Archive for the ‘new puppy’ Category

Bored puppy is bored

Posted: December 14, 2012 in new puppy
Tags: ,

Hi, dis Jagger here. We moved to new house couple weeks ago. It ok; I like that Mommy has been home a lot but dere no space for agilities here yet ūüė¶ Mommy said we have space soon but trees are in way. Whatever, I can wraps treez. Bored.

Pine trees marked for removal

Totally room for tunnels here

Holly trees pending removal

Look! Weave poles even fit heres!

Tunnels in temporary storage

My tunnelz, totally not getting used ūüė¶

I helped unpack our stuffs… I tried unpacking the bags of paper (good toys!!!) but I gots in trouble ūüė¶

Jagger removes trash from the trash bag

I helps unpack the paper!

I also helped make da bed the first night. I think my helps are very underappreciated. *profound border collie stare*

Jagger in our bed looking very comfy

So… where you guys gonna sleep?

Mommy is also going to have a puppy any day now. My brudder Copper been saying this for a while, but I guess I just noticed. I hope human puppy isn’t too noisy. I dun like the crying very much. I hope Mommy can run with me again once the puppy is here. I’m really bored.

Jagger wishes to have my attention

US Weekly boring. Do something nao?

Jagger and the baby bump

Human puppy ok, I guess. Wish Mommy would run more.

Bai for now!


Jagger is six months old tomorrow! He is turning into quite the character, and I have come to really, truly enjoy his spunk.

Jagger looking sly from under my chair

"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."

Here’s a little video of what we’ve been up to lately:

It’s not quite as varied as I would have liked, but with two fun waves of family visits this spring and a not-so-fun bout of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (becoming an annual tradition for me… sigh) I am a bit behind in getting training done and getting it filmed. I have been working with Jagger on walking with his front feet on a ball, simultaneously picking up both front & rear feet on the same side of his body, and walking with his front feet in my Crocs. However, these tricks-in-progress look more like comedy routines right now instead of ready for primetime (unless it’s Stupid Human Tricks on Letterman). ¬†We are also making steady progress on our “sit handsome,” “jump into my arms,” “four feet in a little bowl,” climbing on various unsteady objects, and heeling tricks.

We will be starting our first “real” agility class in just a few weeks! I’m super excited! It is a sports puppy foundation type of class. My main goals are for Jagger to get some much-needed practice at remaining focused on me while other dogs are running about, and to continue working on coming all the way to me in a variety of settings without getting stuck in the border collie crouch, staring at the toy or the tunnel.

Fear periods

Posted: March 21, 2012 in new puppy
Tags: ,

About two weeks ago, Jagger woke up and showed a previously uncharacteristic fear of strangers. ¬†He also began acting as if he’d never seen a moving car before in his life, which was also quite out of character as he’s being going to work with me in downtown Cary and my construction site since January. ¬†He’d had no apparent traumatic events, so I am left to assume that this is just one of those strange periods of fearfulness that young dogs experience as part of their normal development. ¬†Copper was a very bold puppy and never seemed to go through a period like this. ¬†It was at this point that I realized how profoundly grateful I am for the experiences that owning Izzy has brought me.

My dog behavior library

Library: doesn't even include my DVDs or agility books!

Izzy was found as a stray adolescent by my friend Meg. ¬†We estimate that at the time she was rescued she was about 6 or 7 months old. ¬†With hindsight, I now recognize that Izzy was probably well on her way to becoming feral, and had almost certainly not been in a house before she came to live with us. ¬†She used to do things like bark hysterically at phone jacks, hop from carpet to carpet rather than walk on wood floors, and attempt to bolt in a blind panic if someone appeared after opening a door. ¬†I knew next to nothing about dog training at the time, but did manage to make major progress on her fears with the help of a lot of books. ¬†But unfortunately, at 2 years old Izzy began showing very serious aggression toward strange people and dogs. ¬†She also started barking and lunging at anything on wheels, and even became aggressive toward dogs that she’d previously been friends with. ¬†What finally prompted me to seek professional help was when, over the course of two months, she lunged and air-snapped at my mother-in-law, bit but did not break the skin on my father, and managed to drag me off my feet (no easy feat) attempting to attack a lady in a hooded parka. ¬†I went through several trainers before I found one that was able to help me, and after some very hard-learned lessons I am happy to say that by 3 years old, Izzy was completely safe around people and at least manageable around strange dogs. ¬†It took a while, but I also came to terms with the fact that she was just not going to be a good choice as a novice’s first agility dog, and that she was never going to be the gregarious family pet that I’d wanted.

They say you get the dog you need, not the one you want.

Here are some particularly important lessons from Izzy that I am using to benefit Jagger:

1. Almost all seemingly aggressive behavior in dogs (especially barking!) is actually driven by fear and anxiety. Be sensitive to that.

2. It’s normal for dogs to be startled on occasion. ¬†The trick is in how they react afterwards. ¬†They may need help learning to calm down.

3. Recognize where the dog’s threshold is, and always work below it, realizing that it can change in a non-linear fashion.

4. Never lure a dog with food to approach something scary, including taking treats from a person that scares them.  Just looking at the person calmly and then moving away is perfectly acceptable and successful outcome.  Your dog does not have to be friends with everyone.

5. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. ¬†Izzy has shown me many examples of what abnormal dog behavior looks like; what Jagger’s showing ain’t it. ¬†His fears aren’t to be ignored by any means, but he’s going to be fine.

6. Last but not least, there is nothing like owning a black, dark-eyed, floppy-eared dog to teach you to read subtle dog body language.

I am pleased to say that Jagger is much less concerned about moving cars today than he was two weeks ago, though we still have a little ways to go.  He is much more willing to greet strangers again, though he is sometimes spooky and has not quite grown out of occasional submissive urination.  He does enjoy looking at strangers and walking past them, and I think that as he learns that he gets to choose whether he would like someone to greet him or not, he will continue to become more confident.

Izzy is a somewhat aloof dog, so when I got Copper I think it provided a welcome outlet for her human’s sometimes undignified level of affection. ¬†She never seemed particularly jealous, and once she got used to the idea that I was not always talking to her but might be directing a cue to the puppy instead, she was quite comfortable to have puppy-Copper around.

Copper, to put it mildly, is a momma’s boy. Lest you think I consider this a negative, I freely admit that we have some co-dependency issues. ¬†Izzy is “just” a pet, rather than a performance dog, so he doesn’t really have to share me with her in the same way that he shares me with Jagger. ¬†This has led to some amusing incidents since he’s not used to sharing the momma:

Copper in my lap

"I was here FIRST!"

I didn’t want Copper to feel left out, and I have been having so much fun free-shaping tricks with Jagger, that I figured I might as well spend some time improving Copper’s trick repertoire.

Jagger asks a question

"What, I no good enough?? I try harder, I promise! Only... I just puppy..."

When Copper was a puppy, I didn’t know that much about the importance of shaping (that is, rewarding successive approximations and pieces of a simple behavior to work toward a more complicated behavior) for the agility dog. ¬†I also didn’t know how beneficial trick training, with its emphasis on shaping, was for the agility dog. ¬†Copper knows a number of tricks, but most of these were taught with luring (that’s using a treat to guide the dog into positions instead of waiting for him to offer a behavior and then presenting the dog with a treat as one does in shaping). ¬†The result of this has been a dog that is not quite as “active” as I’d like in agility and who would often default to just standing there looking at me for help. ¬†I’ve had to go back and remedy this at various points in his training, in particular with jumping foundations, and was always pleased with the end result.

Copper does understand shaping, but he’s not as versatile at it as I’d like. ¬†He will very quickly default to offering me a down instead of more varied behaviors. ¬†It’s been said by far more experienced people than I that much of agility is about targeting behavior, so while Copper understands nose targeting I would like him to have the skill of targeting objects with his feet. ¬†I very much wish I’d known about the importance of this when he was a puppy, as one of the skills I have struggled the most to teach him on the agility course is to be aware of where he’s putting his feet, aka “hind-end awareness.” ¬†I think a lot of our early obstacle training would have been far easier had I known about this early foundation work. ¬†Well, live and learn. I’m sure I’ll discover many things the hard way while training Jagger that I’ll swear to fix with the next dog.

My plan for my shaping sessions with Copper is that I will keep them short Рwell under five minutes.  Less is more with this dog, and I have also discovered that latent learning is very, very important in his process to acquire a new skill.  Limiting myself to very short sessions made it important that I have a well-defined goal for each session.  For our first project, I chose that I would teach Copper the trick of standing on an upside down bowl with two front feet, then work toward circling the bowl while keeping his feet on it.  I had just taught this trick to Jagger as part of his heeling foundation work, so I was comfortable with the method and liked the skills it imparted.

Session One:

Goal – Reward Copper for interacting with an upside down bowl with behaviors OTHER than sitting or lying down next to it.

Methods – Keep rate of reinforcement high, and make sure to reward even slight behaviors, such as weight shifts.

Results – Very successful! ¬†By not being too picky (i.e., any behavior’s a winner), and rewarding very, very small things like head tilts or weight shits, I was able to quickly get him away from the idea that he had to lie down to earn the cookies. ¬†I r dog trainer for reals?

Session Two:

Goal – Reward Copper for offering some interaction of feet with the upside down bowl.

Methods – Again, keep rate of reinforcement high, but focus on rewards for weight shifts, accidental foot movement, and hopefully progressively MORE foot movement.

Results – Again, very successful, though I did spend most of the time rewarding weight shifts and need to remember not to raise my criteria too quickly in expecting actual foot lifts.

Session Three:

Goal РReward Copper for offering interaction of feet with the upside down bowl.  I kept the same goal as Session Two based on the results from last time, and because there had been a several weeks gap since between sessions due to illness on my part.

Methods – Reward for increasingly greater weight shifts and higher foot lifts in the vicinity of the bowl. ¬†Jackpot for any “happy accidents” where contact is made with feet and the bowl.

Results РHilarity!  I should have expected this given what a literal dog Copper is, but I very quickly shaped him to hold his left foot in the air over the bowl.  Now I need to shape him to bring it down on the bowl.  Love that boy.  We did have two times where he put his left foot on the bowl, which I rewarded with a jackpot of extra cheese and verbal praise.  I was tempted to get more treats and keep going, but stuck to my hard-learned rule about less being more with this dog.

puppy destroys the magazine

"So technically, you should thank me!"

Been sick lately, so no blog update until my brain un-fogs.

Does he sleep??

Posted: March 5, 2012 in new puppy
Tags: , , ,

What Jagger does for entertainment when normal puppies are sleeping:

I say this with love, but in his first couple of weeks with us, Jagger was an unholy terror.

BC puppy or demon spawn

He is the destroyer of worlds.

I hadn’t appreciated it at the time, but Copper had the classic Labrador “soft mouth” even as a puppy, so although he mouthed me all the time he never bit down. Jagger bit us so much I was able to develop several categories for his biting that ranged from normal puppy biting of everything in sight, to herding behaviors, to what a friend affectionately dubs the “puppy red zone” of over-excited, frantic, biting mayhem. ¬†Ouch.

I knew how to deal with normal puppy biting. ¬†Herding behavior was all right. After a few false starts, I realized I just needed to stop moving and eventually the 7-lb furball would detach itself from my pants leg and I could resume walking. ¬†Attention-seeking biting was new for me. ¬†Jagger would waltz right up to me, attempt the border collie mind-control stare, and when that didn’t immediately work he’d chomp the nearest available body part. ¬†He got me right on the lower lip once. ¬†I had to keep all sharp kitchen utensils out of my immediate reach for a while (just kidding… maybe) but Jagger did manage to survive long enough to learn other, more suitable, behaviors that would get my attention. ¬†Trick training was fantastic for this! ¬†So, I had a plan. ¬†Except for the puppy red zone.

Jag contemplates chewing toy vs my foot

Chew the rope toy and not your foot, you say? I dunno...

As background,¬†I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually caught Jagger sleeping. ¬†This puppy does. not. stop. ¬†Copper would eventually tucker out and just flop down asleep after a few hours. ¬†Jagger gets wild like one of those toddlers who get extremely hyper and crabby right before bed time, then he’s out like a light as soon as you put him in his crate. ¬†He’s significantly better now that he’s older, but the first few weeks weren’t pretty.

Xmas naptime

Sleeping in my lap. Probably just a fluke.

The puppy red zone would rear it’s ugly head most often when Jagger was over-tired or frustrated. ¬†If there was any possibility of activity happening, he just wasn’t going to settle down and rest, and I simply hadn’t expected that. ¬†At one point I sent a somewhat desperate text to an experienced BC-owning friend to ask how I should detach the puppy from my arm long enough to get him in his crate to calm down. ¬†I polled a few more friends for tips on the best grip to use on Gumby-puppy to keep him from continuing to bite me on the way to the crate. ¬†I swear BC puppies have better reach than a Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab (For you folks raised inland, there is exactly one spot where you can hold those things and they can’t pinch you).

Eventually I learned to give him a rest period when I thought he needed it rather than waiting for him to get physically tired. ¬†Physically tired doesn’t seem to happen, which is a little bit scary I have to admit! ¬†I have a shot at mentally tired, and Jagger has been working for almost every piece of kibble from day one. ¬†Here are a few of the early tricks I taught him:

We’ve been making steady progress on his frustration tolerance, and I certainly owe thanks to Izzy for teaching him some manners. ¬†She wanted nothing to do with him for about a week and a half. ¬†But, once she warmed up to him, I noticed that Jagger spent about 95% of his initial time playing with her on his back. ¬†No yike-ing, though, and I only had to intervene once or twice for her being too rough. ¬†Despite her many issues, Izzy actually does have very good skills with puppies and is fair in her corrections. ¬†I noticed a big improvement in Jagger’s bite inhibition once Izzy started playing with him. ¬†I can’t overstate the value of having a mature, yet fair dog around who doesn’t take any nonsense when you’re raising a puppy. ¬†Copper is entirely too tolerant, and I routinely had to rescue him from the rambunctious puppy.

No one believes me about these things when I try to tell them, however. ¬†This is because Jagger will love on anyone. ¬†Profusely. ¬†He does this adorable little snuggle where he’ll stick his head under the chin of a perfect stranger. ¬†I guess he saves all the mayhem for his mother.