Wow – it has been a long time since we’ve posted! As you can see from the above picture, Rocket is turning into a beautiful boy – the last time he was weighed he was up to 66 pounds, and I’m not sure when he’ll be done growing.
We’re working on some new skills. One that is going to take a while to perfect is his door greeting behavior. The final goal is that when he hears someone knocking or ringing the doorbell he will automatically go to a rug, lie down, and wait there until he is released. You might guess that this is not a natural golden retriever behavior – ha – major understatement. But we are breaking the behavior down into small pieces, and I can see how it will eventually work. First he was trained to go lie down on the rug when given the command. That wasn’t a problem; he’ll do that pretty reliably. Then I began by knocking on the front door from inside the house, giving him the “Go to bed” command, and clicking and treating him when he did that. After a few days of knocking on the door, followed by the “go to bed” command, he began to anticipate what I was going to ask him to do and would go to the rug before being told to when he heard the knocking – so far so good. Now to raise the criteria a bit. I sent my husband outside onto the porch for a few sessions of knocking on the door as if someone were really coming to visit. This is a bit harder for Rocket, but he is doing pretty well, and I can even open the door a little bit and he’ll wait on the rug. However, the doorbell is proving somewhat more challenging – I bought a cheap wireless doorbell so that we can practice anytime without having to have volunteers to stand outside. The problem is that Rocket can tell the difference between the wireless and the “real” doorbell; when I ring the wireless one, he stops, sniffs the air, and tries to figure out where the sound is coming from. For some reason he thinks it’s in the kitchen ceiling when it’s really up in the living room, and he is so interested in figuring out where it’s coming from that he forgets he has been told to “go to bed.” It took us a few days of working on this for him to settle down enough to actually get him to go to the rug at all, much less doing it without being asked. We are making some progress, but we’re definitely not there yet. I have to remind myself we probably have two more years to work on it. In the meantime, I’m looking for volunteers to come over and ring the doorbell any time – the more practice, the better.
Another new skill Rocket is learning is to rest his head on my lap or on my feet. Rocket LOVES this one, to the point of shoving my arm and keyboard aside while I’m at the computer sometimes so he can plant his head. Needless to say, he doesn’t get rewarded when he does this! And it is very hard not to reward him because it is just so darn cute – he is still a very cuddly, lovable boy and it is hard to resist him sometimes. I suspect that he knows this.
We’re also continuing to work on retrieving all kinds of objects, practicing his loose leash walking, down-stays, sit-stays, taking off gloves and socks, and pushing the rocker light switch, and I feel overall things are still going pretty well. We signed up to be at the Helping Paws booth at the Land O’ Lakes dog show on January 9th in St. Paul. I’m looking forward to it; I haven’t been to a dog show in a while, and I’m also hoping it’s going to be a good training opportunity. I am not expecting too much from him, since I think this will probably be the most distracting situation he has been in, with all of the noise, dogs, etc., so it’ll be interesting to see how he does. If you’re coming to the show, feel free to come by and say hello to us, as I’d love to show him off; we’ll be there in the morning that day.
Now, the bath story. I should have known better. We let Rocket, Risa, and my daughter’s lab, Tess, outside in what we call the “Big Yard” on Christmas day. The “I should have known better” part is that we can’t trust the dogs outside alone (yes, we have a fully fenced yard) for more than a few minutes, BUT we sat down to watch my 6-month-old grandson open some presents and forgot the dogs were out. A while later I walked by the dining room door and saw Risa on the deck chewing on something that looked suspiciously like a piece of the house – it turned out to be some lattice that we had put around the deck in an effort to keep the dogs from getting under there and digging. How Risa had gotten a hold of this I don’t know, but – uh-oh – this didn’t look good. So I put on my jacket and boots and went out to the yard to investigate. I called and called and didn’t see either Rocket or Tess anywhere and had a moment of panic, but I checked the gates and they were still closed. So I called and called and called and finally heard a whimper coming from the direction of the deck and discovered both Tess and Rocket under the deck – they had squeezed through a very narrow opening that Risa must have made when she ripped the lattice off – and they couldn’t figure out how to get back out. I was able to grab each of them by the neck and pull them through and in the process discovered that, indeed, they had been digging in the slushy, muddy ground under the deck and Rocket was as filthy as I have ever seen any dog, ever. There was no way he was going to avoid it, so Christmas Day evening he had his bath. He actually doesn’t mind having a bath, but I definitely minded having to give it to him on Christmas Day! He also stole my cell phone a couple of days after that right out from under me without my noticing it and chewed up the back. Thankfully the phone still works and I can get a replacement part. He is still most definitely in the adolescent stage!
Just for fun, I’m adding this little video from several months ago – I think I posted it on Facebook but never to this blog, so here he is at 2 months old after having been with us for only a couple of days. He had just learned to go down the stairs, and for some reason he was convinced he needed to carry this big toy down the stairs and was SO frustrated, but SO cute! It was fun for me to watch this again and remember how little he was. That’s all for now – here it is 10:14 and we haven’t practiced all of our skills for the day, so we’d better get to it.