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.


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.

Flexi Leashes

In general, I get nervous when I see someone using a flexi leash with their dog. All too often, Casper and I have been charged by a dog on one that wants to play or is aggressive. Then they get tangled with us and Casper freaks out. I do think they have their place, I just think too many people over-use them.


And yet, here is a picture with each dog on their own flexi. First, to be clear, we’re on the dock on the property where we live. There were not any other dogs, leashed or loose anywhere nearby. No one to get tangled in the length. It’s also a great picture to see the size and color differences between the dogs.

With Casper, I use a flexi for two things. I use it as a potty leash. I take him where I want him to go and give him the potty cue. Once he goes, I either let him off leash to roam free or switch to a more standard leash for walking. This works for us. I don’t have to track down dog crap in a large yard and it reinforces the potty cue. Plus, there’s a better chance that I won’t get stuck hauling a bag of dog crap on a walk. With Bella, we haven’t gotten to the potty cue stage but I still release from the leash as a reward after she goes.

With Casper, I also use the flexi as a way to keep him near me in the yard or restrict his activity. In those cases, I attach the flexi to my belt. He can sniff and mark as desired but I can keep track of where he is. I won’t be able to do this with both dogs at once, of course.

Do I ever use a flexi in public? Sometimes in specific circumstances. Usually in an open unfenced area without other people nearby and a long enough sight-line that I can switch leashed before other people come in range.  We don’t use the flexi for walks or really anything but a quick potty stop.