Progress? Yeah!

How the time flies.

How is it that more than a month, like a month and a half, has passed since last I checked in here? Well, it has, and, in spite of the cold, and limited workouts, Hilda’s made real progress. I’m more confident than ever that we’ll make a guide dog of her; in fact, I’d say she’s really starting to do guide dog like things now, and more deliberately.

We’ve had a couple more trips in the car, and she’s pretty well gotten the idea that she’s supposed to lie down on the floor. She doesn’t always like it, and she whines about it, but mostly she’s staying down. She’s also walking better on leash, although she sort of doesn’t like walking behind the shopping cart. She wants to pull out ahead a little so she can see around the corner of the cart, I think. A couple things to work on, really…one, she still wants to sniff people inappropriately. That’s an improvement over wanting to jump on people inappropriately, and mostly people know she’s just friendly, but it’s a thing to work on. The other thing is slowing down indoors. She wants to rush, which means running into people. This, I think, will come with time and the taming of youthful enthusiasm.

There’s definite improvement in her in-house, off-leash behavior. While she still may try to run after a cat, she comes back readily when i call her. This would never happen, or rarely, just two months ago. Melanie’s aids have even noticed the improvement here.

There are a couple routes we walk fairly regularly, and that she guides on, or has, anyway. Now that she’s sort of been exposed to some of what she’ll be doing, we’re starting with short walks around some of the blocks close to home. Here are some things I’m noticing.

She definitely understands that I want her to stop at curbs. However, as we go, she forgets more often. She’ll stop at the first few perfectly, but as we walk more, she runs more of them. I think this is because, as Peter Putnam said in one or two of his books, curbs pose no natural danger to a dog. I’m sure stopping at them feels a bit arbitrary to them. Still, it seems to me that the time she’s consciously doing it is longer each time we go out.

Obstacle avoidance: I think she’s really got the idea that I’m following her, and that she has to take this into account. While it’s true that we’ve run into a couple things, like a very short fence and the ends of a car or two, here’s the thing. when I hit one of these obstacles, and then back up and re-approach, Hilda very deliberately will go around what I ran into, leaving me a lot of room when we approach again. Just to be sure this wasn’t a fluke, when it happened on a walk on Sunday, I passed the same car two or three times after running into it once, and she gave it a wide berth each time. In fact, there’s a bush at the corner right across the street from me. I walked into it this afternoon. Backed up and reworked it, and didn’t hit it the second time. This was something well over Hilda’s head, too. So either she’s generalized “Oh, if we back up, I just need to angle off to the left more next time” for everything, or she’s actually accounting for obstacles.

Traffic: I don’t expect much. Actually, I don’t expect much for anything just yet, but I’m getting a lot more than I expect anyway. Even with traffic. Sunday, we were at a corner, and there was a bus. It was stopped. After giving it a while and it didn’t move, we started to cross. When we got to where the bus was sitting, Hilda stopped, with the bus in front of us. She could have gone around the front, but she didn’t. Then, the bus started to move, and Hilda backed up a step. When it was out of our way, she proceeded across the rest of the street. Really, I don’t think traffic is going to be a huge problem. Mind you, we aren’t working on anything very busy at all yet, but I really think she’ll be fine once we’re ready for that.

She’s doing a very good job at turns, even curb to curb ones, even stopping when we hit the curb after turning the corner. She seems to do a pretty good job of staying on the sidewalks, and the couple times we got really off track (like…umm…crossing a street that I didn’t know we crossed, the street that we were supposed to be walking beside), I think that was more my fault than hers. Can’t explain what we did, but I think I know what it was. Because she did it perfectly when we went back and had a do over.

Now what I really need to do is set up some things. Like having people park their cars across the sidewalk, or across their driveways so we have to go around them. And follow people in the store so we can practice not running over people. And stairs…we really have to find some outdoor stairs. And crowds. And escalators, eventually. Lots of things. But she’s really doing nicely with a lot of really basic stuff.

Oh…and if anyone thinks Leno’s fast, Hilda is faster. I think we were jogging by the time we got home this afternoon. I think she’d definitely be one of those old school four miles an hour or so dogs! Maybe a little faster than I would naturally go, but I won’t complain, it’s probably good for me, and anyway, again, youthful enthusiasm.

This week, regression, progress

Regression and progress? You bet!

First, I observed last week, on Facebook after I posted, that the puppy class trainer is one of those “We don’t use the word ‘dominant’ in this class” people. Dominance theory/wolf pack theory has been scientifically disproved. Which just goes to show that anything can be misinterpreted, including the words “dominant”, “leadership”, “pack”, etc. etc. But enough of that. I have my own opinions on that. Anyway, we don’t use the rod “dominant” but “a bit of a bully” is OK? Seems to me that “dominant” would perhaps have been more accurate. Just sayin’.

Starting backwards and working back, I guess. Puppy class, we finally, finally, got teaching “Leave it”, which is, IMO, kind of important. I actually like the way we did that, as in, “Your dog should never get the thing which you’re telling/teaching him to leave alone”. So she doesn’t like the cookie on the nose thing, and “Wait” might be more appropriate for a “You don’t get that thing until I tell you”. Whereas, “Leave it” would be for gross, dangerous, or just off limits things that you don’t want pup getting the idea he may get eventually. I think the lightbulb is starting to go off on this for her, but we’re just starting with it. It involves two treats: one that the dog has to eventually ignore, and another to reward for ignoring. I wonder if it makes a difference if the treats are the same thing or not? I think I may experiment with that.

One thing, OK, another thing, we really need to work on is riding in the car. Hilda seems to be a bit anxious about it. She gets in OK, or doesn’t fuss about being put in. But as we start to move, she is very restless. She whines and won’t stay still, wanting to climb up into my lap, or else somewhere at any rate, which is sometimes my lap. I’m really not sure how to get her more comfortable with this, apart from just doing it…I mean…I can’t exactly just take her for a car ride, or do it the usual way with brief exposures and going up and down the driveway and all that whenever I like, can I? But this is kind of an important thing for eventually.

We’ve got a pretty reliable sit and a nearly as reliable down now, which is fantastic. She’s even coming back more often when I call her if I drop her leash. The formal “Come”, dog at my left and sitting, is coming along slowly but surely, and walking on a loose leash is coming along even more slowly. Once I get her good at walking on a loose leash, I can start to see about walking her with Leno, a thing which has, so far, been kind of a disastrophe.

The regression? That’s a thing which Melanie I think wanted to kill me over. Last week, I had to run an errand, so I put the Beast in the crate upstairs, where she sleeps. It was morning, she had chew toys but not the food ball, I don’t think, because she had eaten not very long before. (Anyway, that only seems to help for a little bit.) Long story interesting, i was gone about two hours. And apparently, Hilda made her displeasure known by barking. Loudly. Constantly. For the whole two hours. With only brief, as in a couple minutes, breaks occasionally. However, she apparently stopped when I was about five minutes from home. Some would say this is proof positive of the psychic connection between humans and their critters. I leave that bit of speculation to you. Later in the week though, I had another thing to do, and this appeared to have been less of an issue again.

BTW, for those keeping score, according to the scale at home, that is, weighing me by myself and then e carrying Hilda, she weighs about 33 pounds. Sharon’s Freida is a couple pounds heavier. But she’s growing steadily, looks like she gains five pounds every couple weeks. Fortunately, this will slow down. Some day. She’s definitely going to be bigger than Leno though, she’s catching up to him in height already.

A New Week, Progress, Thoughts

There’s not a whole lot to talk about in regard to training really. We’re going to start working on walking without pulling on the leash. As puppy class teacher says, a tedious process, but Hilda’s a quick study. Well, I really think that she learns like this. She won’t get something, quite. For a while. Then one day, it clicks.

With the crate and house accidents, there’s been a lot of improvement, though more tweaking is needed on my part. She actually had a #2 on Wednesday, but that was all on me, as usual. It was an off day with an off schedule. I’m not sure what to think of the Beast’s tidiness. She cleans up after herself. Whichever kind of elimination happens. It’s kind of gross. I’d never heard of pups licking up their own urine before, but this one does, if she does it in her crate and I don’t catch it. (Schlurp…schlurp…uh oh, I think she just went…) But there have been far fewer this week than last. I think there will be fewer yet once she decides not to hold onto her bladder. See, I think she’s going outside, starting to park, the second she gets a “Yes, good girl!”, she stops. Even if she’s not finished, but the pressure’s at least off, to her mind, and hey, she’s agood girl and gets a treat! Woohoo!!!! OK, so I’m thinking I need to hold off on the praise until after she gets up on her own, in spite of what all the experts say about “Catch her while she’s going and mark that”. We’ll see, but I think that’s what’s going on with that, anyway.

Poor Hilda wants to make friends with Melanie so badly. But she’s too exuberant, Melanie gets nervous, and no connection happens. We almost had a kind of disaster when Hilda got too close, with too much excitement, and pulled on an IV tube stuck in Melanie’s medport. Could have been a really really huge problem, but it fortunately was not. Other than that, it’s just been lots of jumping, friendly (though nervous making) mouthing…she’s really very friendly and just wants to make friends with everyone. She doesn’t really know quite how to do it on human terms though, so we need to work on that.

Also, yep, I guess she’s decided I belong to her. As in this excerpt from “Dogs Against Darkness”:

“Will she growl and bite? Is that what you mean?”
“Heavens no. It isn’t that she will dislike you. She will
just be indifferent. She won’t be interested in guiding you
because you don’t mean a thing in her young life. Win her
affection and then you will win her.”
It sounded like a large order to Morris. “How long will
that take?”
“That depends on you. But remember this always. She isn’t
your dog. She doesn’t belong to you. You belong to her!”

Friday night, I made a sort of late run to the Circle K (where strange things are afoot, of course). The radio scanner was on, and on the way, I was chatting with a friend of mine in San Antonio on the ham radio. Melanie told me that Hilda was pretty quiet most of the time, except when she heard me. Then she set up a racket. I don’t know. Hey, how’d he get in that box? Where is he anyway?

I’m just amazed at how big she’s getting, and how she’s growing up and learning. I’d really better be on my toes and stay a step ahead of her, else I’m going to be in some kind of trouble.

What a couple days…

It’s been an eventful couple days. First, thanks for the encouragement on pretty much everywhere…facebook, twitter, comments, it’s really helped a lot to know this is all pretty normal.

This morning on Pet Life Radio, a rerun of one of their shows, in fact, one of these, talked about how your puppy can be interested in lots of things more than you, and how puppy being interested in dirt was a real blow to the ego. Yeah, that was kind of appropriate. There are a couple of shows I really like on Pet Life Radio. Teoti’s is one, another one is It’s A Doggy Dog World, and of course Working Like Dogs. Other interesting stuff there too. But I digress.

Yesterday was a water day, I guess. Water coming out of a dog, water on the floor. Hilda peed a bucket in the crate. Twice. My timing appears to be a little off. But that’s even getting better, because accidents today were very minimal and I got it together. She also dumped over a full bowl of water. Twice. Two different times. I’m here to tell you, that’s not a whole lot of fun.

Once, she got away from me in the kitchen when i didn’t have ahold of her leash, and she went after Jasper. She wrestled him to the ground, they rolled around some, somehow got back to me, I rescued Jasper, and he ran off. I’m not sure what he thought of the encounter, but he didn’t make any noise at all. No yowling or snarling or spitting in protest. I suspect if she got into it with Abigail, Abigail would be a lot less likely to be intimidated by her antics, anyway.

In good news, she’s chewing on me less, and also trying to chew on her leash less. My fingers are thankful. So are my toes. Also, it looks like she is capable of climbing stairs. She went about halfway up before I picked her up. I’m pretty sure she’d have made it the rest of thew ay. Sharon doesn’t recommend letting them go down for a while yet, to help ensure good hips. I did let her go down the front steps, just to see if she would, and she did, hesitantly, but without any problems.

I guess it’s also safe to say Hilda still thinks I’m OK, even if my role lately has been “the guy who puts me in the crate and pulls stuff out of my mouth”. She definitely came over to me more and lays down to relax and chew on a bone next to me.

I’m amazed at how she’s growing, too. Her head is up to my knee if she sits up her tallest. She’s got to be getting past 15 pounds if not closing in on 20, but I’m not sure. I’ll have to see.

Just for fun, I let her run and chase Abigail. Again, wrestled Abigail down, Alena said Hilda was beating Abigail up. No complaints from Abigail. The palayed chase, Abigail ran into the basement, Hilda waited for her to come back up, and off they went again. I don’t think they’re going to have a problem.

Progress Continues

The first full week is almost up, and we’ve come a long way.

The big thing we’re working on is chewing on toys, not on me. She still really, really wants to chew on me, but she’s starting to get that I’d rather she didn’t. She’s also stopped trying as hard to chew on the leash.

I’m also seeing lots more quiet periods in the crate. It could be that those are happening while she naps, but at least she’s comfortable enough to fall asleep instead of just expressing her displeasure full time.

She’s also sitting for meals, which is great!

Housebreaking is just super. Each accident was very definitely my fault, and those have been very, very rare. One poo in the crate yesterday, and pee today, but! With the pee today, she was very definitely trying to rush outside. It was I who was slow. She was seriously trying very, very hard to get to the door. Proud of her! And it wasn’t very much she got out either.

We’re still exposing to “sit” and “down”, and adding “Off” to the mix, because she’s started jumping onto the food buckets. And the chairs. And jumping at me and Alena sometimes.

For a first week, she’s sure learned a lot and made a lot of huge adjustments. This dog is just full of potential, I can already tell that!