Thursday, October 28, 2010


Dog Blog Post #146: Early this morning, while the dogs were out back doing what dogs do, a Stupid Squirrel decided to fly from one tree top to another. While I was impressed by this athletic feat, Zachary definitely wasn't, and let the whole neighborhood know it.

He set his Gatling Gun bark to max, raised his hackles, and fired away.

Henry, who had previously seemed unfazed by Uncle Zachary's occasional bouts of twitchiness, let out a frantic, "Yelp!" (or possibly, "Yip!") and high-tailed it back into the house as fast as his little legs would take him.


Zachary has more or less the same response (at least, to my humble human ears) when someone knocks on the door, and Henry never bats an eye. Clearly, Henry heard/saw something different in this reaction, but what?

And was it intentional?

That is, was Zachary knowingly sending a warning to Henry to go somewhere safer, or was Henry deciding on his own that Uncle Zachary was onto something he wanted no part of?

The world will never know.

Moments later, with head held high, ears back, and clearly on full-alert, Henry trotted out to where I was standing and "bravely" stood behind me, peering around my leg with wide eyes as Uncle Zachary continued to lecture the tree tops - the squirrel now long gone.

I guess the squirrel wasn't so stupid after all!

I just stood there, resisting the temptation to laugh at Zachary and coddle the pup. When Henry seemed more settled, I picked him up to let him view things from a higher elevation. His body was relaxed, his expression curious but not frightened, and when I put him down he actually took a few steps toward Zachary before thinking better of it.

Zachary, of course, was still telling off those nasty ol' tree tops.

But this had gone on long enough, so I told Zachary to knock it off, reminded Henry that he was "Henry The Brave", then shooed them both back into the house before our neighbors started heaving heavy objects over the fence.

It was an interesting moment, to be sure, and one that left me with more questions than answers...

... principally, how many hours will I need to spend knocking on the front door before Zachary is properly desensitized prior to Halloween?

I don't want to scare the Trick-or-Treaters too much!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Puppy Class

Zachary as a puppy
Dog Blog Post #144: This post is in response to Magnus’ mom’s Puppy Class question in her blog post The Issue of Puppy Class. Tenses of her questions have been converted to present tense to apply to Henry’s current class.

Do you do a puppy class? Yes! Beau did puppy class in a large group setting with a positive but more traditional approach (owners marching around the building in circles while the instructor called out sit, heel, sit, heel, about turn!…) while Zachary had the same class/instructor Henry has now with much smaller sizes, clicker-training, individual attention, and no marching (for which I am forever grateful, Wendy!)

What benefits do you feel it provides for your 4legged puppy?

  • Socialization with “trainable” people and puppies under an instructors watchful eye. I can’t overstate that one!!!
  • Opportunities to show holes in training – it’s easy to either focus too heavily on the disaster areas and miss out on things that should be taught, or focus too heavily on the successful areas and sweep problem spots under the rug.
  • Opportunities to try out shiny new behavior in a hopefully supportive but definitely more challenging environment.

What benefit do you find for yourself as handler? A chance to get fresh ideas and fresh perspectives. It’s also useful to listen to the other owners and take a few moments to assess their puppies. For example, hearing others bemoan their puppies housebreaking skills (or lack thereof) made me feel all warm and glowy about Henry, while seeing how calmly the 10 week old lab lay by his owners made me realize I still have a long way to go on that front.

What would you recommend in looking for a new puppy class? If possible, I’d try to attend a class to see if I agree with the instructor and their approach. At best, this would be one of the previous sessions classes, before the session my puppy would be enrolled in. If not, then I would like to talk to the instructor and see if their philosophy is not incompatible with mine. Possible questions include:

  • Is this a positive (non-punitive) class? Food is required, clicker-training a plus but not mandatory, so long as the instructor doesn’t mind if I discretely use one.
  • Is there play time? That’s a large part of why I go, so the answer had better be yes. A puppy needs to meet a variety of its own kind, and at that age it’s hard to do that outside a class setting.
  • How is play time handled? A free-for-all, where all puppies are released to mug-and-be-mugged at will can’t possibly be good. Wendy has 8 puppies and made three groups of them, mostly by temperament and boldness, it seemed. I image that as the weeks progress, there is a good chance we will get down to two groups. Last time, with Zachary, she cycled the bolder (but not mugging) puppies into the area with the less bold puppies. Zachary fell into the bolder-not-mugging category, and he (on leash, to level the playing field) learned he had to be calmer and quieter if he was going to find a play companion. The shyer, smaller dogs saw that not all bigger dogs are bullies.
  • How many puppies in the class? I don’t actually know what a good number would be. Like kids in a classroom, the more you get relative to the number of instructors, the greater the potential for chaos and result in a lack of learning. But you also have more puppies to mix-and-match playmates with, should the instructor choose to.
  • What do you cover? In addition to the usual sit/down/come, a puppy instructor should go over, or at least encourage questions about, home-life (house-training, mouthing, jumping, … etc.)

Are you pro puppy class or do you feel you can provide similar lessons at home? I am pro puppy class, and think it is virtually impossible to provide similar lessons at home. However, if you have raised a puppy before and are familiar/comfortable with puppy growth stages, have trainable friends willing to help work on greeting skills, know some puppy-tolerant adult dogs to remind puppy that manners are important, and feel you will be able to face those teenage years without a shoulder to cry on, then you can probably do quite a bit yourself, with the glaring except of puppy play time.

If you do, how? The hardest part (other than finding appropriate doggie friends) is probably finding people who will help your efforts to socialize instead of hindering them. At least in puppy class the instructor tells everyone what to do, and everyone has a vested interest in being a good socializer. The General Public just wants to pet the puppy, play with the puppy, get the puppy wound up!

So, in summary, a Good Puppy Class is a Very Good Thing, but good luck finding one!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Puppy Class #1

Dog Blog Post #143: The irony of having a blog is that when you actually have something to write about, you rarely have time to write it.

Thus, despite having a bundle of joy at home generating Precious Moments by the bucket-full, these pages have remained sadly quiet.

Yeah, I know, whine, whine, whine...

Henry went to his first Puppy Class last night. There were puppies of all shapes and sizes there, eight in all, varying in age from 10 weeks to 5 months. Henry was probably one of the younger pups there at 12 weeks old.

I suppose I should be honest here and admit that I don't actually think I am going to learn much about training a puppy in this class. Yes, Wendy might surprise me with a tidbit here or there, but on the whole, as this is my third puppy, I think I've at least got the basics down.

So why am I going? Because, while I stated long ago that classes are to train owners, not dogs, that doesn't apply to puppies. There are many lessons for Henry to learn in Puppy Class, some of which aren't even specifically being taught.

Take last night.

Last night Henry learned (or at least experienced) that just because he can see another puppy, doesn't mean he gets to play with it. This is a hard lesson for a friendly Golden Retriever, and it will probably take many, many, many classes before he actually accepts that to be true.

Of course, Beau never did.

Henry learned that Sit-n-Stare is just as rewarding in Puppy Class as it is at home or at the indoor sports place.

Henry discovered that hot dogs are amazingly tasty things.

Henry affirmed that he doesn't like rain drops hitting him on the head, that bark is fun to chew on, and that puppies are fun to play with.

I also learned a lot about Henry. I learned that he will sit calmly on my lap so I can put my jacket over him and avoid the worst of the rain drops. I learned that he will return when he hits the end of the leash while trying to visit other puppies. I learned that he has lovely focus, even when distracted, and very good name recognition.

While there, we practiced Sits (he's an old pro at that - I could just hear him thinking "Oh, that's puppy stuff, mom. I'm a big boy now!") and I threw in some downs to keep him thinking. We worked on name calling (the good kind... "Henry!"), I witnessed demo dogs superior shaping and moon-walking skills, and Henry got to sample Instructor treats.

Puppy play time was a hit, of course. He seemed particularly focused on the larger dogs, including the above mentioned demo dog (9 year old Golden Retriever) and the 5 month old golden puppy.

Once again, I found him not nearly as interested in playing as I would have thought - perhaps, with Uncle Zachary at home, his play needs are being sufficiently met. That was true for Zachary as well.

Beau never got enough playing with others, but he was an only dog at that point.

Henry did seem rather worried when Wendy's assistant put her hands behind her back. We were all rather perplexed by this, as there seemed to be no logical reason for it. He's met tons and tons of people and this is the first time I've seen such a reaction, but as I don't want it to blossom into anything else, I'm going to request everyone he meets for the next few days to, at some point, put their hands behind their backs so he realizes there is nothing untoward about it.

It was getting pretty dark at that point, and the assistant was dressed all in black, so perhaps he was just seeing things a bit "funny".

Thus ended Puppy Class #1. I think it deserves 4.5 stars on the success meter, as he lost a point for the behind-the-back thing.

The one thing I didn't remember to do was show Wendy the really cool peanut-butter packs that hubby found for backpacking. They are nearly as good as the old Skippy Squeeze tubes were!

Ah well, I guess that will have to wait until next week.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Dog Blog Post #142: Henry loves apples, and it seems he has already figured out that he can pluck them straight from our fruit trees. I'm a little surprised by this, as it seems a bit of a stretch (pardon the pun) for a twelve week old pup.

Beau used to to do this. When rearing on his hind legs and stretching out his neck, he could reach five feet and would pluck his intended "prey" as delicately as I could. But as Zachary never saw the attraction, and has never demonstrated the behavior, I have to admit I was a bit surprised when I saw Henry do just that at lunch today.

Of course, the apple couldn't have been more than two feet off the ground (the ultimate in "low hanging fruit"!) but the technique was definitely there. He got under it, reared straight up, tugged gently, and held on as it came free and he returned to all four paws on the ground.

And it was a good-sized apple, too, about the size of a baseball!

With "prey" in mouth, he trotted over to a favored spot and commenced peeling the fruit. He started with small bites in one area, to break through the skin, then grasped a bit of skin and pulled down. This exposed the juicy flesh, and enabled easy access for additional bites.

(Zachary just stared at his apple (which I plucked for him) then begged me to throw it!)

Despite good technique, the apple was large, his jaws were not, and so I took advantage of this and offered to hold the apple for him. This was obviously a good thing from his perspective, and worked well with one of my puppy lessons, namely "Chewies: I hold, you chew."

From this lesson, Henry learns that me reaching for, grasping, and holding a valued object is a good thing, not a bad thing. He learns there is no need for resource guarding; the apple is safe in my grasp - I will not steal or eat it. And he learns that he needs to be careful when his teeth are so near my hand, as being scraped or stabbed by a tooth causes an over-the-top reaction from me (think: "Ouch!!!" followed by extraction of hand (still holding apple, of course) for a few seconds while I "lick my wounds".)

I find that when I return hand and apple, he is much gentler and more aware of where my fingers are relative to his mouth. I can feel his whiskers, so I know he must be able to feel my hand, and I'm working on him learning to pay more attention to those feelings!

I love it when lessons and life intersect!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Play Time

Dog Blog Post #141: Puppies love to play.

Big dogs like to play, too.

But how to ensure that big dogs and little dogs play together safely?

I wish that was a rhetorical question, but it isn't, as I really don't have a great answer to that one. Mostly I just sit on the floor and become the Play Police, trying to ensure that  puppy doesn't get squished, overpowered, overlooked, or whipped around at the end of a tug toy.

Uncle Zachary is realizing that "rough" play = separation (and "rough" is a relative term here - he can send Henry flying if he wags his tail too hard) and so he mostly plays while lying on his back, basically allowing Henry to mug him and fending off the worst of the puppy teeth with his own yawning maw.

I do try to save the big dog from the worst of puppy teeth - particularly on those rather poorly protected dangley bits. (Hint: My boys aren't neutered.)

I remember when Zachary was Henry's age, and Beau was in Zachary's place; Beau spent months laying on his back, playing with his tail firmly tucked between his legs - and it had nothing to do with him being frightened! He'd just figured out that the safest way to keep things, well, safe, was to cover them up with his big, fluffy tail.

It seemed to very effective.

Hopefully Zachary will figure that trick out soon, as at the moment he's using a rabbit kick to get Henry to back off and that can't be good!

Zachary has started to bring toys to Henry during play time. I'm not sure if that's to improve play, or to give Henry something to grab onto instead of his ears!

No matter the motive, it's really cute to see Zachary standing there holding the end of a tug toy while Henry is giving it his all - pulling and growling and tugging and tugging, and Zachary's neck isn't even moving. The other day, after 3-4 minutes of this, Zachary started to walk forward as Henry pulled - giving the puppy delusions of grandeur... that he might have caused the big dog to move.

Dream on, little one, dream on!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Crate Time

Dog Blog Post #139: I crate Henry when I can't be home with him, and he has taken to it very readily.

I credit that success to several things.

1. He's always ready to take a nap before I crate him. If need be, I engage in active play with him to wear him out before hand!

2. The crate is never used as a punishment, time out, or "holding area" if I'm too busy to watch him. He's only in the crate if I'm not in the house.

3. The crate is comfy, with a soft pad, a snuggly toy, and a tasty treat that he only gets when he's in the crate. I've been using Vanilla Yogurt, slathered on a teething Kong, and frozen for at least a few hours in the freezer.

Henry loves his frozen Kong, and runs to his crate when he sees me pulling one out of the freezer. He prances around as I open the door, and rushes inside once it's open. When I put the Kong down, he immediately curls up around it and begins long, contented licks.

No whimpers, no whines - he doesn't even seem to notice that I have closed the door!

My son reports that he never makes a sound, and is soon fast asleep, and stays asleep until I return several hours later.

I know some people don't like the thought of crating their puppy, but for us it's a Good Thing!

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Puppies = Trouble?

Dog Blog Post #138: Friday, around lunch time, I got a call from hubby at home: "Come home right now. Don't do anything else. Get in the car and come home."

And that was it.


A thousand thoughts ran through my head as I bolted for the car and made it home in record time. When I opened the front the door, the first thing I noticed was that the lovely new baby gate (the one I had raved about before Henry arrived) was not there.

This is a metal baby gate, with an actual gate in it, held in place by... by... I have no idea how it's held in place - tension I suppose. All I know is that it didn't require making holes in the walls or affixing anything permanently to the walls or floors, and we loved it.

And it was gone.

The other things I noticed were Zachary was crunching a chewie, and hubby sitting on the floor with Henry seated calmly in front of him...

... with rather sizable portion of the baby gate stuck around his neck.

12" ruler shown for scale

It seems that Zachary had dropped his chewie on his side of the gate, and Henry had managed to stick his head through the side panel to try to reach the chewie, but couldn't get his head back out.

And I thought that sort of thing only happened on YouTube.

Despite our gentle tugging, turning, twisting, and a quickly aborted effort of cutting the panel, it was clear that our little boy wasn't going to become free so easily.

Down to the vet we went, with me driving and hubby holding puppy in one hand and the end of the gate panel in the other.

The vets and techs were wonderful, and to see Henry wagging his tail you would think not a thing was wrong.

In the end, five sets of hands, a generous dose of lubricant, and a very calm vet who teased first one ear then the other back through the panel and finally the rest of Henry's head, saved the day.


Amazingly enough, despite some plaintive squeals near the end, Henry seemed none the worse for wear and gave the everyone plenty of thank you kisses.

I can't thank the staff enough for freeing my baby!

Once home again, the lovely gate was replaced by an ex-pen while we consider our options, ultimately returning to the tried and true wood and mesh variety.

At least for now.

The vet said in a few weeks Henry's head will be too large to fit through the panel and we can put the gate back up again.


We'll have to see about that!

Didn't you learn your lesson?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Puppy Progress

Dog Blog Post #137: Henry is now 10 weeks old, and it's amazing what he has learned!

He knows:
  • ... the hand signal for Sit, Down, Target, and that a closed fist means Zen
  • ... when mommy calls, and you come running, you get something really tasty
  • ... a click means a treat
  • ... if mommy puts a mat somewhere, it's a good idea to go over and lay on it
  • ... Sit and Stare is always profitable
  • ... mommy doesn't pick you up unless you are Sitting and Staring
  • ... a crate with a comfy pad, a wooly toy, and a frozen yogurt KONG in it is as good a place to sleep as any
  • ... peanut butter is wonderful
  • ... one should always go outside to potty, even if it's raining
  • ... banging on the baby gate in front of the screen door gets you outside to go potty
  • ... scratching on the slider (if closed) also gets you outside to go potty
  • ... if all else fails, whimper loudly to get outside to go potty
  • ... if you hold still, mommy dries your fur off when you come back inside and the grass was wet, and that's a good thing
  • ... chasing a ball is fun, and bringing the ball back to mommy keeps the game going
  • ... chewing on something other than mommy keeps the fun going longer
  • ... if mommy stops tugging and cups your chin in her hand, and you let go, then the game becomes even more fun than it was when she stopped
  • ... if you're really gentle, mommy will let you "hold" her hand in your mouth
  • ... being carried is wonderful
  • ... kids are nice, adults are nice, old people are nice, and did I mention that Sit and Stare is profitable?
  • ... kids wear weird clothing, strange helmets, and sometimes no shirts at all! But they are still kids. Did I mention that kids are nice?
  • ... crying babies are boring and can safely be ignored
  • ... chewies held by mommy are much better than chewies not held by mommy
  • ... chewies Uncle Zachary has "started" are much easier to chew than brand new ones
  • ... Uncle Zachary is a total pushover (at least for now)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Henry the Brave

What a brave puppy!

Tonight was Henry's first shower (of the heavenly sort) and he was seriously unimpressed to find out the sky was falling.

He's gotten very good about heading to the slider when he needs to go, and even paws at the door when he really needs to go, but tonight presented a special problem.

Tonight, it rained.

This is probably the first rain he's ever seen, and he definitely didn't know what to make of the big wet drops that were hitting him on the head as I carried him to his potty place.

(Yes, I was carrying him. Why? Because it was dark and cold, and I don't want to be pulling a puppy from the pond when it's dark and cold.)

Now there is a large umbrella next to the potty place (a circular ex-pen on the sacrificial bit of used-to-be-lawn) but it's there to keep the sun off (last week the temps soared over 100F) not to keep the rain (which we rarely have) out.

So there is Henry, trying to get to the middle of the pen to Get Busy and being pelted by rain drops as he does so.

Not happening, and he returned to the side of the pen, and sat-n-stared (his "I'm done, pick me up" signal... only this time, he was lying and we both knew it.)

As you can carry a puppy to the potty but you can't make him go, I picked him up, sheltered him as best I could, and returned inside.

Where is paced, and sniffed, and looked miserable, and asked again to go outside.

Back to the pen we go, and once again I plop him down inside.

Once again he heads out from the shelter of the umbrella, then returns, heads out, then returns.

(Note to those thinking me cruel. There is absolutely no reason he couldn't have gone while staying under the umbrella, it was just as grassy as the center, where he was heading. Only puppy knows why he wanted to go in that particularly spot.)

Finally, pulling his ears back and tucking his tail as much as a potty-bound puppy can, he darted out the center, turned around once, Got Busy, and dashed back to where I was waiting.

Good Puppy!

A nice rub-down with a thick, fluffy towel awaited him in the house, followed by some cuddling and a nap on my chest as I lay on the sofa.

Yeah, he's spoiled, but he's only going to be little for a few weeks, and I'm going to enjoy every last one of them!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Portrait of a Puppy

Dog Blog Post #135: Wow, what a joy to photograph!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Great Outdoors

Dog Blog Post #134: With the cooling of temperatures toward the end of this week, we were at last able to let Henry loose on The Great Outdoors (ie: the backyard.)

In The Great Outdoors, Henry discovered….

The Asparagus Fern (which he tried to de-frond)
The Herb Patch (which he tried to de-foliate)
Branches from the Japanese maple Tree
An apple from the Tree (finally, something edible!)

The Sprinkler Head (image self-explanatory)
  Along the way, he also sampled...

Zachary’s Ears (somewhere, Beau is laughing!)
The camera strap

My Finger
Aren't puppies wonderful!   :)