Category Archives: Humans

Separation anxiety or not?

I thought my Specs-post-writing days were over, but this little ‘problem’ is quite interesting so definitely deserves a mention.

As you know from one of my early posts, Specs was introduced to crates and play pens from day one.  Crates and pens make life with a puppy immeasurably easier – no worries about toilet accidents on the carpet, nor about them chewing your favourite slippers.  And, my favourite, when you go on holiday you take the crate with you and then you don’t incur the wrath of the holiday home owners who have asked very politely that you keep dogs off the furniture. Continue reading Separation anxiety or not?

Mary’s story, the owner of Gracie Harrison

Mo is to blame for everything, she found the advert for 3 week old Yorkillon pups, about 5 miles from where I live. I couldn’t not go to see them and when I did, it was love at first sight, I named her Gracie.

Gracie the Yorkillon

Mum, Wendy (Yorkshire Terrier) and Dad, Bubbles (Papillon) seemed to have lovely temperaments, there was only one puppy left and she was the pup I would have chosen. It must have been meant. However, once reality set it, my poor family and friends had a month of me being particularly annoying (I don’t do things by halves!):

My thoughts before getting Gracie:
“Oh no, I won’t have time to do anything with her!”
“Oh no, I won’t have time to do any work, once she comes!”
“Awww, she is so beautiful! So excited to get her!”
“Oh no! Poppy is not going to love me as much!”
“Aww! I can’t wait to play with her!”
“Aww! I can’t wait to love and hug her!”

I was terrified and excited, all at the same time. I made a list of everything I would need…

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We set the pen up about a week before getting her, to let Poppy (my older dog) get used to the new configuration. The pen means that Poppy’s life with a new puppy is disrupted as little as possible, Gracie isn’t able to constantly annoy her, the pen also means that Gracie can’t chew at things that she shouldn’t be chewing (puppies are generally suicidal).

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From the moment of bringing her home, I knew it was the right thing, it was like she had been with us forever. I am hoping in this blog to be as honest as possible. I don’t think it is always going to be easy, but I think it will be a lot of fun, she has already improved my life, she is hilarious and I love her.

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Specs muddy after a walk in the rain

Specs is nearly one year old

Yes, little Specs is no longer Specs the Puppy, but is now Specs the Dog (only I reckon she’s so cute she’ll always look like a puppy).

Our intention of blogging for a year never really made it past six months, partly because life just sort of took over, and also because, well, once puppies get to six months it just isn’t as interesting, is it?

The last six months may not have been as interesting, but they’ve certainly been fun.  Specs was without question the best puppy in the history of the universe, and is now undoubtedly the best dog.  She’s still little, she’s still cute, she’s still a ball of energy, and she still poops on the floor (only not very often now and only when mum ignores her requests to be out – bad mum!).

Her agility training never came to much, which is a shame as she definitely has champion potential, but to get to that level requires a lot of time, commitment and money.  Plus that’s not why I bought Specs: I bought her to be my constant companion, friend and stand up comedian, and she’s certainly all of those things.

Despite not doing the agility, the early training and socialisation has paid off in spades.  Specs is amazingly biddable and just loves everyone.  She does bark occasionally at loud noises, and doesn’t like strange things appearing out of the bushes, but give her a couple of seconds to work out what they are (usually people in wet weather gear at the moment) and she calms down straight away.

The wide range of training we did with her at a young age apparently, according to Jen, builds all sorts of networks in the brain which stay there forever, so when I eventually took Specs back to training class (as I did last autumn) she outshone the rest of the class who had been coming for many weeks.  I’d love to take the credit for that but I really can’t – it was all down to Mary, who now has to do even better with Gracie the Yorkillon.

Me and Specs can’t wait to meet her!

Training titbits

This is a subject which is discussed endlessly by everyone from new puppy owners to old hand trainers, as well as all their friends and relatives, not to mention the people in the pet shop.  Everyone has a different opinion, but here’s my take on it.

I have three types of dog training titbits: stuff I’ve cooked myself, Specs’ normal kibble and stuff bought from the shop (but don’t tell Jen!). Continue reading Training titbits

The Big Bally

A small sample of some of the training Mary and Jenny have been doing with Specs.  Videos are at the end of post.

Specs learns to push a big ball.

Why?  Because it’s fun.  Because the more she learns the easier she is to teach.  Because we’re planning a fitness regime for her in the future which may well require using an exercise ball.  Because body awareness is  very good for her future agility training.  Because it’s fun, did I say that already?

Our training is far from perfect.

Jenny: Lots of late clicks.  Although I think I might have got the sound out of sync.  My story, I’m sticking to it.

Mary: could have given more keep going signals.  KGS? Feedback.  Remember that game children’s game where you approach a hidden object and if you’re closer to it you’re hotter, get further away, you’re colder?  It’s like that.  KGS tells the puppy she’s getting warmer…  Can really help an inexperienced dog or a dog who’s trying really hard to work out what you’re after and not quite sure she’s on the right track.  I say things like: “Keep going,” “You’re doing it,” “That’s my girly,” that kind of thing.  With repetition the dog starts to get the idea that when she hears you say “Keep going,” it means a reward is on its way if she keeps going, then bingo!  Click/treat.

Alternatively, there’s colder.  “Oh dear,” or “Whoops a daisy,” “Again!” if dog offers behaviours that are on the wrong track.  All very valuable clues, information.

I should stick to just the one positive and one negative.  KGS: “Keep going” and fail marker: “Again” are probaby my favourites.  But I’m human and the feedback seems to come out of my mouth on auto-pilot and dogs are very kind, they seem to get it, so I’ll stick to my not-quite-perfect-mash-up of feedback words.

I think you’ll agree, from start to finish of this video set (or the highlights if you’re short of time), little Specs definitely gets the hang of what we’re after.  And she appears to be enjoying herself, we certainly were.

Did we sneak in extra training sessions with the ball that aren’t on the video?  You know, I don’t think we did.  I think these were it.  Puppies are so easy.

I think also if I had been paying better attention I wouldn’t have looked for just the one behaviour with the ball.  I’d actually like her to learn to push it with her nose as well as walk it along on her back feet.  What is learned first is learned best, and you can find yourself having a bit of a battle to get your dog to stop doing that first learned, very strong behaviour.  We’ll see, eh?

So, when I’m teaching anything new, I try not to stick to the one thing.  Work on stands and downs, heels and recalls, spin one way and spin the other.  If you just spin the one way, it can become that battle to get the other.  I bet any dog trainers reading this are nodding knowingly at this point.

And actually this reporting has got me thinking again, I’d like her to learn to dribble it too and bash it with her hips, so much to teach.
Best bits?  We were nice and generous with our rewards.  Little Specs was left in little doubt that interacting with the ball is a VERY GOOD THING.  We mostly gave more that one titbit per repetition.  And we placed the rewards so they gave us good bang for our bucks.  We gave rewards on/near ball to increase her positive associations with the ball.  Or we gave them a bit away from the ball so she was placed to deliver another repetition, so she could approach it again to put her feet back on it .
But still, not perfect and I like that.  Well actually I don’t, I’d rather be perfect.  But  I’m happy to share warts and all.  Because the most important thing about training is the doing of it.  We could have done better but we enjoyed ourselves, the dog made progress, all good.  I think if we worry too much about doing it perfectly we end up not doing it at all. And as long as we to the training, the dog will learn, they’re very good at learning.  As long as we’re not abusing the dog, (please don’t), we’ll make progress.  Always, always, just do it.

Highlights
Length 8:46

Session 1
Length 4:17
Approx 15 March 2015

 

Session 2
30 March
Length 4:53

Session 3
22 April
3:19

Session 4
3 May
5:48

Session 5
10 May
41 secs

 

Round Robin Recalls

Specs doing extra recall practice after her agility training, yesterday.   She almost reported on her performance herself, but there were too many long words needed and she didn’t know how to spell them, and she was too upset by the prospect of dogs having tea trays land upon them to write this herself.

At Kirkley Hall Agricultural College, Northumberland.  Their equestrian centre.  Complete with horse scents and wildlife scents and maybe even some sheep scents.  Yes, she does stop to sniff pretty frequently, she is a real dog, but none of it stopped these lovely recalls. Continue reading Round Robin Recalls

Puppy worries

All owners worry about their dogs, all of us.  Although dog trainers are a little bit not-normal in what they worry about.  We’re considerably less worried than the 99% of the population who fret about dogs eating poop/sniffing or licking each others’ bits/playing tug with their leashes.  And a lot more worried about dogs who don’t come back in the park straight away and quickly.

Serious behaviour and health problems are beyond what I want to talk about here, they really are a worry.  I want to talk about the problems we’re not sure about, the things we think could get worse, the things that simply annoy us, the things that annoy us and probably shouldn’t. Continue reading Puppy worries

Specs running with her gang

Letting puppy off lead

Well it’s been nearly two weeks now since little Specs was allowed to go for a walk, so I thought I’d do a quick progress report.

I’d forgotten quite how traumatic it is to take a very young puppy for a walk.  I made a big mistake the first couple of times by taking her and Wilf out together – bad move! Specs was, of course, dancing from side to side, so we had the expected lead tangling to sort out, but she took it to a whole new level when she started running underneath his tummy.  And it’s not like he’s a big dog himself! Continue reading Letting puppy off lead

Nervous puppy

Specs is a wonderful puppy, a total super star, no question.  She’s also the puppy that I’ve worked hardest with, as I’m sure you can tell.  I feel as though we’ve been everywhere – stations, busy town centres, shopping centres, supermarkets. I’ve introduced her to so many people that I’m sure I’m getting a bit of a reputation.

But this last week has been a bit weird.  When we went out for our first ‘proper’ walk, in exactly the same place where I’d been taking her on carrying walks, a big truck came past and she freaked out.  Hmm, I thought, we clearly haven’t been doing enough traffic.

Continue reading Nervous puppy

Stopping puppy screaming

Specs asleep
Specs asleep

I seem to remember saying that I chose Specs because I wanted the calm, cuddly Cavalier temperament.  Well she’s still very young, and still oh-so-cute, but she’s really  not as calm and cuddly as I’d hoped (though I am besotted more than ever).

This weekend’s challenge was the whining.  And the screaming.  And the trying to climb out of the play pen.  And the general crazy madness that comes with being a 10 week old puppy who isn’t allowed to go for a walk yet (rightly so, but it is frustrating for both of us). Continue reading Stopping puppy screaming