Pyra at 9wks

Pyra's training for the last two weeks have been going pretty well.  She's an eager learner and has certainly learned to love eating her meals!  I don't think Py quite understands the concept of offering behaviors, but you can see the wheels turning.  And that's my favorite part of training puppies!

Our lunch and dinner training time  have been focused on the following little list of skills:

1. Pivoting.  First in front and now she's becoming a little pro about pivoting to heel position on her own and to my right side with a tiny bit of help still.  My favorite thing to teach!

2. Crate games. Working on driving to a crate from 2 feet away and then staying in with the door open.  We don't have a ton of distance yet as leaving the food to offer a behavior is much harder than being able to look at the food and offer a behavior!

3. Hand nudges.  Hard to tell if she fully understands the concept or is just doing it because she thinks I might have a treat in that hand :)  Jumping up for a vertical hand nudge is about only 50% reliable.

4. Fold back downs.  Py gets the game I'm playing with really fast downs.  As soon as reward one down and move the treat hand to get her up again she folds into a down as fast as possible.  Not much thinking involved about the word down at this point.  She also likes to offer downs when offering jumping up doesn't seem to work.

5. All feet in a box.  Pyra finds this one lots of fun!  Mainly we have lots of jumping and falling over.  If I have a treat lure she is capable of calmly climbing in and purposefully lifting the back legs.  Without the lure, not so much.

6. Go Mat.  The most recent thing I started training with Py.  Since she has been a bit slower than some of my other dogs to offer behaviors I wanted to do obvious objects with some height to it before starting a mat.

7. Other tricks.  Walking on my feet, leg weaves, rollover, and shake have all been started.

For the other 90% of her day, Pyra is being a pretty easy puppy.  Is continuing to do well with being mostly quiet in the crate.  I didn't even have to shun her to the office as I taught classes this past week!  At home she's doing fantastic in the kennel and her early potty break is now when Vito gets his 6:30am meds.  Then is doing repeated but short bouts of fussing at having to go back to bed.  So nice to have a normal Toller with the crate!

She loves toys and has a pretty natural play retrieve.  Lots and lots of tugging and chasing after Momma games.  Puppy biting isn't much of an issue with her as Py prefers to give kisses.

She LOVES playing with other dogs and is very calm and confident meeting new dogs.  Already Pyra has started some whining and barking at dogs she wants to greet while on leash.

And the cat seems to have teamed up with Pyra to cause as much trouble as possible.  They enjoy wrestling and chasing each other around the house quite a bit.  Oddly enough the cat has even started bolting out to the fenced potty yard when Pyra goes out and the two of them refuse to come inside.  They also enjoy doing this to any closed door that happens to open for a second.  It's twice as much work to try and corral two creatures!

Her weight this last Monday on her 9 wk birthday was up to 11.4lbs.


A week with Pyra

Not quite at the one week mark with little Pyra!
Potty training going amazingly well.  Zero accidents until day #5!  Not willing to use our rock potty area yet, but she's starting to go outside pretty quickly so I will start enforcing that in the next few days rather than just encouraging the use of the rocks.

Crate training had a rough start.  I had dubbed Gracie the loudest puppy of all time but I was close to dethroning her.  Pyra would scream straight for hours and no amount of fingers through the bars or talking to her would appease her.  I admit I was a tiny bit worried.  I was all set for the worst day of work on Monday, knowing that she would likely be screaming all day inside her little crate as I worked other dogs.  And then Pyra had to prove me wrong.

She had zero tantrums all day.  No screaming, no panting, just lots of sleeping.  Even some calm look out and watch the world time.  So far Py's best manners are at work and her worse crate manners are at home!

Not so food motivated for these first few days.  Mass confusion from the other members of the household as Pyra wandered off to find a toy.

She will eat out of my hand for a bit of training but not much from the bowl itself.  And after 3 minutes or so she's done altogether.  Definitely not a labrador.  She is getting more excited though and has started finishing her breakfast on day 5.

Master agility champion already!  I don't think the breeders did a great job of that training through as she tends to pop out early ;)

True to form, Lance stopped pouting and started playing on the 3rd day.

I'm looking forward to getting to see her personality come through.  Right now she's been very confident at home and a little standoffish in public.  Very quick recovery time though and overall very social with both people and dogs.  Loves giving kisses!  Currently Py reminds me of Gracie as a puppy.  Not super sassy, but very happy and loves to play.  Calm and thoughtful in new situations.  Also very independent and willing to go exploring on her own.

Oh and I feel like she's  giant.  At 8wks she weighs 10.4lbs which is what Vito weighed at 10wks...


End of an Era

This morning we put the last ferret to sleep.  Opie was the hardest one to do, not only because he was the last one but because he hasn't been very clear about when it was time. Mentally Opie was still doing very well and for the most part his body was cooperating.  But he had stopped using his litter box in his cage awhile ago and it was hard to keep him clean.  I believe he was occasionally having some seizures overnight as well.

Opie was the one who taught all visiting dogs about respect to ferrets.  Any visiting dog would immediately get bitten by an Opie, and sometimes he would be a bit slow to let go!  But once you were accepted into his household he was very sweet and playful.

Rest well my Opium.  I've owned ferrets for 15 years and the house will feel empty without them.


Gracie's Next Stage

Gracie's match as a diabetic alert dog happened at the perfect time.  I only had 2 days of overlap with the new puppy before sending Gracie off to live at the facility kennels.  Since I finished her final training as she lived with me, she didn't have any reason to live there before now.  But in preparation of meeting her new mom this week I didn't want her still coming home with me.

So Gracie got to be a good introduction of Pyra to happy dogs while giving Lance time to pout for his usual 3 days and as Vito pretends nothing new happened.

I will still see Gracie daily for the next few weeks as she and her mom start their training together.  Training will be done at the facility and in public until everything feels smooth and our client trainer gives the go ahead for training to continue in their home.  



Things we've learned in the first 24 hours:

1. Cuteness

2. Ferrets bite.

3. I told her she's allowed on the couch only when she can get up herself.  Challenge accepted.

4. Labradors make the best cuddle buddies.  They also aren't allowed on the couch so they may thwart your efforts.

5. Water bowls make the best swimming pools.  And they're the best place to nap by.

6. Gopher holes!!!

7. Big brothers try not to acknowledge your existence too often.

8. The day begins at 5am.  No more sleeping, ever.


Raising a Performance Puppy

I'm so excited to be getting a puppy!  I love training puppies as they're just such a clean slate.  No problem behaviors to try and interfere in their learning, although they certainly develop their own unique ones as we get to know each other.  Such little sponges!

Like many topics in dog training, how to raise your performance puppy is surrounded by heated opinions.  So much judgement!  If your puppy knows too many things you're accused of drilling and not letting your puppy have any fun or just being a dog.  If your puppy is more feral like you're judged on not setting any boundaries and clearly your puppy will never be ready for trials by that magical 18 month age!  There was also a  post on Facebook a few months ago about starting to teach agility training and everyone rushes in to pat each other on the back for resisting the urge to do any training early and surely ruin their puppies career.

I think anyone who has read this blog and seen how I raise the service dogs know that I lean towards the massive tricks side.  I have nothing against your feral puppies, I just have so much fun teaching puppies how to move their little bodies and discover how they like to learn.  If you come to my house one thing you will quickly discover is that I certainly don't spend all my time training.  I train daily with lunch, and then dinner on  the nights I'm available.  As puppies learn so fast you quickly run out of things to train!  Let's all get off our soap boxes and relax.  You may think weave training at 4 months is too young (well as do I), but someone else thinks 12 months is to young.  Is running over flattish planks too much training?  Going around a cone or upright?  Or maybe even running and exploring the woods is too risky and of course chasing a ball is too dangerous at any age.  In general  WE DON'T KNOW what is safe for limited exposure and we don't know what activities done at a young age increase the risk of injury at an older age.  Some dogs are blessed with injury free careers and others seem to be cursed despite careful precautions consisting of elaborate conditioning, proper warm ups, stretching, etc.  In lieu of bubble wrapping our dogs and not playing any sports with them, all we have are opinions.

I'm a little bit more scared in training future puppy than I am with the service puppies I've raised.  Service dogs really only need a few skills that they need absolutely solid.  Everything else is just experimentation for me and fun.  Even the skills they need to know don't have to be perfect in the obedience competition sense.  I'm sure when the puppy gets here we will be so focused on having fun that I won't be worried. But right now I'm contemplating which of the many methods I've played with to teach a stand, a front, a hold.... Ah well, there's always re-training :)


Improving Agility Motivation with Obedience

Agility blog action day!  The topic this quarter is on Life Outside the Ring.  My life revolves around dogs, from my job as a service dog trainer, my secondary job teaching obedience classes, my own dog's training, and to the fact that Vito's separation anxiety means that he's not left alone, ever.  So yeah I have no social life outside of the dog community.   I laughed when the current topic is on Life Outside the Ring.  What life?  I guess I'm going to be writing about the dogs.

Their life outside of agility is 95% of their week.  Until recently I didn't even have a yard or equipment to do stuff at home so we were a once a weeker, plus the occasional trial.  Not much has changed with the new house and yard.  It's great to be able to go outside and practice on the weekends we're not trialing, but most of our time is spent just lounging, going for walks, and a tiny bit of "cross training."

I spend quite a bit more time training tricks and obedience than I do on agility. Part of that is because I just love obedience.  But I also feel strongly that obedience training can be a huge benefit to agility.  It has way more of a benefit than having solid start line stays and stopped contacts!  If you have a dog with motivation or focus issues than training obedience is a wonderful way to develop a deep connection with your dog and work on those issues away from the agility field.  If you are able to make heel work not just fun, but actually exciting for your dog than focus and motivation for agility should be a piece of cake.  And if you take obedience even further and work on that precision, then you're also improving both your skills as a trainer and the dog's ability to stay in the game even when wrong.

All of Vito's motivation and speed issues in agility not only replicate themselves in our obedience training but are magnified.  I credit the work I've done with him in obedience- on not (*or less!) begging him to work with me, insisting on full engagement and drive, building the value of personal play, and getting the rewards off my body- as crucial to the agility dog I now have in a group practice.  We may not quite be merging Practice Toller with Trial Toller, but the agility dog in my backyard is now pretty close the dog I have in our weekly agility class.  A fact that wasn't the case a year ago when it took tons of effort from me to get him to want to play the game with any speed when people were watching.

In case you're stuck on how to make obedience fun for your dog, just think of adding in movement games.  Lots and lots of movement.  Run away from your dog, run backwards from your dog, have your dog spin, have your dog jump up for a hand touch, let him run out around a cone and run back to you, jump at you, bark at you, just be naughty.  Gradually you can add in more and more actual work in between games :)

Here is a video I have of our practice a few months ago.  We have been working hard on engagement and fun in obedience for a long time and still struggle at times, but this was a pretty good day.  My focus was actually on behaviors rather than just attitude.
If you're curious, a year ago we FINALLY had drive and engagement, but 50% of our "work" was complete play.

So on this agility blog post day I am writing about obedience.  As Silvia Trkman states, heeling is just another trick :)



After the corgi played NADAC on Saturday, Vito spent the next 2 days of the long weekend at the USDAA trial.

Overall he did very well.  Qualified 5 out of 8 runs, no worries about anything, and happy to play.  Practice Toller never made any real appearance for any of the runs, but I was content to run Trial Toller.

I was even brave and entered Masters Challenger Standard on Sunday for the first time.  I wasn't sure how he would handle a potentially more challenging course and wasn't even sure if he would make the tighter course time.  Turns out my worries were for nothing as Vito actually had one of his faster runs of the weekend on the course!  It wasn't the most difficult Fancy Standard course I've seen, but I was still proud of how he handled it.

Fancy Jumpers won't be a thing we're trying anytime soon.  Unless Practice Toller shows up Vito is often only 4.4-4.8YPS on a non twisty jumpers course so I doubt he would make time on anything with more collection.  I've decided on a new goal for him though.  Since Vito's fastest course times and highest Q rate is always in standard, I'm going to see how many Standard and Fancy Standard Qs we can get :)  We will likely never get a championship title, but maybe we can get gold in standard!

Video of standard.  And a bonus gambler run because he was sassier.  Mainly because it was the first run of the day on Sunday and he was all freaked out from the car ride since I accidently pushed the sliding door open button when I wasn't next to it.  Neurotic Toller could not chill out after that.  But faster running!

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