Puppy Tales

This entry is part 5 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
She got a glamour shot before going into ClickerExpo. Kinda cute!

She got a glamour shot before going into ClickerExpo. Kinda cute!

A bunch of vignettes and little announcements today….

Breed Differences

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

a single visible set of human tracks in snow and no visible puppy tracks

She was walking next to me.

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.

frozen old apples ALL OVER!

frozen old apples ALL OVER!

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

Fired Up, Frantic, and Freaked Out: Training Crazy Dogs from Over-the-Top to Under ControlBestselling 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.

You can bid on a private consultation (in person or by remote video) and a signed copy of Fired Up, Frantic, and Freaked Out for yourself or a friend. Click here!

Trainer Error

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.

Staying Updated

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!

  1. You can subscribe via RSS and read via your favorite RSS reader. (I currently use Feedly.) See the link in the right column.
  2. You can subscribe by email and new posts will come to your inbox. See the signup in the right column.
  3. And while this blog is obviously free online, for those who like it delivered and organized, you can have it auto-magically appear on your Kindle or free Kindle app for a small fee. And I’ll even make a few cents while we’re at it.

Tomorrow we have a big day planned. See you then!

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About Laura VanArendonk Baugh CPDT-KA KPACTP

Laura was born at a very young age and started playing with animals immediately after. She never grew out of it, and it looks to be incurable. She is the author of the bestselling FIRED UP, FRANTIC, AND FREAKED OUT. She owns Canines In Action, Inc. in Indianapolis, speaks at workshops and seminars, and is also a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member.

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  1. Hi Laura,
    aaaaaawwwwww. What a cutie and a trooper with her cross-country travel adventures. I’m glad you have a new canine friend/training partner. I look forward to reading about your adventures with Mindy.

  2. Legend had a good question: How do you keep the kibble from getting all soapy and the puppy eating soap? Is this happening in the bathtub, or do you have some other area you wash the puppy in?

    -Jen Bak 🙂

    • I have a dog wash area built into my mudroom, because that’s the advantage of designing one’s own house. 🙂 You can do this in a tub, though. Note that I started without shampoo, so it’s just wet kibble, which most dogs don’t much mind.

      When you add shampoo, you can either feed treats directly to the puppy and bypass any soapy puddles, or you can smear something creamy (such as peanut butter or soft cheese) on the tub wall for the pup to lick as you work the shampoo in elsewhere. You can rub off any remaining treat, though let’s be honest, there shouldn’t be a lot of remaining treat!
      Laura VanArendonk Baugh CPDT-KA KPACTP recently posted…A Little AnnouncementMy Profile

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