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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!
Sunday, September 13, 2009
The Screamer naps after nursing in her new kennel.
I introduced Cody and the puppies to their new kennel today. She settled down almost immediately to nurse, then relaxed for a bit. It’s a cozy space, well ventilated, quite, and cool. Cody like it, until I left her briefly with her puppies. She wanted out. She’s an indoor dog, and typical for her breed, loves to be around her humans. The family will remain in my home for now, but they will get daily excursions into their kennel to play and explore.
After she nursed, Turbo Puppy explored every inch of the kennel, while The Screamer sprawled out for a nap. Little Darlin, bless his heart, he just walked around fussing. He’s been fussy all day, and I think it’s because of the heat. It is so incredibly hot right now. The pups are back in the house and I have placed moistened towels in the whelping box with bocks of ice between them. They all piled on and are now sound asleep.
Later this afternoon The Screamer climbed out of the whelping box and walked over to Cody’s food bowl that had a bit of leftovers. She seemed interested in the wonderful aroma of kibble and liver, but quickly lost interest when she found she lacked the one important tool for eating kibble: teeth! So she climbed right back into the whelping box and nursed from mom instead.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
The Three Muskateers are showing signs of being conscious where they go bathroom. This morning Turbo Puppy peed in one corner of the whelping box. I put down a sheet of newspaper and placed books on either ends to keep it from blowing away in the wind (from the fans), and about a half-hour later I saw a fresh puddle over that.
That’s a good sign, as I’m hoping that these puppies will be easy on their new owners when it comes to housetraining. Cody will teach the puppies to go outside of the whelping box to go bathroom, and that’s why I’m moving the puppies out into their kennel next week. They will learn to go potty on the grass outside of their concrete kennel.
Cody also teaches the puppies to lap. As she lapped up her bowl of milk, curiosity got the better of The Muskateers, and they had to go investigate. Turbo Puppy took one lap, then chewed the edge of the dish; Little Darlin sat with his head over the dish contemplating the designs on it. The Screamer, who has now replaced screaming with mouthing, decided that she had better things to do, so she went off to play with Mr. Moose.
Before long they’ll realize that there’s nothing like a full body submersion in a bowl of Gerber Rice Cereal. It’s great for the fur!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
What a difference a few hours can make. Work responsibilities and errands kept me away from the puppies for the greater part of today, but I couldn’t believe the puppies’ transformation since 7:00am.
When I walked into the nursery tonight, the puppies all got up to greet me. They walked on much steadier legs, though they can’t stay on all fours for very long yet. Turbo Puppy decided she wanted out of the whelping box to greet me just like Cody. Well, she got her front paws over the side, then fell head over heels and landed at my feet. What a reception!
I bought more dog toys for the puppy room, including a cute pacifier made from soft vinyl with a quiet squeak. Turbo Puppy and now Little Darlin are chewing the side of the whelping box–a sure sign that their teeth are coming through. I plan on redirecting their chewing activities to the pacifier for now. So far I haven’t been successful, yet I persist.