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Entries in dog training (5)


Day 142 in 2019

Time for a puppy/training update? Gimli is now 34 pounds of pure, opinionated energy. Thankfully, he's also smart, eager to please, and generally a good boy. We still train about three times a day, usually after each meal, and do our best to take turns so he'll listen to everyone. He graduated at the top of his intermediate obedience class at Pet Smart and he's got all the basics down pat. We are comfortable enough with his recall that we can now play fetch on the 30 foot check leash in our (unfenced) backyard without incident, even if the neighbors are out (even if their DOGS are out!), and that's been a game changer on the energy release front. In addition to the basics, he now knows how to roll over, "chill" (lay on his side, specifically for nail trims), shake with both paws, spin in both directions, weave through the handlers legs, give a high five, sit pretty, go to his "place", and "touch" (nose to palm, which will be invaluable if/when we start agility and high level trick training). He can heal on the left and "come by" on the right and does so very reliably, which was my best answer to our overly social dog on walks and has become a very good first line of defense in that area. Actually, he now walks with very good manners a majority of the time (no pulling, no rushing, even when rabbits suddenly and surprisingly dart out from under bushes right in front of him). And in the picture above you can see him working on "exile", the command we've used with all of dogs to keep them out of the kitchen/dining area when we wanted. He definitely looks like he feels exiled.

So we're coming along, if we could just get the jumping under control! But I've been reassured but numerous trainers and dog people that jumping is the hardest habit to break, and usually just takes time and maturity. We'll get there.


Day 125 in 2019

Intermediate class...


Day 72/365

Stellar long lead stay as a dog is walked by across the street! This is what we're really working on right now—being able to ignore distractions of the two and four legged variety, whether they are near or far. Of course, when those distractions are near I make sure he is on a short lead and I offer encouragement, in the form of treats and a reminding voice, but when those distractions are distant, say across the street, we can work on distance obedience as well, meaning asking him to listen to commands even while I am many feet away and he feels like he is off leash. It's going well.


Photo 65/365

Gimli, or really all of us, graduated from puppy class tonight. Puppy class for us was a little like public school is for Calvin—he is doing most of his learning still through home but takes a couple of classes at the public school for the experience and the fun. Well, we still get most of our training tips for Gimli from Zak George via YouTube, but taking puppy class was a means of enrichment for Gimli, and a source of distraction training as well. And I won't lie, the having him do as well as he did at puppy class was very affirming.

Training is going very well at home. We are still doing at least three focused training sessions a day, ideally one session with each of us. He's very solid on all the basic commands and we've had to start adding more tricks to his repertoire to keep him engaged. So far he's got shake, high five, spin, chill, roll over, speak, and weave (between the legs) down pat. We are also introducing distance commands (a method for practicing for distractions), and we've started taking some of our training sessions outside on the long (30 foot) lead. He's a rock star. He loves to learn new things, loves to please, and really, really loves his food. 

Our biggest challenge with Gimli is his really high energy level. Since he's not yet supposed to go for really long walks, we are tackling this issue with increased enrichment, which looks like all those training sessions and new treats, at least one outing per day (a store, a park, etc.), and lots of puzzle feeding. We no longer feed Gimli in a standard bowl. Instead, he gets his meals scattered on the floor, rolled up in a towel, in a treat ball, in a Kong, in any number of interesting ways that require him to think in order to get the food. But for all these workouts, being around visitors, new people, strangers, or other dogs is a major challenge simply because he gets so excited he just cannot mind his manners. So we got to public parks or pet stores multiple times a week to practice those skills and I am trying my hardest not to get discouraged, but it's a really tough job! we are, graduated at the top of our puppy class.


Photo 44/365

We have had more snow days this year than, well, than the last time we were visited by the polar vortex a few years ago. From a kid's perspective, the term "snow day" brings to mind cozy days stolen away from school and spent cozied up in pajamas, watching the snow fall and fall outside the window. The truth this year has been a little less traditional. We've had multiple "cold days", when the temperature was too low (negative 45 degree wind chill low) for kids to wait safely at bus stops; we've had multiple ice days, when every outdoor surface was encased in at least a quarter inch of solid, stubborn ice; we've had "the storm is coming days" and "the storm is only during the bus travel time" days, and we've had traditional snow days. Since the second week of January the kids in our district haven't had a single week without at least one weather day off of school, usually more than one.

For a homeschooler a snow day can be what they make it. We usually hold to regularly scheduled school day, which, for Calvin, who spends afternoons at the public school, means at least a few extra hours off for hot chocoloate, or snow play (if it's warm enough, and snowy, not icy), or whole days spent in pajamas. They are stolen days of warmth and comfort and self care during a brutal winter.

But that's for the school kids. 

For the families who got puppies for Christmas, snow days are a whole different situation. A whole different, problematic situation. 

After Gimli's first two-hour long puppy play date at the local boarding facility, the staff told us that he was delightful and brilliant, but also the only puppy they'd ever had that never slowed down. The whole two hours and he never slowed down. Then, at his last puppy class the trainer told us how impressed he was with Gimli, but also that he'd never—never—had another puppy in his class with this much energy. One thing that puppy parents often overlook is a puppy's exercise requirements. It varies from dog to dog, depending somewhat on breed, but even more so on the individual, but for a puppy to be healthy, happy, connected, and trainable, he needs his exercise needs met in full. For a puppy with the apparently extreme energy that Gimli had, that means a lot of exercise and entertainment, which is really, really hard to make happen when going outside is dangerous.

The answer? Enrichment. Because exercise means mental as well as physical. Of course, no amount of one type of exercise can eliminate the need for the other, but there's a lot of gray area, or overlap, in the middle. So while the outside has been a complicated place we've had to up our mental stimulation game. We've added tricks to the training sessions, we've tried new games, and we're doing a lot with food. Gimli hasn't eaten out o a bowl in weeks. Instead we are using puzzle feeders and treaters, some store bought, some homemade. Here you see Gimli "finding" his meal, which is hidden in some of the cupcake tins. 

When they say getting a puppy in the winter is hard, they're not just a-kidding.