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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Sunday, November 28, 2010


The very best advice I can give about assuming is "don't".  No matter what you assume, you will surely be wrong far too often.  So what does this have to do with the dogs?

Recently someone I know well suggested I do something with Gimme that I didn't think my puppy was ready for and I said as much.  Later she asked if she could hold Gimme and I handed over my precious baby.  I had no more than turned away to answer questions about liver spotted Dalmatians than she proceeded to do what I had already said no to.  I assumed she meant "hold" as in "I wanna cuddle the cute puppy."  I assumed she understood and would honor my objection.  I was wrong on both assumptions.  Perhaps she assumed that I would be pleasantly surprised to see that Gimme handled the situation better than she assumed I expected -- if that was the case, she was wrong.   I had a number of reasons for not wanting to do what she suggested; she didn't have the full story.  I've written to her about my objections and her response indicates that she had a number of assumptions about what I wanted from the meet and greet experience. 

The point is much larger than this one experience AND its not the only experience.  I described in another blog entry a person who asked if her dogs could meet my puppy.  First she said one of her dogs was "great" with puppies, but would have to get in the puppy's face first.  Obviously I can't assume that people understand dog behavior or that we have the same standard; her dog was not "great" by my way of thinking.  Then she went on to say that she wanted to try out her other unknown dog on my puppy, because she was getting a puppy.  I'm thinking that assuming someone has common sense may not bode well either.

I've had other experiences that made me question assumptions.  You can't assume that people will be careful about their dogs and yours.  We've all had the experience of someone letting their dog get in our dog's face or crowding, or staring down.  Often just running over you and yours in their haste.

Also having played pass the puppy, I was surprised (to say the least) about how rough some are when handling a baby puppy.  Fortunately Gimme has a real strong sense of self and made it clear what she didn't like.  My own father is one of those people who handles puppies roughly, with a little country ear-pulling thrown in.  He flat out adores Gimme - having completely fallen for her spottie dottie charm.  I was able to intervene in these cases, but with a more sensitive puppy, it could have caused lasting distrust.  Gimme adores my father in return and has become accustomed to his ways, but still doesn't accept it from anyone else. 

Lest it appear that I'm completely inept when I comes to sizing people up -- in correspondence with another person (not a novice either) who has a puppy from this same litter, she is experiencing the same thing.    She described people who seemed to have what she called "their own agenda", who ignored her instructions and wishes regarding her puppy.  Similar stories have turned up in conversations with friends .

While attending an Ian Dunbar seminar, my friend played pass the puppy.  This is an environment filled with experienced dog people who presumably are interested in reward based methods.  One of those experienced people allowed this young puppy to eat an earring right off her ear.  C'mon, do we need to do a TSA screening and pat down to make sure people aren't harboring harmful objects?  Again with my earlier comment about assuming people have common sense.  Another person, who presented herself as a reward based trainer, when she got puppy-nibbled, grabbed the puppy by the jaw and shook her.  How nice to have planted in this show puppy's baby brain the idea that some people aren't nice to your mouth.  If that's her idea of reward-based, let's all thank God that she doesn't do what she thinks is punishment, eh. 

It sure doesn't help that one service dog at the same seminar snarled every time the tiny baby Dal got within ten feet of her.  Fortunately there were other people who were appropriate and took exquisite care of this baby and another service dog had a sweet and gentle play session with her.

This time around I haven't experienced (or lately even heard of) these issues with the general public.  I believe it may be that we are much more careful with people that aren't dog people because we assume (correctly) that they probably don't know how to interact with puppies.  Unfortunately we tend to assume (wrongly) things about people in the dog community, and its those assumptions that get us in trouble.  Remember, in the dog community, people have varied backgrounds, experiences, knowledge and training styles.  As such they approach everything from their own perspective, viewing everything through the prism of their own assumptions about right, wrong and appropriate.  When we assume that we're all on the same page - we stand a good chance of being wrong.

I don't want to leave this sounding like I've had one horrid experience after another - most people and most interactions have been delightful and have added positively to my baby's learning base.  The point is all about assumptions - that every experience I preferred to avoid could have been prevented had I (or the other person [or both of us]) not made assumptions. 

Also, not all assumptions led to negative experiences.  I practice with someone who is a steadfast traditional trainer (jerk and pull).  I assumed that he might not be the best choice for Gimme to meet and thus it was not my intention to let them interact.  She had other ideas and took matters into her own paws.  Their meeting was wonderful, she likes him very well and thinks he has a stunning expertise at treat delivery.  So you see how it is about assumptions - nowadays you can't even safely assume that traditional jerk and pull trainers are awful evil spawn who will do dastardly things to your puppy.  What is the world coming to???  <e.g.>

All foolishness aside -- we each need to remember that our puppies are our responsibility, so decisions about them are also ours to make.  No matter how much you think you know someone, your future with your baby is resting in their hands every time you give up control, even for a moment.  Small actions can have big consequences.  Vigilance and being ever ready to step in is essential.  We cannot worry about hurting someone else's feelings or about how we might seem when we intervene or just say no. 

Put succinctly:  My Puppy, My Rules -- and Never Ever Assume Anything...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Return to Sanity

After getting home from a great seminar about dog health (stretching and strengthening, with a strong focus on the abnormal stressors to an agility dog's joints), I suddenly realized how inappropriate the behavior I was encouraging is for a pup of Gimme's age (three months). I was about to email the breeder about some thoughts I had and, I kid you not, just as I sat down to email her, there in my inbox is an email from her on the exact same thing. Great minds think alike.

Gimme is a real jumper and bouncer and I know we don't need to worry about it when they do things on their own, because its not a repetitive stressor. But we should set their environment up to make sure it doesn’t become a repetitive stressor. I initially thought to reward the cute behaviors from time to time, just to keep them in her repertoire, but not enough that she repeats them to any great degree. I subsequently decided not to reward them at all - "airs above the ground" is her default, so I feel confident the behaviors will be there when I want them.

I found I needed to change how we do the food bowl self control exercise. Gimme's reaction to not getting the bowl right away is to do the razzle-dazzle (jumping straight up). And to make it worse, that is in the kitchen on linoleum. I've been positioning her where she doesn't have the room for jumping and that seems to do the trick.

Now that I'm freshly re-sensitized to this issue, I am shocked at all the respected agility people that are really pushing agility prospect puppies with little evident concern for the safety of their joints. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the internet to see what other agility people are doing and there seems to be a recurrent tendency for people to fast track their puppies teaching things that are real joint stressors. I don't intend to do that with mine. One instructor is teaching tight turns to puppies. Between the 30-40 repetitions in class and all the practicing at home, that really concerns me. Just yesterday another respected agility person posted a video of her new puppy playing an indoor chase game with her adult dogs. The chase circle involved a jump, that while doable for the puppy, was set up at the puppy's elbow height!

I'm thinking canine genius Gimme and I will have to do another creativity session and find some other cute (and much safer) behaviors to put cues on. I encourage everyone to really think about what they are doing with puppies.

As someone I love and respect just said, "Go slow to go fast." There is so much we can do to further our end goals without risking injury to their joints. Let's all give our kids time to grow up.

Some good sites to look at, include:


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Did I Mention?

I just had this amazing training session with Gimme and I'm absolutely certain she's a canine genius.  Gawd I love this pup.  She's been cooped up all day and so I wanted to do something to work her brain, so she could let off some steam.  I decided a little creativity session, which we haven't done before, would do the trick.  It took her all of four clicks to figure out that she was getting clicked for anything different.  She was throwing behaviors at me so fast I could barely keep up. Did I mention I think she's a canine genius?

Then she did the cutest behavior I've ever seen.  Its a leap straight up, where she sort of wriggles her butt as she is coming back down.  It reminded me of the razzle-dazzle move I learned in military drill team about a hundred and twenty years ago.  I soooo want to capture that and put a name on it.

Then she immediately did another behavior that I love, its a two-bounce-spin.  She bounces and lands 180 degrees, with an immediate repeat, ending with her facing me again.  This had a little bit of the razzle-dazzle wriggle to it.  I soooo want to capture that and put a name on it.

Then she immediately chased her tail, first in one direction and then the other.  Naturally I want to capture those and put a names on them too.

She puts sooooo much style into these that they'd be ten kinds of wonderful for musical freestyle.  Basically for the rest of that session (until I ran out of treats), I treated all of them.  Any one that seemed to be lessening in frequency, I jackpotted. 

Did I mention I think she's a canine genius? 

Speaking of the canine genius, she is really mad at me right now.  We had about a 100 treats and when they were gone the session was over and she had to go in a crate so I could let the others in out of the rain.  So she is, not very patiently trying to explain to me how incredibly inappropriate it is to end her training session when SHE is having fun.

So, did I mention I think she's a canine genius?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Thing of Beauty

It occurs to me this blog entry could just as easily have been titled "Me And My Shadow".

In an on-going quest to set up successful interactions between the new puppy and my existing dogs, I've been taking Gimme and Meaggi to the Fort Lewis training areas for some light hiking (which actually means, puppy-speed roaming and snooping).  

Last Monday was the first time and it was a thing of beauty to behold.  Watching dogs interact naturally without interference by people, when both are socially appropriate - well its just cool to see.  Meaggi is clearly setting up the hierarchy and telling the stinker that she's got boss status.  Thus far Gimme is fine with that and showed due deference. 

It was really kinda cute watching her follow Meaggi around and copy what she did.  If Meaggi stopped and sniffed, Gimme sniffed too - about 6 feet away.  When Meaggi stopped to pee, Gimme would too. 

Today we did it again, with a longer "hike" and the interactions were great.  Everywhere Meaggi went, Gimme was pretty close behind, until Meaggi got outside the distance from me that Gimme is comfortable with.  Then she would stop and wait for her to return and then follow her some more, inside the comfort zone.

The sad thing is that I now have even more evidence that Meaggi's eyesight is getting bad.  For one thing, she doesn't travel as far from me as she used to when we hiked there.  She's always tended to stay where she could see me, and that is much closer than it used to me. 

Also, she was trotting toward me once and Gimme was in a bit of a play bow and pounced toward her from plain view - Meaggi yelped in surprise at something I would have thought would be hard not to see.  So it seems her clarity of vision has decreased.  It's sad when they get old...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Arrival of Big Foot

Today was a fun day.  Gimme got to play some agility - time on the Buja board, which she thinks should be galloped across - was highly rewarded.  Also I specifically reinforced her for coming out of the big tunnel.  Each time I have sent her through a full size tunnel, she has stopped and waited until I'm in sight before coming out the other end.  I think this is probably a carryover from playing in the kitty tunnel with her littermates.  I suspect she got some secret joy from waiting just inside and seeing who she could pounce on.  She figured out real quick today that running through and catching Mom was the fastest way to get a treat.

Then we went out to Rochester to see her Papillion buddies, Henry and Gunner.  She met them two weeks ago, but we we couldn't play just then.  Gunner is a barking goof and sometimes wasn't entirely nice, so it took her awhile to get used to them.  On the other hand, their toy box is vewy vewy big and well stocked with all kinds of toys.  So she had a lot of nice things to play with.  I didn't realize until we left that we'd been there three hours.  She had a late lunch, then slept all the way home, had a brief burst of energy and is now sound asleep again. 

So what does any of this have to do with the title of this blog entry?  Nothing. 

THAT refers to the sudden growth of her feet.  Yesterday they were normal, relative to the rest of her.  Today they are HUGE.  I was just shocked when I noticed them and can still hardly take my eyes off those big things. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Giant Brown Dog

I forgot to mention in yesterday's blog that Gimme met a giant brown "dog" at the stables yesterday.  I held her and let her sniff it nose to nose and smell its horsey breath.  She was not impressed, but also didn't seem that concerned.  Her eyes got verrrrrry big. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's the Little Things

Sometimes it seems like days go by with nothing really done, but when I really think about it to blog it, there is more there than meets the eye.

Yesterday was the day that I go to my store with all the noisy traffic nearby (Wednesday).  Gimme didn't even notice the big trucks on the freeway at first.  As we were finishing our walk and she seemed to need to do some "business", I walked further back and that put us closer to the big trucks.  She didn't act fearful, but from her ears, it was clear she was paying attention to them.  Still its a huge improvement from the week before.  She seems to be paying much less attention to traffic overall.

I planned my day to quit early-ish so I could make it to class, only to get home to a message that class had been cancelled.  So packed the girl back up in the car and we headed to the ranges for an hour long walk.  She did well trudging up some of those steep inclines and a little investigating here and there.  There were lots of bird and small critter sounds in the trees that she would listen to.  The funniest was the big frog croaking up a storm, she clearly thought that was a very odd sound.  Not afraid, just intrigued.

I've noticed when we are out on our off-leash rambles, that she has a tendency to walk behind me, which means I am constantly turning around to see where she is, by which time she's now "in front", which is the new behind.  I've tried click/treat for walking beside me, but it really wasn't changing her behavior.  Also, I know I've done some click/treat for her coming in from behind on a recall to whichever hand I have extended.  So I think she thought she was being rewarded for moving into place beside me and/or was hanging back waiting for the hand.  What I did was to click her for being beside me and slightly ahead, then for treat delivery, tossed it further ahead.  She very quickly figured that out... and we ended the walk with her in sight, just slightly ahead of me.

Today was a day I teach class and she got to come in and play.  I would not really train jumping at this point, since she is still soooo young, but I did guide her over a couple jump bumps.  She just immediately went right over them.  We had another session on the Buja board - which she is certain will earn extra treats if you run at it and use it as a puppy springboard.  Too funny.  And she quickly learned that giant tunnels are every bit as fun as the kitty tunnel she played in with her litter mates.

I spent the afternoon helping entertain 5 year old quadruplets, to keep them out of the house while the movers pack up (while Gimme stayed crated).  As always it was a lot of fun spending time with them and I'm sure going to miss them when they leave in a week for the move to D.C.  Afterward we went to their house and they all had a great time giving her treats.  She wasn't sure what to make of them the first time (about 10 days ago), but this time has decided they are great...  I'd broken up 1 cheese stick into about 40 treats and each kid was given one at a time, so we ended up with this constant stream of treat-wielding kids.  Gimme thinks that is a primo game. 

She decided this time to play with their mini-poodle, Maggie, and within a few minutes was doing the whole paws on the shoulders approach.  She and Maggie are very close to the same size now.  Again she was not too keen on April, a very persistent butt sniffer.  Last time she was rather concerned about April's intentions - this time she just made it clear she was being too too rude. 

Although it isn't the kind of days I would plan, we did more than is immediately evident - chalking up some good new and/or continuing experiences. 

Incidentally, she is growing steadily.  I've been weighing her and she's putting on about half a pound a day.  Though she didn't eat as much today, so she's probably regrouping for another growth spurt.  Naturally, I'm still smitten.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Now I'm Officially Worried

We had such a long work day and she was so cooped up all day.  I did get her a few good walks, but that doesn't go very far to burn off energy.  Then took her over to visit Linda & Ron, more of my non-dog friends, who pronounced her adorable.  She played like a maniac while there - they even sacrificed a sock so she would have something to play with (probably to save Ron's slippers which she repeatedly insisted on "airing out").  Unfortunately, even that hour of play didn't do much to burn off pent up energy.

I was so pleased... I showed her the back door to the fenced yard right when I got there and twice she went to that door (once to the front door where we came in) and went outside to potty.  She'd be 100% potty trained if I was more consistent.  I was just so pleased that she did that in a strange place.  Such a good girl -- all that effort Tana & Bernie went through to keep the puppy environment clean really pays off.

Today we did another session with her yellow mousepad paw targeting in the car.  I even stuck the mousepad up in the door handle, so she had to paw the door, instead of stepping on it.  And she got that handily.  Then I moved it to the back seat area and she didn't see it right away.  But she did see one of those plastic envelopes that you keep papers in to carry them around and it was yellow, about an inch of it was sticking out of my work bag, so she whacked that with her paw.  I was really impressed that she had already clearly picked up on the color, so it wasn't just the shape/look of the mousepad.  I think that is very sophisticated understanding for no more than we've done this (this was only the second session). 

Then to show off her skills, we had another session at Ron/Linda's with her mousepad.  Linda would move the pad while I had her turned toward me getting treats.  And as long as she didn't move it a long way, Gimme found it real quickly.  Toward the end Linda was moving it quite a ways and Gimme was really looking for it and finding it.

And I got Linda to withhold treats and wait for a sit.  It took Gimme several minutes to figure out to give her the first sit, but after that, they were coming very quickly.  And just like she did the first day she learned about sitting for treats before we came home when learned it with me - she would run off and play and do silly girl stuff, then would trot right over, plop her heiney down and say "mo' treats please."

You know I've always said you have to be smarter than a dog to train one - I'm officially starting to worry...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Our Fun Weekend

[these pictures are of Gimme's altercation with the strange dog that lives in the mirror in my parent's motor home]

On this trial weekend Michael did about the same as he always does on Saturdays - not great, but not awful, then usually pulls it together on Sunday.  
However, this Sunday that was not the case.  Instead he bypassed four jumps. Going around the jumps I take as his way of telling me that "he doesn't think he can".  So, hard as it is to do - he is now officially retired from agility.  The salmon poisoning was an unlucky break for us - since that is when he lost so much weight and I wondered if he'd get his strength back with the weight.  I guess the answer is "no".  <sigh> 

Several people expressed concern afterward... and were at least nice enough to let me explain that I was aware of what was going on, knew for sure that he wasn't in pain, and was letting Michael make the decision of whether to continue playing or not, which he did.  If he'd been in pain or harming himself, I'd have made the decision for him before now.  Naturally, some other people are so judgmental and make that equally clear.  Sometimes people are such buttheads.

Retiring Michael was not the fun part of the weekend.  I am very thankful that we've already started Rally training (actually have our first novice leg), so we have something to go on with.  Just wish there were a tracking group in this area that we could join.

Gimme was a tremendous hit throughout the weekend and everyone loved her.  I got so many positive comments that I am positively fat headed about it.  I know all puppies are cute (just like I really do know she isn't the first puppy to have it out with their reflection in the mirror [though clearly she is the cutest puppy to do so).  Some puppies are just special and I think Gimme is one of those.  A couple people said as much, and suggested she be in commercials.  All those free treats for being cute meant that her automatic sit for treats had "temporarily" disappeared, though its back now that we are home and she realizes the free ride is over. 

She had a great play session with Aussie, Trey (a delightful guy).  He was totally appropriate and let her set the tone.  He ignored her and was ultra casual and then when she invited play, he let her chase him.  It was verrrry cute. 

On the other hand, I am continually astonished by the stupidity of some people.  Someone I know from trials and before thought well of, was walking by as I was taking Gimme up to the building Sunday.  She asked if her dogs could meet the puppy.  I asked "how good are they with puppies?"  She says, "So-and-so is great, she will bark in her face for a minute, but then she will play nice."  As I'm thinking of how to reply, she continues, "I don't know how this one will react.  I've never had him around a puppy, but I'm getting a puppy in a few days so I need to try him out on another puppy first." 

To say that I was shocked is a huge understatement.  On what planet does she think its a good idea to try her unknown dog out on my tender impressionable puppy for the benefit of her tender impressionable puppy.  I just told her that it wasn't the kind of experience I was looking for right now and moved away.  I kid you not - she seemed to be following me and edging continually closer, so I finally picked Gimme up and put some real distance between us. 

Overall Gimme did great over the weekend.  She did really well with all the changes, spending the night in my parents' motor home and riding in a strange car (we took her to the Halloween party, she stayed crated in the car).  Didn't show any concern about the weird garb of the "witch" that came out to meet her.  She only showed slight "concern" about all the newness when we first went in the building on Saturday.  I was just so proud of her all weekend.  I can finally say that she is completely adjusted.  Doesn't mean she doesn't still object to her circumstances -  she just has to get in the last word.  BTW she also tugged while in the trial building - she's a good tugger overall and I make sure she gets to win often.

I was kind of surprised by how many agility people handle puppies kinda roughly in their "petting".  Oddly a husband and wife who have BCs were the worst.  Gimme is not shy about showing she thinks that is rude.  "Excuse me, I'm the center of the universe and that's not the way you should treat me."

She also watched a good part of the excellent jumpers course and told me she's ready to go in and do that now.  I guess we have to get her a 2 year calendar so she can mark off the days and know when to be ready.

She totally won over my parents who are not dog people and think I'm waaaay beyond weird.  My Dad let Gimme chew and pull on his socks while his feet were still in them.  Then Sunday he was talking about grandson Harrison and said he was just the cutest kid , cuter than any other.  And I asked, "Cuter even than Gimme?"  And Dad said, "I wouldn't want to sound crazy, nothing is that cute."

And to cap it off, Michael and Gimme had a short, no barrier, interaction Sunday morning.  I took her out to pee at the crack of dawn and Michael came with.  After he peed, he came over near her and was kinda close and she moved nearer to him and even touched his tail and he just looked at her calmly.  So I praised him profusely and took him to the car for a cheese stick.

So all in all a good weekend for Gimme, a sad one that Michael is retired though.  I am just so thankful that I have her now to move forward with. 

On Monday, Gimme started learning to do a foot touch on a yellow mousepad.  She picked that up in just 5 click/treats.  Going on to repeat it about fifteen more times, even though I was moving it around and she had to sometimes turn away from me to do it.  She was very deliberate in her foot touches.  I love seeing this, since that is the foundation behavior for our running contacts.  It is sooooo much fun training a canine genius.

Experiencing the Woods

After our TOPS meeting, Gimme and I went for our "usual" (two weeks in a row now <G>) walk on the St. Martins grounds.  The weather was really nice, so we walked for over an hour.  In the course of the walk Gimme got to climb on logs and over bark hill... She also retrieved a stick for me.  She had a great time running and playing.  Here's our pictures from her adventure...

Gimme enjoys climbing on things and has loads of confidence.


She even found a make-shift dogwalk to practice on.

We used our time to practice some recalls and Gimme was, like most puppies, very good about coming when called.

Gimme decided that cheese is a high quality motivator and her recalls got faster and faster.  She believes that a little ear action will get you to the cheese faster.  Good girl...

Originally I thought she was looking back to see if slow-poke me was still coming.  But in hindsight, it occurs to me that she may be checking to see if I'm about to call her.  Perhaps she thinks it makes no sense to go very far, only to have to run all that way back.

I threw a stick and she ran right to it...


... headed right back to me with it.

I was just about to say what a great retriever Tana had made of her...

... when Gimme changed her mind!

We took one of the paths through the woods and it was really fun to watch her explore all the weird things in there.  This was her first woods experience... they don't have woods like this in Colorado.  After this nice long walk, she slept contentedly most of the afternoon. 

When I took her out for a potty walk in the afternoon, she puked up the contents of her tummy, containing some small pieces of bark hill.  There was also an undigested grape that I'd given her with breakfast.

In discussion with my vet, he was very concerned about the grape and asked why I'd given her one, did I know they are toxic.  I remember hearing years ago that they were toxic to dogs, but when I researched it on the internet there was so much conflicting information.  Since I'd been feeding them to my adults for years with no ill affects, I continued doing so now and then.  Doc explained that the reason there is conflicting information is that some dogs are sensitive to them and some apparently are not.  That he advises never to give grapes to small dogs or puppies... and generally thinks there is no good reason to give them to larger adult dogs.

We continue to work on Gimme's eye contact game.  Its progressing slooooowwwwly.  Its so hard at this age to do anything that requires being still.  Everything else is progressing nicely. 

I am most pleased with her bite inhibition.  She only very rarely bites hard (with those needle sharp teeth).  When I shriek an "ouch"... she always comes back really quickly and quickly takes my hand in her mouth and rapidly and very gently taps her teeth repeatedly to show me (I assume) that she really does know how to be gentle.  She really tries hard, but sometimes puppy exuberance just takes over. 

I dont' think I've mentioned it in this message, so here goes - I really adore this puppy...