Friday, May 27, 2005


Okay, I think we've finally come across a real fear period. Today was the first day I saw real evidence of teething, and I know some pups can get weirded out during teething. Tonight Laev ran barking from a toddler -- okay, it was the first one she'd seen, so I didn't think too much of it, though I did note that it was the second time that I'd ever seen her actively retreat from something. (The first was an animatronic singing and dancing hamster, at 8 weeks old; I'd run, too.)

Nothing phased her at Petsmart, not other dogs, friendly people, my purse falling on her head, nothing. Then I went to my parents' and she was spooked by my dad. That's odd.... Then he dropped a sweatshirt and she ran. Very, very, very odd for this dog! She continued to regard him and particular the worrisome clothing with concern for some time.

I guess I'm just going to have to be careful of socialization at this time, making sure she has lots of positive experiences. Just funny to me that she's finally acting spooky.

Last night I walked back in the middle of the night, having left Laev penned outside while I was gone for a while. I walked up my 1/3 mile gravel drive and heard ferocious barking from a distance of 100 feet or so. "Who's that?" I wondered. I knew it wasn't Inky or Shakespeare, both of whom were inside and both of whom have readily recognizable voices. I wondered if a neighbor's dog had gotten loose and ended up at my place. But no, it was Laev! doing her best guard dog routine. Quite impressive, actually; she might have scared off a real intruder. She didn't sound small. And most intruders wouldn't have recognized that she was simply alarmed and trying to warn me away. But she was quite happy to recognize me and welcomed me home.

She's now asleep on a pile of laundry. Cute pup.

A Typical Day In The Life of Laev, by Laev herself

Hi everybody! I'm skipping my nap to post this. I hear we dogs aren't supposed to be too good at this writing business, but I've been watching Uncle Shakespeare at work.... His stuff always comes out all funny and rhyming, though, and you gotta bark in rhythm to read it. Weird. Inky just eats the paper, so she isn't much help.

I woke up at five, like usual. Like usual, Mom got out of the bed -- I don't know why she's so slow in the morning -- and let me out of the crate to go outside. Usually we have a really fun game where she tries to get me to the door before I pee. Lately I've been letting her win. She thinks this is some sort of progress, but it's really the same thing she does with letting me win the tug toy. I'll save it all up for a really big surprise later!

Anyway, then I went back in the crate with a bone. Honestly, that Mom of mine thinks that just because I went to bed hours before she did that she should be able to get up after me. Silly woman.

Later, when Mom finally hauled her carcass out of bed, we went tracking. TRACKING! My favorite thing ever. Tracking is this really cool thing where Mom takes me out to a spot where there's a little flag -- I used to try to eat the flag, but I know better now -- and even though I can smell where Mom walked all the way up to the flag, at the flag the smell starts having KIBBLES in it! That's fun for a minute, but then it's SMELL SMELL SMELL and I just want to run and smell and chase the scent and go so fast down the track 'cuz I can see where it goes even around corners and turns and it's so cool!!!! but Mom has me on leash /sigh/ and I have to slow down. Sometimes I eat the kibbles on the smell to make her feel good, but I really don't need them and they're kind of silly. I think that frustrates her. But I thought speed was most important, right? Like, I have to catch the person who made the smell and smells are good and scenting and oh boy--!

Oops. Tracking's over. Okay, I can sit with Mom in the field a moment, but I wish we had more smells.

Ooooh, obedience. My favorite! Mom says this is obedience, anyway, but I think that must be a fancy human word for "make Mom give you fun stuff she has." Sits and Downs are really, really easy, but Mom's confusing me a little by changing my nose touch. Hmm. It used to be that I had to touch my nose to her palm and she'd give me a kibble or a treat, but now sometimes she gives it to me just when I start to move forward. I'm not sure I get that. I mean, all I do is push my back feet out and bam! there it is. Kinda confusing. Not to mention, she's not saying "Touch" anymore, but some new word called "Stand." Huh. Guess it'll all make sense later....

Stays. Okay, who invented stays? I mean, they're easy and all, but kinda dumb. I'm 13 weeks old, for crying out loud! I don't want to stay in one place for more than 2 seconds at a time! Although it's a little better when Mom's moving around during stays, 'cuz at least then I have something to look at. Sheesh. Can we do Heeling? I think that's my favorite. (Mom doesn't know that I know what that's called, 'cuz she doesn't use any words for that one yet, but I overheard her talking to Dad and that's what she called it. I'm so clever!)

Naptime! You're kidding, right? I hate naptime! I don't wanna sit in the box. I'm not sleepy. I don't wanna be here. Where's something for me to chew? Bark, bark! I'm not tired! I'm not... a bit... sleepy....

Ooh, the car! My favorite! I love going places. There are always funny people there wherever we go. Sometimes Mom lets me meet them and then they talk all funny to me and rub my ears. Even if I don't get to meet them, there are always cool smells and things. I love the car. I love my crate in the car. I don't mind being in there at all, 'cuz it's more fun. Where are we going today? Oooh, farm store! Lots and lots and lots of smells! Yippee!

Home again. What now? Oh, agility! My favorite! Mom doesn't let me do very much like Uncle Shakespeare does, but she does let me bang on things and climb on things and I get treats for it! A puppy's dream come true! Mom says that I'm fearless, but I can't figure why everybody doesn't do this. When else can a puppy get treats for climbing all over stuff?

Hey, Mom's got a sandwich. Watch this! I'm gonna walk up real easy like -- can't look at the food, that kills the whole game -- and lie down just a little bit away from Mom. No barking, no jumping! Just lie down and pretend like I'm a piece of floor. And check it out! a little piece of lettuce just fell on my head. Yep, puppy karma. Cool.

Ick. Time to go in the kennel. Man, the kennel is boring. Just me and a doghouse and chainlink and a bone. Pbleh. Guess I'll just hang out 'til Mom gets back from wherever she's going without me. Sheesh, what is she thinking?

Ooh, dinnertime! My favorite! I like it when I get dinner in the orange ball; that takes a long time to get all the pieces out and I get to chase it around. I'm pretty smart, though, and I get 'em out pretty fast. Mom says I need a harder ball, but I don't think they make one. That's how smart I am. And fast. Wanna see me catch that thing? Ow, that hurt! Oops, that was my tail.

No, Mom! Not tired! Not tired! Don't put me in the crate. Man, now I have to lie here and just, well, just chew this bone. Yummy. I like raw bones. I need more bones now 'cuz my teeth hurt all the time. Maybe that's why Mom's not playing tug as much as she used to? I thought she was just tired of losing. But I guess swinging off the floor wouldn't be as much fun now that my teeth hurt. Hope that's over soon so I can get back to winning.

/yawn/ Okay, night-night!


Laev is an enthusiastic tracker. Very enthusiastic. And pretty talented, for a 13-week-old pup. She had a little trouble with a 45-degree crosswind this morning, but other than that, she's generally right in the footsteps. She corners like she's on rails, whether they're right angles, obtuse, acute, whatever.

She's fast, though, almost too fast. Doesn't want to stop for mere food on the track, just wants to keep tracking! Article problems in our future? Hmm....

Sunday, May 22, 2005

slow going -- with web, not puppy

Sorry for the erratic posting; I have been having a truly terrible time getting online, and I'm averaging about once a week of connection. Not good!

Anyway, Laev isn't learning anything dramatically new except for stays with distractions (can you wait while I open the crate door? Open the house door? Set down a food bowl?), but we're still practicing our other behaviors. I need to do some shaping with her, get her to practice creativity. I like that in my dogs.

Had a weird tracking session on Friday; we both completely lost the track I'd laid. I knew where it was, but could find no food at all when she lost it. Neither could Laev. I left her with a tracking friend and went ahead, following that leg and the turn, but still no food or visible prints. I did find the jackpot at the end of the track, but that's it! What happened? That's the first time I've seen Laev completely lose a track, and I know I wasn't that far off, even if I'd moved a bit, as we were moving along a fenceline and I simply couldn't get that misplaced. Hm. Anyway, we finished with a big recall party. :-)

Laev does adorable heeling. I really have to get some video at this point.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Lost & Found

Today's post is about misplacing dogs. It doesn't matter how well a dog is trained, stuff happens.

At nearly 4 this morning, Shakespeare poked me with his nose, indicating that he needed to go out. It was odd timing, but I figured, what the heck, we've been keeping odd hours and maybe he needs to go. I let him and Inky out the door. There's still a gap in the north fenceline left from the geothermal installation, but the dogs are pretty good about ignoring it during their brief restroom trips. I expected them to go out, pee, and return as usual. Jon was going to fix the fence tonight.

A moment later, I saw Shakespeare darting erratically, as if chasing some prey animal. Aw, let him have some fun; there's a lot of room to chase things inside our fenced yard. But then the chase took him further and apparently out the gap -- by the time I reached the door and got outside to call them, they were well gone.

Eight hours later, they still had not returned. I'd circled the country roads, seeing no dead bodies (good) and no running forms in the fields (bad). I spoke to neighbors, but no one had seen them. I kept close to my home phone and kept my mobile on my person, as both numbers are on the dogs' tags.

Finally an Animal Control van pulled up my long driveway. I rushed to meet it. "I was just about to call you guys. I sure hope you have two black dogs."

"We have one. We couldn't catch the other one."

Apparently, someone had spied the two dogs but couldn't get near enough to read the tags. The dogs were too wary to approach the stranger. Seeing the dogs had collars and tags, the individual had called Animal Control, figuring that they would be better equipped to catch the dogs and return them. AC had been able to coax Shakespeare to them and load him in the van, but Inky (never as trusting and probably spooked at being away from home) had growled at him and run away.

I put Shakespeare in a run and took off after the AC van to where they'd last seen Inky. I called her, but there was no sign. I drove around the country roads again, finally pulling over and wandering into a field about a mile from where she'd been last seen. After a few minutes, I spotted a black shape at least a half mile away. Inky! I called her and saw her pause. Her head came up, and she appeared to be looking around. I waved my arms and called again. She turned toward the hill and trees beyond her and started in that direction.

Drat. She was moving toward the echo of my voice, not me! She never saw me. I followed her at the half-mile distance until I lost sight of her.

I thought of the search for Smooth, the agility Rottweiler who was missing for two weeks after a car accident killed her owner. Volunteers had traced sightings, looking for her. But this was different -- I wasn't dead. At least, not until Jon got home and learned that I had my dog and not his.

I went back for a three o'clock appointment, giving up temporarily. Jon told me he'd leave work early and come to search. I checked for messages between appointments and class, but no luck.

My five o'clock Manners 1 class was dispersing when Mariah, who's finishing a training externship with me, came back toward the training building. "Inky's loose," she called. She had arrived late and hadn't heard that Inky was missing. "Do you want me to put her in the yard?"

/sigh/ So everyone's okay. Still, I think I stressed enough for a year. I kept expecting to find a black lump at the side of the road....

No real work with Laev today.

long overdue update

I'm way, way behind on updating. Maybe if I'd had internet access..... Dern phone company delayed hooking up the new account for over a month, and I steal bandwidth from public networks and friends. Anyway....

Yesterday I laid a 100-step track with two turns, grass a little under knee-height, and food in a little over 1/3 of the footsteps. Laev had no clue what we were doing there. Worst track ever. Today, we did a ~80-step track in short grass with two turns and food in about 1/2 the steps, and she was much better, if not perfect. She was very distracted by the nearby horse, even though she was really focused at 9 weeks while tracking 50 feet from an entire paddock of sheep.

Which brings me to my next comment -- I'm not sure I like this 12 week period. ;-) This is tecnically her second fear period, but in this pup that manifests as increased awareness. Fear period = noticing more things in general! and reduced ability to focus on me. So now she piloerects while going toward something new, is all. :-) Yesterday I had relatively little puppy focus while working away from home. What happened to the adoring tiny thing who couldn't take her eyes from me two weeks ago? Heck, what happened to my tiny puppy? She's enormous! I swear she doubles in size every time I take my eyes off her.

I was gone over the weekend, so she lived in the kennel run for three days or so. She escaped it. /sigh/ We think that moving the kennel just prior to leaving loosened some of the screws so that she could work them loose, so that when my mother arrived some hours later to feed and check on her, she was trotting about loose. Not good! I arrived home to find my part of my agility dogwalk strapped to the kennel door to secure the puppy. We fixed the kennel though and it held her tonight, so....

I really need to get someone to photograph and/or video some of our training sessions. I'm sure I could benefit from reviewing them, and I want a record of what we're doing now. Just got to get my husband home at a reasonable hour, so we can get some training done while he's available.

We did get some very nice comments on her ragwork at Schutzhund last night. Good puppy. Needs to bark more to get the rag to move -- she's dead silent -- but very nice work. :-)

Monday, May 09, 2005

Vet Visit Okay, and I Learn to Wash Sacks

Laev was complimented on her conformation and stable personality as she took shots with little notice. She did pee on the floor, but we'd all confused the fussy insistance at the door with a fussy puppy wanting to check out a new place. :-( Bad handler! We made quite a picture, though, in the waiting room, with a large Doberman, a Doberpup and a Rottweiler. Two of the three waited calmly as asked. The little one was a little bouncy, though. ;-)

Shakespeare indeed has a dead tooth, an upper canine. It's fine for now, I'm told, and we won't extract it until it starts giving him trouble. He certainly doesn't seem bothered in any form. But I don't want to risk him breaking it off....

Tonight Laev seemed a littler reluctant to play with a burlap sack which I was using for tug. I was frustrated by this, until at the end I looked down at my black shirt and saw hundreds of little fibers all over! Obviously that would be nasty in the mouth! So that explains her reduced excitement for that particular toy.

She's sleeping right now on my parents' carpet. Too cute.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

I'm a Slacker

Okay, Laev's finally starting to get the "down" verbal cue. I wish I could say what great technique I'd used to make it click for her, but frankly I have no clue. :-) I think it just finally sank in.

There is the slight problem that she will fold back for the hand signal, but likes to walk into the down with a verbal cue. I want a foldback. I think we can fix that, though. She sure is happy to do obedience! I love puppies.

But there are quite a few things I haven't done.

  • I've had her touch my palm, but no real targeting yet. I'll be needing that later for all kinds of things, so I should probably be using it.

  • I haven't done much formal recall training. By that I mean, restrained recalls, etc. She does come when called -- of course she does! She's 11 weeks old! -- but I haven't conditioned a cue for this.

  • I should be tracking even more often.

  • There are probably things I should be doing differently during play to enhance retrieving in the future, but I'm not doing them now. We do have fun play sessions, she does chase and pick up objects, and she does usually bring them back to me. The only exception is when she runs past me to do a victory lap. I'm not sure I want to worry about this now.

I thought we were making good housetraining progress, but last night was bad -- visiting a friend, and two accidents indoors! /sigh/ I was so very, very spoiled by Dante....

Friday, May 06, 2005

Baby Agility

I haven't done any preparatory work for agility yet, except inadvertently leaving a tunnel once where Laev could find it and amuse herself by hiding and playing in it. But this evening I introduced Laev to some of the equipment.

First, the teeter. I really thought she wouldn't have much trouble with this, as she's generally fearless, but you never know.... I didn't realize exactly how fearless she would be! After a couple of reps I knew I had to get this recorded and conscripted my husband.

on the teeter

Want to see the video (2.9 MB)? You may be able to see it by clicking on the link, or you may need to right-click and download to view. The sound in the background is that of bricks being cut for our house. :-)

learning proper and safe A-frame position

Here you can see Laev learning a safer position for a large dog on the A-frame. See how her spine is rounded and all her weight is on her rear legs? This will protect her shoulders as she descends and lands.

I'd love to teach her running contacts, if I can find a reliable method for her. I haven't heard of too much luck with larger dogs and running contacts. I welcome suggestions!

sharing a bed

This happened while we let the dogs have some time together while we worked on the house. Shakespeare generally tries to pretend the puppy doesn't exist (except if he thinks someone else is threatening the puppy, in which case suddenly he cares a lot from his crate!), but he was too much a gentleman to refuse her a corner of his bed.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Puppy Training -- wait, come back here!

Overheard in public tonight: "Wow! That dog's only ten weeks old and it already knows sit on a hand signal!"

Well, actually, we started with the hand signal, but I didn't mention that. I did, however, go on to demonstrate a down with a hand signal, a palm touch, a short stay, and a little heeling. What can I say, I'm a sucker for showing off. ;-)

We did some rag play in the open, too, which was very distracting. She only lost concentration once, though. Nor did my slapping my legs, whacking a magazine on the floor beside her, or anything else cause her to loosen her grip. What a little crocodile.

Her crate screaming is almost entirely gone; it appears briefly only when she's put into the crate before she considered herself fully exercised. But even then it lasts only a minute or two, instead of the nearly three hours that she would clock before.

She's developing into something of an escape artist. I'm sleeping at my parents' as we're trying to get a few necessities (toilet? sink?) installed at our new place, and yesterday we returned home to find Laev happily romping with their two rescue Dobes. Fortunately, both of them like Laev, but long scrutiny of the pen could reveal no puppy exit. The edges were wired more tightly and we tried again today while I ran some errands, only to find that she'd escaped once more. I couldn't make anything flex more than an inch or so, and I consider myself stronger than a 10 week pup!

Finally my mother decided that Laev must be bracing herself against the little dog house and using the leverage to squeeze herself -- painfully, I'm sure -- through a narrow gap. Moving the dog house indeed solved the problem, but wow. Determined little bugger!

I thought we were getting this housetraining thing, but tonight was really bad. My fault for not supervising the puppy directly, but leaving her with others, but apparently she pooped in my parents' house. Twice. Messily. My husband called with news that I was in trouble, and I wasn't even the one responsible! As soon as I'm done posting this, I'm going to clean up. /sigh/

She's got the verbal "sit" well enough, but for some reason we're sticking on "down." She just doesn't seem to connect the word with the action, though she's very reliable on the hand signal. Hm.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A Response

Wow, what a delight in my inbox today. I returned to several days' worth of unchecked mail, because my time's been taken with other things (more on that later), and found a number of hostile messages. I thought initially to delete them and ignore it all, and in fact did at first, but then I thought one at least of the comment posts here had merit and I knew I should respond to that.

I never, never meant to give offense regarding the other puppies I mentioned in my post "Training Pays!" In fact, the other two persons present during the playtime (and apparently also the invisible observer who threatened to tattle on me?) should be able to recall my favorable comments on the other dogs and the genuine delight I showed in their play together. I do see how one of my statements could have been read in a less-favorable light, but that was my mistake in failing to employ the right tone for a text-only medium; that statement would have been my observation that my puppy was fearless and the others were less so. If anyone had bothered to ask me, I would have explained that while I had only one puppy to socialize, this person had several puppies and adult dogs to handle and had certainly had less opportunity to expose the dogs to all that I've listed just here, much less all that we do that I don't list here. I might also have pointed out that I had also specifically written that "they weren't bad dogs or poorly bred."

My comments were not to run down the other puppies, but only to express my pleasure at what MY puppy did. If it read any other way, I apologize. Let me repeat that: I APOLOGIZE IF I GAVE OFFENSE. I meant it in the same way that I happily showed off Laev's baby heeling the other night and commented that she was about the same as the adult dogs learning heeling in classes. The comment wasn't to run down the adult dogs, which are just now learning this behavior, but to show pride in my own pup.

I don't know who could be wanting to go to this breeder, whom I know and respect, and tell her that I'm talking trash about her dogs -- honestly, what could be in it for someone else? But I've been warned that will happen or has happened. Okay, no problem. If this breeder has any questions at all regarding what I wrote about our puppy playtime, I'll happily answer her. But I think it's a little silly that someone who wasn't even there and who doesn't have the nerve to sign a name should threaten to tattle.

Some of the other emails I received just made me laugh. I'll skip those; nobody cares about them. But I feel a few were possibly motivated by real concern, if poorly worded. And I do appreciate real concern.

Sure, I left the Armin Winkler seminar knowing about some talk behind my back. I kind of rely on that happening when I hear talk behind others' backs. I also know that unless the talkers were privy to some private emails and private conversations, they weren't dealing with all the information, and so if it makes them feel better about themselves to run me or my dog down, so be it. It's not like I gave my compliments as part of an exchange program, after all, expecting to get good words back in return; I meant what I said about the other dogs I observed, and that's all. And I've yet to find that Shakespeare cares much about what someone else says about him. :-) As I mentioned, I've been thinking about letting him off the performance hook for several months.

Someone watched him sail through an agility sequence last week and asked why he hadn't done so well at the Nationals trial -- the story of our career. :-) Someone else told me I should force the performance I want from him as a matter of principle. Well, I'm into dog sports for fun and for a good time with my dog; if he's miserable at a trial, I don't see how forcing it will make the two of us both happier. Aren't I allowed to love him for who and what he is? It's not as if I'm claiming he's something else or breeding him to produce inferior pups.

Especialy your comment that says "What is drive anyway" maybe if you did some more reading and attended more seminars you would begin to understand.

Thank you for the suggestion. I do appreciate a comment here which is intended to help me rather than merely accuse me remotely of ineptitude. Yes, I've read a few books on Schutzhund. Actually, I've read almost every book I could find on the subject, and there are several more stacked and waiting for my attention still. That doesn't mean I think I know everything about it; in fact, I mentioned several times at said seminar that I was relatively novice. (Hence my self-deprecating comments on this very blog regarding my tracking skills. I'm working with someone to help remedy that.) Years of working with a dog who wasn't born to the sport and who started as an adult will make one good at observing (I've worked only three or four SchH seminars, compared to many more in other fields) but inexperienced on the field itself. But I'm perfectly happy to discuss training, anyway, even outside of a rhetorical question. Would you like to discuss why Hull's theory of drive is acknowledged to be incorrect? Or would you like to discuss prey versus defense versus the several definitions of fight drives, in the modern working sense of the word? Or would you like to discuss why I'm not particularly crazy about that particular term? Of course, actual discussion (please, I quite honestly would like to hear why you think early learning inhibits enthusiasm or whatever "drive" one expects to see in obedience) might require one coming out of anomymity.

Funny you should mention this, because I told someone just very recently that I had learned something from every trainer I saw, in a seminar, workshop or halfway-organized training environment. Sometimes it was a gem of an idea, sometimes a technique, sometimes just the knowledge of what I did not want to do and why instead of vague notions of what I wanted to avoid. I'm a big, big believer in learning. I look back at photos of myself in a trial with Chaucer and laugh at my body position. We're always improving -- or we should be, anyway.

But further research will have to wait, because I'm really busy this week. Aside from my usual classes and finishing self-building a house, I'm volunteering last week and this with an annual program for handicapped and at-risk children. Shakespeare is doing Agility demonstrations and greeting sessions/dog safety lessons; Laev put in one baby tracking demo. Last year we logged 3,000 kids in all, and I'm not sure what the number will work out to be this year. Quite a few of the kids and teachers remembered us from the year before, which is gratifying in a program of more than two dozen individual activities.

And you know what? Not one of those kids -- not the mentally handicapped boy in the wheelchair who needs help to guide his hand over the dog's back, not the girl who's initially terrified because the only dogs she's known are the fighting dogs kept by the drug lord next door -- not one of them cares whether he's labeled "high-drive" or "low-drive" or is titled in whatever. They don't care that a big-name international trainer said he should have been put to sleep because he couldn't do Schutzhund or that Armin Winkler told me again that he wasn't cut out for the sport. They don't care that he has defended me on the street but simply cannot excel on the sport field.

They care that this big dog can run and weave and jump on cue, that he can make them laugh with tricks, that they can touch him without danger. They care that they've learned a little about how to meet a dog safely and that a dog is more than a fighting machine or something that barks at their medical equipment. And frankly, that means more to me than the opinion of someone who can't be bothered to sign a name.