Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Puppy Foundation Preparation

I've been studying the Kennel Club Good Citizen - Puppy Foundation course, in an effort to get Ellie prepared for it. This is the training course we will be starting as soon as we've finished the training course we're on now.

Exercise 1 - Reponsibility and Care
We are unable to practise for that.

Exercise 2 - Cleanliness and Identification
I always carry poop bags out with me, though I've only ever needed them once, and that was yesterday, after Ellie's usual feeding routine was interrupted by Sunday's trip 'Up Norf'. Usually, she toilets at home, as regular as clockwork.

Exercise 3 - Attentive Response to Name
I'm 100% confident of this already.

Exercise 4 - Play With the Puppy
I'm 98% confident of this aready. My 1% of doubt is only brought about because she sometimes gets over-excited still and accidentally mouths. We also haven't taught a release command for anything other than her tennis ball, for which we use "out" and she is 100% reliable.

Exercise 5 - Socialisation
I grow more confident of this by the day. (See end of post.)

Exercise 6 - Handling and Inspection to Maintain Health
We can pracfise more on this, particuarly with brushing, as she likes to mouth the brush all the time. But other than that, quite confident. She's certainly happy to have any body part handled.

Exercise 7 - Puppy Recall
100% confident. Her recall is spectacular - especially for her age. I can't remember the last time she failed to come back to me when called.

Exercise 8 - Basic Puppy Positions
100% confident of success.

Exercise 9 - Walking in a Controlled Manner
100% confident of success.

Exercise 10 - Stay for Approximately Ten Seconds
I've been practising this out on the playing field. She will currently stay for seven backward paces. Not sure how long that is, but I'm sure it's about ten seconds.

Exercise 11 - Take Article Away from the Puppy
Practise needed on this.

Exercise 12 - Food Manners
Practise needed on this.

Her socialising is improving. When I walked her today, we first had to pass a curious Poodle which was off-leash. The Poodle approached her while she was on-leash. It seemed quite well-mannered, and so I continued to walk past with Ellie. No growl or bark.

As we then turned the corner, a lady was walking what looked like a Staffordshire cross, off leash. Ellie began to pull forward, in an effort to catch it up for play I think. I turned around, which is what I always do if she walks in front of me. I then regained control and we went onto the field. The Staffie was quite ahead of us by that time.

As we started playing ball, the Staffie had walked around and approached Ellie. Ellie stood still and let it sniff her. I then gave a "let's play", and she instantly focused back on me, leaving the Staffie behind her. Again, there was no growling or barking. I really do think that she's getting more confident now.

The above photos were taken today, as we played ball. The second is where she's eagerly waiting for the ball to be thrown. Bless her, she'd sell her soul for that ball, I'm sure of it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Day 'Up Norf'

No bath for Ellie yesterday as we took her up to Oldham with us. The good thing about going to Oldham is travelling through Saddleworth Moors and Holmefirth. (The latter is where "Last of the Summer Wine" was filmed.) They are both absolutely gorgeous areas, and I've promised myself a trip to both with the best camera that I can lay my hands on. They also make for amazing dog walks as it's hills for as far as the eye can see. And right proper hills too! But alas, on this trip, it was straight through to Oldham to see Jan's parents.

Dog travel tip #1: Do not expect your puppy to travel in the car for 113 miles, on a full stomach, without decorating your car in a delicate shade of vomit. Bless her. She did really well for the vast majority of the trip, and then I turned around to find her trying not to lay in two large piles of vomit she'd unleashed onto the blanket.

I pulled her through to sit on my lap for the rest (remaining ten minutes) of the journey. I'm glad we didn't bath her before we left, as she had vomit all over her paws and tail. Yum.

Upon arrival, we cleaned up the car, washed the blanket, and no harm done. We then fed her again immediately as we were going to be staying a few hours and figured she'd be hungry after losing all her food from earlier.

As this was Ellie's first trip to someone else's house, I was expecting a bit of chaos to be honest. Hey, she's a puppy, and it's all new stuff to investigate, and Jan's Brother, who Ellie has never met.

You know what? She was absolutely as good as gold! She peed on the carpet but only because someone had closed the back door and she couldn't get out. Other than that, she made me exceptionally proud. Exceptionally so. She tried jumping up Jan's Mum a couple of times, but she knows our rules -- push her down, no eye contact, no speaking to her, and don't give her attention until she's calm. She soon got the idea.

For most of the time, she slept at my feet, as I had been drafted in to fix Jan's Dad's laptop. She even managed to not get over-excited at Jan's Brother and if anyone can wind a dog up, he can!

We left in the evening, and loaded her into the back seat again. Only this time she hadn't eaten so close to travelling. I'm pleased to report that she didn't vomit on the way back.

Tomorrow is her second social walk with the training instructor's dog, and then her third training class on Wednesday night. I extended her town walk a little further this morning too. I like to extend it each Monday so that she has a week to acclimatise to the increased pressure. This week sees a lot more crossing of main roads -- for which she has to sit at the curb before crossing. She pretty much has that sussed now. I'd say that out of ten attempts, she might fail two, where she just gets selective deafness and doesn't sit. We've been practising it though, as when I walk her to the park, I'll keep crossing the roads at random. I love to keep her on her toes. :)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Training Class

Ellie attended her weekly training class last night. There was the usual practising what had been learned the week before, as well as the introduction of some puppy-friendly agility equipment (as in no jumping). There were two small tents, where the handlers were asked to get the puppy to walk in and lie down. Ellie excelled at this without any real coaxing needed. Then there was "walking the plank". She wasn't too keen on this at the start, until the instrctor advised placing food along it, and encouraging her to take the food. That solved any inhibitions she might have had! She was over it like a shot, repeatedly.

The instructor, Anna, did actually advise us that obedience wise, we didn't really need to be on the course. We advised that we do practise an awful lot at home, and we do actually appreciate that that much of what is taught there, we can and do teach at home. However, the socialisation and advice is invaluable and for that reason we wouldn't miss it.

There are only two weeks left on this course. After that, we are going to sign her up for the Good Citizen Puppy Foundation course, so she can earn her first certificate, and then, presuming she fares well at that, the Bronze certificate, and so forth.

We have another walk pencilled in with the instructor for Tuesday morning, so that she can learn a little more from another adult dog. Talking of which...

I think I've figured out what Ellie's problem is with other dogs. She actually doesn't seem to mind other dogs, so long as they are perfectly under control. However, it's those dogs which seem to be pulling ahead of their handler, or are barking uncontrollably that she really doesn't like. I suppose it must be like us encountering drunk people. Their unpredictability can make us nervous about them getting too close. I'm presuming that is how Ellie feels about these "out of control" dogs, and that as she matures, she will learn to handle them differently.

I do know that I can walk right by well-behaved dogs without any incident whatsoever. We've seen this many times. Talking of walking...

An old lady stopped me on my way back from our morning 'town walk' this morning. "I've been wathing you from behind. You're doing really well with her.", she told me. Good ol' Ellie, you can't help but be proud of her when she helps initiate such positive comments from the public. I still have to pinch myself to remember that she's still only sixteen weeks, and we've only had her four weeks.

Her personality is really starting to come through now too. One thing stands out with her, above all else -- she absolutely loves her sleep! She loves her sleep and her lie-ins in the morning! If you get up to let her out, she'll oblige but she then wants to get back to bed. Lazy mare!

Yesterday, we woke up to find me laying face down in the bed, with Ellie laying along the full length of my back. At night she nestles around my legs, on the quilt. She can be quite a shy, even nervous at times, dog, but we're told this is not unusual for Border Collies, but at other times, she'll stop and demand attention from anyone and everyone. She does love being in the great outdoors, and she loves to know when she's doing well. She'll look up at you several times throughout a walk to find out if she's doing well.

She has now learned the trick we were teaching her -- the spin around. It needs refining a little but she's certainly got it. We've also been playing "find" games with her. I hide her ball around the house, cup my hands, let her sniff and say "find". She has yet to fail to find it. I still say that for as long as we are happy to work with her and give her new experiences, she will be happy to reward us with her obedience and really loving nature. I've never known a dog so pleased to see people in the mornings. You can't help but wake up in a good mood.

Last night, as I was walking her, we walked past the tennis courts where several children were getting their training classes. She ran up to the fencing where the children were and they made a big fuss of her. What amazed me was, despite all the fuss she was getting, when I called "Ellie, come", she did -- first time! Wow. Her recall is pretty good though as we use it each and every time she plays ball on the field. So she's used to "come" meaning "more play". I love training that isn't really training -- at least as far as the dog is concerned.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Getting On

Ellie had her bath and her claws clipped on Sunday. This is really the first week where we can say that she was perfect. She didn't struggle in the bath at all, and let me wash her all over, including in her ears. She was more than happy for me to towel-dry her, and then dry her with the blow-dryer. The only part she didn't like was when she turned around and the blow-dryer caught her in the face. Then again, not sure I'd like that either! Then she went downstairs and I clipped her claws. Our routine is that Jan holds her while I clip. After each clip, I give her a treat. She sometimes flinches at the sound of the clippers but not this week. All was fine and dandy.

She went for a walk yesterday with Jan, the instructor from her weekly training class, and the instructor's adult retriever dog. This was done to help her get over her nervousness with other dogs. Jan tells me that it went really well, and they're going to repeat it weekly for a while, and the instructor will change dogs at random, as she has three very reliable dogs to choose from.

This week has seen her walk extended a little, more towards the main town area. This is to expose her to more traffic, more people, and more dogs. I started her yesterday, and the the only thing that made her panic was an ambulance that went screeching by with the sirens on. That said, it made me jump out of my skin too! However, she very quickly recovered and continued to walk with me. I don't believe in stopping and making an issue of such things. I believe that if the handler makes an issue out of them, then the dog surely will. Best to keep on moving and pretend it never happened.

Jan took her this morning, and she reported that she encountered about four other dogs. Ellie was, apparently perfectly fine with all of them. It seemed like one woman, a Border Collie owner, wanted to stop and talk, but at this stage, we'd rather Ellie just got used to meeting briefly and casually and then moving on. When she has better social skills, then we'll look at increasing the length of each exposure. We're really looking at the Canine Good Citizen objectives, where the dog has to be able to walk around people and other dogs without making an issue of it. The more we do that now, the better her chances will be when we submit her into the different stages of the Good Citizen tests.

She's still practising her sit, down, spin, and wait commands and I have a treat bag constantly attached to me so that we can practise them at random times throughout the day.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Crate Move

Now that Ellie has responded so well to being in the crate, and given that it was getting harder to find things to do outside of the main living room each day, where my work computer is, we've now moved the crate.

The crate now sits in the dining room, which is always where we've intended it to be, but when we first tried it, Ellie really didn't like it there at all. So I've placed it in a position where she can see the kitchen and a part of the hallway too. This is another temporary measure, as ultimately it will be under the window but baby-steps never hurt anyone.

After placing her into it this morning and she seems to have benefited from the earlier crate training and being left alone for longer and longer periods. She went into it after my usual "go to bed" command, though I do still have to lead her in most of the time. I then went to my computer. She whined for the first two and half minutes but it quickly subsided. She is now in there, fast asleep as usual, after nine minutes and forty-five seconds.

At this stage, it is our intention that the crate be for daytime use only. Naturally, if she wants to climb into it in the evenings, we won't stop her, but we like to think that evenings are family time, and she is a very large part of the family.

Friday, September 14, 2007

At the Vet

Ellie had an unusually long walk this morning. We went to the playing field at 09:00 as per usual. When getting to the field we were met by yet another out of control dog, this time a basset hound, for which the owner had no control. It didn't do anything to Ellie, other than perpetually pester and goad her. We tried to continue walking past it, but it was a relentless creature. The owner finally caught a hold of it, and I gave my usual look of disgust.

There was also another dog (about the same size as Ellie and ten years old) and man on the field, and I'd noticed his dog hadn't ran to Ellie, but continued to play ball with its owner. We eventually got nearer to one another, and so I asked if the dog was friendly. After learning that it was, we let the two meet up. Ellie did her usual growl and bark, but then after that they sorted themselves out, with a few sniffs.

We then let them play ball together for almost an hour and a half! She seemed to be fine and dandy. She did excitedly nip at the other dog a couple of times, but then the other dog also tried to mount her her a couple of times, despite it being a bitch too! When I saw the nips, I verbally reprimanded her and pulled her away slightly, before letting them return to play. We both walked back together, as the other dog owner lives nearby. Ellie stuck to walking to heel, despite the other dog being behind her.

After coming back, I realised that she would be pretty tired, so we decided to load her into the car and drive her to the vets, while she didn't have the energy to get excited. She slept all the way to the vets. Once there, Jan went in first to make sure there were no dog-aggressive dogs in the waiting room. The last thing we wanted was to make it an unpleasant experience, for Ellie or the other dog. As it turned out, there were no other dogs there. The vets is really remote and very nice. It also seems to be having a grooming parlour built onto it. You can tell a lot of money has been spent on the place.

I led her into the waiting room and reception desk, where the scales were placed. I loaded her on with the vet assistant. She weighs in at 8.5kg. Not bad at all. We then let her sniff around before leaving. Overall, it remained a pleasant experience for her. We'll do that every couple of weeks for a while, and then make it monthly, then quarterly, as she gets older. We've also spoken about getting her professionally groomed once each quarter as well, and so we'll no doubt take her there for that.

At 13:00, when I usually walk her, she was absolutely flat out in her crate. However, because I want her to get used to the schedule, I woke her up and took her for a brisk walk around the park, and a small game of fetch with the ball.

She sure did sleep when we returned!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Week Two at Training Class

Wednesday night saw the second night of the training class. In addition to the two pups from last week, there was also a German Shepherd puppy. Ellie is, by far, the smallest of the pups there.

This week saw the introduction of teaching the pup to pay attention, and to loose-leash walking. The loose leash waking was quite funny in a way. Ellie walks on a loose leash three times a day, all the way to the park, then in it when she's not playing, and all the way home again. In class, she was asked to walk just three paces. She looked a little perplexed at being asked to do something so simple. Her loose-leash walking to heel is, without any doubt, her best command.

However, the next part of the class was some controlled introduction to other dogs. The dogs were effectively paired-up, so Ellie was paired up with the Doberman puppy. When two dogs were meeting up, all other dogs and their owners were put out of the way, to reduce distractions and stress for the pups.

This seems to be Ellie's weakest area. I've already been concerned once or twice about her reaction to other dogs, and the training class hasn't helped my concerns. She was the only dog to bark at the other dog, and the only one to want to hide away. The instructor has told us not to worry, and she has also given us her phone number, so that we can arrange to walk Ellie with her adult dogs, which are 100% reliable. She feels that she needs to learn some confidence from adult dogs. I've no idea why she's funny with other dogs. She certainly hasn't had any incidents with them since we've had her, aside from the Chocolate Labrador I suppose. Maybe it's a size thing, as she is the smallest dog in the class.

When we play in the park and she spots other dogs, she will bark and growl. However, I usually just continue to play with her and she stops. When we meet other dogs close-up, it does seem to depend on the breed. She met a retriever yesterday morning, up close and personal, as we passed one-another on the leash. All she wanted to do was hide behind my legs. On the evening walk, we met another two dogs, which came running up to her, while she was on leash. With them, she seemed fine. They sniffed, and she was a little nervous, but not too bad.

Anyway, we've called the instructor and left a message, so that we can begin to arrange some walks with her dogs. We can't afford to let this issue grow or go untreated, as there are so many other dogs around here. I suppose it's important to keep remembering that she is still only fifteen weeks old. But we certainly need to keep our eye on it.

Otherwise, she's doing great. She's now on twenty minutes alone in the crate and she's finding it so easy that she just falls asleep.

I watched a really inspirational video yesterday.

The author, Yolle555 is the most natural trainer I think I've ever seen. It's worth watching her other videos, particularly those with her Border Collie, Bu. It's impossible to watch them and not feel inspired to work with your own dog.

Another video of her dogs growing up with her. It shows how natural she is with her dogs.

If I can have just 10% of the relationship that she seems to have with her dog(s) then I'd be a very happy camper.

Ellie continues to grow at a phenomenal rate, as does her fur. Her fur is getting coarser and coarser as the weeks pass now. I guess she's preparing for the winter months. Dawn will barely recognise her when she next sees her! In fact Dawn will be better placed to see the changes in her than we are, as we're with her every day, and barely notice the changes.

She's eating well, and her appetite grows as she is playing and walking more and more each day. Next week, she'll start the daily walk that takes her into a more busy town area. We'll be walking from the house to the Pets at Home store each day. That will do her good as it's busy without being too busy for her.

We're looking at taking her to the vet's tomorrow to get her weighed. Of course, we could weigh her at home very easily but we want to take her to the vet each couple of weeks to do it so that she can start to become familiar with the vet building.

Bless her. Earlier this evening, I laid on the living room floor with her. She climbed into my lap, rolled onto her back, and fell asleep on me, her legs akimbo to the world! There's never a camera around when you need one.

We've been rattling our brain as to what trick to teach her for week five of the training class. It's a harmless little competition thing. So we've started teaching her to twirl. That gives us three weeks. Hell, she can walk to heel so I'm sure she can master a twirl. I am so competitive! :)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Clever Girl

The more I experience Ellie, the more I fall in love with Border Collies. They seem to be a simple breed in so far as their primary demand is to be challenged. It doesn't seem to matter whether it's mental or physical challenge (though they seem to prefer it to be mental) just so long as it's fresh and new.

For someone like me who loves to spend time with a dog, Border Collies are heaven-sent. Of course, I might not still be saying that in a few months when my dog is smarter than I am! But for now I am happy to marvel at just how quickly they learn. In fact, I would suggest that they are sometimes a little too smart for their own good. Sitting is an example of this. We made the mistake of trying to teach her to sit and down in the same training sessions. Now, she seems to want to predict what we want. We ask her to sit, and she does. But then she will lay down too, before we've asked, and even if we had no intention of asking.

To keep things fresh for her, I've been teaching her targetting over the past two days. I have a large piece of dowelling. I hold it out, and if she touches it with her nose, I click and treat. I'll do this for another day as she seems to have got the idea now, and then I will add the word "touch" to it. Then, once that sinks in, I'll get her to touch it for longer and longer periods.

The advantage of this is that it helps to teach so many other tricks and behaviours. For example, closing a door.

I've begun to expand her walk this week now. It only adds another five to ten minutes to the walk but it exposes her to a bit more mixed size traffic, cyclists, and people. So far, she seems fine with cyclists and traffic, but she sees a person and begins pulling on the leash, trying to get some full-on hot stroking action from them!

However, at least in the park, I can walk her to heel off-leash, as I did this morning, without issue. I limit the off-leash time however, as she's way too young to be given completley free-reign.

Jan and I took her to the park yesterday evening to play with the Kong Puppy Frisbee. She loved it. I thought she would get bored of trying to catch it, but she never did. She didn't jump for it, as her wee legs are still too fragile for that, but she did love chasing it. However, Jan threw it a little too far, and so we lost it in the nettles. Oh well, we had the backup tennis ball. (We use a bright purple one, as there are often-used tennis courts in the park, and I didn't want to give Ellie a fetish for normal coloured tennis balls -- for obvious reasons.)

Yesterday was bath day and it was much easier than the previous two weeks. She only tried to get out of the bath once, but that was short and once corrected, she stood there quite happily. In fact, I swear she seemed to enjoy it after a short time. Then came the towelling off, and she was very happy to receive that. Then the hair-dryer. Usually she struggles when that is turned on. This week however, there was a very quick attempt to gnaw at it, but then she just laid there and let it happen. I blow-dried her for about five minutes, as I like to quit on a good note.

Then came the claw clipping. She was great! In actual fact, because of the walks, there was only two claws that really needed clipping, so I did those and just touched the others with the clippers so that she could still go through the experience. My guess is that after a couple more sessions, she will be fine with having her claws clipped and being bathed. Victory!

We seem to be falling into a routine now and I think she's much happier for it. She seems to have set sleep time now, and boy is she sleeping more now that she is working at training and chasing balls across fields!

She did her twelve minutes being left alone in her crate at the weekend, and she coasted through it. It will be fourteen minutes today. As per usual, as I write this, she has fallen asleep at my feet under the desk. Bless her, she really does love it there. Ideally I'd like her in her crate but I'm not going to move her now. It's my fault for not putting her in the crate when we had finished earlier. I need to start remembering to do that!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Other Reckless Dogs

I don't mind dogs off the leash. I think it looks great to see a dog off leash and at one with its handler. However, the clue to my post is in that last line -- with its handler.

Once again, Ellie and I became the victim of another dog that could not be controlled by its handler, and another Chocolate Labrador at that! No, I checked, it wasn't the same one as two days ago.

Ellie and I were doing our morning training session in the playing field, as per usual. As we were practising the down command, I spotted something hurtling towards us at speed -- at least as fast as a grossly overweight Chocolate Labrador could run. (Why are all the Chocolate Labrador dogs that I see so grossly overweight?)

Ellie, as is now her custom, let out a little bark, before running behind my legs. I, determined that, despite the odds against us, she will not grow up having to be fearful of other dogs, regained her attention with her favourite tennis ball, and we continued to play, leaving the handler to take control of her dog. "Sorry", she said. Oh, how irritating that word is when you just know that the handler knows they have no control of their dog.

We continued to play, before once again spotting the same damned dog hurtling towards us. Now once I am willing to forgive as an accident perhaps. Twice in the space of five minutes? Not quite. That just tells me that the handler has no respect for other dogs or other dog handlers. I am a placid person up to a point. That point had now been crossed.

"He just wants to play", she told me, obviously believing that would invite a welcome response from me. "So does mine", I replied, "but with me, and you're making that next to impossible. You have a bloody leash, use it if you can't keep your dog under control.". At that point I headed further up the field as I gathered that she had no intention of curbing her dog's reckless behaviour.

It's just so bloody annoying and frustrating. I understand the "he/she just wants to play" dog owners, really I do. However, neither I nor my dog are there as entertainment for other dogs. We are there to enjoy the company of one another. It is not my job to train or socialise other dogs. Sure, I want Ellie to socialise but only with dogs that I have evaluated and in a controlled manner. That is why we spend money on attending training classes and will continue to do so throughout her life.

In fact, I don't really have a plan where Ellie plays with other dogs in fields to be honest with you. I want Jan and I to be the centre of her world, and we try to encourage that by playing interactively with her as much as possible. For me, good dog interaction is where two dogs can pass, perhaps sniff at one another, and then move on. I don't really see a need to go above that. Certainly not with the average dog in a field.

There might come a time when, over a period of several weeks, I see a dog and handler who I feel are in total control and therefore able to play with Ellie, but again, I'd rather that we were the centre of her world.

Anyway, I can't tell you just how perfect her walking to heel is becoming, both around the field, in the street, and at the side of the main road. I feel very proud to be walking her. It beggars belief doesn't it that a young puppy can walk to heel and ignore other dogs, but two consecutive adult Chocolate Labrador dogs cannot. It's no wonder we dog owners get such bad reputations.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Six Minutes Down and First Class

Ellie attended her first training class last night. The instructor was exceptionally good in ensuring that the pups weren't stressed in their introduction to the training arena. Each puppy and handler were guided into the area individually so that the puppy could see and sniff it without having to worry about the other dogs too.

Eventually, after all the dogs had been shown around the training began. At no point did the dogs actually need to meet up with one another or scramble about together at close distance. They only really encountered one another at a safe distance. Ellie was very good, and largely disinterested in the two other dogs, after her initial playful growl.

The training was very good and we've learned some new techniques. This week was about the sit, down, and stay (for one pace only), and clicker training, which we have been using anyway. The other two dogs in the class were a Doberman and a Black Labrador. An adult Golden Retriever was bought in to make up the numbers a little and give a little more dog presence for the pups to adapt to.

All in all, we think it's going to be a very positive experience for us and for Ellie. And more importantly, she gets new experiences, meets new people, and new dogs.

I took her to the park this morning to do her heel work. As usual, she performed it flawlessly. I'm going to have to start rewarding her only when she looks at me now, as she is actually getting too good at it.

On this afternoon's park walk she experienced a few distractions while heeling. The first was a parent and toddler. She naturally wanted to play with the toddler and veered off towards it. I gave a heel and she quickly followed again. The next distraction was a large Golden Retriever being walked (or rather the owner was being walked) a few metres away from us. I kept heeling with Ellie, changing directions at random. She made a couple of initial barks at the Retriever and then ran back into my legs, but after that, as I continued with the heel work, she just started to ignore it.

She must be good as the neighbour commented yesterday that she had seen us walking back from the park and couldn't believe that Ellie, a wee puppy, who we've had for less than two weeks, is walking to heel so well, while her own two dogs pull like steam-trains. Practise, practise, practise...

Also, during her walks, I now take her through a short passage of main road, where she gets to experience all sorts of traffic, ranging from bicycles to huge trucks. She now seems to be completely unphased by them and as far as I can tell, doesn't even notice them going by.

Yesterday I made the mistake of giving her a drink of milk mixed with her water. For a start she drank the whole lot in one go and then spent the rest of the day peeing. And today her toileting is runny to say the least. I won't make that mistake again!

Bless her, like us, she was so hot in the night. She woke me at 12:55, so I let her out. She peed and then I took her back up. She was so hot that she couldn't get comfortable and spent the next twenty minutes fidgeting, presumably trying to find a cool spot. I had decided that if she went much longer, I would either sleep downstairs with her, where it was cooler, or just run a quick cool shower over her. I opened the window, and she seemed to settle for that, and drifted off to sleep again.

her six minutes being crated alone this morning went perfectly well. I popped her in, closed the door, and sat in the dining room. Not a peep from her. When I went back in, she was laying down and so I left her in there. She fell asleep shortly after that. So eight minutes tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Two Perfect Heels and Four Minutes In

As you'll know from previous entries, I've been working on Ellie's walking to heel more than anything else. I think it's so important to have a dog walking under control. Not just for the dog's sake, but for others around it too.

Today, she did me proud, twice. I have walked her to the local playing field and back twice, both times she has walked almost to perfect heels. The times that I have to turn around are getting fewer and fewer each day now. The only times she really faults at present is if other people approach, or if other dogs approach. She just goes into wiggly mode and wants to play with them all. But, I can safely say that she is becoming an absolute pleasure to walk. We even have a small jog across the field, and she jogs off-leash by my side. As far as I can tell, she loves it.

When she's done well, she gets to play fetch with her favourite ball. I'm aware that as a puppy she's going to be more inclined to stay by my side now anyway, but if we can make the most of this natural instinct while it's there, it should just become second nature to her.

Today was the second day of her exposure to being left alone in her crate. With yesterday being a two minute duration, today was a four minute duration. I placed her in, and without fuss walked away, shutting the living room door behind me. Armed with my stopwatch, I sat and waited. After about two and a half minutes there were half-hearted attempts at whimpering, but really nothing serious. I then heard an exhale, the type she gives when she's settling in to lay down.

Sure enough, after the four minutes were up, I returned to find her laying down, playing with a toy. I deliberately go out of my way not to make a fuss of her when I return into the room, as I think excitement at that stage can only help raise excitement in the dog, and then break her concentration, resulting in her jumping about. Best to keep it all low-key I think. I've also started asking her to sit and wait when I open the crate door, so that there isn't a mad dash out of it. Six minutes tomorrow.

The Catch Up

We've had quite a busy few days so I've been missing blog entries in an effort to recoup some time.

Sunday saw Ellie's second bath and claw-clipping session. (Remember, we're fake-bathing her at the moment using just water, just so she gets used to it.)

Learning from the previous week's bath, I attached her long-line to the shower so that I could use both hands. It made a big difference and things went more smoothly. After coming out, I attempted the blow-dryer on her again. She is still no fan of it, but she was much much better this week than last. It'll take time but we'll get her there.

The biggest difference was in the claw-clipping. She took to it like a duck to water, and I managed to get them all done in one sitting. If it's as easy as that each week, then I'll be happy.

She's now losing that soft and fluffy puppy fur and it's being replaced with the more coarse adult fur. It looks funny at the moment as she's lost it all down her back and around her rear, but it's still soft and fluffy everywhere else. But boy is she growing - both in size and personality; though she's still all legs.

Jan attended the two hour theory part of the puppy training class on Monday evening. She came back extremely impressed with their set-up, methods, and demonstration dogs, which are in fact dogs owned by the instructors. It's made us more determined than ever to make sure Ellie does as much training as possible. We have decided that we'll put her through all the classes they have, ultimately including agility and competitive obedience, and we're also looking at completing each KC 'Good Citizen' course, starting with the Puppy Foundation one.

Tonight sees the start of the actual training classes. We're actually only going to be in a class of two, so Ellie will only have one other puppy to interact with. Because it was under-subscribed, the instructors did offer us a different evening, where the classes are a little fuller, but with Jan's shifts that was impossible. Anyway, they are going to bring a couple of their own good-mannered adult dogs too. There's also the first puppy socialisation walk on Thursday night. Jan's shifts may bugger this up but we're trying desperately to find a way around it, as we think it's really important to get her on them.

Talking of training, it's here where there is the most progress really. We've been busy clicking and treating, and the rewards are really paying off. After advice from the training class, we now also insist that she looks at us before she gets the reward. So she might be asked to sit, but that alone will not bring the reward, she has to look up into our face too. She picked that up yesterday without problem.

Her door manners are really good. I simply don't let her out before me. When we started, if she tried to dash out, I would close the door and give a wait command. She now happily sits at the door (often without prompting even) looks up, lets me step outside, and then waits for a come command. She does that on the front and back doors at the moment, though sometimes forgets herself on the front. But hey, we've only had her for almost two weeks.

Her car travel is excellent and we're exceptionally pleased about that. We really wanted a dog that we could take around with us and we sure have one. We've purchased a harness for her that fits around the rear seat-belt. While she sat quite happily without it, we wanted to be certain of everyone's safety while travelling. It doesn't seem to bother her at all. There's been no sign of the travel sickness that she exhibited on her journeys over to us from the Foster-Carer's home.

Yesterday, I had her attached to my belt while I washed the car. The reasons were that she can often be very nervous facing the big wide world. We open th front door, and she's overly reluctant to step out of the house. (I've had to do a lot of carrying which obviously I don't want to become a habit.) Anyway, there we were washing the car quite happily when I saw an extremely overweight Chocolate Labrador jump into my car boot, and then jump out, nosing little ol' Ellie onto her back until she submitted. To say I was bloody angry would be a gross understatement.

The neighbour came out, anxiously saying "sorry, mate" and trying to get a hold of his way too fat dog. I asked him if he was insane, and he, presuming I was joking, laughed a little. He then said "She just escaped when I opened the door", to which I abruptly told him that is what leashes and gates are for, before calling him a few choice names. I think he got the message that I detest irresponsible dog owners. Especially ones who can set my puppy up to resent or fear dogs through their lack of thinking!

Regardless, Ellie seemed to handle it quite well. She rolled over quickly enough, and I resisted the urge to pick her up. I sort of stepped in between the two so that the Labrador couldn't do much damage. Despite staying supremely calm for Ellie's sake, I was so bloody angry with the idiot, and I think he knew it. Might help if he actually walked his dog once in a while. I've never seen it walked yet. It's little wonder that it bolts out when it sees daylight, or that it is so unhealthily fat!

Anyway, aside from that, she seemed to enjoy exploring the front of the house, and getting soaked from the bubbles and water dropping to the ground from the car.

We took her to Pets at Home for the first time yesterday, actually to purchase the car-harness. Boy does she love getting attention! She actively hunts it out from anyone who looks even remote interested and casts her just the slightest glance. She may well end up being a lot of things, but I don't imagine that shy will be one of them. I carried her around to start with as it was her first time, and I thought she might be a little nervous. Was she hell. Once she realised there were people about, she wanted in on the action and wriggled until I put her down so that she could go and get her quota of strokes.

Right now, as I write this, she's done her usual trick of curling up under my desk and sleeping at my feet. She seems to love it under there. Earlier, she was curled up on my lap as I was typing.

Yesterday, we formulated our plan for getting her used to being alone. We're going to crate her and leave her alone each day, adding two minutes per day. That means that after thirty days, she should be able to stand sixty minutes. We did her first two minutes yesterday and she was perfectly fine. Today, it will be four minutes. I do make an effort to shut her into it each day though, so I think she's used to being in it while I move about the house anyway. I'm sure she's going to be just fine.

We've arranged to meet Dawn, the foster-carer at a show in October, where we can take Ellie along to see her, plus she's going to come over to see Ellie between Oct 1 and 21 too. I bet Ellie remembers her immediately. We're trying to expose her to various public scenarios between now and then so that she's not completely flooded on the day of the show. We're taking her away to a dog-friendly lace this weekend, so that will give her quite some exposure.

All in all, it's going really well. We're pleased with her learning, both in training, and in her learning how to behave around the house. She's lovely and sociable around people, and oh, she let me sleep in this morning! What more can a dog-owner ask for?

I almost forgot to add. Yesterday, I tried brushing her again. She doesn't seem to like being brushed and is far more interested in attacking the brush. However, after reading the two books we purchased from the training theory class, I decided to take their advice and brush her when she was already quite relaxed. Cheeky mare fell asleep on my lap, with me sat on the floor brushing her for half an hour! She has such a cheek...