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Just ten treats

Some time ago, one of my students spoke to me about her plan to teach her highly athletic, high prey drive, driven standard poodle. She wrote a blog post about it around the same time, and you can read it HERE. I loved the idea behind it. Of course, the idea of keeping training sessions short is well known to me, and on the whole, I tend to keep my sessions pretty short, a few minutes or so. But there are also plenty of times when I get obsessed on FINISHING a behavior, or ACCOMPLISHING something by the end of a session, and then the session drags on, or I start to feel pressure to MOVE on this or that behavior.

Diana's idea was that while she had no desire to spend oodles of time teaching her dog to walk on a loose leash, she could commit to just TEN TREATS a day (not per session, per DAY), for a whole year, and see where it got her. It's June now, and she started this program of ten treats a day spent on loose leash walking in January. Far short of a year, and her dog is already walking on a loose leash most of the time, ignoring the squirrels he used to lunge after while on leash, AND walking on a loose leash even at agility trials, until it's time to go to the line. That's PROGRESS! Even better, progress without a huge commitment 🙂

So, the whole ten treats a day thing has stuck with me for some reason. I love the idea of spending X treats a day on a behavior and then done. Even with the crate – 10 treats a day for waiting to come out of the crate, and then the rest of the time, eh. Pick any behavior, really. Some behaviors become a constant battle, particularly loose leash walking. Ten treats a day.

Chispa is getting more than ten treats a day, for sure. But she's also learning more than one behavior. I'm keeping the ten treats a day idea in mind, though, and have adapted it it to “ten treats at a time.” Meaning, I'm going to try hard to not spend more than ten treats on ANY one thing at a time. There is so much for Chispa and I to learn at this point, that it doesn't seem wise to spend more than a minimal amount of time or treats on any one behavior before moving to the next. In this fashion, I hope to keep some semblance of balance between ALL of the many things we might be working on at any one time. Ten treats, and move on. Maybe LESS than ten treats, but don't go down the rabbit hole of twenty, thirty, forty treats on ONE behavior. Chispa won't get bored, I won't get bored, AND I won't be as likely to get swept up in the “must accomplish this NOW” mindset. It's a process.

No “formal” training today for the blog. Chispa and I worked on food bowl manners and offering to go in her crate at the same time this morning for breakfast; she offered to go in her crate when she saw I had a bowl of food, and so I figured I'd reward it with a few kibble. Then, I just started playing the food bowl game right there with her, just two or three times of me asking her to sit briefly before I put the bowl down to let her finish. Then some running around, tugging, playing, then a nap while I built fences around the garden. Then more running around and tugging and playing, and then she came outside with me to pick raspberries, and learned how to pick them off the lower vines all by herself 🙂


How Chispa Got To The USA (importing a puppy)

Chispa in her sherpa bag, waiting for a cookie

Chispa in her sherpa bag, waiting for a cookie

I've had several people ask me about the process of importing Chispa here to the USA. The Centers for Disease Control has stated HERE that in order for a dog to be imported into the USA as a pet, meaning, not intended for resale or commercial purposes, the following must be true:

  • The puppy has to have been vaccinated for rabies at least 30-days prior to arrival in the USA OR
  • The puppy has to have lived for a minimum of six months or since birth in a rabies free country.

If your puppy isn't from a rabies free country, then this means you have to WAIT until the puppy is old enough for a rabies vaccine, PLUS an additional 30-days. In Chispa's case, she came from Germany, which is on the list of rabies free countries, and travelled through The Netherlands (also on the list), and departed from AMS airport, in The Netherlands. So, all good from that perspective.

Of course, if you read the FAQ HEREyou'll see a lot of “mights” and “mays”. Basically, this means that if you are in a bad mood, or if the Customs and Border Patrol officer is in a bad mood, or inclined to show his/her authority, you may still have difficulty bringing your puppy in once you've arrived at your USA destination. In MY case, the border patrol officer, despite being shown printouts of all of the laws and regulations, which I'd printed out for just this reason, didn't understand the meaning of the regulations he was supposed to uphold, and put his foot down on making me sign a dog confinement agreement. Of course HE said it was for the good of MY puppy, that the government didn't want my puppy to die from exposure to rabies carried by a USA animal, but, sorry, that's hogwash. The confinement agreement is CLEARLY intended to protect USA animals from outside sources (and since when has the government cared about MY puppy over protecting its own interests? Right, guys).

So, I signed a confinement agreement. And after about 12 hours in a sherpa bag, Chispa desperately needed to get out and potty and poop (yep, she held it ALL that time). You can draw your own conclusions.

All in all, bringing Chispa home was really not any more eventful than bringing a puppy home from any location. Then again, I've traveled overseas with dogs over a dozen times, maybe getting close to TWO dozen now, and so although there's always SOME sort of drama associated with the bureaucracy that needs to exert its will with the paper stamping business, I'm pretty comfortable with the process as a whole. The rules are pretty clear, but like anything, it comes down to knowing your rights, knowing your responsibilities, being cordial to those who hold the pen/stamp/power, and hoping that they're having a good day themselves.

Of course, that's just the paperwork/legal side of things. What about the trip?

Chispa had never been in a crate or a sherpa bag prior to me getting her, so I booked the flight home such that we'd have 48 hours before needing to get on a plane. This gave her some time to bond with me, get over the trauma of leaving her litter, and also gave me some time to work on getting her comfortable in her sherpa. I made sure to have some pee pads with me for the trip, and you can see one on the floor of her bag in the picture above.

On the evening prior to the morning of the flight, she had her last drink of water and her last bite to eat. She'd get some treats during the flight, but I wanted to make sure her bladder was empty. Yes, it's a long time for a little puppy to go without food or water, but a healthy puppy can stand that if it's a one-time thing. Shoot, probably lots of wild dogs/coyotes/wolves as puppies go far longer without food or water and are just fine. In any case. I made sure I had a little bullystick for her to chew on in her crate, and a little puppy kong, and some cream cheese to stuff in it. And, the day prior to the flight, Anna and Chispa and I walked around Enschede, Netherlands, Chispa in her Sherpa, getting used to the jostling. She seemed happy to look out at the world from the bag as long as she was on my shoulder and as long as I was moving. We took her to a restaurant for dinner the evening prior to the flight, and she sat in her bag quietly under the table while Anna and I ate, and while I waited for a phone call from USA Team Coach Nancy Gyes (hoping for that call, which I GOT!!)…the call that every team member hopeful anxiously waits for.

The hardest part of the trip really was the END. Chispa had to be in the bag, while I got antsier and antsier, standing in line for passport control. I knew she had to pee and poop. And I knew she'd fuss if I was standing still. And sure enough that's what happened. And the line took FOREVER. Double forever. And the CBP Officer, as expected, didn't understand the regulations, even though I showed him page after page after page. So I had to sign a confinement agreement. And now she is here with me, and although she seems to want to chomp on EVERYTHING, she clearly does not have rabies, is at no risk for communicating rabies, and is incredibly unlikely to CONTRACT rabies. All's well that ends well 🙂

Getting it right

Yesterday I sent an email out to my email list, letting people know about my plans for this particular blog series, and the response was overwhelming. So many of you, like me, wanted to make sure you “got it right this time.” There was a lot of anxiety, worry, and stress communicated. Fear that we would mess up our puppies. Anxiety that we would misstep and not realize it until the “bad” behavior was ingrained and couldn't be fixed. Are we using the right food? The right toys? Is the puppy in her crate enough? Out of her crate enough? So many sources for worry. So many chances passed by to just ENJOY our puppies.

OK, so, sure, some guidance is great. Having checklists and protocols is great. AND, I intend to provide those, right here in this blog. I have the first two all ready to go, in fact. But before I start posting actual TRAINING stuff, getting people all worried about timelines, deadlines, closing windows, missed opportunities, and the like, I just want to say….STOP. Take a deep breath. Look at your puppy, and smile. It's gonna be ok. I just did that, and this is what I saw:

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty

There's a LOT to be covered, to be sure. But  there are only so many training minutes in each day, and there is only so much room for food in her tummy, and so much energy for playing. So all of these things take time, and how to SPEND that time is more important really than the end result. I can be exhausted and stressed and breathe a sigh of relief when finally SOME sign that I DID IT comes my way, or I can just enjoy each moment as it rolls by, try to keep track of what I've done so far so I don't duplicate my efforts, jot down some sloppy lists on a piece of mail (which is what I'm working off of right now…), and try to avoid worrying too much.

So what is the point of this blog series?

Excellent question. There are a few reasons why I want to do this, and I'll try to outline them briefly without turning this in to a novel.

  • I want to document my progress with Chispa for my own reasons. My TRAINING progress.
  • I want to strike a balance between the mechanical process of training, the cognitive processes of learning (on both our parts), and the emotional and psychological aspects of our relationship
  • I'm tired of seeing everybody stress out about missing out on this or that with their dog or puppy. I want to provide a “safe haven” of sorts where I, along with a group of a few selected people who have puppies of breeds different from my own, can experiment, teach, learn, and love on our puppies. Maybe not all at the same pace, or in the same way, but hopefully, under the same umbrella with respect to a relaxed, caring, loving point of view. Let's be brave, dare to experiment and maybe fail, and get up and keep going with our puppies.
  • My own time is limited. I have one dog that I am preparing, along with myself, for the big one… the World Championships, held this Fall in Spain. I have a puppy, who I am already totally head over heels with. I want the time to explore and learn with both of them. I'll continue providing courses for small spaces for people to utlize to improve their own handling, but I want to try to strike a balance between paying my respects to the processes that need attention paid to them, and paying the bills (while still allowing readers to be able to do the same). It's a weird hypocritical feeling space for me; I hate that everything is costing money, but at the same time, I have to eat, and so do my dogs 🙂

Should you subscribe?

That's easy. Yes. You can subscribe for FREE, and you'll get notification of each and every post in this series. You'll at the very least be able to remind yourself to STOP, BREATHE DEEP, AND ENJOY. Because I will be reminding myself that daily. That doesn't come easily to me, unless I pay attention to it – like good posture, good eating habits, etc. So everything I write here, you can be assured is something I need to write down to remind MYSELF to do. You'll get a brief insight into just what I'm working on with Chispa.

Some of you may want a little more, and I sure hope some of you will join me.

For those of you who do, you'll get more detailed information into exactly WHAT I'm working on, even if it is a very brief post. Handouts, videos, photos…and a discussion forum where we can celebrate our successes, bemoan our setbacks, and revel in our puppies together. There will be a few people with puppies (not Border Collie puppies, we've already GOT one of those!) joining me on this endeavor, and I'll introduce them to everybody through this blog tomorrow. They'll be in the discussion forum along with me, and will be sharing their videos for more specific feedback from me, AND, I hope, they will be teaching ALL of us about the differences between breeds, and of course each individual puppy as a special little being!

A Taste from Today

For now, here's a preview of what you can expect from Developing the Dance (in addition to the philosophical content above…). These are just a couple of the things we're working on right now!

Follow The Food

Yep, it's just as simple as it sounds…


You can put this in what will be a growing collection of handouts over the course of this series.


Just a brief snippet of me working with Chispa (who is crying in her crate right now saying FINISH THIS ALREADY).

Beginning Name Recognition

These two behaviors are sort of part and parcel of the same thing…




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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!



Chispa and Daisy, meeting for the first time in Bavaria

Chispa and Daisy, meeting for the first time in Bavaria

Introducing…Chispa! Yep, I'm officially crazy. I went all the way to Germany to get a puppy. Wha? Aren't there hundreds of amazing puppies right here in the USA? Why, Daisy, why? Yes, there are perfectly good puppies right here in the USA. But, the internet has made the world smaller, and so when I found out about Chispa's litter, something just FELT right.

And so, last week, after being home for just one day after my trip with Frodo to the World Agility Open in the UK (which followed hot on the heels of the AKC Agility World Championships Team Tryouts), I got back on a plane, headed to Amsterdam, where I met up with my good friend Anna. Together, we drove all the way to Southern Germany, just a holler away from Austria, picked up little Chispa, and then drove all the way back to The Netherlands, where I caught a flight back home.

I'm totally in love with this puppy. I had only JUST started thinking about another puppy – I mean, after the journey Frodo and I have had to get to where we are now, we are at such an incredible place right now, why bother with a puppy? Also, what about Chipper? Ah…Chipper. I miss that boy. He lives with my ex-husband now, and is a wonderful companion to him. So, with Frodo about to turn four (next month), I started thinking.

And, just about as soon as I started thinking, it was as though the universe provided. I'd seen a half sibling to Chispa (same mother) last year in Brazil at the 2014 Americas Y Caribe, handled by a member of the AyC Germany Team. She was exceptional in her LACK of “flash”. There was no one thing that made me say WOW. Rather, she was fluid, efficient, looked at ease with the jumping, and just gave an overall impression of being an incredible teammate. Then, just a month or so later, I met ANOTHER half sibling (same mother) at the WAO in The Netherlands, again, competing for Team Germany. And again, it was the same thing. I never thought there was one single WOW thing. But overall? Wow. The dogs could quietly run a course and you'd never know how fast they were until you looked at the time, and just…wow. And then, yet another dog (same mother) floated to my attention having won a round at the European Open in the summer of 2015.

Does all of this ensure that Chispa will be a winner? Of course not. But there was just something about the ease with which these dogs were moving around the course that made me think, “here is a teammate who I would like to work with.” And so, when Anna contacted me and told me it was a long shot but MAYBE if I was interested she'd inquire, I said HECK YES.

First things first – attachment and bonding

It was such an easy decision, and also, such a BIG one. I spent a lot of time on the flight over to Amsterdam AND on the way back, and every moment in between (and still!) thinking a lot about bonding and attachment theory. If you're not familiar with the concepts of bonding and attachment theory, read up a bit. It's worth it, and while the research has been done mostly on children and struggling couples, it resonates for me with our canine partners as well. How would I ensure that right off the bat, I bonded with Chispa? Would there be a connection? Well, she's just a puppy, really, it's up to ME to have an open heart and to radiate a sense of “I will take care of you” to her. Obviously she doesn't understand English (or German!). So, I resolved to just BE open to that attachment. Don't look to see if she's THE ONE. Of course she is!

Resolved to make the attachment my first priority, I also wanted to take a page from current trends in bonding with newborn infants, which also comes from the studies on bonding and attachment theory. I wanted that puppy to be with me, TOUCHING me, as much as possible. So, during the full day drive from Bavaria back to Anna's apartment, Chispa was in contact with either me, or with Anna. AND, she slept with me on Anna's couch that first night, and the following night as well. Yep, I slept with my 8-week old puppy loose on the couch, curled up so she wouldn't fall off. Well, except for those couple of times she fell off. Oops.

On the drive home, she was in the lap of whoever wasn't driving. Sleeping soundly for the most part. Getting her first lessons on how to be a great traveler, while sleeping.

Travel essentials

Speaking of learning to be a great traveler…I knew that one of the great things about traveling GET Chispa was that she would be thrown in to travel right off the bat. Not in a forced way, just…she'd need to come along for the ride, and I'd need to be there for her. During that first day, when she was taken from the litter, she not only traveled by car for hours and hours, she also got to eat in a restaurant with Anna and me for lunch. She got to walk on grass, and gravel, and cobblestone streets. She got to go in to an underground parking lot. She got to be carried up stairs. She got to run and play on hard floors, and carpets, and she got to drink out of a variety of water dishes (food was all coming from the hand). Oh, and a BIG travel essential…yes, Chispa, I'm sorry, but you will need to poop and pee on leash, and sometimes in a tiny patch of dirt beside a busy street. No pressure, just…these are our options at the moment.

Between the time I had Chispa in hand, and the time she made it back home with me, she'd been in cars, on trains, buses, and planes. She'd been in my arms, in a Sherpa bag, and in a small crate. She'd played with her leash and with chew toys on the floor of the busy Amsterdam Airport, much to the delight of onlookers. She'd been petted and picked up by several different people, men and women alike. Good therapy for everybody. And, she slept most of the nearly 10 hour flight home. It was a lot of new input.

…more travel

One day after being home at the farm, Chispa was loaded up again, along with all the other dogs, to head to the PNW USDAA Regional. She got to play in a strange hotel room, meet friendly dogs, play with puppies her own age and size, and again, was handed off to at least a dozen different people. Oh, and poop and pee on leash.

Now we are FINALLY home for a while, and my list of things to work on is growing. BUT, there's time, time for all of it, and there's no rush. I keep telling myself that. Yeah, I'm a fairly goal oriented type-A person. But, first things first!

What's next?

Over the next few days, I'll publish my current to-do list of behaviors I'm working on, along with a bit of video and some downloadable handouts. I hope you'll join me as I continue to keep track of where Chispa and I are going together – I'll also be writing some more about the philosophy I'm going to be working hard to operate under, not just for the good of our relationship and our training, but for my own personal self-improvement and such.

The past year has been a real eye-opener for me in so many ways, some of them dog training related, some of them not. But, overall, I find I'm spending more and more time in somewhat unfamiliar territory with respect to being REALLY open to things, REALLY brave with respect to stepping into the ring (really and metaphorically speaking), and it's a nice space to be.

So…stay tuned!

Want to get notifications of new posts in this blog?

Subscribing below will sign you up to an email list to get notifications of new content only in this blog, and nothing else 🙂 You won't be able to see ALL of the content unless you are a paid subscriber.

Want access to ALL the content in this blog?

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!