A blog about dog training and dog breeding…and other sundry matters

Lily my special-needs puppy being chased by Athena

I spent the Easter weekend trying to understand Lily’s limitations and strengths.  While at the vet clinic on Saturday, I discovered that her vision is poor.  By Monday, however, I knew conclusively that she could detect movement.  I discovered this while “charging the marker,” which is the equivalent of “charging the clicker” where you follow a click, or whatever marker you have chosen, with a treat.  You do this in quick succession so that the dog associates the clicker (or visual marker) with the treat.  This is the first step in clicker training an animal.

Anyway, the marker I use for Lily is an outward flash of all five fingers on my right hand in front of her face, followed by a treat delivered in my left hand.  At first I noticed that Lily was focused on my left hand with the treats.  When I put my hand around my back, I saw her eyes follow my hand.  When she shifted her attention to my right hand,  I marked the behavior by giving her “the flash” and followed it immediately with a treat.  She learned very quickly to focus on my right hand.

Because of her broken toe, the veterinarian recommended that she get a lot of rest.  Yeah, right.  Encouraging an otherwise healthy five-month-old puppy to rest is like stopping the flow of water over Niagara Falls.  She so desperately wanted to play with my other dogs, so on Monday night I allowed her a very brief play session with Athena, who seemed to dote on her.

The two romped in the house, then Ms. Athena decided to take the game outside.  She ran through the back door and of course Lily followed.  What happened after that just about broke my heart.  Lily fled through the back door into the night, made a flying leap from the first of three steps that descend to my backyard, and landed face down in the dirt, butt in the air.  After a few horrifying seconds when Athena and I froze staring at Lily as she lay on the ground, she slowly got up and, holding up the paw with the previously broken toe, limped into the house to me.  The pain must have been excruciating.  She held up her paw and opened her mouth as though to scream, but no sound came out.

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