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8

Hillbilly Hydrotherapy

In mid April, just two weeks prior to the AKC USA AWC Team Tryouts, Frodo and I went from being super prepared and ready to rock and roll to…rehab. Frodo suffered a traumatic tear of his CCL on a Thursday, April 13, and had a TPLO Friday, April 14. In the flurry of activity that followed, as well as me being shell shocked about the injury, the surgery, the rehab, and being knocked off that high place of being ready to rock and roll at tryouts, Chispa didn't poop for nearly a week and ended up at the emergency clinic herself. During this time, she had a persistent lameness that was troubling me. Xrays revealed it was not shoulder OCD – something nobody wants, but in the grand scheme of things is fixable. Further digging, and a CT scan revealed fragmented medial coronoid processes on both elbows. So, a month after Frodo's TPLO, Chispa had bilateral arthroscopy on her elbows, and fragment removal on the left elbow. The fragments were in situ on both elbows, and it took some prying to get the clinical (left) fragment out. Because of the difficulty on the left, and given that the right fragment, also in situ, did not seem to want to budge, the right elbow was left alone. No joint incongruency was detected in either elbow. I have no idea if she'll be able to do agility, but I suppose I will give it a go, and see where we end up. Frodo's prognosis is much clearer; he'll probably be back in action in just a few months, more energized than he's ever been before, and certainly, I'll be more eager than I've ever been to get back in the ring with him.

In the meantime, I have two dogs who need rehab. I live way out in the country, and have access to a lot of great information, so the only thing beyond that is to just do it. I'm not in to driving in to downtown anywhere to get dogs to an underwater treadmill, but I do recognize the importance and benefits to hydrotherapy, whether it be ice packs, heat packs, swimming, or walking in water (cold or warm). I have an appointment with a rehab specialist in Seattle mid-June, but until then, I'll be DIY-ing it with the information I've got.

If your'e curious as to the rehab protocol I'm following with Frodo (who is at the 6-week mark this week and has his follow up Xrays!!), it's a combination of these two:

Top Dog Health – TPLO Guide – This guide is a free download, and I also get weekly emails with videos of each exercise. I'm pretty impressed with how thorough it is. It's fairly conservative, and I've been moving a little faster than this guide spells out, but then again, Frodo was in top condition prior to the injury, not overweight, and I have access to a lot of fitness equipment and information – this guide as well as the next one is clearly aimed at a pet audience. I'm sure that veterinary professionals and rehab professionals are cringing right now, but I'm ok with that – and for sure you can reserve the right to blame my use of this and other DIY resources on any rehab failures we may encounter 🙂

MedVetForPets – TPLO Guide – I can't remember how I found this one, but it's also pretty thorough, and includes more exercises with a little faster progression. I like that I can look at the two together and get a rough idea of how to proceed.

Now, I recognize that these PDF files are not a substitute for an individualized rehab plan, and so, like I mentioned before, Frodo, Chispa, and myself will be heading up to Seattle in mid-June to spend some time with a rehab certified veterinarian who also does agility to get some plans for moving forward.

Hillbilly Hydrotherapy

That brings us to Hillbilly Hydrotherapy. With Frodo, since there was no previous ligament disease, and it was a traumatic event, his prognosis for healing is excellent. Getting back to full activity is mostly a matter of building back muscle, once the Tibia has healed. And, building back muscle to the point we were at prior to the incident will be determined by how much muscle wasting occurs while that Tibia is healing. So, I knew I wanted to get him walking in the water as soon as I could. I knew I wanted to be able to do it without driving an hour each way multiple times a week, daily if possible. With Solar, who had a soft tissue injury in 2014, I just used an inflatable above ground pool and walked in circles with him, but I didn't like how he could swing his rear out and pivot, rather than tracking with front and rear together.

When I saw this set up posted by somebody on FB, I knew I wanted to build something like it myself, with a few modifications. Here's my setup (click the image to enlarge):

[st_custom_image image=”17996″ size=”medium” position=”center” link_type=”lightbox” link=”” link_target=”_self” caption=”” custom_class=””] Two concentric stock tanks with padding on the top, and a heater, pump, and filter on the right.

First, I purchased two stock tanks at my local feed store. One is an 8′ tank, and one is a 6′ tank. When these tanks are shipped from the manufacturer to the store, they're nested. So, not all 8′ tanks are actually 8′ in diameter, and not all 6′ tanks are actually 6′ in diameter. I asked for a large 8′ tank, and a small 6′ tank, and had both delivered to the house. The two together, plus shipping, set me back ~$580USD. I purchased some pipe insulation at Home Depot to put on the rims of both tanks, so that nobody would whack themselves (me or the dogs) on the edges.

I drilled two holes in the tank, using a Milwaukie Hole Dozer, 2-3/8″ in size.

2-3/8″ Hole Dozer – purchased at Home Depot, along with the appropriate bit/base.

Then, I fitted the holes with bulkhead fittings, purchased at Amazon. The fittings were also caulked with marine sealant, purchased at Home Depot.

Bulkhead fittings (2) for tank inlet and outlet. This size will work with 1.5″ PVC

Once the holes were drilled in the outer tank, I made sure that the inner tank was centered nicely, leaving a ring about 15″ wide, all the way around. I weighted the inner tank down with some pavers I had laying around, and then caulked the junction of the inner and outer tank with marine caulk & sealant.

Once the caulk cured, I poured two gallons of a substance called FlexSeal in the ring where the dogs would walk. This not only provided a rubber surface to help keep them from slipping, but it also further served to seal the junction between the inner and the outer tanks. I don't want water seeping under the inner tank, which might make it pop up and float! All the water should be contained to the ring where the dogs will walk, leaving the inner tank dry for ME to walk in!

FlexSeal liquid rubber

It took a few days for the FlexSeal to cure, but by then, I had my two tanks ready to be plumbed and connected to the filter/pump assembly, and the heater.

For a heater, I am using a spa heater that a friend sold to me, but you could easily use something like this:

A 110V spa heater – 220V will heat the water faster but will require a special circuit.

We didn't have a dedicated circuit for a 220V heater, so we're using a 110V heater for now, til we bring out an electrician to update the circuit in the garage (yes, this is in my garage). It doesn't get the water HOT, just 65-70 degrees, which is still pretty good, and frankly, as the weather gets warmer, I don't think the dogs will mind cool water.

The pump I'm using is for an Intex pool – it's a pump/sand filter combination. Also purchased off Amazon.

Intex pumps come with their own flexible tubing, which is stupid. The piece of tubing connecting the pump and the filter I left, but since I wanted to use 1.5″ PVC for the connection from the tank to the pump, and then from the filter to the heater, and then from the heater back to the tank, I had to do a little converting to get the intex pipe converted over to 1.5″ pipe. Thank you, internet:

I love YouTube for stuff like this. So, the water gets sucked out of the tank, travels to the pump via 1.5″ pipe, travels to the filter from the pump using the existing flexible tubing, then from the filter to the heater using 1.5″ pipe, and then from the heater back to the tank.

There are ball valve joints on the outside of each of the bulkhead fittings, so I can close things off if I need to drain the tank or disconnect anything. There's also a 90-degree elbow on the inside of the bulkhead where the water comes back in to the tank, and it's not glued – this way I can rotate it to change the direction of the current in the tank, depending on which direction the dogs are walking:

So, there you have it, Hillbilly Hydrotherapy. Since my tank is against a wall in my garage, there's a backsplash between it and the wall to keep water out of the outlet on said wall. It's just a 4×8′ piece of material from Home Depot that's flexible and designed for bathrooms or something like that. I just wandered til I found what I wanted. Nope, that's a lie. George had it laying around for another project, and I appropriated it.

I do have to lift Frodo in and out of the tank, but he doesn't really seem to mind so much. I suppose I could get even fancier and make a ramp of some sort, or even a door, if I wanted to pump all the water out and in each time. Lifting isn't too bad, though. Here it is, Hillbilly Hydrotherapy in action:

The water level right now is higher, for Frodo, but when Chispa is ready to get in (this weekend!!) I'll lower the water level a bit by draining some of the water out. It'll be lower for Frodo, who is ready for more weight bearing, and higher for Chispa, who is further behind in her own rehab. I'll probably put the other dogs in as well, it'll be good for exercise, particularly when it's nasty out this upcoming winter. For now, I'm planning on leaving it set up in my garage indefinitely. It doesn't take up any usable space, really, and it's a heck of a lot better than driving anywhere.

Altogether, this cost me less than $1000. And, you know, if I do take it apart, I've got a couple of tanks that I can turn in to ponds, or flower pots or something…

Chispa works through Module 2 of MJSFF

A few days ago I posted with an update of Chispa's progress on Module 1 of Linda Mecklenburg's Mastering Jumping Skills: Foundation Flatwork. As the videos get approved by Linda for inclusion into each Module, they'll also appear there. But, while I'm waiting for that, I'll continue to include her progress in this blog. Below is our progress on Module 2.

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4

Happy Thanksgiving, Chispa

Training for the last month has been very sporadic with Chispa. I knew that it would be – between my travels around the country and the globe in October, and then USDAA Cynosport, and then Thanksgiving, I knew it wouldn't be until after Thanksgiving that any real training got underway again. OH, and, the TURF PROJECT. That took a lot more out of me than I thought it would, in terms of time and muscle and effort. It was oh so worth it, though…

11-22-2016-turf

All of the dogs think the turf is pretty extra special – I don't know if it is the turf itself, or if it is because **I** am excited to go out and train and practice on the surface, but all of the dogs are pretty amped up. Anna is here, as well, from Germany, and that certainly brings up the level of excitement out in the arena – I have a training partner!

With that additional excitement, as well as the long break in regular training, AND the change in surface underfoot, Chispa has lost her marbles. I'm so happy to see how excited she is to play, but I have had to take some HUGE steps back in how I approach working with her. Her running contact training, for example – while it was in the very early stages, there was SOME understanding of at least staying on the plank while heading toward the Treat & Train. When Anna and May are in the building? Nope. Recall? Nope.

And, since the surface is now turf and not just dirt, I am also keen to keep accidents from happening. So, dogs need to potty before going into the building. …And….Chispa couldn't even bring herself to do THAT yesterday, when we finally got down to some training.

So, stepping pretty far back. I gave up on a second round of training yesterday afternoon before we headed out to Thanksgiving dinner; she had to potty before going into the barn, and as she couldn't do anything other than bounce around and eat grass and try to make repeated breaks toward the building, she went back in her crate. The good news was that when we got home several hours later, and I suited up in my finest rain gear, and headed out to the potty area near the agility building, with Chispa on leash, I KNEW she would have to go. And, of course, she did.

Again this morning, she came out of her crate, went on leash, and we headed out toward the building, to potty FIRST, get rewarded, and THEN run into the building for a few minutes of distraction-free training. I anticipate that after I'm done with this post, and go out to do some more training with additional dogs in the mix, she will be similarly distracted. Come to think of it, maybe I'd better put her in her crate NOW in anticipation of trying to get her to do a pre-agility training pee….BRB

OK. Gotta be smart.

So, what *am* I working on with Chispa? I'm continuing to work on her running contacts – I haven't gone any further than the last video, because Anna and I discovered that she's basically incapable of doing anything on the plank when there is any chance of something happening in the arena (Anna moving around, May moving around). And, she can focus on me for a few moments at the far end of the arena, if Anna and May are running around, but after that she breaks off of me to go zooming over to check out Anna and May. She does come back, but obviously, not breaking off in the first place is critical.

So, for now, I'll be continuing to work on her running contacts, and her tunnel/threadle behavior, when I get the chance to take her out alone to the Agility Hall. But, when there are other dogs or people in the mix, I'm going to keep things very simple until Chispa is more comfortable focusing on me when she's really aroused and there is exciting motion going on. This is nothing surprising; just about every dog I've had goes through this, and who can blame them? I'm almost always alone in the barn, and while Chispa has had Frodo running around as a distraction, it's not the same as a NEW dog or ALL my dogs, and milling around is also not as exciting to her as purposeful movement.

Here's a snippet of what we did yesterday – basically, keep tugging when there are other dogs running around (food is not exciting enough right now but will be, I imagine, as she gets more used to this arousing environment), and do a couple of very simple tricks that she learned early on (remember high-fives?). I love how excited she is to play, and I don't want to tread too firmly on that, so I'll take it slow for now; I've got plenty going on anyway, working on some training with Frodo, finishing up the turf project, etc. But some things simply must happen – like pottying before training 🙂

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Last training before AWC with Chispa

This weekend Frodo and I will be off to Spain for the Agility World Championships. Tomorrow, Chispa heads off to stay with a friend during our absence. While I'm ok leaving the grown up dogs at the house in the care of the housesitter, puppies require more specific attention, and so, historically, puppies go to a friend's during international trips. I always panic just a little bit, thinking of all the time that will elapse while I'm gone, but it's not as if Chispa won't receive ANY training. And, who knows, maybe she'll learn a few tricks while I'm gone that I don't even know about? Easter eggs are always fun.

I'm going to admit I haven't done much NEW with Chispa in the past week or so, mostly because I'm sort of shifting focus to get in a mental space for AWC. It's not like preparing for a big event takes all my time; I'm not out training Frodo for hours and hours, but there seems to be a certain narrowing of focus that happens that makes it hard for me to focus on NEW puppy stuff.

I HAVE started Chispa's running contacts. Just the groundwork, and I'm pretty sure I already mentioned that in a previous post. It's slow work, just little bits each day, sometimes only a few minutes. I have to keep reminding myself that a few minutes here and there is all it takes, really, and plus, even though Chispa seems like an old soul in many ways, more than a few minutes on any one subject just seems to be a little too much, mentally, for either of us. So I have a short list of behaviors we're rolling through, currently, all out in the agility arena. Each session I look for a little bit more, a little bit of progress, in the following ways:

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A conditioning checkup with Bobbie Lyons

Last week, Chispa, Frodo, and I headed downtown to pay a visit to Bobbie Lyons, who teaches K9 Conditioning all over the world and right here in the classroom. She teaches a bunch of classes, some of which are registering today as I write this post. But that's a different topic, and if you're interested, you can check it out HERE.

Even though Chispa is active, and climbs and jumps all over basically everything, I did want to talk to Bobbie about conditioning activities that are specific to what Chispa is going to need to be able to do for jumping, and agility in general. Bobbie literally wrote the chapter on conditioning for jumping in Linda Mecklenburg's MASTERING JUMPING SKILLS book, and, if you didn't know already, I'm telling you – Linda's stuff is IT when it comes to jump training. It really is. I'm getting excited to teach Chispa jump training in just a few months, when she's old enough, but first, we have to start laying the foundation NOW for the conditioning required to start jump training!

Building and developing muscles takes time, AND Chispa is still very much a gumby puppy. So, for now, it's low numbers with regards to repetitions, as well as a few other recommendations…

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Circling a cone

Monday I got home after being away for Agility World Championships Team USA Team Practice, and the first thing I had to do was squeeze Chispa. She's so cute!! Of course she had other ideas, and wanted to play tug. With her bloody tug toys. As in, literally bloody, because she's been popping out teeth like a popcorn popper while I've been gone, and it hasn't slowed down her desire to tug at all. In fact, when she's got a tooth hanging, her favorite thing to do is to come to one of us for help. She will come running up, grab on to a hand if it's available, gnaw wildly on said hand until the tooth is out, and then look at the owner of said hand with a thankful look, and go on her way cheerfully.

Chispa 5.5 months old

Chispa 5.5 months old

After some play in the house, she came out to the agility arena to coursebuild with me for the week's classes and lessons (and my own training with Frodo). Such a good little girl, heeling loosely along for an occasional cookie, and we did a few puppy tunnels too. And then, when I was finished, we hung out in the sun for a little while so I could take some proper photos.

Last week, I picked up a behavior with Chispa that I had actually done a little bit of training on a few weeks ago, but in more earnest. Some of you will have seen the handout before, but it is ALWAYS good to review material, and it can also be good to consider looking at the SAME behavior taught differently by different trainers to different dogs. In this way, we can see for ourselves the things that all methods have in COMMON, and we can also see the small details that different trainers employ that are unique, and then decide for ourselves just how to best use the information we have for OUR puppies!

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Put your toys away – STEPS TWO THROUGH FOUR

Things got back on track fairly quickly with respect to Chispa coming when called. Today promises to be a scorcher, so I loaded up the dogs early, because I wanted to get a run in as well as a walk/swim. And, in preparation for working on Chispa's recall, I left some of the more high energy dogs at home (Axel, the terrier, always adds to the mix, and Juno, who just got spayed, is on crate rest in any case). Having “only” four dogs on the walk is our idea of lower energy.

Most of my puppy pictures look like this

Most of my puppy pictures look like this

Also, I took fewer dogs today because I'm back on the wagon. The running wagon. Well, the shuffling wagon, more like. But since Chispa has only seen me running in very calculated situations (as in, short bursts of me running away so she can catch me, when I know she WON'T, because I don't want to get bitten), I wasn't too sure how Chispa seeing me jogging along was going to work.

I only got springboarded a few times. For the most part, we made forward progress! And then, during my cooldown, I managed to get some better pictures…

 

Before heading out to build courses for what will likely be my last UKI show for a while, I wanted to finish up the PUT YOUR TOYS AWAY trick that I started a few days ago. At first, when I went to do steps 2-4, I thought, “gee, this is going WAY too smoothly, Chispa is a genius!” And then, I realized, yes, she's smart, and I certainly think the world of her, but really, this trick was more a matter of putting together pieces than anything else, so it's only natural that they should come together rather organically. I didn't include a handout back with step one, because I wanted to post the COMPLETED trick. I didn't think it would only take three training sessions to teach! The videos that accompany the trick are ALL of the training sessions I've done on this trick, save ONE short session that I did yesterday – which I halted pretty quickly because I didn't want the videos I did post to show a FINISHED trick with no rough edges, and I didn't have the camera rolling. And of course, now that I've typed how quickly THIS trick was to teach, the NEXT one is sure to take 10x as long 🙂

So…

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Oh, it’s THAT time…

Chispa has been growing adult teeth for the past couple of weeks. Well, I guess technically, she's been growing them longer than that, but now they are coming THROUGH. I always wonder if it's better or worse, cutting sharp dog teeth, or dull human teeth. I have to think that cutting SHARP teeth is better than cutting, say, a molar.

In any case, it's been interesting to note the changes in her behavior as those teeth have come in, particularly on our morning walks at the trails near my house. Most mornings, all six dogs get piled in to the van for the 3-4 minute drive to the ponds, for a 45 minute or so off leash walk. They also get to swim during this walk, making it a great bit of morning exercise for all of us. Up until recently, Chispa has hung out pretty close to me, and of course that got reinforced heavily. I rarely recalled her, but when she was already running at me, I would call her name, and then reinforce her with a cookie as she got to me. And then typically, she would hang out for more.

Recently, though, a few changes have happened.

One of them is that now, when she sees the other dogs running back down the trail in her direction, she does the classic Border Collie clap to the ground to stalk them. All of my border collies have done this at SOME point. None of them have done it as little puppies, but they all do it at some point. Usually, I've waited til that point to bother with teaching a formal down; after all, why bother teaching it when I know they'll offer it at some point? I have started teaching Chispa a down, by the way. But it's only recently that she's started offering up that particular behavior on the trail, stalking the other dogs.

Chispa is also ranging a bit further down the trail, choosing to run hard with the pack a bit longer before coming back to me, IF she comes back. Again, there's no problem with this, it's just something I've observed. But, I have also noticed that when she does come back, her mind is still on the pack of dogs up ahead. She doesn't come all the way in as readily, and she's wanting to do drive-bys where she grabs for the cookies and goes, instead of a nice stop for the cookie, and maybe hanging out to see if I've got MORE.

Also, this morning, I made the mistake of….reaching. Oh boy. I reached, and she danced OUT of reach. Ooops. OK, I know what I need to do now!

It's back to THE COLLAR GRAB GAME for us!

After that first mistake of mine, I was careful to give her multiple cookies when she came in. She'd come in, and as she was eating the first cookie, I'd put my hand in her collar. Then with my hand in her collar, I'd give her ANOTHER cookie. And then, I'd let her go off with a “go go go!” (no reason to not train that cue at the same time, right?). Pretty soon, she was coming in all the way again, AND, even coming in when I REACHED for her a bit, to come in to that hand with her collar and get a treat from my other hand. Phew! I just need to remember to shore that one up a bit; I'd been coasting because she's been such a good good girl.

Of course, toward the end of our walk, Chispa and Solar found some food that had been left by some campers, and when I called Chispa…nope. She knew the game. So I first said “go go go!” loudly, which made all the other dogs explode down the trail, in the hopes that she'd drop whatever it was she had (a bone? toast? I have no idea) as she chased them. She chased them alright, but did not drop what she had.

Then I called her, holding out some treats. She came, but not close enough to let me reach for her or even give her a treat. Sigh. Whatever she had was good.

Finally, I sent all the big dogs down the trail again, and I ran after them, hollering excitedly. Finally, Chispa came tearing down the trail after us, without whatever she had in her mouth. Maybe she dropped it. Maybe she ate it. I hope if she ate it she chewed it. Needless to say, I'll be keeping an eye on her to make sure she's OK. And, I probably need better cookies than Charlee Bears for a little while, if she's going to be putting stuff in her mouth on the trail (ANOTHER behavior that had gone away but is now back along with the emergence of her adult teeth).

Back at home…

Around the house, things have regressed a bit as well, and I've had to go back to working on some of the behaviors that we worked on when she was younger. Biting feet has come back. So, I sit at the kitchen table with my toes curled under most of the time now. And, I make sure to have at toy on hand or nearby. And, there are rawhide bones EVERYwhere for her to chew on, because I'm sure that those teeth coming in are a distraction for her.

It's no big deal, really. She's not being naughty, or willful, or any of that stuff. She's just got teeth popping out, and teeth coming in, and she's growing and learning that she DOES have choices, more choices than she thought. And so I need to be one step ahead, to remind her of the choices where I can pay her handsomely.

Along with her newfound bravery and exploration, she's started swimming more and more. She's a great swimmer, and much to my pleasure, does not snap at or take on water like Jester and Solar tend to do. She just cruises around like a newt in the water. I may have written about that before, I can't remember.

This is pretty rambling, no pictures or anything! I'm working on step two of PUT YOUR TOYS AWAY, and will be posting video of that either later today or tomorrow. And then, that behavior will lead to another behavior and on and on and on!

I imagine some of you out there have puppies who are at a stage similar to Chispa, exploring some new found free will and independence.

My daily reminder is to enjoy watching her continue to explore her world. To dial back my expectations and roll back to those behaviors I worked on at the BEGINNING, to shore them up. I don't really WANT a dog that is constantly underfoot. I want a dog that is brave enough to explore her world, make decisions, assess situations, and ultimately, work with me as a teammate solving problems – whether it's herding, agility, obedience, or hiking. So, as the parental figure, I want to continue to promote that, safely, while at the same time maintaining those behaviors that I need (checking in, coming when called, not biting my ankles…).

Now, it's off to order more socks that DON'T have holes in them from puppy teeth!

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Slowtime Summer Sunday

I'm still recovering a bit from the European Open trip to France with Frodo. Predictably, I caught a summer cold (it was my birthday this week too, so that was a nice gift). I was planning on heading to a local AKC trial this weekend, but (luckily, as it turns out) I forgot to enter in time, and so this weekend I had a chance to do laundry, be a little lazy, and enjoy some leisure time. Yesterday, I filmed a bunch of stuff with Chispa, only to discover that the lock switch was on on the SD card I was using. So…I filmed… exactly nothing. Such is the way sometimes with technology.

This afternoon, I set out to film again. Thankfully, this time, success! So, now I'm sitting on the couch in my living room, editing video on my laptop, or trying, and working on this post.

Chispa distracting me from writing about her

Chispa distracting me from writing about her

Chispa likes to be up on things. She likes to perch on the back of the couch, and the back of the adjacent chair. She doesn't seem to mind being on unsteady or unstable surfaces, and for the most part, seems pretty undisturbed by anything. So, it was with interest that I watched her take note of the fan in the doorway as I was sitting down to write this post. Normally, I leave the front door open, with a fan, blowing cool air in from outside (there's an expen to keep the dogs away from the door and the fan).

The fan itself has never bothered Chispa, but it's off right now, and the wind occasionally catches the blades so that they rotate lazily. Chispa noticed, and didn't seem all that keen on the movement. Nothing big, but I enjoyed watching her puzzle over it. She has rarely shown any fear or trepidation about anything – not to say it won't happen, but when it does, it's interesting to watch her think about it for a bit and then ultimately shrug her shoulders and move on. She moved on…

She's officially cutting teeth now, so chewing is a little bit higher on the list of priorities. Thankfully she's not chewing on ME so much any more, although she still likes to grab my ankles with her feet and follow me around with a toy in her mouth. I think it's cute, and what harm could come of it? Famous last words…

Our training sessions are getting a little bit longer lately – she seems to want to keep playing, and with some of the behaviors, like the one I've included today, are varied enough that we CAN keep playing. But, it's important to note that when a training session goes a little longer than the recommended 2-3 minutes, it's not because I'm trying to accomplish anything. Rather, it's because we were both having fun and lost track of time. I still always want to stop while we're both wanting more! Today, I made sure that I used a small bowl to hold the treats for the training session, and when they were out, that was the end of the session. At least, the session on THAT particular behavior. I did switch gears, get more treats, and work for a few more minutes on ANOTHER behavior, that I'll post tomorrow.

As Chispa is getting bigger, and has a lot of energy, she's getting regular meals out of a bowl at mealtimes now, AND getting a lot of treats. Sometimes the treats are kibble, but mostly I use treats called Charlee Bears. I have no idea why my dogs like them; they're the most boring treats ever. I've tasted them. Booooring. But they all seem to love them, and I've got a 3 gallon bucket full of them, in preparation for all of the training I'm doing with Chispa. They aren't super visible on a light colored floor, so I have to make sure that she can clearly see where I'm tossing them (and if you can't see the treats I'm tossing in my training videos, that's why – they're light!). They're perfect for the dark floor of the arena, though, and work sufficiently well in the training area upstairs in the house. AND, they're low calorie. So, I can use a LOT of treats and still be assured that there's some calorie control. Aaahhh, calorie control. Could somebody please ration MY calories for me?

As Chispa gets older, I'll be revisiting the behaviors I've already posted, giving a status update, in addition to the new behaviors she's learning. If you're in the puppy group, you should do the same, in the discussion forum!

Here's today's learning:

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Reconnecting with Chispa

I got home from the European Open late Tuesday evening, so Chispa didn't make it back to the household until Wednesday morning. She grew! And, oh, I was so happy to see her. She seemed especially happy to see me, which made me feel great, but I'm guessing she greets just about everybody with a similar zest, so it's possible she was just responding to MY especially effusive greetings.

Chispa 4.5 months

Chispa 4.5 months. She is bigger than Axel now!

While I was in France, at the European Open, I got to see FIVE of her littermates, all in tow with people either competing or visiting to spectate. They are all cool little creatures. I also got to see FOUR half siblings, either from her mom or her dad, in the ring competing. I am so excited about this little puppy; there's a strong belief within me that she is great, and that she will continue to be great. The only limit will be ME. Without that faith, without that belief, our dogs are DEFINITELY limited. With that belief, their potential for greatness isn't limitless, but certainly, it's greatly expanded.

Linda Mecklenburg Quote

So, I think my puppy is amazing. I'm pretty sure my skills as a trainer are up to snuff. Now what? Chispa seems very game to play, and I am totally in love with her – but this was not the case for me with Frodo, and so I'm well aware that it's not THIS easy for everybody with their puppy. Not everybody's puppy is latched on to them immediately. Frodo, for example, curled up in a corner and wanted to hide when I first started trying to clicker train him. NOW, he's fine. And NOW, I can look back and say that probably if I was less close to the whole thing, I could have more quickly found a way to speak his language. But at the time? It was not what I would call fun. It was more of a thing I knew needed to happen, and through the process of the training, eventually, we found a way to connect. But that connection was not there from the start.

So, if it seems like I'm gushing and bragging about Chispa, I promise you, part of it is that I've been there, with a puppy I don't really feel connected with, and it DOES work out, for the most part. And I'm even more grateful for Chispa because of it. The REAL trick will be to stay open, and greatful, when the NEXT puppy comes along that I don't have an instant bond with – because it's bound to happen again.

Chispa is 4.5 months old now, and while I was away in France, she popped out most of her front teeth, to be replaced with the most ridiculously large adult teeth. You know, that look kids have, when they're rail thin and have HUGE brand new sparkly teeth?

Big, shiny, new TEETH. Just need to grow in to them now!

Big, shiny, new TEETH. Just need to grow in to them now!

Yep, that's Chispa. This morning, on our walk, of her own volition, she got in the pond and started swimming. I didn't even realize she'd gone in; she was ahead of me on the trail, and I didn't hear a sploosh or anything. Just, there she was, swimming by herself. We kept going down the trail til we got to the dock, and she hopped in again, milling around with all the dogs that were with us.

She swam and swam and swam. And, much to my delight, she did not swim and swallow water, the way Solar and Jester like to do. And now, she is SLEEPING, giving me some time to catch up on this blog, and other much needed items on the to-do list.

Anyway, what's next on my list? Now, things are going to start to get even more fun, because now, I'm going to start in on tricks. Fun tricks. Tricks that require a lot of microfailures. Try, try again. Have fun. Try, reward. Try, no reward. Lots of encouragement. Get your body and your brain to do some neat things. Solar learned a ton of tricks as a puppy. I didn't polish a lot of them, but they were fun to try and train, and definitely set the stage for teamwork in the future.

So, get ready, because the next few weeks, while I continue with the day to day life skills behaviors, it's also going to be TRICK TIME! Tricks for thinking, tricks for moving her body, tricks to make us both laugh…it's back to chicken camp, Chispa, and guess who is the chicken? Wait, don't answer that…

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Paid subscribers get access to details on the training Daisy is doing with Chispa, as well as access to handouts, videos, and a discussion forum where a group of select (non-BC) puppy owners are working alongside Daisy with their puppies!

 

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