a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Chip Trial Day 5 - morning

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Chip Trial Day 5 - morning

SUMMARY: Things are going well

Letter to Owner who's asking about him (I love it when my emails can turn into blog posts: Double duty!)

Everything's going very well. He's really a very good dog. He and Boost have played/wrestled together at least once every day, and Tika tolerates him. In my experience, it actually takes a few weeks before all the dogs in the household have settled into their normal personalities and routines, and things look like they're going very nicely in the right direction.

He's paying more and more attention to me, accepting that I'm here and in charge :-). He's not done any marking in the house (that I've seen, anyway, but I think the other dogs would point it out); he's eating happily; I've seen no recurrence of that one time when you were here and he put his paws up on the stove to check it out.

You've done a very nice job with him, really. He's sweet and is doing his best to be friends with all the other dogs. Personality and attitude are the most important things, followed by basic good behavior; training details are so easy to add when the other things are in place.

I've arranged for a crate for him to travel in with me this weekend. We'll probably be sleeping in a hotel unless it gets a lot warmer, in which case we might sleep in my van at the trial site (agility competition); this is how I've always done it with all my dogs, and I see that he's often taking his cues from my dogs, which is very helpful, so I expect that he'll settle down well at night and hopefully get a chance to run around with some other dogs this weekend.

I thank you for letting me have the chance to have him here, and I'd be glad to keep him. Let me know what you're thinking long-term. If he does stay here, you know of course that you and your son are welcome to come see him or take him out for a run or a weekend visit any time; he would love that.


Back to training notes. What we worked on this morning:


Well, not yet making a concerted effort on bringing toys back. Taking it easy and trying the coaxing thing. Sometimes it works, but not from most of the way across the yard. He'll come to me but leave the toy behind.

Toy Play

We continue to play tug, practice "Give," give it back to him, play tug, etc. He likes tug but is still a little timid with me, I think. He has no problem with me pressing my thumb into his mouth to get him to let go when he doesn't do it immediately.


 I'm starting over with this command. First is to get him to go directly to down from a standing position. I'm doing this as Rachel Sanders taught. Hold some really good treats in my fist, fingers down, on the ground between his front feet. Eventually the dog drops to same position as a play bow, and then because that's not completely comfortable, the butt goes down.

I've modified that a bit, after almost 5 minutes where he continually licked my fist (hot dogs, yum!) but didn't go down. Added my short braided leather training leash to his collar and stepped on it so that his head was held partway down to put a little pressure on him. That got him to lower his front end even though it still took a couple of minutes--at least he didn't give up trying to get the hot dogs, so I think those are a winner; I gave a big jackpot and praise and let him up. Repeated, and he was a bit faster going down in the front. But his butt stayed in the air, so the 3rd time I just pressed lightly on his lower back after a minute or so, and down he went.  The next time, pretty fast front end down but after a bit I touched his butt lightly again. The next time, he went down fairly quickly on his own, first front, then back. Final jackpot and crazy praise and that was enough of that for this morning!

I suppose if I'd had more patience that eventually he'd have gone down completely on his own, but I think that he's still essentially making the decision himself, which is what I want: "Oh, this is a good thing for me to do, how clever of me to have figured out how to get hot dogs!"

We'll do that until he's doing it reliably and much faster (I hope--I'd like him to just drop like Boost does rather than settle into it like Tika does), then I'll add the command as he's doing it. [It's important to have a plan in any training, yeh? I don't always do that. I'm happier when I know where I'm going, makes it easier to get there]

Dog door/crate

The dog door is the key to *my* freedom. He obviously has a lot of experience being in his crate for long hours, but i'd rather not do that if I don't have to. Yesterday I was gone for a bit under 4 hours. Tossed some treats into his crate before I left, and he hadn't eaten them when I got him; I'm not sure exactly what that means, but would be better if I could leave him loose like the other dogs.

Owner had said that Chip had gotten out of their yard a couple of times when he was left alone and loose when he was younger, so he didn't give Chip the chance again. Ideally I'd leave for 15 minutes, then half an hour, etc., to see how things go. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that he's liking being part of the dog family here and that that will keep him here. He is also microchipped (I hope to Owner's current phone number), plus I bought a tag for his collar that has my home and cell numbers.

So I started working on training how to use the dog door, rather than waiting for him to figure it out. He has seemed completely disinclined to put his nose on or near the actual flap and seems intimidated by the flap flapping back as the dogs go through.  I started by going to the other side of the door, the other dogs came thru the dog door, and I held the flap wide open. It took a lot of coaxing for him to even come near, and if my hand moved at all, he jumped back. We did that about 6 times over the morning before he wouldn't jump back, but still very cautious approaching the door and going through it. Then I was able to lower it gently onto his backside as he went through so that he'd get used to that feeling.

In total, we've done about 14 trips through the dog door and he's still not showing an inclination to approach it on his own. So it'll be the crate again today; inconvenient because I want to go north to do an evening hike with Sierra Club after work, but I should come back south to let him out again for a bit. 

I wonder whether I can work a deal with my contractor friend (Boost's breeder, actually) who's here painting the kitchen and stuff.
Hmmm hmmmm.

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