Archive for June 2009

Challenges of a Well-Dressed Young Man

June 30, 2009
Boy am I growing!  Now up to 26 pounds!

Boy am I growing! Now up to 26 pounds!

It has been a while since I’ve posted; we have been out of town visiting our new grandson (Of course, I’m very excited about this, but since this is Rocket’s blog, I’ll control myself and stick to the subject at hand ).  While we were away, Rocket was able to spend some time at another foster home with his littermate, Zuma, and from all accounts had a great time.  Thanks, Darleen and family for taking such good care of him!

Since last writing we had been given the go ahead to have the puppies wear their Gentle Leaders and packs (their blue coats) to class and on outings.  I was looking forward to this.  Besides the fact that he looks so adorable all dressed up, I was hoping it might make it easier to explain to people who wanted to pet him that he needed to mind his manners and remain sitting whenever he greets someone.   Last week I took him over to the neighborhood park while a ball game was going on, hoping to practice some greetings with children, and to my surprise people didn’t come up to me and ask to pet him at all – I heard one mother tell her children – “No, you can’t pet him, he’s working.”  While I appreciate that people understand this, it is going to force me to be a bit more assertive and ask people outright if they want to meet  him.

Oh, and remember the last time when I bragged about how well Rocket was doing with the Gentle Leader?  He still loves to put it on, but he doesn’t necessarily love to wear it right now.  In fact, he has been rubbing his nose on the ground whenever he gets onto a patch of grass, and to my embarrassment, on a trip to Petco he scooted around much of the store on his nose.   Nancy, our teacher, suggested that I make my trips to the pet store very short for now, merely walking in, practicing a few “watches”, and leaving quickly.   In class on Thursday I was also surprised that Rocket wasn’t picking his retrieve items up like he does at home; it dawned on me that I had been only practicing this without the Gentle Leader on.  Therefore, I am now practicing play retrieves while he’s “dressed”  at home, and I can see it might take a while for him to make the connection that it’s okay to pick things up with the Gentle Leader on.

In my best outfit.

In my best outfit.

Overall, though, I’m sure these are minor things that will be worked through, and I believe Rocket is still doing very well.  He is walking on a loose leash very, very well, with great attention, knows the “sit” command, can shake his right paw on command, is learning “drop,”  and can even have a bowl of food set in front of him and wait to eat it until he is told “release.”   One of his favorite things right now is a recall game, a dog version of Hide and Seek.  I throw out a piece of food to distract him, then run and hide somewhere in another room and call out “You can’t find me!”  He gets SO excited when he discovers where I am.  My understanding is that the goal of this game is to reinforce the idea that coming is always an exciting, fun event.  I have to admit it’s my favorite game to play with him, too.

Well, that’s our training update for now.  I took some pictures of him all “dressed up” this evening, but since I was home alone I had to tie his leash around the tree – he wouldn’t wander far enough away from me to get a decent picture of him –  a good thing!

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It’s a Whole New World

June 5, 2009

Now that Rocket has added some inches to his legs, he has discovered a whole new world to be explored – anything that is up high!  He is spending a lot of his free time trying to reach things above his head and launches himself at things like the phone cord, dishes of kibble on my desk, cords on blinds, the kitchen table, etc., and I am having to be extra vigilant to keep an eye on him and distract him from this new obsession.

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One very cute thing happened the other day, though.  We have been starting to work on his wearing a Gentle Leader and have been shaping him with the clicker to put his nose into the loop as a first step.   Most of the time Rocket has loved this exercise and is progressing well with it, other than a few times when he just wants to bite it. We had been given a small blue cloth bag to hold retrieving items, and a few days ago I discovered Rocket had pulled it off  of a bench in our entryway.  I asked, “What do you have there?”, and he promptly pushed his nose through the loops of the handles on the bag waiting for his click and treat – I suppose to him it looked just like his Gentle Leader!   What a smart boy!

The Secret to Just About Everything . . . .

June 1, 2009

. . . . .well, at least the secret to teaching most of the behaviors Rocket needs to know, that is.  And the secret is . . . . .

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A clicker!

I’ve come up with a top 10 list for why I like clicker training:

10.   You don’t wear your voice out yelling at your dog.

9.     A clicker trained dog can theoretically be taught to do anything it is physically capable of doing, without even touching him/her.

8.    A clicker trained dog learns to be a problem solver and to think for himself.

7.     A clicker trained dog works because he wants to, not because he is forced to.

6.    A clicker trained dog learns new behaviors more rapidly than with traditional training methods.

5.     Clicker training is a gentle way to train, won’t psychologically harm a dog, and because of this it can be used with very young puppies.

4.      Clicker training is based on solid scientific research into how animals learn.

3.      Clicker training creates a happy working dog.

2.      Dogs think clicker training is fun.

1.      Clicker training is fun for trainers!

To begin training Rocket, the clicker was first “charged up.”  For several days before every meal, I clicked the clicker and then immediately gave Rocket a piece of his food, several times in a row.  By about the third day, I could see he was beginning to understand that whenever he heard the sound of the clicker, he was going to get something good.  It was as though a light bulb went on in his brain that I could literally see happening, and now that he had made this connection, he began to try to figure out what he could do to make that clicker click again so he could get a piece of his kibble.  Since Rocket is extremely motivated by food, I now have a powerful tool I can use to communicate with him, and I can use this to shape most of the behaviors he needs to learn.

Rocket already loves the clicker and is proving to be a very quick learner.   I am having a blast working with him, and  I hope I can keep up with him! (more…)