a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: February 2002

Thursday, February 07, 2002

Tika Day 17

SUMMARY: Things are going well so far.

Backfill: May 6, 2009
Whew, I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up that level of dog journal for long, but I wanted to capture my initial emotions and impressions and experiences.

She is so smart some of the time, too smart some of the time, and a dork on rare occasions.

My dogs are supposed to sit to get their leashes on when they go for a walk. They know this. We've been doing this nearly every day for 3 years (Jake) to 8 years (for Rem), but they almost always circle around and around until I say something, sometimes twice (even "Hey!" will do it). Tika figured it out perfectly. As soon as I head for the leashes, she sits and stays sitting right there. What a superstar!

She's getting a little better on the walks about other dogs. Even though she's still pulling at the leash, I think that lots of exposure to the rest of the world will be what calms her down eventually. She still gets excited when a yard dog starts barking as we go by, but she's manageable. And yesterday a dog passed on the other side of the street, and although she was on the verge of wild, she never went past the point where I couldn't keep walking and just try to manage the tension on the leash, and no screeching (just whining)! So that's improving.

Next we can work on walking without pulling. Another too-smart thing--she's figured out that she can lean into the gentle leader and, if she hesitates just long enough to shake her head, then the tension relaxes and she can lean into it again. So most of the walk she's still leaning into it, but of course not yanking like she does on a plain collar. Why she can't figure out to *not* pull and then not have to shake her head all the time, I don't know!

She's doing good with the stuff we're learning in Rachel's class, although I don't practice nearly often enough. She really recognizes Tika as her name, and is at the moment among the "advanced" students on the recall (Rachel gave 3 of us permission to go on to the next step beyond what we'd been practicing).

Also Rachel taught us a new way of teaching down (at least I wasn't familiar with it), where you kneel and hold the food in front of your knees and call the name--when the dog comes to you and starts trying to nibble at the food, eventually they'll lie down. Then you say "Down" immediately, let them have the food, and praise. When they're going down immediately when they see your hands with the food, you move to step 2, with your hands up to your knees. Then you move up to sitting on a step with the food at yuor ankles, then halfway up your calves, then to your knees. Then you go on from there. Our assignment for next week is to get to step 2. We learned this yesterday, and Tika's already at step 3 and I just didn't want to spend too much "training" time and burn her out.

On the other hand, the other thing we're learning is an under-my-control down, where when you push on the shoulders, the dog is just supposed to go down. The starting step is to pull down on the collar at the same time as pushing back on the shoulders, from a stand at your side. If the dog sits, you've lost the situation and you go stand the dog and try again. First week, rachel said give them a goodie to distract them and, sure enough, when I give Tika a goodie and push/pull, she goes down pretty easily. But without the goodie she stands like a rock or plops instantly into a sit. I keep thinking I must be missing something.

This evening, I had to laugh when I finally realized where we are--almost the instant we're in that position and I give her a goodie, she goes down! So she's learned the behavior to the wrong stimulus! I'll have to give Rachel a call and figure out what to do next.

She does a "shake" very well and a "crawl" moderately well. I haven't really worked on many other tricks yet. Still discovering that we're missing some basic skills that I took for granted. Have had to practice catching a goodie that I toss. She actually (like most dogs) figured it out pretty fast, but we had to take a break from other stuff to practice it.

Then I discovered that she didn't seem to have a clue about tossing a treat--when I made a tossing gesture, she focused on my hand! So I've had to start with a very short toss, and point it out to her, and we're getting better pretty quickly, but I had forgotten that that's kind of an abstract concept for dogs.

She's out of the pen almost all the time I'm here, now, but I have to remember to watch her when she starts wandering. She can find somethng and tear it up in about 30 seconds flat if I get distracted. So far fortunately nothing important, just packing material and trashy stuff. And she mostly doesn't do that if we've had a good play session and/or a meal in recent hours. I don't want her to start associating being in the pen with me being gone, though, so maybe I shd make a point of putting her in when she's just going to be snoozing anyway.

She hasn't been wanting to settle onto her mat in the bedroom unless I put a gate across that corner of the room. i was hoping that she'd get the clue that that's where I'd like her to sleep. She *does* know it's time to settle down, but she settles down in the hallway or somewhere. Because I don't quite trust her yet, I don't want that. So 2 nights ago I moved the mat right next to my bed (makes it tough to get out w/out stepping on her). Sure enough, when I go up to bed, she instantly settles there on the mat.

The DISadvantage is that at 6:00 this morning, I was sound asleep and in the middle of some interesting dream, when a dog stuck her nose into my arm and shoved, saying, "Hey, I just had a GREAT idea! Let's get up NOW!" I said something bitter and undoubtedly wittily ascerbic, and Lo! she settled right back down onto the mat and went back to sleep, thereby disproving my original thought that maybe she had to go potty. So *she* slept for another hour, but I couldn't get comfortable and tossed and turned and finally gave up and got up around 7, which is still a wee bit early for me. So I'm kinda sleepy tonight.

There is *so* much to learn and practice. I've been trying to do more of the stuff from Rachel's class and so for 2 days we haven't practiced our agility--and today when I tried what we'd been doing before, she was oblivious. So that clearly hasn't patterned on her yet.

I have to tell you about Reminton, too. I've always said he was a quick learner & loved to learn, too. But it's been so long since I've taught him anything new, and now he's watching me work with the puppy and me being excited when she does cool stuff. So I thought I really needed something to get excited about with Remington (other than just doing all the same old 40 or 50 tricks). So tonight it occurred to me to try to teach him to go to a "bow" from a Down position instead of from standing. It was a challenge, but within just a few minutes and a few attempts on my part to figure out how to make that connection for him, he was doing it! Probably not very solid yet, and we'll have to practice it some more, but I think that was a big conceptual leap for him. He's so good!

Remington was actually willing to play in the same room as Tika tonight--so I had all 3 of them with their toys. Argh--exhausting--need 3 hands. Tika's slowly coming around to the idea that, in this house, the current play toy for each dog is off limits to the other dogs. I'm not sure I'm entirely happy about that rule, but I'm looking for a peaceful and stress-free environment. Rem will snarl and even jump on her (or any dog) who tries to take a toy, or the only other choice is he completely loses interest and refuses to play. Has always been like that.

Jake doesn't do that, but in every play session, there is one Official Jake Toy and if I or the other dogs try to switch, jake will *not* play with any toy except the original one. He's always been like that, too. When I first got him, I used to take him to the dog park and throw one of the dozens of tennis balls that were always lying around. If he lost track of which one I'd thrown, he would NOT fetch just any old other ball I'd pick up--he had to check every tennis ball in the place until he found the one we had started playing with. And he was always right, too! He'd be good in obedience if I knew how to take advantage of that scent discrimination. Even now, he has several favorite squeaky toys. But if I try to switch from one to the other during play, he will NOT fetch the new one unless I insist forcefully, and even then he'll just drop it, put his ears back, and wait for me to roduct the original toy.

Oh--tonight I introduced Tika to the Food Cube! Went down to the pet store & bought her one. I've been using them for Rem and Jake for about a year and a half and they're great for burning off a few ounces of energy, especially when I've been away most of the day or don't have as much time to spend with them. She figured it out in just a few minutes and was rolling and pushing and pawing it aroudn to get the food out like an old pro. Rem learned moderately quickly, but he already knew the "nudge" command (push something with your nose), and that's how he originally learned, with my commands; Jake was a little slower I think--maybe I've got the speed backwards--although still within a couple of sessions he was pretty good at it.

Tika did decide that using the dog door was a good thing after all and for several days now has been going in and out sometimes on her own. Still not sure that I competely trust her to potty herself, so I still take her out occasionally, but she's not misbehaving at the fence near the neighbor's dog much at all.

So it's going well at the moment.

Friday, February 01, 2002

New Dog Day Hrmnwmnrm

SUMMARY: summarytext

Backfill: May 6, 2009
Note to Tika's foster mom:
I'd love to know whatever the shelter knows about her first appearance at 4 months. But that's not a condition of whether I keep her--it's just insatiable curiosity.

Last couple or 3 days, I've left her out of the pen most of the time because she's settled down so much. When she starts wandering a lot and I'm trying to concentrate on work, I put her back in so she doesn't get into something. But she seems to have figured out that first thing in the morning is mom-reading-the-paper-and-having-breakfast time and is settling down to rest on a mat in the kitchen like the other dogs do. Same thing while I'm working at the computer--she seems to have picked a favorite mat, which overlooks my office area, and has been resting there.

She still isn't using the doggie door on her own. She goes 2/3 of the way through to sniff around on the deck (that's where the dog food is kept) and then tries to back in and it doesn't work very well. So I can't rely on her to potty herself so I have to keep an eye on her and take her out regularly. Had an accident on the carpet the other evening while I was watching TV--it was after agility class and i just wasn't thinking that she hadn't peed before class, or after class while I was showing her off, and when we got home she just wanted dinner (she learns quickly!) and then I settled down with my dinner and the TV. She kept being pushy and annoying and I didn't even then get the hint til she squatted in front of me.

I'm still of mixed minds about the dog door thing--would be nice if she were self-pottying, but it's still probably good that she's not in the yard unsupervised. My extra-long super-warm down coat is getting a lot of use these days, and it hardly ever sees the light of day!

I meant to ask you--did you do any teaching, or see any signs of, her knowing how to Shake or to wait on a bed without leaving? She's so good at those things-- I guess if you don't know, we'll probably never know what else the previous owners actually thought to teach her.

So if I keep her, what are the adoption fees or whatever's involved?