SUMMARY: Doggie doors, Genius toys, and getting on with life. (Another long dull post with my training notes and all.)
A few years back, I discovered these Quiet Spot neoprene tag silencers and suddenly realized how much I'd like it if I didn't have dog tags jingling all through my life. They've worked very well, but Boost's gave up the ghost two or three weeks ago and I hadn't gotten around to getting a replacement. When I bought a nice red heart tag with my phone number on it for Chip while he's here, he started jingling, too. So I ordered a new blue one for Boost, to match her blue collar, and a new red one for Chip, to match his red collar. They arrived today and now I once again have peace. (I ordered them from a place that benefits greyhound rescue, which is pretty cool.)
Chip, checking out my camera up close and personal. Cracks me up.
The big story yesterday and today is the doggie door. I thought I was making quick progress yesterday, until I let the flap touch Chip a little too early and he freaked out and we were back at square minus one when he didn't even want to come near the door, even with me offering tiny pieces of hot dog.
(Side note: He seems to like Zukes minis, but he chews each one contemplatively and carefully! I've never seen a dog chew Zukes minis before, other than maybe a quick squish or two between the molars. Mostly they just go right down. So I'm not sure that I can use those for him for training; they take too much time. Tiny hot dog morsels go down much quicker for him.)
I thought about it a bit more. The other dogs have figured it out on their own, first by sniffing around where the other dogs go through the flap, then pushing a little with their noses, finally sticking their heads through, then clambering cautiously all the way through, and then that's it. Chip, however, startled when the flap flapped back behind the other dogs and has never put his nose anywhere near it.
I figured that this meant that we had possibly three challenges: He doesn't like things on his head or back. He doesn't like the flap's flapping. And because he's so gentle and cautious, he doesn't want to push hard enough with his nose to open the flap.
- Things on his head/back: Actually not a problem, it turns out. I draped things on him, dropped things on him, pulled things across his face and head and back, and he just acted like this happens to him every day. Whew.
- Flap flapping: I took an entire hot dog in my fist with barely enough of one end exposed that he could lick it and try to chew molecules off of it. I just held it in front of him and, with the other hand, hit the flap open and let it flap back and forth like happens when the dogs go through. I did that dozens of times, gradually moving the hot dog closer and closer to it, until he didn't startle any more. Then we moved to the outside of the door and repeated the process. Gave it a break for an hour or so, then repeated--and it's a good thing because he startled again when we restarted, although not as much. I must've hit that door a hundred times or more. Pretty much success.
- Getting him to go through the door comfortably, working down to where he'd push it on his own. Started back with holding it wide open for him time after time. (I and the dogs would go to the other side so that he'd want to come through, then when he was through, reverse, etc. So we did a LOT of inning and outing yesterday and today.) Then gradually--more gradually than I did originally yesterday, letting the flap rest on his butt, then his lower back, middle back, shoulders as he came through. Then holding it not so far open and repeated, then holding it lower and lower. This evening after I got home, I noted progress in two ways:
* Previously, he'd go through the door only if I pulled it open from the opposite side of where he was. Now I can open it by pushing from the same side he's on, and he'll go through, which he'd have none of before.
* I can get away with just lifting a corner of the flap a few inches and he's pushing through that without any signs of discomfort. We are SO close to him initiating the flap lifting. Not sure whether I'll have to devise some other clever approach, because the initial push to detach it from he force of the magnets is much more than just sticking your nose through the already opened flap.
Anyway, pleased with this, because we'll both be much more free in our lives if he can get himself in and out for pottying.
Chip and Boost wondering what I'm going to give them for holding still while I take a photo.
I took a risk this afternoon before leaving for about 6 hours and left him loose in the house with the other dogs, no crate this time. (Secret weapon was that the Renter was coming home after about 4-5 hours and let him out briefly.) I didn't notice any destruction or messes in the house, although I didn't go crawling around looking for possible leg-lifting spots. I think it went well.
The other big step for him was having dinner from the Leo Genius food dispenser for the first time ever. I hung out near him and praised him whenever he did something clever, but they really have to figure it out on their own. I wanted to see how determined he was to figure it out, whether he has that stick-to-it-iveness or gives up when it's not easy. He did finally quit when there were only a half dozen pieces of kibble left in it, but he did very well and by the end was not only rolling it with his paw, but also starting to pick it up from one end or the other to get food to fall out. It's good mental and physical exercise for the dogs, and my dogs get the Leo toy for meals typically 2 or 3 times a week, sometimes more. Next time, I'll try to take photos. Here are photos from last year of Tika and Boost dumping food from their Leos in various ways.
The only other really dedicated training I did today was a bit of work on touching his nose to a clear target, with clicker training. He was starting to tentatively touch the target when we were done with maybe 3 minutes of training, so I think he'll get it. Whether I can get him to aggressively move in and shove it with his nose... yeah, I think that'll be a challenge for him.
Token Boost photo because she's cute.
Meanwhile, Tika's having a bad couple of days again. Lots more coughing, lots less energy, so I didn't do a walk with the dogs. She did do her Leo toy for dinner, so she had the energy for that, and we played some laid-back tug for a while. But she'd doing a lot of lying around like this again, poor old girl. I hope that, once again, this is just a temporary down period and she'll be back to being happy and perky in a day or three.
She's such a good old girl, really pretty good most of the time about Chip trying to be friends with her, and I think Chip is trying to be solicitous when she goes into her coughing fits, walking alongside her and just nosing gently towards her cheek.
I'm just giving her a lot of snuggling and rubbing.
I KNEW it would be challenging to balance 3 dogs again with affection and training for all, but at least it's going much smoother than it did with Jake when I brought Boost home, 9 years ago! Hard to believe she's already that old. Oh my.