Wishing for Patience

My old guy is an easy dog these days. He knows basic polite behaviors to live with people, like sitting patiently to have his leash put on and not swiping food from the table. He knows dozens of cues given explicitly and can reliably respond, even off leash and from a distance and with distractions. For things that don’t have specific cues, he can usually still figure out what I want pretty quickly. Years of clicker work made him willing to guess and he’s smart enough that he can usually figure it out. He cooperates and tries to work with me like no other dog I have ever owned. He’s old enough to have developed self control and he has a very nice off switch for down time as long as he gets enough exercise at other times.

I think I took all of those things for granted before we got the little one. I forgot just how much training time and patience went into building the dog he is today. The little one needs those things now. She needs to learn her basic cues and work on manners. She cannot be trusted. One day she’ll be able to be but right now it’s important not to let her make too many mistakes or pick up too many behaviors that will have to be unlearned later. She is exhausting.

I wish I could say that I was loving every minute of it. I love her. And mostly I enjoy her. She’s very people focused and loves to please. She picks up new cues fast but her ability to work with distractions needs to mature. It takes time and I’m happy to give it to her. She is also a big cuddle baby, more so than the old guy. She wants a lap. She actually likes being carried in the bag I got for her to the point that it’s sometimes tough to convince her to get out of the bag.

There are times though, when I wish she would just sit still for a minute instead of biting at my hands as I try to snap the leash to her collar. There are times when she crawls onto my lap and hits me and I can’t figure out what she wants. I’m more amused than anything at the amount of bed she can take up for such a little dog but if I’m tired enough, she might end up plopped in the dog bed on the floor instead of me trying to sleep around her. I try to be patient though. She still has a lot to learn and it’s my job to teach her.

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Fluffy Friendship?

Bella torments my old guy. She stands on him and tugs at his ears. She nips at his paws until he gets fed up and whacks her with it. They chase each other back and forth at high speed. I worry that one of them will get hurt but I’m not sure who to worry about – my fragile senior who tries to keep up with the adolescent puppy or the 10-pound puppy who is less than half his size and so delicately built? 

At the same time, when I separate them because I’m so sure Casper needs a break, he gives me sad eyes like, “Why did you take her away?” They don’t usually cuddle but they’re coexisting more peacefully. In a rare sleepy moment yesterday morning, she was licking his paw and he was sniffing at her face, not objecting. It gave me hope that they’re becoming friends, whatever that means for dogs. 

Learning – intentional and by osmosis

She’s learning so fast. I know that’s a poodle thing but I’m impressed by her anyway.

Intentional work:

  • click-wise – It took two very short sessions, less than 5 minutes total and maybe 20 treats for her to start looking for the treat when the click happened.
  • “Sit” – When we got her, if someone had taught her to sit, it wasn’t with the traditional English word and typical hand signal. Her mom has an accent so it’s possible that she didn’t use English for this. Anyway, when I first tried to lure a sit on Sunday, she did everything possible not to put her butt on the ground. The first session, I managed to get 3 sits out of her. The second session later that day, I got half a dozen. In the third brief session the next morning, I could practically see the light bulb moment when she got it. Now she sits on request indoors before going out either alone or beside Casper. She also showed that she can sit outdoors in the driveway. We haven’t gone farther than that. “Sit” is our cue this week so we’ll keep working it. The lure is already gone, just the hand signal and the spoken cue, click, and treat.
  • Crate – This one is a big deal for me. She has eaten 2 kongs stuffed with a combo of wet and dry dog food inside her crate with the door shut. She will also chase a treat to get inside without apparent fear. I don’t want to push her too fast, of course. We are having a problem though. Casper will get into her crate. He can’t stay in there. It is far too small for him but he’ll squish in, turn around, and come back out. I need to figure out how to differentiate her crate cue from his.

By osmosis:

  • I say “let’s go to bed” to Casper to mean time to go back to the bedroom. The first few days, I picked her up and carried her back. Then she was following Casper of her own volition. Yesterday, when I said the words, she led the way to the bedroom. That’s super cool to me.
  • “Get inside” – This is another one that I think she learned just by repetition and watching Casper. I hold the door open and tell Casper to get inside. Mostly, she was following him in but the last few times, she’s reached the door and gone in first. Smart puppy.

It’s a lot to learn in a few weeks but she’s absolutely thriving with it. Multiple training sessions per day may seem like a lot but we’re talking about a max of 10 minutes per session. I’m also thinking about group classes for her. I know how to train the cues but it’s good to proof stuff in a distracting environment. Plus it’s nice to have a trainer around to ask questions if I get stuck. I’ll have to think about that one a bit more.

Groomer Visit

Today, the little one went to the groomer. It was really difficult to leave her when I’ve barely had her for 10 days but the life of a poodle includes groomer visits. Unless their owner is going to take care of the bathing and blow drying and cutting themselves, they need time with a professional. I’ll brush my dog daily and maintain their coat but I depend on professionals for the bathing and cutting. That means Bella will have to make her peace with the groomer.

 

Luckily for her, Casper’s groomer is fantastic. They also do doggie daycare there and well behaved dogs can be loose on the floor or the backyard and play with the other dogs. It’s very low-key. There are shops closer to my home with lower fees but they’re high-volume shops, loud with barking dogs in crates. Their energy is chaotic and rushed. This shop isn’t like that. Casper is notorious for being high-strung and difficult at a rushed groomer. He’ll growl or even grab-bite if he is stressed and thinks he can get away with it. This groomer handles him well so I felt confident that they’d treat Bella right too.

 

She’s too short to need a cut yet so she just got what the groomer called, “face, feet, and fanny,” basically, bath, brush out, and trim face, feet, and sanitary area. I think she looks adorable with her little poodle toes and clean poodle face. Luckily, she was far more cooperative than Casper. Plus she was totally exhausted from playing with the other dogs. A tired puppy is a good puppy so we may have to consider doing daycare sometimes too.

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We did get bad news though. The groomer does not think that Bella’s black ear tips will stay if they have to be cut off. They’re just black at the tips as part of her puppy coloring. She’s a sable and will probably still lighten up quite a bit before her final color settles around 3-ish years old. I love those black ear tips so I was pretty sad to realize that. Of course, she’s a poodle and fairly light. They can dye her if I really want her to be fun colored.

One Week

As of this evening, we’ve had the little one for a week. Casper is starting to play with her a bit sometimes but he spends a lot of time determined to ignore her too. Sometimes he gives me this look like, “Mom, why did you bring her home?” Sometimes she licks his ears and cuddles up to him. Other times, she pokes him, trying to entice him to play. She also sometimes gets growled at for trying to steal toys right out of his mouth.  There’s an adjustment period, I get that. They’re working on it.

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I’m learning more about what she knows and what she hasn’t learned yet.

She rides super-well in the truck, calmly napping in her puppy seat. She waits quietly if I have to run into somewhere briefly. I can’t leave her long, of course, but in the early morning or late night or if I leave the truck and A/C running, I can make a quick run in somewhere and know that she’ll be quiet and calm as she waits.

She handles visits places like the UPS store, the laundromat, and the pet store calmly if I carry her. If she’s on the ground and expected to walk, she is a bit nervous. I suspect that she was carried a lot and I’m considering getting a bag for her but I’d rather have her walk on her own feet. She does warm up a lot quicker than Casper did when we first got him. She starts out nervous but by the time we leave, she’s tail-up happy and confident. If we have to wait, like for laundry or she has to wait for me to drink my starbucks, she is happy to curl up on my lap or sit under my chair. This is good. We travel and her flexibility is going to be important.

She seems to be house trained. We haven’t had any accidents yet but we do have to watch her carefully. She doesn’t bark or give loud indications of needing out. She just stares briefly and quietly at the door.

She walks politely on a leash most of the time. By that, I mean that she doesn’t let the leash tighten up and rarely crosses over under my feet. It needs a bit of work and isn’t a formal heel by any stretch of the imagination but it’s pretty good.

Her recall is good from close up with minimal distractions but not good at a distance or if she’s in the middle of playing. Luckily, Casper’s recall is reliable and she loves to chase him so we’ve been using his recall for both of them when loose in the yard. The yard is 2.5 acres so I’d hate to have to chase her on it.

She doesn’t sit or down on cue. I haven’t even tried anything more complicated. This baffles me. Why not teach such easy basic things?

She is also not crate trained. I get the impression that her person took her pretty much everywhere and never left her alone. We did a test leaving her alone and she cried on and off for nearly an hour before I gave in and went inside to her. I did wait until one of her quiet periods to go in.  The way our work schedules are, we don’t need to leave our dogs alone constantly but Casper typically was alone for 5-10 hours a week, not more than 5 hours at a stretch. Sometimes we want to go out together, you know? Right now we can’t. That’s a problem but we’ll work on it.

I feel a bit overwhelmed. There’s so much for her to learn and she has a lot of puppy mischief in her. Still, I can tell that she’s bright and trainable. She’ll learn. I just have to figure out where to start.

Gamer Boy has totally fallen in love with her even though he was a little reluctant at first. He’s always that way about changes. He doesn’t dive in as impulsively as I do but he comes around.

The Little One

I saw the craigslist ad on my lunch break on Friday and replied to get more information. I wanted her instantly. Her mom loved her a lot but couldn’t keep taking care of her because of personal issues.

Gamer Boy and I had talked about and debated a second dog a few times but never taken the leap. When I arrived home, I told him about her and then gave him time to think. He agreed.
The old guy (Casper the Fluffball) came along to pick her up. We met at Dunkin Donuts. She slept in her carseat on the way home.

Meet Bella!

  • Born 8/13/2016 (8 months old)
  • Intact female
  • Miniture poodle
  • Current size: 11 inches, 10.2 pounds