence of that) or that the dogs hear better out of cropped ears (give me a break). Just say that you prefer them and then allow other people to have a preference, too, if they want one.

As I've said, I'm not anti-cropping, I'm just neutral, and I prefer that the side that says "you can't tell me what to do" not tell me what to do. ;-)

Habits and Tells

I'm starting to get to know this little monster!
  • "Moaning" upon awakening means she's awake, but about to go back to sleep, so getting her up and taking her out to urinate is not necessary. (It's not too dissimilar a sound to the noises I probably make in the morning...!)

  • Whining upon awakening means she needs to go out.

  • Scratching but not making contact -- "air guitar" -- means she's very tired, resisting it, and is about to crash and sleep.

  • Scratching at her neck means she itches.

First Day at UDC Nationals

Laevatein is asleep in her crate. Her head is in her snap-on food dish. Most telling, there was no screaming when she went into her crate, only a little whining. Does that suggest the day she had?

Shakespeare and I did Agility this morning, but we won't discuss that. ;-) I think he was exhausted from the night before and, if I may be momentarily anthropomorphic, bent out of shape generally because of the puppy. He also just generally doesn't do well at warm outdoor trials. But during the trial I frequently took Laev out to urinate and socialize. We stayed away from dogs -- in fact, I wouldn't even walk her through the crating area, but carried her; no bad experiences during this should-be-a-fear-period! -- but schmoozed with a lot of people. She also got to hang out beside me a chewing a bully stick, as I figure there are lots of worse things she could be learning than to relax in a trial environment. Shakespeare's one major issue is trial stress, as even just entering that environment worries him and shuts down his performance, and I don't want Laev to have that burden.

Then we went to the Obedience ring and watched that. The only thing that seemed to startle or unnerve her at all was sudden applause, so I guess we'll spend tomorrow beside the conformation rings! Shakespeare was not entered; not much point, as there are no UDC trials near me at all and why earn a leg a year toward a title? But he did get to come out and play a sort of chien en blanc briefly when they needed an additional dog for the group exercise in the Veterans class. I pulled him out of the car, ran him to the ring, did a one-minute sit, took him out and treated him. Probably was great for his trial anxiety!

Laev did her first track today! Well, first with me, anyway; I know Lisa did some puppy tracking squares with her. I carefully laid a 20-step track well away from the activity in nice grass. Set a flag to start teaching her that flags mean drop your nose and sniff! Stomped out my scent pad and baited it and each step, ending with a little pile. All ready, right? Brought out Laev, pointed her toward the flag and scent pad. Of course she attacked the flag. ;-) After I got it back, though, she needed some help to realize that the scent pad had food in it! and then she actually, a few paces in, began to work, actively looking for the next footprint. Huzzah!

Our housetraining is progressing abominably. I guess I needed the reality shock; Dante had only two accidents ever in his housetraining career, and both of those I could clearly see where I had erred. Laev seems to have no sphincter control at all, as she will sometimes even urinate while sitting. I don't think anything's physically wrong with her, just that we don't have a fixed schedule like I'd like and that she's just tiny still. Though she is growing rapidly!

So far we have sit on a fairly reliable hand signal, down on a mostly reliable hand signal, and a mostly reliable nose touch to my palm which will eventually become stand. We also started fundamental heelwork in the motel room tonight, looking to burn a few more calories and exercise the brain, which she took to very well. "Walk beside Mom. Look at Mom. Get kibble. Repeat. I can do this!"

Shakespeare still disdains her. I have given him leave to retreat to the bed and glare at her from above. She still tries to jump on the bed when they are both loose, and it's my job to split them before he gets snarky. She doesn't get it -- she'll retreat for a moment if he shows teeth, but if he barks at her, she comes right back with a furious bark of her own, as if to say, "Bring it on, old guy!" Dear God, what I have brought home?

God bless the person who invented Tricky Treat Balls. Shakespeare is absolutely addicted to his, and Laev has not yet mastered it, but has a grand time trying. All I need do is keep them separated and let them exercise themselves. Awesome.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


Remind me never to do this again.

We left home today to head to Purina Farms for the UDC Nationals. Laev was in her ex pen for a couple of hours prior to departure, during which she of course screamed her head off, and she's become a great little traveler, so of course she slept all the way there with only one pit stop. Wonderful dog.

Then we arrived. And now she's not at all tired.

Shakespeare has always traveled with me and, I think, enjoyed staying in the motel rooms where he gets to sleep on the bed (a privilege he has only when traveling), etc. Now this little monster, whom he has previously completely ignored, is cutting into his lifestyle. I let them together for a few minutes, knowing he ignores puppies if possible, and she tried to harass him into playing. He didn't. She tried to take his treat ball. Bad idea; she saw teeth and was smart enough to back away.

I crated each dog and took turns taking them out to play tug. Nope. All that did was frustrate the other one (which I anticipated) and I got mediocre tugging (which I did not -- motel room space not conducive?).

I did some basic position work with her, but the attention span was nil. Tired puppy, despite the sleep in the car, I assume. She has sit, down and stand hand signals pretty well now, no verbals yet, but is really struggling with eye contact. Does she just not realize that I have a face? That I'm more than a pair of knees and hands?

Potty break.

She wants to harass Shakespeare, not even really playing, just harassing. I crated her, thinking a few minutes was more than enough and she shouldn't die yet at so young an age. She barked, she screamed, she bit at her crate door. Shakespeare, honest, looked at me and rolled his eyes.

She screamed in the crate. I winced and thought of the neighbors. But I can't take her out of the crate while she's screaming, and she won't take a breath so I can get her out.... Tried downing in the crate to open the door, but we don't have any duration yet, so she'd lie down and then charge the door, screeching. Yikes.

Ooh, an instant of silence while she noticed a chew stick under the crate mat. Pull the puppy! Wear out her brain somehow! I ran water in the tub until it was just covering the shallow end, scattered kibble so it floated, and set the puppy in the tub. Ooh, look, socialization! Wet paws! Water! Snorkeling! And maybe, just maybe, it'll stress her brain and tire her out!

She didn't like the tub. Wanted out. Funny, she didn't mind puddles outside. I stood in the water with her, encouraging her to eat the kibbles. Good Laev. We finished, I let her out, watched her sniff the puppy in the mirror, and I put her in the crate.


Finally I managed to distract her somehow and took advantage of the pause to open the crate door. I put her on the bed with me, informing her solemnly that this was only to calm her down 'til she went to sleep. "You're tired, I know you are," I said. "You'll be stone asleep in a moment." Wonder if Laev appreciates Monty Python quotes?

She wagged, looked over the edge of the bed at Shakespeare, who had his back to her in a definite expression of mood, and promptly peed on the sheets.

/sigh/ She'd gone out twice already.....

I stripped the bed, wrote a note of apology to housekeeping, for whom I will leave a healthy tip, and shoved the puppy back into the crate. At least her bladder's empty, I thought, so she'll go to sleep now, right? Um, no.

So I put the crate on the stripped bed, which hushed the whining a bit. Then, thank God, she finally realized she was sleepy and she passed out.

Shakespeare and I have an agility trial in the morning. I'm not anticipating great things, unfortunately, but I think I'll tell him that if he runs well, I'll arrange a puppy-free vacation for him.

It's the Little Things that Get Ya....

I went to the rear of the car, raised the tailgate to release the dogs. Shakespeare was at the front of his crate, of course. From Laevatein's crate I heard a soft, steady, thump, thump, thump.... She's wagging her tail at me!

This may not seem like a big deal, but I haven't had a dog with a tail in two years. (I still miss you, Chaucer!) So I haven't heard a tail thump in that time. I didn't even realize I didn't hear it.

In other puppy news -- you know how most dogs dislike metal? How service dogs generally have to be trained to take metal in their mouths? Well, Laev seems to have a preference for metal. So far she's bitten a chunk out of an aluminum window edge (outdoor cafe), chewed on a metal ring set into the sidewalk, and her favorite illegal item to steal (actually, she almost never steals illegal items but for this) is my car keys. She plays tug with them, she takes them and chews on them. Not the plastic remote bit, never, but the metal keys.

Have I mentioned she's a crocodile?

Friday, April 15, 2005

A note on photos....

Yes, Laev is a Doberman. She is modeling her natural ears and tail and dewclaws. That's what Dobes look like before being cropped and docked. It is jail time to crop and dock in Denmark, and I will probably be leaving her natural. But it is a Doberman, not a coonhound, not an oversized Dachshund.... :-)

Puppy's First Day

I'm almost entirely out of the apartment, but not quite, and I clearly cannot leave her in a house where workmen might be coming through, so Laev had to go nearly everywhere with me as she -- surprise! -- is not quiet in her crate. We'll work on that, of course, but in the meantime I don't want to subject the neighbors I'll soon lose to her cacophony.

This is bad for crate training, but it's great for bonding and travel training. By the end of her first 24 hours in this state, she has logged socialization meetings with 19 people (and seen many more), including skirts, hats, beards, and a small child, two motorcycles, five cats, and three safe (and very limited) dog interactions. She's also climbed a massive piled tarp, feeling it crumple and shift beneath her feet, stumbled into puddles in the same tarp, and learned to navigate the boardwalk into our house with no finished steps. She's also learned to travel well, already jumping at the back of the car and settling quietly in her crate as we drive. Not bad for a first day.

Home, however, is another matter. If she's not with me, she's shrieking and destroying whatever barrier I have placed in her path. She's crated at the moment and very vocal about being unhappy. We're going to have to work on this.

She is definitely a crocodile, as predicted. My friend Mark made the mistake of wiggling his toes at her, and I'm afraid he got little sympathy when she bit them. He'd been warned. /laugh/ I told him he would not see this puppy in the next six months without a toy ready at hand. She's oral, and she's going to be oral, and I'm just going to have to be prepared to work with that.

But when she's sleeping in my lap, I can tell she's already succeeded. Yes, I have lofty goals for her in the future. But my dogs' number one job is to be family members, companions, and she's already got that down. :-)

Laev and Sumo the Fat Cat

here I come!

ooh! a stick! I won it in a game of chase and tug!

the last thing a puppy toy sees....

entering the front door

She's here!

May I present Ascomannis Laevatein, age 64 days on her arrival.

I had to go to three different buildings to retrieve her -- there was some confusion at the airport -- but when I finally found the right place and said I was there to collect a dog, the staff looked at me anxiously. "Is your name Laura?"


"Oh, good. We're ready to let this one go. It's loud!"

Oh, joy. ;-)

She was a little reserved for a few seconds, understandably, but I took her to a patch of grass and used the phrase her breeder had given me, and once she'd urinated her outlook definitely improved. She snuggled right into me, happy to have a person and to be out of the crate. Unfortunately, she had to be crated on the way home, but I gave her a larger one, complete with cushy foam matting and--

oh no! Where was the chew toy?

Laev *screamed* in the crate, not worried but just upset at being confined again, I'd guess. I stopped at a fast-food place for supper for me and fresh ice for her, which she enjoyed enough to quiet for 2 seconds before screaming again, and got directions to the nearest pet supply store. But local time was an hour ahead of my own clock, and en route I realized that I would arrive after they closed.

Then I saw the familiar lights of a Kroger, a grocery chain here. Hurray! I parked and took her to a patch of grass again, thinking she probably needed to defecate still, but she was too excited to be with me and out of the box to remember that. She was bucking a little on the leash and the collar I had was a bit large, and I was terrified that she was going to slip out. The breeder had specifically warned me the night before that she was fast if she got free, and I absolutely could not lose her in the nighttime parking lot in another city! So I popped her back into the crate and went into the store.

Yes, they had raw bones. Awesome.

I knew Laev's litter had been given raw bones to chew on, so this wasn't going to upset her novice stomach. That kept her very happy for almost five minutes, but as soon as I was back on the interstate, she was screaming again. I sang along with the radio, but she was not impressed.

Then my nose informed me that she'd taken care of her pressing need, and the tenor of the screaming changed. Instead of a fussy, "Let me out!" it was now more of a "Ew, my crate's messy!" So I pulled off and cleaned up. The shrieking slowed after that, but she continued to complain. She rediscovered the raw bone, though, and began to gnaw on it as she moaned and complained in a most hilarious fashion. And then, finally, the day caught up with her and she fell asleep.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Night Before

She's almost here!

Lisa and Jes approved my own name choice, so when all the corrective paperwork is finished, she'll be Ascomannis Laevatein. The puppy testing was done this week to determine which puppy went to which home; the majority of this took place in a welding shop, apparently, to test the pups' reactions to the slick painted floors, the odd lighting, the smells, the sounds, the many strange objects and equipment, etc. They also gave the dogs tugging tests on entirely new materials, exposed them to family and to strangers, and took them for walks along an airstrip. This dog is going to have nerves of steel.

Here's what Lisa wrote to me:
I think you will really enjoy your puppy. She has good drive, is possessive of her toys and loves food and doing the little tracking squares. She shows a marked recognition of her family members and interacts ok with other people too. I think she will be a dog who shows a strong bond to her handler and does not act like everyone else is just as special. She has a beautiful dark-pigmented face and nice full muzzle with good bone and body size.

I can hardly wait! She flies in tomorrow evening.

Monday, April 04, 2005

poor husband

Yesterday afternoon, my husband asked me, "So, what will this new puppy be? Is it going to be a Schutzhund dog? Or is it going to do obedience? Or agility?"

"Yes," I said. "Schutzhund, obedience, agility, rally obedience, and if it shows aptitude, search work."

"Uh huh," he said.

He's grateful, though. The puppy arrives just four days before I leave town for a week for dog events with Shakespeare. I'm taking the little crocodile with me, so he has no puppy responsibility. That makes him very happy.

Friday, April 01, 2005

AWDF national trial

Yesterday afternoon my doggie friend Linda called me with a last-minute idea that we would drive down two states together to see the American Working Dog Federation nationals. So we left this morning at 3:30 a.m. and arrived at 9 local time -- only to learn obedience had begun at 7 local time, not 9 as we'd been told. Drat.

Still, we saw the final obedience exercise (send-away) of Linda's dog's uncle, which was very nice. We missed the sire of my puppy, whom I found in the entries last night. But we were able to see both of them work protection. I also met a woman who owned a Fabio puppy, a half-brother to my coming puppy, who raved about her dog's temperament at 8 months. Good to know! She also had a full brother who was blind, so thare's that genetic component to keep in the back of my mind.... We'll hope that doesn't show up, though. Both parents tested CERF clear.

Jim & Sunny

The weather was formidable -- about twenty degrees colder than predicted, with cold rain occasionally becoming ice. Whatever happened to spring? Sunny, the Dobe Linda wanted to see, slid in the mud over the high jump and crashed, turning a complete somersault and planting his face in the ground before hopping up and retrieving the dumbbell. Still, the dogs did very well, and I watched a splendid Doberman hold his long down while facing into the sleet. What a trooper.

Fabio on the escape

I was able to see Fabio, the sire of my coming puppy, do his protection routine. I got some photos and video, which I'll try to post here. He did cheat on the blind search. ;-) The blinds were skinny little things which did nothing to disguise the helper and sleeve hiding behind one, and quite a few dogs just skipped to the end because they could see the helper from all the way down the field. But that's why it's an obedience exercise, right? I could also see where better handler body language (a la agility handling) might have saved some of those mistakes.

I'd like to state for the record that I disliked the IPO I helper, who stepped on and kicked and tripped over the dogs. Several dogs came off the sleeve after being kicked or trod upon. Not good, buddy, not for this sport.