a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Chip Training Update

Monday, June 09, 2014

Chip Training Update

SUMMARY: Wobble board, nose touch, fireworks and heat, fence barking.

We started a Foundations class last week and it's good practice for him to wait quietly in his crate (except when he periodically barked challenges at the silhouette of a dachshund lawn ornament on a nearby wall--he did something similar at a dog park with painted pictures of dogs outside the fence). Also good for me to be more focused on training.

This last week not so much for focusing; up to Portland for 2 days then another day full of graduations then a long work day and an evening out, so we practiced mostly just Saturday and Sunday.


Last week's issue: The wobble board.  Fairly early on with him, I shortened one leg of the Table (by about maybe 2 inches), played tug with Tika on it and with Boost on it for him to watch, then got him playing tug on the ground and convinced him to jump up and continue there. Other than a short period of concern, he then relaxed and paid the movement no more mind. So I figured I was OK.

Introduce the class teeter with about a 6" drop at one end to play the Bang Game (reward the dog when he makes the teeter end bang down), and he stepped on it, it moved, and he was done with that. So then: Introduce the class Wobble Board with a 10" drop and supported only in the middle rather than along one axis (like my table or the teeter) , and after putting his feet on and it moved like crazy, he'd have nothing to do with it.

The instructor loaned me a wobble board to bring home. Trying to get him to decide to get on the board and shape that behavior (reward for looking at it, then for moving towards it, then for a foot touch, etc, but in very small increments). After 3 days, all we had achieved was two feet on the side that's in touch with the ground. Slightest movement, and he was outa there. I propped it up some so that the drop wasn't nearly the full 10", but no go.

Boost and Tika, that's a different matter. Could hardly keep them off it, even though Tika's back legs are pretty week these days and she kept losing her footing, falling, getting back up, trying again, very excited. Boost also excited about it: Jeez, really good chicken treats just for standing on a wobbly board!  (Neither Jake nor Remington had issues about things moving under them, either--Rem used to leap onto the patio glider to get a better view of the squirrels, and that thing leaped all over the place.)
Anyway, Chip would even jump back if the board moved because the other dogs or I moved it, and Doh! it took me until today to remember how long it took to desensitize him to the motion & noise of the dog door flap:

So this morning I did a ton of Human-Mom-Bangs-Wobble-Board with him standing near it and getting a treat every time I banged it.  Did that for a total of maybe 5 minutes until he wasn't jerking every time it hit.  THEN within a few minutes more, he was getting his front feet on and leaving them on when it moved slightly (with me supporting it so it wasn't so sudden). Still cautious, but now not jumping back as soon as there was motion.

So he's just going to take longer on this before we get to the Teeter, but the teeter should be a piece of cake afterwards. Says here.


I'm still working on that haphazardly, but he's moving to touch it in various offered places now. Not all the way to ground level yet, but the touch is getting more forceful and he's doing it to various flat objects, not just the clear plastic target. When I taught this to Remington--my first-ever clicker training assignment--he was doing a forceful nose touch & moving to the target within our first 5 minutes! Chip is not that dog.


The dang dog next door likes to throw himself at the fence and make a ruckus. I've debated asking the neighbor whether we could just put in a gate and let the dogs play together, because it sure looks to me like your basic fence-fighting game: "Hold me back, hold me back!" but when you remove the fence, the dogs are best buds.


Tika occasionally gave in to temptation and returned the fence throwing/ferocious barking, but could be easily deterred.  Not Chip. I've tried chasing him away and saying No! and Cut it out! in various firm but not agitated ways. What I seemed to get was him checking to see whether I was around whenever he made a ruckus. If I just opened the back door, he'd come running, but if I didn't, or if we were already out in the yard, fageddaboudit.

I moved towards prevention rather than deterrence: If I were in the house (e.g., trying to work) and he started in at that, I just brought him inside and closed off the doggie door. Which is inconvenient for me and for the other dogs. And didn't solve the problem, just postponed it.

SOOO I reversed strategy, using his "checking in to see whether I was around" existing behavior with the Premack Principle.

Results were very good after the first couple of sessions (while I was out doing yardwork or training or whatever in the yard). By the end of it, he'd hit the fence, bark a couple of times, and look at me, instead of staying there engaging in frantic almost-uninterruptable throwing/barking. OR, even better, look back at me as he approached the fence, hence was rewarded, so never even got there. Yeah! Don't know whether this will take care of what he might do while I'm not here.

But progress feels good.

SIT/DOWN STAY: Getting longer. Trying to work it with the hose spraying (just one squirt--he's staying in position more of the time now with that one squirt).


Why on earth the Idiots are setting them off when (a) it's illegal and (b) we're in the worst drought in recorded history and fire danger is extreme and it has been very hot lately. But, whatever. Ten days ago, found out that they Freak. Chip. Out.  Neighbors, many of whom are also upset (many with freaked-out dogs of whom one actually has seizures from the experience), think that it might be graduation parties. Yeah, best way to graduate: Break the law, terrify kids and dogs for miles around, and start a raging wildfire. Good.

Chip just stands rigidly, trying to figure out where the noise is coming from, jerking his head left and right. Tries hiding in one closet, tries hiding in the other closet, tries crawling under the bed, tries to crawl into the sink (?!!!!) and around and around. He'll settle a little bit if I let him hide under my bedcovers with me (I have never ever let dogs do that before), but even that lasts only a little while. Plus it's hot!  So some nights it has been tough for me to get to sleep.

He's the first of my 7 dogs to be this way.

Yesterday, my yard hit 104 F (40 C), and it was still over 90 when I left the house around 5:30 for the evening, so I did not open the upstairs bedroom windows at that time. When I got home at 11:30, all three dogs greeted me, but then Chip disappeared. I went upstairs to open the windows and turn on the fans, and he was hiding in the big closet, curled up in the bed that I put in there. Still pretty hot up there, but if he felt safe, OK...

I left him there for a bit until I heard him sort of coughing--like he had something in his throat. Went back upstairs, and he vomited a tiny bit (on the carpet, of course). I noticed then that there were several little vomit spots like that near and in the closet. The water bowl in the upstairs bedroom was empty, so I filled that and he immediately drank a ton of water but kept that little cough and a few more little vomits as I frantically tried to clean them up. Then one big gush and all the water he had drunk came out.

That's when it occurred to me that he was in the early stages of heat stroke. (You know, sometimes I'm not too quick on these things.) Went through various stages of me figuring out what to do. Immediately wet his stomach/groin area and ears (bare skin to be cooled by the fans) and paws. He started to settle. Let him drink more water--that was a mistake, as it again came back out a few minutes later. Then I moved him and the other dogs outside (where he didnt want to go), where it was noticeably cooler than upstairs. Kept the skin parts moist and waited to see whether the coughing stopped, which it did. Left the dogs outside for a bit while I did a cursory clean-up on the various vomit sites.

Came back downstairs to find him standing on the full-height counter outside the kitchen window. I have no idea how he got up there, except that he sure can jump.  Maybe there was a firework that I didn't hear and he wanted to get back in.

I then provided a bowl of water with ice cubes and let him drink a little at a time over about 10 minutes while I held a blue-ice pack on various parts of  his body; although he already felt much cooler than he had when I first held onto him, I wanted to be sure. Fortunately he likes to be held and touched.

When he got to where he didn't want to suck down tons of water, and there had been no more coughing or vomiting, we went back upstairs to bed and everything and everyone was fine.

At 2 in the morning.


  1. Oh man. This all sounds hugely difficult. And it's not even July yet. Poor Chip. Poor you. Can you find him a safe hiding place that's not so hot? I'm sure you're already working on that.

    1. I decided that leaving the windows open even if it's hot outside is a better bet if I won't be home until late, because the air will have cooled by the time the fireworks are likely to start. Plus I left the overhead fan on to try to circulate the air more. Plus it hasn't been nearly as hot since then. I've been playing loud fireworks on my computer, which he's mostly uninterested in, but maybe it'll help.