Image via Wikipedia
As Summer winds down and with it the promise of cooler, more comfortable temperatures in which to train, I must return to work. My time will be severely curtailed this Fall, as it is every semester. It is extremely difficult to balance full-time-plus work, graduate school, writing, and dog training.
I eagerly anticipated summer holidays: it would be a time to focus on getting Athena ready for Intermediate obedience and earning points towards her CD. It was an opportunity, I anticipated, for me to rehabilitate and train Lily by deaf and partially blind white Catahoula.
There’s a great saying I once heard: “If you want God to laugh, tell him your plans.” Nothing went according to plan. Athena fell seriously ill, then my mother got very ill, and graduate school consumed all of my time. I did no training.
It’s only within the past two days that I’ve started training Athena once more. I keep the sessions super short, but she shows her usual enthusiasm. Today I focused on holding the dumbbell. She will hold the dumbbell for 5 seconds while in a sit, but I think she will hold it much longer. She waits for the click before releasing the object, so all I have to do to train for duration is delay the click. In clicker training the click not only marks the correct behavior, but it marks the end of the behavior; the dog is free to stop the behavior once she hears the click.
So with the remaining days before the show, I will train as much as Athena will tolerate. I hope to take her out to proof her off-leash heel. Last dog show she threatened to go AWOL on me during that exercise! Unless the veterinarian advises me otherwise, we’re definitely entering this show.
After only one month’s preparation, Athena and I will enter the obedience ring once more tomorrow, but this time we’ll be competing in the Intermediate class. We have not mastered all the exercises perfectly. For instance, Athena can reliably clear the high jump at 23″: she must do 36″ tomorrow, and her retrieve is still rough around the edges. However, her work shows remarkable progress.
Two weeks ago she refused the jumps. I had to take her back to the beginner’s stage, letting her jump very low heights, rewarding, and raising the heights very gradually. I also had to change the cue, as I discovered that somehow the old ones got poisoned. The results: she offers me jumps now. Some will say that is not a good thing in a competition dog; however, the fact that she offers the jumps without me cuing her says that she actually likes to jump, and she knows what she’s to do. And, she’s jumping off leash. How could I possibly correct that?
We may not be perfect, and I have no idea how we will do in the ring tomorrow. We may be brilliant, we may stink. Regardless of the outcome, I remind myself that the process, the journey of getting to where we are, is far more important than the product, the first place, or the trophy. While those are nice to have, I am more interested in how my dog learned, and that she had fun learning and performing, and that she will look forward to more training and trials.
That said, I sign off for now as handler and dog must be well rested for the task at hand tomorrow.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Another obscenely long day, but what a reception I got when I returned home. When the puppies heard me walking through the house, they climbed out of their whelping box to greet me at the baby gate. Then they swarmed my feet, tails wagging fiendishly, as they sank their newly emerging shark’s teeth into my flesh. Man, that hurt!
At my last trip to the store, I purchased a baby brush set for human babies 0-3 months, and brushed the little fiends for the first time today. I figured that the soft bristles would be gentle on their delicate skin and fur. They snuggled and eventually fell asleep in my arms while I gently ran the brush through their coats. This is my way of conditioning them to accept grooming later on.
When my dogs were puppies I found it difficult at first to brush them because they kept biting at my hands and trying to grab the brush. Eventually they grew to like being brushed.
I also checked their teeth. The two white puppies did not like that at all, but the black and gold one accepted it. I’ll keep doing it everyday–just lifting their lips to expose their teeth–not a big deal at all.
The Screamer has just discovered that she can run, so she darts around the room, and for the most part, remains on all fours. The puppies had a wrestling match today with lots of growling. So cute. It’s hard to believe that they will turn four weeks on Monday, and I will have them for only four more weeks after that.
Future agility dog? Little Darlin enjoys weaving himself through the grille work.
Gone to sleep….zzzzz…..
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Little Darlin and Turbo Puppy enjoy dinner from a bowl. The Screamer thought exploring the living room was far more exciting than eating out of a bowl like a big dog.
Today was the first day since the puppies’ birth that they have been left alone with Cody for an entire day. It was hard for me, as I constantly wondered what they were up to, whether they would be okay. I go through puppy withdrawal during the day when I’m away from them, but there’s always someone at home to give me updates. I managed to survive, somehow.
And the pups survived just fine, but were clearly happy to see us when we came home. During the evening I left the baby gate to the living room open for the puppies, but only one puppy took me up on the invitation to check out the room. After yesterday’s fiasco with the Pomeranians, I put them in another room so the pups could explore freely. Cody clearly didn’t like the puppies in the living room, though, and kept biting at the pup to get her back in the bedroom.
Weaning went okay today. I’m truly amazed that the puppies are not making a mess. They’ve been lapping like civilized dogs out of the bowls. I accidentally made their food too thick today, but they loved it. Little Darlin ate most of it, while Turbo Puppy cleaned him up. Cody came by ocassionally and took a few laps as though to encourage the pups, but The Screamer went off to explore the living room.
Puppies get their final dose of worm medicine tonight.
Turbo Puppy plays the role of mommy by cleaning up Little Darlin while he eats.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Weaning time! Mommy shows them how it’s done, while Turbo Puppy looks on (in disbelief, no doubt)
The Three Muskateers turn three weeks today. I walked into my bedroom this morning to find the whelping box empty. I looked under my bed and saw six little paws. The little poopsters climbed out of their box and went to sleep under my bed where it’s cool and dark. I put them back in, but the climbed out again. It wasn’t until the late afternoon when they settled on their moistened towel that they stayed in their box.
Today officially begins weaning, and it wasn’t as messy as I anticipated. The puppies got Gerber Rice Cereal mixed with a homemade puppy replacement formula. The Screamer took two laps then spent a few seconds afterwards licking her lips. Turbo Puppy mouthed the edge of the bowl, and accidentally tipped over the bowl, at which point she got one lap. Little Darlin remained oblivious to the whole proceedings. At dinner time they all came up to the bowl, and The Screamer sat in front of the bowl lapping up the cereal. Turbo Puppy joined her later. A family member put Little Darlin to the dish, and I think he got more cereal than he bargained for. He backed away from the dish and spent a few seconds licking his lips.
Cody finished off the rest, and when I filled the bowl with seconds, The Screamer came up to it once more and resumed lapping. Incredibly, there was no mess to clean up, just an empty bowl to wash.
The puppies got their first worming today, too. I have them 1 cc of 10% Panacur. They willingly took the medicine, the innocent babes.
I cuddle each puppy several times per day, and stress them mildly. Yesterday it was a gentle ear pinch; today it was squeezing their toes gently. I even clipped the front claws of each puppy, but I forgot to do the dewclaws!