A bunch of vignettes and little announcements today….
Remember, I’m coming from Dobermans, who are generally happy to play in puddles or lakes but regard falling water as acid rain. I had to work a deal with Laev, introducing her to a hose spray during bitework: “If you let me wet you down so you don’t overheat during hot, humid training sessions, we will then immediately go to get the bad guy.” It was a valuable enough reinforcer for her to stand the spray, and we transitioned it to baths at home: “If you stand still for the bath, I will frequently reinforce,” and then, “If you stand still for the bath, then I will pay big at the end.”
So this was my first time to bathe a Labrador. I started by turning on the sprayer and running warm water, then scattering a few kibbles in the spray and puddle. She ventured in, curious and only briefly hesitant, and I scattered more kibbles as I shifted the sprayer to catch more of her. She was totally off-leash for this, not trapped, so she had a clear choice. I wanted her to be still, so I sprinkled kibble occasionally as I picked up the sprayer and began to wash the puppy (no shampoo).
She shifted a little bit, but she stayed and ate, and I kept adding kibble. By the end, though, she was sitting hunched over, eyes on the ground. Oh, no! I’ve overwhelmed the puppy! Bad trainer!
And then I realized that she was just focused, looking for more kibble. I toweled her off, and she returned twice to the dog wash, checking to see if any kibble had magically spawned again. Turns out Labradors don’t care so much about water, huh.
(Fun fact: one half-cup of kibble is about perfect for one quick puppy bath.)
Tiny Paws & Apples
This morning we stayed out for a bit and she got to run around the yard properly for the first time. It was warm enough (15 F) that I wasn’t worried about her paws, and she could follow me to pick up some Bravo! Raw Diet out of a freezer for a customer.
Our snow has been polished by high winds and sub-zero temps, so it has a brittle crust to it. When I step, my foot hesitates for just a second before breaking through. I thought it might be a bit of a challenge for the puppy.
Nope. She doesn’t weigh enough. So while I tromped through, she buzzed along like an elf in Middle Earth.
We passed one of our many apple trees and she found a frozen apple. Wow! She immediately started trying to dig it off the frozen ground, and I stopped with that funny sort of parental paralysis, the one where you’re trying to decide if this behavior is okay or not.
She’s not supposed to eat off the ground or be distracted by temptations, GDB was emphatic. On the other hand, she was off-leash and exploring, totally at liberty and just following me around. So this could be literally life-threatening if she practices stopping at cool stuff while walking, but on the other hand, she wasn’t supposed to be doing anything else.
Right. She wasn’t. So if she were on leash, we’d practice walking on by, but not here. Several people have asked if she gets to “be a dog” as well as a guide, and the answer is yes, both here and in her future working home. When she’s not working, she enjoys all the luxuries of pet life. Discrimination is key, and one easy way to discriminate which behavior set is operating is to use equipment.
She’s already doing this, as evidenced by her insistent offering of sits and LLW even just yesterday when I put on her leash and vest. Clothes make the man — and the dog.
Training at Charity Auction for Heifer International
Bestselling fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss’s Worldbuilders fundraiser has expanded beyond the borders of fantasy and geek stuff, and last year and this year they’ve included behavior consults by yours truly. All proceeds go to Heifer International.
Hmm, I thought. The puppy is going to need to pee soon. In fact, I probably have just about enough time to walk her to the puppy toilet, which is good because we’re trying to do that often so she can learn the way. I think I’ll take her out.
Oh, but if I’m walking her out, not carrying her, I want to be sure to reinforce the whole chain, a big deal instead of just praising and petting. I’ll just grab a couple of kibbles before we go.
So I went down the hall to get the treats. And she followed me. And at the end of the long hall, about the same distance as the puppy toilet from the door, she stopped and squatted.
Awesome trainer knew the pup was ready to urinate and exactly how far she could walk. Sloppy trainer let her go the wrong direction and waste the distance and have an accident indoors. Oops.
I’ve gotten a few questions about keeping up with the puppy’s progress. Given Facebook’s rather pointed effort to minimize post visibility (you can learn about it on my other blog), I thought I’d point out other ways you can be sure to get your regular puppy fix!
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Tomorrow we have a big day planned. See you then!