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Monkey See, Monkey Do: Wave & Shake

Chispa swam a little bit more today at the ponds, this time after a thrown stick. No, I don't throw sticks for my dogs! I just tossed it out on the water so she could swim out after it. I did work on having her carry a short stick at several points on our walk this morning; although she's getting less mouthy, she still likes to run and JUMP up at me, and her darned puppy teeth invariably catch on my skirt or shorts and then get snagged, and then my bottoms start coming off, and I hear ripping, and, well, it's just not something I'm interested in encouraging. Something else in the mouth seems preferable.

At one point, at another of the several ponds on our walk, I got all the dogs on the shore, Chispa included, and then with a “ready, steady, GO”, they all jumped in. Sometimes, in the flurry of excitement, the hesitant dog will get caught up and jump in as well. But, Chispa was not caught up in the flurry of excitement, and remained on the shore. I wasn't too disappointed, because it was actually nice to see that she didn't lose her marbles when things got exciting.

Ready, steady, SWIM

Ready, steady, SWIM

People have these things called mirror neurons, which are pretty interesting, and as far as we can tell, unique to primates.  Birds supposedly have a similar system, and there HAS been some research and speculation about whether dogs have mirror neurons as well, which would explain their ability to be so tuned in to our emotions and actions. Certainly, anecdotally, I've seen plenty of monkey see, monkey do around my house, and my guess is that most of you readers could say the same.

Anyway, today's trick is one that I actually started at the show last weekend. Chispa came out at intervals to hang out near the rings, get some attention, and a lot of cookies. She's pretty well nailed down the “sit for a cookie” behavior, and, when I don't pay up, it has turned in to the “I will sit for a cookie and if you don't reward me I will jump up and punch you in the thigh, and when you turn to look at me I will be in a very cute sit again” behavior. And of course, I reward it every time. Hooray!

Anyway, since she nailed that behavior, and I was tired of getting thigh punched, I decided it was time to work on another easy behavior. Easy in the sense that it was something I could do with her ringside, would pay out nicely, capitalized on behaviors she already knew how to offer, and was cute.

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The two toy game – adding motion

Before I go on with the newer behaviors that I started working on with Chispa over the weekend (at the show, ringside, because I wanted to do something other than just feed her for being cute…), I want to finish up with the Two Toy Game. Obviously I'll continue to work on it, but this last step of three is really all that is required to continue building up a nice retrieve. Of course, having said that, my dogs are not retrieving champs by any stretch of the imagination – they have functional retrieves. Meaning to say, they'll bring back a toy, often through a crowd of staring border collies, and drop it nearby. And, during training, they'll bring back a toy to play with whatever OTHER toy I might have, or, continue playing with ME with the same toy.

Homemade Tug Toys

Homemade Tug Toys

I'm pretty sure I've already mentioned that I don't do a lot of toy/ball throwing – playing fetch has just never seemed to me to be an efficient use of my time with my dogs. If they need exercise, we ALL walk, off leash if possible, and over varied terrain whenever possible. If they need mental stimulation, we play games together that don't require a lot of space, or they play with food puzzles. And, of course, we do some agility. And, all too often, I see clients at workshops and seminars who have border collies who have learned to not come inside that magic “she's gonna throw the ball” radius, and when I ask, “do you play a lot of fetch with your dog?” the answer is invariably yes 🙂

In any case, here it is, adding motion to that beginning retrieve!

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3

Slowtime Summer

While there are 2-3 items I have on my list of things to do this week with respect to posting actual TRAINING to the blog, today was just a fun day. After a long morning of talking to various mortgage lenders about refinancing the house, I found I was kind of mentally and emotionally wiped out. So, an afternoon walk in the woods seemed like something mindless yet productive. Off we went.

I'm so fortunate to live just a few minutes away from some glorious trails, including ponds that the dogs can swim in. They're fishing ponds, which means that the hotter the weather, the less likely the fish are biting, and the more likely the dogs can swim without interrupting somebody else seeking solitude as well. I don't get a chance to walk every day, although with a little effort I could, and should be out there every day that I'm home. Even so, a walk in the woods is always so nice.

And…ever goal oriented, I figured it would be an opportunity for Chispa to work on thinking about swimming, maybe. Of course some of her littermates have already been in the water, so I figured, must keep up with the Joneses, right?

Chispa is brave about many things, but about water, she is not so sure. In the past, I've taken the heave-ho approach, which is to say I just toss a puppy in, provided I think they're brave enough to handle it and they seem to WANT to go in. That first step is the hardest, right? But, you know, I didn't really feel like it this time. No need to be overbearing, just let her go in at her own pace. Baby steps. Of course, I had incentive – treats that float!

It's a small tragedy that I filmed vertically rather than horizontally with my phone. The puppy cuteness will make up for it, right?

Chispa after swimming, 7-11-16

Chispa after swimming, 7-11-16

Chispa got in after some convincing, but she was not thrilled about being wet. It was pretty cute, she kept squatting like she thought she had to pee, because water was dribbling off of her lady bits. She only swam for a few seconds longer than the video above captured. Like just about everything she does, it was not without at least some forethought. She's lively, and vivacious, just like her name (Chispa means “sparky, lively, vivacious” in Spanish), but she's not careless, really, and seems to have a lot of good German logic about her as well. It took a little bit of build up before she decided to wade in and swim after the cookies that were floating just out of reach.

What just happened?!

What just happened?!

When she was finished with her tiny swim, she had to back up and sit down for a moment to think about what had just happened. Then she tore around and rolled a bit, squat, roll, squat, roll. It was pretty funny.

Again, like a doofus, I filmed vertical. But again, who cares, because…puppy!

She was a little square, and now, she's a little rectangle!

It's funny how sometimes I don't think she's grown at all, and then, there are moments, like today, where I realize, she's really getting BIGGER. And right now, her rear end doesn't quite match the front end. But, oh my goodness, I am smitten with Chispa. She is so right up my alley, and I am enjoying her so much. She probably won't learn oodles of tricks; it's just not something I have time for at this point in my life. But she IS learning, bit by bit, and it's at a pretty enjoyable pace for the both of us. And she's just so much darned FUN. Her name fits her perfectly.

Nothing but puppy gushing for today; tomorrow it'll be back to “real” training. But as far as developing the dance, the dance the two of us will do as a team in and out of the ring, even slowtime summer days like today are “real” training. No need to worry about accomplishing this or that trick or behavior each day. It's not a job, it's not a “must do”, it's just fun, enjoyment, and relaxation. Chispa has far more freedom than any of my other puppies have ever had, and guess what? She's doing just fine. Instead of me constantly trying to solicit HER attention, it's the other way around – she solicits MY attention. And when I do need a snuggle and she's too busy to settle in to it (which is always), I hold her just long enough for her to give me a kiss and a lick, and then I put her down and she's off again. And even THIS is “real” training, because over the past few days, guess who is settling in to do a lot more licking and kissing and snuggling? Yep.

Now hey there, Chispa, quit chewing on my laptop! Reverie over…

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Beginning rear foot targeting and another trick

If it seems like a lot of the things I'm doing are small and simple, well….they ARE. It's not my goal here to provide a how to all at once, for any one behavior; that's just not how training works at the moment. I tackle a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and there is a LOT of assembly going on. What do I mean by that? Well, there is a lot of training going on, but at the moment none of it really yields a finished product with respect to behavior. I work on things that don't always seem like they have any importance in the grand scheme of things. But, there are a lot of pieces that are required to be assembled before I can even think about more grandiose behaviors. AND, a lot of the time, if I concentrate on those pieces, the larger behaviors, some of them at least, seem to magically just happen.

Of course it's not MAGIC. It's splitting things down in to manageable chunks, and approaching each of those little tasks with a curiosity and sense of inquiry that promotes more and more learning and enjoyment on the part of both dog and human alike.

For today, there are TWO items, beginning rear foot targeting and a trick. Premium members, read on…

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Chispa Meets The Manners Minder

The Manners Minder has long been a staple of my training – in fact, I literally wrote the book on using it for agility training. Yep.

An eBook I wrote for Clean Run

An eBook I wrote for Clean Run

Today was Chispa's VERY first interaction with the Manners Minder (Treat & Train, same thing), and I must say, I'm thrilled, yet again, with how she IMMEDIATELY acted as though it was old hat. I love this puppy, have I mentioned that?

Now, of course, not every puppy or dog is going to approach this highly novel situation with the same zeal as Chispa. Trust me, I speak from personal experience here (Frodo, thank you yet again, for providing perspective). So, as with everything, this introduction is very much on the PUPPY'S timeline, and not mine. I have months and months and months until I would really like my young dog to be excited about the Manners Minder/TNT, so right now, we have all the time in the world.

And, well, really, we ALWAYS have all the time in the world, right? No need to rush, no need to accomplish more than one or maybe two things a day. And, by accomplish, I simply mean, set OUT to do something each day. Right along with the “10 treats to loose leash walking” idea, just doing one little thing, and calling it good. On the one hand, I feel like I'm doing NOTHING with Chispa. If you're reading this blog series hoping to get the secrets of how to sequence with your puppy by the time it's four months old, you are in the WRONG PLACE. Nope, not here. But, even so, there is absolutely a part of me that is still a little anxious that OMG I haven't done 50 tricks with Chispa by the time she has been with me for a week. That voice is a small one though, and I recognize it for the insecurity that it is, and I spend a little time reflecting on how I'm pretty sure it will be juuuuuust fine. 

For those of you reading this with your own puppy, take a deep breath, and remind yourself the same. It'll be juuuuust fine. Your puppy, if it's to be a performance partner, can and should be brought up with that in mind, but instead of taking the Little League approach, try taking the approach that your puppy is going to be a performance superstar and never even know it was happening, your early and ongoing coaching. We ALL know that person, who has a dog, who is AMAZING, and NOBODY can say WHY. That person who is a first time puppy owner, who knew nothing about all the must-dos of puppy raising, and yet…there they go, totally in sync with each other on course and totally a bonded pair off the course too. That person did do SOMEthing right, a great many things, but they can't tell you what those things WERE. Good clay, a good starting material, probably did play a role. But also, even if that person didn't know WHAT they were doing, the HOW of what they did was the magic maker. And, in order to REPEAT that with a variety of dogs, I do think that being able to put your finger on the how, as well as the what, is important. Being able to document a thing goes a long way toward being able to repeat it. That's the chemist in me talking, but this is a pretty grand experiment, isn't it, this puppy business?

Enough with the philosophy already! Bring on the TRAINING.

Introducing your puppy to the Manners Minder

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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!

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…

THE HANDOUT (PDF)

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

THE VIDEO

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…

THE HANDOUT (PDF)

THE VIDEO

 

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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!