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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.


Photo 42/365


Photo 37/365, with a training update

Gimli is now almost 14 weeks old. He weighs just shy of twenty pounds, and his ears are considering standing up. At this point we have been training fairly consistently for four or five weeks now using the Zak George Dog Training Revolution, and things are really coming along swimmingly.

With regards to the basics, we haven't had a potty accident in the house that wasn't our fault (i.e. not knowing he was waiting at the front door) in several weeks. Gimli is solid on look at me, leave it, sit, lay down, come, and stay in any controlled environment, and I'd say he's 50/50 in environments with high distraction, which I figure is pretty good for such a young pup! In those situations we are continuing to train with a 1:1 reward ratio to improve results, and the 50/50 is already an improvement over a week ago, so I figure we're on the right track. The other day I had him in a long lead stay in our front driveway when the neighbor drove into their driveway and started unloading the car...and he stayed! 

In the world of fun tricks, Gimli has a pretty solid spin, roll over, and high five. We started working on speak last week but abandoned the effort when it got too noisy. But I sat in on Calvin's training session yesterday and realized that he has started teaching some of the agility practices, including circling, traveling through, and climbing to rest on an elevated surface. The relation to agility I think was just a coincidence—Calvin was just looking for fun new things, but the two of them are doing great together, and I love that. 

Tonight Gimli, although younger than all the other participants and clearly more high strung, maybe due in part to age, was the star of his puppy class, with Calvin performing the duties of handler. 



Photo 36/365


Photo 35/365