Monday, December 31, 2012

Snow monster

My parents just bought a condo by Lake Tahoe, a lake high up in the mountains, surrounded by ski resorts. (They love to ski.) I am excited because I've always dreamed about taking vacations to the snow with my dogs, but it's never worked out before. We went for one day yesterday, to pick up the keys and sign some documents, and Chimera had his first experience with snow.

He was clearly a bit confused the first time he stepped onto the shallow snow just off the driveway, but after a moment he had no problem walking on it and was happy to run around on the packed snow. He didn't like it when his feet fell through the deeper snow, understandably. He was game for climbing onto snowbanks if they held his weight, and enjoyed chewing on pieces of ice or packed snow, and pouncing on pieces that we tossed his way.

Of course I took many pictures! Click on any picture to see it in a bigger size.

It looks like Cai will enjoy taking trips up to the vacation home!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Agility update

So much training happening lately that I can't even keep up with blogging it. For most of Chimera's meals, I put his raw meal into a food tube and make a big training session out it. (Big as in, lots of rewards, but we work on many different things for short periods each.) What we just worked on now:

Bermuda Triangle with 2 square wickets (criteria is he has to go through them) and 1 jump with just the bottom bar holding it together (it's about 4 inches up, I think). Helps with teaching sequencing, outside turns, lateral distance, and focus forward. He has almost no ability for lateral distance at the moment.

Sequence of straight line with wicket, jump, wicket. Will do all three in a row to get to the food tube at the end (race to reward).

Slightly curved line of wicket, wicket, mat. Last time this gave him trouble, but this time he was able to travel the curved line.

Set up "T" shape with Cai starting on his mat, me standing a few feet ahead, and the square wickets on either side of me. Mixed up releasing to my side, outside turn to one of the wickets, or front cross to one of the wickets. He was perfect!

One jump work -- decel, accel, post turn, sending out to wrap (only when facing jump from side, at this point). Tight turn work with standing right by standard, doing front cross as he hops over, and rewarding close to standard.

I've been practicing agility more than obedience, since the weekly class keeps me more motivated and I can think of more ways to practice the foundation skills with fun little twists. It's my first love, too. I wish there were a local positive obedience class I could attend, as then we'd be progressing in that just as quickly.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas with the family

Chimera and I spent the weekend at my parents' home, celebrating Christmas together.

Success rate for peeing outside rather than in the house: 100%
Success rate for pooping outside: 60%

We've still got some work to do.

He kept jumping onto and putting his front paws on the coffee table. He also would mug us intensely for food if we sat down on the couches to snack. I don't usually set a boundary for climbing on me while I'm sitting, so this was difficult to dissuade.

When we watched TV he was very reactive to the sound of dogs or any metal clinking or jingling noises, since it sounds like dog tags.

It was raining almost the enitre time, with frequent periods of heavy rain. For the first day Cai was reluctant to go outside, but on the second day he was used to it, and would quickly go out, pee, and come back in.

I had expected him to want to play with and chew on the Christmas tree and ornaments, but he surprised me and ignored them for the most part.

Overall I thought he was well behaved for a "working" puppy who was underexercised due to the weather. (I did play fetch with him, run around the house with him, and give him training sessions, of course.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Agility update

Third lesson in our new agility class. We continued doing our own thing, working on foundation. I did some jump work, building value for the jump by tossing a food tube with his new raw food to the other side and sending him over. Also did some practice wrapping around the standard while I stood facing it. I didn't see much drive or love for the jump, which surprised me, since we've done a handful of sessions like this already. But I think it was just the distracting environment that didn't allow him to relax, as this morning we did the same exercises and he was happily hopping over the 2 inch bar, even after I said, "Take a break."

Put him on a tippy board and rewarded him for walking back and forth and on and off.

Crate games, lots and lots and lots of chicken for staying in his crate. Some practice releasing him from the crate while I stood ahead of it (facing away) and rewarding at my side. Sending to crate.

My favorite part of the night was doing flat work with his food bowl. I would send him to the food bowl and drop a treat in when he went to it. He picked up on this immediately since at home he's had lots of practice waiting while I set the bowl down and then being sent to it. After some repetitions of that, I challenged him to follow my handling past the bowl or away from it, and rewarded that either with a treat in my hand or by then turning him around and sending him back to the bowl. He did SO well with this exercise considering it was his first time. That's foundation for you!

I used only food as a reward because he's been less interested in tugging for the past few days. I think it's because he's teething and it's less comfortable. No problem, I'll just give him a break until he's ready to play.

I decided to stop practicing stays except when on his mat or in his crate or on a another target. He needs to learn the concept and self-control in those easier contexts.

I vowed to practice more flatwork utilizing his crate and mat. Getting him fluent with the front and rear crosses, post turns, sends, acceleration, and deceleration can all be done without obstacles adding extra distractions and criteria. I learned this from the awesome book Agility Right From the Start. This brings up the question of whether I should continue with this agility class, which is quite a way ahead of us and we're just doing our own exercises anyway. There are only two more lessons in the session I paid for, so I'll go to those and then will probably take a break and wait for a more appropriate class to come along.

This morning Chimera got his whole breakfast via the food tube, doing jump foundation and flatwork. I was able to integrate some circle work into the jump practice. We could start doing the "Bermuda Triangle" exercise with jumps, which is from the book. Did lots of matwork and got him driving to the mat from a short distance, then coming to my side, following my handling to go next to the mat or send to it. It was great fun!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dog parks and dog friends and chickens

Chimera is just shy of 20 weeks (getting close to 5 months old), about 10.5" high at the shoulders, and weighs 6.7 pounds. Sherry was able to identify that he has some of his adult teeth already. He is growing quickly and has gotten skinnier than I like, so I've increased his daily calorie intake by about 100 kcal. I've switched him to Primal raw nuggets, and not only does he go crazy for this food, but it turned his poop from consistently soft with frequent diarrhea, to consistently solid even when he's eaten something new. On top of that, he's less thirsty and drinks less water now, so potty accidents have decreased dramatically. Woohoo!

On Sunday morning I took him to Point Isabel. I wasn't sure about taking him on a weekend, when it's very crowded, but it was a cold and overcast day so I thought that there wouldn't be as many people there. Boy, was I wrong. But it turned out to be a good trip for him. Initially he did a little bit of reactive growling and barking at the first three "weird looking" dogs he saw (a dog wearing a dress, a large wet dog, etc), but then he was calm. He ran up to nearly every other dog within 50 yards, and so was able to greet dogs of every size and shape -- bulldogs, poodles, boxers, chihuahuas, pit bulls... He had no scary experiences and it was good socialization.

His recall was 100% perfect, likely because we were in a brand new place (so he wanted to stay close to mommy) and I had boiled chicken for his reward. He did frequently lose track of where I was since he was so busy greeting dogs, but his giant ears were able to hone in on my voice easily.

He was quite affiliative with people, too! He ran up to people here and there with his tail wagging, especially women or people who were sitting on benches. We passed some young children and he glanced at them with no reaction.

Monday morning we went to Dog Bone Alley, an independent pet supply store in Alameda which has a large selection of harnesses for small dogs. Chimera is about to outgrow the baby harness I bought him. (Sniff.) I wanted a step-in harness (over the head ones are hard to get over giant Papillon ears) with a wide fabric front (for maximum comfort). I found only one line of harnesses that met my requirements and actually fit him well, and the color that looked best on him was pink. Everyone already assumes a default female gender for him, so I went ahead and got it.

In the evening we took a walk at the Albany Bulb. He got to really stretch his legs and run at the beach, and was quite happy.

Sunset at the Albany Bulb, in pretty pink harness.

He's still quite reactive to the appearance of dogs or even people when we're out on the trails with my hiking group, since they're a bad influence on them. (I had to take him every day last week due to being out of the house all day.) But in other contexts, I've seen a sudden decrease in his dog reactivity, and almost no people reactivity. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but it's nice to see results.

Yesterday we visited our friends Sherry and Jacques the Papillon. Chimera was less of an obnoxious puppy and not a jerk at all. His social skills are improving. He had no potty accidents, and indicated to me when he wanted to go outside to poop. (Last time we were there, he had five accidents or so, despite getting him out about every 45 minutes.)

He met her chickens, 3 beautiful Golden Sebrights. I wish I had a video of their meeting. Cai wagged his tail very widely and playbowed at them multiple times. He ran toward them a few times but it was with head high and tail wagging -- a combination of curiosity and playfulness, with no predatory overtones. Silly puppy.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Happy holidays!

(Click to see it pop up bigger.)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Playmate and reactivity work

Yesterday evening Chimera and I visited a friend with a little chihuahua, and they raced around and around together for most of the three hour visit. They have a fancy house so I took him out every 20-30 minutes to make absolutely sure there wouldn't be any potty accidents, and it worked. Cai seems to understand the cue "go potty", as after I say it he starts to sniff around and squats soon after. He definitely has a preference to go outside on grass or dirt at this point. In fact, during the past three days we had no accidents at home! But then we had one this morning, darn.

This afternoon we went to the Oakland dog park in Joaquin Miller for the fourth time, and again there were plenty of big dogs but none in the small dog area. But the great part was a big reduction in Chimera's reactivity there. Even when tags jangled or dogs barked, he got stiff and stared but did not growl or bark. After letting him trot around and sniff for a while, we walked around to the front of the big dog area and were able to approach to about 20 feet away. Cai would watch them but was able to look back at me immediately if I called his name. We did some circle work and fronts and he had great focus.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Second agility class

I was so proud of Chimera during agility today! He had excellent focus for a baby that's not even five months old yet. Only one other student showed up, the bearded collie. Chimera pulled toward him when we entered the building but there was no alarm or frustration barking and his tail was wagging widely. We worked off leash the entire time, and twice he decided to run over to the beardie. The dog would then playbow and jump on top of Cai, who would get scared and start biting in defense. Then I would retrieve him and tell him that he was being stupid. But the rest of class went great.

We were able to take more steps during circle work than before, and do more straight lines. Cai has gotten a LOT of reinforcement for moving at my side, thanks to practicing circle work, heeling, and loose leash walking, and it's really showing. Here and there he'd get distracted, and it was an opportunity to call him back and restart, and hopefully teach him that he doesn't get any reward for leaving my side.

I brought his soft crate this time, and after three previous sessions of crate games, he was running into it happily. I'm now able to use it to practice some easy things that usually require a start line stay or a restrained recall, such as releasing him and rewarding him for coming to my side, which we did for the first time. Other things we practiced with the instructor holding him, but which I could also use crate games for: accelerating past me to a thrown toy, and running up to me and stopping at my side if I am stopped (deceleration).

He went through a (shortened) tunnel for the first time, again with the instructor restraining him and me calling him on the other side. He didn't seem to develop any love for the tunnel, but was willing to go through. (Dragon developed an immediate love for tunnels and never needed specific training to drive through them!)

This past week I have done two sessions of standing at a jump stanchion and rewarding Cai for going back and forth over the bar on the ground. I have also practiced restraining him at my side and tossing a toy forward and releasing him to run to it, or setting out food and releasing him to it. Today I combined the two skills and tossed a toy over the lowered jump, and he ran over the bar to get it. He tried to run around with his sock tug at first, but he brought it to me or dropped it and came to me when I called him!! That's huge progress!

Our stay training has been very slow. Down stays have been reinforced more, because I reward a default down while I am prepping his and Jasper's food in the kitchen. (Otherwise he launches himself upward at the counter, even from a sit.) With sits, I often reward sitting momentarily (such as in front) and then reset him, so he tends to get up automatically after his reward. So in class today I practiced slow treats in a sit at my side, and then added just a little bit of motion with my outside leg. With the down stay I was able to take up to two steps at a time to the side, but not backwards (which has become a cue to come sit in front).

The last thing we practiced was running to a front foot target. We've done about ten sessions with this, but because one of my requirements is that he stay on the target without spinning/pivoting around to face me, I'm still using a very high rate of reinforcement to keep him standing still. This could be used for a 2o2o contact, but I'm going to do a modified four on the floor with him. However it's still a useful foundation to teach him to run and then stop and stay still, which is part of any stopped contact behavior, as well as the moving stand and drop on recall in obedience. I enjoy teaching foundation skills when I can see how they'll come up in many different ways in the future. But it's also fun to start putting his baby skill sets together!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


This evening we had a visit from a friend who used to work as a groomer. I had her do some work with Chimera to get him used to the experience, even though I don't anticipate needing to take him to a professional groomer. I like leaving my Papillons' fur au naturel, even their fluffy butts and furry feet. We set him onto the chest freezer to mimic a grooming table. Marie spritzed him with the conditioner I use on him, and brushed him out thoroughly. Meanwhile I fed him turkey. The high-value turkey wasn't even really needed -- he was calmer for her than he is for me! Then she used a pair of scissors to mimic trimming, and he barely even acknowledged the noise or motion. Good boy!

We measured his height at the shoulders and it's about 10.5 inches.

We had no potty accidents today because Chimera consistently signaled to me when he needed to pee or poop. Thank goodness!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

So much! Visitor, reactivity, cafe, baby

So much going on!!

Kira the Yorkie visited again for a few hours. Next weekend she will be staying overnight. Once again Chimera was super happy to see her and was pushy about playing and toys. He always wanted whatever toy or chewie she was playing with, and would steal them right out of her mouth! Then if she approached while he had something, he would growl and snap his teeth. That's my boy, the bully. I body blocked him from stealing her stuff unless she had dropped it, and he was a bit less obnoxious about it by the end. I also timed him out for overt, bullying guarding, but I had to take away the most coveted chewie. The guarding from other dogs doesn't bother me too much as I'm committed to having one dog at a time, and during the rare times we have doggy visitors I can always pick up his favorite stuff. As long as he's not being too much of an asshole.

After Kira left we took a trip to Petco to work on his reactivity. I had my turkey leftovers at the ready and stuffed them in his mouth the moment he heard tags jangling or saw another dog. I've realized that that's the key -- after about ten minutes of that, he's able to calm down enough to do Look at That and be rewarded for looking at the other dog for a second or two at a time. We ended on a great note: he calmly watched a big German Shepherd walking down the aisle.

I was about to write how he's maturing and not doing things like eating the carpet fibers anymore, but JUST NOW he started pulling at the carpet anymore. Sigh. At least he doesn't chew the electrical cords anymore. He settled down to sleep more easily when the're nothing going on, and he settles in his crate even when excited if I stand close by for a few minutes. He's starting to signal more frequently when he needs to go out: he'll go to the door or the gate nearest the front door and stare at me. If I'm in the kitchen sometimes he'll run in, look at me, and then run out.  Unfortunately if I don't notice the signal, then he'll quickly give up and go on the carpet. I may be a trainer, but I suck at potty training.

We met my sister and another friend for lunch at Crepe Vine in Rockridge. They were late arriving, so we had an hour to walk around the street on our own and work on his leash reactivity again. He had a couple of big outbursts but many more moments of eating turkey while quietly looking at another dog or looking at me when he knew a dog was close by. His loose leash walking skills are coming along very well. I kept up a high rate of reinforcement still. He only started doing erratic pulling when he needed to potty. He was even affiliative with people who wanted to say hello -- walking up, wagging his tail widely, allowing them to pet him all over, even handle his ears (though he did, understandably, pull back a bit when they did). I was very proud of the little man.

Once the rest of the party arrived, we got a table on the patio, I secured him to my chair, and gave him a pig ear to munch on. Again he was quite well behaved and entertained himself without much fuss.

We visited my friend Miki and her husband and four month old (human) baby. Her baby daughter was born the day after Chimera was! She is learning how to make new sounds, and lately the sounds are extremely high-pitched. We expected Cai to startle, but he was surprisingly unconcerned. He would look at her or turn his ears in her direction, but otherwise calmly hung out under the table where we were sitting. When we were on the couch, he would walk right up to the baby. He barked at Miki's Cavalier when he wanted to play but did not hump him like he did last time. In fact, he was oddly calm for the entire first hour! He even asked to go outside when he needed to pee but looking at me and then heading downstairs and to the door when I stood up.

He lifted his leg while peeing for the first time! My baby is growing up!! He's been peeing more frequently on walks and hikes, and had started hunching his back in an odd way. Today was the second day that he lifted his leg, when peeing on a high tuft of grass he couldn't squat over.

Today he got a tick attacked to his chin. It fell off into my palm as I was scratching him under the chin. EWWW. It's tick season around here, and I've been flicking and pulling them off of all my hiking dogs.

Training update:
We haven't been doing much training at home since we've been so busy.

Last time we worked on the dumbbell, he was firmly taking it from my hand, but then he started to walk off with it and didn't want to give it back. Hmm.

We had accidentally taken an long break from his platform training, and when we did a session again he suddenly understood how to get all four feet onto the platform. I'm guessing it's because I'd been shaping him to climb into multiple cardboard boxes in the meantime. But then he peed on the platform because his bladder was full. Oops.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Run rabbit run

These are low quality pictures since they were taken at a distance with my phone, but it's a great series. They're posted in order -- he was running back and forth a lot! Click on any photo to see it come up bigger.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

First agility class!

This morning we went to the Oakland Dog Park, which has a separate section for big and small dogs. There were four or five big dogs on their side, but no small dogs. I worked on Chimera's reactivity. He also enjoyed climbing onto a couple of logs and tree trunks.

This evening we attended our first agility class -- actually, Cai's first class ever. I had asked Anne, the owner of Jump'n Java Agility, if there were any puppy foundation classes starting up. There was one that had just started last week, but at a time slot I coudn't possibly make it to. There was another small class which has been meeting for three months already, but Anne suggested that we audit and see if we could catch up, with private sessions from the instructor.

We arrived early and I stood with Cai at the first of the double entrances, giving him turkey every time a dog barked or entered his field of vision. When our class was starting, I put him into the car and watched for the first fifteen minutes. During a calmer moment of the class, after the other dogs had settled in, I carried Cai in. I knew that he would be less reactive in my arms than if I walked him in. That's not always the case, but here a little bit of flooding did the trick. I set him down and fed a steady stream of turkey. After a few minutes he had settled down enough to be bored and ready to work for turkey. Another ten minutes or so after that, and he was willing to play tug!

The other dogs were already working on (low) equipment, and I want to get more foundation circle work and "race to reward" behaviors down, so we worked on our own foundation without direction from the instructor. We did circle work (of course) and then hopped onto a wobble board and one of those half-globe inflatables. Cai had no fear whatsoever of the wobbling, and even played tug on the board. Woohoo!! There was a contact board set out and I just had Cai walk along it at my side, and threw turkey bits on the floor ahead of him to teach him to look down at his feet rather than staring up at my hands. I practiced holding his chest as he stood by my side and throwing a toy forward, then releasing him to it (race to reward, and building toy drive). I used his long-handled bunny tug, so that I could quickly get hold of one end of the toy without reaching directly for him, and then we would play tug. At the end, when the jumps were free, I took the bar down from one and did a foundation jump exercise: standing right at the stanchion, facing the middle of the jump, and rewarding him for moving back and forth over the bottom metal bar. Also, during the entire class I gave him a treat after the teeter banged (other dogs were practicing 2 on 2 off on the lowered teeter or doing bang games).

We also took breaks here and there, and most of the time Cai was able to calmly watch the other dogs, However he decided that he really didn't like the yellow lab, which was odd as it was the calmest dog in the class. He mostly ignored the excitable bearded collie. I don't get it. There was also an adorable tiny, fluffy sheltie.

I checked in with the instructor afterwards. I told her that although I wasn't sure we could catch up to the other students, we were already working on all the important foundation behaviors, and I wanted to keep coming for the opportunity to work around the other dogs and on the foundation-level equipment (jumps, tunnel, wobble boards, contact board, etc -- although I have that stuff at home, but without the large indoor space). I am very committed to building his foundation skills to fluency before I stick him on any equipment, other than tunnels and no-bar jumps. And of course I'm keeping in mind that he's only a baby and shouldn't be asked to work too long or do anything too physically demanding.

What we're working on now:
circle work - among distractions, building duration, different speeds
restraining and releasing to a bowl of treats or a toy
sending forward with my near leg and arm, tossing a treat or toy forward
sit stays and down stays
mat work
crate games
shaping climbing onto, into, through, around, etc.

A lot of my understanding of the foundation work comes not just from taking classes with Dragon, but from the amazing book Agility Right From the Start, which I highly recommend!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

General update.

Not much to report from the past few days, as we've mostly stuck to our regular routine. I did make it out to the pet store twice to work on his dog reactivity. The first trip went very well -- he calmed down quickly and was able to show off his training in close proximity to the other dog. During the second trip we had a lot more failures because a big dog kept popping out from around corners unexpectedly and setting Cai off. We'll keep plugging away.

His left ear is a bit floppy today. Oh no! I've heard that it can happen temporarily while they're teething, and I guess he's at the age to start losing his baby teeth. I haven't found any yet.

Blurry cameraphone tugging
 Cai's appetite has gone up again and he's eating a lot but is still skinny. I started hydrating the Real Meat food with water to make it easier for him to chew, and adding canned food to make sure that he finishes absolutely everything. I guess he's going through another growth spurt.


I've had a little more success with getting him to bring the toy back to me after "winning" in tug by sitting on the floor and waiting him out. I make absolutely sure not to lean toward the toy or make any other motions that look like I might want to take it. After a while he gets bored of chewing on the toy on his own (sometimes it takes quite a while...) and comes over to me to say hello. I praise him excitedly and pet him in his favorite ways. Thanks to this he's started sometimes bringing the toy with him when he comes over. After a few seconds, if he's relaxed and I can get the end of the toy without reaching toward his mouth, I can restart the game. Even if he doesn't bring the toy to me, I'm still happy to see him leave it on the floor and come to me for attention instead. We're definitely headed in the right direction in terms of forming a working relationship.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Pictures from Thanksgiving weekend

Click on any picture to see it bigger.

At the stream:
Heading in..

Swimming! It only lasted a couple of seconds, and then he was done going in so deep.

Trying to entice him back into the shallows with a toy.

Followed by a bath to wash off the stream water.

Learning to climb up my chest and balance on my shoulder.

At Carmel Beach:
Let me get it!

Whoa, look at that tongue!

Taking a moment to relax.

Down stay.

Hiking, Jacques, puppy social

Big day yesterday! I took Chimera on my daily dog hike so that he would get tired out before we went to Sherry and Jacque's house for the evening. The trails are muddy nowadays and it was raining lightly during the hike. 4 out of 5 dogs ran through muddy puddles, and I am SHOCKED to report that my crazy puppy was actually avoiding them.

Muddy puppy.
Not that it made much of a difference. (Also, I added this picture to the raincoat montage on this post. Compare this picture at 18 weeks to the ones posted at 12 and 15 weeks.)

He got cold quickly and was shivering through most of the hike, and clearly wasn't enjoying it as much as usual. Poor boy.

I couldn't show up at Sherry's house with my dog in this state, so we went to the nearest Pet Food Express with a self-service dog wash and got him clean and fluffy again. I also bought him a big, warm coat. It hangs on him now, but he'll grow into it. I had to convince him that he can walk while wearing it. Pictures to come.

He was happy to see his Papillon buddy Jacques, yet didn't harass him throughout the evening nearly as much as I had expected! I guess he's learning some manners after all. He picked a favorite toy from Jacques' collection and liked to run around squeaking it. The only poor behavior was when he started guarding the toy when we were all in the kitchen, and then he escalated to something I haven't seen before: he would deliberately bring the toy over to Jacques, and then launch himself snarling at Jacques' face. Jacques defended himself, we split the dogs up, and after this repeated three times in quick succession I took the toy away. It was worrying behavior. I can understand playing with a toy and growling or snapping if another dog comes close, but purposefully taunting and then assaulting another dog is unacceptable. It's hard to train this out -- counter-conditioning and teaching an alternate behavior -- because the interaction between dogs is so quick and sometimes unpredictable. I will of course give it a go and see what I can do.

This morning I took Chimera to the Puppy Social at the daycare, and he guarded toys and treats fiercely. Again he would launch himself at the face of other dogs who came too close to his "precious". Because I was running the social myself, I wasn't able to devote enough attention to him to do b-mod. I decided that this would be his last social, unless I attend one hosted by someone else and I'm there specifically to work on the guarding issues.