Category Archives: Menagerie

Who’s training who? (or “How I taught my dogs to give them a cookie for eating breakfast”)

Long ago, we used to let the dogs out into the front yard — the area between the dog fence and the road — for a good airing after meals. At the time, the area was *mostly* dog fenced, but there was an area, if the dogs ran to the northeast side and allll the way down the length of the dog fence, where they could get into the horse pastures.

With Pax or Rain, this was never a problem. Great recalls. Heck, I can call Pax off a deer. (Or at least I could in the past. Been a long time since I tested that.) Aslan was another story. There was a certain imaginary line on the way to the horse pasture. If I called him before he got to that line, he would come back. If not, he was gone. And gone meant gone. Over half our property is populated with thick woods and swamp (and various wild animals), and once there, he had no desire to come back to the boring people and the irritating fence.

So every day (weather permitting, which means it wasn’t every day, but this is my story and every day sounds better) we would let the dogs out to have a good run. The area in the front of the house is big, and since the horses occupied it occasionally, it always had lots of fun things to smell and entertain them. They would play for five minutes, and then I’d call them in with the never-fail recall word: “Cookies!” The dogs would RUN back to the house, and we’d have a ritual handing out of their favorite cookies as a reward for the lovely recall.

This was a great ritual until Aslan ran away once too often. (It was probably the time he ended up in the middle of the swamp at laste dusk, and Jay not only had to crawl through a dark swamp to find him, but then we had to lift the muddy smelly [giant] dog over the fence to get him home.) I declared that he would never, ever have free run of the front area again.

And he didn’t.

But somehow the cookie tradition didn’t change. The dogs would eat their meals, go out to pee, and then come back and demand cookies. And I… gave them to them. Eventually, smart dog that they are, they skipped the whole go out for a pee part, and simply demanded their cookies at the end of their meal.

And that’s how my dogs trained them to give them cookies for eating breakfast.

Things are better with River. Starting Wednesday night, things got really, really hard. He wanted nothing to do with that new crate, so sleep-time became protest time. I’m working a lot of hours, and I just can’t handle significant lack of sleep. On top of the sleep issues, the housetraining took about a dozen steps back. It seemed no matter how hard I tried to watch him, how many gates I set up to keep him contained, he was peeing and pooping everywhere but outside. That last straw was the lake he peed in my bed at 2:30 Saturday morning. I broke down. I’d had it.

Jay is the best husband in the world. He had a doctor appointment on Saturday morning, but when he got back, he took over puppy duty. Really took over. He watched River with 100% focus. He made sure River went potty outside every time and was rewarded mightily for it. I went back to bed and slept, Pax curled up beside me. (Pflouff takes care of River, and Pax takes care of me.) In the afternoon, after my nap, he and I took turns with the puppy. I have a big project due Monday morning, and without complaining, Jay took more than his share of puppy time so I could work. When he wasn’t watching the puppy, he was running errands — like driving to town to bring back Mexican food for me.

He’s the best. Really. (Did I mention that he’s doing all this while SICK?)

By the end of yesterday, I was feeling a lot better. I had slept. I had accomplished a fair amount on my project. River had had no potty accidents in the house. We had even done a few (very successful) training sessions. But I dreaded nighttime. I knew we would be back to screaming in the crate and no sleep.

But it was perfect. It was like the prior three nights had never happened. He barely whined, even when brought in after peeing in the middle of the night. He slept in the crate until 6:30, then came up on the bed and let the family doze (more or less, as much as possible with a shark in the bed) until 7:30. And the morning has been easy since.

Do I think our problems are past? No. Tomorrow Jay will be back at work, and I expect the backslide in housetraining will begin anew. But maybe he’ll surprise me. All I can do is take it a day at a time. Puppyhood *does* pass, and soon I’ll wonder where my baby went.

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AKC Hunt Test

This morning I dragged Jay out of bed bright and early, and we drove to Bob Pepper’s Training Farm a few minutes south of Duvall to watch an AKC Hunt Test. This was my first visit to Pepper’s, and I have to say, it’s a field trainer’s Nirvanah. Bob Pepper was an avid field trialer 50 years ago, who would travel to a trial, see a lake or other feature he really liked, and then come back to his farm and recreate it. Now it’s open to anyone for a per-dog daily fee. Look at this gorgeous technical lake!

Master and Senior level were running today. Junior is tomorrow. We first went to watch the Masters test. The series we watched was a water series. It started with triple water marks. Gun station just off the center line originated two birds. The first was thrown to the right of the center line, even with the gun station. The second was a live flyer on the other side of the gun station. The third bird (go bird) came from the far left. A diversion shot was fired on the way back from the second bird. After all marks had been picked up, there were two blinds. One was along the shore to the far right. Another was up the middle, on a line close past the blind. Dog had to go in and out of the water three times to get to that one. None of the distances were very long — but I’m not a great judge of distance, so I can’t give a good estimate.

One of the fun things about Hunt Tests is the variety of dogs. It’s not just black labs! There were chocolate and yellow labs, goldens, and even an Irish Water Spaniel!

I was thrilled to see that dog. I would guess, too, that not many of the dogs running were from field trial lines, because only a few seemed really high octane, if you know what I mean. That could, of course, be a mistaken impression on my part.

I asked a lady near me a couple of questions, but unfortunately, she was there only part of the time, and I wasn’t able to ask a lot of questions. I got the idea that straight lines to a mark aren’t terribly important in Hunt Tests — even when the dog cheated the water. Again, that could be a mistaken impression on my part. I didn’t get to ask a lot of clarifying questions.

After we watched the Master series for a while, we drove over to the Senior test. We got there between series during the lunch break. This turned out to be fortuitous, though, because we met Joan Fetty. Joan has a dog school 20-25 minutes from my house. (I took Pax there for a class long ago.) She offers an Intro to Field class, and she helps people get hooked up with training groups. She is the one who told me the history of Pepper’s and explained the usage rules.

We chose not to stay for the next series and left shortly after that. Plan is to groom and bathe Pflouff this afternoon, so I can take her to Marymoor tomorrow to see her breeder. Maybe Pflouff and I will stop by Pepper’s tomorrow and see the Junior test. I’m not sure if she’s up for that or not, since she wouldn’t be allowed to play in the water or retrieve the things being thrown.

Here are a few more pictures I took this morning.

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Toys, Toys, TOYS!

My dogs have a lot of toys, most of which are shredded, de-stuffed, de-squeaked versions of their former selves. Dead stuffies. Old bones. Frayed tug ropes. All of it filthy from being buried, dug up, and buried again.

Since the new baby is coming, I decided to do something radical and replace all their old toys. Jay and I went on an enthusuastic (and expensive) shopping spree at PetSmart and bought way too many cool things. The dogs watched with wide eyes as I stood at the kitchen table and removed allll the associated tags and packaging.

Next came the painful part. I took a giant, contractor-size garbage bag to the dog room and went through their toy box. The wide eyes grew very worried! Undamaged toys were tossed back in the toy box. Everything else went in the trash. (I could barely lift the bag when I was done!)

Then, finally, the fun part. I loaded myself up with all the new toys, brought them downstairs, and dropped them in a pile in the middle of the dog room. Dog heaven! Pax and Pflouff didn’t know what to do with themselves. This one! No — I meant this one! Oh, oh, this one too! Pax is especially attracted to a cow that moos when he bites it. (He was less impressed by the frog’s ribbits.)

I’m not going to leave all those toys available all the time. A few puppy-sized toys will be set aside for special play with River. I’ll leave a few of the favorite types in the dog room, and then the rest are going in a drawer. Each morning, I’ll let each dog choose one toy to have for the day. I’ve done this in the past, and it has worked beautifully. It’s amazing how carefully they choose, and how valuable a trip to the toy-drawer becomes.

Here are a few pictures from this morning’s joy. No good pics of Pflouff, I’m afraid. Just as well — she desperately needs grooming.

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First puppy update

I got a whole slew of pictures from Dawn, River’s breeder. In the pictures with more than one pup, River is the small black one with not-so-curly hair. My favorite picture is this one:

Isn’t that the quintessential puppy pic? Little shark teeth. I’m sure I’ll be calling him “Demon Seed” before he has been here a week. Rest of the pictures are at the bottom of this post.

(I’m madly in love with this beautiful boy, and I haven’t even met him yet!)

Work has been CRAZY as the launch approaches, and I’ve been working long hours. Still, I’ve managed to do a few things to get ready for my little prince.

I signed him up for a puppy obedience class at The Dog Works in Monroe. I don’t know anything about the place, but it looks like they use positive methods. The class isn’t a true puppy kindergarten, unfortunately, but young puppies do have an opportunity to interact in play group. The class starts September 10, which gives me plenty of time to get him started myself before class.

I signed back on to a couple of mailing lists and printed out a fresh list of Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels spreadsheet. I LOVE Training Levels and highly recommend it!

I’ve bought a bunch of new DVDs. I don’t have a list in front of me, but off the top of my head…

  • The Pre-Sports Puppy
  • Focused Puppy
  • Training a Retriever Puppy with Bill Hillman
  • Training Retrievers Alone
  • The Art and Science of Handling Retrievers
  • Retriever Training Problems and Solutions

I’m probably going to get the Games DVD for the Control Unleashed book, but I haven’t ordered that yet. No idea when I’m going to have time to watch all these!

I haven’t worked on the novel. That isn’t because of the puppy though. I’m working long hours, and I’m EXHAUSTED when I’m done each day. I just don’t have it in me to write or do anything particularly creative at that time. I’ve worked on this site a little, but it’s an entirely different kind of brain work — and it’s done a few minutes here, a few minutes there.

Speaking of the blog, I’m happy with the main page. I haven’t worked at all on the pages that the links at the top of the page open though. Too tired! I’ll get it done eventually.

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It’s official: I’m going to be a new dog mom

Jay and I turned down a curly puppy this summer, because the timing was absolutely horrible. It would have come home right in the middle of my huge summer project and right before Jay’s big project launched. Neither of us would have been able to take time off, and worse, we had planned to be out of time at various times during August. Horrible timing!

We knew a fall puppy would be perfect… but pickings were slim. There were a couple of possible litters, but it was too early to know about those yet. I knew it could be months — or even years — before a puppy was available when I was able to take it.

Then I saw it: Dawn Fleming of Brio (Curly Coated) Retrievers mentioned on RTF (retriever training forum) that one of her puppy buyers had dropped out. She had a black male available. I wasn’t sure if she’d want me to be the buyer though. She specifically stated that she wanted a competition home for him. I would train him to do fun things, but it unlikely I’ll compete with him. It turned out that the puppy she had advertised was already taken, but she had another pup who was not show quality but who had a fun, active spirit become available. She was willing to keep him an extra couple of weeks, so we said yes!

The next couple of weeks are VERY hectic for me. We’re trying to finish up the project at work, and then begins train-the-trainer and on-site leadership training. I will be working in the office for most of the next two weeks, but I’ve been spared travel to the site. I could get my new pup as early as Aug. 30. I can’t wait!

He is a black male curly named River, just like the dog in my book. I’ll be keeping a puppy diary, of course, so check in frequently.

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