Pupdate – Week 23

23 Weeks, 1 Day

I have gradually been introducing Epic to some different adult dogs from the ones I typically allow to meet puppies. I am doing this gradually because a negative experience can have long lasting effects. So far she’s handling things very well with new dogs: she’s greeting them appropriately, inviting them to play and using great calming signals when play gets too rough for her.

23 Weeks, 2 Days

Weight: 23.4kg ~ 51.5lb

Epic and I went to the vet to have her ears re-checked after an ear infection. All looked well so we went ahead and got her rabies vaccine. I have been delaying Rabies as long as possible. Her breeder would prefer a year but in order to attempt the CGN this winter, I need to get a municipal licence and in order to get a municipal licence, I need proof of vaccination against rabies. Go Figure.

23 Weeks, 4 Days

I thought I post an update on our left pivot progress. We have been working away on the stool and Epic can pivot 360 degrees with me so it’s time to up the ante a but by trying the pivot on a different, lower surface, and I have chosen the FitPAWS Balance Disc. The disc also happens to be a bit more of a workout for her, as she has to use all of those stabiliser muscles (front and rear) to stay on the disc while turning.

I am pleased with her progress so far. She is pivoting nicely and you can see she is beginning to move back into heel position as she pivots and then look at me as if to say “Well, I did it, cookie PLEASE!”.

I am going to keep up the disc work because I think it’s a great leg workout but over the next week I am going to start using one of my FitPAWS target in place of the disc. Up until now,  have been moving around the disc but since the target is completely flat, I can step on it too and begin to make my pivots more and more “in place”.

23 Weeks, 5 Days

Recently, while practicing our rally moves, Epic has been drifting away. It does not appear to me that she drifts to anything but she kind of “checks out”. I am choosing to take this as a sign that she is not feeling well, stressed by something or that the work is not rewarding enough for her. Instead of insisting that she work (or using corrections), I am going to take a different approach that will involve micro-training and some of the great games in Control Unleashed.

Getting a Handle on Housetraining Issues

For many dog owners, housetraining is the #1 thing we want our dogs to learn. In my experience it is also one of the most frustrating and emotionally charged training issues that dog owners struggle with, and I can relate.

Yes I’m a dog trainer and, yes, I’ve had house training issues…

When Epic came home with us, for the first few weeks, I was amazed at how well she did. She peed or pooped outside every time I took her out.  “Housetraining ain’t so hard”, I thought.

Then the “incidents” started happening.

  • Epic would pee in her crate at home or poop on the floor right after we brought her in. From outside. Where she peed or pooped 2 minutes earlier.
  • We would go the whole week without an incident and then have 2 or three on the same day.

Things finally came to a head for me while Sean was away, I was sick , and we had multiple incidents in a weekend, including one on the carpet. It might have been the sleep deprivation, it might have been the cold meds but I remember calmly letting my puppy into the yard coming inside and then breaking out in tears as I reached for the paper towel. Again.

puppy pee drama

Once I calmed down and let my puppy inside, I sat down with her in snuggled in my lap and thought about what I would tell someone in my place.

What everyone needs to know about housetraining

  1. Use an enzymatic cleaner to clean up pet messes. Dogs have a natural tendency to return urinate and defecate in the same place. You want to make sure that if there is an incident in your house that you remove all traces of it. Unfortunately, all the scented human products in the world will not hide the odour of a previous doggy indiscretion from your dog’s high powered nose. You need to use a pet specific enzymatic cleaner that breaks down organic stains and odours. I use the Odor Out products by EnviroFresh and Nature’s Miracle, both are available at pet supply stores or in the pet aisle of your local department store. Do not use other cleaners before using these products and make sure to follow the directions on the bottle.
  2. Rule out medical causes.  If your dog is suddenly peeing more frequently than she used to, if she appears to be straining a lot, or if she has frequent diarrhoea indoors, a trip to the vet may be warranted. A number of illnesses, infections and parasites may be compromising her ability to go when, and where, she should. If you have ever had a bad case of gastritis, or a urinary tract infection you know how urgent nature’s call can be when you are not feeling well. When you contact your vet, tell them about your house training issues and tell them you want to rule out any health related causes. The fact that you took your dog in for her annual exam last week does not mean she is healthy: Specific tests need to be run in order to diagnose certain illnesses and parasites.
  3. House Training 101. Assuming your dog is free and clear of infection and parasites. It’s time to implement some house training protocols. Whether your dog has never been housetrained or your dog is having a relapse, the approach is the same. Whether you want to teach your dog to go under the maple tree in your yard or in an indoor dog pats, the protocol is the same. I won’t  reiterate the great resources already out there on the internet, but if you need a housetraining refresher, investigate the following FREE resources:
  4. Seek Professional Help. If you you have given housetraining 101 (or the refresher course) an honest try and are not seeing improvement, now is the time to contact a canine professional. There is a possibility that the issues you are experiencing have a deeper behavioral cause. The two professional organisations that I recommend are the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). Each organisation has a search function on their home page to help you find a professional near you.

No more crying over poop in our house!

In our case, the solution to our problem was relatively simple, but it required a level of commitment on my part to resolve.

I realised that Epic’s housetraining lapses were my fault: During the week, at work, it was is easy to keep Epic a regular potty schedule but once we got home, my internal clock is not set to “puppy time”. Once I actually started setting a timer on my phone to go off every 30 minutes (no joke!), and rewarding Epic with a cookie every time she went outdoors, incidents decreased to nothing.

What was a real pain the the rear for a week or two has paid off in spades. Epic still goes outside frequently (every hour or so) but in my books, getting off the couch for a minute or two is much less frustrating than having to clean the floors!

Pupdate – Week 22

22 Weeks

Today, I started teaching Epic the foundation of turning left by using our trusty stool. Turning left is one of a number of skills I think are important for rally dogs to have. The bonus is that pivoting on a raised surface is also a great way to strengthen a dog’s hindquarters and improve propriocetion. Finally, teaching her using shaping also gives her mind a bit of a workout.

Once she is moving left with me, I’ll probably add a hand signal and verbal cue (get in) before I try to transfer it to the flat!

21 Weeks, 1 Day

Weight: 21.6 kg / 47.6 lbs

Today, I started working on sit and down stays with Epic at home. First I started pivoting in front of her, then I started moving around her. Next I’ll start adding in some distance and then some distractions like toys and food.  A good stay is important for all the dog sports I’d like to do with her so I figure we’d better get started on that.

22 Weeks, 2 Days

Today, I was able to get out and do some tracking with Epic. She is really having fun but boy do I have a lot to learn. The latest video is below.

This is likely the last bit of tracking we will get in for the next few weeks. It’s going to be way, WAY too cold for us.

22 Weeks, 3 Days

Today, because the cold weather seems to give the dogs MORE energy, I took the dogs out for a long walk followed by a romp in the yard. Now that Epic is older, and taller,  we can go for longer walks and thanks to my handy hands-free leash, walking both of them is easy! Post-walk, both dogs were happy and covered with frost!

22 Weeks, 4 Days

Epic came to work with me today and we practiced our pivots and our sit/stay and down/stay. I am working on these things in both environments at the same time to help her generalise the behaviour.  She was able to stay while I walked around her (after a few tries) so I started walking away from her: sometimes coming back to reward her, sometimes calling her to me to reward her.

We finished off the session with some retrieving. She LOVES to retrieve a tennis ball and will bring it back to my hand about 70% of the time. 29% of the time, she will drop it near me. 1% of the time she can’t help herself and takes the ball on a “joy ride”. My approach has been to click/treat for balls deposited into my hand, to offer no click/treat for balls dropped near me and, to ignoring joyrides because I don’t want to encourage the oh-so-fun game of keep away! She is already much better at brining it to my hand then Bear is so I’m going to keep encouraging this and hope it can transfer to a dumbbell once we begin working on a more formal retrieve for obedience.

9 Skills to Teach your Novice Rally Dog

260549_10150212130698903_3270015_nAs a rally judge I have often observed that for some dog and handler teams, not having one skill can result in a number of point deductions and even disqualification.

For example, when a dog and handler team has trouble with left pivots, then they almost always have difficulty with left turns, about “U” turns, left circles and left finishes. When all of these exercises appear in the same course in a trial situation, this can result in a number of deductions because the dog lacks one technical skill – turning to the left.

Another example that comes to mind is the dog that is otherwise perfect but has crooked sits. I once unintentionally designed a CARO Novice Level (Which was approved) course that contained 15 sits! 15 crooked sits at 1-2 points each means that a team could lose 15-30 points. Depending on your dog, 15-30 points could be the difference between a qualifying score and a non-qualifying score. It could also be the different between a perfect score of 200 or a 180 because the dog lacks one important skill – Sit at Heel.

From a training perspective, I believe it is easier for our dogs if we teach our dogs the fundamental skills and before trying to attempt specific rally exercises.

Let’s think about that for a minute using left turns as an example. Your dog cannot read signs. He doesn’t know if you are going to turn 90 degrees, 180 degrees, 270 degrees or a full 360 degrees to the left. From his perspective you are just turning left and his job is to pivot on his front feet and tuck his rear to the right until you move forward. You only need to teach him a 360 pivot to the left, and you only really need to use one cue for all of the left turning exercises.

Now that I’ve got you thinking about rally in terms of skills instead of exercises, I know you are dying to know which skills your dog needs to learn. At the novice level in CARO, I break the 29 exercises into things down into 9 technical skills (with variations). 9 is easier than 29, don’t you think?

9 Skills for the Novice Rally Dog

  1. Heeling (Slow/Normal/Fast)
  2. Sit (Heel/Front)
  3. Stand (Heel)
  4. Down(Heel)
  5. Turn left
  6. Turn right
  7. Right finish (Go around)
  8. Left Finish (Swing)
  9. Stay (Sit/Down)

The good news is, most of these skills can be learned and perfected at home, in your living room. Once your dog understands the technical skills, and you can perform the exercises, your next step is to teach your dog the skills she will need to perform a full course, in public, at a trial or fun match with randomised rewards!

Pupdate – Week 21

21 Weeks, 1 Day

Weight: 21.2 kg / 46.7lbs

I took Epic to the vet this morning to have her ears looked at they have become gradually dirtier and itchier over the past week and I suspected an ear infection. Dr. Radcliffe took one look at her ears and said, yup it was an ear infection. We got a weeks worth of ear drops which will hopefully clear things up. We’ll go back for a recheck in a week or so to make sure the infection is gone. For good.

21 Weeks, 2 Days

It has been brutally cold here for a few days (-20’s . . CELCIUS!) and I have been thinking that Epic needs a coat because she has almost no undercoat. Luckily, Epic’s auntie Renee had a lovely coat just Epic’s size hanging around and it fit her perfectly!

21 Weeks, 3 Days

Today it was warm enough to go out tracking! After tracking disaster last week, tone he tracking groups that I have joined gave me some great ideas for out next track. Today, I took both Bear and Epic out.  Epic’s track was on the whole, successful. She found most of the bait, most of the footsteps and made her way to the jackpot at the end of the track.

21 Weeks, 4 Days

One of the things I worked on today with Epic is heel position and sit @ heel. As we always do, we worked in 1-5 minute sessions after each potty break but now we have a game of tug/retrieving when we are done. I haven’t been taking a singular approach to teaching this: I have been using a combination of targeting, luring and shaping to teach her that 1.) it pays to be on my left side 2.) It pays to sit in heel position at my left side and 3.) It pays to come back to heel position if she finds her self out of position.

By the end of the day she is sitting more or less straight beside me (not swinging her rear out) and she is catching her self when she gets ahead of me. Her natural tendency is to get out ahead of me (we call this forging in rally/obedience) which is an issue I can fix with time and appropriate reward placement.

21 Weeks, 5 Days

It has been rather cold lately which means less time outside for all of us so I decided to play some fetch indoors with Epic this afternoon. Sometimes she is not ready to give up a toy but is more willing if I have two toys. Today I switched it up and started clicking when she brought the ball back to my hand and offering a tasty morsel of food right away. Once she got that part down I started throwing the ball and then running away to hide from her so she had to come find me and bring the ball for a cookie and another ball throw. I call this Hide & Seek Retrieving and it’s *so* much fun!

Epic and I had class this evening! Tonight we got to work on walking nicely on leash stays and sitting/standing while strangers approach. We used our walking time to practice heeling with distractions. Epic was much less distracted than she was 2 weeks ago but about 30 minutes into the class she got very sniffy and started hunting for invisible cookies. I treated this as a sign she was mentally “done” and we went back to our mats for some chill out and settle time. After that she seemed much more focused and on task. This is going to be a very important thing for me to remember.

During the ‘sit nicely for an approaching stranger’ Epic sat while the stranger approached and spoke to me but our handshake was just too much she *had* to jump up and see what was in our hands!  We tried again a few times and I was finally able to click and reward her for staying still. This is the very beginning of greeting a stranger in the CGN, and the stand for exam in Rally/Obedience. We also tried having her stand standing while a stranger approached to go over her which is what will happen in the conformation ring her natural inclination is to visit people so I will be working on teaching her that her people will come to her if she can Just. Stand. Still.

21 Weeks, 6 Days

Epic is 5 months old today and has been with us for 3 months.

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Pupdate – Week 20

20 Weeks

This evening, Epic and I went to our very first conformation fun match together. I was very nervous about the whole thing. I wasn’t worried about how we would do and more worried about the judgy-ness of the people around us. As we waited our turn it occurred to me that my nervousness was a result of not really understanding the game or more to the point, not knowing how to “win”. In dog sports like rally, agility and even flyball, there are very clear criteria for qualifying. You know exactly what you need to do and if you do those things, and a judge sees it, you pass.  There is subjectivity in dog sports (that’s why we have judges) but performance evaluation is mostly objective.

In conformation, even if a dog is well presented (stacks nicely, shows teeth without a fuss, gaits nicely) whether you “win” or not is totally dependent on 1.) how the other dogs in the ring look compared to yours and 2.) the judge’s opinion of your dog’s structure and movement. as it relates to the breed standard. A person can train all they want and have a perfectly presented dog but if the judge doesn’t like what they see (or if they like another dog in the ring better), there’s nothing you can change in that moment to “win. Nothing.

In short, I have very little control over the outcome in Conformation and that makes me nervous.

Epic did very well. I kept her busy during the long wait, she showed her teeth with limited fuss and she did the gaiting, albeit with her nose stuck to the mats. I used food to lure her nose up and knew that there was really no way that the judge was getting a good view of Epic’s movement. I did not get the impression is was avoidance sniffing, so much as just being overwhelmed and distracted with the smells present. Over the next few weeks we are going to work on gaiting more and on ignoring distractions – both of which are easy enough to teach, I just have to do it.

20 Weeks, 1 Day

Weight: 20.5kg ~45lbs

I had the day off today so Epic came into town for a weigh-in with me and then hung out in the car while I ran errands. Since she came home, Epic has been gaining weight slowly and steadily, which is what I want to see.

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20 Weeks, 2 Days

Bear is entered in an agility this weekend so Epic gets to come with us “for the ride”. She has her own crate set up plenty of chew toys to keep her busy.

My goal for the day was for Epic to settle in her (covered) crate and for her to get used to the routine of dog shows which is (crate, wait, pee, wait, work – repeat!). She did very well with a little whining but no cranky barky fits even with some rather vocal dogs around us.  She peed and pooped in a strange place which may not sound like a big deal but many dogs hold it until they explode in new environments and that can’t be comfortable or healthy! since she is not “working” in the trial, her work consisted of walking around the environment, paying attention to me for cookies, playing tug and sitting nicely for cookies from others.

20 Weeks, 3 Days

Today was another fun day at the agility trial. We did all the same things we did yesterday but today we ran up and down the halls (conformation gaiting practice) and Epic got to climb the bleachers and watch some of the action.

20 Weeks, 5 Days

Today was not the best of days.

This morning I ran into a Deer on the way to work. Epic was in the car with me and fortunately she was safe in her crate. Arranging insurance details took up most of my free time during the day so Epic did not get much of my attention or any training today at work.

Later this evening while doing my nightly go-over, I noticed one of her ears is more than a little pink, the ear cleaner did I used earlier this week does not seem to be helping so I have booked a vet appointment for later in the week. I suspect she has an ear infection.

20 Weeks, 6 Days

Today, I was very brave. I left Epic at home while I went to work. This wasn’t completely my plan however the rental company was very specific about no dogs in the car so I need to be particularly careful about having either dog in there.

It’s also high time we did this.

She did not have to stay home by herself (Bear was home too) and she did get out during the day (Sean comes home at lunch) but it was kind of hard to leave her and my day was rather quiet without her.

Sean reported that she was incredibly happy to see him, but clean and dry when he came home at lunch and after work. I had to teach a rally class tonight so it was 7:30 pm when I arrived at home. Sean had company over so he had them outdoors running around in the snow earlier and now both dogs were resting quietly in their crates, and a tad nonchalant about my return.

I don’t think I need to worry about leaving Epic home in her crate anymore.

Pupdate – Week 19

19 Weeks, 1 Day

This morning Epic went for a spa day while I headed across the border to pick up some items for work. She got a bath, and this time even a blow dry and full dremel grinding job on her toes. She did not settle well while waiting her turn and I wonder if it has something to do with teething or maybe being in an open crate. when I have her crated at work, she is always out of sight of whatever is going on.

By the time I returned from my trip it was snowing big, fat, wet, snowflakes and I got to take Epic out for her first play in the snow! She did more eating of snow than playing but she had fun!

19 Weeks, 2 Days

Today we went to our conformation class. She is stacking much better than before however she was incredibly distracted by all the food on the floor. This is something we are going to have to learn to cope with.

19 Weeks, 4 Days

Today is Remembrance Day which means Sean has a parade/ceremony to go to and I will go with him. We left Epic in her crate while we were out, about 4.5 hours. She was clean, dry and happy to see us when we got back. Soon she should be able to stay home some days (Sean comes home at lunch) instead of coming with me to work. This is something that many puppies learn very early but my work schedule and Sean being away for a time have delayed things for us a bit.

19 Weeks, 5 Days

This evening we went to puppy class. There were only 4 other puppies there so we got to do a lot more moving around and practice with loose-leash walking. Epic was more distracted by the other dogs, the food and the people than she has been before. Towards the end of the class, she was also a bit over amped by it as she began to grab for the treats with her teeth, which she almost never does. I decided to take a break on our settle mat away from the other dogs and then we tried some walking in a different room where she was able to take cookies nicely again. With Bear, this ‘sharking’ is a low level sign that he is worried by or over aroused by something. I’m not sure exactly what the issue is with Epic (dogs? people? moving? end of a long day?) but I’m going to start really paying attention to when it happens.

19 Weeks, 5 Days

Today, while playing with Bear, Epic stopped, came to me and spit a puppy tooth at my feet. The tooth is a premolar so I had a look in her mouth and the gums around her premolars and canines are bright red. It makes me wonder if her being distracted and ‘sharky’ this week might have had something to do with teething.

Pupdate – Week 18

18 Weeks

Since today is Halloween, I took a few photos of Epic..and her pumpkin.

This evening was also my last class in Portage La Prairie so I decided to bring both dogs with me since I wasn’t sure what Sean had planned and to avoid the barking etc that tends to go on when folks ring our doorbell – even though our house always looks abandoned on Halloween.

I don’t typically dress Bear up, it’s hard to find “big dog” costumes but I did find this tiara for Epic. Pretending to be a princess isn’t much of a stretch for her!

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18 Weeks, 2 Days

Weight: 19.2lbs ~ 42lbs

Today, Epic and I celebrate a very important milestone. it’s been two whole weeks without any housetraining relapses. We started off with housetraining really well, and when Sean went away, and then I was sick for a week, it went to, well, crap. I got back on top of things and it’s been two weeks (and counting) since I’ve had to haul out the mop or paper towel at home, or at work.

This afternoon was our second Conformation class. Today I used roast beef as food rewards – and boy did it ever. Today we had two new people examine Epic, a woman and a man who are in the class. The woman did not seem to bother her but she was a bit worried about showing her teeth to the man until I let her face him straight on before showing her bite. She was less interested in the other dogs today, even the ones we did not see last class and she completely ignored the squeaky toys others were using to get their dog’s attention.

The two things we need to work on for next week are me being able to move away from her while she is in the free stack and teaching her to hold a stacked position and wait for her food to be delivered instead of diving for it – which doesn’t make for a very flattering picture.

18 Weeks 3 Days

Today I did not have dogs at work but I did have to go in to do a few things. Since today is one of the days we have a groomer come to the daycare and she brought one of her dogs. Epic got to play (meaning follow around) with a 10yo pointer boy, Cowboy who is just Great with puppies! While I was there a local Rottweiler breeder/exhibitor came in to have his dog’s toenails filed so I brought Epic out to see him.

He took a real hard look at her conformation and told me what he liked about her and what he saw as problematic. Overall she thought she was a nice dog and that her current ‘problem areas’ might improve once she is more physically mature. I didn’t ask for his opinion but I got it and, I see the same things he does and I feel the same way – things will change as she natures – and if they don’t, there is life after Conformation for us!

18 Weeks, 4 Days

Today Epic and I worked a bit on shaping with some FitPAWS equipment. check out the video below. I swear, you can practically HEAR her think!

18 Weeks, 5 Days

Today, I decided to start working on heel position with Epic. I have been holding off on it for some time now because I wasn’t sure how I would approach it. To be honest, I can’t even remember how I taught Bear to heel and in our beginning rally classes we basically shape heeling and lure/reward sit at heel. With Epic, I want to approach things in more of a structured way because I want good position, rhythm and attitude. I also want to shape this behaviour because I want it to be one of her strongest behaviours, I want her to ‘own’ it. So, today, after some inspiration from this YouTube video, I decided to start clicking/rewarding epic every time she moved to my left side. If I was the centre of the clock, I was clicking  any position from 6 o’clock to 12 0clock and rewarding at my left side. If she appeared to get “stuck”, I waited for her to offer movement to the left and then rewarded by tossing a cookie behind her to ‘reset’. In one session she caught on very quickly to the fact that staying on my left side was earning her cookies, now I just need to narrow down the “window” to the few square inches beside me.

Pupdate – Week 17

17 Weeks, 1 Day

Today, Epic went to the groomer all by herself! It’s the first time I have left her for a time without being in the vicinity. It’s well past time she started learning to be confident with me there. She’s now comfortable with baths, and I can do her toenails, so it stands to reason, someone else should be able to do the same. I took her to my friend Kathy, who grooms for a living out of her home, about 10 minutes from our place.  While Epic was at the “spa” Sean and I went for Groceries and Bear enjoyed the house (in his crate) to himself. We were gone about 3 hours and when I picked Epic up she was happy, clean and, by all accounts a good girl!

Once we got home, Epic was ready for lunch and a nap, she slept soundly for 3 hours.

17 Weeks, 2 Days

This afternoon, after I taught a class, Epic and I went to a conformation class. I promised Epic’s breeder I would show Epic and am looking forward to the new experience. Conformation shows are, essentially about evaluating a dog against the breed standard and against the other dogs of the same breed and then against other dogs of different breeds present at any given dog show. Breeders use dog shows as one way to evaluate breeding stock and their offspring but a large component of competitors are in it for the sport.

When I was first introduced to conformation, I thought it was rather boring and that it did not require much in the way of skill from a dog and handler. Now I know better and today, I learned a LOT. More than anything, I learned, how much I, as a handler need to know about the ring, how it is run,  how to manage my dog and how to make sure we (Epic & I) look our best for a judge. In short, I’m a student again.

Epic did well, her free stacking is coming along, she is comfortable with someone approaching her for an examination (albeit, someone she knows) and she will let me briefly show her bite. She remained calm in a room with more dogs than she’s been around in her life. The only difficulty we had was the gaiting – keeping her moving in a straight line at the beginning and moving at all towards the end of class when she was obviously tired. I’m really looking forward to our next class.

17 Weeks, 3 Days

One of the things I love about having Sean home is that he always makes time to play with the dogs in the evening. No, it’s not a long walk but he will call them onto the couch or bed, or get down on the floor with them and wrestle. This SO not the way I interact with dogs but Sean and the dogs have an understanding. If they get too rough and he stops playing and walks away. Furthermore, with Bear, I haven’t seen this rough play transfer to me or to anyone else.  I am thankful both dogs get this kind of play, I think they enjoy it and otherwise, I would not be providing them wit this kind of out let. The other thing I appreciate is that when Sean is playing with the dogs, I don’t have to keep a hawk’s eye on Epic. I can relax, take a shower or just close my eyes on the couch.

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17 Weeks, 4 Days

Weight: 18.3kg ~40lbs

This morning, I made crock pot pulled pork so while Sean and I had pulled pork for supper, Epic and Bear each got a nice pork bone for supper. Bear, as usual tore into his. Epic licked hers for a few minutes, then she tried to bury her bowl and then finally after watching Bear she started gnawing on it. he whole process was entertaining to watch…this is the first time she has ever been given anything larger than a chicken back.

17 Weeks, 5 Days

Today we went to our second “big dog class” at Two Brown Dogs Canine Consultants. each class we do an exercise where we see how many times we can get our dogs to sit or lay down in 20 seconds. Last class Epic sat 7 times in 20 seconds, this class she sat once. Want to know why? Because in an effort to get her on all 4 feet for conformation class, I consciously stopped rewarding sits. Two weeks, that’s all it took. Now, I think it’s safe to say that I should be rewarding both intermittently if I want to keep both behaviours on cue, and I do.  There is a whole group of conformation people that do not believe in teaching a dog to sit before they have finished their conformation titles – it’s hogwash. If I can teach and un-teach a dog to sit before she is 5 months old, it’s safe to say that I can teach a dog to sit and stand on cue quite easily. She’s a smart cookie.

On the way home from class, I pulled the car over onto the shoulder because I thought the car was making a weird sound. Turns out, the sound was not coming from the car but from Epic in the back seat snoring loud enough to put a full grown man (and broken car) to shame. I guess puppy class tonight was a real workout!

Pupdate – Week 16

Week 16

In preparation for our trip to Red Deer, AB tomorrow, I took Epic for a bath at the Dog Wash this evening. I let her run around the room while I got ready and this time, I had her climb into the tub herself. Epic has never been particularly fond of the tub, it’s been a grin and Bear it kind of thing for her. today, after I had finished bathing Epic, I used the nozzle to wash the remaining suds and hair towards the drain. Epic thought that biting at (and stomping on) the water was a grand time, I was so pleased to see her relax and enjoy herself that even though I was finished, I put another dollar in the machine and played with her a minute longer!

Week 16 – Day 1

Weight 17kg ~ 37lbs

Today we traveled to Red Deer Alberta where I am going to be teaching a rally obedience seminar. When the seminar was scheduled, I debated whether I should leave Epic with a friend of mine or take her with me on the plane. With the exception of staying a few evenings with Sean, she has never been without me at home for a whole day, much less overnight in a strange place. I have a few friends that would be willing to take her but I know how much work a puppy is and was not comfortable foisting that work on anyone. I considered the length of the flight, the airports we were flying in/out of and Epic’s comfort level in her airline style crate. I also considered Epic’s ability to settle into a new environment and meet new people with me.

After a week or so if deliberation,I decided that 3-4 hours (return trip) in her crate in an airplane and travelling with me to a new place would be equally or less stressful for her than staying home with a friend.

We flew out of the Brandon Airport (YBR) which is by far the tiniest airport I have ever been in. There is one commercial passenger flight into the airport and one out of the airport each day. Epic traveled in a VariKennel 400, tied together with cable ties. I have the proper bolts for the crate but feel the cable ties are more secure – they will not come undone unless someone cuts them, on purpose. I lined the kennel with a blanket from home sprayed D.A.P., clipped a dish to the door  so the airline attendants could give Epic water in case of delays and and left a bully stick in the crate for her to chew on.

At the airport, I checked in, had the appropriate stickers placed on Epic’s crate (“live animal” and “this side up”). Then the label containing my flight info, and the baggage tag was attached to her crate and I had to take her through security.  After security screening, Epic was wheeled away from me to the holding area just prior to boarding, and I have to admit, I had a teeny moment of panic.

Fortunately, the plane in and out of Brandon is a Bombardier Q400, a turboprop that carries all of 78 passengers. This plane is so small that we have to walk out onto the tarmac to board and we can see the baggage handlers loading the plane. As I walked out, I saw the two luggage baggage handlers look into the crate, smile and say something to Epic and then lift her gently up onto the conveyor. The other thing about these tiny planes is that when you sit in the back seats you can hear the guys loading the plane talking to each other…which means we could also hear any animals in distress and I didn’t hear any puppy screaming during the entire flight.

When we landed, Because I was sitting on the left side of the plane, I could see that Epic’s crate was the first thing off the plane. Once again, the baggage handlers looked into the crate, said something and then lifted her gently onto her very own cart and she was whisked away before I even got off the plane.

It was a bit of a hike from the plane to the baggage carousels but my friend Audra, who picked me up said she would wait by the oversized luggage belts so that Epic wouldn’t have to wait alone. As it was, Epic arrived before the rest of the baggage so we were able to collect her first. She did not look any worse for wear but I knew she would have to pee. Before heading outside we stopped to get Epic’s photo with one of the Calgary white hat volunteers who was a great sport and who also directed us to the small off leash dog potty area.

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From the Calgary Airport, we headed straight to Audra’s in Red Deer where Epic settled in like a princess. She only got yelled at by Audra’s dogs once, and seemed not to be overly traumatised by it. This evening was her first sleepover, not at home, and she settled in perfectly in her crate with her blanket and toys from home. this is where having a crate trained puppy begins to pay off in spades!

Week 16 – Day 2

Today I taught a Really Seminar in Red Deer. Epic came with me and I set her up, in her crate, in the same area as the other dogs. I wanted to see how she would settle in and she did wonderfully either chewing her bully stick or watching the others quietly from her crate. Throughout the day, she was attended to mostly by Audra who fed her and took her out to potty. By the time the evening seminar rolled around she was a tad whiny and cranky but it was a very long day for all of us and she fell asleep quickly once we got back to Audra’s.

Week 16 – Day 3

After breakfast at about 8am, Epic napped in her crate until about 11:30am. I guess she was one tired puppy! Once we had breakfast, Audra and I took the dogs for a walk around her neighbourhood and to a park where Audra was kind enough to take some lovely photos of us.

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After our walk , Audra and I took Epic and Gibson to Red Deer College for some tracking. We met up with some folks I had only known from facebook, Cindy and Marlee. By the time we got there both ladies had laid tracks for their dogs so we did a couple of short tracks with Epic. Audra showed me how to train the beginnings of footstep tracking (essentially one treat in each footstep) and Epic was incredibly enthusiastic. She has a unique style and lay down and crawled on the track. She was working, using her nose and following the footsteps/cookies….just on her belly. This is a style, heretofore unseen by Audra, Marilee or Cindy but no one suggested we change anything, I am guessing, because Epic was working through it.  Towards the end of the track (at the jackpot) Epic did stand up to eat her cookies so I have a feeling that one day, she just might track on all 4 feet. Epic did two tracks and managed to eat a whole package of Smack Snacks in the process. With a full tummy and a big drink, I settled her in her crate in the van while Cindy’s two dogs and Gibson ran a track.

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After tracking, Audra took Epic and I to the Red Deer Hospice for a visit. I have never been to a hospice or done any therapy work with Bear but was thrilled to have the opportunity for to meet some new people in a new environment – and to perhaps brighten someone’s day. The Hospice is a wonderful facility, very home like and when we walked in the first thing I noticed was the smell of some sort of delicious desert cooking – it did not smell like hospital at all. After meeting the staff, 3 residents indicated that they felt like having a puppy visit. Epic walked into each room bravely and went to greet each person. She sat nicely for cookies (or in one case, Cheetos) and then lay down quietly while Audra and I chatted with each person about her. She was incredibly interested in one woman’s knitting and the same woman’s knitted slippers – as interested as she is in my mittens at home (VERY!) but I managed to keep her distracted once I caught onto what had piqued her interest.  We were there for maybe 45 minutes and she was a very good dog, especially considering her age. I have never really considered therapy work for Epic, it’s something that requires a certain amount of time, dedication and in some cases, a very thorough screening process. I have never felt that I had the time for this given my very long days and often very busy weekends, but it’s something I think Epic could be very good at, given her laid back personality.

After our hospice visit, Audra, Cindy, and I went for dinner while Epic rested in her crate. When we returned to Audra’s, Epic was cranky, restless and incredibly mouthy, something I rarely see in her. Nothing would settle her down. After about 40 minutes of this, my frustration was skyrocketing, which is also rare, so I decided to settle in her crate in the guest room to see if she was so overtired, she couldn’t stop. I took her down to her crate settled her in with a bully stick, turned the light out and shut the door behind me. I did not hear a peep from Epic for the rest of the evening. Evidently, the weekend’s activities were catching up to her and she needed her sleep. I let her to potty once before I went to bed and then she settled in for the rest of the evening.

Week 16 – Day 4

Today we returned home from Red Deer. Epic did wonderfully again on the plane. Since we left from a larger airport a baggage handler had to take her from security to the plane in Calgary but I did see her come off the plane on the other end.

Later in the day, Sean returned home early from Cyprus. I wasn’t sure how Epic would react to him but she remembered him and was as excited to see him as the rest of us!

Week 16 – Day 6

The rest of this week has been low key for all of us, given the busy weekend. We did not go to class this week but we have continued to work on shaping the free stack for conformation throughout the day and things are coming along nicely.

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