Friday, August 31, 2007

In the Field

On yesterday's walk she met two adult dogs. She was great. She approached one, had a sniff, and then we continued walking. She didn't seem too nervy or too enthused. Just how I'd like her to be. The only thing I was miffed about was that the owner of the dogs thought Ellie was a black Labrador cross! A few minutes previously, a builder also didn't think she was a Collie.

After another good night, with a solid 8.5 hours sleep, I decided to treat Ellie. Incidentally, I woke up through the night to find Ellie sleeping under the bed.

I took her to the local playing field, which is only about a five minute walk away from the house. I got her half way there, but then she lost her bottle, and stood there with her tail between her legs. The lady wasn't for budging, I can tell you.

I picked her up, and walked her to the field. Now, once we got there, it was a different story. Before play, we had to do some customary heel-work. I thought she might not be so good, due to excitement, or nerves, but no, she was great. It was much better working in the field, because there was more room to move in random directions. Each time she was level with my leg, click and treat.

After heel-work came the play, and she was in her element. We went up and down the field, and her energy seemed to just go on and on and on. We have two bright purple tennis balls and she's happy chasing them.

We were playing ball for about thirty minutes. Then came the walk home. We approached the area where she became nervous on the way in. I decided to try jogging with her through it, so that she didn't have time to get nervous. Wow - can she jog! We ended up jogging all the way home, and she could still have gone more! I, on the other hand, was absolutely bushed and ready to drop to the floor. When she's an adult, I may have to get a bicycle for her to run with.

After getting home, I fed her, we had some play, and now she's fast asleep in her crate again. We try to move about the house when she's in the crate so that she gets very small doses of being left alone, and then having us come back. I think she's going to be fine and dandy.

I'll take her for some more ball-play at midday.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

In the Crate - At Last

I'm pleased to report that Ellie has finally gone to sleep in the crate. If you remember, I previously placed the crate in the dining room, and then placed her food and water bowl into it, in an effort to get her used to it.

This morning, I decided to move it into the main living room. There were two reasons for this decision:

1. I think she was eating less when the bowl was in the crate, perhaps through nerves.

2. As mentioned in a previous post, Ellie is at her best when she's not being excluded.

After bringing it into the corner of the living room and placing her bed into it, I threw in her favourite toys, a peanut-butter filled Kong, and then then buried some treats around her bed, for her to discover. Sure enough, she nervously went in to the crate, though kept her back legs out initially.

After about ten minutes or so, and when she was fixed on her toys, I tried closing the door, but sitting with her. She didn't seem to mind, so after a short while, I went to sit on the sofa. She didn't mind that either. Shortly after, she fell asleep.

I then went to cook my lunch shortly after. She woke up when I moved, and I expected her hear at rattling at the door, or making some noise. She didn't. In fact, I seemed to be able to move about the house without any problem at all.

Not bad for a first proper day in the crate. Hopefully, she'll now trust it enough to get more and more used to it.

She did brilliantly at her walking to heel training this morning. It's now almost instinctive for her to sit when we stop. On or off leash now, she seems to really be getting the idea. Of course, we're just practising it in the garden for now. I'll move her into the parking area in front of the house, once she's got the garden mastered. She's getting through chicken treats like there's no tomorrow! We're getting liver today to keep it interesting for her.

Most treats are just going on getting her attention. Did I mention that we're using a clicker for all the training? It just seems easier and more consistent. For her name recognition, I hold a reward in my hand, call "Ellie", wait for her to look at me, and then click and treat. Bless her, she's having to learn so much, but she really does seem to relish doing it, and while that's the case, we'll press on. The more we can train in these early months, the better she'll be later I think.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Morning Training

Once again, a good night to report. We went to bed at 23:00, with me waking up at 07:00. Ellie was fast asleep still, on our bed. I woke her up to let her out to toilet. After that, we both went back to bed for half an hour. She seemed more than happy to oblige, if for no other reason than to wriggle around licking faces.

Shortly after getting up, we went outside for our early morning training session. I like to catch her early as she's really hungry and works more enthusiastically.

She certainly did work well this morning. Once again, we worked on the heel command and she's really getting to grips with it now. I just have to be careful to walk quite slowly at this stage, as if I go too fast, she gets over excited and starts to run ahead.

Of course, after training comes playing, and that's the bit she loves the most. We later took her out in the car again, and she's getting really good at it. Jan is going to try taking her on her own tomorrow to see how she fares. I think she'll be fine after a couple of initial "ah-ah" corrections.

We received confirmation of our training place for Ellie this morning. The first session is next Monday for two hours, but without Ellie. This is the initial theory session.

Bless her, she's still trying to claim the sofa as her own. She jumps up, I put her to the floor with an "off". She gets it, but I think she likes the game. We've purchased a lightweight house-line that she now wears around the house. That way, I can pull her off the sofa gently, without giving her attention. Hopefully, this will take the attention part of her game out of the equation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Good Night's Sleep

We worked Ellie quite vigorously yesterday with her car training, heel work, and her usual sit and down work. As a result, she slept like a baby most of the evening, and voluntarily in her own bed, I might add.

We let her out to toilet before going to bed at about 23:00. We placed her onto our bed, and turned out the light. She jumped off the bed and got into her own bed positioned by my side, but after a few minutes decided that she wanted back on the bed. Now that she has mastered jumping up onto the bed, this was easy for her to fix.

We never heard a peep out of her until 07:00 this morning. At which time, I found my face being licked with the enthusiasm that only a puppy can have! We checked the carpet and the bed covers to find that she hadn't had any accidents in the night.

I did wake in the night to find my feet sticking out the side, and Ellie had nestled in behind my legs, meaning that if I wanted warm feet, I'd have to move Ellie. I didn't have the heart to, and so I ended up with cold feet. Hey, you can't have it all I guess...

I now have reminders set on my computer which blast me with sound when Ellie is due to be fed. We feed her four times a day at present, at 07:30, 11:00, 14:30, and 18:00. The food bowl is left down for thirty minutes, whether she's eaten it or not.

I took her for a walk this morning. My pocket was loaded with cheese, and I encouraged her to heel as much as was humanly possible. To my amazement, she seemed to remember the game from yesterday, and, for the most part, she did heel, or as close as we can expect her to so soon. If she pulls on the leash at all, I just stop. It's funny when she sees people -- she just stops and wags her tail, expecting them to shower her with affection. It will be good when she gets to puppy training, where she'll be able to interact both with other pups and like-minded people.

We're going to stop using cheese for treating though, as I feel her toileting is becoming a little on the runny side. Not much, but there is a difference. I suspect it's the fat in the cheese. Jan is going to pick up some chicken on her way home today. We'll use that instead.

This is the first day that Ellie has had to cope with me not focusing on her constantly, as I'm at my desk, moving about the house, etc. As I write this, she's gnawing away at her favourite piece of old bone that the foster-carer brought with her. We've just been out doing our morning training session, so I suspect she'll fall asleep soon. When she jumps on the sofa today, I'm encouraging her down to the floor, and giving a "off" command. She's getting the idea. We don't mind her being on the sofa at all, and in actual fact, really like those cuddly moments with her. However, we do want it to be by invite only. It's not nice for other people when they visit, and they have a dog jumping over them when they are sat on the sofa.

Out and About

Yesterday saw the first day of taking Ellie out in the car. We didn't need to go anywhere, but we have decided to take her out in the car at least twice a day, in order to help her get used to it.

The day before, I had carefully placed the mesh-guard in the car, to help prevent Ellie climbing about. How naive of me...

I walked Ellie out to the car on the leash, asked her to sit (starting as we mean to go on) before I lifted her into the car. Removed her leash, and set off. After only a few minutes of travelling, there she was, scrambling to get to us.

I, from the front seat, gave an ah-ah (our universal 'you got that wrong' sound) and placed her back onto the back seat. In true Ellie fashion, we only needed to do this twice, before she got it. There she sat for the rest of the journey, without trouble. In fact, she fell asleep.

When we got back, and unable to quite believe how good she was, we decided that we would take her out again later in the day, but when she was full of energy. Maybe she had fallen asleep and been so relaxed on the back seat because she was tired, we wondered.

We chose a time when she was really buzzing around the house. We knew she was full of beans. Once more, I placed her onto the leash, walked her to the car, asked her to sit, and lifted her into the car. Only this time I placed her on the back seat. I got into the car and we set off. I, of course, am in the passenger seat in case you're wondering.

Sure enough, Ellie lay there as good as gold. We only had to ah-ha once, and that was because she stretched and sort of ended up with her feet on the plastic segment between the foot seats. It certainly wasn't a deliberate attempt to move forward.

We'll be taking her out again later today, this time at night to see how she fares at night. The reason being that her training classes start next Wednesday at 20:30, and so it will be dark then. Between now and then, we're going to try a few fake runs so that she gets used to it.

Ellie seems to work at her best when she's not being excluded from things. In fact, so long as you include her, she'll do pretty much anything you want, almost quite naturally. It's when you force her out, like putting her behind the mesh guard, or inside a crate, that she seems to be the most offended.

So, we're going to work with her strengths and build upon her weaknesses. Our house-rules start today, and so she should start to naturally becomes less and less clingy, as Jan will be out all day and I will be at my desk quite a bit. She won't have as much one-on-one as she's been having for the past three days. Her weakness of being clingy will, I'm sure, slowly work itself out. Plus, I'm going to sit in the back garden, out of view, today for five minutes, so that she slowly gets used to being left alone. Not that she's likely to be but it's our responsibility to give her the skills to handle all situations.

Working to her strengths means that we take advantage of her being so clingy, as indeed many pups are let's not forget. Armed with small cheese cubes yesterday, I had her heeling to my left, for several lengths going up and down the garden. Having a dog that heels is of the utmost importance to me. For me it's more important than toilet training. She has two formal training sessions each day, with each one lasting only about five minutes, or until she gets bored. She seems to love them, and boy does she sleep well afterwards!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Anything for Chicken

Well, the second night was a vast improvement on the first night.

We took Ellie into the bedroom with us, at around 22:30, as we were both really tired from the lack of sleep the night before. The plan was to see if she would sleep in her bed, in the corner of the room, next to me. Talking of bed...

Try as we might, we just couldn't get her to settle in the plastic one. So, we got her a soft bed to see if that was any more enticing. Bingo! She loves it, and is constantly heading into it to lay down. That is that problem solved. At least now we have a bed for her which she seems to like using. The eventual plan, of course, is that once she likes the crate and the bed, we merge the two. All in good time.

She wasn't keen on laying in her bed straight away, at least not for the entire night it seemed. So, I placed her onto the bed with us, and she was out like a light.

I woke up around 03:30, and so I figured I would let her out to toilet. Like a star, she instantly obliged in both toilet departments! I rewarded her and took her back to bed.

A short while later, I was still awake, as was Jan by this time. We decided to get up at about 04:30. Ellie followed us down and had a bit of a play, before falling asleep on the sofa. It was quite a sight, I'm sure. Jan and Ellie were on the sofa, with Ellie falling back to sleep and Jan wide awake. I was sat on the floor, wide awake. What's wrong with this picture?

About an hour later, we decided it was time to head off back to bed. This time, however, I placed an already sleepy Ellie into her bed, right down my side of the bed. She tried to jump up on the bed twice, but at present it's a little too high for her, so now is the best time to train her for that really. She then laid down in her bed and we didn't hear a peep from her until 07:30 this morning. Even then , it was me who awoke, and I think that woke her up, so she desperately tried to jump on the bed to greet me. I naturally obliged. You can't resist that little face first thing in the morning. If there's one thing you can say about Ellie, it's that she's always and without fail pleased to see you.

After getting up, we went for a walk. She ventured further than yesterday, and she seemed to enjoy it more. She certainly stopped a lot more, in order to sniff around. There isn't really any discipline going on at walk time yet. It's too early for that. At the moment, it's just getting her used to the leash, and walking with me at her side. If she pulls, I stop, but that's it. The training course will show us the best way to walk her. For now, it's just for pleasure.

Upon returning, I decided to do a short training session with her, using some left-over chicken from yesterday. As well as the 'sit', 'down', and 'come', I introduced the 'leave' today. I figured this was a good idea, as it's not a natural thing for a puppy to do -- to leave something that is interesting, smelly, and tasty -- so a bigger reward than usual is needed. Chicken fits that bill nicely.

I placed the chicken in my open hand. Showed her it and closed me hand. I wanted her to work out that if she stopped trying to get at my hand, then the hand opened, and the food was there for the taking.

After only two or three attempts, it clicked with her that the way to get the treat was to in fact leave it.

After a few successful attempts, I introduced the marker word, 'leave'. I don't expect her to leave on command yet, but she'll quickly learn to associate the two. To say I was pleased with how quickly she grasped the logic of the 'leave' would be an understatement. By the end of the session, I was able to place it in my hand, issue a leave, and leave it there in my hand for three seconds, before giving it to her. Now that's a smart puppy!

That really is the beauty of a puppy -- they are so malleable and their curiosity and willingness to follow you around, just makes it so easy. I sense that she is going to be great to work with.

Jan has now gone out to purchase a mesh-guard for the back of the car. We're going to put the back seats down for the foreseeable future, insert the guard and give Ellie the back of the car to travel in, as the crate won't fit in. Once I've installed that later today, we're going to take her for a ten minute drive, to help get her used to it, in time for when Jan takes her to training classes on Sept 05. We'll just keep taking her out in the car each day and gradually extend the time.

She's had her front claws clipped, and she wasn't too bad. I distracted her with treats, as it was her first clipper experience. I also bathed her, just in water, and then ran the hair-dryer over her. She wasn't too keen on the dryer, so we kept that experience very short for now.

Next week, I shall make sure I have some chicken available when I try to dry her. Chances are that we will never use a blow-dryer on her in real life, but I think it's important that a puppy experiences as many different feelings and sensations as is possible in their early days. We've tested her with the vacuum and she seems fine with that. Though the foster-carer has already vacuum proofed her anyway. She's not a fan of the vacuum but then who is. She just ignores it and gets out of its way. Much better that than chasing it!

Oh, and I've never known a dog with such a taste for tea. She loves the stuff! And right now, she's panned out in her new bed, exhausted from all that training. Just how it should be.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The morning after the night before.

It was a long, tiring, and very loud night. Because of size limits, we ended up placing the crate in the spare room. We placed Ellie into the crate and all was well. We went to bed, and Ellie went to sleep.

Later however, Jan got up with toothache. This seemed to wake Ellie up and that was it. You would never imagine a puppy could bark so much and so loudly. We left her, for as long as was possible. However, as her barking increased, we became increasingly concerned about the neighbours. Yes, it really was that loud!

I got up to let her out, around 03:30. She toileted and then I took her to bed with me, as Jan was suffering, and I suspected that Ellie would not be able to settle with Jan getting up and down. So, us 0 - Ellie 1.

We've discussed the bed issue now and we're now thinking that we don't gain anything by not having her sleep on the bed. What benefit is there? As long as she knows to get off when told, and to get on only when invited, then it's a win-win situation really.

The downside is that she may not get used to the crate so quickly. Hey, there's no race on here. Time is something that we have plenty of.

Once on the bed, she slept through until 07:30. I let her out, and she toileted. I then decided to walk her before feeding her. She did quite well, and better than I expected. There was one point where she just laid down and refused to budge. I had to pick her up. The walk only lasted about ten minutes.

Feeding wise, her appetite seems to vary from starving to not really bothered. We've placed the crate into the dining room now, and we place her food and water bowls into the crate. The crate door then remains open all the time. This is intended to get her to associate the crate with good things.

She's managed to pee on the carpet twice today. One, I spotted her doing, interrupted her, and took her outside to complete. The other one -- we've no idea when she did it. But, overall, her toileting is pretty darned good. We carry treats in out pockets all the time now, so that she gets one each time she toilets outside. It seems to be working.

We've done some sit, down, and come training, as well as name recognition. We just call her name, place a treat to our eyes so that she looks at them, and then reward her. Again, it seems to be having the desired result.

We've now officially booked her into the local puppy training classes, and she starts on September 05. We'll keep training her at home until then, of course.

Tomorrow, we're going to take her into the car for ten minutes, to get her used to travelling. I'll sit in the back seat with her for the first week or so. We need to look at the various car harnesses that are available.

Like many puppies, her day has been a collage of high bursts of energy, and then sleep. She seems to prefer sleeping on the floor to her bed. I just end up picking her up and placing her into the bed for now. We've put her toys into her bed, and this does seem to be having an effect of at least getting her into it every now and again. We don't really mind her sleeping on the floor of course, if that is what she prefers. We also need to factor that it's bloody warm at the moment, and so she may prefer the floor because it's cooler.

She's introduced herself to the two small dogs to one side of us. She seems to be happy to ignore them. The two large dogs on the other side of us, she's not quite so passive. If they bark, she barks back. This is fine, except she's not so keen to then stop barking. Never let it be said that she doesn't have courage. All we can do at the moment is distract her from the barking, so as not to make an issue of it, and turn it into a problem behaviour.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Settling In

Ellie arrived today. As predicted, there were tears from the foster-carer at the point of hand-over. It must be incredibly hard to give up a dog that you've cared for, especially through its more vulnerable early weeks of life.

I was so pleased to see Ellie again. As I thought it would, the time between this morning, and last seeing Ellie dragged and dragged. I could barely sleep at all last night. Partly because I knew that Ellie's new crate was coming this morning and I didn't want to miss the delivery-man, but more so because I knew Ellie was coming.

We ordered the crate and decided to get her a 42 inch sized one. It seems huge, like having an aviary in the house.

After the foster-carer left, we decided to have a bit of a play in the garden. Ellie heard the two dogs next door bark. Not one to be out-barked, she decided to have a bark back, you know, just to let them know there's a new dog in town. It was a pathetic little bark that I could barely hear, let alone the dogs next door being able to hear it.

Shortly after, both she and I fell asleep on the sofa for about twenty minutes. She woke me up with her fidgeting and wriggling.

We've put a new collar on her. She scratches at it now and again, but I just distract her when she does, and she seems to quickly forget that it's there.

The best sight came when I had her chasing the football in the rear garden. I would roll the ball and say "Round it up". She chased it and did that famous Collie move, where they bow down and stare at it. It was so funny to watch.

We've decided that we're going to spoil her for the next three days, and not have any rules for her as such. It's important that she feels comfortable and that she feels warm to us, and that she can trust us right now. Let's not forget, she's just move house, lost some dog friends that she's been living with, and has all new surroundings. Rules, right now, would just add to the stress.

So, we'll just relax with her, and then begin implementing some rules as of Monday of next week.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

As Luck Would Have It

On 08 August 2007, we decided that we would advertise the fact that we were looking to adopt a dog into our home. We used a forum that appeared to specialise in setting up homes and owners for dogs being fostered and rescued.

The forum seemed to work based on the premise that those who felt they had a suitable home to offer a dog would advertise the fact, and those who were fostering, rescue-kennelling, or wanting to privately rehome their dog, would advertise the dog(s) they were looking to rehome.

To be honest, we weren't really certain what breed of dog we wanted. In fact, breed wasn't really an issue for us. The main criteria was that any dog we take on be leash-trained, healthy, child-friendly, and able to accompany me on my daily walks, which can typically last for up to four hours a day, and with a minimum size of a Border Collie.

We looked through the private rehoming posts and various posts made my rescue organisations, but nothing really stood out for us. It was time for us to send out a beacon. Perhaps the right dog would find us? We composed a post, detailing what we felt we could provide a dog with: long country walks, weekend trips away, constant daily company, and daily walks of up to four hours, over rambling hills.

We also explained what we were looking for. Good health and energy were the main criteria, as I wanted the dog to accompany me on my daily and quite energetically paced walks. I love being out in the fresh air, armed with my camera, enjoying the local scenery.

Ellie rests in the foster carer's armsShortly after submitting our post, we received a response from a dog foster-carer. She was fostering a ten week old Border Collie bitch, which had been rescued from a working farm. The puppy was, therefore, living with the foster-carer, her three other dogs, and three cats. Would we be interested? Strange, we hadn't seen it advertised anywhere. We later learned that the foster-carer was deliberately holding back the details of the puppy, and with good reason. How many people wouldn't jump at the prospect of a new puppy, if presented with the opportunity? We had already mentioned in our post that we don't have children, and so the carer knew that we were not one of those millions of people who probably purchase a puppy for their children, who then later lose interest in it. The foster-carer did the smart thing, and just waited until she saw the potentially right home for the puppy. Maybe we were that home.

As it happens, the thought of a puppy had never seriously entered our minds. I think we both felt (naively) that puppies don't end up in foster care and rescue centres. All we knew for certain was that we wanted to rescue a dog, and not purchase one from a breeder. It's too hard to justify buying a puppy from a breeder when there are so many dogs around the country in desperate need of loving homes.

After hearing about the puppy we began to realise that, in actual fact, it might be an almost perfect scenario. I am extremely fortunate to work from home and so we can take a puppy on. We don't take on any bad habits or behaviours that have been caused by someone else, and we can train the puppy from a very early age. The more we thought about it, the more appealing the idea became.

After several messages, reading books, web-pages, and talking to other Border Collie owners, we decided that we wanted to proceed, and let the foster-carer know of our decision. A meeting was the then set-up for the 17 August so that she could come and check our home over, all questions could be asked, and we could get to meet the puppy. Let me tell you, those few days of waiting couldn't have seemed to pass any more slowly. We'd seen a couple of photos of the pup, but photos never do justice to a new puppy.

I'm pleased to report that we passed the home-check. The foster-carer has been exceptionally helpful to us throughout the entire process, and we are taking our puppy on the Friday 24 August. We have named her, by the way, as Ellie. Talking of which...

We are not great believers in fate and all that jazz, but there are some things that are often too spooky to ignore. Firstly, what were the chances of us posting on the very morning that the foster-carer happened to look at the new posts in that section and spot us? But then, later she asked whether we'd like to consider a name for her. After all, the dog would need a name whether our home was suitable or not. Out of nowhere, came the name "Ellie". We'd never heard of the name before, and to this moment we have no idea where it came from. So? Well, now it gets weirder.

From the photo of the puppy, it was hard to tell if she was short haired, medium haired, or long-haired. We asked the foster-carer. She believed that the pup was short haired. We did a Google image search for "short haired border collie" and clicked the very first image. "Nice", we thought. But then we saw the name of the dog under the photo. Seriously, what are the chances of us clicking the very the first image, of 14,700 potential images, and that image being a short haired border collie named Ellie? I'm no statistician, but I'd be willing to bet that the chances are pretty slim.

It's easy to look through such situations with rose-coloured glasses of course. However, if you had asked me to describe the character of a puppy that we would have wanted, I would have said something along the lines of:

We want character and spirit. We want a pup that is bold enough to step forth, curious enough to investigate, happy enough to jump about a little, full of energy, and eager to learn.

Ellie, like many puppies perhaps, matches our requirements perfectly. She is so full of spirit and courage. Some puppies sometimes seem a little nervous and weak don't they? Ellie doesn't have that about her at all. It was stunning how quickly she would sit and lie down on a verbal cue for me with a treat being offered, and credit for that must, of course, go to the foster-carer, who has also done a stunning job in toilet-training her and crate-training her. When Ellie visited, she toileted twice, both times she let us know that she wanted to go out by tapping the patio door frame with her paw. Maybe more luck than judgement on her part, but who cares. The point is she let us know.

Don't think however, even for a second, that we think it's going to be plain-sailing. We are both fully aware that it's a puppy, and a very smart and demanding Border Collie puppy at that, and one from a working stock! She's going to need a lot of attention and work. We're ready, and to be perfectly honest with you, we want a dog that demands and responds to a lot of training. We're going to book her in to a local training class on Monday, as spaces are limited. It is this life of training and growing that we intend to continue to write about.