Monday, October 8, 2007

Ellie at 18 Weeks

According to my little script, Ellie is now 18 weeks and 6 days old. So, for the sake of this first entry, I'll call it 18 weeks.

Sleeping Arrangements
Up until the past week or so, Ellie has slept on our bed with us. However, over the past few nights we noticed a change. Instead of jumping on the bed with us, she started to put herself underneath the bed and staying there.

Then, by chance, Jan left a big fluffy dressing-gown on the floor by her side of the bed. We noticed one morning that it had an Ellie sized dent in it. So, we've donated both of our dressing-gowns to her -- they are huge fluffy things -- and she sleeps on them now, by my side of the bed.

She still seems to climb up onto our bed in the middle of the night, but then she gets bored of us turning over and so jumps back down again. I predict that by the end of the next two week period, she won't be sleeping on the bed at all. More importantly, it will be her decision, which is what we wanted from the start.

The fact that she is making this decision at all, tells me that she is getting more confident about her place in the family and in general.

In the Car
She still needs lifting into the back seat of the car. Now, if you happen to throw some bacon onto the back seat, she'll zoom in on her own. Otherwise, she plays dumb and expects to be lifted in.

For short to medium journeys she is fine. Anything over and 90 minutes and she'll decorate the car in a lovely shade of vomit.

There is no doubt that she's changing now. She's starting to get a little more rebellious. Nothing major and all just tiny little things but we can feel and see the change. She is teething now, and there are small gaps where puppy teeth once sat, and so, of course, she is chewing more. Touch wood, at this stage, she still hasn't chewed a single thing that doesn't belong to her. Not a thing.

She is becoming much more curious about the world around her and this is being reflected in her training, where it is becoming increasingly hard to maintain her attention.

For a puppy, she's quite a relaxed dog. Even when we visit other people in their homes, she doesn't run about. She's quite happy to lay down and chill out on her blanket. She still tries to jump up at people, and it infuriates me at times when you ask people to ignore the dog if it jumps up, and then they go and not ignore the dog -- effectively rewarding the dog for jumping up! Of course, they think they are being kind, but they're not. They are actually confusing the dog as it is usually taught (and expects) one thing, and then that person does something else.

She has her only real "mad hour" at about 21:00 each night. She runs about the room with toys in her mouth and generally tries to make a nuisance of herself.

Toilet Training
Neither of us can recall the last time she had an accident in the house. When she needs the toilet, she will sit at the back door and either tap the glass, or just whine. Don't laugh but I am going to purchase a cheap wireless doorbell, fix it low down on the door, and train her to press the button on the switch when she wants to go out. Why not?

She is able to hold her bladder for much longer periods now. Instead of dashing out first thing in the morning, she's happy to wander about the house now for a few minutes.

General Training
Our focus at the moment is getting her attention. We were taught, at the training class, to have a distinct sound (not a word) that we can use to get her attention. For the past two days I have been walking around with a treat bag attached to me, and making a "click-click" sound with my mouth. When she looks and me and comes to me, I reward her. Of course, it's important not to hold out the treat as a lure. After a while it should become a conditioned response. To be honest, she's already pretty hot on it.

Her skills repertoire now includes:

Rather obvious - to sit when asked.
90% reliable

Again, rather obvious, to lie down when asked. Her problem with this one is popping back up again into a sitting position. She's like a jack-in-the-box. I just keep her down longer before treating her in an effort to combat this.
75% reliable

Offering her front paw into my hand.
80% reliable

Spinning around in a clock-wise direction.
95% reliable

I offer out my hand (palm facing her) and ask her to touch it with her nose. This will come in handy later when we want to shape other behaviours.
60% reliable

Drop whatever she is holding in her mouth.
90% reliable

Ignore food, etc, if it's dropped to the floor.
99% reliable

Recall (Come)
have Ellie return to me on hearing a "come" command. She's pretty good that this because I use it all the time when we play in the field, and she loves her play to continue.
90% reliable

Stay (12 Paces)
She's bewilderingly good at this one. Even with mild distractions, I can ask her to stay, move away, walk all the way around her, and she won't budge. I even did it earlier, with a complete stranger walking up behind her. She didn't budge. As it's such an imperative command, we work on it daily while out and about walking.

Loose Leash Walking
Her strongest behaviour is still her loose-leash walking, unless there are children around, or people exciting her. Otherwise, she is an absolute pleasure to walk. We see squirrels each and every day at the moment. She's getting used to ignoring them now but she's still quite rocky with them.

With regards to training, I stumbled upon a new website the other day, with videos and instructions for teaching dog tricks. You need to join (it's free) but it really is very good. Dog Tricks Academy. Some of the lessons are missing (Level three and upward) but that's because the site is new and the guy is still adding them. Give it a look, it's time well spent. I don't think you see the lessons until you actually join, at which point you just click the "classroom" link in the header.

Formal Training
We're now waiting for a start date for the Bronze Good Citizen training and then we'll be starting Ellie on that.

Next in Training
Primarily, it's a case of continuing to strengthen her current skills.

I've just started to correct her for walking before she gets the "heel" command. As it is, she sees me step forward and then takes that as a cue to step forth from the seated position.

We need to continue to work with her focus. The world is an exciting place and we have to compete for her attention at the moment. It's hard to get a dog to respond when they're not even looking at you.

The next commands I want to work are "around" and "on your spot". Ellie will be expected to come 'around' to sit next to my left leg. It'll be a slow process as the process really consists of several small steps. The "on your spot" will be used for sending her to a small blanket we have for her. It's portable and so comes in handy when we visit other people. We can just lay it down and send her to "on your spot".

And Play Time
You'd be forgiven for thinking that it's all work and no play for Ellie. Think again. Let me tell you, she must be the envy of many dogs around where we live. We watch 95% of the dogs around here, pulling their owners around a playing field (not even the whole field at times) and that is supposed to be their exercise. Sod that. That wouldn't even benefit a cat!

Ellie goes out daily, in all weathers, at 09:00, 13:00, and 17:00. We like her to have structure and these times work well for us. When she's a little older, we may well add a 21:00, but for now, it works.

I usually take her rubber KONG Frisbee out with us, we do about five or ten minutes training on the field, then she hears the "break" command, and she's excited, ready for that Frisbee to be thrown! She is then off-leash and will happily chase the Frisbee for a good thirty minutes or so. Other dogs don't bother her when she is playing. Other dogs may approach her, but she's just not interested in them. Just how I like it actually.

I guess the point I'm making here is that because she does work quite a bit, her play is much more exciting and informal than for those dogs which do little training, and then can't be trusted off-leash, or are aggressive, etc as a result of it. I think, on balance, a dog would rather work hard and play hard, than not work enough and play rarely.

Behaviourally, I can't really say that Ellie is giving us any problems at the moment. I suppose if I had to struggle for a problem, it would be the size difference between her and I. It can make training quite challenging. Because I'm six feet tall, and she is quite a small collie, she can easily become quite intimidated if I stand over her, and so I have to remind myself of this. You can see this when I walk towards her after a "stay". I've had to learn to sort of arc around her a little.

It also means that treating doesn't go as fluidly as it could as I have to keep stooping down during some training exercise (heel work) and stopping. I think this is always going to be an issue and one that we'll just have to learn to live with, as she's never going to be a large Collie. You can just tell.

In Other News
I'm just in the process of ordering her a new dog bed. It's more padded than the one she has now. Much more padded in fact.


Anna said...

You should try doing obedience with a Jack Russell Terrier! You haven't stooped till you've stooped to that level!

The Dog Man said...

Thank you, Anna. I'm currently looking after a Parson's Terrier, so I'm getting a good idea of how that feels!

Thank you for stopping by. :)