'Not only is punishment risky, but it also fails to teach the dog an acceptable alternate behaviour. The dog does not learn what to do the next time he is in the same situation. He only learns to fear the situation.' Emma Parsons, Click to Calm p73

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Tricky T-Day: Peekaboo.

Tricky T-Day: Peekaboo.
(Ignore my even-more-lazy-than-usual clothes; I'd been slouching around all day. This was recorded on the 25th too, and Lola no longer needs the hand signal to keep on 'peekabooing'.)

This was originally an exercise to get Lola more comfortable around my feet (she naturally tends to avoid them because of the amount of times I have stood on her), but the combination of no work to do really and being fed in position so much meant that it quickly became her go-to behaviour. She learned it on nearly-perfect verbal command within two sessions, and immediately generalised that to outdoors.

It's a silly little trick, but it's helpful and infuriating. I've rewarded her for spontaneously jumping into it, and now I often feel a nose poking against the back of my calves if I'm stood up and eating (hello! I'm here! I'm adorable! feed me!) and I'm ashamed to say I've given in and dropped food to her. Oops. But I'm also hugely rewarding her for 'peekabooing' around stressful things; when dogs bark, when there are kids nearby, etc. If she ever gets more reactive, I'll hopefully have the option of a conditioned high-value behaviour that will keep everyone safe.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Today's Walk...

- Lola blew off her recall for one of the first times ever to see a cocker spaniel that was going crazy.
- Jess was pretty good at loose-walking - she wasn't even wearing her halti.
- Lola met, and was very lovely toward, a two year old broken-coat JRT (which was a couple of inches shorter than her! Either Ro is lanky, or Boo is teeny-tiny).
- Jess tried to eat Boo, and then seemed bemused when Boo's (understanding) owner didn't cover her in cuddles and kisses.
- Lola rolled in something nasty for the first time. I was torn between pride (my little pup is growing up!) and trauma. I'd hoped she wouldn't get that habit.
- When we got back, Jess was limping. She was on-lead the entire time, and it was an hour or so's walk. I'm hoping she's just having an off-day... if not, maybe I'll have to start scaling back her exercise (i.e. just take Lola out on the big walk, and then take them both out on-lead later).
- Lola had to have a bath; afterwards, she wouldn't let me dry her off (too excited! gotta zoom!), but she sat perfectly still for a brush and nail clipping. Silly puppy.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Training Stuff.

I've been looking at the Kennel Club Good Citizen Bronze scheme again lately, to see where Lola is at in comparison to it. And we're doing really well! Most of the dogs at the crappy training class we were at before were six months old or so, and, speaking even without bias, none of them had the level of commitment and focus that Lola had. (In our first couple of weeks there, we were commended for Lola's intense focus on me!)

Kennel Club Bronze Award summaries:

Exercise 1 - Cleanliness and Identification. The handler just needs to have some form of 'poop scoop', and all dogs have to have the correct identification (owner's name and address) on their collar. Done.

Exercise 2 - Collar and Lead. The handler must be able to correctly and safely put on and take off the collar and lead. Done.

Exercise 3 - Walk on Lead. The handler and dog must walk on lead for 30 paces without distractions, including some turns, without pulling forward or back. Done. We do this basically every day.

Exercise 4 - Control at Door/Gate. The dog should not pull or be pulled through the gate or doorway, and should follow handler through. About half done; L will ocasionally pull through if she's too excited.

Exercise 5 - Controlled Walk Among People and Dogs. The handler should remain in control of while walking among people, dogs and distractions, without undue inconvenience and without the dog pulling forward or back. The dog should be quiet, calm and relaxed while the handler holds a one-minute conversation. Not done. Honestly, I think this is pretty out of place in the Bronze scheme - if not for this, we could probably do the scheme and (scrape a) pass. Lola would ignore the people and distractions, but she likes dogs too much to ignore them, and staying calm while I hold a one-minute conversation would be beyond her.

Exercise 6 - Stay on Lead for One Minute. The dog will stay on the spot it is left on, in the position left in, while the handler moves five paces away for one minute. Half done. Lola can stay pretty solidly, but I need to work on it more to get to a minute. I think she could do thirty seconds without fuss. I just get bored teaching stays!

Exercise 7 - Grooming. The handler should demonstrate an ability to groom their dog without any signs of aggression or nervousness. Done. This is something we had a huge problem with before, but Lola's come a massive way. I regularly give her just one piece of kibble per half a minute of brushing, and that's only to maintain Lola's association of grooming and pleasure.

Exercise 8 - Examination of the Dog. The handler should allow inspection, with nothing more than mild avoidance, of its mouth, teeth, throat, eyes, ears, stomach, tail and feet whilst in required position. Half done. We're up to everything but throat - I'm unwilling to prise Lola's jaws open to stare down her throat, so I'm just not sure how to proceed. She'll let me look at her teeth without fuss though, even though she used to throw a fit.

Exercise 9 - Return to the Handler. The handler should somehow distance themselves from the dog ten paces and recall it. The dog should stop close to the handler in any position and allow the lead to be replaced. Done. We do this loads; Lola will even recall off of prey that she'd otherwise love to chase.

Exercise 10 - Responsibility and Care. The examiner should test the handler's knowledge on specific subjects related to owning a dog, with the handler responding to three randomised questions from topics e.g. a dog's needs, illness and responsibilities of ownership. Done. I like to think I know pretty well what my dogs need, how to respond to illness onset, and what my responsibilities are.

So that is three things we need to work on  (control at door/gate, stay for one minute and examination of dog), and one thing that really needs work (controlled walk among distractions). If it wasn't for exercise five, I reckon we could probably attend a couple of sessions and then pass the scheme, but that trips me up. I don't work on Lola's greeting with other dogs a lot at the moment, because I try to retain her friendliness and enthusiasm for meeting others, but eventually I'll work on it. :)

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Videos Ahoy.

After seeing Ricky's impressive display of listening to cues behind a closed door, I decided to try with one of my beasties. Jess, I knew, would just wander off so she didn't get to play - Lola tried her best for me, though.

It was a fun little experience! We might start doing stuff like this more often in the future. It'll definitely be helpful for increasing how Lola can generalise behaviours!

This video is just a generic vid of stuff Lola knows, pretty solidly, out and about. It's not all her tricks, because my treats were already waning at this point (yesterday was the first time ever I ran out of treats whilst on a walk!), but just a vid of some things she has down quite well.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Lola & the Hose.

Today, Lola discovered the powers of the hose (and its magic ability to dispel a stream of water). Until today, she was a little leery of it, but she got over it with the power of Super Happy Sophie Voice and decided that, well, she loves the hose. I practically had to carry her back into the house to get her away from it!

In other news, university is sucking bad. I'm so busy at the moment. I spent nine hours yesterday and the day before working on an essay, which I finally finished last night; and I have three more essays to do in three weeks (as well as attending university itself, doing a presentation, transcribing a 2-3min conversation, and revising for exams in May). So sorry for being a bad commenter lately! By mid-May, my first year will be over... and I'm so looking forward to that.

Tricky T-Day: Leapfrog.

This trick didn't quite work out as I'd had in mind - the dogs each taking a turn to 'leapfrog' over each other. Mainly, because Lola wouldn't stay in a down whilst Jess stood over her, and Jess had to practically be pushed to move over Ro. So it's just narrowed down to Lola jumping over Jess. The video also includes Lola woofing on command. :)

Tricky T-Day: Leapfrog.

Sunday, 20 March 2011


Lola, these last two days, is on fire! We were on restricted activity (mental and physical) until then; she gets over-excited when we're working on new tricks, and I didn't want her leaping around and tearing her stitches open (she's been very good about that - she hasn't scratched and she stops trying to lick as soon as I instruct her to 'leave it').
Yesterday, it took two sessions to shape her barking at me (I have never before been able to get verbalisation on cue!) on a pretty good cue. It's not 100% of course, but around the house all I have to do is growl 'rrrrrruff!' at her and she'll bounce around and bark at me. She really loves it, too!

We've also been working on a little circus-style trick (though reduced because of her age) - her jumping on my back/shoulders, whilst I'm sat. When she's older, I'll graduate to have her jumping at me from a chair whilst I'm stood and bent; but for now I'm just happy to get what we have on cue.

Her trick for next Tricky T-Day is still being worked on, and that's coming along swimmingly too, even if Jess can be silly about staying in one place whilst L dives around her.

And finally, we've been working more on her acceptance of being brushed with a wire slicker. She really doesn't like it, since it pulls at her fur, but it'll be helpful now to get her used to it in case I need to use a slicker more when she's older. It just depends how scruffy she gets. I'm not going to make her sit there whilst I scrape it along her skin, but if we can get to the point where she will remain still for several light brushes, I'll be more than happy.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Six Months Old.

So the little rat is six months old today, which means she's been with me nearly four months and I haven't strangled her with her ears or dropkicked her into the wall when she's refusing to pee yet (though I've threatened to do so many a time - with her pricking her ears and wagging her tail because of my high pitched happy-puppy! voice). That's an achievement right there.

Another achievement was today's walk. As I've posted before, Lola is a little wary of children - they run and are small alien creatures and generally seem to creep her out. She's also scared of things that drag along the floor; such as suitcases, skateboards and prams. Today, I accidentally timed a library trip so that we were coming back along my street when the primary school across the road finished. Children were everywhere, but not a single yap came from my puppy's mouth. She held good eye contact with me (for kibble, obviously), and at one point she even sat next to me as, just less than a metre away, a woman pushing a pram with two loud children went past.

I love my silly, intelligent little pup. Here's to years together, Ro!*

(* Providing I don't succumb to temptation and devour her head, that is.)

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Tricky T-Day... kind of.

So I recorded Lola and Jess's newest trick on Saturday... and now the video has vanished in flames, apparently. Lola was spayed yesterday, and is still very sore (though much more lively than she was after she returned yesterday evening, thankfully - it was a quiet day whilst she was gone, and quiet when she returned), so I can't film the trick again; it's pretty physical.

I'll use that trick for next week's Tricky T-Day video (as she should be up for working on it by Saturday or so, giving us time to fine tune it and help her remember), and in the mean time I offer a vid from Sunday of Lola 'staying' outside. It's the first time she's done Stay in a while, and the first time outside, so it's something, right?

Tricky T-Day: Stay.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Sunday Summary.

Age: twenty three weeks (five months, three weeks) old.
Height: about 10 and a half inches
Length: 13 inches.
Neck Size: just over 9 inches.

Age: eleven years old.
Height: 14 inches.
Length: 16 inches.
Neck Size: 14 inches.

Saturday, 12 March 2011


I decided to take Lola's Boomer Ball with us on the walk today - it was very wet out, and so we'd only be going to the tennis courts. Lola, as you will see, was pretty damn happy with this.

Aaaand I just want to show off our grooming progress. Lola used to wiggle away from the brush immediately, and had to be fed continuously or she'd mouth it. Look at her now!

Breeds I eventually want to own.

So with Crufts being on these last couple of days, I've been thinking about the dog breeds I eventually want to own. There's a whole lot of them - and if I ever have a couple of weeks spare, I should research the hell out of them. This list is mostly based on appearance, temperament in the breed standard and general things I've heard about exercise requirements, drive, etc. Groupings are divided by the Kennel Club categories.


Alaskan Malamute
Greenland Dog
Siberian Husky

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Jack Russell Terrier
Norfolk Terrier

Japanese Shiba Inu

Australian Cattle Dog
Australian Shepherd
Belgian Shepherd (Groenendael)
Belgian Shepherd (Tervueren)
Border Collie
Estrela Mountain Dog
Finnish Lapphund
Icelandic Sheepdog
Norwegian Buhund
Shetland Sheepdog
Swedish Vallhund


Nope, there's no massive amount of Pastoral dogs that I want. I don't know what you're talking about. I need to move to the country so I can get all the dogs.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Tricky T-Day: Meerkat.

I wasn't able to record/upload the video on Tuesday, so here it is today (it's only a day late! - just pretend it's still Tuesday). We still need to work on it (mainly transitioning from hand signal to verbal signal - I used the cue, 'Meerkat' only a handful of times before shooting this, so I think it was mostly luck that she gave me what I wanted), but here's our weekly contribution.

Wordless Wednesday.

View full size for the full effect!

Sunday, 6 March 2011


There's a beautiful "circular trail" near me--about a fifteen minute's walk away--that I visit a few times a year. The reason I don't go more often, despite the hugeness (and the lack of dogs that go there - today, I saw a single woman with two dogs, and it was a beautiful day at a prime dog walking time), is that it is up a massive hill. It's the sort of hill that leaves you sweating and winded (despite wearing a strap-top in 5C weather), and even makes Jess, who constantly has to be just shy of pulling, walk neatly beside me.

However, I'm really glad now I went. I have a pair of clean dogs (they were overdue baths, hence why we went: it's a filthy walk, but it's fabulous), who have slept solidly for the best part of five/six hours, despite only being out for an hour and a half. It's not much more than their normal hour or so walk, but that's usually in the same park; there's a big change in them when there's fun things to smell and explore!

I'll let the photos speak for themselves! The best picture is being saved for Wednesday, though...

Saturday, 5 March 2011

More Puppy Teeth.

Yesterday, when I arrived home, my mum (who'd been watching the dogs - she was off work) told me that Lola had been making weird/chewy faces all day. I popped a frozen dog towel out of the freezer and held it whilst she chewed and very gently tugged, and within ten minutes two teeth (one large and squareish, one tiny - maybe a chip off of the bigger tooth?) had fallen out.

The teeth were put in boiling water overnight, and today I now have three of Lola's teeth total. I'm going to find something to put them in, because they are just adorable and I want/have to keep them. Lola just looked at me like I was crazy when I plucked the teeth from the floor.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Old Girl.

Since most of the posts on here are about Lola, today is going to be Jess-centric.

Jessie's behaviour with other dogs is weird. If she's off-lead, she has a certain ritual she has to go through with ninety-five percent of dogs (circling around them, tail rising, occasionally hackles up as she gets aroused; air-snapping if they dare to sniff her, otherwise either chasing them off, coming back when called (ha! - a likely story), or playing in a style very similar to her aggressive chasing). If she's on-lead, she's either under control at my side, carefully sniffing the other dog if I know it--not meeting heads-on--or she's a whirling dervish of jaws and dribble, barking and lunging. It's fabulous, really.

And yet if she meets the dog inside a house (she's more confident if it's in our house rather than in another person's, but she's still way better inside than outside!). she's fine. She's perfectly well behaved with strange dogs, even ones that try to hump her: she is tolerant to a degree, and then snarls and air-snaps if they ignore her less obvious body signals. She never escalates beyond snapping at the air though. And she is amazingly tolerant: Lola can leap at her face, even without treats nearby, without her doing anything but flinching slightly.

This all leads me to believe that her real problem is lack of knowledge in how to greet other dogs: after the initial greeting, she's often fine outside (though she used to be better, admittedly - people fleeing with their dogs from the hackles-up Staffie cross hasn't helped her) unless the other dog tries to run away, whilst she manages to skip straight past that to be fairly relaxed with dogs if they are inside the house.

Considering she's pretty old though now (eleven years old as of February!), and the problem is manageable, I just try to keep her under control around other dogs--and I practically spew praise and treats at her when she is well-behaved--as there's not much point in introducing her to dog after dog after dog, on-lead and off, and making her even more stressed in trying to combat her strange reactivity. If she was younger and I had the knowledge I now have, I would probably work on systematically desensitising her to strange dogs with a lot of Look At That! (as opposed to the LAT work we have done on-lead only). But there really isn't much point - at best, I'd just be able to teach her that approaching dogs nicely gets her a cookie (which she already knows).

Besides, she's my old girl. I'd like our remaining time together to be pleasant, and not filled with encounters with strange dogs that I don't know (all the dogs I do know, Jess also knows) and that would further stress her out.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Veterinary Appointment.

I popped in to the vets today on my way back from the library, with Lola. I wanted to know when the earliest I could have her spayed is, and thought I might as well ask in person rather than on the phone as it would also give the pup the chance to chill in the vets for a while. She yapped at a couple of other dogs, wanting to play with them, but I managed to get her attention back so that she was working on sit, down, paw and touch with other dogs (and cats in carriers) nearby. And...

Now she's booked in to be spayed on the 14th March, four days before her six month 'birthday'. I'm going to miss her on that Monday! My little rat-baby is growing up.

Wordless Wednesday.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Tricky T-Day 2.

I've had a lot of stuff this past week - lots of university work, going out last weekend, Angela moving in on Friday (and she then moved out again about half an hour ago: so Lola has her room back!), so I haven't really worked on much, and the trick we are still developing is very much in the training stage still. So I grabbed Lola's ball, and decided to see if she remembered that...

...And it turns out she did! We still need to work on getting her to bring it to me without occasionally dashing off - and reduce the rate of treats - and get it so that she can grab the ball on cue and fetch it after a couple of minutes has lapsed. She's doing pretty well considering we haven't played around with ball for weeks; but it's still a W.I.P. Next week, we'll have something 'proper' up!

Tricky T-Day 2: Ball.

(Apologies for the poor quality! Apparently 8pm isn't a great time to shoot videos; everything goes fuzzy, heh.)