And back to 4

Surprise!  I went to pick up Gracie from her client on Saturday, 1 day after puppy pickup.  Gracie was doing well but needs a new client.  Her mom underestimated the time and training involved in dog ownership, especially that of a service dog.  So Gracie's back!  The good news is that the decision was made relatively soon into their partnership and the great news is that there is already a new person in mind for Gracie!  Her new person even has interest in doing agility :)
My boomerang.

Gracie is due to meet her partner next week and if all goes well I won't have her for very long.
I think Gracie just wanted to give a proper Labrador welcome to Zumi like she was able to do for Pyra!

Gracie was so happy to be back and get to run!


Introducing Zumi

Replacement Puppy is here.  Meet Zumi
Still has her puppy blue eyes!
Zumi is loud.  Loud with endurance.  I would rather potty training 50 puppies than deal with crate training one puppy.  But Pyra was horrible those first few days and she miraculously became good, so I have hope.  No sleep, but hope.

Apologies to Vito for having to train in a new puppy again.

Lance is still pouting but I know he will be happy soon enough for a puppy smaller than him.

I am looking forward to getting to know Zumi as she settles in.  And stops screaming.


Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!  

Took the boys over to their Grandparent's house and Vito was the calmest he has ever been.  Settled in quickly into supervising food preparation vs hyperactively pacing around the house.

On the way home we stopped by the disc golf park real quick for their last trip as just a 2 dog household.  It was almost dark so we were the only visitors there.

And this evening we brushed up on some position changes.  I added in some out of motion transitions that we haven't done for a long time.  Vito was surprisingly pretty good and Lance was weirdly much calmer and a bit hesitant than normal.


Down to 2

The trip to return Pyra went pretty well.  Py was happy to see so many "new" doggy friends and even got to play with the litter of puppies.  She apparently figured out how to play leap frog in order to get to the toy bin on her first night.  Also is learning some quick lessons about needing to look before you leap from the top of the couch.  

The 6 pack litter was crazy.  All so cute and moving so fast that it was hard to tell who was who!  I've decided we will soon be picking up "Honeyweiss" to bring back home.  

The house is empty and oh so quiet without little Py.  Haven't had just 2 dogs in a long time.
Good thing Vito is the best cuddler, even if he's not as insistent as Py was.

The only good thing about winter here is that with the ticks finally gone, we can go walking again in the fields behind our house.   In this picture Vito is right at the very edge of our actual property.

We did just have a mini warm up though.  With temps back to the 30's and some melting snow I can see the driveway again.  Will go back to freezing this week again though.


Pyra's Last Week

The time with Pyra is coming to a close as I will drive her back to her breeder on Friday.  I thought this last week would be harder than it has been.  For the most part I'm at peace with my decision. Sadness, but no regrets.

Py just turned 18wks.
This past week we mastered a retrieve to hand of many objects, and a solid hold with a variety of objects.  Just not combined yet.
Hind leg lifts also going well and I've faded out an obvious target.  She still needs something to aim for, but it can be pretty much anything, including just a wall.
She's reminding me a bit of The Schipperke this last week though with her food obsession.  Py's been getting more frantic at throwing behaviors at me and wanting to steal glances at her food bowl.  I've been needing to remind her a bit of the don't stare at food rule, and the concept of being still.

And then I got a non cell phone camera! Expect *slightly* less blurry pictures than before!

On the trip to return Pyra I have decided to also look at a litter that will be 6wks at that time.  In some ways it's too soon, but in many ways it feels best to just jump back into loving another puppy.  Fingers are crossed that the girl meant for us is waiting there.



Between a missed entry, lack of money, and conflicting plans, Lance's last obedience trial of the year was apparently our October trial.

So I've been working quite a bit on proofing all his exercises lately.  Trying to be creative and just having fun with testing his understanding.

Some proofs that Lance still needs a bit of work on are:

Winter is here :(
1. Hidden glove, but visible distraction.  Lance easily knows to go to the glove I direct vs veering off for a distraction.  Also knows to take a line even if he can't see the glove (behind a pole or tucked near up against a gate).  But being told to go in the direction of a food bowl, towards a glove he can't see, blew his mind.  Especially if an easily visible glove was an option!

2. Go outs with a "maze" of closer gates.  If I stagger some ring gates so they're at different distances, especially if not far off his "path" than Lance can sometimes be fooled to stop early and whack a closer gate.  Overall Lance is pretty good at this but is more likely to fail if the closer gates have a mat hanging on them or a cone next to it.

3. Drop on recalls while I throw a dumbbell on the drop cue.  Lance is pretty good at ignoring dropped food or toys, but his dumbbell he apparently doesn't think is a trick.

4. Long line of articles, going away from him.  Not so much failing on this one, just some confidence building needed.  Lance is best when the article is placed midway or at the end.  If it's towards the beginning he is slow to come all the way back to check for it (as usually he blasts past the first 2-3 articles before actually searching).

Vito has hardly worked any obedience these last several weeks.  But I worked him at the club earlier this week and he was SO happy and eager to engage with me.  Took no time at all to choose to start work and we needed to address forging/bumping/crowding issues!


Pyra 16wks

This whole decision to return Pyra is way harder on us than it will be on Py.  I know it's going to be easy for her to find a great home and new people to love.  Such a confident and easy girl!  Huge thank you's to everyone who has been supportive of our decision, even if you disagree.

Last picture with leaves.  First snowfall brought 7 inches to our door.  It's safe to say that Py loves the snow!

Pyra remains the most cuddly puppy of all time.  She constantly wants to be crawling on my lap, back, or even head.  The advantage point of sitting on top of the couch allows her to easily able to offer   all possible variations of crawling on top of me with 2 or even all 4 paws.  Supreme couch monkey.
Bad selfie.  But chin rest on head is better than standing on my head.

Vito is used to her clunking around on the couch and falling everywhere, that he hardly notices anymore when she just decides to stay on top of him.  Good boy Vito.

The plan is to drive her back to her breeder in 2 weeks.  In the meantime, fun with training has continued:

1. Backing up to her 2o2o has been successful!  We have about a 3ft backup at this point and very rare cheating of spinning around and going forward to the little box.

2. Formal retrieve of objects we are still working on moving to my hand.  Progressing nicely with movement but Py has also offered just sitting and holding the item as well.  I think she has been my only puppy to ever offer a solid short hold of an item!  Typically I always train retrieve to my hand before I work on being still and holding as it's just easier and more fun.  So Py is the first dog I've taught a little hold first, and we're up to 3 solid, non-mouthy, seconds!

3. Hind leg lifts!  Py had her first few lessons on putting just one of her back legs on a vertical-ish surface.  Lots of attempts to smash my little leaning board to the ground so she can more easily stomp on it.  But I think she's starting to get the concept

4. Drumming!  Another new trick for Pyra.  Such an easy but fun trick.

And of course we continue an occasional session of her other tricks.  So far she has also been introduced to:
- shake (L), paw (R), scootch backwards, are you sad, frog, (sad frog), reverse between my legs, walk on my feet, weave between my legs, spin Right, spin Left, 4 feet in a small box, out around a cone/tree/something, under a chair, nose touch hand, rollover

I wouldn't bet a dollar on any of them being done on one cue though!
Lance is so good with the puppies!


The Most Difficult Decision

While I have been writing about Pyra these past two months I haven't been sharing everything.  I noticed Pyra's feet turnout and jutting elbows starting around 10wks of age and have been closely monitoring.  It's been quite the roller coaster ride of feeling optimistic she will outgrow it and feeling completely wrung out with worry that her body will never be able to handle the impact of dog sports.  Around 14 weeks of age I was fully panicked with worry and by 15wks of age I called to make an appointment with a specialist to discuss her options and predictions for the future.

In the meantime I've went back and forth several times a day on what I would do if her body could not handle training for dog sports.  On one hand, the amount of time I spend on a daily basis training for sports is a miniscule amount of the time we spend just hanging out together, going for walks, and cuddling.  But on the flip side,  the time I do spend training each dog one on one is priceless to me and I believe it forms the foundation for the strong bond I have with my dogs.  I know that without the push to train for the sports I love, I would need to make a much greater effort to get that same type of effortless communication and teamwork with her.

I've also thought immensely about whether it would be even be doable to keep Pyra, and get another puppy in a year as my performance prospect.  Do I have the time and money to devote to 4 dogs?  If so, what about the future when Vito gets close retirement and I have 2 retired older dogs?  So many questions and so many thoughts whirling around.

The discussions I've had this last week with the specialist left the decision I needed to make a reality and not just a "what if".  The radius (or maybe the ulna?) isn't growing at it's normal rate and it the cause of both the leg turnout and the elbow issue.  It's not going to get better.  It is possible it may not get any worse and she may not have any symptoms of limping or pain.  By the time she's 8 months we should have a pretty good idea.  Any problems she could have will likely stem from the elbows and not her feet.

According to the orthopedic specialist she could possibly do agility just fine.  But from others I've talked to about the impact that jumping and turning creates on the dog's front end, I don't think I could ever feel comfortable trying it and could never forgive myself if she was in pain and just not showing signs right away.  From discussion with rehab specialist, the risk of arthritis is high and the chance of injury greater.

Ultimately I've decided to return Pyra to her breeder to find her a good home as a pet.  As you can imagine this has not been an easy decision and the choice will only get harder as the day to hand her over comes.  Currently we are still working out the details and deciding what comes next.

I'm so sorry Py.

Finally mastered backing up to her 2o2o position!


Engagement: Choosing to Work

I've written quite a bit on the work I've done with Vito's obedience training and the re-training I had to do for myself to stop trying harder than the effort he was giving.  It was easy to wave the food or toys in front of his face and pretend that he was really engaging with me.  But of course all of that was just fooling myself into believing that he didn't really have issues of focus and motivation.

All of our re-training went into Vito choosing to work and giving him the power.  Our initial "work" was really 95% play.  But it was driven by Vito and his choices.  No more somersaults and pleading from my end.  It also meant a lot more time spent on doing nothing.  And we still have that issue, especially in new places as he has to check out the world.  Baby steps.

But Denise Fenzi's blog post yesterday on the topic of engagement summarizes so eloquently the philosophy that I had to move to with Vito and have taken with all the puppies since.
Comfort first, then engagement, and then finally work.

Py loves offering focus and "heeling" for any possible chance I could be willing to train and hand out cookies!  With Vito I have a million deleted pictures of his butt or maybe of his body but with his head swiveled in another direction.


Pyra 15wks

Miss Py turns 16wks old tomorrow and weighs 20.8lbs.  I'm easing back down on my guess for her final weight, maybe 37lbs now?  But then again she still is up to where Gracie and Fiona were at the same age!

We had a few more fun days exploring the park and a new little neighborhood "nature trail" as well.
Sadly with the lovely invention of daylight savings time we won't be able to go after work anymore on the few nights I'm not teaching classes.

It's so hard to get Vito to look at the camera on our walks!  He will stay, but that boy is constantly trying to air sniff

Learning this week has been trying to master 3 areas

1. Backing into the 2o2o position on a box.  We've finally made some progress on this trick.  For a few weeks now Py has had all my "prerequisites" and then some in order to be able to do it.  But the lightbulb was just not clicking and I couldn't get her to offer it.  I even tried some variations on my normal training plan with no luck.  I can't say that she knows what I'm looking for, but at least she has done the backing up to the position a few times now.

2.  Formal retrieve.  The previous week we finally got open mouth on non toy objects (non thrown items) and now we have movement with the items.  Still not to hand but I'm thinking we will get there this coming week.  Py gets super frustrated with this trick.  All about her paws and not so much about her nose and teeth.

3. Offering spins.  Py has had nice fast spins left and right with a hand signal for awhile.  But I haven't been able to get her to offer the behavior or listen to the verbal cues left and right.   With the help of better reward placements we finally have offered Rights and I'm hoping for offered Lefts soon.

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