We’ve posted several times on training for when life catches you off-guard, like when you forget to put the meat in the fridge instead of on the floor. I had one of those moments today.
Over the weekend I was offered a big mirror, salvaged from a dressing room in the type of expensive store where I don’t usually find myself. I took it, because I didn’t have a full-length mirror, and put it behind my bedroom door. It didn’t have hanging brackets yet, but it was pretty secure in its place and I figured I’d get brackets this week. The dogs had seen it, knew it wasn’t a window to a new playmate, and generally they ignored it behind the door.
Until today, when the bedroom door was closed, exposing the mirror, and for some reason Undómiel decided to desultorily paw it — just once, and not particularly strongly. I saw and called her, but it was already moving. What followed was one of the longest seconds of my life, as the mirror tipped forward over my puppy who was looking back at me and couldn’t see it coming. I was on the opposite side of the room on the bed, with my feet up and a computer on my lap, and there was no possible way for me to intervene in time. Continue reading
There are several stories of dogs showing unbelievable tenacity in looking for or waiting for their dead owners. Some of them are truly heart-wrenching. There are a couple of stories involving dogs waiting on trains for their humans to return, and one of the most famous is Hachiko.
Hachiko was a regular at Shibuya Station in Tokyo, where he spent the first couple of years of life meeting his owner Ueno Hidesaburo as he returned from teaching at the University of Tokyo. But one day in May 1925, Ueno collapsed during a lecture of a cerebral hemorrhage and died at work. Hachiko went to the train to meet him as usual, but Ueno did not arrive. Continue reading
Do dogs and other animals have imagination?
While scientists now agree that animals are conscious (duh!) and many or most agree they are sentient, it’s harder to say how much creative and meta-thinking animals might do. We can listen to a human child tell us a silly story he’s invented, but the language barrier makes it harder for a young animal to do the same. Take away a common language, and would we think an other-speaking child incapable of inventing the story, just because we can’t hear him tell it?
We know animals can think creatively for problem-solving; it’s one of the aspects we treasure about clicker training in particular, this encouragement of creative and analytic thinking in our learners. But I hadn’t thought much on if or how animals use imagination on their own. I’m a storyteller, but only for my own species. I mean, a game of keepaway can be just as fun if it’s a piece of wood or some faux treasure, because the game is in the chase, right? When we play tug, it’s a fun game whether we’re pulling on a rope or a freshly killed caribou. Imagination isn’t a clear component. Continue reading
I have been a terrible pet parent, and I have not been spamming the blog with puppy photos and puppy stories. I apologize, I’ve been crazy busy, and in the end it’s more important to spend those extra minutes with the puppy rather than writing about her.
But today I’m going to officially spam about the puppy.
Meet Undómiel, who is 12 weeks old now and already gi-normous. Her paws are dinner plates. She’s going to be bigger than Laev.
I went to Denmark to pick her up, so she could fly home in the cabin with me. Continue reading
I really don’t have time for a blog post today, but this is for everyone who’s been told “dogs just don’t like having their nails clipped” (or going to the vet, or being brushed, or whatever).
Of course they don’t like such things straight out of the womb. Those are unnatural, weird human ideas. But we can condition them to enjoy and participate in all kinds of weird games.
So today I went to the drawer where I keep the nail trimmers, and Penny looked up. (I wasn’t even facing her, much less talking to her.) I picked up the trimmers, and she dropped a bully stick from her mouth and ran to me.
So of course we trimmed nails. And of course she got some treats for quietly holding her paws in my hands, which is what she expected and why she thinks nail trimming is a dumb game but worth the time to play.
Afterward, she went back to her bully stick (a favorite treat) and carried on.
It’s all about how you train this stuff!
Not my puppy. But darned cute. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What does a professional trainer buy for a new puppy? I already have a full complement of Kong toys and other standards, but you can always use a few new items. And sometimes there’s a special gap that needs to be filled — like during travel.
(By the way, I’m not really trying to be coy when I only say “puppy” in this post; at this time of this writing, I actually don’t even know the puppy’s gender yet. I will happily introduce you all when things are settled.)
some of the shopping haul
Bringing home this puppy is a bit more complicated than usual — we’re flying back from Europe. So not only do I have to travel with a puppy, hotels and all, but I have to keep it happy — or at least quiet — for 10 hours in a pressurized tube.
So, how does one plan for that? Here’s what I pulled out of storage, dusted off, or purchased new for the trip. Continue reading
You might not have noticed, but there’s been a bit of a reaction in the animal training community to the blockbuster release of Jurassic World. And not just the recreations of actor Chris Pratt’s pose — which I absolutely love, by the way. (No way I’m picking a favorite pic. Go scroll through them.) Continue reading
It’s been mentioned online, but not formally announced here: I’m getting a puppy.
Yes, there will be the patter of puppy toes, as someone put it! And the chatter of puppy teeth. Lots of puppy teeth.
This is a Doberman puppy, a near relative of Laevatein and from the same breeder (Ascomannis). I have a preference for black, but I don’t know yet if my puppy will be male or female. No wagering, please.
So Penny, née Mindy, is a pet dog now. Aside from the obvious things like no longer accompanying us into restaurants, church, grocery stores, etc., her life has changed in other subtle ways. Like, I can feed her what I want now, instead of sticking to a national brand available at any big box store. And she can have treats beyond her strict diet, like popcorn which falls on the floor during game night, which she previously had to ignore.
This has been a rougher transition than you would think. But really fun. Continue reading
So, this is awkward.
You may have followed the adventures of Mindy as she prepared to serve as a Guide Dog for the Blind, and her return to the GDB campus in early March. Then I stopped updating, at first because I was waiting for news and then because I had news and I was waiting for an outcome.
Apparently she was doing well, acing pretty much all the weird stuff they threw at her — all that socialization and practice paid off! — but then there was some sort of weird episode. It was observed and reported by a single volunteer, and not any of the training staff, so without any disrespect intended to the volunteer, I just don’t have all the details I want. But it put Mindy’s career in jeopardy. There are obviously very high standards which must be maintained when placing a dog in literal life-or-death service work. Continue reading